Author:

The General

Eric J. Wittenberg is an award-winning Civil War historian. He is also a practicing attorney and is the sole proprietor of Eric J. Wittenberg Co., L.P.A. He is the author of sixteen published books and more than two dozen articles on the Civil War. He serves on the Governor of Ohio's Advisory Commission on the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, as the vice president of the Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation, and often consults with the Civil War Preservation Trust on battlefield preservation issues. Eric, his wife Susan, and their two golden retrievers live in Columbus, Ohio.

Website: civilwarcavalry.com

I’m proud and pleased to welcome two new sponsors to this blog.

First, I’d like to welcome the fine magazine The Civil War Monitor aboard as a sponsor. My old friend Terry Johnston, who is the editor and publisher, is doing a fine job of it, and I’m proud to have Terry and his excellent publication aboard.

The other new sponsor is a favorite organization of mine, the Chambersburg Civil War Seminars, as a sponsor. My pal Ted Alexander, the chief historian of the Antietam National Battlefield, runs these programs for the Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce, and Ted does a great job of it. These are some of my favorite programs each year, and I hope you will check them out.

Welcome aboard, and thanks for sponsoring this blog!

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For Clint Schemmer’s excellent article on the Brandy Station Sesquicentennial tour that appeared in today’s edition of the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star newspaper, please click here. Clint has some excellent photographs in his article, which is why I’m not just repeating it here. It’s definitely worth a read.

Nice job, Clint!

And here’s Scott Manning’s take on the tour. Thanks for the kind words, Scott!

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I made the banzai run to Culpeper, Virginia for the sesquicentennial tour of the Battle of Brandy Station on Friday, which is a 7+ hour drive. This was a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the battlefield that featured several stops on private property. I’ve been to the battlefield literally dozens of times, including any number of times with Bud Hall, but we visited some sites that I had never seen before. Bud also announced that this would be his final tour of the battlefield, so the moment represented a passing of the torch.

More than 200 people attended. I had some very serious misgivings about the logistics of moving so many people from place to place without the benefits of buses, but the folks from the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable, ably led by the CWRT president, Cecil Jones, did an absolutely superb job of managing the logistics. Cecil and Craig Swain deserve the bulk of the credit for putting together this event and for managing logistics that otherwise could have gotten out of control very quickly and very easily.

Bud1Our rallying point was at the artillery park for Maj. Robert F. Beckham’s horse artillery on the Civil War Trust’s property, where everyone gathered, and Bud gave an overview of the run-up to the battle. The first photo is of Bud giving that overview.

me1From there, we went to Buford’s Knoll and Bud laid out much of the morning’s action. I gave a biographical sketch of John Buford’s life, and we got a spectacular vista of the Union position. In the second photo, I’m giving the overview of Buford’s life. Seated in the chair on the right side of the photograph is our distinguished guest for the day, Col. (Retired) J.E.B. Stuart, IV, the great-great grandson of the great Confederate cavalry chieftain. From there, we went on to the site of the Richard Hoopes Cunningham house (long ago demolished) to examine a Union artillery position. From there, we moved onto private property to get a look at Beverly Ford, where Buford’s command crossed the Rappahannock River. This was also a position held by Rooney Lee’s Confederate cavalry in the early phases of the battle.

car snake1The next stop was a place where no tour group had ever been, Rooney Lee’s main line of battle on a knoll on Beauregard Farm. Beauregard Farm is a massive, 6000 acre farm that abuts and includes a significant portion of the battlefield. Fortunately, the owners are friends of our preservation efforts, and this position has been forever protected from development via a preservation easement. This was the first time that Bud ever took a tour group there. The third photograph is of the very long line of automobiles making their way to Rooney’s Knoll, as Bud calls it. The sight of the cars snaking along was very reminiscent of the final scene of the movie Field of Dreams, which was the first thought I had upon seeing it. I’ve never been there before, and it was a spectacular spot.

kern and company1From there, we went to St. James Church, where we had lunch and an excellent demonstration by Trooper Todd Kern and his living history group, the Valley Light Horse. That’s Todd on the left side of the photograph. Afterward, I led a discussion of the charge of five companies of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry into the teeth of Confederate artillery, taking flanking fire the whole way.

david and me1From there, we addressed the fighting at Fleetwood Hill. We did so on the north side of the hill, where we had a spectacular view of the McMansion atop Fleetwood Hill that will soon be coming down. Bud led a lively discussion there, and we enjoyed a spot that does not see much visitation.

