The Civil War remains a fascination for many Americans. And for many communities where key battles and events took place during the Civil War, that translates to significant tourism dollars.
While studies looking into the exact economic impact related to Civil War tourism are scarce, there is some data we can draw on to make this conclusion. Ahead of the 200th anniversary of the war, the Civil War Trust released its “Blue, Gray, and Green” report, which it commissioned to research the economic impacts of Civil War tourism at 20 battlefield sites. Among its key findings was that “visitors to Civil War battlefield parks and historic sites provide significant economic benefits to nearby communities.”
Carroll County knows this. Because of its proximity to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the county’s own Civil War history, it has been able to turn re-enactments and encampments at the Union Mills Homestead and the annual Corbitt’s Charge commemoration in downtown Westminster into significant tourism events for the area.
The Homestead and Corbitt’s Charge are both part of the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Trail. While the Civil War is only a portion of the larger Maryland Heritage Area program, a 2003 study found that the overall Heritage Area program helped the state gain about 3,400 jobs and almost $17 million in state and local tax receipts annually.
It’s with this in mind that we wholeheartedly support the construction of a National Civil War Memorial in the Taneytown area, as proposed by a Gettysburg sculptor.
Gary Casteel presented his idea to the Taneytown Mayor and City Council earlier this month. He envisions 90-foot circular monument with 10-foot-high granite walls, including bronze figures, portraits of influential military leaders and civilians, as well as panels explaining key moments in the war. All of this, and other intricacies, would encircle a sculpture of two old veterans in reunion uniforms sitting on a bench speaking to children — the centerpiece of the memorial and a symbol of unity and togetherness.
Putting aside the potential economic boon to Taneytown and Carroll County, that’s what we like most about this project. Unlike numerous monuments celebrating the Confederacy that have been taken down and mothballed in recent years — many of which were put up during the era of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement as a means to intimidate black Americans — Casteel’s vision is to tell the historical story of the Civil War. He’s consulted with more than 30 historians to determine which figures, battles and other scenes would be included in order to tell an historically accurate story.
While there will certainly be some who oppose the idea of building new monuments to figures like Gen. Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States, it is not possible to properly tell the story of America’s Civil War in a historically accurate way without them.
Such a memorial, to say the least, is an ambitious undertaking. So much so that the 72-year-old Casteel has spent the better part of last 15 years trying to find the right place for it. He’s walked away from several municipalities before because they lacked the space to accommodate the monument, proximity to the Gettysburg battleground and the Mason-Dixon Line, and historical significance.
Taneytown offers all of those things. And being home to a National Civil War Memorial would offer the city something it has been seeking for decades as well: a good way to attract people visiting Gettysburg and their tourism dollars to the Carroll County municipality of about 10,000.
Certainly, there are many questions still to be answered. Casteel is seeking 5 acres of land to situate this memorial and, down the road, a visitor center. Figuring out exactly where would be the first and most obvious question to answer.
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But we are excited about the prospect of such a memorial that could put Taneytown on the tourism map.