Save 56 Acres at the Brandy Station Battlefield

A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President

** UPDATE: The Civil War Trust has successfully completed the campaign to save 56 Acres of Fleetwood Hill on the Brandy Station. Read Press Release » **

Dear Friend,

Jim LIghthizer Over the past thirteen years, I have written many letters to friends like you asking for your help to save America’s hallowed ground.

But as I sit down to write to you now, with a hard deadline of August 7, 2013, I have rarely felt a greater sense of the responsibility that I must fulfill to you, to the Civil War Trust and, in truth, to our entire nation.

This is because I must tell you about one of the most important pieces of battlefield land that the Civil War Trust has ever attempted to save: The key 56-acre portion of Fleetwood Hill at the Brandy Station Battlefield in Virginia.

56 Acres Saved

Thank you to all who helped completed the fundraising campaign to save Fleetwood Hill.

Learn More about Brandy Station

With the historic battlefield preservation campaign that I am announcing today, I humbly submit to you that:

− By saving the most historically significant hallowed ground at one of America’s most important Civil War battlefields, Brandy Station . . .

− By quickly taking advantage of what may be the last chance to save the last major part of that storied place before it is obliterated forever by development . . .

− And by embracing the unprecedented challenge of one of the largest private battlefield purchases in American history, you and I can save an irreplaceable piece of our nation’s heroic past that, if we do not act, will soon be just another blot of ugly suburban sprawl.

As you look at the map of the property, you will see, highlighted in yellow, the central part of Fleetwood Hill. At 56 acres, in the critical heart of that battlefield that day nearly 150 years ago, it is truly the most significant part of Brandy Station that remains to be saved. The Civil War Trust, the Brandy Station Foundation and preservation-minded landowners have together preserved 1,800 acres at Brandy Station, and there are still hundreds of additional acres of hallowed ground there that would be important for us to preserve.

Brandy Station Appeal Map
Portion of the map showing the target property at Brandy Station.

But my friend, if you and I are successful in saving these 56 acres of Fleetwood Hill, even if we never save another square inch of the Brandy Station battlefield, we could still hold our heads up high. This land is that significant.

The purchase price for the 56-acre Fleetwood Hill tract: $3.6 million. (That is not a typo!)

But I have great news for you: Thanks to some gifts and commitments from some unbelievably generous donors, coupled with the likelihood of some wonderful government grants, we have about 95 percent of that money – $3,407,000 – already lined up through various commitments!

This means that every $1 you give to help will be multiplied by $18.63 from those sources! If that is not a sign, I don’t know what is.

But before I say another word, let me be absolutely transparent with you on the significant details of this transaction, because you need to know what this challenge truly means for all of us.

As I mentioned, this purchase is one of the Top-Five largest transactions we have ever attempted. I must tell you in all frankness that this has also been one of the most scrutinized projects we have ever attempted – and rightly so.

For many months, the Board of Trustees, staff and I have been hammering out a detailed plan, dissecting every possible element, projecting how this deal will affect our cash flow, inviting the tough questions from every member of our Board, getting advice from experts, soliciting criticism, talking to potential donors, telling everyone to poke holes in our plan and financial targets, all so that we could answer any objections and fix any problems before “taking the plunge.”

After all of this effort, I believe – no, I know – we now have a fiscally-sound, real-world, responsible plan for saving this hallowed ground that maximizes the power of your generosity.

It will not be easy, but we can do it. The financial elements of this complicated transaction are:

 $3,600,000 Purchase Price
-$1,800,000 Federal matching grant application

  -$ 700,000 Virginia matching grant application (through the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust)

 -$ 500,000 Trustee Capital Campaign gift
 -$ 100,000 Anonymous major donor
 -$ 250,000 Anonymous major donor
 -$   57,000 Gifts received, including more than $7,000 from the Brandy Station Foundation and $5,000 from the Scottsdale Civil War Round Table!

$ 193,000 Amount needed from the Civil War Trust membership and friends by Wednesday, August 7, 2013

As you can clearly see, I can multiply every dollar you donate to this effort by at least $18.63 in matching money to help save some of the most significant hallowed ground in America.

We have also engaged a number of preservation partners to make this fundraising campaign a success, including the Brandy Station Foundation, the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, and the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, along with other concerned preservation activists such as Clark “Bud” Hall, one of the founding fathers of the modern battlefield preservation movement.

The property is expensive because there are two houses on it, neither of which is historic. One is a 1971 ranch-style home, and the other is a much newer and much larger structure, one you could call a “McMansion.”

House on Fleetwood Hill
View of the modern structures on Fleetwood Hill. (Rob Shenk)

(You should know that we also have a commitment from an anonymous donor who has pledged an additional $50,000 toward the removal of these houses from the historic hill!)

