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Battlefield preservation

Part of what I’ve been trying to accomplish has been to shame the useless board of the Brandy Station Foundation into doing something to try to preserve Fleetwood Hill, because it’s quite clear that without it, Joseph McKinney and the board of appeasers weren’t about to do anything.

The following statement now appears on the BSF website:

Dear Members and Friends of the Brandy Station Foundation,

If you have driven on Highway 29 north of Brandy Station recently, you may have noticed the large “FOR SALE” sign on the southern slope of Fleetwood Hill. I believe it is now appropriate for us to share with you what is going on and the role that we are playing. Up until yesterday, this was not our story to tell; it was between the landowner and the Civil War Trust. However, yesterday the landowner, Mr. Tony Troilo, urged that I inform you of events. While it is the Civil War Trust’s long-standing policy to not discuss private negotiations with landowners, we have advised the Trust’s staff that we are sharing the following information with you.

On November 29, 2011, Tony asked that I come by his house and speak with him. Tony is a long-time member of the BSF and his father, Joe Troilo, Sr., was one of our founding members. Tony and his family own the most fought-upon portion of Fleetwood Hill—a priority for preservationists everywhere. At our meeting that morning, Tony informed me that he and his wife had decided to sell their Fleetwood Hill property and build a new home on land they own elsewhere in Culpeper County. Their asking price for the entire Fleetwood Hill property—fifty-seven acres, two homes, and a Morton-type equipment building—was approximately $5 million. Tony said that he would wait thirty days before putting the property on the market to allow us time to prepare an offer.

I told Tony that his asking price was beyond the means of the BSF. For comparison purposes, our largest land purchase was in December 2005 when we bought 18.9 acres from Golden Oaks Development for $560,000—and I can tell you that it was very difficult for us to raise that amount. However, I informed Tony that I would immediately contact the Civil War Trust and relay to them the terms he was asking. I also emphasized that we, the BSF, would support the Trust in any way that we could to complete this sale. Later that morning I called my point-of-contact at the Trust and notified him of developments. I followed-up that day with an email. I also notified the BSF board of directors of what had taken place and that there was a possibility that Fleetwood might be brought under protection.

The Trust, which has been interested in Fleetwood Hill for many years, immediately began working the issue and conducting necessary due diligence. However, agreement on the terms of the sale was not reached and on January 11, 2012, the main house and fifteen acres were listed with a local real estate agent. The listing price is $2,450,000. Despite this initial inability to reach an agreement, both the Trust and BSF remain in communication with the landowner. That is where we stand today. You may find out more information about the house by going to http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/20370-Fleetwood-Heights-Rd_Brandy-Station_VA_22714_M58347-90378?ex=VA549371810&source=web. The second home on its parcel, and three unimproved parcels may be sold either with the main home and its fifteen acres, or separately after the main home sells.

Our long-term goal has always been—and remains—to bring all of Fleetwood Hill under protection. We will continue to work diligently with the Trust to reach a mutually acceptable agreement with Mr. Troilo. We at BSF are continuing to monitor events closely, and stand ready to assist the Trust in any way whatsoever. We and the Trust fully understand the historical importance of Fleetwood Hill, and that we have been presented an opportunity that may not come again. I pledge to you that we will do everything we can to ensure that this opportunity does not slip away.

Sincerely,

Joseph W. McKinney
President, Brandy Station Foundation

Talk about a wishy-washy statement filled with lies and misrepresentations….

The BSF is charged with preserving this battlefield, and it’s certainly supposed to be its steward. So far, and per the express admission of its president, its sole role has been to have coffee with Mr. Troilo and hand the matter off to the Civil War Trust. And then, McKinney, who has amply demonstrated that he’s no leader, has the unmitigated gall to criticize the Trust. No definition of leadership that I have ever seen says that it’s good leadership to shift the responsibility of stewardship, which should be held on the local level, to a national organization and then just sit back and do nothing as McKinney and the BSF have done.

