Battlefield Markers & Monuments: A Conclusion

Our official blog series “Battlefield Markers & Monuments” concludes this evening, but of course you’ll continue to find articles about historical sites and markers throughout the coming months on Emerging Civil War. We hope you’ve enjoyed the details about markers and monuments.

As blog editors, we like to choose topics for the series and then let our writers interpret the details, writing specific on aspects of their own interest and research. Not all the articles in this series focused on battlefield markers and monuments, but all the posts highlighted historic markers or monuments related to the Civil War. Mission accomplished! We always appreciate the insight of our authors.

Woodson’s Missourian Battlefield Marker at New Market, Virginia

We learned about stone blocks and bronze artwork placed to commemorate historic events, brave deeds, and courageous individuals. We explored accounts about the actions that inspired the markers and monuments. We discussed details regarding the dedications or quiet placements of the silent sentinels.

Thank you to all the ECW members and guest authors for sharing their research, observations, and writing with us. It’s been an enlightening and informative experience to read facts and perspectives on some of the famous and lesser-known markers and monuments connected to the Civil War. We hope you’ve found a few new locations to visit and a new curiosity to discover the stories behind the stone and bronze.

If you want to indulge in all the articles from the series, you can find the entire three weeks of posts here: markers-and-monuments-17 

Irish Brigade Monument at Antietam

Have you been inspired to explore more battlefield/historical markers and monuments and their history? Do you have a Civil War related marker or monument in your hometown? Do you know its history?

Battlefield Markers & Monuments: The Civil War Correspondents Memorial

Near the summit of Crampton’s Gap, driving up from the west, Gapland Road makes a quick curve due east before snaking over the top of South Mountain and curling down the far side. This last little juke, right next to a pottery complex, points to the open view of the mountaintop where—suddenly—the Civil War Correspondents Memorial Arch looms into view. 

Perhaps it’s my own professional bias, but I’ve always admired this stately yet awkward construct. It tries to be classical yet modern, with arches and tablets and turrets and even a Roman god. But for all the arches, they don’t really lead anywhere. The monument is forty feet wide and fifty feet tall but only a few feet deep. Yet symbolism seems built into every nook, cranny, and orifice.

Three small arches represent “description,” depiction,” and “photography.”

Atop one chimney-like column, a pen crosses a sword—illustrating which one is mightier.

“Speed” and “heed” seem like tools of the trade or reminders, overlooked by two horses’ heads (“steeds”?) high above.

In an alcove on the monument’s face, Mercury, the messenger to the Roman gods, stands fleet-footed, with wings on his doughboy-like helmet, ready to bring news from the field of battle. He carries a pan pipe in one hand; with the other, he holds his partially drawn sword.

The backside of the monument features the names of Civil War correspondents, artists, and photographers. A few names stand out to most buffs—Matthew Brady, Alfred Waud, Charles Coffin, William Swinton—but to those of us who’ve studied Civil War-era journalism, it’s a veritable who’s who of fabulous personalities, colorful writers, and invaluable imagery.

Sylvanus Cadwallader, who did so much to help keep U.S. Grant on the straight and narrow . . . Henry Raymond, who founded the New York Times . . . Edward Capsey, who upset George Gordon Meade so badly that Meade had him placed backwards on a mule with a sign that said “Libeler of the Press” and drummed out of camp . . . John Hay, Lincoln’s personal secretary who wrote anonymous “dispatches” to the papers as part of Lincoln’s efforts to influence public opinion . . . W. L. Sheppard, whose sketch of Lee and Jackson at the “Crackerbox Meeting” has become iconic . . . and on and on.

I note names not listed, too, such as Thomas Morris Chester, a black correspondent for the Philadelphia Press . . . William Howard “Bull Run” Russell, the British reporter whose frantic but incomplete report of the war’s first major battle led readers to think the North had carried the day . . . Henry Wing, the New York Tribune reporter to whom Ulysses S. Grant vowed, after crossing the Rapidan River in May 1864, that there would be “no turning back.”

