Save 5 Acres at Middleburg - Mount Defiance

A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President

Dear Battlefield Preservation Partner,

Jim LIghthizer

Today, you and I have the opportunity to save the key, central part of the Battle of Middleburg, in Virginia, and I can turn every $1 you give to this effort into $10!

The Battle of Middleburg was fought on June 19, 1863, just ten days after the Battle of Brandy Station and fourteen days before the opening day of the Battle of Gettysburg – a very significant month of fighting in the Eastern Theatre that year.

Union General Joseph Hooker was still in command of the Army of the Potomac, but he had a big problem in June of 1863: He didn’t know exactly where General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was. So he sent his cavalry under General Alfred Pleasonton out to find him.

Of course, Lee’s cavalry commander, General JEB Stuart, still smarting from his surprise at Brandy Station, was eager to thwart the Union horsemen wherever he could, and the sharp running battles at Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville in the northern Virginia piedmont gave Lee the time he needed to continue his second movement into Maryland and Pennsylvania.

The most prominent feature on the battlefield at Middleburg is a ridge known as Mount Defiance, and today, the Civil War Trust has put together a transaction that saves this historically significant and pristine battlefield at a $10-to-$1 match.

The purchase price for this central 5-acre part of the battlefield – including the original pre-war buildings and a blacksmith shop that was the scene of hand-to-hand fighting – is $540,000. By using a combination of generous grants from the Commonwealth of Virginia, we can save this battlefield today for just $54,000.

Again, that’s a $10-to-$1 multiplier of your donation dollar!

Trust Goal $44,000, thanks to a generous giftAnd to kick this campaign off right, Middleburg resident and member of the Civil War Trust Board of Trustees Childs Burden and his wife, Elaine, have already made a very generous lead gift of $10,000, meaning that we only need to raise $44,000 to declare this crucial piece of Civil War history saved forever!

JEB Stuart positioned his defensive line at Mount Defiance, a prominent ridge, just west of Middleburg. After the Battle of Aldie and the early fighting in and around the town of Middleburg, JEB Stuart ordered his cavalrymen to pull back and take position a mile west of the town at Mount Defiance -- an excellent defensive platform from which to further delay the Federal advance. Vicious fighting swirled on and around this land for three days, as the Confederates stubbornly resisted the Federal probes. Charges and countercharges took, then lost, key ground. Stuart’s colorful Prussian aide, Heros von Borcke, was severely wounded in the neck very near the Mount Defiance buildings we are saving.  He survived, but Middleburg was his last Civil War battle.

Not only would a successful defense here prevent unnecessary damage to the “patriotic” town of Middleburg, but Mount Defiance’s height and position along Ashby’s Gap Turnpike (modern Highway 50) rendered it a strong position to further thwart any Federal advance. 

What made Mount Defiance even stouter were the stone fences that bordered the road at this location. From these positions, Stuart’s horsemen could easily defend against any incursions up the road. 

Union Col. John Irvin Gregg was ordered to attack the Confederate position on Mount Defiance. Gregg’s troopers moved forward up the road and far out on both flanks, north and south. Southerners on the southern end of the line deployed in a small family cemetery and were soon attacked there, as Blue and Gray troopers grappled to the death among ancient tombstones.

Other combatants further north on the ridge clashed violently as horses and men slammed together in a saber-to-saber fight. Union Captain Isaac Ressler of the 16th Pennsylvania declared that the fighting at Mount Defiance was “more of an Indian warfare than anything seen of late.”

When considered together, the battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville represent some of the largest and costliest cavalry actions of the Civil War. According to historian Robert O’Neil, these three battles cost Stuart roughly 600 casualties and Pleasonton around 900. By comparison this 1,500 casualty figure equates to roughly the same amount of losses suffered at Brandy Station (1,403 combined casualties).

Today, I hope you will join with the Civil War Trust and take advantage of the $486,000 in matching funds that are currently on the table. Actually… make that $496,000, when you count the $10,000 lead gift that Mr. and Mrs. Burden have already put in. If we can raise the final $44,000, this crucial spot – and this crucial chapter of the Gettysburg campaign – is saved forever. 

Please be as generous as you can, knowing that every dollar you can send is turned into $10, and please accept my thanks for all you are doing to save our nation’s heritage.

Sincerely yours,

Jim Lighthizer

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