Battle-ravaged tree, preserved at the Smithsonian Institute
A few years ago, we spent four days visiting the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. To say that the museums are packed with interesting exhibits is an understatement; the Smithsonian must be experienced to appreciate it. I wish we lived closer!
At the time we visited, the Museum of American History was closed for renovations. A small exhibit from the history museum, "Treasures of American History", was set up in the Museum of Air and Space.
The history museum's curators chose about 150 items to represent American culture and history, including Mr. Roger's sweater, the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz, R2D2 and his buddy CP3O, the ENIAC, Thomas Jefferson's Bible, George Armstrong Custer's coat, George Washington's uniform and battle sword, Abraham Lincoln's top hat, and the Spotsylvania stump.
The Spotsylvania Stump is all that remains of a large oak tree that once grew in a meadow near Spotsylvania, Virginia. On May 7-19, 1864, Union and Confederate troops engaged in the Battle of the Spotsylvania Courthouse. On May 12, 1864, during a fierce encounter, the oak tree was mutilated by hundreds of bullets from small arms. During the battle, the tree's trunk broke, leaving only a stump standing. Estimates of the number of casualties vary, but 25,000 or more Union and Confederate troops were killed or wounded.
About a year later, the fallen oak tree had disappeared -- hacked up and carried away by souvenir hunters. Even the shattered trunk had been dug out of the ground and removed. When a Union division visited the battlefield and discovered that the stump was missing, Major General Nelson A. Miles made inquiries and located it in the smokehouse of an inn proprietor. Miles confiscated the stump and presented it to the U.S. Secretary of War. (Source.)
The oak tree's trunk, just below the place where it was severed, was 22 inches in diameter. The stump still contains bullets that it took the day the Spotsylvania meadow became a battlefield. It is a testimony to the ferocity of the fighting and the tremendous destruction of life that occurred at Spotsylvania and other Civil War battlefields.
Credit: Museum of American History photo from Wikipedia.