The man responsible for the memorial has his name etched there, too: George Alfred Townsend, the youngest and one of the most accomplished of all the war correspondents. He published under the penname “Gath”—his initials with an “h” added on the end, inspired by a Biblical quote, “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askalon” (II Samuel, 1:20).

By 1884, Townsend had gained an international following and, with the corresponding funds that came with his best-selling work, he purchased land atop South Mountain and began to create a writers’ retreat he called “Gapland” (because it stood in Crampton’s Gap). Along with several buildings and an unused mausoleum, he also erected the War Correspondents Memorial Arch, dedicated on October 16, 1896. October 16 also happens to be my daughter’s birthday, and since she’s the one who got me into all this Civil War stuff in the first place, the resonance there also added to the memorial’s appeal for me.

The monument, funded by a subscription drive (ironic for something newspaper-related, eh!), says:

To the Army Correspondents
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.

Today, Gapland is now Gathland State Park, run by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The arch is maintained by the Antietam National Battlefield.

The Appalachian Trail winds along the crest of South Mountain, spitting hikers out at Gapland, where they crown around the public restrooms, which have signs warning hikers not to wash their dishes in the sinks. A crosswalk takes the trail across Gapland Road in front of the memorial and then along the edge of the parking lot before climbing back into the forest on the far side.

Civil War correspondents have frequently been described as a “Bohemian brigade” because of their eccentricities, their literary (and sometimes imaginative) flair, and their often-itinerant lifestyles. “Mostly rough, sometimes ready,” author James M. Perry said of them in his excellent and entertaining book on the Bohemian brigade. (Read this post for a little more about Civil War journalism.)

It’s fitting that the memorial to the correspondents is as much of a mishmash as they themselves were as a group. It is eclectic and Bohemian just as they were—and proud, too. It evokes, in its way, a kind of “last bastion.” Placed as it was at the top of Crampton’s Gap, where D. H. Hill’s Confederates held firm for nearly a day against a much stronger Union advance, the monument suggests a strong defense (although, I have to add, it faces the opposite direction Hill’s men faced).

When I visit the War Correspondents Memorial, I feel like I’ve come to pay my respects to and be with my people. Here, my Civil War interest and journalism background intersect—on a battlefield and at a writers’ retreat—and I am delighted. Perhaps here, more than anywhere, I have a touchstone as a writer of Civil War history.

Battlefield Markers & Monuments: Lake County, Ohio Soldiers’ Monument

Lake County is the smallest county in the entire state of Ohio.  It lies along Lake Erie in the northeastern corner of the state; its county seat, Painesville, is about 30 miles from downtown Cleveland.  It is a beautiful county full of attractive towns, a high quality of life, and rich history.  I have had the pleasure to live in Lake County since 2009.  While the county is not known for Civil War battlefields, it did send young men off to fight for the Union in the Civil War.  Many of them never came home.

On July 3, 1880, a monument to the Civil War soldiers of Lake County was unveiled and dedicated in Painesville’s town square.  The monument is made up of a base inscribed with quotes about the sanctity of the Union from such notable Americans—and southerners—as George Washington and Andrew Jackson.  Above the quotes, on all four sides, are the insignia of the major military branches in which Lake County soldiers served during the war: infantry, cavalry, artillery, and naval service.  Finally, continuing up, one sees the names of Civil War battles at which Lake County soldiers fought and died, including Winchester, Gettysburgh, and Vicksburgh (yes, the names of the latter two battles are misspelled).  At the top of the monument stands a Civil War soldier.

The monument is tall and attractive but honestly not that much different than many similar monuments erected in city squares in countless towns both north and south.  But something else was significant about Lake County, Ohio in 1880.  That was a presidential election year, and the Republican candidate that year, James A. Garfield, was a resident of Mentor, a Lake County village just a few miles west of Painesville.  Garfield, arguably one of the two most famous Americans in the country that summer (the other being his Democratic opponent, the Union Civil War hero Winfield Scott Hancock), attended and spoke at the dedication of the Painesville monument.

