to General Grant on April 9, 1865, a larger group of north and south combatants still fought in North Carolina with other battles still raging in the West. Likewise, in Washington D.C. other nastiness was brewing in the hearts of those wishing great harm to the Union. Maryland itself was a hot bed of unrest and many were not loyal to the Union. One such group was the Surratt family, who symphonized with the Confederacy and ran a tavern on the outskirts of our nation’s capital in Maryland. The Tavern served as a meeting point for Southern spies to exchange information.
came upon financial problems, and rented out the tavern and moved to Washington D.C. where she frequently met with Booth. At about 10:30PM on April 14, 1865 Booth shot the President in the back of his head at Ford’s Theater, ran across the stage and into the back alley where David Harold was waiting with their horses. Harold and Booth arrived at Surratt’s Tavern at about midnight to secure pre-arranged guns and ammunition. One account says Booth never got off his horse, but accepted a drink of whiskey and said “I think I got him”! From here the two men rode off into the night. Later, Mary Surratt was accused of conspiracy and was the first woman ever executed by the Federal Government. On the federal trial commission was non – other than General Lew Wallace of Indiana.
is a catalpa witness tree that measures 5 feet, 11 inches at the trunk. A photo of the tree with the tavern in the background is shown here. A copy of a photo of Ms Surratt is an inset to the left. The top of the tree had most likely been struck by lightning since the primary truck is missing and burnt wood is apparent at its base. This disregarded piece of history was reclaimed to make the Surratt’s Tavern witness tree pen. Mr. Dennis Gallahan of Spotsylvania ,Va. provided enormous help with this entry.
the Union’s plan was to move troops up the Tennessee River and then disembark at the Pittsburg landing. Ultimately, to move troops overland further south to seize the crossroads of two major railroads at Corinth, MS. The plan was met with fierce resistance by the Confederacy. The human toll being the greatest of any war on the American continent up to that date. General Grant led the 60,000 Union troops and General Johnston led the 45,000 Confederates into battle.
the unsuspecting Union army was attacked. Sherman and his troops occupied the Shiloh Church area and he used it as his headquarters. Just 0.5 mile north of the church, and through open fields, sat 3 cabins of the Howell family which appear on the Historical Base Map of the Shiloh Military Park. These homes were constructed in a manner very much like that of the Manse George Home that now graces an area of the Park (Pictured Here). After the war the Shiloh church itself was virtually dismantled by relic seekers. Both the church and the homes witnessed the two day horror of the battle of Shiloh.
was completely destroyed by collectors and decay, Mr. Larry Deberry and his family, descendants of the Howell family, managed to collect and store several of the large trimmed white pine logs that made up a portion of the outer walls of one of the cabins. The wood has been ravaged by insects, weather, fungal invasion, nails and even a few bullet holes which is reflected by the uneven, discolored and abnormal appearance of the pen.
under the direction and financing by William Fitzhugh atop of Stafford Heights overlooking Fredericksburg. The Fitzhughs had relatives and were good friends with well-known Virginians such as George Washington, Tom Jefferson and George Mason. The Lacy family eventually purchased the manor but abandoned it during the Civil War during which time it served briefly as Union headquarters and as a major Union hospital during the battle for Fredericksburg. In the spring of 1862, when Federal forces occupied the area under General McDowell, Abraham Lincoln visited the general at Chatham and thus gave it the distinction of being only one of three places hosting both Lincoln and Washington.
one of the greatest poets in American History came to Chatham to search for his wounded brother. The pain suffering and anguish that he witnessed at the Chatham “Hospital” affected him profoundly and ultimately led him to serve as a nurse for the remainder of the war. At one point he wrote - “At the foot of a tree, immediately in front, a heap of feet, legs, arms, and human fragments, cut, bloody, black and blue, swelled and sickening–in the garden near, a row of graves.” Apparently, these human remains were being tossed out of the window landing near a tree.