Sadly, there were torrential rains in the area on Thursday and early Friday from a tropical storm, and the road to Farley, at the northern end of Fleetwood Hill, was too badly damaged by the rains to permit the passage of so many vehicles. That, unfortunately, meant that that portion of the tour had to be canceled, which is too bad. Few groups ever get up there, and few groups get to see Farley, which is private property.

The final stop was at Rose Hill Game Preserve, a historic plantation house in Stevensburg that was the starting point of the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid. We discussed the Stevensburg portion of the battle there and did a wrap-up of the battle and tour, heard the history of the property, and then some lovely refreshments were enjoyed by all. Thanks to Dr. John Covington for his hospitality there.

Bud and Eric1All in all, it was a spectacular tour that covered some ground never before seen by a tour group of any size. It also marked a passing of the torch from Bud Hall to the rest of us of the BSF Board in Exile. It’s a challenge that we have gratefully accepted. This photo–the final one–is of the teacher and his student, atop Buford’s Knoll. The student does not know if he’s ready to take the passage of that torch, but he will do his level best to carry on the legacy.

It was a pleasure to be a part of this wonderful program. It was an honor to be asked to do so, and it was a privilege to stand there and help Bud Hall to present this material to a large tour group for the last time. Thanks also to everyone who attended, and to everyone who made things run so smoothly.

Thank you to Debra Naylor for the photo of Bud Hall and me, and thank you to David Kinsella for the photo of him and me. I appreciate your allowing me to use your images here. To see larger versions of any of these images, simply click on them.

The only thing marring the tour was the ridiculous, immature and grossly unprofessional conduct of the Brandy Station Foundation. Our original plan was to interpret the fighting at Fleetwood Hill from the BSF property to the north of Fleetwood Hill. When Cecil Jones gave the BSF the courtesy of telling them that, Useless Joe McKinney demanded that he be entitled to speak to our group and that we not use the BSF porta-potties there as a condition of our taking the tour group onto the BSF property (which, I might add, Bud Hall helped to pay for). The issue with the porta-potties was simply being chintzy. However, the demand that he be permitted to address our group was an astoundingly nervy thing for him to do, given that he and his board of appeasers have stood in the way of our efforts to preserve that ground. There was NO way that that was going to happen, now, or ever. We decided to move to the north side of Fleetwood Hill instead.

Then, on Friday night, while at dinner with some friends, former BSF president Bob Luddy–whom I’ve known for 15+ years–and his wife came in and were seated at the next table over from us. He spent the entire meal giving us the stink eye, and then when they got up to leave, I stood up, greeted him, and offered a hand to shake, and he very childishly refused to shake my hand, much like a two-year old child throwing a temper tantrum. He quite rudely and unprofessionally turned on his heel and stomped away. It left all of us shaking our heads, wondering what sort of an adult acts that way.

The final element of this little drama was the most comical. This was a reservations-only event. Only those who registered were welcome. When we got to Rose Hill, a guy nobody recognized showed up who had not been with the tour group over the course of the day. He started prying for information about where we went on the tour and which parcels we visited that were private property. Without any prompting, this uninvited party crasher admitted that he is a volunteer for the BSF, and when pressed about it by Craig Swain, he became very defensive about the whole thing before leaving unceremoniously. It’s bad enough that McKinney and his wife badmouth us to everyone who will listen–yes, we do know what you’re saying–but to act so childishly because you feel threatened? Please. Grow up, already!

