Eternal Peace Light Memorial: Celebration or Observance? (10/15)

BY CYRIL ACKERMAN / October 2015

Eternal Peace Light Memorial: A Celebration or an Observance?

In 1913, Union and Confederate veterans on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg agreed to erect a monument to honor the re-unification of the Grand Army of the Republic and United Confederate Veterans in the post-civil war era. This memorial was to be erected at Gettysburg for the 75th Anniversary of the historic event that helped to shape our nation. The site of the memorial is located on Oak Hill just off the Mummasburg Road at crest of hill leaving the town of Gettysburg in historic Cumberland Township.

So, in 1935, the Pennsylvania legislature authorized a committee to begin planning for the 75th commemoration and reunion as well as a committee to select a design for the Peace Memorial. Paul Cret submitted the winning proposal for the design and ground breaking was held Feb. 14, 1938. The project was completed June 15, 1938. The shaft and base are made from Alabama Rockwood limestone (supplied by Rockwood Alabama Stone Co. of Russellville, Alabama). The terrace steps, cheeks, platform steps and base are made from granite quarried in Maine (Deer Island Granite Corp. Stonington, Maine). Bronze used in the project was to meet U.S. Standard Monumental Bronze requirements. Drawn shapes and rolled plates consist of 85 percent red brass. Wrought iron was used for the ladder and railings treated with specialized coatings for preservation. The sculpture on the front shaft was done by Lee Laurie and symbolizes “Columbia, the broad horizons and high destiny to a young and hopeful America.” Memorial dedication was on July 3, 1938. President Franklin D. Roosevelt presided over dedication that included over 1300 Civil War veterans.

Dimensions of Eternal Peace Light Memorial

Height of Burner and Urn: 4′ 3″

Height of shaft base to burner: 35’11”

Height from top of burner to base of shaft: 40′ 2″

Shaft: 9′ 10″ square

Overall height: 47 ‘6″

Depth: 42’

The gas flame was extinguished in 1977 as a gesture of “energy conservation” and was briefly relit in 1976. On July 1, 1978 a sodium vapor lamp was placed within the bronze urn and until 1988 was powered by electricity. The gas flame was again rekindled on July 3, 1988.

It was very much the intention of the Pennsylvania State Commission to commemorate the monument to the memory of those brave souls (men women and children) who were engaged in the conflict (Civil War) that shaped our nation. The event was not intended to be a “celebration” but rather an observance, a patriotic recognition of the battle. Simply put it was not to mark a Union victory or a Confederate defeat. The Eternal Peace Light Memorial will continue to be a perpetual symbol of peace for the United States! Let us all view the memorial in this light whenever we pass by it in our daily travels.

Cyril Ackerman is a board member of the Cumberland Township Historical Society. Visit us at www.cumberlandtownship.org.