Thank you to everyone who donated to make this long-awaited day possible.
From today’s Fredericksburg Freelance-Star:
Brandy Station battle site is being restored
BY CLINT SCHEMMER / THE FREE LANCE–STAR
History lovers, rejoice.
On Saturday, the Civil War Trust began restoring the most important scene of America’s largest cavalry battle, Fleetwood Hill near the village of Brandy Station in Culpeper County.
Spotsylvania County contractor J.K Wolfrey is removing a garage and brick ranch house—one of two modern dwellings—on the 56-acre property, said Jim Campi, director of policy and communications for the national nonprofit trust.
The strategic crest is where Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart made his headquarters before mounted Union troopers’ surprise attack on June 9, 1863. Charges and countercharges swept across Fleetwood Hill all that day as fighting swirled around the rail depot’s crossroads.
The battle is nationally important for opening Robert E. Lee’s Gettysburg campaign, and proving that the Union cavalry had become a fair match for Stuart’s renowned men.
“We are pleased that work has begun to restore Fleetwood Hill to its wartime appearance,” Campi said in an interview Saturday afternoon. “Our goal is to have a ribbon cutting to open interpretive trails next spring.”
Culpeper businessman Tony Troilo sold the land—centerpiece of the expansive Brandy Station battlefield—to the trust a year ago this month, and lived there until earlier this summer.
The trust will take down the tract’s modern structures: a large house atop the hill, a smaller ranch house, a detached garage, two in-ground pools and a pool house. Where possible, it worked closely with Troilo and others to re-use parts of the buildings, Campi said. For instance, a metal barn was removed for use by the local 4–H club.
Wolfrey will backfill the basements and pools and grade their sites to confirm with topography and, aided by old photos, match the hilltop’s historic contours.
The contractor, who has worked on trust sites on the Cedar Mountain, Wilderness and Petersburg battlefields, will remove most of the houses’ asphalt and concrete driveways. Ornamental landscaping will also go, though some trees will stay.
The trust will keep a paved area for visitor parking, and won’t touch a historic well.
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which holds a conservation easement on the property, approved the trust’s demolition plan.
The wartime landscape restoration is among the trust’s most ambitious 0f such projects, Campi said.
The site will be closed to the public during the demolition, which could take up to three months, depending on weather and other factors.
This spring, favorable conditions allowed a contractor to finish similar work at a postwar farmstead on the Fredericksburg area’s Slaughter Pen Farm battlefield well ahead of schedule.
Once the Fleetwood Hill project is finished, the trust will announce its plans for public access to the nationally significant historic site, Campi said.
It has begun developing a multi-stop interpretive walking trail to augment the trust’s educational spots elsewhere on the battlefield.
Longer term, more trees will be planted on Fleetwood so the crest better how it looked during the Civil War.
Other parts of the property will be farmed under a five-year agricultural lease.
In late 2012, the Civil War Trust announced it had a chance to buy the site. It succeeded last August after a $3.6 million fundraising campaign that drew private gifts and matching grants from the federal Civil War Land Acquisition Grant Program, administered by the American Battlefield Protection Program, and Virginia’s Civil War Sites Preservation Fund. Its partners included the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, and the Brandy Station Foundation.
Beyond the purchase price, major donors gave money to help restore the hilltop’s wartime landscape.
ON THE NET:
Clint Schemmer: 540/374-5424
It won’t be long now until the view from Fleetwood Hill is unfettered once more.Scridb filter
Capt. William W. Blackford was J.E.B. Stuart’s able engineering officer in the spring and summer of 1863. He was 31 and one of several brothers serving in the Confederate service. Blackford had a bird’s eye view of much of the day’s action, and he wrote this interesting poem about the June 9, 1863.
In case you were wondering why we fought so hard to save Fleetwood Hill, this poem ought to answer those questions.
Twice a thousand men in blue
And twice a thousand gray
Are pricking fast the space between
And ne’er a finer sight was seen
And ne’er a bolder band I ween
Then rode in that array
Around the good old Mansion house
In flowery paths they meet
And bloody brushed the roses bloom
Neath foaming charger’s feet.
Terrific was the shock, the shiver
The lines of battle rocked
Worse to horse and hand to hand
Swaying back and forth they stand
In deadly conflict locked.
