civil war landmark burnside's bridge opened in 1836 and crosses over Antietam lake near sharpsburg maryland the sycamore next to the bridge was in existence at the battle

Antietam “Witness Tree,” a living monument of 1862

Burnside’s Bridge is an American Civil War landmark at Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Maryland. This tiny bridge played a key role in the September 1862 Battle of Sharpsburg when thousands of Union and Confederate forces clashed for hours to control it.

Standing beside this legendary Bridge is another historic feature known as the “Burnside Sycamore” or “Witness Tree”. The tree can be seen in historic photographs taken by famous civil war photographer Alexander Gardner, captured just days after the battle. It’s believed that at the the tree was only a few years old at the time of the civil war, standing not much taller than the bridge itself.

burnside bridge sycamore in 1862. photo by alexander gardner taken just days after the battle

Historic photograph of Burnside Bridge with the Sycamore in view. Park officials say that the tree undoubtedly was hit by gunfire as thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers fought for control of the bridge on Sept. 17, 1862. Today, over one hundred and forty years later, the tree still remains as a direct link to the past.

Park Rangers believe that the tree wasn’t planted, but naturally sprouted near the northwest corner of the bridge over 150 years ago during construction in 1836. There has been a growing concern in recent years that severe storms could bring the tree down and damage the bridge below.

Metal cables have been strung between the tree’s two main branches to reduce pressure on the limbs and help prevent the tree from splitting. Each cable can support 60,000 pounds, hopefully keeping this beautiful relic of history standing tall for many more years to come.

Antietam: Under the Witness Tree at Burnside Bridge Civil War Battlefield

Standing Under the Antietam “Witness Tree” at Burnside’s Bridge

The Burnside Sycamore is a civil war monument unlike any other at Antietam because it survived the brutal battle of September 1862 and is still alive and standing. Today the mighty tree provides great refuge from the summer heat with a chilling effect like none other.

Discover more about this piece of history through nature with insight from the Antietam Park Rangers:

There is plenty of more history to discover in my civil war photo collection. You should also take a few moments to visit the Antietam National Battlefield Park Service webpage where you can see historic pictures taken not long after the bloody battle.


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