The Civil War Preservation Trust unwrapped an early Christmas present Thursday.
The CWPT announced that they have reached a tentative agreement with Culpeper landowner Tony Troilo to purchase 61' acres of Fleetwood Hill - an important part of the Brandy Station battlefield.
“The Civil War Trust is pleased to confirm that we have reached an agreement with Mr. Troilo to place under contract his 61-acre property on Fleetwood Hill," Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer said in the release. "Protection of this property at the epicenter of the Brandy Station battlefield has been a goal of the preservation community for more than three decades."
Troilo's family has owned the land since 1969, nearly 45 years. He said the agreement has been in the making for several years.
"This is the final piece of the puzzle that brings the Brandy Station battlefield together," Troilo said. "It's the most strategic place of battle."
Troilo, who has two homes on the property, said he and his family are staying in the area but they thought now was the time to revisit a possible agreement with the CWPT.
He credited Brandy Station Foundation President Joe McKinney as being instrumental to the sale.
"He kept the CWPT in the mix," Troilo said.
Fleetwood Hill takes its name from a distinguished, late 1700s-era home, "Fleetwood," that was situated at the southern terminus of the hill.
The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station will be recognized June 9, 1863.
The Troilo property formed almost 90 percent of the entire terminus of southern Fleetwood. Fleetwood Hill is actually a ridge, it's at its highest at the Northwest end - Brandy Rock farm - and its at its lowest on the Troilo's property.
Noted historian and CWPT volunteer focusing on acquisition and easement in Culpeper County Clark B. Hall has studied the battlefield land since 1985.
He calls it the " most savage part of most savage calvary combat of the war." About 10,000 calvary troopers grappled to the death, all mounted on the Fleetwood Hill property.
"There's no piece of ground in this country that more embodies Calvary warfare that Fleetwood Hill," Hall said. "More cavalry troopers fought and died on Fleetwood Hill than any other land in this country."
According to Hall, it was on Troilo's property that JEB Stuart had his headquarters prior to and during Battle of Brandy Station.
The Battle of Brandy Station is seen as the inaugural action of the Gettysburg Campaign and was noted as a pivotal Confederate victory. Later, George Meade and the Union army headquartered there during the winter of 1863-64.
"This is the capstone of their Brandy Station preservation effort," Hall said. "This is the most important acquisition that Civil War Preservation Trust has made in Virginia's Piedmont."
The CWPT and the Brandy Station Foundation combined already own more than 1,000 acres of Brandy Station battlefield land.
Hall credited the Troilo family with preserving the land.
"They have been a remarkable wonderful family," Hall said. "And they have been wonderful stewards of that land. Fleetwood Hill looks almost like it did in 1863. It's gem like."
Despite the tenative agreement, the CWPT warns there is still a long way to go to securing the land.
“Several steps remain before the transaction is completed and the property can be considered preserved — chief among them raising the $3.6 million necessary to formally purchase the land," Lighthizer said . "The Civil War Trust intends to launch a national fund raising campaign next year with the aim of raising the money in time for the 150th anniversary of the battle in June 2013.”
With the 150th anniversary of the battle looming, Troilo said that it only "made sense that this is where it really needed to go."
"The 150th anniversary of Battle of Brandy Station will be the threshold event," Hall said. "To have Fleetwood Hill preserved by then, will be marvelous indeed because people will be able to come without disturbing land owners. The Civil War Trust will erect historical markers. The 150th anniversary will be commemorated in fashion that will lend dignity and honor to the soldiers who fought and died there."
Troilo admitted it was hard to let the homestead go, but pointed out an old saying his father Joe used to tell him.
"He said 'you can love your dog because it will love you back, but you can't love something that won't return the love,'" Troilo said.
Troilo and his family obviously loved that land, and are now sharing that love with the public.