University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

George Alfred Townsend

1865 - 1975
(bulk dates 1865-1898)

Manuscript Collection Number: 296
Accessioned: Gift of Robert H. Richards, 1945.
Extent: .3 linear ft.
Content: Letters, clippings, bookplates, essays, book reviews, brochures, and short stories.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: Preliminary processing in 1945, completed in 1994 by Anita A. Wellner.

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Table of Contents

Biographical Note

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.

Scope and Content Note

The George Alfred Townsend Papers consist of five bound volumes of manuscripts, letters, and published works written by George Alfred Townsend. The first three volumes were collected by former University of Delaware trustee Robert H. Richards. The papers span the dates 1865 to 1975 (bulk dates 1865-1898) and include autograph, typescript, and printed material.

The first bound volume (F1) consists of ten short stories and essays written by Townsend, between 1865 and 1892, and published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, Harper's New Monthly Magazine, The Century Magazine, The Forum, Baltimore Home Journal, and Scribner's Monthly. The essays include "An American War Correspondent in England," "Hearing My Requiem," "How Wilkes Booth Crossed the Potomac," and "New Washington." Stories include "Birth of the Telegraph" and "His Lost Marriage Fee - a love story."

The second volume (F2) includes five letters from George Alfred Townsend to General William Belknap, Mr. Stoddart, J.B. Stillson, M.D. Conway, and Edmund C. Stedman. In addition, the volume includes a signed typescript of Townsend's essay, "Hearing My Requiem," (see F1 for the published version), which bears extensive revisions. A six-page autograph poem, "The Memorizing of the Continent," is also present. The essay and poem provide a small sample of Townsend's writing and revision technique.

The third volume (F3) is a scrapbook containing clippings of Townsend's writings; tear sheets of pictures of Townsend, his family, and the Gapland estate; his business card and bookplate; an autograph list of Townsend's publications; a photocopy of his article, "Two Days of Battle;" and a letter regarding the Willard S. Morse bookplate in this collection (designed by Howard Pyle).

The fourth volume is titled "Johnny Bouquet's Walks" and is a scrapbook of clippings of Townsend's articles which appeared in the New York Tribune under his pen name Johnny Bouquet.

The fifth volume is a scrapbook of two articles about President Garfield, written by Townsend, as well as pictures and articles on other assassins and victims in history.

The newspaper clipping and a brochure about Gathland State Park (F4), describing the park and its history, were later additions to the collection.

The original Richards collection also included twenty books written by Townsend. These books have been cataloged for either Special Collections or the University of Delaware Library general stacks. A list of these books and their locations is included at the end of this finding aid.

Related collections:

Autograph poem (1893) by Townsend on fly-leaf of Henry Dickson Capers's The Life and Times of C. G. Memminger (Spec E415.9 .M4 C2).

Eighteen slides of selected items in the George Alfred Townsend Papers, taken by the Maryland Department of Forests and Parks for an exhibition on Townsend. See Manuscript Librarian.

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

1    F1   Bound volume of printed stories and essays, 1865-1892
          Volume bears the bookplate of Willard S. Morse and
          contains the following titles:

          "Birds of the Telegraph," from Clover Leaves
          (Philadelphia: Clover Club, 1885).

          "His Lost Marriage Fee - a Love Story," Baltimore Home
          Journal, September, 1888.

          "The Chesapeake Peninsula," Scribner's Monthly, March,

          "An Interviewer Interviewed, a talk with Gath,"
          Lippincott's  Monthly Magazine, November, 1891.

          "Hearing My Requiem," Lippincott's Monthly Magazine,
          October, 1892.  See F2 for an typescript draft of this

          "Recollections and Reflections," Lippincott's Monthly
          Magazine, November, 1886.

          "An American War Correspondent in England," Harper's
          New Monthly Magazine, January, 1865.

          "New Washington," Harper's New Monthly Magazine,
          February, 1875.

          "How Wilkes Booth Crossed the Potomac," The Century
          Magazine, April, 1884.

          "Jay Gould," The Forum, September, 1886.

     F2   Bound volume of letters and manuscripts, 1886-1898
          All letters are from Townsend.  

          [n.d.]         ALS       2p   to General Wm Belknap
          1892 Nov 24    ALS       1p   to Mr. Stoddart.
          [n.y.] Mar 10  ALS       1p   to J. B. Stillson
          1886 Dec 8     ALS       2p   to Mr. M. D. Conway
          1898 Dec 11    ALS       1p   to [Edmund C.] Stedman 

          "The Memorizing of the Continent,"  Autograph poem, 6p.

          "Hearing My Requiem,"  Ts, signed, with autograph
          corrections, 11p.  See F1 for published version.

