(Brandy Station, Va.) - The Civil War Trust, America's largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization, has begun work to restore a 56-acre property on the crest of Fleetwood Hill at Brandy Station, to its wartime appearance. The project is among the Trust's most ambitious restoration projects to date and focuses on land acquired in August 2013, following a $3.6 million fundraising campaign. The purchase was financed through private donations and matching grants from the federal Civil War Land Acquisition Grant Program (administered by the American Battlefield Protection Program) and the Commonwealth of Virginia's Civil War Sites Preservation Fund. The Battle of Brandy Station, fought June 9, 1863, was the largest cavalry engagement of the Civil War.
"Over the years, the Civil War Trust has protected a significant portion of Brandy Station, but this particular land is the true heart and soul of the battlefield," said Trust president James Lighthizer. "Thanks to partners such as the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, and the Brandy Station Foundation, as well as donors who contributed funds above and beyond the purchase price, we can now watch the years roll away and reveal the 19th-century landscape."
The demolition plan, approved by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which holds a conservation easement on the property, begins with the removal of all modern structures on the property, including two houses, a detached garage, two in-ground pools and a pool house. The Trust worked closely with the seller, who vacated this summer after a negotiated period of tenancy, to find ways of reusing elements of the modern buildings where possible. An aluminum barn on the property, for example, has already been removed for use by the local 4-H club.
Restoration work is being done by J.K Wolfrey of Spotsylvania County, who has previously worked with the Trust on properties at Cedar Mountain, the Wilderness and the Petersburg Breakthrough. Wolfrey has also worked with Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Counties National Military Park. In addition to the removal of modern buildings, their foundations, as well as in-ground pools, will be backfilled and graded to the existing topography. With the assistance of historic photos, we will seek to achieve a result as close as possible to the area's period contours; ornamental landscaping will also be reduced. Although most of the asphalt and concrete drives will be removed, a paved area will be retained for visitor parking, and a historic well will remain untouched.
The site will be closed to the public during the demolition process, with details on future public access to be announced upon the project's completion. The Trust is already in the process of developing a multi-stop interpretive walking trail on the property, augmenting our existing educational offerings elsewhere on the battlefield, with a probable installation date of Spring 2015. Longer term landscape restoration plans include the replanting of trees on the hill's crest to resemble the wartime appearance. The agricultural plan for the property includes a five-year agricultural lease, excluding the visitor area on the crest of the hill.
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 counterparts, 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.
With 55,000 members, 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, the Trust has preserved more than 39,000 acres of battlefield in 20 states, including 1,868 at Brandy Station. Learn more at www.civilwar.org.