The George Alfred Townsend Museum at Gathland State Park commemorates the Civil War correspondent George Alfred Townsend  (January 30, 1841 – April 15, 1914).

Designated a state park in 1949, the 140-acre park occupies the former estate of Townsend, and includes the 1896 War Correspondents Memorial Arch, which sits alongside the Appalachian Trail.

One of the buildings in the park is Gapland Hall, built in 1885 and renovated in 1958. This is where you find the park´s visitor center and the George Alfred Townsend museum. Not far away is the Gapland Lodge, which houses a museum dedicated to the Battle at Crampton’s Gap, fought during the Maryland Campaign of the American Civil War.

The park regularly hosts Civil War reenactment encampments, and have interactive living history weekends dedicated to the 1800s.

The George Alfred Townsend Museum at Gathland State Park

Where is Gathland State Park?

Gathland State Park is found in Maryland. Part of it is in Frederick County and the other part in Washington County.

Coordinates: 39°24′13″N 77°38′28″W

The closest town is Burkittsville, Maryland.

Short facts

  • Gathland State Park is operated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
  • The War Correspondents Memorial Arch is National Historic Monument maintained by the National Park Service.
  • The park is on the IUCN List, in category III: Natural monument of feature.
  • After the death of Alfred Townsend, Gapland changed hands three times before being acquired by the Department of Forests and Parks.

About Gathland (Gapland)

During the American Civil War, George Alfred Townsend worked as a war correspondent, using the pen name Gath – a name derived by adding the letter H to his initials G.A.T. The pen name was inspired by Samuel 1:20 in the Bible: “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askalon.”

In 1884, Townsend acquired land in Crampton’s Gap, a wind gap on South Mountain in Maryland. This was the site of the Battle of Crampton’s Gap on September 14, 1862, during the Maryland Campaign of the American Civil War.

Townsend had three main buildings built on his land. In 1885, Gapland Hall was completed, an eleven-room house where we today find the park´s visitor center and the George Alfred Townsend Museum. Next followed the Gapland Lodge, which was erected to house severants, and then the large Den and Library Building which featured a den, a library and ten bedrooms. Today, very little remains of the Den and Library Building, but Gapland Lodge has survived and houses a museum depicting the battle at Crampton’s Gap.

A mausoleum was built for Townsend in 1895, but when he died in 1914 he was not placed there. Visitors to the park can today see the remnants of the maosoleum, but only the chamber remains. It is still possible to see the words “Good Night Gath” inscribed on the chamber´s marble lintel. Originally, a large bronze dog statue topped the mausoleum, but that is no longer there.

The War Correspondents Memorial Arch at Gapland was completed in 1896. It was the first momument in the world dedicated to journalists killed in combat.

The National War Correspondents Memorial Arch

The monument was completed in 1896 and dedicated on October 16 that year. Townsend retained ownership of the land until his death in 1914, but he entrusted the maintenance of the monument of the War Department (now National Park Service) in 1904.

The monument is 50 ft high and 40 ft broad, and includes a 16 ft high Moorish arch built of Hummelstown purple stone. Over the Moorish arch is three smaller Roman arches, made from limestone taken from the Creek Battlefield in Virginia. Each of the Roman arches is 9 ft high and 6 ft wide. They represent Description, Depiction and Photography, respectively.

The carving of two horses´ heads, and terra cotta statuettes of Mercury, Electricity and Poetry, are found in niches in the monument. The words Speed and Heed are carved under Electricity and Poetry, respectively.

One side of the monument is topped by a square crenellated tower, which holds a statue of the Greek god Hermes / Roman god Mercury, the messenger of the gods.

The other side of the monument is topped by small turret, over which we see a gold vane of a pen bending a sword.

Quotations pertaining to war correspondence are found in several locations throughout the monument.

The tablets

The names of over 157 individuals are inscribed on tables on the monument. They are assumed to be Civil War correspondents and Civil War artists, although we do not know for sure.

Dedication text on the monument

SPEED – HEED
Sept. 14 – 62 – 96
To the Army Correspondents
and
Artists 1861–65

Whose toils cheered the fireside
Educated provinces of rustics into
a bright nation of readers
and gave incentive to narrate
distant wars and explore dark lands.

Erected by subscriptions
1896

Text on the north side of the monument

O wondrous youth
Through this grand ruth
Runs my boy’s life, its thread
The General’s fame, the battle’s name
The rolls of maimed and dead
I bear with my thrilled soul astir
And lonely thoughts and fears
And am but history’s courier
To bind the conquering years
A battle’s ray, through ages gray
To light the deeds sublime
And flash the lustre of my day
Down all the aisles of time

War Correspondent Ballad – 1865

2003 addition

After remaining unchanged for over a century, four names were added to the monument in 2003:

  • David Bloom
  • Michael Kelly
  • Elizabeth Neuffer
  • Daniel Pearl