WWW — Witness Trees: Trees that Tell the Story of the U.S.A.

Pre-American Revolution – The Charter Oak

King Charles II granted Connecticut autonomy in 1662. However, when King James II gained control of the thrown, he consolidated several colonies into the Dominion of New England in 1686 in an attempt to regain control of the newly established land. Edmund Andros was appointed as governor-general over the Dominion, and he was tasked with taking back all the previously granted charters. When Andros arrived in Hartford, CT in late October 1687, legend has it that the colonists produced a copy of the original charter document, but before Andros had the document in hand, all of the lights mysteriously went out. The said document supposedly flew out the window and into a nearby white oak tree, now known as The Charter Oak, where it was safe from the Crown’s power.

Unfortunately, The Charter Oak, which was estimated to be upwards of 1,000-years-old, fell during a violent storm in 1856. However, the remaining timber was used to craft chairs that are now on display in the Hartford Capitol Building. The Governor of Connecticut and the President in the State Capitol have also had office furniture made from The Charter Oak as well, so this historic Oak lives on in Connecticut’s government buildings as a testament to the state’s patriotism and strength.


American Civil War – The Burnside Bridge Sycamore

The Battle of Antietam took place at Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17th, 1862 during the American Civil War. The Burnside Bridge, located on the lower end of the Antietam National Battlefield, was a critical access point that both Union and Confederate forces wanted to control. Forces fought for hours at what seemed would end in a stalemate. However, Union forces captured the bridge and proceeded forward into battle with the Confederacy in an attempt to control the entire Antietam area. The battle ended within the day, and Union forces took control of the area.

The 177-year-old Burnside Bridge Sycamore was just a young tree during the Battle of Antietam. This Sycamore was witness to almost 23,000 casualties as both Union and Confederate soldiers fought for control of Antietam. This battle was the first to be photographed and shared with the American public, bringing the true horrors of war to citizens for the first time. Also, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation five days after the battle. Lincoln had been waiting on the news of the Union’s success the spread throughout the country before signing the document into law. The Burnside Bridge Sycamore still stands as a tribute to the Battle of Antietam, the many American lives lost and injured, and the plethora of significance this battle has in American history.


September 11th Attacks – The Survivor Tree

On September 11, 2001, a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks killed almost 3,000 people and injured over 6,000 others. Four passenger airplanes were hijacked by terrorists, and two of the four planes crashed into the World Trade Center buildings in New York City. Within two hours, both 110-story buildings collapsed, which caused all the other World Trade Center buildings to collapse as well. The third hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon’s west side, and the fourth plane, originally in route for Washington D.C., crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. This attack is the single deadliest terrorist attack in human history.

Among the rubble at Ground Zero, the area where the World Trade Center once stood, a Callery pear tree was discovered with snapped roots and many broken branches. The tree was cared for and rehabilitated by the New York City Parks and Recreation Department and made a miraculous recovery from near death to flourishing. The tree was replanted at the National September 11th Memorial in 2010 and is now revered as the Survivor Tree. The Survivor Tree symbolizes the United States’ spirit of healing, strength, and resilience in the wake of a national tragedy that completely changed the country.