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13 Jun 2019

156th Anniversary: Brandy Station

156th Anniversary: Brandy Station

One hundred fifty-six years ago, on June 9, 1863, Brandy Station became the site of the first engagement of the storied Gettysburg Campaign – and the location of the largest cavalry battle ever fought in any war waged on this continent. More than 20,000 Americans in blue and in gray clashed in Culpeper County, Va., that day, including atop Fleetwood Hill, the battle's epicenter, which has since been preserved, restored and interpreted by the American Battlefield Trust.

On Friday, June 7, the American Battlefield Trust and the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park Alliance partnered with the Liberty Rifles to place 500 luminaries along the full length of the Fleetwood Hill interpretive trail, with the event and many moving images from it featured in the Culpeper Star-Exponent on Sunday to coincide with the exact date of the battle anniversary.

Additional images from Friday's event, courtesy of award-winning photographer Buddy Secor, can be viewed here. We are grateful to the Fredericksburg National Cemetery Luminaria Committee for its generous contribution of sand for use with the luminaries to help make this event possible.

Each luminary represented 10 of the estimated 5,000 combined casualties suffered at the Culpeper-based battles of Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain. The August 1862 Battle of Cedar Mountain marked the first major, and bloodiest, Civil War battle in the county.

These hundreds of luminaries were lit to honor the thousands of citizen soldiers who fought and fell at Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain alike. Additionally, we hope that this illumination of Culpeper's battlefields and battlefield resources – like the Trust's publicly accessible interpretive trails, at Fleetwood Hill and beyond, stretching a total of more than three miles – inspires Virginians and Americans of all ages and backgrounds to visit these hallowed grounds at a time when they, too, can pause to remember and reflect upon what happened there so many years ago.

Even among Virginia's many significant Civil War sites, Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain stand out. More than 1,000 acres of land have been purchased and permanently protected by the preservation community across the pair of battlefields to date. Since 2015, the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park Alliance has been – and continues to be – committed to transforming this land into Virginia's next state park. Together with its front-page coverage of Friday's event, the Culpeper Star-Exponent also published a corresponding editorial titled "Preserving Culpeper's heritage must be our priority," endorsing the Alliance's efforts in the strongest possible terms.

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