You may have wondered, as I did last week, why war correspondents covering Iraq had to be memorialized in a Civil War park. Well, so does author Timothy Reese, probably the greatest living expert on Crampton's Gap:
"The plaque, simply stated, has no bearing on the War Correspondents Arch ... which was erected specifically for Civil War correspondents," Mr. Reese said. "Virtually everyone who has contacted me by phone had the identical question: 'Why here, at a park in Western Maryland?' I would think they would want it closer to Washington, where people could see it."
This local story relays Reese's well-conceived critcisim of the state officials who allowed this to happen. (Website may require registration.)
The issue is not just about putting an Iraq plaque on a Civil War arch.
The problem began when a Civil War journalist named Townsend bought up land around the Crampton's Gap battlefield, then erected an arch to memorialize ACW newswriters killed in the line of duty. The state inherited the land and made it a dual-purpose park (honoring the writers and preserving the battlefield).
Reese objects to Crampton's Gap battlefield being remembered for anything but that. The battle for Crampton's Gap "embodied Union Gen. George B. McClellan's direct strategic response to the finding of the legendary 'Lost Order,' the misplaced copy of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's campaign plans," Mr. Reese said. In Sealed with Their Lives, Reese showed how Crampton's Gap was paramount in the Maryland campaign. (I cannot recommend this study too highly.)
Having confused its historical significance by dual purposing, the state of Maryland has now turned the battlefield toward even more general service. If this is a precedent, and it looks like one, we can expect more plaques in future wars and the complete crowding out of the original meaning of this place. Thanks are due Reese in pointing out that the state is compounding its errors.