Friday, January 26, 2007

Two Old Catalpa Trees

Two old catalpa trees stand on the river front at Chatham, headquarters for the Union Army during the December 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg. A sign between the two announces that they were there during the Civil War. Today they are gnarled and twisted, their trunks looking their age but sporting vigorous green leaves on the branches.

An article in the August 1886 issue of The Century Magazine entitled "Lee at Fredericksburg" was written by J. Horace Lacy, owner of Chatham. He recounts being with General Robert E. Lee, looking across the Rappahannock River at Chatham. Lee recounted how he had "courted and won my dear wife under the shade of those trees" at Chatham. "There is nothing in vegetable nature so grand as a tree. . . . Major, they have our trees; they shall never have the land!"

A similar theme is sounded at the beginning of Thomas Nelson Page's novel Gordon Keith: "It no more occurred to him that any one could withstand his father than that the great oak-trees in front of the house, which it took his outstretched arms six times to girdle, could fall. Yet it came to pass that within a few years an invading army marched through the plantation, camped on the lawn, and cut down the trees; and Gordon Keith, whilst yet a boy, came to see Elphinstone in the hands of strangers, and his father and himself thrown out on the world."

I have posted some photos from my visit to Chatham at:

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