The following article appears in the current issue of Civil War News. It tells some, but not all, of the Lake Troilo story:
Agreement Reached On Restoration Of Hill At Brandy Station
By Scott C. Boyd
(January 2012 Civil War News)
EDITOR’S NOTE: The resignation of nine Brandy Station Foundation directors over concerns with the leadership was featured on the July issue front page and in that issue’s Preservation News column by G. Michael Green. One of the issues was the board’s lack of response to the construction of the illegal pond discussed in the following story.
BRANDY STATION, Va. — A memorandum of agreement (MOA) removes an illegally-dug pond, restores the land and conserves 3.1 acres on private property on Fleetwood Hill at the Brandy Station Battlefield in Culpeper County. The pond construction violated state and federal law, according to the MOA.
The document, signed by the parties from August through October, resolves an issue that arose in May when landowner Tony Troilo Jr. “conducted earthmoving activities by bulldozer in and adjacent to approximately 666 linear feet of a perennial stream known as Flat Run in order to construct a private pond on his approximately 60-acre property.”
Troilo dammed the free-flowing stream to create a new pond, “an unmitigated disaster” for battlefield preservation, according to Clark B. “Bud” Hall, the former Brandy Station Foundation (BSF) president. He notified the Piedmont Environmental Council which then notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of Troilo’s activities.
Flat Run is a Rappahannock River tributary protected by the federal Clean Water Act. Corps permission must be obtained prior to altering such a body of water.
Additionally, the work was done in an area eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Properties. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires that the Corps consult with the Virginia State Historic Preservation Office before issuing a permit in such circumstances.
Troilo did not notify the Corps prior to beginning construction of the pond, according to the memorandum. However, the Corps “found no evidence of deliberate intent to circumvent the Section 106 process.”
Troilo told Civil War News he was surprised by the trouble he got into, “after going to the county and having a permit and permission to do it all, and trying to improve the property.”
Culpeper County Director of Development John Egertson said he did not speak with Troilo about the pond and was not aware that Troilo spoke with anyone in his office about the matter.
Hal Wiggins, with the Fredericksburg office of the Army Corps of Engineers, said that Troilo voluntarily agreed to remove the pond and restore the stream “and more importantly, worked with the Brandy Station Foundation and Virginia Department of Historic Resources to develop the memorandum of agreement where he donates 3.1 acres of land to the Foundation.”
“We put a lot of emphasis on voluntary compliance,” Wiggins said. “This way there are no fines if Mr. Troilo works with us on the final restoration plan.”
Wiggins said he was very confident that it will be resolved in a satisfactory manner given Troilo’s track record since he was informed that he was in violation of the Clean Water Act.
The 3.1 acres Troilo is donating is land where fill dirt was deposited from the pond construction and is adjacent to Brandy Station Foundation land.
The MOA also notes that Troilo deposited fill dirt on two small pieces of the BSF’s 18.9 acres on Fleetwood Hill along the banks of Flat Run. The parcels total less than one-third of an acre.
The Virginia Board of Historic Resources holds a historic preservation easement on the BSF land. “The easement specifically states that material changes to the easement property must be subject to prior review and written approval of the Board,” according to the MOA.
The memorandum says the fill was deposited without authorization and “therefore may constitute a violation of the terms of the easement.”
The MOA stipulates that Troilo undertake a stream banks restoration project, as approved by the Corps of Engineers, with an archeologist present during the fill dirt reclamation process “to ensure that the original grass root mat in the reclamation area remains undisturbed.”
Within 60 days of stream banks restoration completion, Troilo is to convey the 3.1 acres to the BSF. Troilo said completion depends on the weather. It recently has been too wet to do much work.
The impact of Troilo’s pond construction on the battlefield is uncertain. Wiggins said the excavated area was “obliterated,” therefore what of archeological significance might have been lost can never be known.
The memorandum of agreement quotes a disturbance assessment prepared by the James River Institute for Archeology as determining that “the pond construction likely had an adverse effect on prehistoric Native American and Civil War era archeological resources.”
