Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why I Left the Brandy Station Foundation Board of Directors

Today at Brandy Station: The past six months

What follows are the events which surrounded my departure from the Board of Directors of the Brandys Station Foundation.  The final straw which led to my resignation was Tony Troilo's attempt to dam Flat Run and the BSF actions.

The United States Corps of Engineers has drafted a Memorandum of Agreement concerning the course of action to be taken regarding a pond that has been constructed by Tony Troilo by his damming Flat Run. Flat Run crosses in front of the base of Fleetwood Hill on the Brandy Station Battlefield, I will not post the MOA on this blog, I suspect it will be posted on a number of websites as well as being reported in local newspapers.
Simply stated, the MOA requires Mr. Troilo to repair all the damage he has done to Flat Run, restoring it to its original condition; and within 60 days of completion of this project, convey 3.1 acres of land (along Flat Run) to the Brandy Station Foundation. The MOA has a number of stipulations and contingencies. It was signed by: The Corps of Engineers, Tony Troilo, Virginia State Histories Preservation, The Brandy Station Foundation, and Clark B. Hall.
The good news is the BSF will receive an additional 3.1 acres of core battlefield. But, what did they do to earn it? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
I love the Brandy Station Battlefield. Not because of the fight on June 9, 1863, but more for everything else that happened in and around this area. There are many fine scholars who have written and lectured on the largest cavalry battle in North America, but I choose different areas of study. I have a great understanding of the June 9 fight, the land, personalities and the tactical and strategic results of that momentous fight. But for me, the fight at Rappahannock Station and Kelly’s Ford on November 7, 1863 is ‘my battle.’ I am also fascinated with the Army of the Potomac’s Winter Encampment of 1863-64. There are 120,000 stories waiting to be told, and it is my goal to tell them.
So I care about the land, the structures and the history. Those who have heard me talk on these subjects comment on the passion in which I speak. If I could retire from my current job today and devote my energies to this activity, I would.
I joined the BSF as a volunteer at the Graffiti House in the spring of 2004, learning the history of the house and the stories these charcoal writings on a wall have to tell. I expanded my love quickly to the events that swirled around the house between 1861 and 1865. After a year, I was asked and accepted a position on the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
While serving on that body, I became a vocal advocate for preservation of the land, saving the house and its graffiti, and educational outreach to anyone who would pause to hear what stories the land and house gave forth. I loved doing this then, as I love it today.
The heart break and extreme disappointment I went through regarding Tony Troilo’s pond and the Board of Directors actions was seen by family and many of my friends.
Just how did we get to this point in time?
I have never commented on this blog about the damming of Flat Run by Tony Troilo and my resulting resignation from the Board of Directors of the Brandy Station Foundation. Now that the Memorandum of Agreement between the key parties involved has been signed and the Brandy Station Foundation has made an announcement of the results, I feel it is time for me to comment. I was a member of the Board of Directors of the Brandy Station Foundation from the spring of 2005 until May 19, 2011.
The BSF has made a statement of its version of the Troilo pond events as they unfolded and the result. I will not comment on their statement, but leave it for you and others to read and interpret. The Foundation’s statement may be found on the Brandy Station Foundation webpage: http://www.brandystationfoundation.com/
In May of this year, Tony Troilo, in violation of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and United Stated Corps of Engineer regulations, destroyed approximately 666 linear feet of Flat Run, a perennial stream, in order to construct a pond on his property. His action resulted in the deposition of excavated fill soil along his property and the property of the Brandy Station Foundation, which is also held in historic preservation and open space easement by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources.

The action was identified and reported on by Bud Hall, immediate past president of the Brandy Station Foundation. He was made aware of the situation and surveyed the activity and as an individual passionate about the protection of the Brandy Station battlefield. Bud contacted the Corps of Engineers to report the incident. Almost immediately the Corps of Engineers delivered a ‘cease and desist’ order to Mr. Troilo. It was, admittedly unfortunate timing, as the notice was delivered the week of the death of Tony’s father.
In an email he sent to the BSF Board of Directors, on May 12, 2011, Joe McKinney, President of the Brandy Station Foundation, laid out his thoughts to the Board on the pond. I have highlighted Joe’s ‘hope’ regarding this issue:
“Troilo Pond. This is the wild card issue. As of this afternoon, the dam is virtually complete and

the pond is filling. There may be some spillway work still to do. There are a lot of variables: county permit requirements; CoE inspection brought on by Bud; continuing ire from readers of [Eric] Wittenberg’s blog [http://civilwarcavalry.com/]; possible backlash among local citizens. I will keep you posted on all information I receive. I hope that we do not have to spend too much time on this. If anyone on the board believes that we should intervene immediately, notify all the board members via email. Be specific: establish goals; lay out courses of action to achieve those goals; identify specific tasks resident in each course of actions; assess potential gains and risks; estimate financial costs, if any.”
Joe’s states of his leadership vision on this issue. He directs the board: “If anyone on the board believes that we should intervene immediately, notify all the board members via email. Be specific: establish goals; lay out courses of action to achieve those goals; identify specific tasks resident in each course of actions; assess potential gains and risks; estimate financial costs, if any.”
Joe leadership, as can be seen above, is to pass the issue on to the board and not to assume, as the elected President of the BSF, his role as the Foundation’s leader. Joe McKinney is stating to the board that he wants nothing to do with the pond, and if any board member wants to intervene, they must: develop the plan goals – course of action – identify specific tasks – assess gain and risk – and the cost. Then, we’ll come up with a plan and it will be duly considered. “Duly considered.” In other words, do it yourself, I do not want to get involved
The same evening, in an email to the BSF Board, I responded to Joe’s call for inaction:

“A official position from the Foundation I feel is required. I understand your reluctance to become involved in an issue on private property. … Our stated goal is preservation of the battlefield. If Tony is indeed in violation of laws, then as advocates to the battlefield, the Brandy Station Foundation needs to be involved. Sitting on the sidelines on an issue literally in our faces will I fears harm the Foundation. As for a detailed course of action, I don't have one. Do you have a specific goal? Have you, as President, begun to lay out courses of action? This is why we, as a board, need to get together and formulate such a plan. Individually, we will be unsuccessful, but as a group, a single unit, we have a better chance of addressing this problem… I look to you as the President of the Foundation to take the lead on this issue.”
Joe, called to task, responded two hours later:
“Mike raises some good points to think about. However, Mike, you have more information than me if you [have] accurate information that Tony did not get proper permits to enlarge his pond. Second, I don’t know if any determination has been made that he is in violation of any environmental laws. Those are two pretty key questions that must be nailed down before we proceed (in my view).
Regarding goals. A goal might be that Tony destroys his dam and drains the pond. A feasible course of action would be that we progressively go to county planning, then to the BOS, then to court. We have to pay legal costs, risk losing good will in the local community, but might gain the praise of Eric Wittenberg and those who read his blog. If we win in court, we might have to pay to restore the status quo ante. Not a course of action to be taken lightly.
Another goal might be to put out a position statement (refer to the bylaws) that expresses our preference for leaving the land the way it was, but doesn’t take substantive action to correct what one person sees as an “unmitigated disaster.” This is easy, we write the statement and post it cost-free on our website. It will probably will not satisfy our critics, but probably will not make us any enemies.
A third course of action might be that we simply lay out the facts: what the law and regulations state regarding property and ponds; where the property lines lie; what options were available to us; what we did/did not do; and, why.
…it is important that we all think seriously about this. In my view, before we go any further, I think it best that we determine if Tony Troilo violated any land use regulations, environment law, or whatnot.
A final point. It is easy to say that our goal is to protect the battlefield and that we should all rally to that battle cry. However, as board members it is our responsibility to act for the good of the BSF. Should we pick the wrong fight, or pick the right fight but mismanage it, we put our organization at risk. We might all pat ourselves on the back for taking a stand, but if in the process we become insolvent we lose everything we have fought for over the years. It is a serious responsibility.”

