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The Civil War Correspondents Memorial Arch

George Alfred Townsend

       Astride the ridge known as South Mountain, near Burkittsville at Crampton's Gap, lies Gathland State Park. The home of an unusual man, Gathland was an architecturally unique estate made up of as many as twenty structures, many of them built of rugged stone, individual in purpose and design. A number of buildings still stand, and the remains of others may be seen by visitors to the Park.
       Born on January 30, 1841, George Alfred Townsend became the youngest war correspondent of the Civil War. He served both at home and abroad, and later became one of America's most important journalists and novelists of the Reconstruction Era. His pen name, Gath, from which the Park derives its name, was formed by adding an H to his initials and was inspired by a biblical passage: (11 Samuel 1:20) "Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askalon."
       In 1884 Townsend purchased a tract of land on South Mountain, an area particularly attractive to him because of its proximity to Antietam and other historical sites of the Civil War. Closely associated with this historical aspect, the natural beauty of the site and the imposing views of the valleys appealed to him.
       The planning, design and construction of buildings was a hobby with Townsend, and he pressed forward with plans to convert his Mountainside into a retreat from the pressures of his strenuous writing schedule. Among his first efforts was Gapland Hall built in 1885, soon after Townsend acquired the land, and enlarged at one time to include eleven rooms. Probably occupied by his wife, Bessie, this building was partially restored in 1958, and now houses the Park Visitor's Center. The Den and Library Building was erected in 1890 - it contained a large library, a study and writing room, and ten upstairs bedrooms. The foundations of this building are still intact, but the walls have long since crumbled, and only fragments of the original building remain.
       Gapland Lodge, built in 1885, was a stone building, thought to be used as servants' quarters; it now serves as a museum building. West of Gapland Hall are the remains of a mausoleum, built by Gath in 1895. A large bronzed dog graced the top of the tomb, and a white marble slab over the door bore the inscription "Good night Gath." This building was perhaps intended to become Gath's final resting-place but the dog was stolen, the building deteriorated into rubble, and there is no evidence that the tomb was ever used as a burial place. Townsend himself died in New York in 1914.
        Probably Townsend's most unique and certainly his most lasting architectural endeavor at Gathland is an unusual monument erected in 1896 as a memorial to his fellow war correspondents. Ruthanna Hindes, in her book "George Alfred Townsend" describes the monument in some detail:

       "In appearance the monument is quite odd. It is fifty feet high and forty feet broad. Above a Moorish arch sixteen feet high built of Hummelstown purple stone are super-imposed three Roman arches. These are flanked on one side with a square crenellated tower, producing a bizarre and picturesque effect. Niches in different places shelter the carving of two horses' heads, and symbolic terra cotta statuettes of Mercury, Electricity and Poetry. Tables under the horses' heads bear the suggestive words "Speed" and "Heed"; the heads are over the Roman arches. The three Roman arches are made of limestone from Creek Battlefield, Virginia, and each is nine feet high and six feet wide. These arches represent Description, Depiction and Photography.
       The aforementioned tower contains a statue of Pan with the traditional pipes, and he is either half drawing or sheathing a Roman sword. Over a small turret on the opposite side of the tower is a gold vane of a pen bending a sword. (Note: This weather vane may now be seen in the Park Museum.)
       At various places on the monument are quotations appropriate to the art of war correspondence. These are from a great variety of sources beginning with Old Testament verses.
       Perhaps the most striking feature of all are the tablets inscribed with the names of 157 correspondents and war artists who saw and described in narrative and picture almost all the events of the tour years of the war-"

       The unusual monument was dedicated by Governor Lloyd Lowndes on October 16, 1896, and in 1904 was turned over to the National Park Service to be maintained as a National Monument.
       After Townsend's death on April 15, 1914, his daughter sold Gathland. In 1943 the property was purchased by a church group and used as a summer conference site. Later it was acquired by members of the Frederick Chamber of Commerce and the Historical Society of Frederick County, Inc. On May 13,1949, it was deeded to the State of Maryland to be administered as a State Park by the Department of Forests and Parks.
Source: "Maryland Park Service"

This Page last updated 02/15/02


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