Park Plans Coalesce in Culpeper County
Jim Campi, (202) 367-1861 x7205
Mary Koik, (202) 367-1861 x7231
(Culpeper, Va.) — The opening of the Culpeper Battlefields State Park is still some 20 months away, but exciting history is already blooming as local enthusiasts and leaders make tangible progress and unveil new ways to present the county’s rich heritage.
Visitors to the open plain where the historic St. James Episcopal Church once stood in the heart of the Brandy Station Battlefield can now call up an augmented reality experience on their smart phones and experience a virtual recreation of the 1840 church, which was torn down for the bricks used to build chimneys for winter huts by encamped Union troops in the winter of 1863.
“It’s an easy-to-use AR experience which quickly and clearly conveys the historic church from the outside and gives users the opportunity to explore inside, too – an experience which had been impossible at the modern-day site,” said Joe Grocott, lead 3D artist with Zubr Curio, the Trust’s technology partner.
The QR code taking visitors to that opportunity to step into the past is found on one of 10 new interpretive markers installed on that section of the battlefield this autumn. The trail tells the story of the Civil War’s largest cavalry battle and points out key features on the landscape, which remains almost unchanged since June 9, 1863, when more than 18,000 mounted Union and Confederate troopers clashed there.
In July, ten new markers were installed at the Cedar Mountain Battlefield, the other major Culpeper County battlefield that will be part of the new, 1,700-acre state park. Nearly all of the land at both Civil War battlefields has been acquired and preserved over the past 30 years, parcel by parcel, in a $17 million effort by the American Battlefield Trust and its partners.
The Trust, the multi-state Civil War Trails program, the Culpeper County Department of Economic Development and Tourism and the Friends of Culpeper Battlefields installed the signs in a cooperative effort.
“The Brandy Station Battlefield and its trail system are promoted through Civil War Trails maps, directional signage and other heritage tourism efforts,” said Jim Campi, chief policy and communications officer for the Trust. “The signs are part of a longstanding partnership between the Trust and Civil War Trails. They enhance the visitor experience and enrich the good work the Civil War Trails program is doing statewide.”
In early October, the Trust hosted a Brandy Station Battlefield tour for House and Senate Virginia Natural Resources Committee members. More than 40 Virginia leaders, county officials, and Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation officials took the tour. Then, on October 28, Trust President David Duncan and Chairman Emeritus John L. Nau travelled to Richmond to present Gov. Glenn Youngkin with a plaque commemorating his central role in the movement to create the park during the last legislative session.
“Without the leadership of Governor Youngkin, the Trust’s longtime goal of seeing these critical battlefields integrated into the Commonwealth’s robust parkland management infrastructure would still be a fervent hope, rather than an imminent reality toward which we can collaborate and contribute,” said Duncan. “As a preservationist, a Virginian and an American, I am thankful to him for taking up this cause.”
Meanwhile, master planning to establish the exact parameters and features of the battlefields state park has begun, with the opening planned for July 1, 2024, Chuck Laudner, president of the Friends of Culpeper Battlefields, told the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors in a recent presentation. The discussion also emphasized that although Civil War conflicts are a unifying element of the parklands, other rich narratives can also be drawn to the forefront, including stories of self-emancipation and centuries of Native American inhabitation.
“There’s no limit to the stories we can tell,” Laudner said.
The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 55,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.