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Across the United States there are hundreds and thousands of trees that have stood around for many centuries and bore witness to the history in that area. Some of these trees were present during key events in American history like the Civil War battles. Historians call these trees “witness trees”. They were present when soldiers marched on to the battlefields and they stood silently as the soldiers fell. Many Civil War witness trees took bullets along with thousands of men. Many of them still hide bullets within their trunks.

In the early 1930s, the United States War Department thought some of these “witness trees” were important enough to mark and sometimes, protect. Small brass tags were placed in some of the trees, and lightening rods were also placed in some. Typically, the tags were nailed a few feet above human reach, but still readable.

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A witness tree on Stuart's Hill loop trail in Manassas National Battlefield Park. Photo credit: ManassasNPS/Flickr

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