Tarnished is the sabre’s gleam
By many a bloody stroke
And dimly fades the fray from view
In dust and cannon smoke.
Steeds with empty saddles strain
Around the field in fright
Pause and snort toss back their mane
And with look bewildered neigh again
For comrades left in the fight.
O’er their battery sweep the waves
Of hottest action and
Triumphant now we wrest the prize
The proudest in a soldier’s eyes
Of captured cannon won
Beaten backward, stubborn still
Back from bloody Fleetwood Hill
Oft sound their bugles in retreat
For counter charges fierce to meet
Defiant still the bugles blew
With lines unbroken they withdrew.
Late last week, I learned about the Civil War Trust’s excellent new program to honor our veterans, which I want to share with you.
Here’s the Trust’s press release about the new Honor Our Soldiers program it’s rolling out:
CIVIL WAR TRUST ANNOUNCES NATIONAL ‘HONOR OUR SOLDIERS’ INITIATIVE
National campaign intended to recognize Civil War battlefields as living memorials to the service of all American soldiers, past and present
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Civil War Trust, the nation’s largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization, is proud to announce a new national campaign to honor American veterans, past and present. The multi-media campaign will recognize the tremendous sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform, and includes an online petition — http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/honor-our-soldiers — through which concerned Americans can show their support for historic battlefield preservation.
“We see Civil War battlefields as living memorials to the courage and service of all of America’s military veterans,” remarked Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer. “We share an incalculable debt to the many soldiers, sailors and airmen who have endured hardships and sacrificed for our freedom. By preserving these battlefields, we celebrate their memory and honor their legacy.
The new “Honor Our Soldiers” campaign is intended to generate awareness about the acute plight of Civil War and other battlefields on U.S. soil. Many of these historic shrines to our nation’s military have already been lost, and even more remain at risk of being destroyed beneath a bulldozer’s blade. As an example, nearly 20 percent of our nation’s Civil War battlefields have already been lost to development — denied forever to future generations. The “Honor Our Soldiers” campaign seeks to rally support for protecting those hallowed grounds that remain.
Lighthizer was joined in the “Honor Our Soldiers” announcement by one of America’s most distinguished veterans, historian and preservationist Ed Bearss. Bearss enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942 and fought at Guadalcanal and the Russell Islands before being severely wounded at Suicide Creek on Cape Gloucester, New Britain. After the war, Bearss went on to become Chief Historian of the National Park Service — a position he continues to hold in an emeritus capacity. According to Bearss: “When I answered the call to serve my country in World War II, I felt a kinship with all those soldiers who had come before me. I see preserving battlefields as a sacred duty that honors the legacy of their service.”
Lighthizer and Bearss both noted how preserved battlefields give Americans a unique opportunity to learn about the great personal cost paid by our ancestors to forge the freedoms we enjoy today. Lighthizer in particular noted the monument of the 71st Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment at the Angle at Gettysburg. “Carved into that monument are the words ‘Patriotism’ and ‘Heroism.’ To me, that’s what battlefield preservation is all about. It gives young and old alike an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the patriots and heroes who have proudly worn our country’s uniform. Protecting and visiting these places ensures that their bravery is never forgotten”
To honor our soldiers — both past and present — PLEASE SIGN the petition to show your support for the preservation of the hallowed battlegrounds on which Americans have fought and died. Go to http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/honor-our-soldiers/ or visit the website at www.HonorOurSoldiers.org.
The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 36,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.
This is a worthy effort to honor our veterans. To see the Facebook page for Honor Our Soldiers, click here. Please take a moment to check it out, and please support this worthy new project by our friends at the Trust.Scridb filter
The following article appeared in the December 19 edition of the Culpeper Star-Exponent. It demonstrates beyond any doubt that the Brandy Station Foundation is no longer a battlefield preservation organization.
New Civil War graffiti uncovered in Brandy Station Foundation house
Posted: Thursday, December 19, 2013 12:15 am | Updated: 12:39 pm, Thu Dec 19, 2013.
By Jeff Say firstname.lastname@example.org (540) 825-0771 ext. 115
Every inch of the Graffiti House in Brandy Station is historic — even the bathroom.