still present on the manor grounds that witnessed these events are the two catalpa trees that are growing close to a manor –house window on the front lawn. But it turns out that a number of other trees were nearby at the time and these were the two black locusts and one white ash that still grace the front lawn manor grounds over- looking the river. Each has been examined by the annual ring dating method and they all date to the early 19th century. The photo show the manor and the white ash (lower left) the catalpa (upper right) and the black locust (lower right). Pens made from dead plant limbs are pictured here with the black locust on top and the white ash as the bottom image.
and was the largest columnar based house in Mississippi. After overseeing construction of the $175,000 structure for 2 years, Smith Coffee Daniel ll (age 34) died of either malaria or yellow fever just a few weeks after it was completed.
During Grant’s campaign in 1863 in his attempts to take Vicksburg there were many failures including his idea to land troops at Grand Gulf about 10 miles up - river from Windsor. From there he successfully moved down river to Bruinsburg landing where some 17,000 Union soldiers were ashore and marched right past the Windsor mansion. It turns out that many of these men would ultimately find their way back to Windsor as it was used as a Union hospital. There is no known photo of Windsor. The sketch was made by a Union soldier who was there.
as the Union soldiers encountered Confederate soldiers in the craggy, overgrown tangle around Port Gibson shortly after midnight. After a brief lull, the battle roared to life once more at dawn. Confederate Gen. Edward Tracy was killed while directing the defense of the right flank from McPherson's attacks. The battle continued for most of the day as successive Confederate lines buckled under the weight of the Union advance. A counterattack was repulsed in the late afternoon and the Southerners were forced from the field. The Battle of Port Gibson firmly secured a Union beachhead east of the Mississippi River and enabled Grant to push east unopposed toward Jackson and ultimately to Vicksburg.
was sealed on Feb 17, 1890 when it was engulfed in flames and Ms Catherine Daniell was found helplessly beneath an Oak tree at a safe distance. The house and all of its contents was reduced to ashes except for the columns that still stand. It is one of the most heavily visited tourist sites in Mississippi.
The oak tree under which Catherine stood is most likely the one shown here. It is an old live oak whose age far surpasses that of 156 years since the days of its construction and the ravages of the Civil War. The pen was constructed from a dead limb taken from this tree.
is located in central Virginia at the confluence of the James and Appomattox rivers. It was the site of Union General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant's field headquarters during the 9 month siege of Petersburg nearing the end of the civil war. City Point became a crucial Union port and supply hub. At least 100,000 Union troops and 65,000 animals were supplied out of the town, and in August 1864
detonated a time bomb on a docked barge, hoping to disrupt work at the port. As many as fifty-eight people were killed, but the wharf was soon rebuilt and service to the front continued. City Point also was the site of the sprawling Depot Field Hospital, which served 29,000 patients. President Lincoln visited General Grant here on June 20 -22 -1864 and again March 24 – April 8, 1865.
grew a sycamore tree as shown in the photo. The tree died in the early part of the 21st century, and its wood was parceled out to Mr Stan Lucien of Maine to make craft items. I contacted him and did a trade for witness woods from Maryland and Virginia for several pen blanks of the City Point sycamore. It is truly a classic tree given all of the many events that it witnessed over the course of nearly 9 months at a crucial time in the Civil War.
there were many skirmishes and several battles in his route from Chattanooga, Tn., south through Georgia. Certainly, the greatest barrier to Atlanta was 8-10 mile battle line made by the Confederates that covered the entire length of Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia. Sherman thought that the line was too thin to serve as a barrier but he was grossly mistaken. It turned out to be the largest frontal assault made by the Union army during the campaign and he was repulsed at each site of attack. Ultimately, the battle was considered a Confederate victory, but Johnston’s army retreated to Atlanta.
the Wallis house was built and at the time of the battle was just about a mile from the battle line. Union General O. O. Howard made his headquarters here, but at one point it was a Confederate hospital. Furthermore, at the battle of Kolb’s farm, General Sherman was at this house. The home site is being sought after by the NPS for inclusion within the Kennesaw Battlefield Park..
but the old walnuts, and oaks still grace its landscape. The oldest witness tree, a huge White Oak probably died 20-30 years ago. Only its massive stump still remains as seen in the photo along with Mr. JR Gee my brother-in law who has helped acquire many of the wood samples in multiple locations for this entire pen project.