Are we really that much of a threat to the BSF that they have to stoop to such childish and unprofessional conduct? Apparently, we are. We’re doing the work that they refuse to do because they’re too busy currying favor with landowners and tending to the Graffiti House. They should change their name to Friends of the Graffiti House and just step aside and let those of us who are serious about saving this battlefield do this important work. Instead, they act like babies. Perhaps that explains the outrageous conduct.

Despite the ridiculous, puerile conduct of the BSF and its people, we nevertheless had a superb day and a truly magnificent event. Thank you again to all who attended and especially to those who handled the logistics of this program. We could not have done so without you.

Finally, the Civil War Trust announced last week that we are 42% of the way to the goal for the purchase of Fleetwood Hill. To donate, please click here. Thank you for your support of our efforts to save the single most-fought over piece of ground of the American Civil War.

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initialtourstop150thanniversary-1Below are the details of the Brandy Station sesquicentennial tour, set for Saturday, June 8, 2013. ONLY THOSE WITH CONFIRMED RESERVATIONS ARE PERMITTED TO ATTEND. RESERVATIONS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED AFTER THURSDAY, JUNE 5.. For a larger version of the map, please click on it.

A Message from Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable:

Dear Tour Registrant,

Thank you for registering for the Brandy Station 150th Anniversary Tour hosted by the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable (LCCWRT).

As the date for the event is fast approaching, please make note of the following information:

1. Our first “rally point” on June 8 will be the Civil War Trust’s property on the north end of the Culpeper Airport. Please refer to the directional map shown below for detailed directions from US Rt. 29 to the initial staging area for the tour. For your convenience, the web link below may be used to determine the best route to the designated parking area for the initial staging area for the tour:

https://maps.google.com/maps?daddr=38.531558,-77.858343&hl=en&sll=38.531596,-77.857431&sspn=0.002803,0.005681&t=h&mra=mift&mrsp=1&sz=18&z=18

Tour registrants are instructed to check in at the registration tent upon arrival and pick up an individual tour field packet containing battle maps and other historic information. After picking up the field tour packet, each registrant should proceed to the designated assembly area for an initial tour orientation by the guest historians. Portable toilets will also be available at the initial staging area for the convenience of tour attendees.

2. In order to cover the necessary ground for this special Sesquicentennial event, the tour will begin promptly at the initial staging area tour stop at 8:30 AM sharp on Saturday, June 8. Please make appropriate travel, parking, tour registration and hiking preparation arrangements, accordingly.

3. Although we have planned for adequate parking accommodations at the various tour stops for this event, it is highly recommended that tour participants consolidate vehicles where possible to reduce the number of vehicles on the battlefield roads and at designated parking areas for the individual tour stops. This will also facilitate rapid movement and parking of vehicles at each tour stop and provide more time for enjoying the tour that has been prepared by the guest historians.

As part of this effort, tour participants are requested to consolidate vehicles at the initial staging area parking area at the beginning of the tour if you are driving alone or with only one additional passenger. Return transportation will be provided to personal vehicles left at the initial staging area parking area at the end of the day. Be sure to lock your vehicle before leaving any personal items in the vehicle.

We also highly encourage tour registrants who have purchased multiple tickets on the Eventbrite website to carpool with friends as much as possible before arriving at the battlefield. There are several “park and ride” commuter lots with ample parking space on weekends located nearby where tour registrants can meet friends in order to consolidate transportation before arriving at the battlefield.

4. Handicap and Special Transportation: Those tour participants that need special transportation requirements between tour stops should plan to provide their own specially equipped vehicles for their special needs. Every effort will be made to accommodate these special vehicles at each tour stop and those tour participants with special transportation needs.

5. Please follow the designated lead “tour stop” vehicle that will lead the tour car caravan to and from each designated tour stop. Please follow the parking directions and instructions of the tour parking staff/traffic control attendants wearing yellow florescent jackets at the designated parking areas for each tour stop.

6. After leaving the initial staging area parking area, please be alert for directional tour signs posted at key intersections, along the side of the road and open fields identifying the LCCWRT Tour Route and location of the designated tour stops for your information and convenience. These tour signs will have the logo “LCCWRT TOUR” at the top.