Here are a few observations regarding this article, in no particular order:
1. Despite Appeaser in Chief Joseph McKinney’s ridiculous and indefensible claims that the damage caused by the construction of Lake Troilo could somehow be “reversed”, as he has claimed numerous times, it is abundantly clear that the area where this pond was created–critical core battlefield land that was heavily fought over–was devastated. That Hal Wiggins used as strong a word as “obliterated” to describe the harm done amply demonstrates just how wrong-headed and ill-advised the policy of appeasement pursued by McKinney and his board of appeasers truly is.
2. According to Craig Swain, Joseph McKinney admitted to Craig that he knew that Troilo was going to build this illegal pond prior to the beginning of the excavation work, and he did NOTHING about it. McKinney evidently did nothing to verify whether a permit to devastate a critical portion of the battlefield had actually been issued; had he done so, John Egertson of Culpeper County would have told him that no permit had been issued. He did nothing to notify the Civil War Trust that this core battlefield land was being obliterated. McKinney evidently did not do anything to notify the board of the BSF until after the boat began being rocked by Bud Hall. As Craig Swain points out, “McKinney advised foundation members (including me) not to make the construction an issue.” Shockingly, McKinney was not outraged that there were bulldozers tearing up critical battlefield land, which astonishes me. For someone who is supposed to be the head of a battlefield preservation advocacy organization, McKinney’s lack leadership and apparent lack of concern about a crisis is shocking, sickening, and sad, all at the same time.
In short, instead of leading the way in fighting this outrage, Joseph McKinney completely and totally abrogated his duty to protect this battlefield. In so doing, he has trivialized and made the BSF irrelevant. One can only hope that the damage he and his board of appeasers have caused can be undone.
3. Tony Troilo flagrantly lied about getting permission from Culpeper County, as noted in the article. That he continues to lie flagrantly about it demonstrates quite clearly that he was well aware of what he was doing.
I strongly encourage all of you to read Craig Swain’s recent post on this situation, and I also encourage you to read Mike Block’s very brave and principled explanation of why he resigned from the board of the BSF, which can be found here.
Once again, I call on Joseph McKinney and the Board of Appeasers to do the right thing and resign. NOW.Scridb filter
On this Thanksgiving Day, when we all have to much to be thankful for, I want to share this, Brian Pohanka’s final interview, wherein he talks about the importance of battlefield preservation. It is haunting and bittersweet to see his image and to hear his voice again so many years after his untimely death, but it’s critical that we continue his work. I miss his wise counsel.
Here is a link to the interview.
And to all, a happy Thanksgiving. Be grateful for what you have. I know that I am. I am grateful to everyone who takes the time to visit this blog, and I am grateful to everyone who takes the time and spends their hard-earned money to read my books.Scridb filter
My friend Mike Block used to be a member of the board of trustees of the Brandy Station Foundation. Mike resigned that position in protest over the complete abrogation of the BSF’s duties as stewards of the battlefield. He has now posted his version of these events on his blog, and for those interested in this issue, it’s riveting but appalling reading.
A few thoughts, in no particular order:
1. Joseph McKinney was receiving flak from you, the readers of this blog, about his inactivity regarding this disaster. That pressure not only did not impact him or the board’s decision-making, it seems to have encouraged him to go the other way. He even mocks Bud Hall’s quite accurate description of this problem as “an unmitigated disaster.”
2. McKinney expressly admits that he failed to show leadership in this crisis, and, in fact, stated quite clearly that he didn’t want to spend much time on the greatest crisis faced by this battlefield since the development threats that led to the original land acquisitions.
3. From McKinney’s own words it is quite clear that they view this whole fiasco as nothing but a public opinion problem that needs to be quieted and dealt with and not as a preservation crisis. In other words, the spin is more important than doing their duty as stewards of the land. I find that absolutely incomprehensible and appalling all at the same time.