Joe, in the above email, has told me:

1. I have more information on the issue than he does. (I had more information because I conducted some research and asked questions)

2. He did not know if a determination had been made regarding a violation. (which told me that he hadn’t bothered to do any research in this matter)

3. Joe, in his ‘goals’ paragraph, sets a course that the Foundation ‘progressively go[es] to county planning, then to the BOS, then to court. We have to pay legal costs, risk losing good will in the local community,’ and, ‘If we win in court, we might have to pay to restore the status quo ante.’ (I would have to put the Foundation ‘at risk’ as well as stick my neck out a little)

4. He continues: ‘put out a position statement that expresses our preference for leaving the land the way it was, but doesn’t take substantive action to correct what one person sees as an “unmitigated disaster.” This is easy, we write the statement and post it cost-free on our website. It probably will not satisfy our critics, but probably will not make us any enemies. (This was the eventual course, doing his best not to make waves with Tony Troilo. Please note that Joe chose, in his words, the easy way)

5. Lay out the facts. As the facts were laid out and became known, Joe continued to press for a position statement. He was essentially, burying the BSF’s head into the sand and pretending there wasn’t an issue

6. Determine if indeed Tony Troilo violated any land use regulations, environmental law, & whatnot. (When it was determined the Tony violated regulations, law and whatnot, Joe McKinney and the BSF continued to ignore the situation)

7. Act responsibly as Board Members to act for the good of the BSF. (By Joe’s inaction, the Board has acted in bad faith. The decision to pick a wrong or right fight –it is interesting that he chose wrong first – is a decision that was required to be made. The President made no decision)

8. Make the wrong decision and become insolvent. (I guess he was afraid that if the Board took on Tony Troilo that Tony would sue the Foundation, we would lose and be no more. Another example of Joe leading)

9. Joe was correct in that it is a ‘serious responsibility.’ A responsibility that he chose not to take.
The same day, in an email to a former BSF board member, who asked Joe what was going on along Flat Run, Joe responded thus:
“Last week Mr. Troilo began work to expand his pond. There are a few dozers at work moving earth at present. The property that the pond is on is adjacent to our property on Wyndham’s approach to Fleetwood. I’ve checked the boundary between Mr. Troilo’s property and ours on the county’s GIS, and am satisfied that he has not encroached on our land.”

Joe, never asked or surveyed (until questioned) what Tony was doing on Fleetwood Hill, even though he states he saw “a few dozers at work moving earth.” Joe was also incorrect. Tony Troilo had indeed encroached on BSF and VDHR property.
To my knowledge, neither a legal consult nor conversation with the Corps of Engineers took place with the BSF during May, 2011.

The following day, in an email to the board, which included the initial draft of the eventual policy letter, Joe stated, “In his email last night, Mike opined that I have not of yet provided sufficient leadership regarding the pond issue. In fairness, he is correct.” I give Joe points for admitting that up to this point, he had reneged on his position as Foundation President. His decided to craft and publish a “Brandy Station Position on Landowner Improvements and Agricultural Activities.”
The draft made the rounds of the Board for a number of days, being crafted, edited and word-smithed. Many of the Board members chose not to respond, saying it was OK with them. In other words, abstain from the issue. I give credit to the members of the Board who actually read the letter and commented, whatever their opinion was. They at least stepped up to the issue and formed an opinion. The end-result, in my opinion, was incorrect, and detrimental to the Foundation. The Foundations position is posted on the BSF website, under the tab “About Us,” then “Position Papers.”
Seeing that the position paper supported the cause of the landowner, to the detriment of the BSF, and not the preservation of the land the BSF is chartered to protect, as well as be and advocate for and steward of, I resigned the Board of Directors of the Brandy Station Foundation. Those Civil War Roundtables and other organizations that have heard me speak of Lake Troilo know well my frustration, disappointment and sadness in this action. I was and have been very disappointed with Joe McKinney’s leadership as President of the Brandy Station Foundation, then as I am now.

If it had not been for the actions of Bud Hall, and others, Flat Run would be dammed, the pond filled and the land forever altered. If it had not been for Bud Hall the BSF would not be crowing about their three additional acres. Did the announcement give credit to Bud or anyone who opposed Tony Troilo's actions? Of course not, and they never will under the current Foundation leadership.

Where does the Brandy Station Foundation go from here? I do not know, time will tell. But let us hope that someone is watching over the land, for the Brandy Station Foundation is not.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New York City Civil War Roundtable Visits Culpeper

This Weekend in Culpeper: November 11-13, 2011

Over the past three days -- I had the honor -- along with Bud Hall, to facilitate a tour of historic sites in Culpeper, Fauquier and Loudoun Counties to members of the New York City Civil War Roundtable. The group was led by Patrick Falci and his wife Joan. Pat is a near dead-ringer for General A. P. Hill, and has portrayed him in the movie Gettysburg and gives talks and lectures, telling Powell's story.

The group visited Cedar Mountain, the fords of the Rapidan, several historic houses and churches in all three counties, the Brandy Station battlefield, the Rappahannock Station battlefield, the battlefields of Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville, and many locations within Mosby's Confederacy and his sites from his post war career.

The group is very knowledgeable about the Civil War in this region, and thoroughly enjoyed having 'boots on the ground,' which enabled them to understand the terrain and context in which these actions were fought. Additionally, the Roundtable made donations to the Civil War Trust and the Mosby Heritage Association.

It is always my pleasure to take individuals and groups to historic locations, and give them my interpretation of events past and present, which has impacted the land and our history. I look forward to the next opportunity.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Another House Lost to History

Yesterday at Culpeper: November 5, 2011

While driving on the eastern edge of Culpeper yesterday afternoon, I saw the home Colonel Charles S. Wainwright wintered in is gone.  The house was in serious disrepair for a number of years.  I had not been by the house in months, so I do when or how it finally came down.

Wainwright, who wrote one of the best journals of the war, had his quarters in a room on the first floor of the house in 1864. 

The photo is from May, 2008.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Today from Rappahannock Bridge: October 16, 1863

A dispatch posted October 14 has made the Richmond Daily Dispatch. The story provides and update on the advances of Lee's army into Fauquier County.  The O&A bridge was burned by the retreating Federals on October 13 (as was the depot in Bealeton). The firing that was heard was probably the early morning fight at Auburn, Va (known as the Battle of Coffee Hill). The dead horses are from the fighting on the 13th and John Minor Botts was being John Minor Botts, again.

From Northern Virginia.
Rappahannock Bridge, Oct.14.

--The bridge at this point was badly burned by the enemy in his retreat, and the ruins are still smoking.
Alfred Waud's drawing of the buring of the Rappahannock Station Bridge on October 13, 1863

Rapid firing was heard during to-day in the direction of Warrenton. There was a cavalry skirmish at Catlett's station on Tuesday. The enemy are still fleeing.

Our cavalry surrounded a body of Yankee dismounted cavalry, acting as sharpshooters, at Jeffersontown, on Tuesday, and, after wounding several of them, took over three hundred prisoners.--More prisoners are coming in.

The country from Culpeper C. H. to this point is completely desolated. Negroes, stock, and everything, have been carried off. Most of the houses left untenanted were pulled to pieces, and Yankee huts built of their material.

The battle-field about Brandy Station is literally covered with dead horses.