The entire hill has been for sale since January 2012, and McKinney has only now deigned it important enough to tell his membership about it 7 months later, and had we not shamed him into doing so, I would guess that he would not have said a single word about it publicly. This most assuredly is NOT a new opportunity to try to preserve Fleetwood Hill, and it’s a lie to claim it is.

His release also falsely states that there was some agreement with the Trust not to discuss this. I can tell you that there was no such agreement whatsoever, and that he would have been free to say something about trying to save Fleetwood Hill the moment that the “for sale” sign went up. How could it have been a secret since, as the photo (click on the photo to see a larger version of it) from early February shows, there has been a “for sale” sign on the property since January? This is a lie by McKinney, pure and simple, intended to cover up his malfeasance. Don’t believe it for even a second.

Let’s also observe this man’s outrageous hypocrisy. He states, “Tony and his family own the most fought-upon portion of Fleetwood Hill—a priority for preservationists everywhere.” If what says is true–that preserving the fought-over portion of Fleetwood Hill should be a priority for preservationists everywhere,–then where was he when Tony and his family devastated Fleetwood Hill with bulldozers to build the illegal Lake Troilo???? The hypocrisy is absolutely staggering.

Please see this lame statement for what it is, friends: a lame attempt to justify the failure of McKinney and the board of appeasers to do anything to preserve Fleetwood Hill that implicitly criticizes the Trust for not making a deal after they passed the buck and abrogated their duty. And that’s not just wrong, it’s cowardly.

Mr. McKinney and your do-nothing board: either lead, follow, or get out of the way. This very lame statement of yours plainly admits that you are incapable of leading in your own words, and you refuse to follow. Do us all a favor and get out of the way before you render the BSF even more irrelevant and impotent than you already have. There is more to your stewardship of the battlefield than the Graffiti House, relic hunting, and the ghost hunting that you bragged about in your 2011 report.

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Reader Tim Ferry took my call to action to save Fleetwood Hill to heart, for which I am extremely grateful. Tim has left several comments on my last post, which I present in the order received. The last one’s a doozie….

Eric,
I have not posted here in a long time, but do follow your blog more than most sites. You have been a strong and consistent part of bringing this battlefield to the forefront in many preservationists and Civil War enthusiast’s minds. I am very greatful I had the opportunity to tour all parts of this battlefield with you a few years back. I am a member of the CWT and have been a member since the days of the defunct APCWS. I’m a native Virginian and value our historic sites to a high degree. Brandy Station means so much for Culpeper County, Virginia, the Mid-Atlantic, the United States and in all it pertains, educates and brings to life.

You have honored us all Eric in giving this property the good fight. “The Lake” issue was an embarassment to all Americans who value, cherish and honor our past. If this property is truly for purchase and can be reasoned to exist as a real addition to the existing Brandy Station battlefield property as a saved central part, then it should be purchased and saved! The Brandy Station Foundation should have started and lead a charge already. I will gladly be in the charge with you Eric and give out of my wallet with healthy donation.

Let’s get this right! This is “good ground”, the right ground, the centrally important ground! Let’s make this saved ground!!

I want to make it quite clear that I am not doing any of this for accolades such as those stated by Tim above. Seeing that McMansion demolished will be all of the reward I ever want or need. I appreciate Tim’s sentiment, but it’s not necessary, and it’s definitely not why I’m fighting so hard to save the sacred ground at Fleetwood Hill.

Here’s the second comment:

One other item. I have read about, listen on the radio and seen on local TV the attacks to this historic property going on more than twenty years. My grandmother lived in Culpeper for several years back in the late 80?s early 90?s, escaping the crowds of her native Arlington, VA outside the DC metro area. Everytime I visited her, I’d watch TV, pick up the local news and some corporation or yahoo was trying to build a race track or something on these wonderful historic, vistic views. For the life of me I cannot understand why the BSF has not been more envolved on this issue and made the charge to protect this central part of the battle. I have had the opportunity to walk and drive this battlefield land for over twenty years. The major parts are saved thanks to people like Bud Hall and many others. It is both wonderful and thrilling to walk this land, vision what transpired across those fields and try to identify with the tumult, acts of humanity and desperation that gave way in events that unfolded here. Goose bumps!

