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Battlefield preservation

Those of you who know me in person, or who have been long-time readers of this blog, know how important my battlefield preservation work is to me. While telling the stories of the Civil War is of crucial importance to me, the preservation of hallowed ground is, without question, the most important work that I do when it comes to my historical work. Thus, it is my honor to share this article from the May 26, 2018 issue of The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star:

Central Virginia Battlefields Trust adds three to board of directors
May 26, 2018

The Central Virginia Battlefields Trust has elected three new members to its board of directors. Chris Mackowski, John McManus and Eric Wittenberg will each serve three-year terms.

“John and Eric both bring excellent experience as attorneys, which is expertise a preservation organization like ours can always benefit from, and Chris and Eric are both top-notch historians,” said Tom Van Winkle, president of CVBT. “We have some projects in the works right now that are particularly relevant to their skillsets, so their additions to the board come at a fortuitous time for us.”

Chris Mackowski, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Emerging Civil War. He is a professor of journalism and mass communication at St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, N.Y., and historian-in-residence at Stevenson Ridge, a historic property on the Spotsylvania battlefield. He has also worked as a historian for the National Park Service at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. Mackowski has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books on the Civil War, and his numerous articles have appeared in major Civil War magazines. He also serves on the national advisory board for the Civil War Chaplains Museum in Lynchburg.

Attorney John McManus has called Fredericksburg home for more than 22 years. As managing partner of Hirschler Fleischer’s Fredericksburg office and a member of the firm’s board of directors, McManus is active in the local business community and committed to preserving the area’s rich history. Among other leadership roles, McManus serves on the board of governors for the Community Foundation of the Rappahannock River Region and is a former board member of Rappahannock Goodwill Industries Inc.

Eric J. Wittenberg is an award-winning historian, blogger, speaker and tour guide. His specialty is Civil War cavalry operations, and much of his work has focused on the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps and on the Gettysburg Campaign. He is the author of 21 published books on the Civil War and more than three-dozen articles that have appeared in various national magazines. He is also deeply involved in battlefield preservation work and often assists the American Battlefield Trust, formerly the Civil War Trust, with its efforts.

The Central Virginia Battlefields Trust preserves land associated with four major Civil War campaigns: Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House. Incorporated in 1996, CVBT has since helped preserve more than 1,200 acres of historic battlefield terrain.

The Central Virginia Battlefields Trust is one of the leading local advocacy group partners for the American Battlefield Trust, and has done some remarkable battlefield preservation work in its own right, having saved 1200 acres of important battlefield land in and around the Fredericksburg, Virginia area.

It is my honor and my privilege to have been asked to join the CVBT board of trustees. I join a group of talented and dedicated volunteers who are committed to saving endangered battlefield land. By joining the CVBT board, I am able to make a more direct contribution to the preservation work that means so very much to me.

The CVBT covers its overhead from the dues that its members pay. Please consider joining the CVBT and help us to accomplish our goal of saving battlefield land. Every membership helps us to cover our overhead and to devote resources to buying battlefields. I hope that you will consider doing so. For more information about membership in the CVBT, please click here.

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On Monday, I received a call from old friend Clint Schemmer, who is the communications manager for the Civil War Trust. Clint called with some very important news.

For the past few years, the Trust has expanded its scope of coverage to include the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. That work was being done by the Civil War Trust, and that just didn’t seem quite right. Clint called to tell me that the Trust has undergone a significant reorganization to accommodate these changes. He sent along the press release for it, which I reproduce for you below:

NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATION GROUP FORMS AMERICAN BATTLEFIELD TRUST
New umbrella organization will build upon success of Civil War Trust in preserving our nation’s hallowed battlegrounds

(Washington, D.C.) – The Civil War Trust, a national nonprofit preservation group recognized for its success in saving battlefield land, has formed the American Battlefield Trust — a new umbrella entity dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today.

The new umbrella organization reflects how the Civil War Trust’s battlefield preservation achievements have grown and its mission expanded to include other conflicts from America’s formative first century. In 2014, at the request of the National Park Service, the Trust extended its mandate to include protection of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields. Its decision to do so coincided with the passage of federal legislation aimed at preserving battlefields of those two conflicts. Since then, the Trust has saved nearly 700 acres of battlefield land associated with the American Revolution and War of 1812 while continuing to save Civil War battle sites at a record pace.

