Townsend, George Alfred, 1841-1914

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Townsend was a famous Civil War correspondent who wrote under the pen name "Gath," and who later constructed an elaboraate country estate at Gathland or Gapland at Crampton's Gap in South Mountain northwest of Washington. This was the site of a battle that marked the beginning of the Antietam campaign. In 1896, Townsend built the Army Correspondents' Memorial arch on his property to commemorate the service of Civil War correspondents. The site is now a park.

From the description of ALS : Washington, D.C., 1896 March 5. (Hagley Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 741762450

American Journalist.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Washington, D.C., to an unidentified correspondent, [no year] Mar. 1. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270572949

From the description of Autograph letter signed : [n.p.], to "Mr. Secretary," [William W. Belknap?], [ca. 1869?]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270572945

George Alfred Townsend was born in Delaware and educated chiefly in Philadelphia, where he developed into a journalist. He became the youngest correspondent to cover the Civil War, contributing to several New York papers, and made his name covering many important stories, including Lincoln's assassination and Sheridan's campaign in Virginia. He later lectured on his war experiences in America and Europe, and collected his lectures and columns in book form. He settled in Washington, D.C., writing books and articles about politics, and his work appeared in periodicals across the country, often under a pseudonym, most commonly, "Gath." He also wrote plays, poetry, and local history of the Maryland and Delaware area.

From the description of George Alfred Townsend letter to Dear sir, 1893 Feb. 23. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 71790546

American journalist and author.

From the description of Letters, 1892 [manuscript]. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647817293

Journalist and novelist George Alfred Townsend was born in Georgetown, Delaware, on January 30, 1841, to the Reverend and Mrs. Stephen Townsend. Townsend lived throughout Delaware and Maryland as his father transferred from parish to parish, before his family settled in Philadelphia in 1855. There, Townsend was graduated from Central High School with a Bachelor of Arts in 1860.

Townsend’s first full-time employment began in 1860 as a news editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer . In 1861, he moved to the city editorship of the Philadelphia Press, and in the same year, his play, The Bohemians, was published. Although Townsend’s stories and poems had been published in high school newspapers and, in fact, Townsend had published a small high school magazine, this play is his earliest known surviving publication.

By 1866, Townsend had become a noted news journalist, as a war correspondent covering the Civil War for the New York Herald, the New York World, and later, as a ghost writer, for The New York Times .

His reports of Lincoln’s assassination (part of which was later published as Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth [1865]) and General Sheridan’s victory at the Battle of Five Forks, Virginia, brought him considerable recognition. Townsend, who was the only correspondent present for the battle on March 31, 1865, conveyed word of the Union Army’s decisive victory, which resulted in the Confederate abandonment of Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia.

Townsend’s reflections on the Civil War and on his two-year journey in Europe during the war were collected in his Campaigns of a Non-Combatant and his Romaunt Abroad during the War (1866). Townsend’s recognition as a war correspondent led to his popularity as a lecturer. He traveled throughout the United States, lecturing on the Civil War, European politics, and U.S. government.

By 1867, Townsend had made his home in Washington, D.C., choosing the capital because of his desire to report on political news and issues. His books, The New World Compared with the Old (1869), Washington Outside and Inside (1873), and Events at the National Capital and the Campaign of 1876 (1876), explore American government, the nation’s capital, and political topics.

During the 1860s and 1870s his columns, articles, and letters appeared in newspapers throughout the United States, including papers in Boston, Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. Some of these articles, as well as some of his books, were written using a number of pen names, including “G.A.T.,” “Swede,” “Laertes,” “Johnny Bouquet,” and his favorite, “Gath.”

Several of Townsend’s books, written during the 1880s, are set in Delaware and Maryland. The first, Tales of the Chesapeake (1880), was a collection of poems and stories about Delaware and the Maryland shore. Townsend’s first historical novel, The Entailed Hat (1883), tells the tale of Patty Cannon, the “slave runner,” and her adventures in what is today the Governor’s House in Dover. The sequel to The Entailed Hat was Katy of Catoctin (1884), set in Western Maryland.

In 1884, Townsend purchased land near Burkettsville, Maryland, and established an estate, which he named Gapland. It was on this estate, in 1896, that he built the only national memorial to Civil War correspondents. Located near the Antietam Battlefield, the monument bears the names of 157 correspondents and artists.

After Townsend’s death in 1914, and following a succession of other owners, the estate was deeded to the Maryland State Department of Forests and Parks in 1949. The estate was renamed Gathland State Park, using Townsend’s popular pen name “Gath.” The park honors George Alfred Townsend as one of America’s most important journalists and novelists of the Reconstruction Era.

Frank, Bill. “Famed Sussex War Correspondent,” The News Journal (Wilmington), February 23, 1987. Hindes, Ruthanna. George Alfred Townsend: one of Delaware’s Outstanding Writers. Wilmington: Hambleton Printing & Publishing Co., 1946.