Brandy Station means allot to me. It needs people that care. It seems the BSF and it’s leadership doesn’t care. This is not a local heritage issue, but an American issue. Let’s save this place to the last blade of grass!

Tim had no idea just how right he was when he said that the BSF and its worthless leadership don’t care, but you’ll have to wait for that. Here’s the third comment:

I just sent an e-mail to Tom Gilmore and Jim Campi on the subject. I’m sure they already know, but I also included the realtors site.

I also sent an e-mail to the realtor and asked if she could please make a deal and sell this to the CWT for historic preservation. The listing price is almost more than 2 million.

Tim’s far from the only one to contact the Civil War Trust about this in response to my posts, and I am now advised that the CWT is working on this. Thank you to Tim and everyone else for doing what was required to get the attention of the appropriate officers of the Civil War Trust. Tim’s note to the realtor, however, provided proof positive of what we all knew: that McKinney and his do nothing board have failed to do anything to try to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save Fleetwood Hill:

I got this back in an e-mail from the realtor.

Good afternoon Tim:

Thank you for your interest in the Fleetwood Hill property at Fleetwood Heights. I agree that it would be an exceptional addition to the Civil War Trust holdings. I informed the Brandy Station chapter of its availability as soon as it was listed for sale. If you have additional contacts that you would like for me to reach please let me know and I will gladly do so right
away.

I have a beautiful full color brochure that I can send to you if you would like. Let me know.

And again thank you for contacting me.

Christiane
Christiane Lindsay

I added the emphasis to the quotation above, not Ms. Lindsay.

And there you have it. McKinney and the board of appeasers have quite predictably done absolutely NOTHING.

Thank you for all you have done, Tim. Your biggest contribution is probably the one you’re least aware of. We appreciate your efforts very much.

As another of my readers so appropriately put it, Mr. McKinney and the board of appeasers, it’s long past time for you to lead, follow or get out of the way. Since you’re incapable of leading and unwilling to follow, then do the right thing: resign and step aside before this opportunity is lost forever.

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As I mentioned yesterday, there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase 50 acres of Fleetwood Hill (and to tear down the hideous McMansion that tops the hill), the site of four major cavalry battles in 1862-1863. If I was Joseph McKinney (and thank God that I’m not), the following things would have happened already:

1. I would have contacted the realtor for the sale of the 15-acre tract at the top of Fleetwood Hill and would have engaged in negotiations to conclude a contract for the purchase of the land.

2. I would have sent out a mass fundraising appeal to my membership, pointing out that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save the most fought-over piece of ground in the United States, and I would be doing everything humanly possible to make that happen.

3. The Brandy Station Foundation’s website would prominently feature the effort to save Fleetwood Hill and would be soliciting donations to pay for the land acquisition.

4. I would have issued press releases to all of the major publications, including, but not limited to Civil War News, emphasizing the preservation effort, and soliciting funds to pay for the land acquisition.

5. I would have investigated each and every possible opportunity to find grant money in order to defray the cost of the land acquisition, as getting this done would have been my number one priority.

Sadly, neither President Joseph McKinney nor his useless board of appeasers has done any of these things. There is not even so much as a single mention of this one-time opportunity on the BSF website. There has been no fundraising appeal. There has been nothing done to marshal the troops to do battle to find a way to make this deal happen. In short, they have done what they do best: absolutely nothing. If it doesn’t have to do with ghost hunting, relic hunting, or the Graffiti House, these people simply aren’t interested. Preserving the battlefield is the very last thing on their agenda, and their lack of action in this instance plainly demonstrates the truth of that sad, unfortunate statement, just as their complete lack of action with respect to the construction of Lake Troilo did.

These people have rendered the once-great Brandy Station Foundation irrelevant, and it’s time for them to either step aside voluntarily and let people who care do this work, or they need to be shoved aside involuntarily. This window of opportunity is only going to be open for a very short time, and if the opportunity is not exploited quickly, it will probably never present itself again.

