Marking the anniversary of the Battle of Kelly's Ford

David Bridges, great-great nephew of Confederate Major James Breathed, talks at a symposium hosted by the Brandy Station Foundation, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Kelly's Ford. The battle was fought March 17, 1863.

REMINGTON — When Bill and Linda Willoughby bought the property that would become the Inn at Kelly’s Ford, they didn’t know everything they were getting.

They purchased land and a building, but they also inherited history.

On this land on March 17, 1863, the cavalry of the Union and Confederate armies clashed – marking the first time the Union had attacked the South so aggressively in cavalry action.

In the midst of the battle, the Confederates lost a great leader as Major John Pelham was struck by artillery fire. He died the next day.

On the 150th anniversary, the Brandy Station Foundation hosted a symposium at Ripley Hall at the Inn at Kelly’s Ford to help commemorate the battle.

“It’s almost breathtaking,” Linda Willoughby said. “It’s an honor to be here after 150 years. We did not know that we bought such a historical property and it’s just great to have all this history here.”

Bill Willoughby called the event “special” and laughed when they thought of buying the land as a place to “feed more cows and do hay.”

“We bought it as a place to feed more cows and do hay and stuff,” Bill Willoughby said.

“A lady had her property up for sale and we bought it and we wanted to open a little two-room inn, then we started realizing all the history here,” Linda Willoughby said. “We were just kind of overwhelmed. We probably did want to build more on it, but after we found out about all the history we just said ‘no.’”

The symposium featured 10 speakers discussing the battle and the loss of the “Gallant” Pelham.

“I feel that it happened here and we know Gettysburg is important and all the battles around here were important but we know this river crossing is the most important in the Civil War,” organizer Jim Flanagan said. “But I’d say that the most significant loss was John Pelham and we’re here commemorating the 150th at the site on the same day.”

Attendee David Bridges felt a certain kinship to the land. His great-great uncle, James Breathed, fought with Pelham at the Battle of Kelly’s Ford and considered the Major his brother.

“Jim Flanagan has taken me over to the battlefield numerous times and I know the Civil War Preservation Trust and Brandy Station Foundation has done a marvelous job of trying to protect the battlefield and keep it there for antiquity,” Bridges said.



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