7. For your safety and enjoyment of the tour, please obey all traffic signals/signs at intersections and all speed limits while moving from one tour stop to the next. The tour will not start at each tour stop until all tour participants have parked their cars and have arrived at the designated meeting place for the beginning of the tour.

8. For the convenience of tour attendees, adequate portable toilet facilities (both male and female) will be available to tour participants at various tour stops throughout the day. The locations of the portable toilets are identified on the tour stop itinerary map included in the tour field packet for your convenience.

9. The tour will traverse some moderately difficult grassy terrain and old farm roads. Please wear appropriate clothing including comfortable hiking shoes/boots (no open sandals), broad brimmed hats, sunglasses and (preferably) light colored tan khaki long pants (to avoid problems with pesky ticks). Be sure to tuck pant legs into socks and spray with insect/tick repellant. You may wish to bring a change of clothing for the end of the day at the last tour stop located at Rose Hill.

10. This tour will take place rain or shine. Please check local weather in the area prior to arriving at the battlefield and include rain gear if inclement weather is anticipated.

11. General Field Packing list – plenty of bottled water, insect/tick repellant, sunscreen, and packed lunch.

12. LCCWRT has charted an outstanding program which will take tour participants to places that tour groups have never visited before. Our guest historians will share unique vignettes in time that will enthrall the listener and carry you back to a time of plumed hats, bold cavaliers and swift horses. In order to include these important and rarely seen historic locations and share the wonderful stories that are associated with these sites, please be aware that the tour may extend up to ten hours in length. Tour attendees are free to leave the tour at any time during the day if their personal schedule does not permit them to complete the entire tour. But for those who do choose to remain with the tour through the final tour stop at Rose Hill, a special treat will be waiting.

13. If you know of anyone who has not registered for this special Sesquicentennial event, please encourage them to complete the proper registration for this event by clicking on the following web link and follow the instructions shown thereon:

http://www.eventbrite.com/event/6110307093?utm_source=eb_email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=new_eventv2&utm_term=eventurl_text#

By registering, tour planners will be better able to properly plan for the logistical requirements of the tour.

14. Emergency LCCWRT Contact Phone Numbers:

Cecil Jones (President) (571) 217-9816 (cell)

James Morgan (Vice President) (571) 225-2812 (cell)

15. Disclaimer: Although this is an easy outdoor hiking event without any known physical hazards, participation in this event is at tour registrant’s own personal risk. The Loudoun County Civil War Round Table and its members as well as all associated event historians, guides and support staff provided for this special Sesquicentennial event will not be held accountable or responsible for any personal injuries or damages to personal property incurred by participants while attending this event. All personal property belonging to individual tour registrants is the tour registrant’s sole responsibility. All personal items left in vehicles while participating in this event are the sole responsibility of the individual owners involved. Travel to and from this special event is at tour registrant’s personal risk.

Again, we thank you for registering for this special 150th Anniversary event and we look forward to seeing you on the battlefield on Saturday, June 8.

Loudoun County Civil War Round Table

This will be a once-in-a-lifetime tour. I encourage all interested readers to register. I hope to see some of you there!

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For those interested in attending the June 8 sesquicentennial tour of Brandy Station, we’re nearly done with laying out the itinerary for the tour. I’m confident that it’s going to be a once in a lifetime tour.

Stand by just a bit longer, and we will announce the details here as soon as the final details are pinned down. It will definitely be prior to the tour date.

We thank you for your patience.

For those interested in attending this free tour, please click here.

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052313_gettystatue23_600From today’s issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Rescued ‘Silent Sentinel’ Civil War statue going to Laurel Hill Cemetery
EDWARD COLIMORE, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
POSTED: Thursday, May 23, 2013, 5:52 AM

For nearly a century, the Silent Sentinel watched over the graves of Civil War veterans at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Yeadon and Southwest Philadelphia.