Once again, I call for the resignation of McKinney and the board of appeasers for their complete and utter failure to advance the purposes and functions of the organization.

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It’s been a while since I have given you an update on the status of Fleetwood Hill, and I’m pleased to announce that there’s good news, better news, and an immediate challenge that issues as a result.

Should you wish to do so, you can see larger versions of the two photos included in this post by clicking on them.

First, here’s an update on the damage done by the construction of Lake Troilo. This photo, taken this past weekend, shows that the dam is gone, and so is the lake-to-be. Most importantly, Flat Run has returned to its original configuration. Sadly, the damage done can never be fully repaired. The ground has been disturbed, including relics and human graves, and that bell cannot be unrung. But for the intervention of Bud Hall, this damage would have become substantially worse, as neither Joseph McKinney nor the board of appeasers of the Brandy Station Foundation were about to do anything to stop it.

The better news is that the owner of Fleetwood Hill (and the hideous McMansion that sits atop it) has decided to sell the property. The photo to the right shows the “For Sale” sign (complete with the misspelling of the word “acreage’) on that property. Let’s be very clear about this: this parcel of ground is, without any doubt, the single most fought-over, most marched-over, and most camped-over piece of ground in the United States. There were four major cavalry battles fought on this very parcel of land. There is no other parcel of ground presently available anywhere in the country more important than this one. Please see Bud Hall’s excellent history of Fleetwood Hill, which can be found here, to understand what makes this piece of ground so unique and so important.

Fleetwood Hill represents the most important single historic feature on a battlefield whereupon about 1800 acres have already been saved. Should we not buy this 50 acre parcel that would serve as the preservation capstone to more than two decades of blood, sweat, and tears expended to save existing Brandy Station?

While the fact that the owner is ready to sell the property is extraordinarily good news, it presents a real challenge. I have heard absolutely nothing about McKinney or the board of appeasers of the Brandy Station Foundation doing the job they were elected to do by trying to put together some creative financing deal to purchase what constitutes “ground zero” of the Brandy Station battlefield and remove that hideous eyesore that sits on the crest of the hill. Given the fact that neither McKinney nor his board care a whit about preserving the battlefield–their track record, or, more accurately, lack of a track record amply demonstrates this fact–we have no reason to expect that they will do anything at all to put together a plan to buy and preserve this piece of ground. Maybe they will surprise me, but I’m most assuredly not holding my breath while sitting by waiting for them to fulfill the sacred duty they swore to perform.

And I have not heard anything about the Civil War Trust engaging to negotiate a contract to purchase this piece of land. This is not to criticize the CWT–my record of supporting its efforts for nearly two decades speaks for itself, and there is no organization doing a better job of preserving battlefields than it has. However, it is not moving with any alacrity, and the threat exists that this parcel of ground could be lost before it gets something in motion.

Therefore, I issue a challenge to all of you: who will help me to develop a plan to purchase Fleetwood Hill and preserve the most fought-over piece of land in the United States? This window of opportunity will not remain open for long, and we need to move quickly to take advantage of it. I welcome any and all suggestions and contributions that any of you may wish to offer.

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John A. Miller and the folks from the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield are doing some phenomenal work to try to preserve what’s left of the second largest battle fought in Pennsylvania during the Civil War. Sadly, the battle itself is little known (although thoroughly documented in our book One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and also in John’s booklet), and the efforts to preserve this important battlefield are even less well known.

John and his organization are trying to raise $200,000 to purchase some important battlefield land. For more about this fundraising campaign, please click here. And, if you can, please contribute, as the opportunity to save this ground will probably never come back around again.

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We’ve amply pointed out the fact that Joseph McKinney refused to speak to take a stand against the construction of Lake Troilo here, thereby rendering the Brandy Station Foundation irrelevant as a battlefield preservation organization. That’s well documented.

Then, when he finally does open his yap, stupidity pours out…..