General Grant doggedly pursued General Lee’s forces through Northern Virginia starting at the Battle of the Wilderness, then Spotsylvania, followed by the North Anna and the deadly encounter with the Confederates at Cold Harbor. Grant ended up crossing the James River and putting a 10 month siege on Petersburg with Lee’s forces literally frozen to do any maneuvering.
General Lee used the building at Violet Bank as his headquarters until late in 1864. He heard the thundering roar of tons of powder exploding at the crater when it occurred on July 30 that took hundreds of Union and Confederate lives. General Lee knew this witness magnolia tree since he saw it every day at his Violet Bank office. .
apparently was given to this place because there used to be an amazing bloom of violet flowers on the bank of the property every year. The witness tree is a cucumber magnolia that was planted in 1718 and one of the largest of its type in the world. It is probably the oldest witness tree wood represented in the entire collection of witness pens. In early 2020, I contacted Wendy Alvis at what is now the Violet Bank Museum and she kindly collected dead limbs from the tree and sent them to me. A beautiful pen was made from one of the larger limb pieces that I received.
was a man of great integrity and honor. He served so valiantly in the Mexican War, and as Commandant of West Point that at the outset of the Civil War he was asked by Lincoln’s administration to be the leader of the Union Army. After a short time of personal thought and reflection, he demurred. He could not bear the thought of raising arms to his family or to his native state, Virginia. His home was a plantation within a stone’s throw of Washington, D.C.
began construction in the early 1800s by George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington. The estate passed to Mary Anna, his daughter, who married – Robert E. Lee. By mid -1861, Federal troops occupied the plantation and by 1864, Quartermaster General Meigs ordered that that property be made into a National Cemetery following the huge loss of Union troops at the Battle of the Wilderness. Few people realize that this, most famous of all US National cemeteries in this country, was originally General Lee’s plantation.
is home to an extremely diverse and significant collection of trees and landscapes. The more than 8,600 trees are comprised of 300 varieties and species. Some of the cemetery’s oldest trees pre-date the first burials and are nearly 250 years old. Other memorial trees in Arlington represent specific military groups, such as a red maple in section 27 that remembers U.S. colored troops and freed slaves during Civil War times. A large limb of this tree fell and a section of it was picked up by Mark Turcotte of Imperial Pen work in Kathleen Georgia. He traded it for some piece of my tropical wood collection in early 2016.
on the banks of the upper reaches of the Rappahannock River. As such it was a strategic location and supply depot of the Union Army in May of 1864. Likewise, literally anything going on in nearby Fredericksburg spilled over to Port Royal in 1862 and 1863. It was during this time early in the war General Jackson’s Corps stayed in the Port Royal Area.
during the Civil War and writes in her diary that at times shelling in Port Royal was fast and furious. She also writes that she hosted many Confederate officers such as JEB Stuart, Rooney Lee and Major Pelham -the boy wonder artillerist. The Plantation carried all of the marks of privilege and high breeding. Obviously, any visitor would have seen and walked along the paths of Gay Mont.
were designed and planted by J.H. Bernard. The paths of the gardens were lined with American Boxwood's which is a small important shrub in the area of tide water America. Left untouched for hundreds of years the trees eventually grew larger and died or were replaced. A beautiful piece of American boxwood from one of these historic trees at Gay Mont was supplied to me by Thomas Jewell through his wife Trevy of Historic woods of America.