John Minor Botts has again been paroled, to appear in Richmond.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Everybody is Crossing a River

Today along the Hazel and Rappahannock Rivers: October 12, 1863

The Bristoe Campaign is now underway. After attempts by Federal cavalry to stop their Confederate counterparts along the Rapidan Fords, Stevensburg and Fleetwood Hill the day before, the Army of the Potomac is in retreat, crossing the Rappahannock River into Fauquier County.

The Army of Northern Virginia is attempting to turn the right flank of the Union forces and are trying to slip around them in Western Fauquier.  But first, before they can get into Fauquier, they must pass over the Hazel.

A sampling of units crossing the rivers, one side trying to get away, the other trying to get around.

4th Michigan: went down to the River and formed line in the Rifle Pits. Stayed about 3 hours and Started and Crossed the River on Bridge went up to the front and formed line on the Hill.

91st Pennsylvania:  Then marched to Rappahannock Station, crossed the river, and moved up to Beverly Ford.

2nd Pennsylvania Reserves: Early in the morning we crossed the river at Beverly’s Ford, and formed in line of battle and lay there until near sundown.

40th Virginia: sloshed’ through several abandoned Yankee camps near Culpeper. The camp that night was near the Hazel River.

50th Virginia: we crossed the Hazel River which was a little pill but we had to swallow. It was so deep that we had to strip off our cloths to wade it and [it was] almost freezing cold as I though

Chew's Battery: By dusk the affair had ended when the Federals withdrew toward the Rappahannock. Leaving that position, the battery retired toward the Hazel River and went into camp late at Rixeyville.

From: the diary of Henry Seage, 4th Michigan http://home.midsouth.rr.com/devinney/diary2.html;
http://freepages.military.rootsweb.com/~pa91/cc3a.html (91st PA); Our Campaigns: The Second Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteers, by Evan M. Woodard; 50th Virginia Infantry, John D. Chapla; Chew’s Ashby, Shoemaker’s Lynchburg and the Newtown Artillery, Robert H. Moore, II.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A disservice at Brandy Station

Today at Brandy Station: October 9, 2011

Thankfully, yesterday's Culpeper Airfest caused minimal damage to the St. James Plateau property. 

I became aware of the potential for parking on the hallowed land some months ago and was in correspondence with a number of individuals representing the parties involved.  I had felt that the Civil War Trust & and Virginia Department of Historical Resources would deny the request to park on this land.

They did not.

From the CWT web site:
Our Mission: The Civil War Trust is America's largest non-profit organization (501-C3) devoted to the preservation of our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields.
From the VDHR website:
Our mission is to foster, encourage, and support the stewardship of

Virginia's significant historic architectural, archaeological, and cultural resources.

I ask the VDHR if they conducted an archaeological study of the ground to be parked on to a similar detailed level as they did on the Brandy Station battlefield in 2008 prior to a cavalry reenactment? The answer is of course no.

How can you preserve a battlefield by allowing vehicles to park on it?
If these organizations, whose charter is to protect our history, protect Brandy Station at this level, what are they doing elsewhere?  I have to hope it is with a greater diligence.  Brandy Station, in my opinion, has been disserviced by the CWT and VDHR.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Culpeper Airfest 2011

Today at Brandy Station: October 8, 2011

More accurately, the St. James Plateau.

The Civil War Trust, stewards of the majority of the preserved and saved Brandy Station Battlefield, allowed Culpeper County to use portions of the St. James Church plateau -- scene of some the most intense and brutal cavalry fighting during the Civil War. This is where the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry and the 6th United States Cavalry charged into the mouths of nearly the entire Stuart Horse Artillery -- to use this portion of the battlefield to park cars. The Brandy Station Foundation did the same on their property, continuing a practice of allowing parking to support community events.

Just in case you cannot read the sign, it says:

No Relic Hunting - No Fires
No Camping - No Trapping
Vehicles Prohibited
Game Hunting By Written Permission Only

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Where's the beef?

Today at Rappahannock Station: September 28, 1863

Portion of a letter from Colonel H.F. Clark, [regular army] ADC and CS (Commissary Department) to Lt. Col G.H. Woods Chief C.S. 3rd Corps:

“Do you wish anymore cattle, if you please state the number and send here for them tomorrow morning. The main head is now near Rappahannock Station but some are coming up for the 2d Corps and yours can come with them...”

Isn't it nice to know that beef on the hoof is available to the army. The Second Corps cattle was in route to the soldiers. For the men of the Third Corps, the prospect of fresh meat was in the hand of Lt. Colonel Woods. All he had to do was ask....

During the Winter Encampment - still a few months away - today's in Elkwood, Virginia, was known as Ingall's Station. At Ingall's Station was the stockyard for the Army of the Potomac.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"...telling me about your doll..."

Today in Culpeper: September 24, 1863

We sometimes forget that the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who fought in the Civil War were family men. Husbands and fathers. They gave up thier lives at home to possibly give up their mortal life on some field outside some village or along a river or creek.

What follows is a portion of a letter from Colonel Patrick R. Guiney, 9th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, to his three-year old daughter, Loolie. I can see Patrick's wife Jennie reading the letter to her, writing not about war and trials and tribulations in camp, but dolls and horses.

The letter can be found in: Commanding Boston's Irish Ninth: the Civil War Letters of Colonel Patrick R. Guiney, 9th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, edited by Christian G. Samito.

Culpepper, Va
Sept. 24, 1863

My Dear Pet:

Your nice little letter telling me all about your doll came here to day. Poor little doll couldn't grow some + I don't wonder she fainted + got all dirty in the effort. I am glad you didn't whip her Loolie, because she couldn't help it. How do like the pictures of your dada's? Tell your mother to get you a charm for your little pencil and hang it around your neck. You must tell me how you like the white horse "Harry." The little rogue is asleep in one but his eyes are wide open in the other picture.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"A more precious set of villains I never saw..."

Today at Brandy Station: September 23, 1863

In 1862 and 1862, the majority of volunteers who enlisted in the Federal armies did so out of patriotism, civic pride and sense of duty. By 1863, those men were gone. But still; cities, counties and states still had an obligation to keep the ranks filled. Not wanting a draft, local and state governments turned to bounty's to entice men to join.

Unfortunately, many joined to collect the bounty and deserted at the first chance, usually before they departed their home station. If not then, while in transit from the north to Washington. If they still had no opportunity, then on the train from Alexandria to the army in Culpeper and Fauquier Counties.

Some actually arrived in camps. They were not wanted nor liked by those who had been through the hard 1863 campaigns of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

In a diary entry, Private John Haley describes his first meeting of a new set of recruits to the 17th Maine. The diary can be found in: The Rebel Yell and Yankee Hurrah: the Civil War Journal of a Maine Volunteer: Private John W. Haley, 17th Maine Regiment.

September 17: When we returned to Camp, we found a bunch of recruits had arrived and made themselves a very familiar with our tents and rations. They eyed us keenly, spoiling for a fight when we found out the extent of their depredations, we were more than willing to oblige. A more precious set of villains I never saw, reckless bounty jumpers and cut throats scoured up between New York and the British provinces. Doubtless they had enlisted several times and jumped a bounty on each occasion. They have found the right Regiment, if they wanted trouble! However, there was no help for it, and we must make the best of a bad matter.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Send me 2 pound of plug tobacco"

Today in Culpeper Court House: September 21, 1863

George Camp recounts in a letter to an unknown recipient back home of his experiences in the past week. Spelling has not been corrected.

