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Fallen Surrender Tree hauled away to storage | Richmond Times-Dispatch

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Fallen Surrender Tree hauled away to storage | Richmond Times-Dispatch


Richmond’s legendary Surrender Tree, felled in Friday’s storms, has been hauled away to await a commemorative future.

The tree on Old Osborne Turnpike in Henrico County east of Richmond purportedly marked the spot where Richmond’s mayor met Union officers April 3, 1865, to surrender a few days before the end of the Civil War. Richmond was undefended and burning from fires that were intended to keep supplies out of Union hands. Confederate government and military forces had evacuated after a Union breakthrough at Petersburg.

Standing at the entrance to Tree Hill Farm, the historic oak had fallen in the right of way for state Route 5. The Virginia Department of Transportation took responsibility for moving it Thursday. Jared Pierce, a VDOT contract administrator, said the main trunk of the tree was estimated to weigh 24,000 pounds. Two bulldozers struggled to lift it, trying unsuccessfully on opposite sides of the trunk until finally hoisting the trunk from each end. The weight of the massive stubs of branches caused the back wheels of one bulldozer to lift off the ground if the stubs were raised more than an inch or two high.

Russell T. Aaronson, III, president of Gray Land and Development Company, owner of Tree Hill Farm, said he plans to store the tree in a safe place on the property while consulting with state and local government and historical groups about the next step.

“It’s regarded as the location of the surrender of the city of Richmond,” Aaronson said. “Whether that’s the actual tree or not, we’re not sure. It’s become symbolic of the actual tree. We’ll probably look at the bands once we get it stored to see how old it is.

“We view it as our responsibility to be good stewards of the land and the historic aspects. We will store it out of harm’s way for artistic or other interpretive uses.”

If the Surrender Tree follows the path of the Stonewall Jackson Prayer Tree, it could end up as a commemorative item in a local museum store. The Virginia Historical Society sells writing pens, bowls and ornaments made from the tree where Confederate Gen. Thomas J. Stonewall Jackson gathered his men for prayer at the end of the Valley Campaign in June 1862.

The 350-year-old Jackson Prayer Tree was blown down by high winds on May 27, 2011, at the edge of a farm field in Augusta County. The wood was donated by the family to create handcrafted turnings, with proceeds supporting organizations such as the Wounded Warriors Project.

At the site of the Surrender Tree, a state historical marker tells the story of Mayor Joseph Mayo surrendering the city, but whether this was the exact location and whether this tree was actually standing at the time is yet to be determined.

“Like most local stories, the one about the Surrender Tree is grounded in fact, but either has been embellished over the years, or the details have grown fuzzy with repeated telling,” said Bob Krick, historian for Richmond National Battlefield Park.

The most precise account of the surrender, Krick said, was published in the Richmond Whig on April 6, 1865. The article said the meeting took place “at the line of fortifications just beyond Tree Hill, near the junction of the Osborne Turnpike and Newmarket Road.”

The Surrender Tree stood about 100 yards north of the junction of the two roads, Krick estimated. The line of fortifications crossed the two roads about 700 yards south of their intersection. Assuming that the tree is more than 147 years old, it might have been a good marker “at least in the vicinity” of the surrender, Krick said, “but it would be hard to argue that the surrender occurred literally beneath that tree.”


Written by vaphc

July 6, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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