turn out to be some of the most interesting aspects of the Civil War, one must pause and consider what brought on the war in the first place. Volumes have been written on the divisive politics leading up to the war. The main conflict were the issues of the Southern States wishing to preserve a life style, economy, and the perceived rights of their states and this was at odds with the ideas of the Northern States. One of the main political players in this drama was Mr. James Mason of Virginia, Then U.S. Senator J.M. Mason is known for his reading of the final speech of then dying J.C Calhoun on March 4, 1850. The speech warned of disunion and dire consequences if the North did not guarantee the South permanent equal representation in Congress. Complaining of personal liberty laws that "Although the loss of property is felt, the loss of honor is felt still more."
from the U.S. Senate for his support of the Confederacy. He was one of the two Confederate envoys to England in Nov., 1861 on the RMS Trent which was stopped by the USS Jacinto which precipitated the “Trent Affair.” It is to be noted that there were many political players in the controversy both North and South and Mason was only one of them. Mason’s home in Winchester was one of the first buildings to be destroyed by Union troops, undoubtedly because of his authorship of the fugitive slave act. Ms. Cornelia McDonald’s diary refers to this incident – “They have begun to tear down Mr. Mason’s house. All day axe and hammer are at work demolishing that pleasant, happy home. I saw the roof taken off today, that roof the shelter of which had never been denied to the homeless.” Thus, only the trees remain as witnesses to the loss of the Mason home.
to the streets of Winchester. One of these trees lost a large limb in 2016 and was sent to me by Mr. Robert Saunders in early 2017. I met him at Glen Burnie when exiting that plantation home during a visit there in mid Sept., 2016. He was a security person with an interest in wood working. He sent me several pieces from historic trees in northern Virginia. Undoubtedly, the sycamores witnessed most of the events of the Civil War surrounding Winchester, Va., including the movement of thousands of Union and Confederate troops coming and going as this area was hotly contested.
formally the Libby & Son Ship Chandlers & Grocers, It was the only building in the area to have running water, was considered an ideal site by the Confederate authorities for a prison for Union soldiers. The building was 3 stories at the front, 4 stories in the rear, and measured almost 45,000 square feet. By 1863, the rooms became so crowded that the prisoners had to sleep "spoon-fashion". They were head to foot in alternating rows along the floor. They were packed so tightly that when they slept, it became the responsibility of the highest ranking man in each room to call out "spoon over”! This was done throughout the night to enable everyone to roll over in unison.
cold, and lice, yet many were able to buy extra provisions and receive packages from home. The prisoners suffered from the intense cold weather. The windows at the prison were broken out during the summer for relief from the heat. Smallpox and other diseases were increasing dramatically. By 1863, the daily rations were getting smaller and then consisted of a couple of ounces of meat, 1/2 pound of bread, and a small cup of beans or rice. Conditions at Libby were not much different than conditions in tens of other facilities both North and South, basically miserable!
the Libby prison was dismantled and shipped to Chicago where it was reconstructed as a museum (tourist site) for the Chicago Colombian Exposition in 1893. Ultimately, it was torn down and sold for parts and artifacts. Mr. Cary Delery of the Historical Shop in New Orleans had a piece of a yellow pine beam from the prison. He made it available to me as trade for making some pens from this wood for sale in his shop. I received it in early 2018.
The mansion house itself was completed by Nathanial Cheairs in 1855. Its location, just a mile south of Spring Hill and a hundred yards removed from the Colombia Pike, meant it was destined to witness the uncanny events surrounding the skirmishes and battles of Spring Hill, Tn., in late Nov., of 1864. It was here that 30,000 troops of Union General Schofield did a quiet march through the night along the pike, mostly unchallenged by Confederate JB Hood’s army. It was here that Confederate General NB Forest threatened to beat General Hood to within an inch of his life for allowing this massive failure to stop the Union army from marching northward to Nashville.
that General Hood had breakfast with his commanders and heaped abuse on them with language that that may have scoured the wallpaper of the mansion. It was here, in the dining room, that Hood outlined his plans for what would be the Battle of Franklin late on Nov 30th. The deadliest in the shortest time frame in the entire war.