Earlier this month, the Department of Interior announced that the Trust had been selected to serve as the federal government’s nonprofit partner for the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States. The organization’s commitment to protecting Civil War battlefields was recently underscored by the announcement that it would be saving 18 acres of core battlefield land on historic Seminary Ridge at Gettysburg.

“We see preserved battlefields as outdoor classrooms that both illuminate and inspire,” said American Battlefield Trust President James Lighthizer. “They allow young and old alike to walk in the footsteps of America’s first citizen soldiers. No Hollywood movie, documentary, or museum exhibit can compare to standing amid the now-quiet trenches of Yorktown or gazing across the field of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg.”

The Civil War Trust will continue as the principal division under the American Battlefield Trust umbrella, focusing on battlefields and educational outreach related to that conflict. A second division known as the Revolutionary War Trust will serve a similar function, concentrating on battlefields associated with America’s War for Independence. According to Lighthizer, “this new organizational structure gives us the strength and flexibility needed to protect critically important battlefield land in an increasingly competitive real estate market.”

The formation of the American Battlefield Trust is the latest step in the evolution of the modern battlefield preservation movement, which began in the mid-1980s in response to the loss of important historic sites to spreading commercial and residential development. The new entity is a direct descendant, through a series of mergers and name changes, of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, founded by a group of professional historians and preservation advocates in 1987.

The organization is best known for its high-profile battlefield preservation efforts, including protection of the historic epicenter of the Antietam battlefield, the site of George Washington’s famous charge at Princeton, the Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg, and Robert E. Lee’s battlefield headquarters at Gettysburg. In addition, as the Civil War Trust, it engaged in grassroots campaigns to prevent development at Chancellorsville and the Wilderness in Virginia; Franklin, Tennessee; and Morris Island, South Carolina (site of the famous charge portrayed in the movie Glory).

“Over those years and under a variety of names, we have saved nearly 50,000 acres of battlefield land throughout the United States, while earning accolades for being one of the most efficient and effective nonprofits in the nation,” said Lighthizer. “Now, as the American Battlefield Trust, we will continue that tradition of preservation leadership.”

Although primarily known for its land preservation successes, the organization is also firmly committed to promoting the rich and diverse history of America’s first century conflicts. Using battlefield land as a unique and powerful teaching tool, the Trust’s educational efforts include popular videos, you-are-there Facebook Live broadcasts, GPS-enabled smartphone apps, online battle panoramas, animated maps, classroom field-trip sponsorships, a national Teacher Institute, hundreds of website articles and images, and “Generations” events that encourage family members of all ages to experience history in the places where it occurred.

The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. To date, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected nearly 50,000 acres of battlefield land associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.

The Trust has been–and remains–the most effective battlefield preservation advocacy group in the country, and I have long supported its work. Now it will be able to continue its work in preserving Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites under an appropriate name while still doing great work in preserving Civil War battlefields. Please continue to support the Trust’s efforts. Nobody does it better.

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Yesterday was the 152nd anniversary of the Battle of Morton’s Ford, fought on February 6, 1864. I had wanted to get something posted yesterday, but I was presenting at a symposium and then had a 7.5 hour drive today to get home. So, unfortunately, this is a day late. Let’s hope it’s not a dollar short. 🙂

Waren-MFFor a larger view of this map, please click on it.

Second Corps division commander, Brig. Gen. Alexander Hays, whose troops fought at Morton's Ford

Second Corps division commander, Brig. Gen. Alexander Hays, whose troops fought at Morton’s Ford

This is a brief but comprehensive article on the battle written by Clark B. “Bud” Hall that appeared in the :

“A Curious Affair:” The Battle of Morton’s Ford, February 6, 1864 Proceeding south on Batna Road (Rt. 663), one observes an isolated hillock to the west. Called “Stony Point” in the Civil War, this knoll was home during the winter encampment of the Army of the Potomac to 2,000 soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division of the 2nd Army Corps. In early February 1864, little did these peacefully reposed troops realize they would soon help initiate one of the strangest and least known of all military actions occurring in and about Culpeper County.

