(Brandy Station, Va.) - At a news conference today, the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) and the Brandy Station Foundation announced the grand opening of Brandy Station Battlefield Park. The press event marked the beginning of a three-day weekend of festivities to commemorate the 140th anniversary of Brandy Station, fought on June 9, 1863.
"Brandy Station Battlefield Park is a monument to the courage, valor and sacrifice of our forebears," remarked CWPT President James Lighthizer. "Few landscapes so closely resemble conditions as they existed during the Civil War."
Joining Lighthizer at the news conference were Greg Mertz, Vice President of the Brandy Station Foundation, and Civil War cavalry historians Dr. Daniel Beattie and Clark "Bud" Hall. The news conference was held at the entrance to the new Buford's Knoll hiking trail, located near historic Beverly Ford Road.
Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle ever fought on American soil. Nearly 20,000 troopers in blue and gray were engaged in the struggle. More than 1,000 men became casualties as a result of the battle. Although a Confederate victory, Brandy Station is often referred to as the battle that "made" the Union cavalry an effective fighting force. After years of being dominated by Southern horse soldiers, the Union cavalry came into its own at Brandy Station.
In the 1990s, Brandy Station was also the scene of a high-profile preservation battle. At one point, 1,500 acres of the battlefield were rezoned to allow for light industrial development. Later, a 515-acre Formula One auto racetrack was proposed for the site. However, due to the persistence of the Brandy Station Foundation and other preservationists throughout the country, plans to develop the battlefield were thwarted. According to Lighthizer, "It is difficult to believe that anyone would have wanted to destroy this pristine and hallowed battlefield."
Preservationists eventually persuaded the landowner to sell 944 acres of Brandy Station Battlefield for $6.8 million. CWPT and its parent organizations (the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites and the Civil War Trust) contributed $2.6 million, with the remainder coming from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the federal Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program (a program administered by the American Battlefield Protection Program, an arm of the National Park Service).
To make the battlefield more accessible to the public, CWPT recently created a Brandy Station driving tour and installed hiking trails, interpretive signs, and parking lots. To complete the project, nearly $100,000 of contracting work was donated by local businessman Ed Dalrymple of Cedar Mountain Stone and Chemung Contracting. Remarked Lighthizer, "Without the generosity of Ed Dalrymple, public access to Brandy Station would remain extremely limited. He is to be applauded for his community spirit."
CWPT has a long history of preserving hallowed ground in Culpeper County. In addition to Brandy Station, CWPT was also involved in saving 155 acres at nearby Cedar Mountain Battlefield, the scene of bitter fighting in August 1862. In April, CWPT recognized the Museum of Culpeper History as the Civil War Discovery Trail Site of the Year.
With 45,000 members, CWPT 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 through education and heritage tourism. CWPT's website is located at www.civilwar.org.