Lukewarm Patriots: Examining the Pension Files of Late-War Recruits in One Union Regiment

Emerging Civil War welcomes guest author Nathan Marzoli

On a cold December morning in 1863, John Prescott of the 12th New Hampshire was awakened by “a strange noise” outside of his tent on the sandy shores of Point Lookout, Maryland. Pulling on his clothes, the veteran of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg threw open his tent flap and found a group of eighty-three new recruits standing in formation for roll call to be turned into his depleted regiment. Before the day was over, Prescott had surmised that these men hailed from many different countries – in addition to some Americans, he claimed there were men from France, Germany, Sweden, Scotland, Portugal, Ireland, Russia, Denmark, England, and Canada – and confessed in his diary that he was worried whether these men would make good soldiers.[1]

Prescott was certainly not alone in his negative assessment of the recruits who began pouring into veteran Union regiments starting in late 1863. “They are the off-scourings [sic] of society,” another soldier in the 12th New Hampshire complained to the Laconia Democrat, “men who came here, not for the good of their country, but for the bounty they received, intending to desert at the first opportunity.”[2] These men had been brought in under the auspices of the 1863 Enrollment Act, which established the first mass conscription in the United States. The reality of the law, however, was that it was never designed to force men into service, but rather to stimulate volunteering. A draft would only be held in states that did not meet their enlistment quotas, so states enticed men with the promise of high bounties to avoid the stigma that accompanied conscription. Even when a draft was held, conscripts could claim exemption through medical reasons, “commute” their service by paying $300, or hire another man – a substitute – to serve in their place. The result was that very few drafted men were actually held to service. This convoluted enlistment process, coupled with waning enthusiasm for the war and the depletion of willing manpower, unfortunately did attract many men who had no real vested interest in the fight and often deserted at the first opportunity.

Although this reputation – soldiers of questionable character who merely enlisted for money – has followed these recruits throughout history, the majority did not desert and fought alongside the veteran soldiers in the final campaigns of the war.[3] We have primarily been told the Union soldiers’ story through the eyes of the original volunteers of 1861 and 1862. But don’t the stories of the late-war recruits, substitutes, and draftees deserve to be included in the overall narrative? The problem for studying their experiences has generally been the lack of source material; the early-war volunteers left us with more letters and diaries, and also wrote most of the memoirs and regimental histories. But a look into the pension files of the recruits of just one infantry regiment from the Army of the James – the 12th New Hampshire – yields some clues about the experiences of these latecomers to the Union army.

Some pension files provide insight into how these men ended up in the service. Maine sailor Edward Bramhall fell in with a group of six or seven others at a boarding house in Boston who were on their way to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to enlist and collect the bounty. Bramhall, who enlisted under a false name because he claimed he wanted to avoid alerting the captain of his ship, could not even remember if he joined as a substitute or not. “I only know I put my name down as examined and put on…blue clothing,” Bramhall told the man investigating his pension claim, “then I was handed $200 and sent to Concord, N.H.” where he enlisted in Company H of the 12th.[4]

Daniel Cummings

Other veterans told more nefarious stories that highlights the questionable enlistment practices that became common during the latter stages of the war. Daniel Cummings, a sailor from Ireland, told pension agents he found shipping in New York City “dull” in late 1863. When someone at his boarding house told him that “big bounties were being paid” to men who enlisted up in New Hampshire, Cummings jumped at the opportunity. He claimed, however, that this same man from the boarding house took advantage of him. The man told Cummings to take the alias William Wilson, got him “pretty well ‘soused’” on the way to Concord, and supposedly kept for himself all but $200 of the $700 bounty.[5]


Max Kerns

Max Kern, a recent German immigrant, also claimed that he was partially tricked into enlisting in the Union army. A stranger in a foreign country, Kern befriended two men who spoke his language; a week after they met, the two men tried to convince Kern to enlist with them in the army so they could each get a $200 bounty. Besides, they told Kern, “the war will be over in 3 or 4 months and maybe we may not go to the front at all.” The German was initially hesitant. “I told them that my friends and relations do not want me to go into the Army and if I enlisted it would be in the newspapers.” No problem, the men said, “we[’ll] call you by the name of ‘John Miller’”. At the recruiting office, the two men did all the talking – in English – so Kern hardly understood a word. “I enlisted in the name of John Miller,” he recalled,” but my acquaintances did not [enlist]…and I have not seen or heard from them since.”[6]