In order to support a planned cavalry-infantry raid on Richmond, Union strategists in Washington instructed the Army of the Potomac to initiate a diversionary attack against entrenched Confederates south of the Rapidan. Although stoutly opposed to the impending assault against the enemy’s “strongly entrenched line,” Federal commander Gen. John Sedgwick selected Morton’s Ford as the avenue of attack.

On the morning of February 6, 8,000 soldiers of the 3rd Division secretly amassed north of Stony Point. Once his ranks were formed, Gen. Alexander Hays ordered his division to move out quickly toward Morton’s Ford, located just over a mile south. As it turned out, this stealthy advance would be the only positive thing the Yankees accomplished for the remainder of a
long and bloody day.

Crossing in front of Powhatan Robinson’s house, Struan, the 3rd Division rushed toward Morton’s Ford. Near the head of the assaulting force rode General Hays, who “had added two or three extra fingers to his morning dram.” Actually, this was a polite way of revealing that General Hays was stone drunk. As his advancing soldiers leaped into the icy river, General Hays followed closely behind swinging an ax high over his head at tree branches while shouting, ‘We will cast then down as I do this brush!”
Ignoring Rebel musket fire, Hays’ men dived for cover to escape their “reckless and incoherent” commander’s wildly heaving blade. With inebriated leadership at the fore, the dubious operation kicked off. Over on the Southern side, one artillerist described a “rather sudden transition from peace to war.” Undaunted, the famed Richmond Howitzers opened up on the Yankees now pouring across the river. Riding up quickly, Gen. Richard Ewell asked in amazement, “What on earth is the matter here?” Convinced his corps was under attack, General Ewell focused the plunging fire of his big command on the soon outnumbered attackers. “We crossed the river to feel the enemy, “one bluecoat wrote, “and we got the feel badly.” Another Yank pointed out the obvious, “The enemy was not badly scared.” Under direct fire from Rebel works located a mile back of the ford, the courageous but poorly led Federals withered and their “attack” ground to a halt. One Federal officer theorized the “purpose of our attack was to draw a force of enemy to our front.” The Federals achieved that objective as the cool Southerners responded “in a deadly focus of fire.” Northerners fell dead by the dozens.

Late in the day, things only got worse for the besieged Federals as the Confederates initiated a bold counterattack. One Union officer—obviously a future politician—artfully described this Rebel thrust as the “enemy retreating toward us.” Disingenuous semantics aside, the Yankees withdrew after dark over the river, losing near 300 casualties in the process while Dick Ewell’s corps incurred about 55 casualties. R.E. Lee’s great biographer accurately termed the daylong battle a “curious affair.” And also stupid in the extreme, one might offer, as this pointless action accomplished nothing but death and misery.

Following the battle, General Sedgwick complained bitterly that Washington authorities should not have initiated orders resulting in the disastrous Battle of Morton’s Ford. But with General Sedgwick’s castigations of higher-ups noted, this debacle on the Rapidan would not represent the last time American warriors entered a battle with an ill-defined mission, while engaged in an action counseled against by generals in the field, and also fighting in a locale wherein they were not wanted to begin with.

MF_Fd_to_south_(1)2This is what Morton’s Ford looks like as of last week.

Struan_ Jan_19_2016_v2This is what Struan looks like today.

Both photos are by Clark B. Hall.

The Battle of Morton’s Ford, although a small engagement in terms of numbers involved, was an important engagement that had strategic implications for the coming campaign seasons, and which was remembered by the soldiers who fought there. Let’s remember their sacrifices there. Hopefully, some or all of this pristine battlefield will be preserved some day.

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The following editorial in support of the creation of the Culpeper County Civil War Battlefield State Park appears in today’s edition of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star:

Editorial: A state park fitting for Culpeper Civil War sites
BY THE EDITORIAL PAGE STAFF OF THE FREE LANCE-STAR

Over the years, the green rolling Piedmont hills around Brandy Station in Culpeper County have engendered visions of hundreds of houses and condominiums, a multiplex theater, a water park, an equestrian center, a hotel and even a Formula One race track.

Each of the proposals generated high-profile struggles between the would-be developers and preservationists because these fields were the place where the largest cavalry engagement of the Civil War occurred.

Today, it appears the historic battles of Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain will be the key to the future of the rural tracts—if they become part of the Virginia State Park system.