This mansion had been occupied by Union soldiers in 1862 and after the battle of Spring Hill it also served as a hospital. There are still blood stains on the floor. Some feel that the house is haunted. I have visited many Civil War site mansions and homes but this is one of the finest. The furniture and many artifacts in the mansion are original and the grounds are exceedingly well kept.
that was originally a part of the same plantation and it too played an important role in the war. Union General Stanley used it as his headquarters during the Spring Hill battle but in May of 1863, Confederate General Earl Van Dorn was murdered by Doc Peters for having a relationship with his wife. Near to the Rippavilla mansion are many witness trees including a massive American beech a magnolia, and a sugar maple. A dead limb of the American beech provided enough wood for a pen which is now part of the collection.
in May of 1863 was just as bloody as the Battle of Vicksburg which occurred in early July. It turns out that houses near or on battlefields commonly served as headquarters and frequently as hospitals for the Union or Confederate forces. Confederate General Pemberton's field headquarters was established in the Isaac Roberts house on the morning of May 16, 1863. (The site is private property and inaccessible to the public.)
as General Bowen's division swept past to regain Champion Hill, Pemberton waved his hat to inspire the men. A group of ladies standing nearby sang "Dixie." When Bowen's counterattack was driven back, Pemberton sadly issued orders for his army to retire from the field. Late that night, Grant made the Roberts house his headquarters, but as it had been converted into a Confederate field hospital, the Union commander slept on the porch. A view of the champion hill battlefield as it presently appears.
was supplied by Mr. John Spicer. The sycamore wooden piece of the house was salvaged before the house fell into complete destruction by the elements of nature. One can see the darkened exposed wooden surface on the top end of the pen and the fine characteristic wood grain of sycamore on the barrel piece of the pen.
left many, many thousands of the heart-sick, hungry and hurting men in both blue and grey to seek throughout the autumn countryside a place to heal. The ones in blue lingered on the Potomac’s Maryland side. The tattered, famished men in grey made their way to vast fields around Bunker Hill, Virginia, where they had a month to eat, care for wounds, de-louse, write, or just lay down on that autumn’s glorious garment. Great organized revivals bathed spirit-wounds. Home and loved ones became a sweet possession.
or so on the staff of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, as commander of Cavalry for the Army of Northern Virginia, who found Adam Stephen Dandridge’s home and 318-acre farm, the already legendary “Bower,” six short miles from Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s and Robert E. Lee’s chosen grounds for respite and reflection. It appears that Lee, Jackson, and James Longstreet also took repast together at the master’s table there. For years after, those men and women living “The Bower Moment” have written in their books of those unforgettable “perfect 25 days,” made possible by the obliging farm/household workforce of some sixty people.
from which this pen was made was supplied by Mr Neil Super a wood turner in Shepardstown WVa. He indicated that the oak in the front lawn of the photo is long gone but a few other witness oaks still survive in the area near the Bower house. The wood is classic and has no insect or fungal induced damage.
in the Virginia counties of Spotsylvania and Orange, is significant to the nation because of the role the house and grounds played during the American Civil War. Much of the Battle of the Wilderness was fought on the plantation itself. Ellwood was built in the 1790s by William Jones and has been a working farm ever since. The house served as a Confederate hospital after the Battle of Chancellorsville (1863) and as Gen. G.K. Warren's headquarters during the Battle of the Wilderness(1864). Within a year’s span two flags flew over the house
and the blue swallowtail flag of the U.S. Army of the Potomac’s Fifth Corps. In 1863, it served as a Confederate recovery hospital for six months following the Battle of Chancellorsville. The family cemetery became the burial site for General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s amputated left arm. One year later Union General Gouverneur K. Warren set up his headquarters in the parlor here.
was a giant of a tree both in size and what it witnessed of the last 170 years. It overlooked the wilderness Run valley of Spotsylvannia and Orange counties Va. A specimen piece was obtained from Historic woods of Fredericksburg Va. after the tree died. It is one of the most beautiul pens in the collection based on its graceful lines, deep brown offset coloration and fine figuring.