The bronze figure of a Union soldier clasping the end of a musket stood at rest amid long, neat rows of white marble headstones.

Then, as though deserting its post in fall 1970, the statue disappeared. Thieves pulled it from its granite base and tried to sell it to a Camden scrap dealer, who alerted police.

Silent Sentinel was recovered, repaired at a Chester foundry, and stored out of public view for more than 40 years, until a secure location could be found and money raised for a granite base.

On Wednesday – just days before Memorial Day, an observance with Civil War origins – the monument was moved to Laurel Hill Cemetery on Ridge Avenue to take up a new post and an old mission.

By this time next year, it will be affixed to a 10- to 12-foot-high granite base and illuminated at night at the Gen. George Gordon Meade Post No. 1 Grand Army of the Republic burial plot at Laurel Hill, officials said.

The figure is a natural fit for the Victorian-era cemetery, a kind of Civil War Valhalla where dozens of generals and admirals are buried, including Meade, the victorious commander at the Battle of Gettysburg. The 150th anniversary of that epic clash will be marked with a reenactment from July 3 to 7.

“We’re returning this monument to its sacred task,” said historian Andy Waskie, a member of the board of the Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery and an associate member of the Pennsylvania Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS), which owns the statue.

In its new location, “the statue will add a new dimension to the Civil War and arts collection of the city,” said Waskie, a Temple University professor and author of Philadelphia and the Civil War – Arsenal of the Union.

The move to Laurel Hill is “a wonderful outcome,” said Jon Sirlin, a Philadelphia lawyer and associate member of MOLLUS who wrote the transfer agreement. A statue “that was otherwise hidden from view is now coming to light.”

The bronze will eventually be visible to passersby on busy Ridge Avenue, illuminated at night “like an eternal flame in Philadelphia, honoring all veterans,” Waskie said.

Also known as Silent Sentry, the monument has a colorful history. It was the work of a French immigrant, Achille Bureau, who served in the Union Army and was buried at Laurel Hill.

During a Memorial Day-related ceremony at noon Sunday, reenactors and others will dedicate a marble headstone at Bureau’s grave and a bronze-on-granite marker at the grave of another Union soldier, Lt. Charles Waterman. They’ll also fire volleys at each site and over Meade’s grave and Grand Army of the Republic burial plot.

Bureau’s statue was commissioned in 1883 by the Soldiers’ Home of Philadelphia, a civilian organization that helped care for indigent and disabled Civil War veterans, Waskie said. The home bought a plot at Mount Moriah for soldiers who died while under care there.

The 700-pound monument was dedicated in 1884 and remained in place until October 1970, when the thieves stole it, then tried to break it up and sell the bronze as scrap.

Finding a safe home for the statue delayed its move to a public site. MOLLUS wanted to prevent another theft and further vandalism, so it stored the statue, valued at $20,000, at the foundry until Waskie proposed the move to Laurel Hill.

“It was too much of a risk to take it back” to the unfenced Mount Moriah, said Adam Flint, commander of the Pennsylvania Commandery of MOLLUS.

Laurel Hill “is a National Historic Landmark that’s well secured and safe,” said Waskie, who formed a fund-raising committee for the transfer.

Nearly $25,000 has been collected for a granite base, plaque, installation, and lighting, said Alexander “Pete” Hoskins, president and CEO of Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill Cemeteries, and executive director of the Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery.

“First, we’re part of saving an important monument that’s been out of view for more than 40 years,” Hoskins said. “This also helps remind the world that we are one of the most important Civil War burial sites.”

The statue, standing up to 18 feet high on its base, will be placed in the Meade plot amid the graves of about 24 Civil War veterans, including some who fought at Gettysburg. It’s now on display in the cemetery’s gatehouse office.

“It’s a gorgeous monument that is finally being returned to its mission,” Waskie said.

I’m tickled to see this soldier return to duty, as he should be. I’m sure he will do a fine job of standing guard over the grave of George Gordon Meade.

