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Conservation efforts add luster to Culpeper County's scenic landscape

 Union cavalry assaults the St. James Church area between Rooney Lee's knoll and the Gyory tract--now preserved.
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Date published: 7/26/2010


Property owners and preservationists are stringing together two new gems on the necklace that is Culpeper County's Brandy Station battlefield.

Soon, the only thing that will be left to do is pay for the jeweler's setting.

The two conservation easements on the sprawling battleground--site of the world's largest cavalry engagement--add 782 acres to the 1,000 acres preserved there since 1987.

"It's quite extraordinary. This helps us in a very dramatic way to better interpret the battlefield," historian Clark B. Hall said of the landowners' donations of development rights for the two tracts.

The deals, arranged by the Civil War Preservation Trust and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, save two quite different Civil War landscapes--each with interesting stories to tell, Hall said in an interview yesterday.

Together, they form the biggest preservation victory at Brandy Station in years.

The 349-acre northern tract, which includes nearly a mile of Hazel River frontage, is where Union Brig. Gen. John Buford's cavalry fought Confederate troopers led by W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee, Robert E. Lee's middle son. Its easement was donated by Beauregard Farms LP.

The southern tract, comprising 433 acres southwest of Culpeper Regional Airport, includes land where Union Col. Thomas Devin's Federal cavalry repeatedly clashed with Confederates led by Gen. Wade Hampton. Its easement was donated by brothers Chuck and Pete Gyory.

Hall and Kathleen Kilpatrick, director of the Department of Historic Resources, praised the landowners for their gifts to the state.

"This new opportunity would add enormously to the great conservation and battlefield-preservation successes the commonwealth has recently experienced," Kilpatrick said. "These are just phenomenal properties. To have this much land in one area placed voluntarily under easement is really heartening."

Not counting the newest Brandy Station deal, Kilpatrick said, owners have recently donated more than 1,500 acres in Culpeper County and around the Rappahannock Station battlefield in western Fauquier.

When a landowner donates an easement, he retains his property but forfeits development rights in return for tax credits. Future owners are bound by the rules.

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LOCATION: Brandy Station in Culpeper County

DATE: June 9, 1863

CAMPAIGN: Gettysburg Campaign (June-August 1863)

PRINCIPAL COMMANDERS: Union Maj. Gen. Pleasonton; Confederate Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart



DESCRIPTION: At dawn June 9, the Union cavalry corps under Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton launched a surprise attack on Stuart's cavalry at Brandy Station. After an all-day fight in which fortunes changed repeatedly, the Federals retired without discovering Lee's infantry camped near Culpeper. This battle marked the apogee of the Confederate cavalry in the East. From this point in the war, the Federal cavalry gained strength and confidence. Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle of the war and the opening engagement of the Gettysburg Campaign.

--federal Civil War Sites Advisory Commission