Fighting at Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, is considered the beginning of the Gettysburg Campaign and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s last effort to take the fight north. The lesser-known battle of Cedar Mountain occurred about a year earlier. Here, Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson repelled Union forces, which had marched into Culpeper County with plans to capture the rail junction at Gordonsville.

Though the state park discussions are preliminary, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation officials and some county officials are speaking favorably about plans to spotlight Culpeper’s two most significant battlefields.

It makes a lot of sense for this to happen. Much of this beautiful, bucolic place where Union and Confederate horsemen clashed around Brandy Station off U.S. 29 will never be developed. Some of the land has been purchased by preservation groups and other parts are protected by conservation easements.

The Brandy Station Foundation, a nonprofit group that owns 38 acres at Fleetwood Hill—the heart of the cavalry battlefield—supports the idea. So does the Civil War Trust, which owns more than 1,000 acres of the Brandy Station battleground and another 164 acres at Cedar Mountain off U.S. 15. Altogether, 4,822 acres of the two battlefields are protected from development, which offers visitors a way to step back in time.

Members of the Culpeper Board of Supervisors, who in the past have backed modern-day development plans at Brandy Station, now say the park plan is worth pursuing. They like the idea of the state boosting tourism and helping to support businesses such wineries, distilleries, hotels and restaurants that thrive on visitors to Culpeper.

It would be the first state park in Culpeper County, and would fill a geographical gap in Virginia’s top-notch system. There are no state parks between Sky Meadows in northern Fauquier County and Lake Anna in western Spotsylvania County. The state and the Civil War Trust have worked together to open up historic sites at locations such as Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Park and High Bridge Trail, both near Farmville.

At a time when the nation is reassessing how to view and understand the Civil War and its symbols, the stories of sacrifice of American lives cannot be forgotten. Opening historic sites to the public at Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain is the right thing to do.

Preservation-minded residents and historians have spent countless hours and much treasure to preserve the land there. The Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, established by Congress years ago to pinpoint America’s most important unprotected sites, classified both battlefields as “principal strategic operations of the war.”

Now it’s up to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the Virginia General Assembly and Culpeper officials to see that all the efforts will bear fruit for all to hear the stories of Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain. It would be a fitting way to celebrate next year’s 80th anniversary of the Virginia State Park system.

Let’s hope that this happens. It should. The Commonwealth of Virginia is the best possible steward of these battlefields, and can oversee the expansion of them as time passes.

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From today’s edition of the Culpeper Times regarding the state park initiative in Culpeper County that would include the Brandy Station, Kelly’s Ford, and Cedar Mountain battlefields:

Civil War Trust offering land for battlefield parks in Culpeper
By Wally Bunker
© Culpeper Times

Several weeks ago, Jim Campi, Civil War Trust (CWT) policy communications director called Clyde Cristman, director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), with a proposal to turn CWT-owned battlefield property at the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain into state parks.

“Yes, we would be interested,” Cristman said he told Campi. “Yes, it is consistent with our mission.”

However, Cristman told Campi that he needed to float the idea to some members the Virginia General Assembly, which determines appropriations and priorities within DCR.

Establishing new state parks hasn’t fared well recently in the General Assembly.

Del. Ed Scott (R-30th), who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, said what appears to be a simple idea is actually very complex.

“I have been working with my colleagues to increase funding for our existing state parks,” Scott said in an email. “Virginia currently has land that has been donated, but parks have not opened, because we don’t have the funding to establish roads, trails or even primitive facilities.”

Culpeper’s two major battlefields could add to that undeveloped inventory.

Cristman and Campi stressed that the discussion with Campi was “very preliminary.”

“All conversations have been very preliminary, since many details would need to be considered and addressed,” Campi said in an email.

However, Cristman said establishing a Civil War battlefield park in Culpeper County would fill a void of state parks in close proximity. Looking at the DCR website of existing state parks, Culpeper County sits in the middle of a large blank spot, with no nearby state parks.

“This would be unique in that it would be a new state park,” said Cristman about CWT’s overture for Culpeper state parks.

CWT purchased property before adjacent to existing preserved battlefields and donated the land to the federal government and the state.

“We haven’t discussed the mechanism for transferring the lands to the state,” Campi wrote. “Likely, it would be similar to the land transfers we have undertaken at Sailor’s Creek Battlefield and High Bridge Trail State Park.”

