What is a Witness Tree, anyway?
“Witness trees are those flora of historic landscapes that remain in place decades or even centuries after noteworthy events unfolded there. Often the trees were young when the event took place, and have now grown to be massive, silent sentinels of history.”
Source: Article from American Battlefield Trust on Witness Trees
There is even a Witness Tree Protection Program!
Several examples of Witness Trees right here in South Carolina are detailed below.
The Washington Oak
At Hampton Plantation, McClellanville, SC
During President George Washington’s Southern Tour of 1791, he visited Hampton Plantation. At the time, he was told the large oak tree in front was to be cut down to clear the view. Washington disagreed with this decision, and thankfully, the decision was made to keep the tree. It still stands at Hampton Plantation. The Washington Oak is estimated to be approximately 220+ years old.
Photograph from 1932 from The Charleston Museum– click here
The Angel Oak
The Angel Oak is considered to be the largest Live Oak Tree east of the Mississippi, and is estimated to be 300 to 400 years old. The tree is 65 feet high with a circumference of 25.5 feet, shading an area of 17,000 square feet.
The artist’s name is Frank, his drawings and textural, epic paintings of the Angel Oak are amazing
Hammond’s Old Store
(The Other Washington Oak)
As in William Washington, not his distant cousin George.
By Mr. Durant Ashmore
Reprinted here with kind permission from the author
This huge chestnut oak may be over 243 years old. If so, it witnessed a very bloody Revolutionary War slaughter.
This tree is located on the edge (or possibly right in the middle) of the site of the Battle of Hammond’s Old Store, fought on Dec. 30, 1780 near Clinton, South Carolina.
This battle occurred in the SC backcountry 10 weeks after Kings Mountain and 18 days before Cowpens. A plundering band of 250 Tories had been causing havoc in the Fairforest area, and Lt. Col. William Washington (George Washington’s 2nd cousin) and 80 mounted dragoons were sent to stop them. Accompanying Lt. Col. Washington were 200 local mounted riflemen.
In the SC backcountry, the Revolutionary War was a war between neighbors. The 200 Patriot mounted riflemen and the plundering Tories were acquaintances.
The Tories escaped for 20 miles when they got word that William Washington was after them. They stopped for lunch at a frontier store named Hammond’s Old Store. Their arms were stacked as they took a noonday break.
What the Tories didn’t realize was that William Washington had covered 40 miles as the Tories fled. When he crested an opposing hill, he immediately charged with slashing sabers. The riflemen poured in a deadly fire from the flanks.
Of the 250 Tories, 150 were killed or wounded. 40 were captured, and 60 escaped to fight the next day at Ft. Williams where 8-10 more were killed. There were 0 Patriot casualties.
Did this grand chestnut oak witness this battle? If so, this tree is over 243 years old!