Save 33 Acres at the Brandy Station Battlefield — The “Bookends” at Fleetwood Hill

A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President

**Update: Preservation Victory! This land has been preserved**

Dear Fellow Committed Preservationist,

Jim LIghthizer As I reflect on a remarkable 2014 for battlefield preservation, and look forward to an exciting 2015, I wanted to start the New Year off right, by letting you know about my personal resolution:

“Make sure that we here at the Civil War Trust do an even better job showing and telling you exactly what we did with the funds you have entrusted to us.”

That is why I have a collection of photographs that show you the miraculous reclamation of the crest of Fleetwood Hill at the Brandy Station battlefield in Virginia, land that you and your fellow Trust members saved in 2013. (Click here to see a pdf)

Thanks to you and your generosity, we saved 56 acres forever, preventing the possible construction of up to seven “McMansions” on that hallowed ground.

Thanks to you (and to a generous anonymous supporter who donated $50,000 specifically for demolition), the two modern houses that had marred this historic land have now been torn down, the land has been re-graded and re-seeded.  This spring, for the first time in many years the crest of Fleetwood Hill should look as it did when Jeb Stuart had his headquarters there.

And thanks to you, your children and grandchildren will now be able to visit the Brandy Station battlefield, walk our new interpretive trail, and truly have a sense of what happened there, seeing the land as the soldiers who fought there saw it.

I’m sure you can imagine the scene, June 9, 1863…

… the earth-shaking thunder of thousands of horses… curved sabers flashing and slashing… gallant charges, close-range pistol shots, cannons spewing canister, desperate hand-to-hand fighting…

… all this and more made up the battle of Brandy Station, the opening clash of the Gettysburg Campaign.

Today, it is my duty, honor and privilege to tell you about the Civil War Trust’s first major preservation campaign of 2015:

The Civil War Trust has negotiated two crucial transactions which will allow us to secure another 33 acres of historic Fleetwood Hill, where Jeb Stuart had his headquarters and rallied his beleaguered forces during the battle of Brandy Station, making our preservation of this part of the battlefield nearly complete!

View from Brandy Station
View from the land saved by the Civil War Trust in 2013 facing towards the southern of two target properties the Civil War Trust now has the opportunity to preserve. (Doug Ullman)

The total cost of these 33 historic acres: $555,000.

That’s a big number, but it wouldn’t be a “Civil War Trust Deal” without some matching funds to multiply the power of your gift, right?

First, we are applying for and expect to receive a federal matching grant of $268,000, which would still leave us $287,000 to raise. But it gets even better:

A Northern Virginia foundation – the Josephine Fox Foundation – has agreed to make a grant of $15,000 towards the preservation of these two tracts – the “bookends” of Fleetwood Hill, not only to save the history that happened there, but also to protect the open space and wildlife habitat in the area.

That means if the Civil War Trust can start off 2015 by raising $272,000 to secure the federal matching grant, we will also receive the Fox Foundation grant, and you and I will save this part of Fleetwood Hill forever!

This means every $1 you give for this effort really turns into $2.04 worth of hallowed ground!  That’s right… a $30 donation from you becomes worth $61.20 instantly… $50 becomes $102… $100 become $204… $250 becomes $510… a $1,000 gift becomes worth $2,040, and so on.

In short, you would see an immediate 204 percent return on your preservation investment!  (Too bad we can’t get the Stock Market to perform like that!)

This is extremely significant, because – as you can see on the battle map – we are now so incredibly close to saving almost ALL of Fleetwood Hill!  In total, by saving these two parcels, the Trust and other local organizations will have saved more than 1,900 acres of this battlefield!

Map of Fleetwood Hill showing 'bookends
Portion of battle map showing the two crucial transactions in yellow which will allow us to secure another 33 acres — the "bookends" — of historic Fleetwood Hill.

As you have previously seen at places like Glendale and Malvern Hill in Virginia, Champion Hill in Mississippi and Bentonville in North Carolina, once we “get our foot in the door” and establish a beachhead on key ground at a battlefield – no matter how small – the Civil War Trust can usually turn that into a greater preservation victory down the road. That’s exactly what we’ve done at Fleetwood Hill – fifteen years ago, not one square inch of Fleetwood Hill was preserved.

And talk about historical significance! At Brandy Station, in fourteen hours of combat, Major General Jeb Stuart’s Confederate troopers lost about 500 killed and wounded, while the Federals, under the command of Brigadier General Alfred Pleasonton lost about 900.