As you look at those dollar amounts, which are among the biggest we have ever attempted together, I ask you to reflect on one point:

Together, you and I have saved literally thousands of acres of threatened, vital Civil War battlefield land at dozens of historic places, each of tremendous significance . . . places like Bull Run, Appomattox, Antietam, Gettysburg, Shiloh, Fort Donelson, Glendale, Chancellorsville, Bentonville, Champion Hill, Petersburg, Harpers Ferry, Franklin and scores more.

Every one of those blood-soaked acres – which were, in many cases, wrestled out of the clutches of rapacious developers who were about to pave over our heroic past – has been worth our highest and best efforts to save them.

But this land is arguably some of the most historically significant hallowed ground you and I have ever saved. We have a chance to knock down some of the most jarring modern intrusions that exist on any battlefield in America and restore the land to its 19th century beauty.

I imagine you already know the history of this ground fairly well, but I hope you will indulge me as I reprint here the timeless description written by Shelby Foote, in the second volume of his epic The Civil War, of what unfolded on that late spring day June 9, 1863, as Union General Alfred Pleasonton’s troopers splashed across Beverly Ford . . .

“And so it was that Stuart, who had pitched his headquarters tent on Fleetwood Hill overlooking the field where the two [grand] reviews were held, got his first sight of the Yankees at about the same time he received the first message warning him that they were over the river at Beverly Ford. Two of his brigades, under Rooney Lee and Brigadier General William E. Jones, were already in that direction, contesting the advance. The other two, under Wade Hampton and Brigadier General Beverly Robertson, were in the vicinity of Kelly’s Ford, where Pelham had fallen twelve weeks ago today.

“Stuart sent couriers to alert the brigades to the north and south, then rode forward to join the fight Lee and Jones were making, about midway between Beverly Ford and Fleetwood Hill.However, he had no sooner gotten the situation fairly well in hand on that quarter of the field than he learned that another enemy column of equal strength had eluded the pickets at Kelly’s Ford and was now riding into Brandy Station, two miles in his rear.

“The result, as he regrouped his forces arriving from north and south to meet the double threat, was hard fighting in the classic style, headlong charges met by headlong countercharges, with sabers, pistols and carbines employed hand to hand to empty a lot of saddles. He lost Fleetwood Hill, retook it, lost it again, and again retook it.”

Fewer than 30 days hence, the greatest battle in American history would be fought at Gettysburg, and many have speculated that Stuart’s chagrin at being surprised by the Union cavalry at Brandy Station motivated him to attempt yet another ride around the Union army, which yielded disastrous consequences for Lee.

Confederate and Union troops marched across or camped upon this noble hill in association with nearly every major campaign in the eastern theater . . . Cedar Mountain and Second Manassas, Antietam and Kelly’s Ford, Bristoe Station, Mine Run and even the Wilderness Campaign.

So you see, Fleetwood Hill is intimately tied to the history of the War in Virginia, and by saving hallowed ground at the one site, we help save the full story of all of the others. In this way, the great fabric of the Civil War is woven together. But without that preserved land, our understanding of that crucial time as well as our country today comes unraveled. But please, don’t just take my word on how significant this hallowed ground is. Eric Wittenberg, author of many best-selling books on the War’s major cavalry battles, says this about Fleetwood Hill:

“There is not any piece of real estate found anywhere on the North American continent that has witnessed more combat than the southern terminus of Fleetwood Hill, Culpeper County, Virginia . . . In just over four months, three major battles occurred on the same piece of critical ground as the armies jockeyed for position along the Rappahannock River. And to emphasize, it was on Fleetwood Hill that the largest cavalry battle in American history took place, and it was at Brandy Station, and on Fleetwood Hill, that the war’s threshold campaign, the Gettysburg Campaign, played out its opening scenes. I would respectfully submit to each of you that there is no piece of ground in this country any more worthy of preservation than the ‘Famous Plateau,’ Fleetwood Hill.”

Historian “Bud” Hall tells us:

“Fleetwood Hill is without question the most fought over, camped upon and marched over real estate in the entire United States. From March 1862 to May 1864, Fleetwood Hill – especially the southern terminus – witnessed continual, hotly contested actions and heavy troop occupation as both Blue and Gray armies jockeyed for control of the strategically significant ‘Rappahannock River Line.’ During the Battle of Brandy Station, for example, more than 7,000 troopers fought for control of southern Fleetwood – a startling number of compressed troops and horses viciously grappling to the death atop a relatively small knoll. It is indeed a fact that this unpretentious little ridge has seen more military activity than any other piece of ground in American history.”