James Collins pension photo

These pension files even hint that their reputation as inferior soldiers continued into the postwar period. James Collins had the index and middle fingers of his right hand shot off while on picket duty in Virginia in 1864. Seemingly cognizant of the reputation of recruits, Collins went into painstaking detail (even providing photographic evidence) in his pension claim to prove that he was actually shot by the enemy – and not by his own rifle.[7] Numerous other pension claimants also struggled to secure post-war affidavits of their service from officers or other former members of the 12th because they seemingly never integrated into the unit. Frank Seymour, for example, a French-Canadian who served in Company C, had trouble finding someone who could vouch for his wounding at Cold Harbor. “My Regiment and Company was about all from New Hampshire and [Quebec] was my home before the war and has been since,” Seymour explained. “I don’t know of any of the company that I could find that know anything about the matter.”[8]

So what might these few brief stories tell us? The story of the Union soldier – carved out by the likes of Wiley, McPherson, Mitchell, and Robertson – may not yet be complete. In the final year of the war, the remaining volunteers of 1861 in the East were joined by thousands of Union recruits, substitutes, and draftees in their final fight against the Army of Northern Virginia. The stories of these men, no matter their motivations or the circumstances surrounding their enlistment, deserve to be told. The pension files of even just one Union regiment seem to indicate that this might be possible.

Of course, pension files have their limitations. Everything in a claim was written with the motive of getting a veteran his pension, so stories might have been deliberately altered or stretched to achieve that goal. Additionally, most of the depositions for claims were written several decades after the war, so some men may just have simply forgotten exactly what happened during their service in the Union army. There is also the major issue of research access. One can only pull a maximum of twenty-four pension files on any given day at the National Archives, so it would take literal years to conduct even a survey of the hundreds of thousands of pension files of men that joined the Union army under the auspices of the Enrollment Act in the final two years of the war. Nevertheless, this look at just one regiment shows us that there might be more ink to spill about the experiences of the Civil War soldier.

Nathan Marzoli is a historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C., where he specializes in unit history and leads staff rides to Civil War battlefields. He has a BA and MA in History from the University of New Hampshire. His publications include “‘Their Loss Was Necessarily Severe:’ The 12th New Hampshire at Chancellorsville,” and “‘We Are Seeing Something of Real War Now:’ The 3d, 4th, and 7th New Hampshire at Morris Island, July-September 1863” (winner of the 2017 Army Historical Foundation’s Distinguished Writing Award). He is currently working on a study of substitutes in the Union army.


[1] John Prescott diary, December 18, 1863, New Hampshire Historical Society (NHHS).

[2] James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 600; “Letter from the 12th Regiment,” The Laconia Democrat, December 18, 1863.


[3] The Army of the Potomac and James, more so than the Western Armies, were filled with the majority of the recruits. The reason was primarily because more of the western soldiers reenlisted when their terms were up. According to Joseph Glatthaar, nearly one out of two men in Sherman’s army during the March to the Sea and through the Carolinas had reenlisted for another three-year term. The figure for all Union armies was only one in every fifteen.

[4] Edward Bramhall pension file, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

[5] Daniel Cummings pension file, NARA.

[6] Max Kern (John Miller) pension file, NARA.

[7] James Collins pension file, NARA.

[8] Frank Seymour Pension File, NARA.

The Trust’s Teacher Institute: The American Way of War

Kris at TI 2018.jpgAs a precursor for the rest of the conference, where we’ll be spending so much time talking about two different wars, Kris White kicked off the American Battlefield Trust’s Teachers Institute with an overview of “The American Way of War.”

“That title isn’t mine,” admitted Kris, the Trust’s education manager. “It comes from a book published in 1977 by Russell Weigley.” American Way of War: from wars of limited to scope to wars of annihilation argued that in the days prior to the Civil War, America fought wars of limited scope; afterwards, America fought wars of annihilation.

Kris took a moment to lay out the central notions about early American wars: 

  • The army lacked proper military training for officers and men.
  • The army lack cavalry
  • The army lost more battles than it won.
  • Artillery did not play a major role in most early wars.
  • Until the Civil War, we were unable to out-produce our enemies
  • Some claim Americans couldn’t stomach high numbers of casualties

“Since Weigley’s book came out, historians have reexamined his thesis,” Kris said, explaining that he’d use Weigley’s book as a framework for his program.

Kill You at Christmas

Kris said this is the American Way of War, too!

