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A Virginia state park focused on the battlefields of Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain, as well as the site of a ridgetop Union encampment near Stevensburg is on the verge of creation. First outlined in 2015, the proposal for Culpeper Battlefield State Park has gained ground through local support and advocacy. 

In his diary, 9th Virginia Cavalry trooper Bird Willis documented the execution of the USCT: “They were the first [USCT] we had seen….They were taken out on the road side and shot and their bodies left there.” (Clint Schemmer/Star Export)

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin submitted an amendment to the state budget regarding the proposed park on January 21, and both chambers of the Virginia legislatures approved budgets for establishing the park. Although the exact details are still in the works, 1,700 acres already preserved by the American Battlefield Trust will be donated to the park. Another 4,000 acres are now held in conservation easements on private land, and more land may be acquired. Advocates for the park note that it preserves land between the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers that was contested during the war and traversed not only by Union and Confederate troops but also by slaves escaping bondage as well as USCT regiments fighting in the 1864 Overland Campaign.

These USCT soldiers—numbering close to 4,000—were remembered with a marker erected at Brandy Road in Brandy Station in Culpeper County on February 26, 2022. The marker was paid for by the Freedom Foundation, which is devoted to preserving the memory of USCT troops born in Culpeper. Unlike White soldiers, USCT soldiers, if captured by Confederate troops, could be executed as escaped slaves under rules approved by the Confederate Congress. Three USCT soldiers are known to have been captured and executed at the side of the road on May 5, 1864. A memorial marker near the site of their execution was installed in Lignum, Va., on November 9, 2021.

this article first appeared in civil war times magazine

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