Garfield was, of course, the keynote speaker that day.  The speech he offered, however, was not a typical speech for that era of Civil War memory.  While many speakers dedicating many monuments extolled the virtues of their side and described their enemies as the true opponents of liberty, Garfield took a different tack.  He acknowledged the horrors of war and wondered how many brave young men would still step forward if they truly understood that they might die or be horribly maimed.  And, instead of simply honoring both sides for their gallantry under fire, he searched for the true meaning of the Civil War:

“And, fellow citizens, that silent sentinel that crowns yon granite column will look down upon the boys who shall walk these streets for generations to come, and he will not let them sleep when the country calls.  More than the bugler on the field, from his granite lips will go out a call that the children of Lake County will hear after the grave has covered us all and our immediate children.  That is the teaching  of your monument; that is its lesson.  It is the lesson of sacrifice for what we love;  the lesson of heroism for what we mean to sustain; and that lesson cannot be lost on a people like this.  It is not a lesson of revenge; it is not a lesson of wrath…”

James Garfield understood war as only one who has fought in it can.  He understood that some ideas—like democracy and equality for all—are, in fact, worth fighting and dying for.  But he did not sugar coat or glorify war.  To him, the Civil War was certainly worth fighting.  But that did not make the death and destruction any easier to accept.  This made monuments like the one in Painesville so important to remind future generations (like ours) of the sacrifices of his generation and the enduring work that must be done to maintain a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Battlefield Markers & Monuments: Wisconsin Memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park

Emerging Civil War welcomes back Paige Gibbons-Backus

Growing up in Wisconsin, I have always been interested in history, and while Wisconsin has some interesting Civil War history such as the Iron Brigade, “Old Abe”, and Camp Randall, it really was not a main focus. To get my Civil War history, I have always traveled east to places like Charleston, Richmond, or Gettysburg, but I never really spent much time learning about the western theater of the war.

20th Wisconsin Monument

I finally had my first opportunity on a recent trip to New Orleans and Mississippi in September 2016 when we stopped at Vicksburg National Military Park. Driving down the long, curvy park road surrounded by monuments, hills, and ridiculously tall grass, one monument really stuck out to me: the Wisconsin Memorial. The monument was dedicated in 1911, and compared to many of the other monuments along the park road, it is enormous; 122 feet in height, with four sets of stairs leading to a column with a bronze statue of “Old Abe”, mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry, at its peak. Around the column stands various statues and reliefs, many of which focus on reconciliation. However, what stood out the most were the names of the 9,075 soldiers who had fought at Vicksburg, and among them, there with the 20th Wisconsin Company H, was Calvin Hyde, my fourth great-grandfather.

There is always a sense of pride when seeing your ancestor’s name on a monument for his service, let alone connected to such an impactful event as the Civil War. I knew my ancestor had fought in the Civil War, but his whole service took place in the western theater, not in the more famous eastern engagements such as Fredericksburg, Manassas, or Gettysburg. Calvin Hyde resided in Ripon, Wisconsin (where my family still lives today) and enlisted in the Twentieth Wisconsin Infantry. His regiment was organized into service at Camp Randall, in Madison, Wisconsin (now largely part of the University of Wisconsin’s football stadium), and set out in August 1862. The regiment joined General Herron’s Brigade and left for Missouri on September 6th to participate in the campaign then being conducted against the Confederates by the Army of the Frontier. As a result, they took part in the battle of Prairie Gove on December 7th, 1862, then moved on to Springfield, Missouri. They were later transferred to Vicksburg on June 15th, 1863 and remained there until the surrender on July 4th, 1863.