4. All of this makes it abundantly clear that neither the BSF board nor Joseph McKinney care a whit about preserving this battlefield, and that they have no business being at the helm of the organization tasked with preserving this hallowed ground.
Resign. Now.Scridb filter
As promised, here is the fully executed Memorandum of Agreement pertaining to the Lake Troilo debacle at Brandy Station. For those concerned, this is a matter of public record, and the document is a public document, so I am not betraying anyone’s confidentiality or trust by posting it here.
A review of this agreement should demonstrate precisely how reprehensible the attempts at spin-doctoring by the do-nothing board of trustees of the Brandy Station Foundation truly are. Here are a few thoughts about the agreement, in no particular order.
First, and foremost, the MOA plainly and unambiguously demonstrates that the prior statements of BSF president Joseph McKinney that BSF property was not impacted by the construction of Lake Troilo were a flagrant lie. It’s quite clear from reading the MOA that BSF property was significantly impacted, and that any attempt to downplay that is disingenuous and a distortion of the truth.
Second, the work that was done by Tony Troilo in constructing Lake Troilo was clearly illegal and clearly in violation of multiple laws. From the beginning of this fiasco, and until the “stop work” order was issued, the BSF board and officers steadfastly insisted that it was none of their concern, that BSF property was not impacted, and that the BSF should take no steps to interfere. Had Bud Hall not intervened, this would have continued unabated with further, irreparable destruction being caused to core battlefield land.
Third, BSF president Joseph McKinney–who is clearly NOT a preservationist–stated repeatedly that the damage was reversible. How does one reverse such damage? The very thought is laughable. Once the ground is disturbed, it is forever disturbed. The artifacts are turned up. And so are the human remains reportedly found in the area. Once that bell is rung, it can never be unrung, Joe McKinney’s fantasy world notwithstanding.
Fourth, the 3.1 acres to be conveyed by Troilo–the basis for the BSF’s claim of a preservation “victory”–is the ground damaged–torn up–by the construction of Lake Troilo. This is no longer pristine ground, and has been forever damaged and tainted. If this is a victory for the BSF–and I don’t believe it is–it is at best a Pyrrhic victory.
Finally, and most important, the execution of this MOA demonstrates beyond doubt that the ill-advised and wrongheaded policy of appeasement pursued by the BSF officers and board will never do anything to protect the battlefield at Brandy Station. Only constant vigilance and constant communication with the authorities responsible for enforcing the laws will do so. Appeasing landowners who are friends will not. And if that means that feathers get ruffled from time to time, then so be it.
I again repeat my call for Joseph McKinney and the rest of the BSF board to resign immediately in the wake of their disgraceful performance with respect to this episode, instead of bragging about it on the BSF website as they have. It is critical to note that other important preservation organizations have given up on and written the BSF off as a legitimate preservation organization because of this episode, and unless the board and McKinney do the right thing, not only will the organization be crippled, it will be doomed, as nobody will ever trust it as a steward of the land again. As it is, the other leading preservation organizations no longer take the BSF seriously, as its officers and board do nothing to engender confidence in them that they take the duty to preserve this land seriously.Scridb filter
There are few things that irritate me more than people claiming credit for things for which they are not entitled to claim credit at all. That conduct strikes me as being disingenuous and as also trying to justify poor or inappropriate conduct by intentionally distorting the factual record and then saying, “Look at me! Look what I did!”
That has happened with the Brandy Station Foundation and with the resolution of the Lake Troilo fiasco. For those who don’t remember, the BSF published a policy that stated that it would not interfere with landowner rights on battlefield property. It published that policy to justify its complete and total inaction–indeed its abandonment of its sacred duty to protect the battlefield–with respect to the desecration of the core of the battlefield by landowner Tony Troilo. That abandonment of the organization’s mission to battlefield preservation horrified me and most other who care about battlefield preservation.