Some of those transfers were donated and some sold to the state, according to Campi, with sales proceeds plowed back into preservation efforts elsewhere in Virginia. About 73 percent of the Sailor’s Creek Battlefield was preserved by CWT.

If the General Assembly agreed to establish another Civil War-focused battlefield state park, it would be years away. The state would have to conduct federal and state mandated studies.

At the Brandy Station Battlefield, some of the core battlefield still remains privately owned, creating a patchwork of preserved land versus privately owned land. Several significant private tracts abut Fleetwood Hill, which was purchased and preserved by CWT. The Trust owns 1,901 of the Brandy Station Battlefield.

The Brandy Station Foundation owns 38 acres at the foot of Fleetwood Hill, along with the Graffiti House that served as a hospital during the Civil War. Troops from both sides scribbled names and drew pictures on the walls, which has been uncovered and preserved.

“Regardless of whether the state park idea has any legs, the Trust remains committed to preserving battlefield land at Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain,” Campi wrote.

Campi said CWT continues to “have quiet conversations with private landowners” about preserving additional properties

DCR Director Cristman said a number of issues must be considered before determining the funding needed, such as how and where it would operate.

If the General Assembly liked and funded the idea, it could take years for a Civil War park to open in Culpeper. Before a new park opens, DCR partners with local government and the community to determine how the park operates and services offered.

“Localities really benefit,” said Culpeper Tourism Director Paige Read, who volunteered to lead the local effort should DCR consider CWT’s offer. “There is nothing but positives here.”

Read believes the creation of a state park would be a boon to tourism in the county. Plus, she added, Virginia nationally markets its park system.

State parks experienced almost 9 million visitors last year, an increase of 1.4 percent from 2013, said Read.

“State parks are tremendous,” said Read, noting Virginia maintains 36 state parks.

She said that every dollar spent by the general fund generates $12 for the local economy.

Noted local Brandy Station Battlefield historian and a founding member of the Brandy Station Foundation Bud Hall is optimistic that the historic cavalry battlefield will become a state park.

“I hope it happens,” said Hall. “I think one day this is going to be a state park.”

Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at wallybunker@outlook.com

There’s an old cliche that says that those with weak stomachs should never watch either sausage or legislation being made, because neither is a very pretty sight. The process of creating this state battlefield park will neither be quick nor will it be pretty. But it needs to happen, and we need your support in order to help to ensure that it happens. If you support this initiative, please write to the newspaper editors to express your support, and please write to the Virginia assemblymen to express your support.

Thank you for supporting our efforts to preserve these battlefields.

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On May 28, I posted here that the time had come for the creation of a Virginia state Civil War battlefield park in Culpeper County. The idea is catching on, and we need your help to make it happen.

This article by Clint Schemmer appeared in the June 12, 2015 edition of the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star newspaper:

Virginia considers creating state park at Brandy Station, Cedar Mountain battlefields
By Clint Schemmer

Friday, June 12, 2015 12:00 am
Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

If the stars align, Culpeper County could be the home of a new state park.

State and local officials are tossing around the idea of creating a park to preserve and spotlight Culpeper’s two most significant Civil War battlefields—Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain.

Clyde Cristman, director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, confirmed this week that there have been “very preliminary” discussions about the proposal.

To become a reality, a park “would have to have support from the local government, local General Assembly members and a majority of the assembly,” Cristman said in an interview.

His department already runs parks focused on Civil War sites at Sailor’s Creek, High Bridge and Staunton River.

“We have experience in operating and managing these kinds of parks,” Cristman said. “Should the General Assembly and the governor decide it’s appropriate, that is definitely within our mission.”

Joe McKinney, president of the Brandy Station Foundation, said he has heard that Gov. Terry McAuliffe is interested in the idea.

“The state park system has the resources to protect these battlefields here in Culpeper and draw more people interested in history to come see them,” McKinney said in an interview.

The foundation, a nonprofit group that owns 38 acres near Fleetwood Hill—heart of the 1863 cavalry battlefield—supports the idea, though McKinney noted that there will be many nuts-and-bolts details to sort out.

He said he thinks the foundation’s Graffiti House, an antebellum home in the village of Brandy Station, could serve as a visitor center for the park.

