Brandy Station Update: Hole in Ground, Controversy Remain

The July issue of Civil War news includes a cover story on Brandy Station and the Brandy Station Foundation.  The article sums up the issues that came up during the foundation’s board selection process in March, and events that transpired since then.  Most significant of those events was of course the massive landscaping project taken on by a landowner on designated battlefield ground, near Fleetwood Hill.  That development stopped when the Army Corps of Engineers issued a halt order.  But another issue mentioned in the article is the Virginia Highway 3 widening project.

I visited the site again today and snapped a few photos.   The bulldozers have stopped, but remain in position – presumably waiting the results of studies to determine the best way to repair the damage (if it can be).

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The intended “pond” has now become a “marsh,” as the water cannot properly drain.

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And huge mounds of earth remain exposed.  Who knows how many artifacts – or perhaps even human remains – were disturbed in this process.

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But at least the damage was halted with the timely intervention of concerned preservationists.

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But that is the physical damage.  Beyond the battlefield another “hole” remains.  Or perhaps a better way to say it, a vacuum.  The Brandy Station Foundation remains silent on the events at Fleetwood Hill and the potential problems with the Highway 3 widening.  And somewhat contradictory to the preservation mission, the foundation issued a policy statement which practically absolves the organization from taking action to preserve ground.

The silence broke briefly this week with some statements made by the foundation’s president in the Civil War News article.  Concerning the excavations, Joe McKinney said, “Are we supposed to jump in and say, ‘Me too’?  Is that going to accomplish anything substantive?

I’ll answer that question…. Yes a an organization dedicated to the preservation of that battlefield is supposed to jump in.  And the organization should not be saying “Me too” but rather “Follow me!

And yes it will accomplish something, even coming into the action late – lending support and legitimacy to those on the right side of the discussion.

My friend, and also a former Brandy Station Foundation board member, G. Michael Green, writing in an Op-Ed piece also running in the Civil War News, responded directly to the inaction by the foundation – “The BSF’s appeasement – if not outright support – of the landowner’s misplaced ‘property rights’ and his efforts to destroy a key part of Fleetwood Hill should reverberate through the historic preservation community.  And, we should not tolerate it.”

In the article, McKinney continued, “The controversy over the pond is already over.”

I disagree.  The controversy remains.  And until the scars on the ground are repaired and the preservation organization retracts its policy in support of land developments, there are two holes that need to be filled.