Save 782 Acres at the Brandy Station Battlefield
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, CWPT President
A quick history lesson: I’m sure you remember from American History Class that in 1803, Thomas Jefferson pushed through the Louisiana Purchase, buying millions of acres of American land for about 3 cents per acre.
In 1867, Secretary of State William Henry Seward purchased millions of additional acres that would become the state of Alaska – and also known then as “Seward’s Folly” – for about 2.3 cents per acre.
Well, even though we are not buying millions of acres today, and even though the price per acre of important American land has gone up a little in the past 150 years or so…
…I’ve still got some very exciting news to share with you today about how you and I can save a significant part of America’s history for a fraction of its total value.
What would you think if I told you that you could help save 782 acres of hallowed ground at the Brandy Station battlefield in Virginia for just $85.68 per acre?
That’s not $85.68 per square foot… that’s not $85.68 per square yard.
I’m talking $85.68 per acre!
In a world where we often must pay about $5,000 - $10,000 per acre of hallowed ground and, on rare occasions, have paid as much as $60,000 per acre (the Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg, for example), I’ve got to tell you…
A price of $85.68 per acre gets your attention!
As I explain this admittedly complicated transaction to you, it will help if you go ahead and pull up the special CWPT battle map of Brandy Station.
While you are looking at that map, I hope you will notice immediately just how much hallowed ground you and I have already preserved at this major Civil War battlefield, the opening clash of the Gettysburg Campaign.
The northern property – 349 acres – is highly significant, according to Brandy Station historian Bud Hall. After Federal cavalry commanded by Gen. John Buford crossed the Rappahannock River at nearby Beverly's Ford on the early morning of June 9, Confederate Gen. W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee rushed his brigade of four regiments – almost 1600 troopers – to this area, dismounting three of his regiments behind a boundary wall – one marking the modern-day line between land we have already saved and this soon-to-be-preserved parcel.
In an attempt to turn the Confederate position, a series of Union attacks raced across what is now CWPT property toward the Rebel troopers sheltered behind the stone wall. Each of these Northern charges failed, and many Federals were killed and wounded in front of the low-slung stone wall.
Lee held this position until late morning, at which point he withdrew his brigade to meet a separate Union threat originating from Southern Fleetwood Hill, in his rear. As the Southerners pulled back across this property, General Buford immediately pursued, with savage fighting over the area.
The other parcel, too, saw significant action on June 9, as Federal cavalry under Col. Thomas Devin repeatedly clashed with Confederates led by General Wade Hampton. But as Bud Hall says, its significance goes beyond that one day: “There is no piece of Piedmont plain in Culpeper County that witnessed more infantry and cavalry action than this property,” as the Army of the Potomac crossed this land on three separate occasions in the fall of 1863, and the Confederates fell back across this land following the Battle of Rappahannock Station.
Now that you know all of that, the next thing you should know is that CWPT is NOT buying this land. We are not even buying the development rights to this property.
In this very extraordinary case at Brandy Station, we have two landowners, who wish to remain anonymous, and who are donating easements on their land directly to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
What this means is that, in return for some state tax credits based on the value of their property, these landowners have forsaken all future development rights to this land – meaning, it will be protected just the way it is forever.
But as part of the deal, and to help make sure these transactions went through, the Civil War Preservation Trust was asked to pay some of the landowners’ closing costs – a total of about $67,000.
Now, I know that $67,000 is still a lot of money, but when you consider that this investment preserves forever a whopping 782 acres of crucial land at Brandy Station, I still think $85.68 per acre is one of the better and more innovative bargains we have ever struck.
Normally, I would also tell you that, because of the value of the transaction, I was multiplying your gift by $2-to-$1, or $5-to-$1 or $10-to-$1.
But because the landowners obtained their own valuations, we don’t know the exact value of the transactions. But I can tell you this: If we had to purchase these 782 acres on the open market, even using a rough estimate of $10,000 per acre (which is probably too low)…
… the price would be an eye-popping $7.82 million!
Further, because of the way one of the properties is zoned, this $67,000 prevents additional development forever, including what likely could have been a $1 BILLION-plus mixed use development that would have seriously compromised the integrity of every acre we had previously saved at Brandy Station!
So if you want to look at it that way, our $67,000 preserves at least $7.8 million of hallowed ground, if not much more, meaning CWPT is turning every $1 you give into at least $116!
