I made the banzai run to Culpeper, Virginia for the sesquicentennial tour of the Battle of Brandy Station on Friday, which is a 7+ hour drive. This was a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the battlefield that featured several stops on private property. I’ve been to the battlefield literally dozens of times, including any number of times with Bud Hall, but we visited some sites that I had never seen before. Bud also announced that this would be his final tour of the battlefield, so the moment represented a passing of the torch.
More than 200 people attended. I had some very serious misgivings about the logistics of moving so many people from place to place without the benefits of buses, but the folks from the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable, ably led by the CWRT president, Cecil Jones, did an absolutely superb job of managing the logistics. Cecil and Craig Swain deserve the bulk of the credit for putting together this event and for managing logistics that otherwise could have gotten out of control very quickly and very easily.
Our rallying point was at the artillery park for Maj. Robert F. Beckham’s horse artillery on the Civil War Trust’s property, where everyone gathered, and Bud gave an overview of the run-up to the battle. The first photo is of Bud giving that overview.
From there, we went to Buford’s Knoll and Bud laid out much of the morning’s action. I gave a biographical sketch of John Buford’s life, and we got a spectacular vista of the Union position. In the second photo, I’m giving the overview of Buford’s life. Seated in the chair on the right side of the photograph is our distinguished guest for the day, Col. (Retired) J.E.B. Stuart, IV, the great-great grandson of the great Confederate cavalry chieftain. From there, we went on to the site of the Richard Hoopes Cunningham house (long ago demolished) to examine a Union artillery position. From there, we moved onto private property to get a look at Beverly Ford, where Buford’s command crossed the Rappahannock River. This was also a position held by Rooney Lee’s Confederate cavalry in the early phases of the battle.
The next stop was a place where no tour group had ever been, Rooney Lee’s main line of battle on a knoll on Beauregard Farm. Beauregard Farm is a massive, 6000 acre farm that abuts and includes a significant portion of the battlefield. Fortunately, the owners are friends of our preservation efforts, and this position has been forever protected from development via a preservation easement. This was the first time that Bud ever took a tour group there. The third photograph is of the very long line of automobiles making their way to Rooney’s Knoll, as Bud calls it. The sight of the cars snaking along was very reminiscent of the final scene of the movie Field of Dreams, which was the first thought I had upon seeing it. I’ve never been there before, and it was a spectacular spot.
From there, we went to St. James Church, where we had lunch and an excellent demonstration by Trooper Todd Kern and his living history group, the Valley Light Horse. That’s Todd on the left side of the photograph. Afterward, I led a discussion of the charge of five companies of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry into the teeth of Confederate artillery, taking flanking fire the whole way.
From there, we addressed the fighting at Fleetwood Hill. We did so on the north side of the hill, where we had a spectacular view of the McMansion atop Fleetwood Hill that will soon be coming down. Bud led a lively discussion there, and we enjoyed a spot that does not see much visitation.
Sadly, there were torrential rains in the area on Thursday and early Friday from a tropical storm, and the road to Farley, at the northern end of Fleetwood Hill, was too badly damaged by the rains to permit the passage of so many vehicles. That, unfortunately, meant that that portion of the tour had to be canceled, which is too bad. Few groups ever get up there, and few groups get to see Farley, which is private property.
The final stop was at Rose Hill Game Preserve, a historic plantation house in Stevensburg that was the starting point of the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid. We discussed the Stevensburg portion of the battle there and did a wrap-up of the battle and tour, heard the history of the property, and then some lovely refreshments were enjoyed by all. Thanks to Dr. John Covington for his hospitality there.
All in all, it was a spectacular tour that covered some ground never before seen by a tour group of any size. It also marked a passing of the torch from Bud Hall to the rest of us of the BSF Board in Exile. It’s a challenge that we have gratefully accepted. This photo–the final one–is of the teacher and his student, atop Buford’s Knoll. The student does not know if he’s ready to take the passage of that torch, but he will do his level best to carry on the legacy.
It was a pleasure to be a part of this wonderful program. It was an honor to be asked to do so, and it was a privilege to stand there and help Bud Hall to present this material to a large tour group for the last time. Thanks also to everyone who attended, and to everyone who made things run so smoothly.
Thank you to Debra Naylor for the photo of Bud Hall and me, and thank you to David Kinsella for the photo of him and me. I appreciate your allowing me to use your images here. To see larger versions of any of these images, simply click on them.
The only thing marring the tour was the ridiculous, immature and grossly unprofessional conduct of the Brandy Station Foundation. Our original plan was to interpret the fighting at Fleetwood Hill from the BSF property to the north of Fleetwood Hill. When Cecil Jones gave the BSF the courtesy of telling them that, Useless Joe McKinney demanded that he be entitled to speak to our group and that we not use the BSF porta-potties there as a condition of our taking the tour group onto the BSF property (which, I might add, Bud Hall helped to pay for). The issue with the porta-potties was simply being chintzy. However, the demand that he be permitted to address our group was an astoundingly nervy thing for him to do, given that he and his board of appeasers have stood in the way of our efforts to preserve that ground. There was NO way that that was going to happen, now, or ever. We decided to move to the north side of Fleetwood Hill instead.
Then, on Friday night, while at dinner with some friends, former BSF president Bob Luddy–whom I’ve known for 15+ years–and his wife came in and were seated at the next table over from us. He spent the entire meal giving us the stink eye, and then when they got up to leave, I stood up, greeted him, and offered a hand to shake, and he very childishly refused to shake my hand, much like a two-year old child throwing a temper tantrum. He quite rudely and unprofessionally turned on his heel and stomped away. It left all of us shaking our heads, wondering what sort of an adult acts that way.
The final element of this little drama was the most comical. This was a reservations-only event. Only those who registered were welcome. When we got to Rose Hill, a guy nobody recognized showed up who had not been with the tour group over the course of the day. He started prying for information about where we went on the tour and which parcels we visited that were private property. Without any prompting, this uninvited party crasher admitted that he is a volunteer for the BSF, and when pressed about it by Craig Swain, he became very defensive about the whole thing before leaving unceremoniously. It’s bad enough that McKinney and his wife badmouth us to everyone who will listen–yes, we do know what you’re saying–but to act so childishly because you feel threatened? Please. Grow up, already!
Are we really that much of a threat to the BSF that they have to stoop to such childish and unprofessional conduct? Apparently, we are. We’re doing the work that they refuse to do because they’re too busy currying favor with landowners and tending to the Graffiti House. They should change their name to Friends of the Graffiti House and just step aside and let those of us who are serious about saving this battlefield do this important work. Instead, they act like babies. Perhaps that explains the outrageous conduct.
Despite the ridiculous, puerile conduct of the BSF and its people, we nevertheless had a superb day and a truly magnificent event. Thank you again to all who attended and especially to those who handled the logistics of this program. We could not have done so without you.
Finally, the Civil War Trust announced last week that we are 42% of the way to the goal for the purchase of Fleetwood Hill. To donate, please click here. Thank you for your support of our efforts to save the single most-fought over piece of ground of the American Civil War.Scridb filter