Gazette: Battle of Bladensburg monument molding its way to fruition

Gazette: Battle of Bladensburg monument molding its way to fruition

Professional sculptor Joanna Blake of Cottage City has worked on a number of monument projects, most notably assisting on the National War World II Memorial in Washington, D.C., but none nearly as close to home as her current piece, which tells the undaunting story of a major battle in her backyard.

The “Undaunted in Battle” monument, which will be displayed in Bladensburg’s Balloon Park for the War of 1812 bicentennial commemoration, is an 8-by-10-foot bronze and limestone commemorative monument for the Battle of Bladensburg.

Having completed the quarter-scale clay model in her Brentwood studio last week, Blake soon will begin to construct the monument.

The War of 1812 battle was fought within the area of the four communities that make up the Port Towns — Cottage City, Colmar Manor, Bladensburg and Edmonston.

“When I was first approached, I was excited to work on this,” said Blake, adding it has been a roughly two-year process between planning, fundraising, designing and sculpting. “This was an opportunity to do something of my own work and to be right here in the community.”

Blake was hired by the Battle of Bladensburg Task Force that Bladensburg developed as part of a commemoration plan for the War of 1812. Supporting and aiding the task force is a Bladensburg-based historic preservation nonprofit Aman Memorial Trust, which has put forth $60,000 for the overall $300,000 project.

John Sowers, president of Friends of the Battle of Bladensburg, a nonprofit historic preservation group, said the task force ideally would begin breaking ground on the monument by June and complete the project in 2014.

The bronze sculpture in the monument will feature Commodore Joshua Barney, a naval officer who was wounded from a gunshot during battle; Charles Ball, a former slave in the Flotilla infantry who fought alongside Barney in Bladensburg; and a member of the Marines to show the battle’s collaborative effort. The back of the monument will feature an etched limestone wall that will provide maps and information specifically about the Battle of Bladensburg.

John Giannetti, the Aman Memorial Trust chairman, said the goal of having the monument built in Bladensburg’s Balloon Park is to pay tribute to those who fended off British soldiers for several hours before they invaded the nation’s capital. He said it was that “undaunting” effort that allowed much of Washington to evacuate before the British took control.

“This monument will pay tribute to the men who lost their lives trying to defend the nation’s capital,” he said. “There were some that were not discouraged. They kept fighting.”

Giannetti said the monument also holds significance for those outside of Bladensburg and Prince George’s County because of the makeup of soldiers on the battlefield during the Battle of Bladensburg, adding militias from Washington, Northern Virginia and Montgomery County came to aid in the fight.

Other organizations are involved in the support and fundraising for the project as well, including Friends of the Battle of Bladensburg, Port Towns Community Development Corp., Anacostia Trails Heritage Area and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

In addition, a 2011 state bond bill sponsored by state Sen. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly and state Del. Doyle Niemann (D-Dist. 47) of Mount Rainier of awarded $125,000 to the monument.

Sower said the monument also will spur economic development and revitalization to the area, saying the historic monument will attract tourists and outside dollars to the area that will boost local business revenues.

“It will serve the purpose of being a great stimulus for tourism,” he said. “It will be a historic site that will bring people in, help businesses and get economic revitalization under way.”

Sowers said the Battle of Bladensburg Task Force now is fundraising for private donations and additional grants for the remaining costs needed to build the monument.