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photoShown in the photo with me is my friend David Raymond, who wrote the foreword to You Stink! Major League Baseball’s Terrible Teams and Pathetic Players. Unless you’re either a long-time, die-hard Phillies fan, or a die-hard fan of the University of Delaware’s football program, the likelihood is that you don’t know who Dave is. Click on the photo to see a larger image.

imagesThe other photo is Dave’s alter ego, the Phillie Phanatic. Dave was the original Phillie Phanatic. He wore the green suit from the time that the character was introduced in 1978 through the 1993 World Series season, and then he passed the suit on to the current Phanatic’s Phriend, Tom Burgoyne. Dave then founded Raymond Entertainment Group, where his self-bestowed (but very accurate) title is Emperor of Fun and Games.

One of the products delivered by the Raymond Entertainment Group is fun. And by fun, I mean The Fun Department. Since 2006 The Fun Department has been delivering Fun to corporations throughout the tri-state area. “We are out to make corporate America smile one face at a time”, says Dave. The Power of Fun is a message that Dave delivers everyday with Raymond Entertainment and The Fun Department. Dave regularly gives his Power of Fun speech to groups in the hope of teaching them that bringing joy, laughter and fun to every day life is not only therapeutic, it is good business. After years of delivering this message in person, Dave decided that it was time to deliver the message of Fun to the masses by writing a book.

And then Dave asked me to be his co-author for the project, which will be called The Power of Fun. We’re still mapping out the contents of the book and precisely what it will cover, but Dave and I both think that this collaboration will be great fun, and that it is important for us to preach the gospel of Fun.

And so, I will be tackling a project very much unlike anything else that I have ever done. Life is all about challenging oneself and stretching one’s limitations. There is much to learn by this project, and there is much for us to teach. I’m greatly looking forward to working with Dave to spread the word about the Power of Fun. Please stay tuned for periodic updates.

In case any of you are interested in booking Dave for a presentation on the Power of Fun, you can reach him by clicking here.

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General-Buford-002The photo at the left is of Brig. Gen. John Buford, whom I freely acknowledge is my single favorite figure of the Civil War. I’ve long harbored a fascination with Old Steadfast, as his men called him, and have had four articles on his role in the Gettysburg Campaign published in Gettysburg Magazine. Three of my books also touch on Buford’s career heavily. But I’ve never done a monograph on Buford at Gettysburg, which is the topic that got me started on him in the first place.

About three weeks ago, I realized that I have published something book-length on every major cavalry action that took place north of the Mason-Dixon Line during the Gettysburg Campaign but one: John Buford’s actions at Gettysburg. I am now in the process of correcting that oversight. I am doing a monograph on Buford’s role at Gettysburg, June 30-July 2, 1863. It will include 16 of Phil Laino’s excellent maps, a lot of photographs (including some rare, seldom-seen images), and a walking/driving tour with GPS coordinates. There will be three appendices: one addressing the myth of the Spencers, another discussing whether Buford’s defense was a defense in depth or something else, and one addressing the question of whether Lane’s Brigade formed square to defend against a feinted mounted charge by Buford’s two brigades at the end of the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg. J.D. Petruzzi will do an introduction for the project for me. I don’t expect it to be a terribly long book, but it will be jam-packed with useful information.

I have been researching this for more than 20 years, and I am confident that this is going to be a quality project. In many ways, it’s like visiting with an old friend, and I’m enjoying coming back to what has always been my first love with respect to the Battle of Gettysburg. Sit tight–I will update as to progress.

And, in a few days, I will have an announcement about another fun project that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Civil War. Stay tuned…..

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Clark B. “Bud” Hall, who is the individual most responsible for the saving of the Brandy Station battlefield, has a good column on the preservation of the battlefield that appears in the current issue of Civil War News, which I commend to anyone interested in the history of the preservation effort there.

Brandy Station
By Clark B. Hall
(May 2013 Civil War News – Preservation Column)

Col. John S. Mosby certainly knew more than most about fighting on horseback and his conclusion that the Battle of Brandy Station, June 9, 1863, was “the fiercest mounted combat of the war — in fact, of any war,” must today receive weighty consideration.