Finally, Dan Beattie, former professor of History and Political Science, battlefield preservationist, former Civil War Trust board member and author of Brandy Station 1863: First Step Towards Gettysburg, movingly says:

“Two big battles were fought at Brandy Station, Virginia. One was the fourteen-hour battle of June 9, 1863. The other was the twenty-five year fight to preserve the battlefield. Each effort was protracted, the outcome uncertain. Now the moment has arrived to conclude the preservation struggle, by saving Fleetwood Hill.

“For years historical preservationists struggled with developers who sought to build warehouses and offices (even a Formula One racetrack!) where men had bled and died on the battlefield. The Brandy Station Foundation was in the forefront of this fight, finally stopping the developers with lawsuits and the power of public opinion. That was not enough. “Starting in 1996, the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites – predecessor to the Civil War Trust – began buying parts of the sprawling battlefield. Their first campaign culminated in the largest purchase ever of Civil War land by a private group up to that time. Dedicated preservationists eventually assembled nearly 1,800 acres of the battlefield. Yet one large parcel long remained unsaved: the southern end of Fleetwood Hill, the jewel in the crown.

“Recently, the Trust negotiated to buy the crest of Fleetwood Hill. Aided by matching private and public grants, your donation will help capture what Union General David McMurtrie Gregg called ‘the coveted hill,’ the most important place in the largest cavalry battle in American history. We can all agree that Civil War battlefields are hallowed ground. Fleetwood Hill at Brandy Station is a hallowed hill. It is worth saving with your help.”

My friend, if we are fortunate, at least once while we are on this earth, you and I will have the chance to do something so momentous that it will add great meaning to our entire lives. This is your chance to do something that you can be proud tell your grandchildren about . . . something that will live on forever. But we must act quickly.

Fleetwood Hill is on the market right now. In fact, we must close on August 7th, less than 90 days away from the time you are reading this letter. If we are to save this land, we must move right now.

There is literally no tomorrow for Fleetwood Hill if we do not close the $3.6 million purchase by August 7th, as required in our contract. The landowner will be within his rights to subdivide the property, sell it off in chunks, and we could end up with seven “McMansions” on Fleetwood Hill instead of one. If that happens, it is lost forever.

Book Free with $50 donationMy friend, I’ll be the first to admit that $3.6 million is a lot of money. But remember… all but $193,000 of it is essentially already in hand . . . the Trust has secured a $18.63-to-$1 match! I am confident we will get there – and make history in the process – if you will be as generous as you can.

Please let me offer a few tokens of appreciation to thank you for your generosity: I mentioned Dan Beattie’s book Brandy Station 1863: First Step Towards Gettysburg a few moments ago. This lavishly illustrated book will give you a far greater understanding of the battle than you’ve ever had before.

For your gift of $50 or more today, I will send you a Special Preservation Edition of Brandy Station 1863: First Step Towards Gettysburg.

Donor Marker with $100 donation
Example of donor sign at the Chancellorsville battlefield

For your donation of just $100 or more today, I will also include your name on a permanent marker that will stand on this hallowed ground.

You read that right; this offer is not just for those “heavy hitters” among us; everyone who gives $100 or more to this effort will have his or her name included on this commemorative display!

The Civil War Trust is going to recognize – at Brandy Station, on this ground – the thousands of our members like you who will now make this historic victory possible!

Those who are motivated to give a higher donation will have their name listed in a progressively larger size; I think that’s a fair thing to do, and I hope you agree. (Please see the reply page for more details.)

56 Acres Saved

Thank you to all who helped completed the fundraising campaign to save Fleetwood Hill.

Learn More about Brandy Station

I can’t name a building after you like colleges, hospitals and museums do, but I can give you a little piece of on-site Civil War immortality, and identify for future generations those 21st century heroes like you who saved the land where 19th century heroes hallowed the ground forever.

I realize this letter has been nearly as long as the battle was, but I did not want you to have a question about any detail of this extraordinarily challenging effort. Thank you for reading this far.

Now, I place the future of Fleetwood Hill in your hands. Look at the map I have linked for you. Tell me that you would like to have a copy of Brandy Station 1863, and have your name included on the battlefield display signs . . .

. . . but even more than all of this, decide today what you want your battlefield preservation legacy to be.

I hope that you just chose to join in this historic, exceptional and absolutely necessary effort to save Fleetwood Hill at Brandy Station. Please let me hear back from you today. Thank you.

With gratitude, appreciation and awe,

Jim Lighthizer

P.S. I believe future students of the War and battlefield visitors 200 years from now will validate our decision to pull out all the stops to save Fleetwood Hill. And I also believe this: Future generations will forgive us if we try to save this hallowed ground, but fail; they will never forgive us – nor should they – if we fail to try. Please visit our website at for even more information on the Battle of Brandy Station. Thank you again.

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