1    F3   Bound scrapbook, 1866-1945
          Includes newspaper clippings; Townsend's business card
          and his bookplate; tear sheets of pictures of Townsend,
          his parents, and Gapland; an autograph list of
          publications by Townsend; and a photocopy of Townsend's
          article, "Two Days of Battle (The Californian, January
          6, 1866).  Also includes a 1945 letter from Mrs. W. A.
          Brewer to Mr. Lewis concerning  the W.S. Morse
          bookplate (designed by Howard Pyle). 

     F4   Newspaper article and brochure related to Gathland 
          State Park, Maryland, 1946

     F5   Two articles on President Garfield by Townsend, 1881
          Also includes articles and pictures of other assassins
          and victims in history.  Originally cataloged for
          Special Collections (Safe Del E 687 .T68).

     F7   "The Chesapeake Peninsula," Scribner's Monthly, March, 1872.
          Original copy of the periodical includes Townsend's articles

2    F6   "Johnny Bouquet's Walks," 1881
          Preservation photocopy of this scrapbook of clippings
          of Townsend's articles which appeared in the New York
          Tribune under his pen name Johnny Bouquet.  The bound
          volume of clippings was cataloged for Special
          Collections (Safe Del PS3089 .T748 J65 1881).

     Books Associated with the George Alfred Townsend Papers

Books are in Special Collections unless otherwise noted
(designated "Morris").

Bohemian Days: three American tales (New York: H. Campbell & Co.,
     1850).  [Morris] PS3089 .T748 A16 1880.

Campaigns of a Non-Combatant, (New York: Blelock & Co., 1866). 
     [Morris] E470.2 .T74.

"Columbus in Love," (Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, April, 1893). 
     Bound with General Alfred T. A. Torbert Memorial (1922). 
     [Morris] PS3089 .T748 C72 1893.

The Entailed Hat, or Patty Cannon's Times, (New York: Harper &
     Bros., 1884).  [Morris] PS3089 .T748 E61 1884 copy 2.

"Johnny Bouquet's Walks," (Scrapbook of clippings from the New
     York Tribune, 1881).  Johnny Bouquet one of Townsend's pen
     names.  Safe Del PS3089 .T748 J65 1881.  *Preservation
     photocopy available in F5.

Katy of Catoctin, or, the Chain-Breakers, (New York: Appleton,
     1886).  With a tipped in ALS from Townsend to Dr. Holland
     (1873, 2p).  Spec PS3089 .T748 K19 1886.

The Life, Crime, and Capture of John Wilkes Booth, (New York: 
     Dick & Fitzgerald, 1865).  Spec E457.5 T74.

Life of the Honourable Levi P. Morton, bound with The Life of
     General Benjamin Harrison, by Lew Wallace, (Philadelphia: 
     Hubbard Bros., 1888).  [Morris] E702 .W28.

Lost Abroad, (Chicago: Gibbs & Nichols, 1870).  [Morris]
     PS3089.T748 L88 1870.

Mrs. Reynolds and Hamilton, (New York: E.F. Bonaventure, 1890). 
     [Morris] PS3089 .T748 M67 1890 copy 2.

The New World Compared with the Old, (Hartford: S.M. Betts & Co.,
     1869).  Spec Del JF125 .T27.

The Parson of the Islands, by Adam Wallace (Philadelphia:
     Methodist Home Journal, 1872).  Includes an inscription to
     Townsend by his father, a printed poem signed by Townsend,
     and a tipped-in letter from Henry C. Conrad, to Willard S.
     Morse (July 24, 1929).  Spec Del BX8495 .T57 W3 1872. at the Drawyer's Presbyterian Church, New Castle
     County, Delaware, (Society of the Friends of Old Drawyer's,
     1902).  With Townsend's Poetical Addresses.  Spec Del E174
     .S13 copy 2.

Poems, (Washington: Rhodes & Ralph, 1870).  Spec Del PS3089 .T748
     A18 1870 copy 2.

Poems of Men and Events, (New York: E.F. Bonaventure, 1899). 
     Spec Del PS3089 .T748 A18 1899 copy 2. 

Poems of the Delaware Peninsula, (Wilmington: 1911).  Spec Del
     PS3089 .T748 A18 1911 copy 2.

Poetical Addresses of George Alfred Townsend, (New York: E.F.
     Bonaventure, 1881).  Spec Del PS3089 .T748 A18 1881 and Spec
     E174 .S13 copy 2.

President Cromwell, (New York: E.F. Bonaventure, 1884).  No. 17
     of 200, signed.  [Morris] PS3089 .T748 P93 1884.

The Queen's Domain, by William Winter, (Boston: E.O. Libby & Co.,
     1859).  Townsend's copy, signed by author. Spec Del PS3341
     .Q4 1859.

Rustics in Rebellion: a Yankee reporter on the road to Richmond,
     1861-1865, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
     1950).  [Morris] E470.2 .T74 1950.

Tales of the Chesapeake, (New York: American News Co., 1880). 
     [Morris] PS3089 .T748 A16 1880a copy 2.

Washington, Outside and Inside, (Hartford: J. Betts & Co., 1874). 
     [Morris] F194 .T742.

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