This week, the BSF has published its spin-doctoring attempt to justify its malfeasance with respect to this fiasco. It published this pack of lies:
In early spring Mr. Tony Troilo, who owns the property on Fleetwood Hill that saw the most intense fighting on June 9,1863, began work to expand his pond along Flat Run just to the west of Fleetwood Hill. Before starting work, Mr. Troilo checked with the Culpeper County Office of Planning and Zoning and was informed that no additional permits would be required. That information was incorrect.
Under the Clean Water Act, a permit is required from the US Army Corps of Engineers before a free-flowing stream can be dammed. Additionally, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires the Corps of Engineers to assess the effects of a project on historical resources when considering a request for permit.
On May 13, the Corps of Engineers issued a stop-work order to Mr. Troilo. After learning that he had not received the necessary permits, Mr. Troilo voluntarily agreed to remove the pond and restore Flat Run and its wetlands to pre-construction conditions. Additionally, during archeological monitoring of site stabilization measures at the work site, fill dirt several inches deep was moved onto roughly three-tenths of an acre of property owned by the BSF and under protective easement with the Virginia Department of Historical Resources. Mr. Troilo offered to either remove the fill or, if preferred, leave the fill in place and seed it with grass.
On July 26, representatives of the BSF, the Corps of Engineers, and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources met with Mr. Troilo in Richmond to discuss remediation measures for adverse affects on the historic property—the site of a major Civil War Battle—and the encroachment on the BSF land. At the meeting, Mr. Troilo offered to convey to the BSF approximately 3.1 acres of his property lying to the west of Flat Run, thereby making the stream the property line between Mr. Troilo and the BSF. The Corps of Engineers and VDHR representatives considered the offer most generous, as did the BSF, and we agreed to accept the conveyance. Finally, the consensus among attendees was that attempts to remove the fill on the encroached property would risk damage to the underlying soil, and it was therefore better to leave the fill in place and seed it. These steps and a plan for restoring the stream bed have since been formally agreed upon by all the affected parties.
Once Mr. Troilo has restored Flat Run, the new property line can be surveyed and the 3.1 acres conveyed to our organization, an event that should be completed within the next few months. This will increase our ownership of land on the avenue of approach used by Sir Percy Wyndham on the morning of June 9 to 36 acres. Acquiring this property is in keeping with the BSF’s strategic goal of preserving key battlefield land and opening it to the public. We credit this positive outcome to two factors: Mr. Troilo’s positive approach to fully resolving issues associated with his pond; and, the decision by the board of the BSF to maintain a professional and cooperative relationship with Mr. Troilo throughout the process.
We are very pleased that this unfortunate situation was brought to an amicable resolution, and we are very grateful to Mr. Tony Troilo for his generous offer. We trust that you share our views.
There are so many lies in this attempt to spin the malfeasance of the BSF board that one hardly knows where to begin.
First, and foremost, but for the quick intervention of BSF founder and former president Clark B. “Bud” Hall to notify the authorities, Troilo’s desecration of the battlefield would have continued unhindered, because the board of the BSF surely wasn’t going to do anything to stop it. That’s how the Corps of Engineers became involved. The BSF spin is incredibly disingenuous, because BSF president Joseph McKinney saw this devastation before Bud Hall did, but elected not to do anything in order to avoid ruffling the feathers of his wife’s good friend Tony Troilo.
Second, it is a flagrant lie to describe Troilo’s actions as expanding an existing pond. In fact, the existing pond is not the result of damming of Flat Run and is a hundred yards or so away from the where the damming of Flat Run was done. The existing pond has been there since at least 1961. The damming of Flat Run was done with the specific and explicit intent to build a second pond. The BSF board is lying in a dishonest attempt to justify its actions.
Third, Culpeper County specifically and explicitly denies that its representatives EVER told Tony Troilo that he would not need a permit. This is another flagrant lie.
Fourth, Joseph McKinney and the BSF board specifically denied that BSF property was in any way affected by the damming of Flat Run, but they have finally admitted that BSF property was, indeed, affected, and significantly affected. In spite of the board’s claims to the contrary, the harm done CANNOT be undone or restored. The land was disturbed. That bell cannot be unrung. Now that it suits them to do so in order to justify their inaction, they now admit that BSF property was damaged by the damming of Flat Run.
