My project on the visual history of the Antietam National Battlefield continues, focused today on one of the most iconic features on the field – the Observation Tower. Since it was built in 1896 the tower has been a central memorial and educational feature of the National Battlefield, and it has always been a popular destinations for visitors.

So how did it come to be, and how has its story evolved in the last 122 years?

It starts with the origins of the battlefield park itself.

At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year 1918, the Great War ended under the terms of an armistice, a cease-fire agreement, signed at 5 o’clock that morning.

The most immediate requirement of the Armistice was the withdrawal of all German forces to the line of the Rhine River, which, along with “beachheads” on the east bank, was the part of Germany to be occupied by Allied troops. French, British, Belgian, and American.

One of about two million Americans of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France that day was 23 year old Joseph F. Downey from Scranton, Pennsylvania, my grandfather.

That lovely hand colored map, Territorial Terms of the Armistice, is among a stunning cache of papers he left us. They’ll help me remember him and those millions of others on this centennial of the end of the First World War.

The Wounded Lion

21 October 2018

On our most recent trip to the battlefield we walked part of the West Woods Trail, mostly to see the most unique monument on the battlefield – that for the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. One of my favorites.

There’s been a lot of interest in this lion online lately, at least in the places I go, but nothing about its maker. I was inspired to look into the sculptor by the “signature block” he left on the slab under the lion’s left front paw.