Not long ago, the plan was for this ground – which once shook with the thunder of hoof beats and rang with the clash of sabers – to be obliterated by (take a deep breath):
Three million square feet of retail stores, a 2,500-seat multiplex movie theater, 16 restaurants, 300 apartments, a water park, three hotels, three banks, three gas stations, a lighted (!) 18-hole golf course, an equestrian center, an ice skating rink, and even a private K-12 school.
The only things missing were a Wal-Mart and a casino! (That’s a joke, but only barely.)
There is already a small regional airport that was built several decades ago in the heart of the battlefield. Can you imagine the destruction that might have been inflicted upon Brandy Station had this gargantuan development come to pass? Can you imagine the resources we would have had to pour into the battle to try and stop a development of this size and scope?
And can you imagine the expense had we been forced to try to purchase this land outright, in order to protect it, along with protecting our investment in the hundreds of acres we have already saved there? Costing literally millions of dollars, this land would have been far beyond our ability to pay, and it could have been lost.
The storied and beautiful Brandy Station battlefield could have been ringed by housing subdivisions, shopping centers, a water park, etc. Now, however, the outlook is much brighter.
Now, nearly 1,800 acres of this historic battlefield will remain pristine forever.
Now, we are setting the stage for other landowners in the area to consider preserving their land in this way as well, at minimal cost to CWPT.
Wouldn’t you like to be able to say that you played a direct role in saving land that became a permanent gift to all future Americans?
Especially land that saw some of the most intense, close-quarters fighting in all of the Civil War. I’m sure that you can imagine the scene, June 9, 1863…
… the earth-shaking rumble of thousands of horses… curved sabers flashing and slashing… gallant charges, canister-spewing cannons, desperate hand-to-hand fighting…
… all this and more made up the battle of Brandy Station, the largest cavalry battle ever fought on the American continent, and the opening clash of the Gettysburg campaign.
In fourteen hours of combat, Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate troopers lost about 500 killed and wounded, while the Federals, under the command of Brigadier General Alfred Pleasonton lost about 900. Many veterans remembered Brandy Station as the largest and most hotly contested cavalry battle of the entire war.
So today, will you join me in taking part in one of the biggest “bang-for-our-buck” opportunities ever in the history of the Civil War Preservation Trust?
As I mentioned before, you can save an entire acre of hallowed ground for just $85.68. That translates to $257.04 for three acres, $514.08 for six acres and $1,028.16 for twelve acres. It’s not quite the 3 cents per acre Thomas Jefferson paid for the Louisiana Purchase, but there has been a little inflation since 1803. It’s still one amazing deal.
Please reply with your most generous contribution as soon as you can; I realize that I am imposing on your summer; but battlefield preservation is a 365-days-per-year job, and I see it as my duty to alert you to this win-win-win situation for you, for CWPT and for the nation.
If we are successful, your grandchildren will have the chance to appreciate this hallowed ground, and they will be thankful for our foresight and action.
Teachers will bring their students to these outdoor classrooms and, thanks to you, they will not have to look past a juggernaut of development to understand what was done there. The ground will teach them.
I hope you’ll agree that this is an opportunity that is just too important to pass up. Will you please help CWPT secure this crucial land forever with your generous gift today? Thank you, and bless you for your help
Awaiting your reply,
P.S. If you’ve ever said to yourself, “I wish I could do more to help,” now you can… effortlessly. Every $1 you can send will be increased by at least $116 in value, and saving this essential hallowed ground. You can do so much good today. I’m counting on you! Thank you again.
P.P.S. I know very well that there are many charitable endeavors that you could support. That is why the all-volunteer Board of Trustees and I work very hard to run a “lean, mean preservation machine” that is, pound for pound, the most effective non-profit organization in the nation. Thanks to you, CWPT is efficient: our most recent audited financial statement shows that last year, we spent just 3.29% of our expenses on administration, and just 8.34% on fundraising, meaning that 88 cents of every dollar we spent went directly toward our land preservation and interpretation projects, our education programs and our public outreach efforts. The watchdog group Charity Navigator also gave us their highest 4-Star Rating, which they say places us in the top 15 percent of charitable organizations in the nation!
I will stack those numbers up against any other non-profit in America and I urge you to do likewise. Thanks again, and I look forward to hearing from you.