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Brandy Station Foundation Launches $3M Fundraiser For Fleetwood Hill

Deborah Fitts

- (August 2007) CULPEPER, Va. - Officials of the nonprofit Brandy Station Foundation (BSF) have got the preservation of Fleetwood Hill in their sights, and in June they launched a $3 million fundraising campaign to save this crucial portion of the Brandy Station battlefield.

"We all stand on the threshold of a critical mission that must be accomplished," said BSF vice president Ed Gentry at a June 14 press conference. The event drew three dozen people to kick off "Partners in Preservation," an effort to enlist the local business community as well as support both public and private at the local, state and national levels.

Gentry noted that nearly 70 acres of the famous ridge, where the day-long battle reached its bloody conclusion, is for sale. Among the parcels are 3 acres with a contemporary house close to the crest of the hill near where Confederate commander Jeb Stuart had his headquarters. The owner has built a new home at the top of the hill and is offering to sell the original house so long as it is moved from the site.

Gentry said if BSF could purchase the 3 acres on the hillcrest and remove the house, there is a chance to buy easements from the same owner that would enable the foundation to install a walking trail connecting the crest of Fleetwood to 33 acres that BSF already owns below, on the western slope of the ridge.

Meanwhile, the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) has attempted to come to terms with other owners, who have land for sale on the eastern slope of Fleetwood. So far negotiations have been unsuccessful, Gentry said, but he indicated confidence that a deal will eventually be struck.

Altogether, he said, nearly 70 acres on Fleetwood is available, and he predicted that $2.5 million of the foundation's $3 million initiative will fund those purchases.

The additional $500,000 would go to restoration of the Graffiti House. The 1858 structure, located along the train tracks in the village of Brandy Station, serves as BSF's headquarters. Its walls are covered with soldier graffiti that the foundation is eager to preserve.

BSF board member Della Edrington, who oversees the house, warned that the horsehair plaster has begun to pull away from the wooden lathe behind it, while temperature fluctuations and vibrations from passing trains are causing the plaster to crumble.

BSF recently won a $15,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to carry out an architectural evaluation and propose restoration measures.

BSF was founded in 1989 to preserve the battlefield, then under severe threat of development. Today it has about 500 members.

President Bob Luddy noted that the nonprofit's mission has broadened and now includes a strong education component, with a Sunday seminar series, lectures, tours and other events.

Luddy said BSF was also "on the verge of launching" tours on the Rappahannock River to view Civil War-era fords.

With its tourism potential, Luddy said, "The Brandy Station Foundation is good business for Culpeper County." Information on the "Partners in Preservation" initiative is available from Ed Gentry at (540) 825-1110, or at

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