A portion of a letter from Private George Camp, Co. E. 10th Vermont Infantry

''Camp at Culpepper Court House, Virginia,...We crost the rappahannock the 14th at freeman’s ford in the morning and marcht all day till about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, then we crost hazel river and marched till 10 o’clock at nite. It was wet and rainy. Then we poor devils had to lay down al wet and tiered out, nothing but hardtack and muddy water for supper. Dident i think of home and the old cuberd about them times! The next day, we marcht to Culpepper Court House and are here now, and i ges we shal stay here some time. The Rebs pickets are on Seeder Mountain. We can see their signal lits every nite. The damned cusses run so we can’t git a chance to fight them...i ges we shall git home this winter. The Rebs will cry ‘Union’ before long. i can’t think of much more this time. The next time you write, send me...2 pounds of plug tobacco, 1 pound of smoking tobacco, 4 pounds of cheese, 4 or 5 pounds of maple sugar, 2 pounds of dried apples...a jackknife...Git a quart pail and send that full of butter, and after the butter is used out, it will do to make coffee in. Tell Aunt Orra i have waited so long for that shirt i think she ought to send me a sweet cake...''

Camp's march from the Rappahannock to Culpeper Court-House is typical of the march pursuing Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in September 1863.

But, I find it interesting when I read letters from soldiers, that they are constantly asking for food to be sent from home. It is interesting to me because, nothing has changed.

Today, we send our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines serving overseas 'care packages' filled with culinary reminders of home. I have done it, sending packages to friends and co-workers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every year, during the holidays or a special event such as the Super Bowl, some pizza company, or restaurant, sends 2000 pizzas to Afghanistan. Having served 20 years in the Air Force, I am very happy that nothing has changed in the way we, as citizens of this great country, provide for our service members.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Visiting past triumphs

Today at Cedar Mountain: September 8, 1863

From the diary of Jed Hotchkiss.

"I started back at an early hour, going by Cedar Run to examine the route to the battle field and the location of Hudson’s Mill, where General Trimble was stopped by a mill pond. Found no obstacle there that he could have not overcome...General Early had a party at the Cedar Run battlefield fixing up the graves of our fallen. The hogs had been rooting there."

Hotchkiss was recreating the advance of the Confederates on that August, 1862 day. He comments that he cannot find the obstacle the Issac Trimble faced (the mill pond). Perhaps Trimble wrote his report on August 14, before he was seriously wounded at Groveton, and I could find no mention of a mill pond, so I am unsure of what Hotchkiss is referring to.

He mentions that Jubal Early had a detail of men fixing the graves of the Confederate fallen from the fight. It is interesting that in the year since the fight, in an area under control by the Southern army, the Confederates did not attempt to disinter the dead and ship them home for burial.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Residue from the 'great Cavalry fight'

Today at Beverly Ford: September 7, 1863

Below is a portion of a letter from Private William Lamson to his sister. Lamson is in the 20th Maine and they are camped on the Fauquier County side of Beverly Ford.

"Dear Sister

...We are camped on part of the ground where the great Cavalry fight was, about the 10th of June. There are a good many unexploded shells laying around and many pieces that the rebs fired over at our men. There is a large white house on this side of the river and a negro house about ½ mile from it. And on the other side of about as far apart are 2 nice large houses. ...With a spy glass we can see that the brick house is ornamented with 2 or 3 shell holes which it received in the fight. They don’t add much to the beauty outside nor in, for one burst in a room smashing things up badly. Some of the boys went over when we first came here and said it was finished and furnished in a very costly style but I guess it don’t look quite as well “as it did.” ...

Once in a while we see 3 or 4 “Gray backs” riding around on the other side of the river taking a look at our camp. Some time ago 4 came almost down to the river, stopped a few minutes, waved their sabers over their heads, then turned and trotted off. ...Give love to all the family and accept a large share for yourself. Good bye."
From your aff
Brother, Will.

Lamson's letters can be found in:
Maine to the Wilderness: The Civil War Letters of Private William Lamson, 20th Maine Infantry. Edited by Roderick M. Engert

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Report of Wesley Norris

Today at Germantown, Headquarters, Army of the Potomac: September 6, 1863

Today's entry is from Series I, Vol. 29, Part II, pp 158-159, of the War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, affectionately known as the OR. It is a message from General George Meade to General-in-Chief, Henry Halleck.

"Wesley Norris, a free negro, came into our lines from Culpeper yesterday about sunset. He states he was formerly the property of Geroge Washington Custis, who died at Arlington, Va., about six years ago. By his will he as made free, after having served five years for General Lee. He has been hired out of late to Alexander Dudley, superintendent of the York River Railroad, who discharged him a few days before he left Richmond.

"He states that he left Richmond on Friday last, with a pass form General Custis Lee, to go through our lines via Culpeper. He took the Central cars via Gordonsville, and arrived in Gordonsville about noon and staid there two hours. Saw no troops on the move or march. Saw some men in camp, to the right of Gordonsville, perhaps 4,000 or 5,000, just out of the town; looked as if they had been in the camp some little time. The Charlottesville cars run into the same depot.

"He states that if any troops had been moving from or toward Charlottesville he would have known it. He talked with several persons at Gordonsville. They said nothing about the movement of troops anywhere. He saw more troops in camp at Orange Court-House. All in camp; none on the march. He had to get off there to get a pass, when the cars left him and he walked to Culpeper. Got to Culpeper on Saturday. Yesterday morning saw troops in several places between Orange Court-House and Culpeper. Went all the way on the railroad, showing his pass only once. Saw no troops at Culpeper, but some wagons and a few ___. Went to the provost-marshal, who examined his passes and made some objections to his coming through. Was put on a horse in the afternoon, blindfolded, and sent through our pickets at Rappahannock Station." GEO G. MEADE, Major-General

First off, wouldn't it have been amazing to converse with Wesley, and hear some of stories of pre-war Arlington House. And then listen to him talk about Robert E. Lee.

But for the Union, most likely first with the Bureau of Military Intelligence, what a windfall of information:

--able to travel from Richmond by rail
--the lines from Richmond to Gordonsville & Charlottesville and Gordonsvilles are running
--no movement of troops
--four to five thousand in Orange
--troops in several places (probably identified) between Orange and Culpeper
--no troops on the march (either to Tennessee (yet) or heading towards the Rappahannock)
--some wagons and a few___. Whatever the few was, it wasn't many
--he was blindfolded from Culpeper forward. At least someone had a sense of operational security

This is just a brief summary of Norris's report. I wonder how many historians and researchers overlook correspondence such as this, because it isn't part of a bigger, better, more important campaign or event. How much more has yet to be discovered.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Gouverneur K. Warren

Today at Germantown: September 5, 1863

Lt. Colonel Theodore Lyman, a recent arrival at the headquarters of George Gordan Meade, spent his first Sunday with the Army of the Potomac. Assigned as Meades aide-de-camp. After attending church with the 93rd New York infantry ("they sung well, but not so well as New Englanders would have done") he sat down to lunch. Several generals paid visits and at least one joined Meade for lunch, Second Corps commander Gouverneur Kimble Warren, formally the Chief Topographical Engineer of the Army of the Potomac.

Lyman had a favorable opinion of him.

"He strikes me as the most original officer that have seen; a small dried up, pointed nose, though still a young man, with a restless black eye, like a weasels's, and a body & mind that seem full of watch-maker's springs. He has a broad New York accent and is by no means particular in grammar. His conversation shows that his mind is extremely ready and sure, on all points."

Warren would lead the Second Corps until the return of Winfield Scott Hancock. He would then replace George Sykes as commander of the Fifth Corps during the Overland and Petersburg campaigns, losing favor and his command in the waning days of the war.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pickets guarding Pickets

Today along the Rappahannock: September 4, 1863

The follow piece is taken from a letter written by Major Henry Abbott, of the 20th Massachusetts to his father. Abbott writes from Mitchell's Station, which is south of the town of Culpeper. However the Army of the Potomac was north of the Rappahannock in Fauquier County on September 4. His previous letters were from Morrisville. The Army of the Potomac would not enter Culpeper County until September 13, 1863. While the location is unclear, the information is not.