From today’s edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, we have this prize:

Remembering Battle of Brandy Station heroes

By: Rhonda Simmons | Culpeper Star Exponent
Published: June 11, 2012
» Comments | Post a Comment
About 50 people took part in Sunday’s fourth annual commemorative religious service at the historic site of St. James Church in a wooded area near the intersection of Beverly Ford and St. James Church roads to mark the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station.

Shielded by several towering trees, the congregation — a few dressed in period clothing — sat on folding chairs and wooden benches for the 45-minute outdoor service, featuring lots of prayer, spiritual hymns and tributes for those who died during this particular battle.

“We remember before God today those soldiers who perished in the fields and woods of our region 149 years ago at the Battle of Brandy Station,” stated the Rev. Peter Way, of Scottsville. “We pray that time will not erase the memory of the devastation of this day, and that we will not forget the lessons it may teach us. As we remember the sacrifice made by these soldiers so long ago, may we resolve to work for justice, freedom, and unity in our own way, and to pray for that day when war shall end forever.”

Warrenton-based musicians the Cabin Raiders — Jason Ashby, Steve Hickman and Kevin Roop — provided traditional Appalachian-style music during Sunday’s service.

Built in 1840, St. James Church suffered total destruction during the winter encampment of Union troops in 1863-64.

Joe McKinney, president of the Brandy Station Foundation, shared some insightful history about that fateful battle on June 9, 1863.

Dubbed the largest cavalry battle of the American Civil War (Battle Between the States) and the start of the engagement of the Gettysburg Campaign, the Battle of Brandy Station begin that morning when Union cavalry launched a surprise attack on Confederate soldiers stationed in the church.

“Under orders to move on Brandy Station, Union soldiers needed to drive the Confederates from their position here at the church and penetrate the confederate line and move forward,” McKinney explained. “The Reserve Brigade, probably the hardest fighting brigade in the Union cavalry, was ordered to attack St. James Church.”

Armed with lances, however, it was five companies within the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry that actually tried to attack the Confederates that day, according to McKinney.

“At about 400 yards out, they launched their charge and came under a terrible [round] of artillery fire,” he said. “The men here manning the guns were in awe at how the soldiers kept advancing through the artillery.”

Quoting a Union captain, McKinney repeated those words… “What had been a glorious charge became a race for life as the men from Pennsylvania outnumbered and suffering heavy casualties turned and attempted to escape.”

McKinney said the Sixth Pennsylvania suffered the highest rate of casualties of any regiment on June 9, 1863.

“Prior to this battle, because of their distinctive lances, the sixth Pennsylvania had not been considered much of a regiment. In fact, other infantrymen would make fun of them. But the Sixth Pennsylvania men showed on this day that they were hard fighters and considered one of the elite members of the Union Army from this time forward.”

Toward the end of Sunday’s ceremony, BSF member Bob Jones shared his condolences for the fallen soldiers.

“We join together today to honor those who gave their lives here at St. James Church and in the fields around us during that eventful spring day 149 years ago,” he said.

Jones also concluded the ceremony with the poem “Listen.”

“As the sun begins to go down, as the day comes to a close, please rise. Please rise and listen with me to one final sound. A sound in honor of those who fought and died for all of us on that beautiful spring day of June 9, 1863,” stated Jones, prompting the lone drummer to generate a loud bang, startling a parishioner.

Organized by members of Christ Episcopal Church and Brandy Station Foundation, both groups invited guests to the Graffiti House for a reception featuring refreshments.

For the record, there were no reports of snakebites or bee stings during Sunday’s outdoor service. However, there may have been a few bug bites.

The emphasis in the quote is mine.

Ummmm….no…..

The last two companies of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry (E & I) turned in their lances on May 5, 1863. As of that date, just over a month before the Battle of Brandy Station, not a single member of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry still had a single lance. In fact, a member of the regiment wrote home and lamented to his mother the fact that they did NOT have the lances at Brandy Station, as that might have made a difference in the outcome of the battle.