From the guide to the George Alfred Townsend correspondence, 1862-1912, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)

Journalist and novelist George Alfred Townsend was born in Georgetown, Delaware, on January 30, 1841, to the Reverend and Mrs. Stephen Townsend. Townsend lived throughout Delaware and Maryland, as his father transferred from parish to parish, before his family settled in Philadelphia, in 1855. There, Townsend was graduated from Central High School with a Bachelor of Arts in 1860. Townsend’s first full-time employment began in 1860 as a news editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 1861, he moved to the city editorship of the Philadelphia Press, and in the same year, his play, The Bohemians , was published. Although Townsend’s stories and poems had been published in high school newspapers and, in fact, Townsend had published a small high school magazine, this play is his earliest known surviving publication.

By 1866, Townsend had become a noted news journalist, as a war correspondent covering the Civil War for the New York Herald, the New York World, and later, as a ghost writer, for The New York Times .

His reports of Lincoln’s assassination (part of which was later published as Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth [1865]) and General Sheridan’s victory at the Battle of Five Forks, Virginia, brought him considerable recognition. Townsend, who was the only correspondent present for the battle on March 31, 1865, conveyed word of the Union Army’s decisive victory, which resulted in the Confederate abandonment of Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia.

Townsend’s reflections on the Civil War and on his two year journey in Europe during the war were collected in his Campaigns of a Non-Combatant and his Romaunt Abroad during the War (1866). Townsend’s recognition as a war correspondent led to his popularity as a lecturer. He traveled throughout the United States, lecturing on the Civil War, European politics and U.S. government.

By 1867, Townsend had made his home in Washington, D.C., choosing the capital because of his desire to report on political news and issues. His books, The New World Compared with the Old (1869), Washington Outside and Inside (1873), and Events at the National Capitol and the Campaign of 1876 (1876), explore American government, the nation’s capital, and political topics.

During the 1860s and 1870s his columns, articles, and letters appeared in newspapers throughout the United States, including papers in Boston, Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. Some of these articles, as well as some of his books, were written using a number of pen names, including “G.A.T.,” “Swede,” “Laertes,” “Johnny Bouquet,” and his favorite, “Gath.”

Several of Townsend’s books, written during the 1880s, are set in Delaware and Maryland. The first, Tales of the Chesapeake (1880), was a collection of poems and stories about Delaware and the Maryland shore. Townsend’s first historical novel, The Entailed Hat (1883), tells the tale of Patty Cannon, the slave “runner,” and her adventures in what is today the Governor’s House in Dover. The sequel to The Entailed Hat was Katy of Catoctin (1884), set in Western Maryland.

In 1884, Townsend purchased land near Burkettsville, Maryland, and established an estate, which he named Gapland. It was on this estate, in 1896, that he built the only national memorial to Civil War correspondents. Located near the Antietam Battlefield, the monument bears the names of 157 correspondents and artists.

After Townsend’s death in 1914, and following a succession of other owners, the estate was deeded to the Maryland State Department of Forests and Parks in 1949. The estate was renamed Gathland State Park, using Townsend’s popular pen name “Gath.” The park honors George Alfred Townsend as one of America’s most important journalists and novelists of the Reconstruction Era.

Frank, Bill. “Famed Sussex War Correspondent,” The News Journal (Wilmington), February 23, 1987. Hindes, Ruthanna. George Alfred Townsend: one of Delaware’s Outstanding Writers. Wilmington: Hambleton Printing & Publishing Co., 1946.