The quote is taken from, "Fallen Leaves: The Civil War Letters of Major Henry Livermore Abbott.

"The drafting business is, every where through out the army without an exception, as far as I can learn, acknowledged to be a most lamentable failure. Though all the men obtained are in reality $200 volunteers, the circumstances attending have left them without any of the pride, self-respect & honor which even the worst of the volunteers felt at being elevated by the press and the nation...into an heroic volunteer for the defence of his fatherland."

He continues, "Desertion in the field & worst of all, desertion to the enemy, was almost unknown before this jumble of French, Italians, Germans, & in some cases, Chinese came to us. Now orders are never to put a conscript on outpost without an old man in his company. Very bad to have your army guarding the other half..."

Abbott's comments parrot many of the veterans of the army. Soldiers are writing home to families, their local papers and government officials at all levels of the challenges be faced in the field. Executions are common, usually on Friday afternoons, but these events are having little impact, as desertion continues.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Random Death

Today at Brandy Station: May 2, 1864

The Army of the Potomac was consolidating it's forces in and around Brandy Station and Culpeper. The Fifth Corps, which had been guarding the Orange & Alexandria Railroad between the Rappahannock River and the Bull Run were marching along the railroad into Culpeper. Some regiments were fortunate enough to grab a ride on a train that was heading south. Such was the case of the 91st Pennsylvania.

Camped in the vicinity of Warrenton Junction (today's Calverton), the regiment moved down the line to Brandy Station. All did not complete the journey.

Benjamin Redheffer of company A, was in of one of the cars, and while the train was crossing the Rappahannock, one of his feet, which was dangling over the side of the car, hit part of the truss that crossed the bridge. He was quickly pulled out of the car and killed. Gone in an instant.

It is not like combat, when instant, random death can be explained. But literally one second sitting in a boxcar, and the next...

Over 1100 Union soldiers died in and around the Winter Encampments, Private Redheffer is just one of the more tragic, preventable deaths that occurred.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

No surprise - VDOT Pushes to Widen Route 3 through Stevensburg

Today at Stevensburg: May 1, 2011
In Today's Culpeper Star Exponent

It is no surprise that VDOT has chosen to widen Route 3 along its existing path. This is the 'option' the agency has pushed from the beginning. The other option, known as Plan B, was in reality their initial intention in the 1990's, but were unable to execute that plan due to money allocations and the Federal Highway Transportation Act of 1966, which stipulates that "the Federal Highway Administration and other agencies cannot approve the use of land from publicly owned parks, recreational areas, wildlife areas or public and private historical sites unless there are no feasible and prudent alternatives to its use." In other words - Plan B was never a plan to begin with.

An alternative proposed by grass root Stevensburg residents, historical preservationists and other safety minded individuals was to leave the road two lanes through Stevensburg and the Hansbourgh Ridge area, and most importantly, reduce the speed limit -and enforce that speed. A similar option has been very successful on Route 50 in Middleburg.

The current two lane are not the cause of accidents along this stretch of Route 3; it is excessive speed, inattention and animal strikes. Adding two more lanes will not mitigate these problems.

Portions of the CSE article are below:

Route 3: VDOT recommends Plan A
By Nate Delesline
Citing a negative impact to historically sensitive areas that would be difficult to mitigate, the Virginia Department of Transportation last week recommended the Commonwealth Transportation Board approve a plan that would widen Route 3 along its existing track through Stevensburg.

An alternative, Plan B, would reroute the highway to the north of the village. The bypass option would cost an estimated $35 million; the first option would cost nearly $39 million.

Explanation and background
In a four-page memo, VDOT Culpeper District planning engineer Brent Sprinkel says because the project will utilize federal money, it is subject to the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. The act includes a provision which stipulates that the Federal Highway Administration and other agencies cannot approve the use of land from publicly owned parks, recreational areas, wildlife areas or public and private historical sites unless there are no feasible and prudent alternatives to its use.

VDOT’s recommendation now heads to the CTB, which is set to meet May 18 in Richmond.
On the books since the early 1990s, the five-mile stretch of Route 3 between Stevensburg and Lignum is the only remaining two-lane section of highway between Culpeper and Fredericksburg.

Those in support of the bypass option say a new alignment for the highway makes the most sense. They also say it would allow Stevensburg to retain its rural character and pose less disruption to families, but at the expense of the integrity of historic areas.

Conversely, those opposed to widening the existing highway say doing so would ruin the character of the village and put a stream of steady, high-speed traffic right through their front yards. Some have also expressed concern about Plan A’s design saying that narrowed shoulders, shorter turn lanes and fewer crossovers would actually create a more hazardous situation.
Additionally, Plan A would displace three families while Plan B would displace two families. No businesses or non-profit organizations would be directly affected under either option.
Public favors bypass plan

VDOT’s recommendation contrasts the sentiment of public comments collected over several weeks following the presentation of both plans at a March 23 hearing.

Plan B got the most support with 38 people expressing support for that option. Eighteen people supported Plan A.

At the conclusion of the public comment period on April 14, VDOT had received 72 comment sheets, 27 emails, 13 letters and 53 form letters; 19 from previous respondents and 34 from new respondents. VDOT extended the comment period due to a printing error on some forms that omitted part of VDOT’s mailing address; the agency acknowledged the mistake and encouraged those affected to resubmit their comments.

In addition, 66 people signed in at the March 23 hearing and 19 oral comments were received.
Eleven people supported the highway project with modifications and 10 did not support the project at all while 41 people expressed support for the widening project.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Broke Camp

Today along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad: April 30, 1864

The Fifth Corps is on the move. Most received orders to begin to move down the railroad towards Brandy Station and link up with the rest of the Army of the Potomac.

As they slide to the south, Major General Ambrose Burnside's Ninth Corps takes up positions along the O&A for a brief few days. Arriving by boat from Annapolis, they landed at Alexandria and marched south.

Henry Seage of the 4th Michigan: Order to be mustered at 10 am began washing clothes and just as we got through the Bugle Sounded the General Call - Packed up, started about 4 pm marched to and camped for the night between Griffen NS, and Rappahannock Station. Was retired from duty at Bealeton by a Pa. Reg of Burnside's 9th Corps. Today began our campaign for the ensuing summer. Began on hard tack for the first time since went into Winter quarters.

91st Pennsylvania Infantry: Broke camp. (Received orders during battalion drill.) Marched to Rappahannock, crossed at Rappahannock Station. Marched to Brandy Station. Lt. Col. Joseph H Sinex was in command of the regiment.

2nd Pennsylvania Reserves: We marched at five o’clock, crossed the Rappahannock and encamped about one mile east of Culpeper Court House, where we remained until the 4th of May.

Monday, April 25, 2011

'I received the BOX'

Today at Brandy Station: April 25, 1864

Mail was important to a soldier, a letter from a loved on or a pen pal would brighten a man's day. But, a box -- a package from home -- now that was cause for celebration.

A portion of a letter from Peter Boyer to his father (Peter)

"I sat down [illeg.] drop a few lines to inform you that I Received my BOX on the 16th all safe and I was very glad for it every thing is good and that is a very nice hankerchief that you sent to me the Box was a little Broken But there was nothing taken out I have plenty to eat now a for a while."

Peter went on to tell his father about a cavalry review that was held in Stevensburg and his unit, the 117th Pennsylvania, had their picture taken. All and all a pretty good week for Peter the younger.