During a recent study by architectural conservator Chris Mills, new Civil War-era artwork was found in the circa 1858 structure believed to have been used as a hospital by Confederate and Union forces during the war.
For unknown reasons, patrons decided to mark up the walls with signatures, drawings and anything else that crossed their minds. Mills ’ challenge is to remove the post-historic paint and whitewash that subsequent owner’s attempted to cover the markings with, as well as stabilize the fragile plaster.
The newly uncovered graffiti was discovered in a crawl space under the stairs, painstakingly revealed by Mills — according to Brandy Station Foundation President Joe McKinney.
The name on the wall says Hollingsworth, 11th “something,” McKinney said.
After discovering that bit of artwork, Mills and McKinney pondered if more could be hidden in the vicinity.
That’s when Mills took out an razor blade and cut out a chunk of modern drywall in the bathroom.
Sure enough, under the modern plaster was more Civil War graffiti.
“Chris will cut out the plaster and see what we’ve got,” McKinney said. “We’re going to have to raise more money.”
McKinney pointed out that the house never ceases to amaze him.
“It’s exciting to see there’s still more (graffiti),” McKinney said.
It also enhances the learning value of the house.
“Going to the bathroom is going to be a learning experience for people,” McKinney said with a chuckle.
It’s great that new graffiti has surfaced at the Graffiti House. Wonderful. Don’t we all think so? (Right…) However, let’s closely examine Useless Joe McKinney’s words: “We’re going to have to raise more money,” he says. In other words, BSF’s main (and only) focus is to raise money to find more graffiti that has always been present in the house. It’s always been there, and it always will be there. It’s not going anywhere. Battlefield land however, will disappear if it is developed. Is that not a far more important priority for BSF on which BSF should focus?
Nowhere does Useless Joe mention or even suggest that the BSF should be raising money to purchase additional battlefield land. While Useless Joe frets over raising money to find more graffiti in the Graffiti House, there is core battlefield land on and around the Brandy Station Battlefield that is is presently for sale on the open market. Is Useless Joe doing anything to prevent the sale and development of core battlefield land that is situated firmly within the parameters of the battlefield BSF is charged with preserving? No. Not a chance. Preservation of battlefield property is simply not his thing, as he proved so amply during the Lake Troilo episode.
It is a fact Joe McKinney is myopically focused on his Graffiti House while battlefield land sits there right now ready for the plucking by somebody.
Fine, Joe. Go find your graffiti. But stop calling BSF a battlefield preservation advocacy organization, because you most assuredly are not so listed any longer in that noble category. Change the name of your organization to the Friends of the Graffiti House and stop pretending to be a battlefield preservation organization.
For shame.Scridb filter
This excellent, concise article describing the history of the effort to preserve Fleetwood Hill appears in the current issue of Hallowed Ground, the Civil War Trust’s magazine. Thanks to Jim Campi of the Trust for providing me with an electronic version of the article and permission to share it with you. The article can be found here.
Victory at Brandy Station
PERSEVERANCE PAYS OFF FOR BRANDY STATION PRESERVATIONISTS
HALLOWED GROUND MAGAZINE, WINTER 2013 ISSUE
For decades, the Brandy Station Battlefield lay dormant, almost entirely undisturbed since the epic cavalry battle that erupted in this part of Piedmont Virginia in 1863. It was the largest such engagement ever fought in the Western Hemisphere, with nearly 20,000 troopers clashing sabers, resulting in more than 1,000 casualties. To some, the untouched and pristine piece of America’s past presented an opportunity to preserve the battlefield for future generations; others focused on the development prospects offered by its proximity to prime transportation lines, including a major highway, Norfolk-Southern Railroad and a county airport. After more than a century of silence, a new battle brewed at the pastoral Virginia battlefield — one that ultimately lasted nearly 18 years, pitting out-of-state developers against local preservationists, community leaders and the general public.
In the summer of 1987, historians and other activists concerned about the rapid loss of battlefield land formed the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (APCWS) — a precursor to the Civil War Trust. The new organizations came not a moment too soon for Brandy Station.
