“tons of civil war graffiti!”
The concept of defacing property with immature doodles, known to punks the world around as "graffiti", is not new-- not even a little bit. Ancient Greek and Roman graffiti has been found etched into stone, and even early Americans got in on the fun. One of the best-preserved examples of old-timey doodling on private property is the so-called Graffiti House in Brandy Station, Virginia, where Civil War soldiers let their imaginations (and their pens) run wild all over the walls of the building. Of course, The Graffiti House wasn't always the Graffiti House. It was built in 1858 and eventually came to be owned by James Barbour, who served on the staff of Confederare General Richard S. Ewell. Mr. Barbour likely used it for some commercial purpose, given its proximity to the railroad tracks and railroad station. However, the fact that it was so close to the station also made it very valuable during the Civil War. Both Union and Confederate troops used the building at various points during the war (often as a field hospital or shelter) and both sides left their mark on it. The earliest known bit of graffiti inside the house came from a Confederate soldier in Fitzhugh Lee's brigade in April of 1863, who wrote that after some fighting at Beverly's Ford, the "Yanks caught hell". While many of the scribbles are descriptions of events and battles as well as signatures and dates, a lot of the graffiti involves drawings as well. Eagles, horses, forts, soldiers, caricatures of pretty ladies (often to mock generals' alleged affairs), and a super-classy sketch of a soldier facing a horse's rear end, saying that he "smells a reb" all adorn the walls. Lovely. Another bit of graffiti, known as the Maryland Scroll, was actually removed from the building and placed in a private collection before being returned to the house. Also, while most graffiti was generally done by lower-ranking soldiers (privates and the like), Major General J.E.B. Stuart for some reason decided to get in on the action and left his John Hancock on the walls of the building, where it still remains to this day. It's also possible the George Armstrong Custer left his signature as well, although this is unconfirmed. It's almost haunting to see the signatures and sketches of the men who just wanted to leave something behind in case they died in battle. -Roadtrippers The Graffiti House is a two-story frame structure, believed to have been built in 1858. It was built directly beside the railroad tracks, suggesting that its function included some type of commercial aspect. Proprietors of whatever business was likely here may have also resided in the building. Local tradition holds that the building was used as a hospital by both Union and Confederate forces. The walls of the second floor contain inscriptions, drawings, messages, and signatures of Civil War soldiers, hence the name “Graffiti House.” The graffiti could have been made by soldiers recuperating in the hospital, by other soldiers posted at Brandy Station, or by soldiers passing through the town. Brandy Station was a strategic location and a junction of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and of roads leading to Kelly’s Ford and Beverly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River. Fleetwood Hill provided high ground suitable for both observation and a defensive position. The building was apparently owned by James Barbour during the Civil War. Barbour’s home was the prominent structure known as Beauregard, which still stands today about 1-½ miles to the north of Brandy station. Barbour initially argued against secession, but when Lincoln’s inaugural address failed to include certain concessions Lincoln cabinet members had led Barbour to believe would be contained within the address, Barbour ardently supported the withdrawal of Virginia from the Union. After the First Battle of Manassas, fought July 21, 1861, Confederate casualties were evacuated by train, and Brandy Station became a hospital site. This is likely the first time that the Graffiti House was used as a hospital. Barbour’s home was also used as a hospital, and one the patients recovering their was Major Roberdeau Wheat, commander of the Louisiana Tigers. Major Wheat requested that Barbour change the name of his home to “Beauregard” in honor of Confederate General Pierre G. T. Beauregard, who directed the Battle of First Manassas. Barbour served on the staff of General Richard S. Ewell. During the most prominent of the various battles fought at Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, Robert E. Lee and Ewell observed part of the action, including a Federal cavalry charge that almost made it to the house.
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