The Battle of Brandy Station, fought on June 9, 1863, involved over 20,000 troops, mostly mounted, and marked the moment when Union cavalry was finally able to match Rebel cavalry for skill and effectiveness. The house pictured here, which stands by the railroad tracks, was pressed into service as a hospital for the wounded soldiers from both armies, also served as Union headquarters during the winter that followed the battle. It’s been known for some time that the interior walls on the second floor of this building had been covered with drawings and writing by the soldiers who spent time there; as a result, the place today is called “Graffiti House”. Now conservators are working to remove layers of paint and grime to reveal the secrets beneath, using techniques nearly as painstaking as those required to restore fine art.
One of those rooms is named for Confederate Cavalry General J.E.B. Stuart, because it appears that one of the many signatures is his. Among the names and dates are bits of trivial information that illumine the daily lives of the men. On of the inscriptions, for instance, says “the bugger has gone with my boots.” Another reads like a laundry list: “3 undershirts, 1 overshirt, 1 pair of socks.” Yet another boasts “Battle of Beverly Ford….Yanks caught hell.” Intriguingly, the Brandy Station Foundation, which occupies the house, has identified some of the soldiers who made their marks there.
For more info on this remarkable conservation project, see this article.