11 November 2011 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 6 comments

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


  1. Sat 12th Nov 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Indeed an overreaching statement by Brandy Station Foundation (BSF). Fact of the matter is that members of the BSF board (specifically the President, Joe McKinney) knew about the actions of Troilo for two weeks (by McKinney’s own version of events) and did nothing. The Corps of Engineers (ACE) was not contacted by BSF, but rather by Clark Hall. The foot dragging by BSF, which I can personally attest to, allowed the land owner ten days or more of grace to damage the ground.

    Once ACE was involved, BSF did little to facilitate the discussion. In fact, by issuing a “we will not oppose landowner’s improvements” statement, they actually worked against ACE and state agencies doing their legally defined duties.

    Given BSF’s lack of action, subsequent policy statements, and the publicly known financial issues, I would ask if the organization is the right custodian for those three acres. Perhaps it would be better to bring in another, properly oriented, preservation organization. I say let such an organization hold the land in trust until BSF’s leaders have demonstrated the maturity, knowledge, and ability to perform the role safeguarding such historic treasures.

  2. Todd Berkoff
    Sat 12th Nov 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Eric, excellent post. Thanks for highlighting the continued deceptive ways of Joe McKinney and the rest of the board of the Brandy Station Foundation (BSF). This statement is nothing more then Joe McKinney’s effort to take credit for “saving” Fleetwood Hill, when not only was did McKinney have foreknowledge of the landowner’s plan to build a lake on the historic hill–and did not seem to have an issue with it–but McKinney and the rest of the board did nothing to stop it. It took the efforts of others who actually care for the battlefield for the landowner to cease the illegal activities. The subsequent policy statement in May by the BSF is evidence that the board did not see a need to get involved in preservation of “their” battlefield.

    It makes me sick that McKinney and the rest of the board are now trying to take credit for “saving” Fleetwood Hill. It is one thing to have good relations with the local landowners, but it is something else entirely when the president of the BSF, who is charged with protecting the battlefield, has a personal friendship with the landowner and is looking the other way when this landowner is wantonly destroying or buying up historic property.

    McKinney, you are a disgrace to historic preservation and your duplicity is a disgrace to the memory of those who died on that hill.

  3. Chuck Siegel
    Sat 12th Nov 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Eric, Craig, and Todd have all done an excellent job at highlighting the falsehoods and utter nerve of the McKinney-run BSF. Let’s just be blunt; they are NOT preservationists…..their interest in the battlefield is strictly as a vehicle for their social occasions and to help those landowners who wish to do the battlefield harm. I would urge those of you who are members of the BSF to write to the board expressing your concern for the battlefield and their seeming indifference for its preservation and protection. Then I would urge you to pull your financial support from BSF and place it in the hands of a real organization that wishes to preserve the battlefield at Brandy….the Civil War Trust. Sadly, and it pains me to say it, if you care about Brandy Station, supporting the BSF is no longer the way to show it.

  4. Mary Root
    Sat 12th Nov 2011 at 11:49 pm

    I resigned from the Brandy Station Foundation Board in objection to Mr. Joseph McKinney taking office as President of that organization. I had deep reservations about giving that important role to someone who endorsed the building of a Wal-Mart on the Wilderness battlefield, promoted relic hunting on eased battlefield land, and refused to fight VDOT’s widening of Route 3 through the Stevensburg battlefield. Those are not the decisions of a preservationist, or a protector of American historical lands.
    Now, after a Fleetwood Hill landowner’s illegal earth-moving activities along Flat Run, the whistle-blowing by Clark Hall – not anyone from the Brandy Station Foundation – and following closely the negotiations between the landowner and the Army Corps of Engineers, I regret to say Mr. McKinney has turned out to be the worst steward of the Brandy Station battlefields than I ever imagined possible. He neglected his duty to the battlefield, plain and simple.
    It’s sad that the current Brandy Station Foundation Board feels it must now issue a “spin” statement on their website, one which distorts the facts beyond recognition. It seems they feel they must try and take the credit for a happy outcome, one that they had no part in engineering: all credit for stopping Mr. Troilio’s illegal actions must go to Clark Hall. But it’s not a happy outcome: the land is disturbed, ground which probably had human remains from the terrible battle, land which truly can’t be put back where it belonged.
    It rained, hard, for a few days after Mr. Troilio’s busy bulldozers changed the creek. The water breached his dam in three places and silt from the Virginia red clay ran all the way to the Rappahannock River. It looked like blood.

  5. BillF
    Sun 13th Nov 2011 at 12:32 pm

    I am not a member of BSF, and have several queations about it. How many members are there? Did they elect the President and the Board? Is there no recall procedure? If they were elected by the membership, and no one tries to recall them, then the whole organization should be replaced as caretakers of the property, as it’s obvious that the membership supports what is happening. I have never seen this explained.

  6. ERICC
    Fri 02nd Dec 2011 at 11:39 am

    I really hope that the land affected by the pond project can be fully restored to its former condition. An example of really poor stewardship on the part of the landowner. But why is Mr. McKinney’s involvement in relic hunting one of the major grievences of the BSF Board members?If you recall, the first president of the BSF, B.B. Mitchel, was an avid relic hunter and collector. It’s wrong to assume that the relic hunting and collecting community can’t be actively involved in the land preservation fight.

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