The Mosby Heritage Area Association recently announced a partnership with the Bondi family of Old Welbourne to promote protecting important battlefield property by putting them in permanent easements.

“The Bondi Family Land Conservation and Battlefield Preservation Fund” will be available to landowners within the Unison Battlefield Study Area who are considering protecting their land with a permanent conservation easement. The fund is designated to assist landowners with transaction costs, including stewardship, legal, and surveyor fees and the Bondi family has pledged to replenish the fund annually in perpetuity.

Brad Bondi, a nationally recognized attorney who has become the go-to lawyer for corporations in major legal battles, has been slowing amassing properties in the area since 2013 to preserve them for future generations.   

Bondi serves on the local board of directors of the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), the National Sporting Library and Museum, and the Great Meadow Foundation. 

Bondi, and his wife, Tandy Bondi, owners of the historic Old Welbourne Farm in Bluemont, recently placed a nearby property in Upperville into a conservation easement in order to protect the land from future development. In 2013, the Bondi family purchased the 165 acre Old Welbourne, which was the birthplace and final resting place of Colonel Richard Dulany, the founder of the Piedmont Fox Hounds and the Upperville Colt and Horse Show. He purchased another adjacent 165 acres in 2015, and then the 145-acre battlefield in 2017.  

(Above: Left, Brad and Tandy Bondi)

The 145-acre property, which the Bondi family purchased in 2017, was the site of a famous skirmish in the Battle of Unison where Union soldiers and cavalry, led by General George McClellan, squared off on Nov. 2, 1862, against Confederate solders and cavalry, led by Lieutenant Colonel J.E.B. Stuart and Major John Pelham.  The Confederates ultimately were driven west toward Winchester, but they stalled the Union advance long enough to allow General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia to regroup near Richmond. 

It proved to be a decisive victory for the Confederate Army and led to President Lincoln’s removal of General McLellan from command a mere three day later.  

The Mosby Heritage Area Association has been intensifying preservation efforts by advocating for conservation easements across the Heritage Area, but especially within the Civil War battlefields, as they mark an enormous moment in our collective history. In 2014, MHAA was awarded an American Battlefield Preservation Plan grant to draw up a plan to protect the “Prelude to Gettysburg” cavalry battlefields of June 1863 that raged along the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike, today’s Route 50. 

Since that time, MHAA has assisted in placing part of the Battle of Upperville, “Vineyard Hill”, under easement with the Land Trust of Virginia. This year MHAA facilitated the protection of over 200 acres in the Unison Battlefield which included contributions to each landowner to help offset their financial burden. The success of this assistance illustrated the need to develop such a fund and the Bondi family graciously stepped forward.

This easement effort within MHAA’s Preservation Committee is being spearheaded by Ashton Cole, who is also the director of conservation and stewardship with the Land Trust of Virginia, and MHAA Chairman C. Dulany Morison.  “We believe this fund will prove to be a convincing resource in our discussions with landowners considering conservation easements and we are very grateful to the Bondi family“ said Morison.

This easement initiative focuses on Civil War battlefield property, but MHAA remains committed to preserving the entire landscape of the Heritage Area to protect our view sheds and vast historical resources. Conservation easements are the best protection against invasive development in rural areas and they remove further potential strain on Loudoun’s infrastructure, as well as protect the county’s thriving tourism industry.

“I got tired of seeing people come into the area who didn’t respect the land and its important history to this nation.  Too often, we see people purchase small parcels and attempt to build on every square inch without regard to the environmental impact or the ascetic beauty of open space,” said Bondi. The couple and their five children share a commitment to environment conservation and historic preservation.  

“We didn’t want someone to build Polo Wonderland on a historic battlefield where people gave their lives, we frequently tell our children that they are stewards of the land for their children and future generations to come. It is important we preserve both our past and our future.”   

Tandy Bondi

Community leaders commend the Bondi Family for their untiring work.  “Brad and Tandy are rare breeds of preservationists. They have taken up the torch in the battle against the unscrupulous developers who have infiltrated our countryside.” said David Blake, the owner of Buckland Farm, the site of another historic civil war battlefield where J.E.B. Stuart fought. “I commend them for their efforts and, with Brad in the fight, I am finally optimistic.”

Dan Haney who grew up on a nearby farm where his parents still reside agrees. “His commitment to our community and its activities is unique,” said Haney. “Although he’s only been here a little over six years, it’s as if he has been here for 60 years.”   

The Bondi Family entered into an agreement with the Land Trust of Virginia that protects the battlefield and limits construction by providing Land Trust of Virginia with a permanent easement.  The easement also allows the Mosby Heritage Area Foundation the right to provide tours of the battlefield.  

“Brad is a warrior, so it’s fitting that he bought a battlefield,” added Haney.   

The mission of the nonprofit Mosby Heritage Area Association, formed in 1995, is to help preserve the Northern Virginia Piedmont and increase public knowledge about this historic area.

MHAA provides classroom history programs for elementary, middle, and high school students, sponsors lectures, programs, publications, guides, and field trips, and brings nationally known scholars to the area for its award-winning annual Civil War Conference.

For more information, visit www.mosbyheritagearea.org. ML

This article first appeared in the December 2019 issue of Middleburg Life.