Preservationists are moving closer to saving a key site on the Brandy Station Battlefield with Thursday's announcement of a $1.795 million grant from the National Park Service.
The money will be used toward acquisition of 58 acres of historic Fleetwood Hill, where experts say a lot happened.
Noted Civil War historian and preservation advocate Clark "Bud" Hall calls the site "without question the most fought over, camped upon and marched upon real estate in the entire United States." According to him, "This unpretentious little ridge has seen more military activity than any other piece of ground in American history."
Last weekend marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station, the largest-ever cavalry battle on North American soil amassing more than 20,000 warriors on horseback. Fought on Culpeper County soil June 9, 1863, the significant battle marked the beginning of the momentous Gettysburg Campaign.
The epicenter of the fighting was at Fleetwood Hill, according to the Civil War Trust.
Confederate Gen. James Ewell Brown "J.E.B." Stuart had his headquarters on the ridge overlooking much of the battlefield. In fact, Stuart always referred to the Battle of Brandy Station as the "Battle of Fleetwood Heights" in official reports and correspondence, according to his great-grandson J.E.B. Stuart IV.
Even 150 years later, it is vitally important to save the hallowed site, said Hall, quoting Gen. Stuart's words shortly after the battle, "We buried them where the fell, friend and foe alike."
In addition to being a battlefield, the fighting ground at Brandy Station is a burial ground.
"Most troopers killed at Brandy Station remain today in anonymous graves all over the vast battlefield," said Hall. "Brandy Station is in fact one large, hallowed cemetery. We have a moral and ethical obligation to save battlefield acreage where men fought and died."
The history in Culpeper County, the most marched upon during the Civil War, attracts folks from around the world.
"We must give them something to see, or they will understandably visit elsewhere," said Hall of the further importance of preserving Fleetwood Hill and other Civil War sites.
A month ago, the Civil War Trust launched a $3.6 million national fund-raising campaign to acquire the significant ridge on the Brandy Station Battlefield. Jim Lighthizer, president of the Trust, called Fleetwood Hill "the critical heart" of the battleground describing its impending acquisition as "our crowning achievement."
Cate Magennis Wyatt, president of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, dedicated to conserving and promoting the land from Gettysburg to Monticello including Culpeper County, said Fleetwood Hill is one of the most striking terrain features journey-wide.
"Its history and scenic beauty have long made it a site coveted by the preservation community," she said.
In announcing more than $3.3 million in National Park Service grants Thursday preserving more than 200 acres on five Civil War battlefields, including four in Virginia, NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis emphasized the importance of the conservation efforts.
"These Civi War battlefields are symbols of individual sacrifice and national heritage that we must protect," he said. "These grants will help preserve these sites so that this and future generations can walk these historic places and understand the struggles that define us a nation."
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation allocated the federal award to help save Fleetwood Hill.
Hallowed ground: The National Park Service recently announced $3.3 million in grants to help preserve more than 200 acres on five Civil War Battlefields, including $1.795 million for Fleetwood Hill in Brandy Station. Other grant recipients included: the Chickamanga Battlefield in Ga., 110 acres, $713,663; the Ball's Bluff Battlefield in Va., 3.22 acres, $230,475; the First Deep Bottom Battlefield in Va., 30.65 acres, $298,487; and the Second Manassas Battlefield in Va., 3.16 acres, $275,410.