Finally, nothing that Tony Troilo did was out of the goodness of his heart, as the BSF suggests. It was done in an attempt to mitigate the penalty that he is going to incur as a consequence of his flagrant violations of the law. Nothing more, and nothing less. Instead, the BSF pats itself on the back for allowing Troilo to get away with damaging trust land in the hope that it might not ruffle his feathers. And then, its obsequious tone and approach does little but suck up to Troilo.
I am out of town at the moment, but when I get home on Sunday, I will post the entire Memorandum of Agreement between Mr. Troilo and the authorities here, and you can read it for yourselves. You will see the scope of his violations of the law, as well as the severity of the sanctions imposed upon him as a consequence of his violations of the law.
In the meantime, I could not permit the lies and intentional distorting of the factual record by Joseph McKinney and the rest of his cronies on the BSF Board of Appeasement stand unrebutted.
More to follow…..Scridb filter
Nick Redding of the Civil War Trust called me last week to bring me up to speed about a couple of things, and when he did, he mentioned to me that the Trust was working with some folks to introduce legislation in Pennsylvania that would forever prevent a casino from being placed within a radius of 10 miles of either the Gettysburg National Military Park or the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville. Nick indicated that he expected that legislation to be introduced shortly.
That legislation, now known as HB 2005, has now been introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. If passed and signed by Governor Corbett, the threat to bring a casino to Gettysburg will end forever. Please check out this website, which provides further details and also indicates how you can become involved.
For those of you who are Pennsylvania residents, please write to your legislators and to Governor Corbett to express your support for HB2005, and for those of you who are not, please write to Governor Corbett and let him know that the rest of the country is not only watching but that it supports the passage of HB2005.
Thank you for your support. Let’s do all we can to ensure the passage of HB2005 and remove the threat to the Gettysburg battlefield for good!Scridb filter
This past weekend was one of my favorite events, the annual Middleburg Conference on the Art of Command in the Civil War, hosted by the Mosby Heritage Area Association. This was the 14th annual conference, and my fourth as a presenter. More than 90 attended, meaning that this year’s conference was the largest yet for the MHAA, which is a tribute to Childs Burden (the man who is responsible for the conference and the president of the MHAA) and the rest of his officers and board, all of whom do a great job. All proceeds benefit the good work interpreting the area being done by the MHAA.
This year’s program was titled “Cavalry to the Field!” and dealt with mounted operations in the Eastern Theater. The best thing about it was the gathering of the cavalry guys, as I like to call our merry little band of brothers. It’s been something like 14 years since we were all together at a conference last, and I really enjoyed having the opportunity to get caught up with all of them. On the program were old friends Bud Hall, Horace Mewborn, Bob O’Neill, Marshall Krolick, Bruce Venter, and Bob Trout. A number of the attendees, including Jim Morgan, Jim Nolan, and a handful of others, are also old friends, and it was also great to see them. Also on the program was J.E.B. Stuart, IV, who gave a really interesting talk on his great-grandfather’s service in the west during his years in the Regular Army before the Civil War.
I did a talk based on our book Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg. I’ve done that talk dozens of times, but this was the first time that I’ve ever given it with someone actually named Jeb Stuart in the room, and let me tell you, it was a little intimidating to do so. Luckily, I had chatted with Colonel Stuart, who is not only a former Regular Army officer, but also a true gentleman, and knew that he didn’t disagree with my interpretation of those events. Nevertheless, it was intimidating.
This photo is of the panel discussion at the end of the day on Saturday. Bud Hall is beside me, and because I was leaning forward to answer a question, he can’t be seen there. From left to right: Horace Mewborn, Bob Trout, Marshall Krolick, Jeb Stuart, IV, Bob O’Neill, me, Bud Hall (although you can’t see him next to me), Bruce Venter, and the fellow at the lectern is Childs Burden. If you want to see this photo (or the other two) in a larger version, just click on the photo.