Kris also took a moment to explain the emphasis on Napoleonic-style tactics for moving large groups of men around the battlefield. Much of that directly related to a commander’s ability to communicate with his men. “I can pick up my phone and call Tokyo right now,” Kris said. “Back then, you were limited: the speed of the fastest horse, as far as the eye could see, or as loud as the voice can reach.

Soldiers did still use earthworks on occasion, though—a common misperception. Many people think that innovation came about during the Civil War. “Look at the misnamed battle of Bunker Hill,” Kris pointed out: the Continentals atop the hill fought from behind earthworks.

In the country’s earliest days, America couldn’t make up its mind as to whether it wanted a standing army and navy or not. The heavy-handed presence of the British army in the 1760s and early 1770s made Americans shy about a permanent, professional soldiery. Instead, Americans preferred a model based on militias—bands of defenders that could come together from a community for a temporary period of time in a common cause. “Many of those units will hold it in their charters that they can’t fight beyond a certain distance,” Kris pointed out, stressing the limited scope of militia power.

“George Washington, who started a world war of his own—the French and Indian War—created a European-style army for America when he took command of the troops around Boston,” Kris explained. Washington had served in the British army and had quit, but he’d learned from that experience and applied it to Continental forces.

Washington claimed he didn’t want the military role, but as Kris pointed out, Washington was the only person to show up at the Continental Congress in a military uniform, sending an obvious message.

After the war, officials argued for a scaled-down army of only 700—a regiment of volunteers that would serve for one year. Washington, in contrast, argued for an army of 2,600. By the early 1800s, the army would get up to about 10,000 men, largely in response to Napoleon’s conquests in Europe. France, at the time, owned a large swath of land on the American continent.

Kris credited the creation of that army to “Thomas Jefferson, one of the great hypocrites of American history.” Jefferson had been one of the earliest voices opposing a large army—and then he became president.

Not only did Jefferson advocate for a larger army, he established the West Point Military Academy. “He created West Point because there were too many Federalists in the army,” Kris said. “This was one of his ways of compensating for that. Here you see the army used as a political puppet.”

West Point was first and foremost an engineering school, with no expected term of service in the army after graduation. Eventually, they upgraded the curriculum to study “the masters” of warfare, with more attention to military history and strategy/tactics.

Napoleon was the man to study, Kris said. “The British want you to remember the old, defeated Napoleon,” Kris said. “A cartoonish Napoleon. Most Americans only know Napoleon from Waterloo. That’s the Napoleon the British want you to remember.”

But Napoleon won 53 of the 60 he battles he participated in. That’s the guy to study, Kris said. “More books are written about Napoleon than anyone else,” he added.

Kris outlined other major influences on American military theory and practice, too. “Antoine-Henri Jomini greatest impact on the U.S. army aside from Napoleon,” he said. “His nine military principles are still used by the army today.” Outlined in Jomini’s book The Art of War, the principles are objective, offensive, mass, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command, security, surprise, and simplicity. Dennis Mahan brought Jomini’s work to America.

Kris also mentioned Carl von Clausewitz, the “genius of military theory.” “Von Clausewitz is often credited with being an influence on Grant and Lee,” Kris said, “but he was never translated from German until the 1870s.”

By the end of the Civil War, nearly 2.5 million men would serve as Union soldiers; a million men served as Confederates. “It was a scale we’d never seen before,” Kris said. “It was a new war with the same old tactics. Both sides used the same manuals. They’re both doing what the other side was doing, which was the same old thing everyone had always been doing. This is why the Civil War lasted so long.”

Finally, the North began to out-produce the South. As just one example, he cited rail lines and telegraph lines. The north had 22,000 miles of rail line and 45,000 miles of telegraph. There were 23,000 miles of telegraph line in south. Over the course of the war, the North added 4,000 miles of railroad and 4,000 miles of telegraph; in the south, the number of miles of each actually decreased.

“The goal of the Confederates was to win the war by not losing,” Kris said, and then his voice took a sarcastic dip. “Great plan.”

After the war, the military theorist who had the biggest impact was Emory Upton, a Union brigadier general who went to Europe to study military theory. His Military Policy of the United States “laid it on the line,” Kris said. Among its controversial conclusions: Politicians get in the way of creating an effective army.

The government scaled back the army and navy after the war. “After the Civil War, the navy takes the lead in innovation,” Kris said, “in part because they were scaled down so intensely.” The navy went from 700 ships to only 54.

TR on T-Rex

TR’s way of war

“Teddy Roosevelt would eventually tie U.S. military superiority to the navy,” Kris said. Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, sent round the world, sent a strong message about America’s military power. Even today, when trouble breaks out in a hotspot, the U.S. sends in a carrier group as a show of force.

