(Brandy Station, Va.) - The Civil War Trust, America's largest nonprofit battlefield preservation group, today announced a $3.6 million national fundraising campaign to preserve 56 acres of historic Fleetwood Hill on the Brandy Station Battlefield in Culpeper County, Va. Brandy Station is perhaps best known as the largest cavalry battle ever fought on the North American continent. The campaign announcement comes just weeks before the anniversary of the battle, fought June 9, 1863.
"This is a tremendous opportunity to preserve the critical heart of the Brandy Station battlefield," remarked James Lighthizer, President of the Civil War Trust. "Even in historic Culpeper County, the unique history of Fleetwood Hill makes it exceptional. While the Trust is extremely proud of the work we have done at Brandy Station, securing Fleetwood Hill would be our crowning achievement."
Historians agree with Lighthizer's assessment of extraordinary significance of Fleetwood Hill. Historian and preservation advocate Clark "Bud" Hall calls Fleetwood Hill "without question the most fought over, camped upon and marched over real estate in the entire United States. This unpretentious little ridge has seen more military activity than any other piece of ground in American history."
Historian Dan Beattie, author of Brandy Station 1863: First Step Towards Gettysburg, describes Fleetwood Hill as "the jewel in the crown" at Brandy Station. To Beattie, Fleetwood is "the most important place in the largest cavalry battle in American history."
The $3.6 million price tag makes the campaign to protect Fleetwood Hill one of the five most ambitious private battlefield purchases in the Trust's history. However, thanks to the availability of matching grants from the American Battlefield Protection Program and Commonwealth of Virginia, the assistance of like-minded conservation groups and generous commitments from major donors, the Trust has lined up 95 percent of the purchase price before soliciting donations from its members. This means that each dollar contributed at this stage of the fundraising campaign will be multiplied more than 18-fold.
Joining the Trust on this ambitious national fundraising campaign are an assortment of historic preservation groups with deep commitments to Culpeper County and the region, including the Brandy Station Foundation, the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, and the Journey Through Hallowed Ground. Thanks to their pledges of support and gifts already received, just $193,000 remains to be raised prior to the transaction's scheduled closing in early August.
Jerry Brent, Executive Director of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, a nonprofit group that has saved more than 1,000 acres in the region, noted: "Fleetwood Hill is the "˜missing link' as far as the preservation of the Brandy Station Battlefield is concerned. It is particularly fitting that this crucial tract is being preserved during the sesquicentennial of the battle and through such a dynamic partnership between conservation groups."
The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, which is committed to conserving and promoting the swath of land from Gettysburg and Monticello, including Brandy Station, concurred. According to Journey President Cate Magennis Wyatt, "Fleetwood Hill is one of the most striking terrain features within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area. Its history and scenic beauty have long made it a site coveted by the preservation community. As we remember the events that occurred on these slopes 150 years ago, the Journey is honored to be part of this preservation effort and looks forward to a time in the near very near future when this area is restored to its historic appearance."
Joe McKinney, President of the Brandy Station Foundation, also expressed his excitement about the preservation opportunity at Fleetwood Hill. Noting his organization's work to preserve the battlefield and the Graffiti House, a nearby historic landmark, McKinney stated, "It would be impossible to tell the full story of Brandy Station without Fleetwood Hill. We are pleased to partner with the Civil War Trust to save this unparalleled piece of Culpeper history, knowing that it will be a valuable resource for generations who wish to study and understand this period in our history."
The Battle of Brandy Station is considered by historians as the beginning of the momentous Gettysburg Campaign. Union cavalry, long considered inferior to their Confederate counter parts, launched a bold crossing of the Rappahannock River in the early hours of June 9, 1863. They initially surprised the Southern horsemen, with charge and countercharge raging across the landscape for much of the day before the Federals retired back across the river. All told, more than 20,000 cavalrymen fought at Brandy Station. The epicenter of the fighting was Fleetwood Hill, which overlooked much of the battlefield and served as headquarters for Confederate chieftain, General James Ewell Brown "J.E.B." Stuart.
Stuart's great-grandson, J.E.B. Stuart IV, wrote in a letter to Trust members that his namesake always connected the struggle with the land the Trust and its partners are working to save, calling it "the Battle of Fleetwood Heights" in official reports and correspondence. He calls Fleetwood Hill "the most important remaining unprotected land at Brandy Station."
The Civil War Trust has protected more than 1,800 acres at Brandy Station, and opened an interpretive trail of the battlefield in June 2003. Still, according to Lighthizer, despite these successes, "it was hard to feel satisfied as long as Fleetwood Hill remained unprotected. Development of this historic property would have diminished all that has been accomplished at Brandy up to now. Protection of Fleetwood Hill turns a success into a preservation triumph."
The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. To date, it has preserved more than 35,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states, including nearly 18,400 in Virginia. Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.