Battle Oaks

Historical Period: 20th Century (1900 & Later)
Historical Topic: Saved From the Axe
Species: Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)
County: Travis
Public Access: Yes

These three live oak trees, remnant of a once larger grove, were present on the original forty acres of the University of Texas campus when it opened in 1883. Legend says that when word was received that Northern troops had reached Galveston during the Civil War, the hill of oaks was destroyed to erect a fortress and protect the Texas Capitol. Only these three remain.

In 1923, plans emerged to build a new biological laboratories building in the northwest corner of the campus, which would have meant destruction of the University’s oldest live oaks. Students and faculty raised concerns with Dr. William Battle, chair of the Faculty Building Committee. Among those who wrote to Battle was Judge Robert Batts, a distinguished jurist, UT law professor and later chairman of the Board of Regents. Batts’ letter was direct. He told Battle that he would “come down to Austin with a shotgun” if that’s what was needed to save the oaks. Battle agreed the trees should be saved, took the matter up with the Board of Regents and convinced them to move the building farther east. The oaks were later named for their champion.

The trees are on 24th street, one block east of Guadalupe Street, in Austin.