From the guide to the George Alfred Townsend collection, 1865–1975, 1865–1898, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Brown, William. William Brown letter, 30 May 1882. The Filson Historical Society
creatorOf Townsend, George Alfred, 1841-1914. Letters, 1892 [manuscript]. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Townsend, George Alfred, 1841-1914. Autograph letter signed : Washington, D.C., to an unidentified correspondent, [no year] Mar. 1. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Booth, Edwin, 1833-1893,. Autograph letters signed from Edwin Booth to various recipients [manuscript], 1858-1893. Folger Shakespeare Library
referencedIn Oswald Garrison Villard papers, 1872-1949. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Autograph File, T, 1580-1975. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Autograph File, M, 1648-1985. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Cadwallader, Sylvanus, b. 1825 or 6. Sylvanus Cadwallader papers, 1818-1904 (bulk 1862-1866 and 1880-1898). Library of Congress
referencedIn Poets of America, extra-illustrated. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Sylvanus Cadwallader Papers, 1818-1904, (bulk 1862-1898) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn John A. J. Creswell Papers, 1819-1885, (bulk 1862-1885) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Jones, Bassett, collector. Bassett Jones records, 1818-1938. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Ralston, William Chapman, 1826-1875. Correspondence, ca. 1870-1890. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Portrait file: Guide. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Hamlin, Charles Eugene. Letter : Bangor, Me., to George Alfred Townsend, 1900 Sept. 24. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
referencedIn Matthew Paul Deady Papers, 1850-1923 Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf Breckenridge, John R.,. Letters to Socrates Maupin and others [manuscript], 1783-1866. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn The Robert Cushman Butler Collection of Theatrical Illustrations Washington State University Libraries: Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
referencedIn Reid, Whitelaw, 1837-1912. Letter, Dec. 19, 1871. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
referencedIn New York State Library. Manuscripts and Special Collections Unit. Autographs of American authors and statesmen collection, ca.1770-1865. American Periodical Series I
referencedIn Houghton Mifflin Company reader reports on manuscripts submitted for publication, 1882-1931. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Davis, Jefferson, 1808-1889,. Correspondence regarding Walker Taylor's proposed plan to kidnap Abraham Lincoln, 1889-1898. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Townsend, George Alfred, 1841-1914. The real life of Abraham Lincoln : a talk with Mr. Herndon, his late law partner / by George Alfred Townsend. Allen County Public Library, ACPL
creatorOf George Alfred Townsend correspondence, 1862-1912 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
referencedIn William Warland Clapp correspondence, 1790-1891 (inclusive), 1840-1891 (bulk). Houghton Library.
creatorOf Townsend, George Alfred, 1841-1914. ALS : Washington, D.C., 1896 March 5. Hagley Museum & Library
creatorOf Townsend, George Alfred, 1841-1914. Letter [18]96 Aug. 18, Gapland, Md., to [E.C.] Stedman [New York]. University of Michigan
referencedIn Holland Collection of Literary Letters (MS 168), 1850-1880, 1872-1878 University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries. Special Collections Dept.
referencedIn Holland Collection of Literary Letters (MS 168), 1850-1880, 1872-1878 University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries. Special Collections Dept.
creatorOf Townsend, George Alfred, 1841-1914. Papers, 1883-1888. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf Townsend, George Alfred, 1841-1914. Autograph letter signed : [n.p.], to "Mr. Secretary," [William W. Belknap?], [ca. 1869?]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Letters to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1761-1904 (inclusive) 1820-1888 (bulk). Houghton Library.
referencedIn Autograph File, H, 1584-1988. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Adler, Elmer, 1884-1962. [Woodblock specimens [realia] Cut by Thomas Nast, Thomas Bewick and others]. Dartmouth College Library
creatorOf Hay, John, 1838-1905. Correspondence, 1854-1914, "Taylor" to "Upton." Brown University, John Hay Library
creatorOf Townsend, George Alfred, 1841-1914. George Alfred Townsend letter to Dear sir, 1893 Feb. 23. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
creatorOf Toner, Joseph M. (Joseph Meredith), 1825-1896,. Joseph Meredith Toner Collection, newspaper clippings, 1816-1895 (bulk 1833-1895). Library of Congress
referencedIn Young, John Willard, 1844-1924. Letters, 1874-1887. American Primers
referencedIn Autograph File, F, 1447-1994. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Charles Sumner correspondence, 1829-1874. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Correspondence and other papers, 1831-1891. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Creswell, John A. J. (John Angel James), 1828-1891. John A.J. Creswell papers, 1819-1885 (bulk 1862-1885). Library of Congress
creatorOf George Alfred Townsend collection, 1865–1975, 1865–1898 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
referencedIn Autograph File, G, 1641-1991. Houghton Library.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Belknap, William W. (William Worth), 1829-1890, person
correspondedWith Booth, Edwin, 1833-1893, person
associatedWith Brown, William. person
correspondedWith Cadwallader, Sylvanus, b. 1825 or 6. person
associatedWith Clapp, William Warland, 1826-1891 person
correspondedWith Creswell, John A. J. (John Angel James), 1828-1891. person
associatedWith Deady, Matthew P. (Matthew Paul), 1824-1893 person
correspondedWith Dickinson, Daniel S. (Daniel Stevens), 1800-1866 person
associatedWith Hamlin, Charles Eugene. person
associatedWith Hay, John, 1838-1905. person
associatedWith Herndon, William Henry, 1818-1891. person
associatedWith Hill, A. A. person
associatedWith Holland, J. G. (Josiah Gilbert), 1819-1881 person
associatedWith Houghton Mifflin Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Jones, Bassett, collector. person
associatedWith Knox, William, 1789-1825. person
associatedWith Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 person
correspondedWith Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 1807-1882 person
associatedWith Moffett, Samuel E. (Samuel Erasmus), 1860-1908, person
associatedWith New York State Library. Manuscripts and Special Collections Unit. corporateBody
correspondedWith Parton, James, 1822-1891 person
associatedWith Ralston, William Chapman, 1826-1875. person
associatedWith Reid, Whitelaw, 1837-1912. person
associatedWith Stedman, Edmund Clarence, 1833-1908. person
associatedWith Stoddart, J. M. (Joseph Marshall), 1845-1921, person
correspondedWith Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874 person
associatedWith Toner, Joseph M. (Joseph Meredith), 1825-1896, person
correspondedWith Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949 person
associatedWith World's Columbian Exposition (1893 : Chicago, Ill.) corporateBody
associatedWith Young, John Willard, 1844-1924. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Army Correspondents' Memorial (Burkittsville, Md.)
United States
United States
Maryland--Burkittsville
United States
United States
Subject
Journalists--Correspondence
Memorials
Political parties
President--Biography
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1841-01-30

Death 1914-04-15

Information

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