Saturday, April 30, 2016

Empty Tombs and Memorial Arches on South Mountain Maryland

Memorials and monuments fascinate me.  When I travel I take many photos of monuments and memorials.  I learn more history than I could ever learn from a text book by researching the stories behind the monuments I photograph.  Not only do the historical stories fascinate me but I am  also fascinated by the detail on the monuments.  When I photograph a monument I rarely just take one photo of the entire monument.  I also take closeup photos of the details on the monument.  The artist who created the memorial put the minute details there for a specific reason that is lost to casual viewer.  

On South Mountain near Burkittsville, MD there is a very unusual monument dedicated to noncombatant newspaper war correspondents.  Burkittsville is famous today for being the setting for the movie The Blair Witch Project. Historically South Mountain is known as the site of the Battle of Crampton's Gap.  It is one of three gaps on South Mountain where the Battle of South Mountain had been fought between Union and Confederate Forces during the early encounters of the Maryland Campaign.   

The monument was completed in 1896.  It is fifty feet tall and forty feet wide. The Moorish arch at the bottom of the memorial is 16 feet tall.  Above the Moorish arch are three Roman arches.  Each arch is nine feet tall and six feet wide.  The arches represent Description, Depiction, and Photography.  Next to the arches is a zinc copy of Bertel Thorvaldsen's Mercury About To Kill Argos.  This was created by the J.W. Fiske Company. 

Above the arches are two horses heads.  

On either side of the main arch are the heads representing Electricity and Poetry.  Under the heads are the words Speed and Heed. 

The monument is fascinating in itself. It's located on the Appalachian Trail makes it of interest also.  But the story and controversy connected to the monument are what truly make it fascinating to me.  The monument was built by George Alfred Townsend who was a war correspondent and novelist.  He bought the land on South Mountain and built home for himself at the site of the Civil War battle.  He built the arch as a memorial to himself and other war correspondence.  There are 157 names of war correspondences on the memorial.  However the names of those included on the monument have been questioned.  Timothy J. Reese, who is a historian and resident of Burkittsville, Md claims that many names do no deserve to be included, while many names that should be included have been ignored due to Townsend's prejudice towards the Confederate journalists of the time.  I have included an excerpt from one of Ree's articles at the end of this blog. 

Along with his home Townsend also built a tomb for himself on the property.  Ironically the tomb sets empty.  Townsend's wife died and was buried in Philadelphia.  Townsend died April 14, 1915 and was buried next to his wife in Philadelphia.  

Townsend's empty tomb
The story and the monument are both fascinating.  There is a lot written about George Alfred Townsend if you are interested in learning more about the man who created a controversial monument and left an empty tomb.

Below is the excerpt from Timothy J. Reese's 

"The Arch bears 157 names, compiled with unmistakable personal bias. Thirty-three of them cannot be identified. Twenty-two have no business being there at all, they being Townsend's personal friends, large contributors to the project, or persons with whom Townsend wished to ingratiate himself. Names were compiled through an imprecise, word-of-mouth method of random collection conducted by Townsend and his network of veteran news cronies. As a result, many names are absent, incomplete, misspelled, or misstated. Several prominent Union and Confederate journalists do not appear at all, overlooked or, in the latter case, omitted altogether due to Townsend's bitter anti-Southern bias. - See more at:

Information from the Reese's article was taken from this link.    All photographs included in this blog are my personal photos.

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