Let’s remember that this guy wrote and published a very expensive book on the battle that he presumably spent some time researching, and he can’t even get a major detail like the fact that the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry didn’t have lances at the Battle of Brandy Station correct. One would think that the president of a battlefield preservation organization might know a little something about the battle for which he is charged with protecting the field of honor where that battle was fought. And you would think that this would especially be true after writing an overpriced book about that battle. Apparently not. Wow. I’m stunned by the staggering level of incompetence.

Nice work, Mr. McKinney. You were better off to keep your mouth shut and have people think you are a fool than to have opened it and to have removed all doubt (with apologies to Abraham Lincoln). Don’t you think it’s time to resign?

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I would be remiss if I did not point out the fact that my friend Clark B. “Bud” Hall has been given the highest possible award to recognize his work with battlefield preservation by the Civil War Trust last night at its annual meeting.

The following article appeared in today’s Fredericksburg Freelance-Star newspaper:

Civil War Trust Honors Trio
Edward Wenzel, Clark B. “Bud” Hall and Tersh Boasberg receive lifetime awards; recognized as fathers of today’s battlefield preservation movement
BY CLINT SCHEMMER
THE FREE LANCE-STAR

RICHMOND—People have been saving pieces of Civil War battlefields since not long after the guns fell silent at Gettysburg in July of 1863.

But such efforts accelerated hugely in the past 30 years, as suburban sprawl and breakneck development spelled the last chance to set aside key places where soldiers in blue and gray fought to the death.

Saturday night, three of the giants of that modern battlefield preservation movement were honored here by the Civil War Trust, itself spawned by those three men and their contemporaries.

Two Virginians—Edward Wenzel of Vienna and Clark B. “Bud” Hall of Heathsville—and Tersh Boasberg of Washington, D.C., received the trust’s Edwin C. Bearrs Lifetime Achievement Award for their decades of devoted work and volunteerism.

Each have “demonstrated exceptional merit in and extensive commitment to Civil War battlefield preservation,” according to the trust, the nation’s largest nonprofit dedicated to such efforts:

– Wenzel fought fiercely to save the Chantilly battlefield in western Fairfax County. Its destruction spurred creation of the first national battlefield advocacy group, the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, based in Fredericksburg. APCWS later merged with the Civil War Trust. Wenzel was also a driving force in the Save the Battlefield Coalition, which waged an against-all-odds battle against a regional mall and mixed-use development on the Second Manassas battlefield site in 1988.

That fallout from that ultimately successful crusade led Congress to create the blue-ribbon American Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, whose work remains the blueprint for ongoing governmental and private-sector work to recognize and preserve the best of remaining battlefield properties.

– Hall campaigned alongside Wenzel to try to preserve Chantilly (known by Confederates as Ox Hill), now the site of housing subdivisions and commercial development, and worked with the brand-new APCWS. Hall founded the Brandy Station Foundation, which defeated two huge development schemes—including a Formula One racetrack—proposed for that cavalry battlefield in Culpeper County. Today, the preserved and interpreted Brandy Station battlefield is one of the trust’s crowning achievements.

– Boasberg, one of the country’s top land-use and preservation attorneys, provided the legal expertise that made possible some of the movement’s early battlefield preservation victories, including the Manassas and Brandy Station campaigns. His broad vision and Capitol Hill advocacy contributed to lawmakers’ establishment of the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission. In 2010, Boasberg ended a decade-long tenure as chair of Washington’s Historic Preservation Review Board.

James Lighthizer, the trust’s president, said the trio—along with one other Virginian and a Virginia museum also honored Saturday night—“represent the epitome of the historic preservation movement.”

“Their efforts stretch across decades, demonstrating the way that concerted and consistent work can culminate in monumental achievements that will be felt for generations to come,” he told 400-plus attendees and guests during a banquet at the trust’s 2012 Annual Conference in the former Confederate capital.

The trust presented its Carrington Williams Battlefield Preservationist of the Year Award, named for the trust’s first chairman, to Mark Perreault of Norfolk.

