Can I Get a Witness?

Late Monday afternoon, as the rain subsided and the sun broke through the clouds, my Dad, my nephew and I set out for the Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland.

My family and I spent many Saturday mornings at Antietam when I was growing up. Its laidback, touristy charm easily accommodated a local family of five on bicycles.

This particular Monday, time was short and we traveled by Jeep to two landmarks: The Pry House Field Hospital Museum (an adventure for another post) and Burnside Bridge (one of my favorite spots).

Located on the northwest corner of Burnside Bridge is the “Witness Tree” (also referred to as the “Burnside Sycamore”). Experts believe that the tree sprouted up naturally some 170 years ago. The “Witness Tree” is so named because it appears in photographs that were taken by the Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner just days after the September 17, 1862, battle in which the armies of the North and South fought for control of the Bridge.

The “Witness Tree” at Burnside Bridge (Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland) is a 170 year-old Sycamore tree that “saw action” during the American Civil War’s bloodiest single-day battle.

Barring disaster, the “Witness” could live another 500 years. A little ex post facto research revealed that the tree has difficulty getting nutrients because the dirt around its base is compacted from photo ops. Oops.