05 January 2008 by Published in: Battlefield preservation No comments yet

The following article appears in today’s issue of The Culpeper Star-Exponent newspaper, and it’s some of the very best preservation news that I’ve heard in a VERY long time. Congratulations to the Brandy Station Foundation and the Civil War Preservation Trust, and, of course, Bud Hall, who has devoted the last twenty years of his life to saving this battlefield, for a job VERY well done:

‘The vortex of hell’

Important Civil War Land Saved at Brandy Station
By Rob Humphreys, Managing editor

One Civil War expert calls it “the vortex of hell … the most fought upon, marched upon and camped upon piece of property in this country.”

Now, the Civil War Preservation Trust is calling it a vital piece of history that has been saved.
After lengthy negotiations, the CWPT last month purchased 23 acres and is in talks to acquire 27 more on the northeastern base of Fleetwood Hill, where the Battle of Brandy Station culminated in the afternoon hours of June 9, 1863.

This part of America’s hallowed landscape, a parcel of blood-soaked land that looks today much like it did 145 years ago, represents the culmination of the war’s largest cavalry battle.
And to Bud Hall, the leading authority on Culpeper’s role in the war, it denotes “the beginning of the end for the Confederate cavalry, and indeed for the Civil War.”

Hall, a founding member of the CWPT who writes a column for the Star-Exponent, played a key role in saving the property.

For the past 20 years, he has been in contact with the Pound family, which owns the land and nearby parcels. Louis Pound died at the age of 78 last January. A few weeks ago, his sister Barba Aylor, executor of the estate, sold it to the CWPT for $700,000.

“I think it would definitely please my parents that this has happened,” said Aylor, adding that her father, R.W. Pound, bought the land in the late 1940s.

Hall said Pound’s brother Whitney has also spoken to the CWPT about the possibility of selling his adjacent 27 acres.

If the second sale goes through, it would signify “the two most important parcels that have possibly ever been protected at Brandy Station,” according to Jim Campi, CWPT spokesman.
Such a statement speaks volumes because the nonprofit preservation trust already owns some 945 acres associated with the battle’s first phase, about a mile away near Culpeper Regional Airport. The Brandy Station Foundation also has preserved smaller tracts nearby.

But historians say the land near Fleetwood Hill located directly behind a roadside historical marker on U.S. 29 about five miles northeast of the town of Culpeper is much more significant.

“The high water mark of the Confederate cavalry,” Hall contends, “was on Fleetwood Hill. … You had acres upon acres of horsemen fighting savagely; man-to-man savage combat on Fleetwood Hill.

“The Confederate cavalry both won here and lost here. On the morning of June 9, 1863, the Confederate cavalry was at its height, and on the evening of June 9, 1863, the confederate cavalry was on the decline.”

Most historians agree that the Battle of Brandy Station the opening salvo in the Gettysburg Campaign represented the height of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, including its 9,600-man cavalry division under Gen. JEB Stuart.

Until this time, Stuart’s cavalry had been virtually invincible. But that changed on June 9, 1863. The Confederates surprised by a massive raid from a force of primarily Union horsemen won a narrow tactical victory.

However, the Union cavalry began to gain strength, experience and morale, eventually matching and, less than a month later at Gettysburg, bettering its Southern foes.

In addition to the Battle of Brandy Station, Fleetwood Hill saw action during several other periods of the four-year war. Because of its defensive importance and prominent geographical setting, both sides used it extensively.

In the winter of 1863-64, Union troops established their winter quarters in Culpeper County, planting the 3rd Corps on the hill. Confederates often camped and fought there too, using it as a natural stronghold overlooking the Rappahannock River.

Today, U.S. 29 cuts across the eastern slope of Fleetwood Hill, and a few houses dot the ridge upon which hundreds of soldiers fell. But, for the most part, cattle, tree lines and gently rolling hills still dominate the landscape.

“Practically nothing has been protected at Fleetwood Hill,” Campi said. “Fleetwood Hill is certainly one of the most dramatic battles, so protecting land there has been a priority of ours for some time.”

Hopefully, the second sale will go through, and some of the most historically significant, and most heavily fought-over ground in all of Virginia will be saved forever.

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