Brandy Station battle site is being restored
History lovers, rejoice.
On Saturday, the Civil War Trust began restoring the most important scene of America’s largest cavalry battle, Fleetwood Hill near the village of Brandy Station in Culpeper County.
Spotsylvania County contractor J.K Wolfrey is removing a garage and brick ranch house—one of two modern dwellings—on the 56-acre property, said Jim Campi, director of policy and communications for the national nonprofit trust.
The strategic crest is where Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart made his headquarters before mounted Union troopers’ surprise attack on June 9, 1863. Charges and countercharges swept across Fleetwood Hill all that day as fighting swirled around the rail depot’s crossroads.
The battle is nationally important for opening Robert E. Lee’s Gettysburg campaign, and proving that the Union cavalry had become a fair match for Stuart’s renowned men.
“We are pleased that work has begun to restore Fleetwood Hill to its wartime appearance,” Campi said in an interview Saturday afternoon. “Our goal is to have a ribbon cutting to open interpretive trails next spring.”
Culpeper businessman Tony Troilo sold the land—centerpiece of the expansive Brandy Station battlefield—to the trust a year ago this month, and lived there until earlier this summer.
The trust will take down the tract’s modern structures: a large house atop the hill, a smaller ranch house, a detached garage, two in-ground pools and a pool house. Where possible, it worked closely with Troilo and others to re-use parts of the buildings, Campi said. For instance, a metal barn was removed for use by the local 4–H club.
Wolfrey will backfill the basements and pools and grade their sites to confirm with topography and, aided by old photos, match the hilltop’s historic contours.
The contractor, who has worked on trust sites on the Cedar Mountain, Wilderness and Petersburg battlefields, will remove most of the houses’ asphalt and concrete driveways. Ornamental landscaping will also go, though some trees will stay.
The trust will keep a paved area for visitor parking, and won’t touch a historic well.
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which holds a conservation easement on the property, approved the trust’s demolition plan.
The wartime landscape restoration is among the trust’s most ambitious 0f such projects, Campi said.
The site will be closed to the public during the demolition, which could take up to three months, depending on weather and other factors.
This spring, favorable conditions allowed a contractor to finish similar work at a postwar farmstead on the Fredericksburg area’s Slaughter Pen Farm battlefield well ahead of schedule.
Once the Fleetwood Hill project is finished, the trust will announce its plans for public access to the nationally significant historic site, Campi said.
It has begun developing a multi-stop interpretive walking trail to augment the trust’s educational spots elsewhere on the battlefield.
Longer term, more trees will be planted on Fleetwood so the crest better how it looked during the Civil War.
Other parts of the property will be farmed under a five-year agricultural lease.
In late 2012, the Civil War Trust announced it had a chance to buy the site. It succeeded last August after a $3.6 million fundraising campaign that drew private gifts and matching grants from the federal Civil War Land Acquisition Grant Program, administered by the American Battlefield Protection Program, and Virginia’s Civil War Sites Preservation Fund. Its partners included the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, and the Brandy Station Foundation.
Beyond the purchase price, major donors gave money to help restore the hilltop’s wartime landscape.
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Clint Schemmer: 540/374-5424