Among those early preservation advocates was former Marine and federal investigator Clark “Bud” Hall, who had spent significant time walking the Brandy Station Battlefield, mapping troop positions, plotting specific points and cultivating close relationships with many local landowners along the way. These friends alerted Hall as their neighbors increasingly began selling their land. Like a line of dominos, a significant portion of farmland comprising the Brandy Station Battlefield fell, piece by piece, into the hands of California real estate investor Lee Sammis. His buying spree signaled to Hall that the hallowed ground was in jeopardy. Hall confronted the developer, who, in an attempt to quell any objections to the ultimate plan for the property, told him it was a family investment intended to be used for farming.
Despite these assurances, preservationists could see the writing on the wall: if Brandy Station were to be saved, there would be a struggle. Indeed, Sammis soon announced that his company, Elkwood Downs Limited Partnership, would build a large-scale corporate office park on the Brandy Station Battlefield. APCWS, concerned citizens, preservationists and local landowners quickly joined forces to create the Brandy Station Foundation in response to the threat. As the coalition gained steam, high-profile names came aboard, specifically Tersh Boasberg, one of the nation’s top preservation attorneys, and Washington lawyer Daniel Rezneck. Their involvement legitimized the organization in the eyes of many by providing much-needed legal footing, thrusting the APCWS and the Brandy Station Foundation — and with them, the modern-day battlefield preservation movement — into the national spotlight.
After years of controversy, Elkwood Downs filed for bankruptcy, leaving its development vision unfulfilled. But pause for celebration was brief. New developers targeted the hallowed ground as an ideal site for a Formula One racetrack and proposed plans to build on 515 acres of the battlefield, a construction project of such magnitude that it would have meant complete destruction of the historic land. Preservationists mobilized to begin fighting the racetrack, but providence struck first — insufficient planning and lacking infrastructure forced the developer to declare bankruptcy and abandon its plans.
After two close calls, the coalition of preservationists acted quickly to ensure the preservation of the battlefield by purchasing the property. Ultimately, and at a cost of more than $6 million, APCWS bought 944 acres from Sammis in 1997. The acquisition was a huge step forward in preserving the battlefield, but the process was far from complete and much more historically significant land remained to be saved. But, as is often the case, success bred success and, gradually, more properties were added. A particular highlight of the preservation process came in 2003, the 140th anniversary of the battle, when the Civil War Trust and the Brandy Station Foundation unveiled the Brandy Station Battlefield Park, comprised of interpretive signage, hiking trails and a driving tour. By the end of 2012, on the eve of Brandy Station’s sesquicentennial year, the Trust and its partners had protected more than 1,800 acres of the battlefield through outright purchase and conservation easement, making it one of the organization’s greatest success stories.
Still, something was missing. Despite having made several overtures over the years, Trust officials had been unable to make any inroads toward securing the battlefield’s most visible feature, the heights of Fleetwood Hill — the crest of which was occupied by a pair of large, modern homes. Nonetheless, periodic discussions with the landowners continued until, eventually, a breakthrough occurred. In May 2013, the Trust kicked off a $3.6 million campaign to purchase 56 critical acres atop Fleetwood Hill.
With such a lofty goal before it, the entire preservation community rallied behind the Civil War Trust in its quest to purchase the property. Particularly notable contributions — both financial and logistical — came from partner groups the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground and the Brandy Station Foundation, as well as from numerous private citizens. Generous matching grants from the federal American Battlefield Protection Program and the Virginia Civil War Sites Preservation Fund were also instrumental in securing the full purchase price of the property to complete the transaction in August 2013.
Although pockets of land remain that would, ideally, be protected and integrated into the existing park, preservationists agree that the heart and soul of Brandy Station is now protected, and this great battlefield will go down in history as a one of the preservation movement’s great victories. As Trust President James Lighthizer remarked, “Development of this historic property would have diminished all that has been accomplished at Brandy up to now. Protection of Fleetwood Hill turns a success into a preservation triumph.”
The second photo is of Clark B. “Bud” Hall holding a photo of the “for sale” sign that stood on Fleetwood Hill until the Trust purchase the property. The first photo stands along Rt. 15/29 adjacent to Fleetwood Hill.