In his book Brandy Station 1863: First Step Towards Gettysburg, historian and former Civil War Trust board member Dan Beattie vividly describes the action on Fleetwood Hill, where the battle reached its climax:

“There now followed a passage of arms filled with romantic interest and splendor to a degree unequaled by anything our war produced,” penned a staff officer under Stuart. The battle here had come down to a fierce melee filled with sounds of clanging sabers, blazing pistol shots, and the screams of hurt horses. The choking dust and hair from the swirling horses blinded the soldiers.

Fleetwood Hill not only was Gen. Jeb Stuart's headquarters during the Battle of Brandy Station, historian Clark “Bud” Hall also notes it is, “the most fought upon, marched upon and camped upon piece of ground in American history.  Indeed, throughout four years of war this ‘famous plateau’ (as Major Heros von Borcke termed it) fronting the Rappahannock proved to be the most significant topographical feature in Virginia's Piedmont.” (Read Bud Hall's full significance statement here)

In fact, Stuart's personal preference for naming America's largest cavalry battle was not the "Battle of Brandy Station."  In a letter to his wife on June 12, he called it the "Battle of Fleetwood Heights."  In his official report, dated the very next day, he called it the "Battle of Fleetwood."  And in a letter dated February 6, 1864, to Col. Alexander Boteler, he refers to "the victory at Fleetwood, 9th of June."

Also recognizing Fleetwood's importance, Major General George Meade established his headquarters atop the ridge during the Army of the Potomac's winter encampment in 1863-1864.

I know for certain that Fleetwood Hill is still in the crosshairs of those who see it as the perfect spot for new homes and other inappropriate development. We are, slowly and with great difficulty and expense, winning the battle to save this hallowed ground, but we are not yet finished.

But now that a generous foundation has vowed to put $15,000 into this fight, and considering we can apply for $268,000 in federal battlefield preservation grant money, getting us more than half of the way to our goal, I hope you’ll agree it would be a shame to squander this golden opportunity to save this “good ground.”

I can’t think of a better way to start the New Year than by doubling the power of your donation!

Charge on Fleetwood Hill
Union cavalry from Col. Percy Wyndham's brigade assaulted Fleetwood Hill after crossing the Trust's 2015 target property. (Library of Congress)

Speaking of which, I have a second resolution, one that I will need your help with in order to keep it. That is to get to know you even better so that the Civil War Trust can serve you even better.

So please, take a few moments to complete the Member Satisfaction Survey that I have prepared for you today. Your answers are very important to me, and will really help us make some important decisions in the coming months about how we use the resources you entrust to us. I thank you in advance for your participation.

You know it would be an irretrievable loss to America if any part of Fleetwood Hill was ever to be bulldozed flat or covered with houses.

Today, you can help save the “bookends” of this famous and vital part of the Brandy Station battlefield, and put us on the cusp of eventually saving ALL of Fleetwood Hill!

My friend, will future generations of Americans be able to visit Brandy Station, to walk the ground upon Fleetwood Hill and envision the thunder of that unmatched cavalry battle, as well as have a chance to allow their thoughts to take in with reverence those stirring times?

They will, if you will help save this historic place today. I know future generations of Americans will cheer us for saving this land.

As the New Year dawns, will you please stand with me and commit $30 (really worth $61.20), $50 (worth $102), $100 (worth $204), $250 (worth $510), $500 (worth $1,020), $1,000 (worth $2,040), or to really get the best bang for your buck, someone could “resolve” to give $2,500, which with the matching funds would be worth $5,100!  Wow!

My greatest hope is that you will soon take your family to Fleetwood Hill at Brandy Station, walk this ground, take your own photographs, and tell your kids and grandkids, “I saved this!”

But even if you never get to walk the ground yourself, please know that by helping today, future generations who care about our nation’s history will get to do just that… because you cared enough to make a gift to save Fleetwood Hill.

Please return your most generous contribution and Member Satisfaction Survey as soon as you possibly can, so that we can start the year off with another great victory!

Wishing you a wonderful New Year,

Jim Lighthizer

P.S. I meant what I said about how we here at the Trust are going to work even harder to make sure you get more timely information about the projects your support. In the coming months, we will be adding new content to our website that will update you on a timelier basis when transactions close and when, such as we’ve done with Fleetwood Hill, we complete important reclamation on interpretation efforts on saved land. We also would like to update you via email on the success of our battlefield appeals (to keep postage and mailing costs to a minimum), so please make sure we have your most current e-mail address.

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