A staff officer to Jeb Stuart concurred when adding, “Brandy Station was the most terrible cavalry fight of the war” and the “greatest ever fought on the American continent.”

It is indisputable that Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle of the war but we also concur with another distinction posited by a battle participant. Summoned in 1888 to offer dedicatory comments for the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry Monument at Gettysburg, Col. Frederick Newhall asserted the following:

“From my point of view, the field at Gettysburg is far wider than that which is enclosed in the beautiful landscape about us …. The larger field of Gettysburg … is the great territory lying between the battleground and the fords of the Rappahannock in Virginia.

“And while Gettysburg is generally thought of as a struggle which began on the 1st and ended on the 3rd day of July, 1863, the fact will some day be fully recognized that it had its beginning many miles from here …. It was at Beverly Ford then that Gettysburg was inaugurated.”

So with Brandy Station acknowledged as the grandest cavalry battle of the war and equally renowned as the inaugural action of the war’s threshold campaign — both matters of no small distinction — we who serve Brandy Station do “fully recognize” that the Sesquicentennial recognition of such a momentous battle must be commensurate with the import of this “sudden clash in Culpeper, precluding the thunder at Cemetery Hill.”

It is further emphasized that 20,000 soldiers fought at Brandy and many of them never departed as they are buried there yet today.

There is a myth suggesting that soldiers killed at Brandy were all disinterred after the war and given a “proper burial” elsewhere. This is a cynical myth, and one advanced by those who aimed to treat the battlefield as a utilitarian commodity.

So, our foremost duty 150 years later mandates we not only memorialize the courage and sacrifice of horse soldiers who fought and died at Brandy Station, but that we also tenderly treat the battlefield as a combat cemetery — because this is exactly what it is.

As one who has been on duty at Brandy Station since a California developer and a New York Formula One racetrack promoter deigned to destroy America’s greatest cavalry battlefield in the late 80s, I can tell you from long experience that the preservation path which led us to this point of a largely-preserved battlefield has been both tortuous and intense. Briefly, I’ll describe this heavy backdrop.

After the war, the Brandy Station Battlefield went “back to crop,” an appropriate economic configuration considering the large, open and well-watered fields have been farmed since the Colonial Era.

Indeed, when I first tried to comprehend this huge battlefield in the mid-‘80s, much of the land was comprised of several large farms, most in excess of 500 acres.

I became friends with area farmers and they granted me permission to stroll their farms with my maps in hand. It was a farm owner, in fact — my lamented friend, Bob Button — who first informed me in late 1987, “Bud, someone from California just bought my farm.” (This farm, the wartime “Cunningham Farm,” comprised John Buford’s attack platform on the morning of June 9.)

I can still recall today the uneasy feeling that washed over me when I considered Bob’s words, “someone from California….” Well when Fred Gordon shortly thereafter sold his adjacent farm (Rooney Lee’s defensive position, the “Green Farm”), I determined to find out exactly who was buying these farms.

It didn’t take long to reveal that the new owner of these two farms and, soon, several more nearby — amassing almost 6000 acres — was a commercial developer from Irvine, Calif.

We often hear the axiom that timing is everything, and for once, timing favored the good guys. Brian Pohanka, Ed Wenzel and I had previously formed the “Chantilly Battlefield Association” and we had just fought a mostly losing battle when trying to protect that sanguine battlefield from commercial development.

As a direct result of this failed preservation ordeal, a new nationwide battlefield preservation organization had formed and was solidly in place just before Brandy Station was slated for wholesale destruction.

Dr. Gary Gallagher, President of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites Inc. (APCWS), asked me to give the board a briefing on this terrible threat to Brandy Station.

Following that long update, Dr. Gallagher and the board authorized me (ordered me, actually) to meet with the developer and determine his plans.

The developer’s expressed intentions: “To farm the property.” Did we believe him? Not hardly. In fact, we girded for the battle to come.