Vicksburg Park

Vicksburg was a vital part of the war effort in the western theater because it attempted to  control the Mississippi River. Control of the river would allow the occupying forces to more easily transport supplies, soldiers, and wounded throughout the west. By 1863, Vicksburg was one of the last major Confederate strongholds on the Mississippi River. When two assaults on the once thriving town failed, General Grant decided to besiege the city. From May 18th to July 4th, 1863, the city was surrounded by more than 70,000 troops, trapping not only soldiers, but women and children as well who burrowed into caves in the hills for protection. After months of bombardments, shortness of supplies, and illness, the Confederates surrendered, transferring control of the town and the Mississippi River to the Union for the rest of the war.

Wisconsin Monument

Throughout the siege at Vicksburg, the 20th Wisconsin was situated on the extreme left flank of the entrenching forces, (in an area now off the battlefield park and surrounded by shopping centers). They did not see much action, but instead, their main duties consisted of picket duty and labor on the trenches. However, records from one commander, Colonel Bertram, reported that on June 23rd, a few men from Companies B and D were able to sneak close to the Confederate fire pits, capturing thirteen soldiers and killing one. For the rest of the men of the regiment, they labored or spent a lot of their time in the hospitals due to disease, including Calvin Hyde, who was hospitalized for some time due to dysentery. Despite this, the 20th Wisconsin fared well during the siege, only suffering two casualties: Peter Nimm, of Company H, and J. Champeny of Company C, who died in a hospital.

After the Siege of Vicksburg, the 20th Wisconsin headed west on several expeditions, including across the Rio Grande into Mexico, January 1864, and finished out their service in Galveston, Texas, performing garrison duties until their discharge July 15th, 1865. As for my ancestor, he lived the remainder of his days back in Ripon Wisconsin, doing what many do best in that state: farming.

Calvin Hyde’s name is listed here.

Many would just see the Wisconsin memorial simply as another monument in a sea of monuments along the battlefield drive. However, the personal and family connections make it something incredibly special to me, not only because I am a history nerd, but because we have no remnants of Calvin Hyde’s Civil War days, and this was the first time I could see and touch sometime tangible from his service.

Battlefield Markers & Monuments: Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park, Washington D.C.

An important monument of President Abraham Lincoln sits in Lincoln Park, a park in the Capitol Hill section of Washington, D.C. This statue is seen by thousands of people each day – the Emancipation Memorial. I wonder about how many of them know either of its history or importance to the memory of the Civil War.

Emancipation Memorial (Library of Congress photo)

Reminiscing of my boyhood days of playing football in the Lincoln Park, I would always spend several minutes looking at the Emancipation Memorial. I would just call it the Abraham Lincoln statue, remembering the story my Uncle Mac told me, “… this memorial was paid for by former slaves and Frederick Douglass dedicated it in 1876.” 

The Freedmen’s Memorial to Abraham Lincoln project began just after President Lincoln’s assassination. A former enslaved woman, named Charlotte Scott, gave her former master five dollars for a monument to President Lincoln. The effort acquired more African American support after a local Ohio newspaper publicized the story. As more African Americans supported the effort, Frederick Douglass became involved in this endeavor.  Eventually, the Western Sanitary Commission of St. Louis, a volunteer war relief agency, was persuaded to sponsor the project and “make it known to the freedmen.”1

Frederick Douglass

There was never the possibility of the freedmen influencing the design of the monument, the sponsor indicated, as it tried to acquire white donors. Several designs were submitted, some more elaborate than others, prompting a call for donations from whites who supported blacks during the Reconstruction era. However, white support was absent, as there were many additional plans for Lincoln monuments. Subsequently, John Mercer Langston, a prominent African American attorney, was selected to help with raising monies from African American communities, for this venture.

In 1871, Thomas Ball was selected to execute the sculpture for the memorial. His statue depicting President Lincoln standing over a kneeling slave who was dressed only in a cloth around his waist was demeaning to many African Americans. This caused a controversy in the black community. However, although distressed, blacks wanted to show their gratitude to Mr. Lincoln.

In his book, “Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America,” Kirk Savage, a historian and professor at the University of Pittsburgh, points out that opposition to the Emancipation Memorial isn’t a modern phenomenon.

The image of the kneeling slave was very common at the time, says Savage, but it rarely found its way into monuments. That it was used in such a prestigious one was offensive to many.