Sunday featured a full-day tour of the Brandy Station battlefield. Naturally, Bud Hall led the tour, but a number of us helped. I had responsibility for one of the buses, and Mike Block, a former member of the board of trustees of the Brandy Station Foundation, was with me. Mike and I have led several tours of the battlefield previously, and we work well together. Bruce Venter, who is the world’s only known fan of Judson Kilpatrick, also pitched in when we visited Rose Hill, the Stevensburg house that served as Kilpatrick’s headquarters during the winter encampment of the Army of the Potomac in 1863-1864. There were about 75 people on the tour, and we needed an extra bus to accommodate the entire crowd.
Bud asked me to discuss the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry’s heroic charge into the teeth of the Confederate horse artillery on the St. James Church plateau during the morning phase of the fighting on the Beverly Ford road. That’s me describing the action at St. James Church.
This was my first visit to the Brandy Station battlefield since May, when Lake Troilo was at its worst. I knew that some efforts have been undertaken to begin to try to correct the terrible harm done to the battlefield by Tony Troilo, but I hadn’t seen the state of things again until yesterday. The good news is that the dams of Flat Run have been removed and that the pond seems to have pretty well drained. However, the draining of the pond doesn’t restore the earth that was turned in order to build the dams and dig the pond, nor can it ever. While Troilo is under orders to restore things, we will never know how many artifacts and final resting places of dead soldiers were disturbed by this process.
The final stop of the tour was on a parcel of land owned by the Brandy Station Foundation and which overlooks Lake Troilo and the southern face of Fleetwood Hill. While we were there, Bud told the whole sordid tale of the construction of Lake Troilo and the complete and utter abandonment of its duty to protect the battlefield by the president and board of directors of the Brandy Station Foundation. The attendees–many of whom are well-heeled major donors to battlefield preservation efforts–were as horrified to learn of the betrayal by the BSF of its duty to protect the battlefield as we were when it first happened.
At the end of the day, it seems like the only people who think that the BSF’s non-handling of this situation is appropriate and acceptable are the ones who betrayed the trust reposed in them to serve as stewards of the battlefield. That speaks volumes. However, the ones responsible not only refuse to do the right thing by resigning, they refuse to acknowledge that they were wrong about this situation. I guess the next time a developer comes along, the BSF will welcome him or her with open if the check has enough zeroes after it, like what happened with the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association and the casino promoters.
Nevertheless, the conference was an overwhelming success, and I was honored to have played a small role in it. I look forward to being invited again soon. And for those who have never attended this excellent program, please consider doing so, as you will not be disappointed.Scridb filter
Fleetwood Hill, located near the hamlet of Brandy Station, a few miles from Culpeper, Virginia, is probably THE single most historically significant piece of ground in the American Civil War. No piece of ground was fought over more often, and no armies traversed a piece of ground more often, than Fleetwood Hill. It’s important to understand why Fleetwood Hill was so important in order to understand why those of us who care about the Brandy Station battlefield were so upset this spring when the Brandy Station Foundation sat on its hands and permitted a chunk of the battlefield to be destroyed.
Bud Hall, who has devoted much of his adult life to saving this ground, has written an excellent piece of the significance of Fleetwood, and has given me permission to park it here as a permanent page on this blog. The article can be found here, and I commend it to you.
The numbers in bracket are to the end notes, which can be found at the bottom of the article.
Thanks to Bud for his generosity in sharing it with us and for allowing me to host it here.Scridb filter
The new issue of Blue & Gray magazine, which is one of the sponsors of this blog is out. It includes a guest editorial written by former Brandy Station Foundation board member and spokesman Mike Green and me, and addresses the Lake Troilo debacle and the complete and total abrogation of the duty to preserve and protect the Brandy Station battlefield by the current president and his board of appeasers:
Is A Duty to Take Seriously
by G. Michael Green and
Eric J. Wittenberg
As Americans, we have a sacred duty to preserve our past. The preservation of our Civil War battlefields is a sacred trust. Once those battlefields are destroyed, they can never be recovered. Agreeing to serve as a steward of one of those battlefields is not only a responsibility, it is a privilege. Don’t agree to do so unless you really intend to fulfill that obligation.