This article explains why we fought so hard to save Fleetwood Hill. We could not have done so without the generosity of so many people who gave so much to permit us to be able to save that ground. Our work at Brandy Station is not finished yet, and we continue to fight to preserve pieces of that beautiful battlefield. But it’s been a great story made possible by a lot of hard work by a lot of people. I, for one, am grateful for it.Scridb filter
Clint Schemmer, a great friend of our preservation efforts at Brandy Station and elsewhere, has a really nice piece on the preservation of Fleetwood Hill in today’s edition of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, which I am pleased to share with you here:
A sweet victory for preservation
BY CLINT SCHEMMER / THE FREE LANCE–STAR
The heart of America’s most storied cavalry battlefield is back in one piece.
Fleetwood Hill, focus of the swirling, sprawling Battle of Brandy Station, has been bought by the Civil War Trust after a fast-paced national fundraising effort to preserve the most iconic spot on the battleground.
It’s as if Gettysburg regained Cemetery Hill after a long absence or Fredericksburg’s Sunken Road, if privately owned, was reunited with Marye’s Heights.
History-minded folks have hoped for this news for decades, and fought hard to hear it.
The 55,000-member trust and its allies now own the south end of Fleetwood Hill where Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart camped before the unexpected fighting of June 9, 1863, that sorely tested his troopers.
“Fleetwood Hill is the crown jewel of the Brandy Station battlefield,” Jim Campi, the trust’s policy director, said Saturday. “Our members knew this property just had to be preserved. They stepped up in a big way, giving generously in the past three months.”
Donations poured in to the trust’s website and Washington headquarters for a $3.6 million campaign to preserve 56 acres of the best-known piece of the battlefield.
The hill’s purchase caps a decadeslong effort to protect the site of the Western Hemisphere’s biggest cavalry battle from piecemeal encroachment and large-scale development.
Since 1984, preservationists have fended off a California developer who planned a huge subdivision, and another who wanted a Formula One racetrack. They were less successful in constraining expansion of the Culpeper County airport or preventing a local resident from building what some call a “McMansion” on the Fleetwood Hill crest that Stuart made his headquarters.
The trust closed about a week ago on purchase of the latter property, owned by Tony Troilo, a philanthropist who supports the Brandy Station Volunteer Fire Department and the county’s Soap Box Derby.
Troilo ran afoul of the Army Corps of Engineers in 2011 when, without a permit, he dammed Flat Run and moved tons of earth for a lake in the stream valley below his house.
After the corps cited him with violating the federal Clean Water Act and activists criticized his actions, Troilo decided to relocate, the Civil War News reported.
Clark B. Hall, the Northern Neck historian at the forefront of the Brandy Station preservation movement, said it is ironic that the lake controversy prompted Troilo to sell to the trust, whose previous offer to buy his land he had rejected.
“The satisfaction one derives from this makes 25 years of preservation work worthwhile,” Hall said. “For us to own this part of Fleetwood Hill is precious in the extreme.”
From 1862 through 1864, more armies passed by, camped or fought upon it than any other spot in the Eastern or Western theaters of the war, he said.
“Fleetwood Hill is, without question, the most fought-over single piece of ground in the American Civil War,” Clark said in an interview. “And for Civil War cavalry actions, it is Mount Olympus, it is ground zero.”
Though Fleetwood Hill figured in many engagements, it is most famed for the 1863 battle that opened the Gettysburg campaign and proved that Union cavalry were nearly the equal of J.E.B. Stuart’s horsemen. A spur of Fleetwood Hill, not part of the Civil War Trust’s purchase, served as headquarters for Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, the victor of Gettysburg, as he and Ulysses S. Grant planned their Overland Campaign in the winter of 1863–64.
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment, and I congratulate all of the parties involved for a successful outcome,” Joe McKinney, president of the Brandy Station Foundation, a local group, said of the Troilo tract’s purchase. “The Civil War Trust and the landowner deserve great credit for pursuing this and making it happen.”
The final sum needed to make the fundraising drive succeed came Thursday when Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced $2.25 million in state grants for battlefield preservation. They include $700,000 for acquisition of Fleetwood Hill. The Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, based in Fredericksburg, applied for that grant.
“This is the first time that CVBT has ventured into Culpeper County, and we are quite excited to assist in the preservation of ‘the missing link’ at Brandy Station,” Jerry Brent, the trust’s executive director, said Saturday afternoon.