The letter, in its entirety, can be found on the Valley of the Shadow website, http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/civwarlett-browsemod?id=F0119

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Gaining every day"

Today at Brandy Station: April 20, 1864

The journal of Major Charles Maddocks, especially in the spring of 1864, is at times, blunt. On March 27, 1864, Maddocks was transferred from the 17th Maine to to the 1st United States Sharpshooters (Berdan's Sharpshooters), to take command of that unit. He found them the men unsoldierly, and undisciplined. The word he used was scallywags. The "Field officers have quarreled among themselves and with the Line continually." He also commented that "Courts martial, arrests, protests and insubordination have been always on the program."
It has been just short of a month, and Maddocks is beginning to warm to his new unit and they to them.

"This afternoon we had a very good skirmish drill. General Birney was riding by and paid us the compliment to stop and look on. He seemed very much pleased. These fellows are very proficient in the skirmish drill, but that is all they are good for. They are poor at marching in step, and it is not wondered at. They have had no music to march by, and, as soldiers, have been very much in the condition of “Topsy” in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” They are not “brought up,” but “growed.” They are however gaining every day, and I shall except to see soldiers in a month where I saw rowdies a month ago. The 17th [Maine] is improving every day and the Band is really splendid. We have a Brigade Dress Parade every afternoon. The Sharpshooters have the right of the Brigade."

Maddocks will not know how is rowdies were in a month, for on May 5th, Major Charles Maddocks would be taken prisoner in the Wilderness and on May 20, 1864 (a month later), he would be somewhere in route to a prison camp in Macon, Georgia.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Easter Sunday

Today at Brandy Station: March 27, 1864 (Easter Sunday) From the letters, diaries and regimental histories that I have access to, there isn't a lot of material from the soldiers about today being Easter Sunday. Joel Molyneux (141st Pennsylvania) is the only soldier to identify the day: "Easter Sunday. Rode to Culpepper with the Capt[ain]. Gen. Hayes at Hd Qrs, and is to command the Second Brigade." Richard Owen (86th New York) was poetic: "Bright and fair with all the blessings of an infinitely good God resting upon me. O for a closer walk with thee. A heart from sin set free. A light to shine upon the road that leads me unto thee. My God my all and is all." Henry Seage (4th Michigan) mentions there was Divine Service at 11:00. But, did not go. George Perkins, (6th New York Independent Battery) went to a service: "Fair and warm. A very interesting Bible lesson this day on Mat[thew] 5th. Discourse in evening and a prayer meeting. Spoke. Cornelia Hancock, a 2nd Corps nurse on Hansbrough Ridge, concluded in a letter to her sister: "Sunday morning- our steward has returned quite drunk and things have not got straightened yet, quite. Liquor I am so down upon. They cannot get it here but he went to Washington as has not recovered himself yet. He has just been in my house, says he is all right for duty now, I hope so. My house is not swept up yet. I suppose you are about getting off to Meeting." For many, like David Wagner (107th Pennsylvania Infantry) it was a normal day in the army: "Company Inspection in the morning. Dress Parade in the evening at 4 O'Clock."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Brother's Death in the 4th Vermont Infantry

Today at Brandy Station: March 26, 1864

Portion of a letter from Lt. Charles Leach, to his wife, about the death of Charles' brother, Private William Leech (Company H, 4th Vermont), on March 24, 1864, from Typhoid Fever. The Leech's hailed from Fletcher, Vermont:

‘Thursday morning the flush had gone from his cheeks, & more death like color was on him, otherwise, he appeared about the same only weaker & the nervousness of the day before had left him. I saw him last about 11 O.C. & about 2, they sent down word that he was dead. I started as soon as possible to make arrangements to send his body home.

I learned that there was an office of embalming at Brandy Station, so I got an ambulance and were there Thursday afternoon, go a coffin to take the body in, & sent it to the station that night...I would very much like to have taken the body home, myself, but I knew there was no use to try, therefore, have done all that I can do, & hope it may reach home without any accident.

There will be some of his clothes in the box & if I had thought about it before I went to the Station, should have sent everything he had that was worth sending, as it would cost nothing, & help hold the coffin steady in the box...Thursday, the day Wm. Died, was a very pleasant day, & reminded me of a first-rate sap day in Vt., after a big snow storm. "

This letter is found in Howard Coffin's book, "The Battered Stars"

Private William Leech is buried Binghamville Cemetery, Fletcher, Vermont.

The Fourth Vermont was part of Colonel Lewis Grant's Vermont Brigade, from the Second Division of John Sedgwick's Sixth Corps.

Over 1100 Federal soliders assigned to the Army of the Potomac died in the camps. Most from disease such as Typhoid. Those who had left instructions, had money, or friends with money, were embalmed and shipped home for burial. Those not as fortunate were interred in the ground throughout the county. After the war, over 300 of these souls were removed from the ground and moved to the Culpeper National Cemetery. Many, many others remain where they were laid to rest 147 years ago.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Department of Historic Resources weighs in on Route 3

Today at Stevensburg: March 25, 2011
In today's Culpeper Star Exponent

DHR disputes VDOT's Route 3 findings

By Nate Delesline
Published: March 25, 2011

View the DHR's comments http://media.gatewayva.com/cse/PDFs/route3.pdf

On Thursday, another front emerged in the battle to widen Route 3 in the Stevensburg area, this time between the Department of Historic Resources and the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The DHR formally rejected an earlier VDOT report that claimed an expansion of the highway would have no adverse effects on the Brandy Station Civil War battlefield, Hansbrough’s Ridge, a Stevensburg-area hill that played a role in the war and a recently discovered, secluded natural spring.

In a letter to VDOT dated Thursday, Julie V. Langan of the DHR details the points of disagreement.

“After examining materials presented to us by VDOT and the consulting parties, listening to the views of all sides during the consulting parties meeting, driving the project corridor and studying the revised maps from the American Battlefield Protection Program, DHR must disagree with VDOT’s assessment of effect.”

The letter goes on to say that Hansbrough’s Ridge is a “dominant presence” on the area’s battlefield landscape and that VDOT should undertake efforts to minimize any adverse impacts.

“Additionally, we request that VDOT engineers explore again any possibilities to minimize the footprint of lane additions at Hansbrough’s Ridge in an effort to preserve as much of the ridgeline as possible.”

Finally, the DHR says a recently discovered historic spring, Wicked Bottom, must also be protected. A highway retention pond would take its place if the current plans were advanced.
Project in brief

At a public hearing on Wednesday, VDOT presented two options to expand a 5.1-mile, two-lane section of Route 3 between Stevensburg and Lignum to four lanes.

The first plan, estimated to cost $38.9 million, would widen the road along the existing track, with narrowed shoulders in some areas to minimize the impact to adjacent properties.

The second plan, estimated at $35 million, would construct a new highway route, bypassing Stevensburg to the north and rejoining the existing highway near Clay Hill Road. The second alignment would also cut out a section of Route 3 that’s had multiple fatal crashes in the past few years.

However, VDOT and law enforcement officials have said previously that driver error, deer strikes and inappropriate driving behaviors, not the inherent design of the two-lane road, are to blame for most of the problems.

VDOT Culpeper District spokesman Lou Hatter said the DHR’s review is part of the National Environmental Policy Act that applies to transportation projects using federal funds. Hatter also said that an adverse impact determination is common when projects impact historic resources.

“Addressing these types of questions typically takes 90 to 120 days after reviewing the public hearing comments and coordinating with DHR,” Hatter said late Thursday.

‘Zero sensitivity’

Brandy Station Foundation president Bud Hall said the DHR report vindicates everyone who championed protection of the nearby historic areas. He was also sharply critical of VDOT’s findings.

“It’s a shoddy piece of scholarship,” Hall said. “Their report showed absolute zero sensitivity. The report concluded that a four lane highway through Hansbrough’s Ridge and Stevensburg would have no adverse effect on the historic resources,” Hall said. “I thought it was ludicrous."