The Brandy Station battlefield in Virginia is a model of battlefield preservation at work. Saved from destruction twice, much of the battlefield has been saved through hard work by dedicated volunteers. Unfortunately, the new board of trustees and new president of the Brandy Station Foundation (BSF), charged with preserving that battlefield for posterity, do not take their responsibilities to preserve that battlefield seriously, and, unfortunately, have abrogated that duty in the interest of appeasing a property owner.
In the past few weeks, bulldozers appeared on the scene at Brandy Station and quickly began to severely despoil a key tract on the battlefield—southern Fleetwood Hill, a prominent ridge that witnessed the heaviest fighting in the entire battle.
In early May, a local landowner began excavating this historic acreage for the purpose of building a recreational pond. His bulldozers scraped, dug, and pushed this historic ground for several days—creating a large pond and damming up Flat Run, a perennial stream that feeds vigorously into the Rappahannock River.
Noting the destruction to Fleetwood Hill, the former president of the Brandy Station Foundation, Clark B. “Bud” Hall, notified federal, state and local authorities about the devastating construction on this battlefield property—acreage that comprises a battlefield deemed eligible by federal authorities for the National Register of Historic Places. Responding quickly, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers issued an immediate “cease and desist” order, while finding that the non-permitted construction violated the Clean Water Act. In response, the landowner apologized and acknowledged he would work with the Corps to restore the site.
However, the BSF board and president chose not to act. Instead, they enacted a policy that suggests that the BSF should not interfere with a landowner’s private property rights. In short, they have abandoned the battlefield.
Simply put, we believe the current BSF leadership cannot be trusted to preserve and protect this hallowed battlefield. Their appeasement—if not outright support—of the landowner’s misplaced “property rights;” and his efforts to destroy a key part of Fleetwood Hill should reverberate throughout the historic preservation community. The battlefield itself, the memories of the men who struggled and died there, and our heritage all deserve MUCH better from the so-called stewards of this hallowed ground. We should not tolerate it.
G. Michael Green is a former Director and chief spokesperson for the Brandy Station Foundation. He is a federal executive and resides in northern Virginia.
Eric J. Wittenberg is a Columbus, Ohio attorney who serves as the vice president of the Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation and has been deeply involved in battlefield preservation for years.
Interested parties can contact BSF:
For updates on this matter:
Other than constant vigilance, there’s not much more than can be said other than that interested members of the BSF should call for the resignation of the president and board of trustees, and if they won’t do the right thing, then VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE and permit the BSF to fulfill its obligation to preserve and protect the battlefield.Scridb filter
Former Brandy Station Foundation board member and spokesman G. Michael Green has written an excellent op-ed piece of the Lake Troilo disaster–as well as the wrong-headed and ill-advised policy that it has promulgated–in the current issue of The Civil War News, which I commend to you:
A New “Threat” To Brandy Station Battlefield
By G. Michael Green
(July 2011 Civil War News – Preservation Column)
As our Civil War Sesquicentennial begins, we Americans are freshly focused as to how this disastrous internecine conflict transformed our nation. And quite predictably, the 150th anniversary of our private war has fostered renewed attention to the precarious nature of threatened Civil War battlefields.
One such battlefield rests outside a small Virginia hamlet in Culpeper County, and it is a fact that the largest and bloodiest cavalry engagement of the war occurred on June 9, 1863, at Brandy Station upon pristine fields that remain largely unchanged today.
Over the past 20 years, the Brandy Station battlefield has faced nearly constant threat by commercial and residential developers. At the forefront of each battle has been the local Brandy Station Foundation (BSF).
