Daily Archives: 15 November 2009

Edwards Ferry “Witness Trees”

We battlefield stompers like to take in the battlefield “as it was” where possible.  Certainly the lay of the land is important, considering the slope of terrain and watersheds.  And of course man-made features such as roads and buildings are often removed or shifted with time.  But trees offer a unique “witness” to many battlefield and campaign events.

At the site of Edwards Ferry, local historians note two such trees standing on the ground of River Creek Country Club, on the northern bank of Goose Creek.  One sycamore tree near the club’s canoe dock shows its age, but is apparently still alive.

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Witness Tree at Edwards Ferry

I am certainly not an expert on tree aging, but the girth of this sycamore indicates it has been on the Goose Creek banks for some time.

Unfortunately another tree often indicated by the local historians has died during the recent season.

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Dead Witness Tree at Edwards Ferry

Only a tall stump remained in July of this year.

Several trees on the south side of Goose Creek, within the narrow strip of the Elizabeth Mills-Kephart Mills Park, have girth dimensions suggesting age of over a hundred years.  Again I am not a tree expert by any extent and can only measure and guess, but one which has my interest stands just a few yards south of Goose Creek along the Potomac.  If you look closely, note the dark stones of the Goose Creek River lock on the Maryland shore in the background.

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Split Tree at Edwards Ferry

The photo above was taken from the distance of about 60 feet, actually standing on the natural levee of the Potomac.  The tree’s girth (left hand trunk) is just short of double a grown man’s “embrace,” so certainly at least 7 or 8 feet around.  The split is indeed part of the same tree, with one solid root complex, which includes three other smaller trunks.

As noted, several others stand in the area.  Some are in their last years.  One or two have already fallen into Goose Creek.  Quite possible that a number of the trees were witnesses to the action at Edwards Ferry on October 21-22, 1861, which occurred concurrently wit the battle of Balls Bluff.  And of course that would logically mean the same trees stood when the Army of the Potomac crossed at Edwards Ferry in June 1863.

All speculation that prompts me to study up on the art of estimating tree age!