“The construction of a 150-foot wide highway with a 16-foot raised median in the center would effectively destroy historic landscape directly affiliated with the Stevensburg phase of the Battle of Brandy Station. DHR is to be commended and applauded for their correction of the record in this matter.”

In addition to the Brandy Station Foundation, Hall said the Germanna Foundation, Piedmont Environmental Council, the Civil War Trust and other groups went on the record to contest VDOT’s findings.

Asked what an acceptable transportation compromise would be, Hall said officials should mirror what was done in Upperville — a widened road with reduced speed limits and traffic calming elements. “Route 50 is busy if not busier and it’s a very safe model.”

Zann Nelson, a local historian and Star-Exponent columnist, also applauded Thursday’s DHR decision.

“DHR is really on top of things when the citizens come forward and raise questions,” she said. “That’s the way the system is supposed to work. If nobody questions a report, you can’t implement the checks and balances. As painful as it is, it is a system that is working properly.”

DHR went on to say the "ridge line was the most dominate and significant feature of the Stevensburg phase of the Brandy Station battle. It is also the feature with the greatest remaining historic integrity within the [Route 3] projects Area of Potential Effects."

The "GREATEST REMAINING HISTORIC INTEGRITY." In other words, Hansbrough is just about as close as it could be to the events it witnessed during the Civil War.

It should be and needs to be preserved - as is.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Battle of Route 3

Today at Stevensburg: March 22, 2011

As written in today's Culpeper Star Exponent, by Rhonda Simmons.

The battle of Route 3
By Rhonda Simmons
As the Virginia Department of Transportation prepares to move forward with widening the final section of Route 3 in southeastern Culpeper County, opposition from historic preservationists and nearby landowners is gaining momentum.

Members of the Brandy Station Foundation, Civil War Trust, Germanna Foundation and Stevensburg homeowners plan to attend Wednesday’s public hearing to share their concerns about the area’s historic significance and the possibility of homes being destroyed in the process.
The public hearing will take place Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Germanna Community College’s Daniel Technology Center, 18121 Technology Drive, Culpeper.

VDOT staff will explain the process from design through construction. Plans and environmental documents will also be on hand for the public.

The project would widen 5.1 miles of Route 3, transforming the two-lane road to a four-lane divided road from Stevensburg to Lignum.

VDOT has two options: The first would construct a $38.9 million four-lane divided highway along the existing road, roughly following the current road and passing to the south of the village of Stevensburg. According to VDOT, contractors would narrow the road’s median and shoulder improvements to minimize the impact to residential property.

According to VDOT officials, the second option would start on Route 3 just east of U.S. 29, but bypass the village of Stevensburg to the north and return to the existing road just east of Route 739 (Clay Hill Road), continuing to Lignum. This option is estimated at about $35 million.
Lou Hatter, public affairs manager for VDOT’s Culpeper District, pointed to safety hazards and increasing traffic volume as reasons for widening the road.

“(It’s a) section of the roadway that has (had) issues with safety including the head-on collision crash,” Hatter explained. “Widening the road and dividing the median between traffic traveling in opposite directions would certainly be a safety improvement on that piece of road. It’s also a highway that’s handling an increasing amount of traffic.”

After a number of fatal car crashes on this curvy stretch of road in the past few years, including the deadly quadruple wreck in March 2009, VDOT officials began a safety study, which resulted in a few road improvements and new signage.

Another battle begins?
Clark “Bud” Hall, president of the Brandy Station Foundation, said the proposed Route 3 widening project would “seriously and adversely” impact the sensitive historic resources in the village of Stevensburg.

“It will eviscerate a large portion of the Stevensburg phase of the Battle of Brandy Station,” Hall said. “It will remove further a section of Hansbrough’s Ridge, a unique geographical phenomenon to Culpeper County because this 1½-mile-long ridge fronts the Rapidan River. This ridge was a defensive bulwark used in the Civil War by both sides.”

In 1991, the National Register of Historic Places added the Hansbrough Ridge Winter Encampment District to its list.

“It’s an extraordinarily valuable piece of Culpeper’s remarkable Civil War history,” Hall added.
“The Brandy Station Foundation believes that VDOT should show extraordinary sensitivity to Culpeper’s historic resources.”

Clark also offered his suggestions as an alternative to the situation.

He recommends four-laning from Lignum to east of the village of Stevensburg and preserving the current two-lane area near the historic ridge. He also favors adding safety measures such as
reducing the speed limits and putting in “traffic calming mechanisms” through the historic area.
Culpeper historian Zann Nelson (see accompanying column) concurs with Hall, noting the area’s vast historic value in addition to the immeasurable Civil War impact.

“We have been concerned over this and talking with VDOT for more than a year,” said Nelson, who began her research and involvement with the project in February 2010. “This is about the historic integrity of the entire Stevensburg area. Whether it’s the village, houses on the National Register, the Battle of Brandy Station or the 1864 Winter Encampment, it must be considered as a whole unit because each aspect is integrally related to the others.”

Marc Wheat, Germanna Foundation president, plans to speak at Wednesday’s meeting, sharing the historic significance of Salubria, a mid-18th century home built for Lady Butler Brayne Spotswood located just off the two-mile stretched of Route 3 west of Stevensburg.

“The Germanna Foundation is investing tens of thousands of dollars into preserving Salubria and restoring its terraced gardens to make it the premier tourist destination in Culpeper County,” Wheat said. “We want VDOT to complement those efforts, not detract from them.”

Longtime Stevensburg resident Jane Hitt plans to attend the public hearing, too.

“I’m against (the new road) coming through here,” said Hitt, who has lived in her home in the 19000 block of Germanna Highway (Route 3) for 45 years. “I don’t want it to come any closer than it is. It’s too close already.”

What’s next?
VDOT officials expect the Route 3 widening project to advance to the design phase this year, receiving approval for right-of-way acquisition in November.

Advertisements for bids are set for late 2013, and construction will likely begin in the spring of 2014.

VDOT will also receive written or oral statements until its April 4 deadline.

Want to go?
VDOT public hearing on the widening of Route 3
Where: Germanna Community College’s Daniel Technology Center, Culpeper
When: Wednesday, 5 to 7 p.m.
More: For a look at the road-widening plans, visit VDOT’s Culpeper District office, 1601 Orange Road in Culpeper, or call 829-7500.

It is estimated by VDOT, that at least 150 feet of Hansbrough's ridge will be destroyed to make room for the additional lanes, drainage, right-of-way and landscaping. This is the section of the ridge where Kirtley's Rolling road (the original Route 3), a wartime road from Norman's Mill and a road the ran along the ridge intersected. All would be lost. this is also the location where Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Hampton of the 2nd South Carolina (Wade's younger brother) was mortally wounded attempting to hold back the Federal onslaught with 36 troopers.

I will be at the GCC Daniel Technology Center on Wednesday night

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Payday and rats

Today at Brandy Station: March 20, 1864

A portion of a letter from Cornelia Hancock, a nurse serving the soldiers of the Second Corps, Third Division, on Hansbough Ridge, to her sister. Originally from New Jersey, she began supporting the sick and injured after Gettysburg.

..."We have with us tonight Maj. Hutchins, paymaster for our Division. He has paid all our sick and wounded this evening. We have an extra guard on. There was a very interesting spectacle seeing the men come in to be paid hobbling along on crutches and canes; most of them received $50. Some fine looking young men-it seemed such a pittance to me, considering their wounds. They all seemed pleased, are going to bed praising Dr. F. A. Dudley for securing the paymaster to come to the hospt. He is wide awake and attend to their interest in many ways they never had before."

further in the letter

"The rats have gnawed my two hoods so they cannot be worn. I am wearing now a piece of red flannel doubled, plaited behind with black strings. It looks very fantastic and tolerably comfortable. I do not want another as I shall soon need a hat."