Perreault co-founded Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park, which was instrumental in President Obama’s action last year to create the 96th unit of the National Park System. Fort Monroe was the site of Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler’s landmark “contraband decision,” which deemed escaped slaves who reached Union lines to be spoils of war who would not be returned to their masters.

By the end of the war, more than 10,000 men and women had escaped bondage and journeyed to what came to be called “Freedom’s Fortress.”

Their experience and Butler’s decision is vividly described in author Adam Goodheart’s best-selling history, “1861: A Civil War Awakening.”

The trust presented its Brian C. Pohanka Preservation Organization of the Year Award, named after the late Virginia historian and preservationist, to the Museum of the Confederacy, headquartered in Richmond, and the Friends and Descendants of Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison, in Ohio.

ON THE NET:
VIDEO: civilwar.org/ourmissionvideo

Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029
cschemmer@freelancestar.com

That’s Ed Wenzel on the left, Bud Hall in the middle, and Tersh Boasberg on the right in the 1996 photo at the beginning of this post.

Congratulations to all for having your selfless preservation work recognized–at last, IMHO–but especially to Bud Hall. Personally, I can think of nobody more worthy or more deserving of winning this sort of an award.

Now, let’s remember that this is the same Bud Hall whose membership in the Brandy Station Foundation was terminated by Joe McKinney and his merry band of appeasers because he was supposedly a bad influence on the organization that he founded. How does that egg all over your face taste, Mr. McKinney and your board of dolts? There’s certainly plenty of it for you to eat. Have a nice side of crow to go with it.

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Several weeks ago, I challenged Joseph McKinney, the non-preservationist who has made the Brandy Station Foundation entirely irrelevant, to provide me with his version of the reasons why the membership applications of the founder of the BSF and a group of former board members who opposed his idiotic appeasement policy with respect to Lake Troilo. I promised that I would not edit or censor his submission in any fashion, and that I would publish whatever he wrote here so that he could tell the story in his own words.

Not that I am the least bit surprised, but that offer was met with resounding silence. Candidly, it’s what I expected.

Mr. McKinney lacks the guts to defend himself, preferring to let his wife do so for him. What he will do, instead, is to circulate e-mails that are filled with flagrant lies as his justification, but he will not do so publicly.

Too bad. Mr. McKinney had the chance to prove me wrong. But instead, he has proved beyond a doubt that I have the full measure of the man: the man who made a proud organization with a great history an irrelevant entity with its primary interest being in leading battlefield tours and preserving the Graffiti House, and not the preservation of the battlefield. His “leadership” has rendered the Brandy Station Foundation an irrelevant afterthought. And that’s the saddest part of all of this.

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Former BSF board member Craig Swain has a very interesting post on his blog today that compares and contrasts the malfeasance of the current board and officers of the Brandy Station Foundation with a REAL battlefield preservation organization, the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association. I commend it to you.

It is important to note that Joseph McKinney, the so-called leader of the Brandy Station Foundation, has been caught in a lie. He told Craig Swain that he knew about the plans to build Lake Troilo before the first spade of dirt was turned, and has subsequently lied about it by denying his prior knowledge. I believe that Craig is absolutely correct in his theory that McKinney saw an opportunity to advance his own agenda by not objecting to the building of Lake Troilo in return for the dam to plug up Flat Run being designed so that it could be used as a bridge for battlefield tours. And for that, McKinney sold out the battlefield he has been charged to protect.

What’s more is that he knew in advance, but failed to tell his board. We know he didn’t tell the board, because I have discussed this with the numerous board members who resigned over his egregious bungling of the Lake Troilo fiasco. In short, he made a conscious decision not to tell his board that a major portion of the battlefield–where the heaviest fighting took place–was about to be destroyed for his own purposes. And that constitutes a breach of his fiduciary duty to the board, to the membership of the BSF, and most importantly, to the battlefield itself.

