Save 244 Acres at the Brandy Station Battlefield
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President
Dear Friend and Fellow Preservationist,
Before I tell you about the latest urgent and amazing matching-grant opportunity the Civil War Trust has put together to save hundreds of acres of hallowed ground, please allow me to say just two words to you: Thank you!
As you can see from this special 2016 Land Saved Report, last year was one of the most remarkable years in the 30-year history of the battlefield preservation movement . . .
. . . and this success – saving thousands of acres of hallowed ground for future generations to learn from – is due entirely to you.
Even as I write you a new letter laying out the opportunity to save even more important hallowed ground, I hope you will take a moment to reflect on all you accomplished in a tremendous 2016:
- 2,373 acres of hallowed ground saved forever – one of our biggest single-year totals ever!
- Those acres had a fair-market value of more than $25 million, but through our tireless efforts to secure matching grants from federal, state, and local sources, the Civil War Trust was able to save that $25 million worth of land for $4.9 million of our members’ support!
- That’s a leverage factor of about $5.20-to-$1 – or, put another way, a 520 percent return on your preservation investment dollar!
There has never been a more successful heritage land preservation organization in our nation’s history, and I give all the credit for that success to you and your fellow members of the Civil War Trust. So again, let me say: Thank you!
As I explain today’s transactions to you (which will save 244 acres at a nearly $6.50-to-$1 match, improving on last year’s average already), it will help if you get ready to look at the special battle maps of Brandy Station I have for you.
I hope you will notice immediately the nearly 2,100 acres of hallowed ground you and I have already preserved at Brandy Station, the opening clash of the Gettysburg Campaign, in June 1863.
Today, you and I have the chance to save two widely separated but extremely important tracts on this crucial battlefield, adding another 244 acres to that impressive total.
The northern 70-acre tract on your map is our first chance to save land that was fought over at the northern end of the famed “Fleetwood Hill.”
On the morning of June 9, 1863, Confederate General W.H.F. “Rooney” Lee ordered his brigade to mount up and fall back toward the northern crest of Fleetwood Hill – and the highest point on the entire battlefield.
Realizing Lee held an extremely strong position at his front, Brigadier General John Buford initiated an enveloping movement far around on the Confederate left. As flanking elements swung around just beneath northern Fleetwood Hill, Confederate cannon fire plunged down upon the flanks of blue horsemen.
Historian and preservationist Clark B. “Bud” Hall researched several eyewitness accounts from the soldiers who actually fought on and around this property:
In his battle report, Union cavalry commander Brig. General Alfred Pleasonton wrote, “… a grand attack was made by our right (Buford), and the finest fighting of the war took place.”
Captain James W. Watts, 2nd Virginia Cavalry, described the fighting for northern Fleetwood Hill as “a very hell of contending furies.”
Observing his regiment was outnumbered on northern Fleetwood, an undaunted Trooper John Smith, 10th Virginia Cavalry, shouted out to his mates, “Hurrah for Hell. Wade in!” He continues “. . . and in one wild struggle all lines became mixed up hopelessly, the battle becoming a fight of individuals.” General Buford wrote in his official report, “All of the forces with me . . . swung around and gained the crest overlooking Brandy Station (northern Fleetwood) . . . out flew the sabres and most handsomely were they used.”
In his report, Confederate cavalry chieftain JEB Stuart wrote “General W.H.F. Lee, having joined our left . . . engaged the enemy in a series of brilliant charges . . . alternately routing the enemy, and, overpowered, falling back to reform.”
The other parcel we are helping to save – working with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and the federal American Battlefield Protection Program – is a whopping 174-acre tract called “Hansbrough Ridge.” It is part of the often-neglected “Stevensburg” phase of the Battle of Brandy Station.
During the battle, Confederate troopers squared off facing east upon Hansbrough Ridge, ultimately thwarting the Yankees under Colonel Alfred N. Duffie, who attempted to hook up with their comrades fighting Stuart on Fleetwood Hill, four miles to the east. Here, in a gap in the ridge barely 100 yards wide, a few hundred Confederates were able to turn back 2,000 determined Union horsemen, preventing them from participating in the final clash at Fleetwood Hill.
Because so few people know much about this part of the battle, I have for you a short history, authored by Bud Hall, to tell you all about the significant fighting that happened on Hansbrough Ridge, and how it affected the outcome of the battle.
But in this case, not only are we saving the first major part of the Stevensburg phase of the battle that has ever been saved . . .
. . . we are also saving a line of near-pristine earthworks as well as the unbelievably well-preserved campsites on this ridge from when the Army of the Potomac returned to occupy this same ground in the winter of 1863-1864!
In a recent news article, historian John Hennessy said that, “Hansbrough Ridge is one of the few places I have ever seen – and certainly, now, the most important – where the story of a winter encampment jumps off the landscape. Its hut sites, fire-pits, and earthworks remain as they were left 153 years ago.”
The same news article quoted Bud Hall as saying, “What the Civil War Trust aims to preserve here is profoundly significant. Men fought all over the top and western slopes of this ridge. These pristinely preserved campsites look almost like the soldiers departed yesterday, instead of on May 4, 1864. Visitors will be able to walk into their hut sites and imagine men strapping on their haversacks and walking down the eastern slope toward the Rapidan River’s Germanna Ford – and the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House.”
My friend, we often talk about saving hallowed ground as “outdoor classrooms,” where people can go to learn about our history. Well, it doesn’t get much better than these two tracts at Brandy Station.
First, we can get our first critical piece of property at the important northern part of Fleetwood Hill, hopefully setting the stage for future victories that will link that part of the battlefield to what has already been preserved.
Then – (at the same time)! – we can save an enormous swath of the neglected Stevensburg phase of the battlefield, while also saving one of the most important and pristine surviving Civil War encampments in the entire country!
Wouldn’t you like to say that you had a hand in saving land that saw some of the most intense, close-quarters fighting in all of the Civil War?
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?
And wouldn’t you like to save $1,234,000 worth of land (that was expected to end up being a housing subdivision, if we didn’t step in to preserve it) for just $190,000?
That’s right . . . those state and federal entities, as well as one of the Civil War Trust’s generous board members and a substantial donation of value from the land owner himself, add up to 85 percent of the cost, sitting there, waiting for us to match it.
I need your help today to raise that last 15 percent, or $190,000, which multiplies every $1 you send today into $6.50 worth of hallowed ground. You can save a full acre for $780, a half-acre for $390, or a quarter acre for $195. Those are almost like 19th century prices!
I hope you will reply with your most generous contribution as soon as you can; I realize that I am imposing on you again; 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, 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 the Civil War Trust secure these crucial 244 acres at Brandy Station forever with your generous gift today? Thank you, and bless you for your help.
Sincerely yours, ‘til our work is done,
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 $6.50 in value, saving this essential hallowed ground forever. 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” which is, pound for pound, the most effective non-profit organization in the nation. Thanks to you, the Civil War Trust is efficient: our most recent financial statement shows that we spend just 4% of our expenses on administration, and just 10% on fundraising, meaning that about 86 cents of every dollar we spend goes directly toward our land preservation and interpretation projects, our education programs, and our public outreach efforts. The watchdog group Charity Navigator has awarded us their highest 4-Star Rating for seven consecutive years, which they say places us in the top 2 percent of all 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, because you make it possible. Thanks again, and I look forward to hearing from you.