By Robert K. Krick



 Period Sketch of Braehead



When the contending armies descended on Fredericksburg in November 1862, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia ensconced itself atop high ground just west of the city and established a powerful defensive position centered on Marye's Heights.  Two adjacent hills not far west of the heights became battlefield landmarks.  General R. E. Lee set up a command post on Telegraph Hill—ever after known as "Lee's Hill"—and that elevation and adjacent Howison's Hill served as admirable artillery positions for heavy Confederate weapons brought up by rail from Richmond.


A large brick house at the foot of the slope below Lee's headquarters had been built just three years earlier by John Howison, who called his elegant new home "Braehead."  "Uncle John," one of his nieces wrote, "determined to build a spacious mansion for his family of nine."  Braehead certainly fit that prescription.


Two of John Howison's teenage boys went off to war as members of the Fredericksburg Artillery.  Both of them died in battle, John Hancock Howison at Gettysburg and Edward Moore Howison at Ream's Station.


Although Lee, as usual, slept under canvas, he visited the nearby Howison house at the time of the Battle of Fredericksburg.  One of the Howison women recalled:  "General Lee…took breakfast at Braehead on the morning of…Dec. 13, 1862," an episode corroborated by at least one Confederate account.


The following spring during the Chancellorsville campaign, rearguards from both armies fought across the site.  A fine drawing of the advance of the Union Sixth Corps survives to illustrate that event.  In May 1864, Yankees indulged their appetite for vandalism on the family's belongings.  They "killed the cows, ate the chickens, smashed the china, tore up dress goods, destroyed or stole the family Bible which had in it…three generations [and] threw the dining room chairs through the window glass," a family member wrote.


The CWPT's friends and partners in the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT) eagerly embraced the opportunity to save the wonderful historic building when it went on the market in 2006.  The CVBT has signed a contract to buy Braehead and take possession next year.  They intend to re-sell the property to a private owner interested in history, complete with deeded easements that ensure its survival and protection of the building's exterior.


 The huge brick Greek Revival home contains 6,243 square feet and features six large bedrooms, marbleized woodwork, pocket doors, ten fireplaces, and three outbuildings.  Braehead's very large lot encompasses 18.9 acres, enclosed on three sides by Fredericksburg Battlefield lands owned and preserved by the National Park Service. 


The CVBT's initiative has permanently saved this superb battlefield landmark, on the verge of its 150th birthday.  The Trust now proposes selling the building, with protective deeded covenants, to someone interested in living in the midst of history.

 Join CVBT now and support the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust's efforts to prevent the destruction of America's Heritage.