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Battlefields trust celebrates 15 years
Local land trust begins 15th year with sold-out annual conference, look back at many accomplishments

 Central Virginia Battlefields Trust members tour Braehead, an antebellum home on the Fredericksburg battlefield.
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Date published: 5/3/2011


Good things add up over time. That truism rang loud and clear as people from across the nation visited Fredericksburg this past weekend to glimpse the fruits of 15 years of local efforts to save the area's battlefields.

Capping 2 days of tours hosted by the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, visitors went behind the scenes Sunday to learn about some of that group's signal preservation victories.

Eighty-plus participants in the nonprofit group's annual meeting began the day with a champagne breakfast at Braehead, a newly restored 1859 house on the Fredericksburg battlefield.

Dr. Diana Almy, the homeowner, showed the finely crafted three-story Greek Revival home to the CVBT members who came from 13 states, including Texas, Minnesota and Florida.

The house was built by John Howison, brother of Civil War diarist Jane Beale of Fredericksburg, for his large family.

Tradition holds that Gen. Robert E. Lee had breakfast at Braehead on the morning of the Battle of Fredericksburg, tying his horse, Traveller, to a walnut tree that still stands in its front yard. His headquarters was a few hundreds yards away, on what's known today as Lee's Hill--part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Such historical associations and CVBT's concern about possible development of the 18-acre property prompted the group to purchase the tract in 2006. It placed a preservation easement on the property to prevent its subdivision and, accepting a $150,000 loss, later sold it to the Almy family.

Braehead is the only residence purchased by the land trust since its founding, CVBT leader Jim Pates explained.

"It's a beautiful property," Pates said, standing beneath the walnut "witness" tree. "But we didn't want to end up owning a house, so we obtained an easement to protect it."

From Braehead, members boarded a bus for three other sites preserved by CVBT: Slaughter Pen Farm and Pelham's Corner in Spotsylvania and Willis Hill, which adjoins Fredericksburg National Cemetery.

On Saturday, they'd toured the Mine Run battlefield and Lee's winter headquarters in Orange County. Friday was spent in Richmond at the Virginia Historical Society and the Museum of the Confederacy. All three tours were sold out, setting an attendance record for the trust's yearly gathering.

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