Nor would the purchase have been possible without matching grants from Virginia and the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program, Campi said.
He credited CVBT, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground and the Brandy Station Foundation for their active involvement in the preservation effort.
“The next step is to fully restore Fleetwood Hill to its wartime appearance and open it up for public visitation,” Campi said. “We are looking forward to transforming the property into a living memorial for the soldiers who struggled there.”
Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029
Clint has been right there with us all along, and he did a great job of helping us to spread the word and to assist us in raising the funds to buy Fleetwood Hill. Thanks for your support, Clint.Scridb filter
This is a post that I have been waiting to write for a long time to write, and I cannot tell you how pleased I am to do so. I actually have known about this for some time, but it’s been hard keeping such wonderful, exciting news to myself. But now I can share it with all of you….
Today, Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia announced that the Commonwealth had conveyed a $700,000+ grant to the Civil War Trust for assistance in acquiring the 58 acres of Fleetwood Hill represented by the Troilo family’s holdings. These most-recent funds helped put us over the top. meaning that we were able to raise the entire $3.6 million, and that the closing on the property recently occurred!!!
Thanks to all of you, as of last week, the Civil War Trust owns Fleetwood Hill!!! We did it!!! We saved Fleetwood Hill!!!
Mr. Troilo is in the midst of building a new home, and until that new home is completed, he will retain tenant occupancy of the McMansion on the hill. A generous individual has already pledged the funds necessary to demolish the McMansion, meaning that once it has been vacated, the McMansion will be torn down. Expect an announcement regarding those festivities once I know the details.
This great accomplishment is the culmination of Bud Hall’s decades-long efforts to preserve the battlefield at Brandy Station, and this parcel is the crown jewel. None of this would have been possible, but for Bud’s hard work, and Bud can now proudly sit back and proudly enjoy the fruits of his labor. Bud also helped raise a great deal of the money for the acquisition.
Obviously, this also could not have happened but for the hard work of the good folks at Civil War Trust, who found the grants, engineered them, and then made all of this possible. We owe a great debt of gratitude to everyone there, but especially to the hard work done by Jim Lighthizer, Jim Campi, David Duncan, Tom Gilmore, and the others at the Trust who made this deal happen.
The biggest debt of gratitude of all is owed to the good folks who donated their hard-earned money to make this happen. $3.6m is a very large sum of money and raising that much money in a short period of time was a daunting prospect. But, as I knew you all would, people rallied to the flag and gave freely to allow us to not only meet the goal, but to close the transaction on time.
Thank you to Tony Troilo for finally doing the right thing and selling Fleetwood Hill so it could be forever preserved.
And finally, in a perverse way, we owe a debt to Useless Joe McKinney and the Board of Appeasers of the Brandy Station Foundation. But for their egregious abrogation of their duty to preserve and protect the battlefield, Lake Troilo would not have happened. And had Lake Troilo not have happened due to their horrific malfeasance, Bud Hall would not have reported the destruction of that portion of the battlefield to the Army Corps of Engineers. But for the intervention of the Army Corps of Engineers, we would still have Lake Troilo, and Mr. Troilo would not have grown so weary of fighting us that he would not have agreed to sell the property to the Civil War Trust. So, something good came out of the terrible malfeasance of Useless Joe and his Board of Appeasers, but it most assuredly does not excuse their refusal to act and their refusal to do their duty to preserve the battlefield. Shame on all of you. Nobody will soon forget your egregious failures to do your duty.
Let’s not allow BSF malfeasance to spoil this happy, momentous occasion. Instead, let’s celebrate one of the most important preservation victories to date by you and by the Civil War Trust. Well done!
Announcements regarding events to celebrate the acquisition of Fleetwood Hill will be forthcoming soon. Stand by for those.Scridb filter
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.
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.
Lt. Louis Henry Carpenter served in the 6th U.S. Cavalry during the Civil War, and fought at the Battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863. I formerly profiled Carpenter in one of my forgotten cavalrymen profiles. Carpenter was one of those great natural soldiers with no formal military training who left his mark on the United States Army, including being awarded a Medal of Honor for his service commanding African-American horse soldiers of the 10th U.S. Cavalry during the Indian wars. Carpenter plays a big role in the July 3, 1863 Battle of Fairfield; he was one of only three officers of the 6th U.S. Cavalry to report for duty on July 4 after the debacle at Fairfield.