To wrap up, Kris re-assessed Weigley’s assumptions.

“The U.S. adapts, enemy to enemy,” Kris said. “It’s never just a war of annihilation. We rarely use overwhelming force to win.” As an example, D-Day was actually an attack to liberate France, not an attack to invade Europe. the Nazi’s outnumbered Allied forces.

“Between 1775 and 1930s, we were not innovators in warfare (technology and tactics), as many would have you believe,” he said. By the time the Second World War came along, we became more adaptive, although at first we weren’t always the best. Kris quoted Churchill, who said “The U.S. usually got it right—after trying everything else first.”

One major advantage we do have: “Americans wage war with tenacity.” There, he quoted Revolutionary War general Nathaniel Greene: “We fight, we get beat, and we fight again.”

He also contested the idea that Americans couldn’t stomach high casualty rates. Americans are against sustaining useless or wasted casualties.“It’s bad leadership we can’t stomach,” he said. “We can take the casualties, but officers can’t just throw lives away.” He pointed out that American lost an average of 900 men per day in World War II; the Soviets, by contrast, averaged 12,000 per day. “And they were in the war a heck of a lot longer than we were.”

Finally, he concluded, “Politicians and the military may never agree on the size of our peacetime force.”

With the table set, conference participants will have a larger frame of reference not only for discussions of military history but how political and social considerations have tied into that. With two wars to cover over the next couple of days—the Revolution and the Civil War—Kris’s talk will make it easier for participants to begin drawing connections between the two, between them and other periods of U.S. history, and with other work in their classrooms.


“There Has Been Awful Sight of Human Suffering Caused By This War”: After Monocacy

Today marks the 154th Anniversary of the Battle of Monocacy. It is a battle I have written about frequently, and as for previous anniversaries, I wanted to make sure to post something to remember “The Battle that Saved Washington.” In the past, I shared an account of a civilian caught up in the crossfire, and today I wanted to post another letter, this time from a soldier who, while he fought at Monocacy, left an especially compelling account of his experience after the fighting.

Daniel Long hailed from Niagara County in western New York. When the Civil War began, he was already forty years old, nearly twice the age of an average soldier during the war. In the fall of 1862 Long joined the 151st New York Infantry and soon earned his corporal’s stripes. During the fighting at Monocacy, the 151st New York found itself at the battle’s crucible around the Thomas Farm. As the Federal lines broke, the Confederate onslaught cut Long off from the rest of his regiment. He hid in a stand of woods for two days before, on July 11, making his way back into Frederick. Finding the town back in Federal hands and his regiment long gone back to Baltimore, Long wasn’t sure what to do until a doctor assigned him as an attendant at the nearby General Hospital # 1. He would stay there for the next two months.

As a hospital attendant assigned to the hospital, Long did anything that could to help the patients. He wrote the following letter on August 14, 1864, and, though written a month following the battle at Monocacy, reveals how much work and how much suffering still continued in Frederick as a result of what happened on July 9:

Frederick City

August 14th 1864

Dear wife:

As I am not very busy this afternoon, I will write you a few lines and let you know I am well. My appetite is as sharp as an old meat-ax, and I have plenty to eat. The victuals for the patients are all brought into the barrack and dealt out to them, so taking what is brought from the cook-house and what the citizens ring in, makes more than the patients can eat, and what is left the nurses get, although it is calculated that all detailed men should go to the cook-house to get their meals. Sometimes I go to the cook-house and get what they have there, and then fall back on what they have left in the barrack, so you see I have plenty to eat. There are from two to five soldiers buried every day, excepting today. I believe there is none today and think it is the first day since I have been here. I am getting so used to men dying I don’t mind it anymore. A person gets hardened to those things. We have one or two in our barrack now that I think can’t live. One man had a ball go through his knee, and the doctor tried to save his leg, and I think he will lose his life through it. Limbs that were taken off when they were first wounded are getting along nicely. A good many lose their lives because the doctors try to save the limb. If I am ever wounded in the joints, I will tell the doctor to saw it off at once. We haven’t many in the hospital now, and the work is not very hard at present, and if they don’t have any fighting around here we shall have easy times after a little. I hope the most of the fighting is done with. Judging from what little experience I have had in the hospital, there has been awful sight of human suffering caused by this war. I am on watch tonight from one o’clock until morning; I have to watch half of every third night. I don’t know where the corps is now, unless they are at Harpers Ferry.

