On St. Patrick’s Day, 1863, the first large-scale cavalry battle of the Civil War took place at Kelly’s Ford in Culpeper, Va. On the sesquicentennial of that battle, which had no clear victor, the Civil War Trust is opening an interpretive center at the battlefield Sunday at 2:30 p.m. to which the public is invited. The event will include comments by local historians, project consultants and representatives of the Trust and a brief tour of the newly preserved battlefield.
The site is on a 964-acre family farm owned by Scott and Sam Woodward. In November 2012, the brothers entered into an easement agreement with the Trust to preserve the property and to donate time and labor to help build the interpretive center and then maintain and manage it, according to the Trust.
Typically, such an easement agreement bars any development of the land, and the owner is allowed by federal law to claim the donation as a tax-deductible gift.
According to the Trust, Scott Woodward said he and his brother eased the property because they realized they had an obligation “to be stewards of the land and recognize its unusual history” and to preserve it not only for their families but for the community, as well.
The battle is most often remembered as the place where Confederate Maj. John Pelham was killed when, as commander of the Horse Artillery Battalion, he led the first charge on the Union line. Pelham had long been noted for his bravery in battle; Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson said after the battle of Antietam, “With a Pelham on each flank I believe I could whip the world.” Gen. Robert E. Lee referred to him as “the Gallant Pelham” after the Battle of Fredericksburg.
According to the Trust, the center’s installation was made possible by a partnership that included Culpeper-based businesses, local preservationists and county and state agencies. The project also included trails, signs and fencing.