In the past two decades, the BSF and its partner, the Civil War Trust, have successfully preserved nearly 2,000 acres of battlefield lands at Brandy Station
In the past few weeks, bulldozers again appeared on the scene at Brandy Station and quickly began to severely despoil a key tract on the battlefield — southern Fleetwood Hill, a prominent ridge that witnessed the heaviest fighting in the entire battle.
In early May, a local landowner began excavating this historic acreage for the purpose of building a recreational pond. His bulldozers scraped, dug and pushed this historic ground for several days – creating a large pond and damming up Flat Run, a perennial stream that feeds vigorously into the Rappahannock River.
Noting the destruction to Fleetwood Hill, Clark B. Hall, the former president of the Brandy Station Foundation, notified federal, state and local authorities about the devastating construction on this battlefield property — acreage that comprises a battlefield deemed eligible by federal authorities for the National Register of Historic Places.
Responding quickly, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued an immediate “cease and desist” order, while finding that the non-permitted construction violated the Clean Water Act. In response, the landowner apologized and acknowledged he would work with the Corps to restore the site.
With excavation on Fleetwood Hill now halted, one is left with a disturbing question.
Where was the Brandy Station Foundation when it became evident the battlefield was in peril? Several BSF supporters contacted the newly-installed BSF President asking for assistance and support in stopping the excavation — only to be met with obfuscation and bizarre defensiveness.
The BSF president’s curious reaction included assertions that this issue has been blown out of proportion, and that BSF could not interfere with a landowner’s private property rights.
He also disclosed knowledge of the excavation plans since late April, but yet did nothing to prevent the destruction or alert others as to its potential impact.
I visited the site on May 15 and was appalled at the destruction. How could the destruction these bulldozers inflicted on this historic hillside not sicken anyone, much less the leader of a distinguished, highly successful 20-year-old preservation organization?
In a personal communication to the president, I urged aggressive action by the BSF, but BSF did absolutely nothing.
BSF finally issued, however, a confusing and illogical statement on May 19, days after the Corps “cease and desist” order.
The statement reads: “We are mindful that landowners have certain rights with regard to the property that they own. As a result, we believe that it is generally not productive to officially oppose common property improvements, particularly when those improvements are reversible. Also, we do not oppose landowners who conduct agricultural activities on battlefield property.”
After reviewing BSF’s strange statement, here is how a preservation authority responded: “While anyone may choose to view the permit process as an issue between the landowner and the agency, the law in play here — Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act — views it VERY differently.
“The law REQUIRES the permitting agency (in this case the Corps) to seek the input of the public in its review of projects. The law is written to encourage precisely the sort of public input that BSF has apparently eschewed.
“Preservation groups have very few legal tools at hand to accomplish preservation; Section 106 is by far the most useful. The idea that a preservation organization would publicly proclaim its intent NOT to use the major legal tool at its disposal might well be unprecedented.”
And by the way, how is bulldozing historic property and building a large pond on historic battlefield property reversible? Once completed, who would reverse the damage and at what additional costs? To my knowledge, this landowner is certainly not engaged in “agricultural activities.”
Simply put, I believe the current BSF leadership cannot be trusted to preserve and protect this hallowed battlefield. The BSF’s weeks of silence and ill-conceived statement on this issue convey a level of complicity in the destructive excavation on historic Fleetwood Hill.
Nine directors have resigned from the BSF board as a protest against the current president’s anti-preservation policies. The BSF’s appeasement — if not outright support — of the landowner’s misplaced “property rights” and his efforts to destroy a key part of Fleetwood Hill should reverberate throughout the historic preservation community. And, we should not tolerate it.
Mr. Green is, of course, absolutely correct about this. Once more, I call upon Joseph McKinney, who is apparently too proud and too stubborn to do the right thing, to resign as president of the Brandy Station Foundation, so that the organization can return to its mission, PRESERVATION of the Brandy Station battlefield, not supporting its destruction.Scridb filter