The foundation and another nonprofit, Friends of Cedar Mountain, maintain battlefield land as living memorials to the men who fought and died there.

The Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, established by Congress to pinpoint America’s most important Civil War sites, classified the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain battlefields as representative of “the principal strategic operations of the war.”

WIDESPREAD SUPPORT

Culpeper Supervisor Steve Walker, who operates Fountain Hall bed-and-breakfast, supports the park notion.

“I think it would be a very positive thing for Culpeper, definitely helping to develop more tourism opportunities,” Walker said. “My only concern is when the state got involved, whether it would restrict farmers or hunters.

“But from a personal perspective, I think it’s a great idea. It would draw more people to enjoy our multiple, different tourism sites in the county—wineries, distilleries, Civil War and Revolutionary War sites, and great restaurants.”

Culpeper Supervisor Bill Chase also favors the idea.

“At first blush, it sounds good for the state to hold the land and make it more of a tourist attraction than it is now,” Chase said. “I’d much rather have it under the state than the way it is now.”

But he added: “The devil is in the details, and I’d have to see them before I would wholeheartedly support it.”

The Civil War Trust, which preserves 1,901 acres of the Brandy Station battlefield and 164 acres at Cedar Mountain, likes the state-park thought.

“The trust believes that a Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain state park is an idea worth pursuing,” Jim Campi, the trust’s director of policy and communications, said in an interview. “It would be beneficial to have a state park in the region to memorialize the two battles as well as encourage tourism.”

Campi declined to comment on the national nonprofit group’s discussions with state officials, other than to describe them as preliminary and productive.

Glenn Stach, a preservation landscape architect in Warrenton, said the Virginia Outdoors Plan, a long-range planning document, identifies the region between Sky Meadows State Park in Fauquier County and the Rapidan and Rappahannock rivers as one without a state park.

“It’s been on the radar for quite some time as an opportunity, with an underserved population in the vicinity,” Stach said.

The McAuliffe administration is identifying places to create new parks for the 80th anniversary of the state park system next year, Stach said.

Diane Logan, president of the Friends of Cedar Mountain, said the Culpeper nonprofit strongly supports the concept of a state park and sees it as a economic development opportunity.

“Heritage tourism is clean development that does not require huge infrastructure costs to the local citizens,” Logan said. “Heritage tourists typically stay longer at a destination, spending more money at local businesses, including on meals and lodging.”

If the park happens, the Cedar Mountain battlefield would be promoted in state literature and its tourism efforts, she said.

NATIONAL ATTENTION

Virginia historian Clark B. Hall, who has spent decades working to preserve Brandy Station from development threats, said the park would focus national attention on Culpeper.

“This country doesn’t have a park dedicated to cavalry, that hugely important offensive and defensive component of Civil War warfare,” Hall said. “This would be the place.”

Fought on June 9, 1863, the Battle of Brandy Station opened Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Gettysburg Campaign and proved the mettle of Union cavalry.

“There’s no other spot like it,” Hall said. “This is supremely beautiful battlefield land and to see it become a state park, that would be the cat’s meow.”

Paul Hawke, chief of the National Park Service’s American Battlefields Protection Program, was also enthusiastic.

“This is an excellent opportunity to save, and open to the public, two important Civil War battlefields that have long been overlooked,” he said.

The park idea has been talked of by some local residents for a long time, since at least 2000.

But a keystone fell into place in 2013 when the Civil War Trust bought the southern crest of Fleetwood Hill, site of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s headquarters before the battle, and several other properties associated with the famous ridge, Campi said.

“We needed to have Fleetwood Hill because it was the epicenter of the battle, the jewel of Brandy Station,” he said.

Friends of Cedar Mountain

Virginia State Parks

Brandy Station battlefield at the Civil War Trust

Cedar Mountain battlefield at the Civil War Trust

We need your help to make this happen! If you support this initiative, please write letters of support to the editor of the Free Lance Star and to legislators in Virginia. Now is the time.

To horse!

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IMG_0380A nifty gift just arrived in the mail from my friends at the Civil War Trust. It’s a brick. And I’m thrilled to have it.

You might ask, why? What’s so exciting about a brick?