I ever remain your affectionate husband.



Long’s letter reveals much to the historian. As a soldier suddenly thrust into the aftermath of combat, now tasked with saving lives rather than taking them, Long’s words reveal a man trying to cope with the differences. He has grown hardened after two years of service in combat, and his words about amputations are especially pertinent. Though the public perception of Civil War medicine is that it was little better than butchery, Long’s words about how amputation saved lives, and how he would even prefer it, show how in some cases it was the best option.

Daniel Long returned to his regiment in September, 1864. He survived the war and returned home to New York, where he died around the turn of the 20th century. His words remind us of the cost of what happened in the fields outside of Frederick 154 years ago.



After It Is Saved, Then What?

A fascinating article in the Spring 2018 issue of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust newsletter On The Skirmish Line. If you have not checked out their website, or thought about joining their effort, considering heading on over after reading about their work on scene restoration.

The CVBT is a lands trust. Aside from special tours for CVBT members, we do not typically open the land we have acquired to the public. That is a task for those who know how to do those things well, such as national and state resource agencies. We hold on to land only as long as necessary to pass it on to those who will care for it and make it accessible to visitors. What sometimes comes as a surprise is that while acquiring land can take years of negotiating and fund raising, getting land into the hands of a public agency and making it understandable to visitors is also a lengthy process with its own challenges.

Getting Land into Public Ownership
One problem to be overcome has been a condition imposed by a certain type of funding. In
Virginia, state grants require that an easement be placed on property acquired with those
funds, to be held by the funding agency. That condition is a logical one when public funds are used to preserve ground, but the National Park Service cannot purchase or receive in donation any land that is thus encumbered. The Commonwealth of Virginia has been quite generous in funding Civil War preservation, and the Civil War Trust and CVBT have been aggressive in pursuing those opportunities. The public benefit that justifies the use of public funds is the recognition that people are drawn to visit historic places, which helps to support local economies. Making the transition from saving land to effectively managing it, though, has been held up by the requirement that easements be removed before relinquish to the National Park Service. During its 2018 session, the Virginia Assembly has enacted legislation that finally addresses this stumbling block to transferring preserved ground to National Battlefield Parks. The Commonwealth of Virginia is now able to work with the federal government to transfer certain battlefield easements. There is still much work to do in this regard, such as getting Congress to expand certain National Park boundaries, but this step in Virginia is a huge step forward.

Scene Restoration
Another issue in managing battlefield land is to return the terrain to its wartime appearance. Once CVBT acquires a property, we demolish any structures that do not relate to its historic importance. We also cap any wells as a matter of safety. After that, the next step is to address the natural cover of the site. Was it wooded? Cultivated? Both? Does it need to be screened from nearby development? All of these things need to be considered for the land to have any value as a historic resource. The National Park Service has become quite adept at scene restoration, having carefully worked out a variety of techniques to reestablish the Civil War landscape. We explored how this type of work was
pioneered at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP in our latest volume of Fredericksburg History and Biography. In an article by our own Bob Krick, called “Restoring Battlefield Scenes in 1972 and Beyond: A Memoir,” we presented the challenges, both practical and political, that eventually provide the visitor with a compelling experience when visiting a park. Again, such efforts take years to complete and shows how keeping land from being developed is only a first step. SL

Victory for Virginia Preservation Organizations and Civil War Trust


Foundation, state agency and national nonprofit work together to protect Hansbrough’s Ridge, an unparalleled historic and natural treasure in Virginia’s picturesque Piedmont region

(Brandy Station, Va.) – The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources join the Civil War Trust today in announcing the preservation of a lofty, scenic ridge where 800 Confederate soldiers barred a Union cavalry division from the main fight at Brandy Station, the opening battle of the Civil War’s Gettysburg Campaign.

The 400-foot-high, mile-long ridge in Culpeper County, Virginia, whose profile one soldier said resembles “a giant sleeping,” sheltered more than 10,000 Union troops for five months during the winter of 1863-1864, before they began the war’s shocking, fiery Wilderness Campaign. It was part of the Union Army of the Potomac’s 120,000-soldier winter encampment, which dominated Culpeper County; Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia camped across the Rapidan River in Orange County.

The two organizations’ announcement culminates nearly two years of fundraising and decades of preservation activism for the 174-acre site, which historians say is unique in its landscape, significance and quality.