We’ve long known that Carpenter–a very intelligent and literate man–left behind a large set of some of the best Civil War letters home to be found anywhere. They are located in his home town of Philadelphia at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The problem is that they are in bound volumes and HSP will not permit them to be photocopied. So, if a researcher wants to use them, they must be transcribed by hand, which is, to say the least, a great inconvenience. That’s why the letters have never been published as a set, even though they really deserve to be. He also published a number of good articles on cavalry service and a large family genealogy (Carpenter was directly descended from Samuel Carpenter, who was William Penn’s right-hand man, meaning he was a Philadelphia blue-blood). His brother, J. Edward Carpenter, served as a major in the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry–a Philadelphia regiment–and left behind one of the best contemporary accounts of what we now know as “Keenan’s Charge” on May 2, 1863 during the Battle of Chancellorsville. Both Carpenter brothers were good and prolific writers.
What we didn’t know is that the letters at HSP are only part of the collection of material he left behind. There are also diaries and a sketchbook of Carpenter’s observations during his time in the field during the Civil War. Bud Hall recently purchased this collection and found some amazing things therein. The most amazing find–and perhaps the most valuable of the images–is a sketch Carpenter drew in December 1863 of St. James Church–which sits in the middle of the Brandy Station battlefield, and was the site of the charges of the 6th Pennsylvania and 6th U.S. Cavalry during the morning phase of the the June 9, 1863 Battle of Brandy Station. Carpenter drew the sketch just before the troopers of the 6th U.S. tore the church down to use the wood and pews for firewood and the bricks to build chimneys for their huts during the winter encampment of 1863-1864. This is the ONLY known contemporary image of the church, and it finally answers a question that those of us who study the Battle of Brandy Station have long wondered: What did St. James Church look like? Bud spent 25 years searching for a contemporary image of the little church and could never locate one. A 1989 archaeological survey of the church site told us what the footprint of the church looked like, and Bud speculated what it looked like, but nobody knew for sure. Thanks to Carpenter, we finally know the answer.
Below is a profile of St. James Church written by Bud Hall that gives the history of this otherwise obscure little church in the woods:
The Little Church that Would Not Die–St. James Episcopal: Rebirth of a Country Church
Richard Hoope Cunningham and his wife Virginia (Heth) arrived in Culpeper in 1833 and built a magnificent home, “Elkwood,” fronting the Rappahannock. Devout Christians, the Cunninghams routinely forded the river and attended services in Fauquier.
Weary of traversing a waterway that often proved dangerously swollen, the Cunninghams selected two acres about two miles back from the river as a suitable church site. Along with their neighbors, the Cunninghams then endowed the construction of a “first class country church.”
The two-story church—made of red brick fired on-site by slave labor—stood 40 by 40 feet, was “carpeted and nicely furnished, with cushioned pews.” Church officials were especially proud of its “big gallery all around for the colored people.” The total cost of construction materials was about $2000.
The beloved Rev. John Cole served as the first Rector of the new church in 1840, later consecrated in 1842 as St. James Episcopal Church. By 1860, the congregation boasted 28 communicants, with 40-50 black and white souls attending weekly services. A cemetery was laid out and all races were interred therein, with the same lovely periwinkle covering all beneath.
The little church proved so prosperous a parsonage loomed, and St James’s members donated $3000 to that end in 1861. But as events transpired, this munificent outlay soon reverted back as member families needed those funds for the next four years. War had come to Culpeper, and almost all of the county’s cherished churches were tallied as casualties during the ruinous conflict. And St. James was the first Culpeper house of worship to experience defilement, and then finally, total destruction.
Located near the wartime intersection of three roadways—Beverly’s Ford Road; Winchester Turnpike and Green’s Mill Road—St. James’s strategic placement near the river guaranteed the modest structure would suffer an inevitable concussive impact centered as it was between contending armies.
