Tree at Mount Vernon with rare Civil War markings falls

Another historically significant tree recently fell at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

This tree was a large oak with Civil War carvings, and it was the last of three on the property with such markings, Mount Vernon said in a press release on Thursday.

The oak, which Mount Vernon director of horticulture Dean Norton believes dates back to the 1780s, fell by itself on the evening of November 4.

Part of the tree laying near a road with a vehicle in the distance
(Courtesy of George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

“You hate to see a living witness to the life and times of George and Martha Washington go, especially a tree that has a connection to another significant historical period of Mount Vernon,” Norton said in the press release.

Union soldiers visited Mount Vernon in 1865 on May 23-24, a little more than a month after the war ended. They were from two regiments who had participated in the Grand Review of the Armies in Washington D.C., according to Mount Vernon.

Worker examining the tree's trunk after it had been sawed in half
(Courtesy of George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

Some of the soldiers carved their insignia into the three trees. The one that fell earlier this month also had carvings of a cross and star.

The first of the three trees with Civil War carvings fell about 40 years ago, and the other came down last August. That same month another tree dating back to George Washington’s era fell at the estate, a victim of heavy rains that month.

Like that tree, the oak that fell earlier this month will be used by Mount Vernon’s preservation department and for making products at Mount Vernon.

Mount Vernon escaped damage in the Civil War, but was visited many times by soldiers. The Mount Vernon Ladies Association had purchased the property shortly before the war, and considered it neutral ground. Between 1861-1865, around 200 Union regiments visited Mount Vernon. You can read more about Mount Vernon during the Civil War here.