“It was resented by a lot of people,” Savage says. “It was like African Americans had done nothing for their own liberation. The role black Union soldiers played in fighting for emancipation was ignored, and that furthered the negative reaction to the statue.”

Mr. Douglass had insisted upon racial integration into the statue because he had demanded in 1865 – the black man’s “incorporation into the American body politic.”2 In spite of the design of the statue and because of his relationship with President Lincoln, he was the keynote speaker at the memorial’s dedication.

On April 14, 1876, in the presence of President Ulysses Grant, Frederick Douglass gave the keynote address, entitled, Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln. As usual, it was a powerful and eloquent oratory, expressing what President Lincoln meant to the country and to the black man, during his presidency.  There were 25,000 attendees in audience to hear this prominent African American lecturer.

I submit to you three excerpts of this powerful dissertation:

Fellow–citizens, the fourteenth day of April, 1865, of which this is the eleventh anniversary, is now and will ever remain a memorable day in the annals of this Republic. It was on the evening of this day, while a fierce and sanguinary rebellion was in the last stages of its desolating power; while its armies were broken and scattered before the invincible armies of Grant and Sherman; while a great nation, torn and rent by war, was already beginning to raise to the skies loud anthems of joy at the dawn of peace, it was startled, amazed, and overwhelmed by the crowning crime of slavery—the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It was a new crime, a pure act of malice. No purpose of the rebellion was to be served by it. It was the simple gratification of a hell–black spirit of revenge. But it has done good after all. It has filled the country with a deeper abhorrence of slavery and a deeper love for the great liberator.


I have said that President Lincoln was a white man, and shared the prejudices common to his countrymen towards the colored race. Looking back to his times and to the condition of his country, we are compelled to admit that this unfriendly feeling on his part may be safely set down as one element of his wonderful success in organizing the loyal American people for the tremendous conflict before them, and bringing them safely through that conflict. His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful cooperation of his loyal fellow–countrymen. Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless. Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible. Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.

Fellow–citizens, I end, as I began, with congratulations. We have done a good work for our race today. In doing honor to the memory of our friend and liberator, we have been doing highest honors to ourselves and those who come after us; we have been fastening ourselves to a name and fame imperishable and immortal; we have also been defending ourselves from a blighting scandal. When now it shall be said that the colored man is soulless, that he has no appreciation of benefits or benefactors; when the foul reproach of ingratitude is hurled at us, and it is attempted to scourge us beyond the range of human brotherhood, we may calmly point to the monument we have this day erected to the memory of Abraham Lincoln.

Emancipation Memorial (Library of Congress photo)

“According to the historian John Cromwell, who heard the speech at close range, Douglass referred to the black figure only once, in an ad-libbed aside which did not appear in the published version….Cromwell later paraphrased it, Douglass objected to the monument’s design because ‘it showed the negro on his knee when a more manly attitude would have been indicative of freedom.’ The concern here with ‘manliness’ is consistent with Douglass’s lifelong understanding of masculinity as the structural opposite of slavery, an understanding that inevitably gendered emancipation as well.”3

A Washington Post article dated April 15, 2012, mentions the change to the monument.  This change occurred during the Civil Rights activities during the 1970’s. Washington D.C. was undergoing significant changes in its communities as prominent African Americans were recognized for their accomplishments. The memorial originally faced the Capitol, with a direct line of vision to the nation’s most powerful building. When a statue celebrating African American educator Mary McLeod Bethune was erected in the eastern half of Lincoln Park in 1974, the Emancipation Memorial was rotated 180 degrees to face it.

1 – page 91, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves by Kirk Savage, Princeton University Press, 1977

2 – page 117, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves

3 – page 117, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling slaves

Question of the Week: 11/6-11/12/17

We’ve been sharing some of the history surrounding markers, monuments, or memorials on battlefields or at historic sites.

Is there a particular battlefield or historic marker that has been helpful or especially meaningful in your Civil War studies? Why?