Hancock wrote a number of letters home of her experiences during the winter encampment. A book of her letters: Letters of a Civil War Nurse: Cornelia Hancock, 1863-1865; edited by Henrietta Statton Jaquett.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day

Today at Brandy Station 2010 & 1864

Today is International Women's Day. From Wikipedia: "International Women's Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day is marked on March 8 every year. Nowadays this is a major day of global celebration of women. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women's economic, political and social achievements. Started as a Socialist political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries, primarily Eastern Europe, Russia, and the former Soviet bloc. In many regions, the day lost its political flavour, and became simply an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother's Day and St Valentine's Day. In other regions, however, the original political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner."

Now let's go back 147 years. In his diary entry for March 8, 1864, Henry Seage of the 4th Michigan Infantry Regiment attended a Lyceum, which he was a member. A Lyceum is a hall for public lectures or discussions.

Henry wrote: "Rained all day. Made a good Table of Box got at Sutlers. Lyceum at Night. Question Resolved that Women Should have the right of Election Franchise in the U.S. the Same as Men Decided in favor of Neg. Drew Clothing 1 Socks & Shirt. More recruits came.

How ironic that the Lyceum discussed voting rights for women on what would become International Women's Day. Let us hope Henry voted in the Positive.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Beautiful Downtown James City

Today at James City: February 28, 1864

Kilpatrick has left Stevensburg today on his ill-fated raid on Richmond. As part of the deception and attempt to confuse the Confederates south of the Rapidan, Brig. Gen. George Custer took portions of his command on a raid into Albermarle County. Along with these movements, infantry from the Army of the Potomac also made demonstrations across the Rapidan.

John Haley of the 17th Maine took part in this event. From his diary, he gives us a description and his opinion of James City.

"...we turned off toward Cedar Mountain and shortly came to James City. This busy metropolis consists of the following valuable real estate: two dwellings, one with barn attached, one old carpenter shop, and an old mill – all expecting to tumble to pieces soon. Why such a pigmy hamlet should be called a city is a mystery. The main avenue is a lane terminating in a pasture into which we marched. Another lane intersects this one and passes over hillock dignified by the high-sounding title of Thoroughfare Mountain.
We halted in the shadows of this hill and formed a line to of battle to support the 6th Corps, which has advanced to Madison Court House and Charlottesville. They crossed the Ravenna River near one of these places ...
We who were left here passed the day “seeing the town,” getting acquainted with the names of the streets and public buildings. At night a storm of sleet and rain set in, but we are provided for such an emergency and have tents up, well stockaded with boards from James City."

Haley's diary can be found in the book "The Rebel Yell and Yankee Hurrah: the Civil War Journal of a Maine Volunteer: Private John W. Haley, 17th Maine Regiment," Edited by Ruth L. Silliker

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Old Slave

I apoligize for the significant gap in blog entries.

Today at Brandy Station: February 23, 1864

From a letter sent by Pvt. Joel Molyneux, 141st Pennsylvania Volunteers, to his sister, which can be found in "Quill of the Wild Goose," edited by Kermit Molyneux Bird.

"Our Hq. Qrs is at the plantation of a man by the name of Ririe. He has three slaves.... One old chap is 101 years old, and I have been having a talk with him of old times. He can remember of times before the Revolution. He lived then near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay; says he remembers the big snow storm and that it was so deep that it covered up all the houses; that it began to snow of a Friday and it snowed for a week; that they burned up everything in the houses for wood and then dug up on top and went on the crust and carried the wood. The sheep and cattle died because they could not find them.
He heard the cannons when Lafayette came to this country to fight. I suppose it was at Yorktown, but he did not get to see Lafayette. He said that he was “right smart old” at the time of the War of 1812, and remembered a considerable of what happened then. ...
He says he has had three wives that had been sold and could not tell how many children. He has all his faculties good yet. Is quite smart. Stands up straight. Says he can walk 20 miles in a day, easy. He has never been whipped – would fight first, run away, etc., then come back when he got ready..."

How much Ririe's slave states is true or not, we will never know. But it does sound like Joel had some interesting conversations.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

49 Acres Saved in the Wilderness

Today in Orange County: January 5, 2011.

OK, it happened yesterday. From the CWPT website.

Civil War Preservation Trust Completes $1 Million Campaign to Save Battlefield Land at the Wilderness

National fundraising campaign results in protection of 49-acres of hallowed ground at historic Saunders Field on Wilderness Battlefield
(Orange County, Va.) – The Civil War Preservation Trust is pleased to announce that it has successfully completed a $1 million fundraising effort to permanently protect 49 acres at the very heart of the Wilderness Battlefield. First announced in October 2010, the effort will set aside a portion of historic Saunders Field immediately north of State Route 20 for eventual incorporation into Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
“Saving critically important landscapes like this is precisely why this organization exists,” said CWPT president James Lighthizer. “Generations of Americans will now have the opportunity to walk this hallowed landscape and gain a fuller understanding of the horrors of war experienced by the soldiers fighting in the Wilderness.”
Acquisition of the Middlebrook Tract has long been a priority for the preservation community, both for the intensity of the fighting that occurred there on May 5 and 6, 1864, and for its unique location, entirely surrounded by land owned and protected by the National Park Service. Since the land sits within national park boundaries, the project was ineligible for federal matching grant funds, leaving preservationists to raise the entire purchase price from private sources.
“I would personally like to thank everyone who stepped forward this holiday season to give a gift to the nation by donating in any amount, large or small,” said Lighthizer. “Several contributors indicated to me they considered this property so historically significant that they made multiple donations to the effort.” Lighthizer also noted that the campaign was also our most successful online fundraising effort to date.
The terms of the acquisition contract placed the purchase price at $1,085,000, if closing occurred before the end of 2010. While the transaction will be finalized in 2011, a year end fundraising surge means that CWPT has collected enough in donations and firm pledges to cover the base price and an extension fee.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The First Sabbath of 1864

Today at Brandy Station: January 3, 1864

A fairly quiet day for the army.

A soldier in the 141st Pennsylvania Infantry caught the 3 o'clock train heading towards Brandy Station to visit friends. He began his journey at Warrenton Junction, a distance of 18 miles.

There was no service nor inspections in the 4th Michigan Infantry. But they did have an evening parade, their first since before Christmas.

Those soldiers whom decided to re-enlist in the 91st Pennsylvania Infantry were having a pretty good day. These men were preparing to take the cars in a northbound direction, heading home tomorrow to the Philadelphia area, on reenlistment furlough. They will return as Veteran Volunteers.

Lucius Bidwell, in the 14th Connecticut Infantry, wrote to his brother, lamenting that the recent snow had all cleared off the ground (more coming tonight), so no sledding, as there likely was home. Lucius also told his brother of a letter he has received from his 'sweet Philadelphian.'

William Owens, in the 86th New York Infantry, probably had the best day. Owens was called out of church to receive his pay.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

"...without any important events."

Today at Brandy Station: January 1, 1864

Elisha Rhodes, of the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, captures the essence of this first day of the new year:

"The new year opens without any important events. The troops are in comfortable quarters, built of logs and covered with canvas. Drill takes place daily and an occasional review breaks up the monotony of our camp life. "

It is a Friday in the army. So, those not drilling are in their quarters and huts. The ground is muddy and the air wet and windy.

There is however, some men celebrating the coming new year, a soldier in the 20th Indiana writes of his sister regiment, the 99th Pennsylvania, "The 99th Penn. are nearly all drunk, and make noise enough for both regiments."