On a wide grassy knoll in Northern Virginia 152 years ago, about 20,000 soldiers armed with rifles and sabers charged at one another on horseback, regrouped and charged again and again in a daylong, pitched battle of the Civil War — the largest clash of cavalries in North America’s history.
It was the Battle of Brandy Station, and Virginia officials on Monday announced the successful end of a preservation campaign for the battlefield’s Fleetwood Hill.
Since 2013, a nationwide campaign to restore the site by the nonprofit Civil War Trust collected $3.6 million in donations from trust members and matching funds from the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund and the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program, state and trust officials said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Brandy Station in Culpeper County.
“The preservation and restoration of Fleetwood Hill is a first-class example of the conservation successes the Commonwealth can achieve through public-private partnerships,” Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell said during Monday’s ceremony. “Working with groups like the Civil War Trust, Virginia has been able to preserve thousands of acres of hallowed ground that serve as living memorials to those who wore the blue and the gray.”
Mr. Howell was joined by state Sen. Bryce Reeves, Delegates Michael Webert and Ed Scott, and trust President James Lighthizer, among others. As many as 200 people attended Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, organizers said.
“The trust has saved more land at Brandy Station than at any other battlefield in the country,” Mr. Lighthizer said. “Along with the trails we’ve already opened at St. James Church and Buford’s Knoll, it is especially gratifying to have restored such a key landmark of this battle to its wartime appearance and to be interpreting Fleetwood Hill for the public.”
In restoring the 56-acre battlefield to its Civil War glory, preservationists had to remove two houses, a garage, a pair of in-ground pools and a pool house. They relied on historic photos, topographic maps and digital imaging to re-create the area’s wartime look, trust officials said.
What’s more, the preservation effort included a paved, “interpretive” trail with markers to give visitors historical information about the battle and its place in the war.
The Battle of Brandy Station marked a turning point because it was the start of the Union’s Gettysburg offensive that eventually led to the end of the Civil War.
Though it ended mostly in a stalemate, the battle bolstered Union cavalrymen who had long been outmatched by their Confederate counterparts. Led by Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, about 11,000 Union troops surprised an encampment of about 9,500 Confederates, led by Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, on Fleetwood Hill on June 9, 1863. In the ensuing battle, a total of more than 1,400 men were killed, wounded or missing in action.
Union forces pitched camp at Fleetwood Hill in the winter of 1863-1864.
The Civil War Trust now is raising funds to acquire and preserve a 10-acre plot near Fleetwood Hill.
“The continued restoration and enhancement of these lands help draw thousands of people who learn of the events that occurred during the Civil War, while visiting local attractions and Virginia Main Street communities,” said Paige Read, director of economic development and tourism for the city of Culpeper.