BURKITTSVILLE, Md. – A relatively obscure monument in Western Maryland honoring journalists who covered the Civil War will turn 100 years old next month with a birthday party guaranteed to attract some attention.
CNN correspondent Peter Arnett will be coming to Gathland State Park Oct. 12 for a celebration designed to raise the profile of the 50-foot-tall Civil War Correspondents Memorial.
“We would love for people to become more familiar with the monument and what it represents,” said John Howard, superintendent of the nearby Antietam and Monocacy national battlefields and overseer of the correspondents’ monument.
About 200 to 300 people are expected for the afternoon celebration, Howard said. He estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people visit the monument each year.
The stone monument, which bears the names of 157 correspondents, photographers and artists of the war, was built by George Alfred Townsend, a Civil War correspondent for the New York Herald.
He built it on land he owned near the site of the Civil War battle at South Mountain around the same time a number of memorials to soldiers were being erected at Civil War battle sites, such as Antietam.
Townsend thought it was appropriate that a testimonial to war correspondents be built, since they had also risked their lives, said Al Preston, the assistant manager of South Mountain recreation area.
One of the more famous names on the memorial is Matthew Brady, the Civil War photojournalist.
The memorial consists of four separate arches. The largest is made of Hummelstown purple stone. Three Roman arches built of limestone rest on top of it.
The stone for the smaller arches came from Cedar Creek battlefield, a Civil War site near Winchester, Va.
Connected to the arch’s left side stands a tower with a statue of a mythical Greek figure. It is designed to portray the swiftness of the traveling correspondents.
Townsend used his own funds and donations from acquaintances, including Joseph Pulitzer, to pay for the monument. It cost about $5,000 to build, said Marge Magruder, president of The Friends of Gathland State Park.
In 1904, Townsend gave the arch and the half-acre of land it sits on to the federal government.
Today the monument is owned by the National Park Service and sits close to the center of the state park. The Appalachian Trail crosses Gapland Road, which runs in front of the arch.
Visitors appreciate what Townsend left behind.
“It gives you something to learn from,” said Virginia Wagner, 40, of Boonsboro, Md., who visited the arch on a recent Sunday with her husband and two children. She said the memorial gives people a sense of the past.
It also helps families connect with their past. George Spielman, 56, a volunteer caretaker of Gathland State Park, said his great-great grandfather, Samuel Hayes, was a correspondent from the North during the Civil War. Hayes’ name is inscribed on the monument.
“It’s great to recognize the correspondents for the work they’ve done,” Spielman said.
After the 100th anniversary celebration, which begins at 2 p.m. Oct. 12, there will be a dedication of The George Alfred Townsend Museum at its new home in the remaining part of Townsend’s house.
Dorothy Rasmussen, Townsend’s great-granddaughter, will give remarks at the ceremony and cut the ribbon to the museum.
The memorial is a short drive from Frederick. To get there, take Interstate 70 west to U.S. Route 340. Take this highway west until you get to state Route 17. Take Route 17 north to Burkittsville, and turn left onto East Main Street. This turns into Gapland Road. Go up this road until you see the monument on the right. -30-