(Culpeper, Va.) - During ceremonies this morning at Brandy Station, Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell, Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward, and other prominent government officials joined the Civil War Trust to announce the successful conclusion of a national campaign to preserve, restore and interpret 56-acres of battlefield land on historic Fleetwood Hill. The restoration effort includes installation of a new interpretive trail, which will help visitors better understand the epic battle of Brandy Station, the largest cavalry battle ever to be fought in North America.
"The preservation and restoration of Fleetwood Hill is a first-class example of the conservation successes the Commonwealth can achieve through public-private partnerships," said Howell. "Working with groups like the Civil War Trust, Virginia has been able to preserve thousands of acres of hallowed ground that serve as living memorials to those who wore the blue and the gray."
Joining Speaker Howell and Secretary Ward at the ceremony were Senator Bryce Reeves, Delegates Ed Scott and Michael Webert, Culpeper Director of Economic Development and Tourism Paige Read, and Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer.
Preservation of Fleetwood Hill was the result of a $3.6 million fundraising campaign undertaken by the Civil War Trust in 2013. The acquisition was the result of private donations from thousands of Trust members, matched with grants from the National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program and the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund.
"The Trust has saved more land at Brandy Station than at any other battlefield in the country," said Lighthizer. "Along with the trails we've already opened at St. James Church and Buford's Knoll, it is especially gratifying to have restored such a key landmark of this battle to its wartime appearance and to be interpreting Fleetwood Hill for the public."
Restoring Fleetwood Hill involved the removal of several modern structures: two houses, a detached garage, two in-ground pools and a pool house. Where possible, the Trust worked with local partners to find adaptive reuses for elements of these structures. As closely as possible, the landscape was restored to its wartime appearance through use of digital imagery, topographic maps and historic photos. A gazebo remains on the property, protecting a well that predates the Civil War.
"The Brandy Station battlefield has long been one of the Piedmont region's hidden treasures," noted Ward, who oversees both the Department of Historic Resources (DHR) and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), two state agencies intimately involved in preservation at Brandy Station. "I believe the preservation and restoration of Fleetwood Hill will attract heritage visitors from around the globe, transforming this once-hidden battlefield into a very visible historic gem."
A paved area remains on the property to serve as parking for the new interpretive trail, which guides visitors through mowed lanes to markers that provide an overview of the Battle of Brandy Station and the story of Fleetwood Hill throughout the Civil War. The hill was occupied by Gen. J.E.B. Stuart during the June 9, 1863 Battle of Brandy Station and served as winter encampment for Union forces in 1863-64.
"The battlefields surrounding Culpeper are a leading destination for heritage tourists and outdoor enthusiasts," Read remarked. "The continued restoration and enhancement of these lands help draw thousands of people who learn of the events that occurred during the Civil War, while visiting local attractions and Virginia Main Street communities."
In addition to its work on Fleetwood Hill, the Trust is in the process of fundraising to acquire a 10.5-acre property located across Fleetwood Heights Road, owned by long-time battlefield advocates B.B. and Page Mitchell. The Brandy Station Foundation, formed in 1989 to protect the battlefield, was founded in the Mitchell's living room.
The preservation, restoration and interpretation of Fleetwood Hill would not have been possible without the dedication and generosity of hundreds of people. The Trust wishes to especially acknowledge: Julie Langan, Director of Virginia DHR; Clyde Cristman, Director of Virginia DCR; historians Clark B. Hall and Greg Mertz; philanthropists Dan and Peggy Beattie, William J. Hupp, Jacqueline Mars, Marc Nicholson, and Cate Magennis Wyatt; Marvin Jenkins; and Tony Troilo, Jr. and his family.
In addition, the following organizations deserve praise for their commitment to the effort: American Battlefield Protection Program, Brandy Station Foundation, Civil War Trails, Culpeper Tourism & Visitor Center, J K Wolfrey, Inc., Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, Piedmont Environmental Council, Remington Community Partnership, and the Virginia General Assembly.
The Battle of Brandy Station marked 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.
The Civil War Trust is America's premier nonprofit battlefield preservation organization. Although primarily focused on the protection of Civil War battlefields, through its Campaign 1776 initiative, the Trust also seeks to save the battlefields connected to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. To date, the Trust has preserved 41,000 acres of battlefield land in 21 states, including nearly 2,000 acres at Brandy Station. Learn more at www.civilwar.org.
The Civil War Preservation Trust became the Civil War Trust in January 2011; the Civil War Trust became a division of the American Battlefield Trust in May 2018. Campaign 1776 was created in 2014 as an initiative of the Civil War Trust; in May 2018 it became the Revolutionary War Trust, a division of the American Battlefield Trust.