Often during my trips on Route 15 south through Brandy Station, Virginia, I’ve noticed a sign that points to a place called Graffiti House. We stopped in yesterday afternoon and took a free tour and some photos of the place. I was really impressed with the Civil War graffiti and the restoration efforts by the Brandy Station Foundation.
The house is believed, by the Brandy Station Foundation, to have been built in 1858. It is one of few dwellings in the village built before the American Civil War to survive intact to this day. The Foundation reports that some graffiti has been removed or destroyed but considerable graffiti still remain. New graffiti were discovered and revealed as recently as March 2012.
The plaster walls on the second floor of the house are covered with an outstanding and unique collection of charcoal and pencil graffiti left by soldiers from both armies. In addition to their autographs, the soldiers drew elaborate pictures of men and women, and wrote inscriptions commemorating their units and their battles. After the war, the graffiti were painted and papered over and forgotten. The graffiti were rediscovered during a renovation in 1993. The Brandy Station Foundation purchased the house in 2002.
The house was owned by James Barbour during the Civil War but his main residence was about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the south. Barbour served on the staff of Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell.
Because of its strategic location, the house was used extensively by both the Union Army and Confederate States Army throughout the Civil War. It was used as a field hospital by the Confederates during the Battle of Brandy Station and at other times when battles occurred in the area. It was probably used as a field hospital for wounded soldiers evacuated by train after the Battle of First Bull Run or First Manassas.
At the outset of the Gettysburg Campaign, the Battle of Brandy Station, the largest cavalry battle ever to take place in North America occurred on June 9, 1863 in the fields adjacent to the Graffiti House. After the fighting ended, the house was used as a Confederate field hospital. Later that year, Federal troops occupied the building when the Army of the Potomac camped in Culpeper County during the winter of 1863-64. The house was headquarters to Brigadier General Henry Prince, a division commander in the Third Corps of the Army of the Potomac during the Union Army pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia after its retreat from the Battle of Gettysburg, sometimes called the Rapidan campaign but this name could be confused with the beginning of the Overland Campaign, and during the Mine Run Campaign later in 1863.
The graffiti may be viewed on certain days listed on the Foundation web site. The house includes a small museum and serves as a headquarters for the Brandy Station Foundation and the Foundation’s visitor center for the Brandy Station battlefield. There is no admission fee to the Graffiti House but the Foundation does accept donations for maintaining and restoring the property.
Photographs © Mark Routt 2012
Sources: wikipedia.com, Brandy Station Foundation