We all know the truth here. We know what happened. However, I want to challenge Mr. McKinney to provide us with his own version of events. I will publish it here verbatim and without editing or censoring (although I do reserve the right to fix typographical errors), and we will allow him to tell us his version of the story. Whether it will be the truth is an open question, but we shall see. I would guess that he won’t take me up on this offer, but the opportunity for him to do so is there if he wishes to provide the world with his version of these events and justify his malfeasance.

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Today, I received the following letter in the mail from the Brandy Station Foundation:

Dear Mr. Wittenberg,

It is my responsibility to inform you that the Board of Directors has voted against accepting your application for membership in the Brandy Station Foundation. The basis for that decision is Article 2, Section 3, of the Brandy Station Foundation’s by laws.

I am returning your application form.

Sincerely,

Margaret L. Misch, Secretary
Brandy Station Foundation

I had submitted my membership application, along with the annual dues of $25, plus an additional $25. And, as you can see, it was rejected.

The provision of the by-laws cited as the justification for refusing us membership states: “Termination of Membership. A member may resign at any time. The Board of Directors may request the resignation, or terminate the membership, of a member for any act or omission deemed to be inconsistent with or harmful to the goals of the Foundation.” The 2009 Annual Report for the BSF establishes the following as the strategic goals of the organization:

The Board of Directors has identified four strategic goals which focus all the activities of the BSF. These are:
(1) Conserve, protect and nurture the historic rural character of the Brandy Station area;
(2) Preserve and protect the Brandy Station Battlefield and related sites of historical significance for the appreciation and education of future generations;
(3) Recognize the courage and dedication of soldiers who fought and served here; and
(4) Advance the knowledge and understanding of the history of the battles, the region and its environment.

It bears noting that most of the former members of the board who resigned over the Lake Troilo fiasco have received identical rejections, including Clark B. Hall, the founder and former president of the organization. Let me see if I’ve got this right: the founder of the organization and the man most responsible for saving the battlefield is considered detrimental to that organization by the current board. I cannot think of a bigger slap in the face.

I cannot see where our actions to hold McKinney and the Board of Appeasers accountable for their malfeasance runs afoul of these stated goals or justifies a refusal to permit us to be members, but they seem to think it does. In fact, we’re trying to force them to do precisely what they’ve been charged to do: preserving and protecting the battlefield. Therefore, it seems that our actions are precisely in compliance with the goals and objectives of the organization.

There can be only one explanation for this outcome: Joseph McKinney–the non-preservationist in charge of the BSF–and his Board of Appeasers are afraid that those of us who actually care about preserving the battlefield will mount a campaign at the annual meeting of the BSF in April and vote them out of office, thereby (a) rejecting their appeasement policy and (b) ending their little fiesta of self-aggrandizement at the expense of the preservation of the battlefield.

Apparently, exercising one’s First Amendment right to the freedom of speech makes one a trouble-maker who can not be a member of the BSF. So, McKinney and the rest of the Board of Appeasers have now determined that they’re empowered to dictate whether members of the organization have the right to criticize an idiotic policy at the threat of terminating their memberships. The last time I checked–and I did graduate from law school 25 years ago–we Americans have the right to freely speak our minds–even in an offensive fashion–without fear of retribution. Either I’m wrong, or, more likely, McKinney and the Board of Appeasers have determined that they’re above the law, and able to dictate to their members what those members say, think, or do.

The problem with that approach is that the BSF is a 501(c)(3) organization. In order to maintain that status, it is required to comply with the law. One of the primary rules pertaining to 501(c)(3) organizations is that they are not permitted to discriminate against potential members, and that they are required to accept anyone qualified as a member. Refusing membership because someone has exercised his or her First Amendment right to free speech does not fall within the legal definition of grounds for disqualifying someone from membership. This means that McKinney and the Board of Appeasers have made yet another terrible decision in the exercise of their own self-interest: in refusing us membership to save their own positions, they have now jeopardized the 501(c)(3) status of the organization. Legal counsel is presently investigating this, and if I am correct about this, I intend to report them to the IRS.

Perhaps then, these morons will realize that they’re not bigger than, nor above, the law.

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