23 February 2012 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 19 comments

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.


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.

Scridb filter


  1. BillF
    Thu 23rd Feb 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Go get ’em, Eric! Rake them over the coals if you have to!

  2. Thu 23rd Feb 2012 at 9:00 pm

    I grew up on that area and was land manager for APCWS at one time. I am saddened to hear this.

  3. Dennis
    Fri 24th Feb 2012 at 6:02 am

    An interesting approach. Carry on Eric.


  4. Paul LaCroix
    Fri 24th Feb 2012 at 8:22 am

    I saw this same thing happen with the Senior Citizens Association in the town I lived in back in Rhode Island. Their most oustspoken critic applied for membership to the association which the executive board rejected because of her being outspoken. They were also a 501(c)(3) organization. So my comment to you is “Go get ’em”. Do what you have to do to bring this organization up to what it represents itself to be and hold them to the letter of the law and to their own by-laws.

  5. Chuck
    Fri 24th Feb 2012 at 11:04 am

    It is sad that one must seemingly take apart an organization that has done so much. But it is clearly not the organization that Bud Hall and its founders built. The only way to get BSF back on track is to start over. Losing its Tax status is the first step. Sometimes one must raze the old barn that is rotting in order to build a new stronger one.

  6. Lee White
    Fri 24th Feb 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Bravo Eric! Sad to see this once fine organization sink to this level, but something is going to have to be done to get some REAL stewardship for the battlefield.

  7. Ron
    Fri 24th Feb 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Eric–That is quite a hardball tactic that the appeasers have going, and it is unfortunate that you and others have to go through this battle in the first place. Shame on them! A couple of questions. The organization is not the Federal Government, or presumably acting on its behalf, so I was wondering how the 1st Amendment applies to it? Is it via the federal non-profit tax exempt law? Moreover, does the type of legal discrimination covered by the non-profit tax law go beyond the usual candidates of age, sex, religion, and reach restrictions on the First Amendment right to free speech? (It’s been a while since law school for me too!) Thanks for any insights, and understandable if you don’t want to get to far into work product!

  8. Johannes Allert
    Fri 24th Feb 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Wow..what arrogance on their part. Give ’em the cold steel of resolve.

  9. Roger E Watson
    Sat 25th Feb 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Great start, Eric !! Keep up the pressure. I wonder if their membership list is available for sale. It would be interesting to see just how many members disagree with the board but are keeping their mouths shut.

  10. John Foskett
    Sun 26th Feb 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Unless I’m missing something, it appears that not only has the founder been rejected on trumped up grounds but that in fact the board membership which developed the goals ststed in the 2009 report has since resigned because they’re not being complied with. If true, the by-laws reference is an “interesting” citation as the basis to reject your application, to say the least. .Maybe this would be a good opportunity for these jokers to actually read the 2009 report.

  11. Mon 27th Feb 2012 at 3:38 pm

    I have been appalled since I read the report of the mass resignations of the previuos Board members, including Bud Hall. Something is badly wrong and going in the wrong direction. Has JEB Stuart IV weighed in on this issue? Where is CWT, which has ‘helped’ purchase so much of this hallowed ground?
    Continue to “fight the good fight”.

  12. Jim Lewis
    Sat 10th Mar 2012 at 11:40 am

    Sad, sad state of affairs (again), all hidden behind the worthy cloak of preservation. I’ve just become familiar with the situation and it readily appears further ‘adjustment’ is needed w/BSF…

  13. Thu 22nd Mar 2012 at 10:25 am

    “fiesta of self-aggrandizement”

    My new favorite phrase.

    Give ’em hell, Eric.

  14. Christina M. Stockton
    Thu 17th May 2012 at 10:48 pm

    I just learned of this and am horrified. My husband and I were some of the locals that participated in the founding of this organization after my husband noticed a “farm road” being cut through the property by then owner Lee Sammis. The behavior of the current BOD dishonors so many fine people that worked very hard to achieve recognition of this battlefield.

  15. Sun 20th May 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Ms. Stockton,

    I only recently became aware of your involvement in the preservation of the battlefield, and I wanted to thank you, both for writing, but more importantly, for your time and efforts in trying to preserve the heritage of the Brandy Station battlefield.

    If only the present board cared as much about the battlefield as you and your husband do, we would not have the problems we presently face with the BSF.


  16. John Guss
    Sun 09th Jun 2013 at 9:29 am


    Why has Brandy Station Battlefield never become a state or national battlefield park with its significant history? If a formal organization were in place these types of upheavals might be avoided or at least minimized.

    It is also disappointing that there was no coordinated effort to host a large scale cavalry reenactment for the 150th Anniversary that could have drawn more interest, support, and possibly additional revenue to support the ongoing preservation efforts. Just my personal thoughts.

    I would be interested to hear of any latest successes in the preservation efforts in addition to the recent CWT land purchasing efforts.

    BTW, Could someone create a FACEBOOK page for Brandy Station Foundation to keep us all better informed and to post visitor photos and experiences?

    All the best in resolving the differences and doing what is right for the preservation and historical interpretation of this hallowed ground.

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