This brick comes from Tony Troilo’s McMansion that blighted Fleetwood Hill for far too long. When the house was demolished, I asked that the Trust save me a single brick from the house as a souvenir of the fight to save Fleetwood Hill, and this is that brick. I have the perfect place for it in my home office, and every time that I look at it, I will smile, because of what it means. Its presence in my home office means that the McMansion no longer blights Fleetwood Hill, and that the view from Fleetwood Hill is once more unfettered.

So, you see, this is not just some ordinary brick. It’s a very special brick, bought and paid for by the blood of the soldiers who fought, bled, and died on Fleetwood Hill, and by the folks who donated the money to make the acquisition and demolition of the McMansion on Fleetwood Hill possible. And because it’s a very special brick, it will forever occupy a special place in my heart and in my home office.

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With many thanks to Clark B. “Bud” Hall, who not only provided me with these two images, Bud was also the one who identified the historic image as being of Fleetwood Hill when it had been mislabeled for years as being a camp in other locales.

Fall, 1863The first image was taken in the fall of 1863. Here’s what Bud had to say about it:

The view is north, and this is the attack perspective of the 1st Maryland Cavalry as Wyndham’s Brigade attacked Fleetwood on June 9.

The house was “Fleetwood,” built in the 1700’s by John Strode, and was in 1863 the tenant home of farmer Henry Miller. The fruit orchard visible in the ’63 image was destroyed (for firewood) during the winter encampment of the Army of the Potomac, 63-64. During that winter, the Miller home would be the headquarters of Maj. Gen. William French, 3rd Corps.

The road in the center of the ’63 image is easily discernible today as it leads to Brandy Station Station, a half mile away, and behind the photographer.

June 1 2015 v2The modern image was taken on June 1, and is exactly the same view and perspective. The small structure that looks like a gazebo is the historic well on the crest of Fleetwood Hill, which is enclosed to prevent folks from falling in.

It bears repeating that the view of Fleetwood Hill, unfettered by the McMansion on the hill, is a thing of beauty to be treasured.

To see larger versions of either of these two images, please click on them.

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FullSizeRenderHere is how Fleetwood Hill looks today, June 1, 2015. This view is taken from the Flat Run Valley, to the south of where Lake Troilo once sat. Thank you to all of you who made this view possible–and especially to Bud Hall, the Civil War Trust, and those of you who made large donations to make it possible, and thank you to Tony Troilo for deciding to violate federal law. No thanks are appropriate for, nor should they be given to, Useless Joe McKinney and the Board of Appeasers, who idly sat by and let it happen in the hope of not offending Useless Joe’s pal, Mr. Troilo.

Fleetwood Hill–the single most fought-over piece of ground in North America–is once more unfettered.

For a full-sized view, click on the image. Thanks to Clark B. “Bud” Hall for sending it along.

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My friend Craig Swain has a very thought-provoking post on his blog indicating that the time has come for the founding of a state battlefield park in Culpeper County, Virginia. I commend it to you.

One would be hard-pressed to find a place with more significant Civil War sites than Culpeper County, Virginia: Cedar Mountain, Kelly’s Ford, Freeman’s Ford, Rappahannock Station, Stevensburg, the winter encampment of the Army of the Potomac, the Battle of Culpeper, and, of course, the crown jewel: the four battles fought at Brandy Station. There are advocacy groups for some of these battle sites such as the Friends of Cedar Mountain, who do a great job at their battlefield. Then there’s Useless Joe and the Board of Appeasers of the Brandy Station Foundation who pretend to care about preservation but really couldn’t care less. The Civil War Trust has very extensive land holdings in Culpeper County. Other parcels are owned by other groups.

It’s time for these parcels to be merged into a state park so that the Commonwealth of Virginia can become the steward of this land and can advance its interpretation. The Commonwealth already has a number of very well done state battlefield parks, such as the one at the Staunton River Bridge, or the terrific battlefield park at Sailor’s Creek State Battlefield Park. With its gorgeous views and beautiful rolling plains, a Culpeper County State Civil War Park encompassing the many sites in the county could truly become the Commonwealth of Virginia’s crown jewel when it comes to the state’s Civil War heritage.

Those of you who are Virginia residents: this is an idea whose time has clearly come. Please do what you can to encourage your state legislators to support this outstanding idea.

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