VOF, a public foundation, and the Virginia Board of Historic Resources accepted two conservation easements to forever protect the ridge east of the historic village of Stevensburg.  The property stretches from State Route 3 north to near Cole’s Hill, which is privately owned. The Foundation will hold one easement. The Board will hold the other, administered by staff at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

“We are proud to have helped save this rare place, which was both a pivotal battleground and a secure refuge where thousands of soldiers recuperated from the trials of the war’s Mine Run, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg campaigns,” Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer said. “There is nothing comparable to it anywhere in the nation. The site remains nearly as it was when the Yankees broke camp and marched east to cross the Rapidan River and battle Lee’s Confederates.”

VOF contributed $250,000 to help preserve the property, a $900,000 acquisition also funded by a $450,000 grant from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program, a $150,000 noncash donation by the seller, and $50,000 in contributions by Trust members and private donors.

“Our easement not only protects this landmark from development, but also creates permanent public access for future generations to be able to visit and learn from the property,” VOF Executive Director Brett Glymph said.

“The Virginia Department of Historic Resources is pleased to partner with VOF in ensuring the perpetual preservation of this site so that it can be protected and interpreted for current and future Virginians and visitors to the state,” said Julie V. Langan, the department’s director.

Members of the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment pose in their camp, with horse saddles and newly built winter huts, in February 1864 on Hansbrough’s Ridge east of Stevensburg in Culpeper County, Virginia. That month, Union Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick led the 3rd Cavalry Division—which included the 18th Regiment—on the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid of Richmond, a controversial and ill-fated attempt to rescue Union prisoners of war. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The ridge was home not only to infantry and cavalry troops but also to soldiers’ visiting family members and large hospitals where doctors, nurses and volunteers treated sick and wounded men. Their many letters paint vivid pictures of daily life in camp. But one example, written by Pvt. George Storrs Youngs of Waterloo, N.Y., describes what they saw.

“The view from our camp is magnificent,” Youngs, with the 126th New York Infantry Regiment, wrote his sister Louisa on Jan. 1, 1864. “We are on the top of an exceeding high hill from whence we can look down upon the canvas cities of the Army of the Potomac on almost every side. Off to the west, nestling among the hills, the city of Culpepper can be seen—its bright spires looking still brighter against the dark background of the Blue Ridge whose towering peaks and cliffs are now covered with snow.”

The site’s importance was recognized in 1991 when the Department of Historic Resources listed the Hansborough Ridge Winter Encampment District on the Virginia Landmarks Register, making it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. It was later incorporated into the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, a federally-designated 175-mile corridor that interprets and conserves nationally significant historic sites in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“As a Civil War site, Hansbrough’s Ridge is unique,” Lighthizer said. “It offers commanding views of the landscape in all directions, which made it the Confederate defensive line and the scene of hard fighting in the Battle of Brandy Station’s Stevensburg phase.”

Developers saw a chance to market the ridge’s views in 2015, when they bought the property, intent on subdividing it into residential lots. Reacting quickly, the Trust negotiated the land’s purchase before development occurred. A noncash donation from the landowner put the purchase price within reach.

The ridge’s conservation easements complement the preservation of other Civil War battlefield sites in Culpeper County.

Ultimately, an alliance of officials, conservationists and local residents aim to incorporate already-saved acres on the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain battlefields into a new state park that enhances their tourism, recreational and educational potential. The Virginia General Assembly is considering legislation that would direct the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to study the suitability of preserved properties at these two battlefields for inclusion in the state park system.

The sweeping views and soldiers’ stories from Hansbrough’s Ridge will add different perspectives unequaled at other Mid-Atlantic historic sites. “From the top of the ridge, people will be able to read about the events of that period and survey the terrain as the soldiers did,” Lighthizer said. “It will be an amazing way to understand the history of this place.”

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation protects more than 800,000 acres in 107 counties and cities. A public foundation created by the General Assembly in 1966, VOF leads the commonwealth in land conservation.

The Department of Historic Resources encourages and supports the stewardship and use of Virginia’s significant architectural, archaeological and historic resources as valuable assets for the economic, educational, social and cultural benefit of citizens and communities. It administers interwoven and interdependent state and federal programs aimed at identifying, evaluating, recognizing and preserving Virginia’s rich historic heritage.

The Civil War Trust is a national nonprofit land preservation organization devoted to the protection of America’s hallowed battlegrounds. It preserves the battlefields of the Civil War, the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, and educates the public about their importance in forging the nation we are today. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 48,000 acres of battlefield land in 24 states.  Learn more at