War Correspondents Memorial Arch

War Correspondents Arch

(Photo credit: War Correspondents Memorial Arch, courtesy LostBob, Flickr Creative Commons)

Near Harpers Ferry is a large piece of masonry that I didn’t get to. It is fascinating, though, because it represents something very rare: a memorial specifically dedicated to the war correspondents and artists who covered the Civil War.

The monument, constructed in 1896, is not small: it stands fifty feet high and looks a bit like the façade of a building that has collapsed behind it. But it is a proper monument. It’s located in a place called Crampton’s Gap at South Mountain. The site is part of Maryland’s Gathland State Park, though it’s administered by the National Park Service. (The Appalachian Trail also traverses this park, on its way to Harpers Ferry.)

I don’t know much about this site—the memorial was supposedly constructed by a somewhat eccentric former Civil War reporter called George Alfred Townsend, whose land eventually became the state park.

Memorials and monuments journalists are pretty thin on the ground. There’s one inside the Newseum in Washington, DC. There’s another in London, at the top of BBC Broadcasting House. But these are not in a fully public setting, as the War Correspondents Memorial is. There is a public Mémorial des Reporters in Bayreux, France (erected by Reporters Without Borders). All three of these memorials have been completed in the past decade or so. I’m not sure if there are any others out there as old as the one in Gathland State Park.

Why is this? The answer’s pretty obvious, I suppose. Public sentiment is rarely on the side of journalists at the best of times, never mind wartime. Even WWII did not, as far as I now, produce a major public memorial to fallen journalists (though I’ll have to do some more research on that one.)

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