Formation of a Commemorative Landscape


Culp’s Hill Monuments along Slocum Avenue; image source: National Park Service


I’ve spent this week preparing for a site visit to Gettysburg National Historical Park that we’ll make next week. Tim and I will be working on Culp’s Hill and updating the record of treatment in the CLR for this part of the park. In order to prep, I’ve been gathering information about the monuments on Culp’s Hill. For all of you who have been to the Gettysburg, you know that much of the landscape is dotted with monuments, markers, and tablets, especially along roadsides. Theses monuments take many forms including urns, obelisks, and representational statues. The iconography is varied, but repetitive: bronze medallions, crossed guns, cannons, wreaths, and regimental symbols. Much of this iconography represents instruments of war or signs of mourning. This research led me to wonder: how did the Gettysburg landscape, much of which was farmland before the three day battle, come to be covered with more than 1,300 monuments?

As Kathleen R. Georg explains in Gettysburg: The National Cemetery as a Cultural Resource, after the Battle of Gettysburg, the families of the fallen Union soldiers expected that the remains of their loved ones would be recovered from the battlefield and, to defray the expense of returning those remains to the hometowns of fallen soldiers, Pennsylvania’s treasury purchased a tract of land to create the Soldier’s National Cemetery (later Gettysburg National Cemetery. Aside from safeguarding proper burial of the fallen soldiers, many concerned citizens wanted to ensure that the battlefield itself would be preserved.  In 1864, the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association (GBMA) was formed and began purchasing tracts of land where the battle had taken place with the intention of establishing a commemorative landscape beyond the national cemetery. The group commissioned the first memorials on Little Round Top that same year. The custom of creating monuments in order to memorialize individuals, regiments, and the progression of the battle was already well established by the time that the Gettysburg National Military Park was inaugurated in 1895. At the time the GBMA turned over the land to the federal government to form the military park, 325 monuments commissioned by veterans groups and states had already been erected.

Until next week,


One response to “Formation of a Commemorative Landscape

  1. Pingback: A walk through Gettysburg | Designing the Parks·

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