And when considering that singular APCWS decision to become involved in Brandy Station’s preservation over 25 years ago has resulted in so much that has proven eternally good, it is appropriate that you consider the names of these few, good men who made that fateful decision on May 15, 1988:

Gary Gallagher, Bob Krick, Jack Ackerly, Merle Sumner, Don Pfanz, Alan Nolan, Will Greene, Dennis Frye, Brian Pohanka, Chris Calkins and Ed Wenzel… Brandy Station heroes, all of them, and but for their courageous decision to “get involved,” Brandy Station would now be an industrial office park, or a Formula One racetrack.

Point being APCWS showed preservation leadership when it most counted.

Many contentious years of lawsuits ensued against the developers by the APCWS-created and funded Brandy Station Foundation and finally resulted in developer bankruptcies. And after sweeping away our collective tears at the “tragic” demise of these star-struck developers, APCWS purchased hundreds of battlefield acres for millions of dollars in 1996.

Today, the Civil War Trust — the extraordinarily effective successor organization to APCWS — controls almost 2,000 acres at Brandy Station. But, although much has been accomplished, it is a reality that yet remains to be accomplished.

The hallowed ground CWT presently owns and controls at Brandy Station is vitally significant ground, to be sure, but the most significant military acreage on the entire battlefield has remained in private hands all these years, to wit: Fleetwood Hill.

Fleetwood Hill is without question the most fought over, camped upon, and marched over real estate in the entire United States.

From March 1862 to May 1864, Fleetwood Hill — especially the southern terminus — witnessed hotly-contested actions and heavy troop occupation as both Blue and Gray armies jockeyed for control of the strategically significant “Rappahannock River Line,” situated just three miles north of Fleetwood.

As one Confederate officer put it, “Fleetwood Heights … commands the country and … there was no movement of troops across Culpeper that artillery did not blaze from its summits, and charging squadrons … did not contend for supremacy.”

Recently, the Civil War Trust has undertaken steps to secure the 61 precious acres that comprise the entirety of the southern terminus of Fleetwood — Gen. Jeb Stuart’s Headquarters during the battle.

The price tag is steep and there is no guarantee of success, but for the first time in modern history Fleetwood Hill is for sale and CWT is doing everything in its power to close the deal.

We can help, each of us, to make this happen and I urge you to do your part, if you can. Here is how:

Please visit the Trust’s website, www.CivilWar.org, and click on the link, “Civil War Trust Announces Preservation Opportunity on the Brandy Station Battlefield.”

After reviewing the details, and if you are so inclined (and I sincerely hope you are), please click the “Donate” link and join with many others who believe saving Fleetwood Hill is a national preservation priority of the highest rank.

On June 8, by the way, the esteemed Loudoun County (Va.) Civil War Round Table is hosting an all-day tour at Brandy Station to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the battle. For tour details, please see their website, lccwrt.wordpress.com. And if you attend, we promise you a cavalry battlefield outing that you will not soon forget.

To donate to our efforts to save Fleetwood Hill, please click here.

To register for the June 8, 2013 tour of the battlefield, please click here. I look forward to seeing some of you there.

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22 Apr 2013, by

A rare treat

photoI had quite a rare treat today. Sharon McCardle, who is an officer of the Rockton, IL Historical Society, stopped by my office to visit. Sharon and her husband Karl had been in Gettysburg at the conference of the Company of Military Historians, where she set up a prize-winning exhibit on Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth. Farnsworth’s charge and death are the cornerstone of my book Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions: Farnsworth’s Charge, South Cavalry Field and the Battle of Fairfield, so he’s long been of great interest to me.

Sharon brought a number of very cool items for me to see, but none cooler than Farnsworth’s saber–the one he was carrying when he was killed. I’m holding it and its scabbard in the photo. I’ve only had one cooler photo of me taken, which is of me holding John Buford’s Henry rifle, taken many years ago.

That’s Sharon in the photo with me. What a very neat thing to experience. Thanks to Sharon and Karl for coming to visit and giving me such a neat memory to savor.

Click on the photo to see a larger image.

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