And by the thousands, Blue and Gray combatants tramped and fought about St. James. In 1862, pews were removed to enfold Rebel dead incurred in a fierce artillery duel. On June 9, 1863, fighting raged in front of St. James as Jeb Stuart’s legions beat back Federal charges during the Battle of Brandy Station. Several Rebel soldiers killed nearby sleep their final rest today in St. James’s burial ground.
Two Union soldiers in late 1863 left insightful glimpses of St. James: The first, an Illinois trooper, gazed upon the church and wrote his Chicago parents, “I admire the taste of Virginians in regard to building churches. They are not imposing structures and are always located in the woods.” A Pennsylvania officer described St. James as a “modest sanctuary…suggesting a time back when the woods were the first churches.”
Ironically, this latter soldier participated in taking St. James apart brick by brick in December 1863 to be used as chimney material during the winter encampment of the Army of the Potomac. Soon there was nothing left. Even the church bible was stolen. Robbed of their precious church, St. James members “worshipped God, like the primitive Christians, in private homes.”
But all wars finally do end, and in 1865, a new church was sought to replace St. James. We don’t know why the former site of St. James was not utilized; perhaps the reasoning suggested nothing more than the fact Brandy Station offered convenience for a post-war congregation. And then again maybe the bitterness over the loss of their lamented country church precluded a return to the “crime scene.”
“St James Church has risen from the ashes in the embodiment of Christ Episcopal Church at Brandy Station,” an exultant Rev. John Cole proclaimed in 1868.
In 1869, the new church was dedicated and consecrated “to supply the place of the building…entirely destroyed during the recent war.” Still offended at the wanton destruction of St James, Christ Church petitioned the Federal government for compensatory redress, and in 1914 the U.S. Court of Claims allowed the sum of $1,575 expended “as an equitable claim …that the United States received the benefit of the use of the material claimed for.”
Having fulfilled its duty by satisfying the honor of its ancestor church, the esteemed Christ Church congregation now also has St. James’s bible back in the fold—graciously returned by a former enemy. Christ Church continues today to hold in trust for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia the St. James Church parcel, and the Brandy Station Foundation deferentially maintains, under lease, this beautiful, sacred church ground and its lonely cemetery.
Enter St. James today, if you will, and quietly and reverently experience the holy memory of a little church in the woods that refused to die.
And without further adieu, here is Louis Henry Carpenter’s previously unknown sketch of St. James Church. It is important to note that Bud Hall owns this image and all rights associated with it. Bud gave me the privilege of being the first to see–and publish–this image, which will appear in Bud’s forthcoming comprehensive study of the Battle of Brandy Station when it’s completed (which will occur once the campaign to raise the funds to save Fleetwood Hill ends–please donate here). However, it cannot be duplicated or otherwise used without Bud’s express written permission. Please contact me if you want permission to use it for any reason, and I will put you in touch with him. Please click the image to see a full-sized version of it.
The image is very accurate: the graves are correctly shown, as is a defensive trench just beneath the gravestones, and if you visit the site today, you can still find the same small grouping of graves nestled among a grove of trees grown up since the war.
The self-portrait of Carpenter at the top of this post also comes from the sketchbook acquired by Bud. The same rules apply to it. I had looked for an image of him for years, but could only find one from late in his career, so I am very pleased to finally see a wartime image of him. You can see a larger image of it by clicking on it, too.
Bud has very generously agreed to permit me to use any of these images, and any of the other material that he now owns, in a future volume on Carpenter. I haven’t quite decided whether to edit the letters or to write a full-length biography of this fascinating soldier, but I will do something with them that makes good use of Bud’s collection of outstanding primary source material from Carpenter himself.
I’m tickled to be able to offer you the first look at these materials. Thanks to Bud Hall for permitting me to do so.Scridb filter
For those interested in the upcoming Sesquicentennial of the Battle of Kelly’s Ford (fought on March 17, 1863), my friend and fellow BSF board member in exile Craig Swain is leading a commemoration of the battle next Sunday (St. Patrick’s Day), from 2:00-3:15. The commemoration will occur on the battlefield proper, at the time when the battle was taking place. The event is to both commemorate the battle, but also to dedicate a new interpretive spot on some of the ground preserved last year by the Civil War Trust.
Craig has further details on his blog. If you’re in the area, please check out this event!Scridb filter