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The Grand Review

April - June 2008

'The Graffiti House - Where the Handwriting is on the Wall'

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To navigate this newsletter scroll down for a complete look or click below on the article of interest.

145th Battle of Brandy Station
    Anniversary Ball June 7th
Graffiti Exposure and Preservation
    Assessment at the Graffiti House
Brandy Station Foundation
    Remembers Two Volunteers
Brandy Station Foundation Volunteer
Civil War Preservation Trust
    Preserves More Battlefield Land
2008 Lecture Series – Graffiti House
    from 2 to 3:15 PM
Living History at the Graffiti House 2008 Battle of Brandy Station Driving
Upcoming Living History Events
    at the Graffiti House
2008 Battle of Brandy Station
    Horseback Tour
Park Day at the Graffiti House Volunteers Needed For Graffiti House
Pfiles Speak to Good Shepherd Group Join the Brandy Station Foundation

Celebrating 150 Years at the
   Civil War Graffiti House




145th Battle of Brandy Station Anniversary Ball at the Inn at Kelly’s Ford (Please RSVP by May 24th)


Celebrate the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station at a Historic Ball on June 7, 2008 from 6:30 pm to midnight at the Inn at Kelly’s Ford. The well-known 2nd South Carolina String Band will play music from the Civil War Era with a Dance Master guiding guests through waltzes, polkas, the Virginia Reel and other dances of the period. Dinner will be provided by the Inn. There will be a silent auction of many interesting articles as well as a live auction featuring the original oil painting of the Battle of Brandy Station by Andrew Knez from which our popular t-shirt is modeled.

This is your opportunity to enjoy a lovely evening in support of the Foundation and its continued goals of preservation of the battlefield and restoration of the Historic Graffiti House.

Tickets are: Individual $ 75     
  Friend $ 750    Includes reserved table for 6
  Sponsor  $ 1,250    Includes reserved table for 8
  Patron  $ 2,000    Includes reserved table for 10

Friends, Sponsors, and Patrons receive recognition in the program. From those unable to attend, donations will be gratefully accepted.

Period dress or Black tie—Both are optional

To make your reservation now or for more information contact Helen Geisler at  (540) 399-1637 or mail your request to: Brandy Station Foundation,  P.O. Box 165, Brandy Station, Virginia 22714 along with the following information.


Names (s) _________________________________________________________________

Please reserve:

________  Individual @$75  

________  Friends of Brandy Station (table for 6) @ 750

________  Sponsors (table for 8) @ $1,250    

________  Patrons (table for 10) @ $2000

    ____Enclosed is a check payable to: Brandy Station Foundation.

    ____Charge my credit card #_____________________________ Exp. Date__________

           VISA or MasterCard (Circle one)   for $ __________        My billing address is:


I am unable to attend but enclosed is my donation of $_____________________________


The Brandy Station Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation – all donations are tax deductible.


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Brandy Station Foundation Remembers Two Volunteers


Sandford Leon Martin II died on March 26, 2008.  In addition to his interest in the Civil War, Sandy was an avid golfer and a Cavaliers fan, traveling with his father to 27 football stadiums in 18 states. His parents presented a nineteenth-century New Testament and hymnal to the Foundation in their son’s  memory at the Annual Dinner in April. Sandy’s wife, Amy, said that Sandy’s donation of time to the Graffiti  House and the Brandy Station Foundation was a commitment that he wanted to make for his community.


Colonel Ken Purks (Ret.) died  on Wednesday April 2, 2008 after losing his fight with cancer.  He served three tours in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot and flew over 600 combat missions. His decorations for bravery  include: Legion of Merit, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, two Bronze Stars, and 25 Air Medals. Ken had a lifelong passion for history and became a leading expert on Civil War maps and ballooning. He presented lectures about these subjects at the Graffiti House and  for Civil War roundtables.

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Civil War Preservation Trust Preserves Brandy Station Battlefield Land


The CWPT announced in April that it has signed a contract to purchase 26.2 acres on the northeastern slope of Fleetwood Heights, the site of the Civil War’s largest cavalry battle on June 9, 1863. This is in addition to an adjoining 23 acre parcel purchased in December. CWPT spokesman Jim Campi told the Culpeper Star Exponent that the CWPT will pay $785,000 for the land  using private donations and federal money from the American Battlefield Protection Program.

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Living History at the Graffiti House


On February 9th, the Little Fork Rangers held a winter encampment at the Graffiti House. The cavalry drilled and banjo music was heard around the campfire. 1st Lt. Steven B. Dunn is one of fifteen members of the group which is one of the few reenactment groups that  is actually from the same locale as the unit which they portray. He told the Culpeper Star Exponent that reenactments provide the Little Fork Rangers with an opportunity to show their pride in their Virginia heritage and to keep history alive.

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Upcoming Living History Events at the Graffiti House


Graffiti House – 19484 Brandy Road, Brandy Station Virginia 540-727-7718 Donations to the Brandy Station Foundation are welcomed and will be used for the operation and  restoration of the house.


May 17th – Living History Program at the Civil War Graffiti House: The Twenty-Third Regiment of Virginia Volunteer Infantry Companies A-K will be camped in Brandy Station.  


July 19-20 – Living History Program at the Civil War Graffiti House:  The 49th Virginia Infantry will be camped in Brandy Station.


 Sept 13-14 – Living History Program at the Civil War Graffiti House: The 2nd US Infantry will be camped in Brandy Station

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Park Day at the Graffiti House


Fourteen student volunteers from Fauquier High School came to the Graffiti House on "Park Day", sponsored by the CWPT and the History Channel.  Using funds raised from local businesses, trees and shrubbery were planted both at the Graffiti House and on the battlefield.  In addition, the students weeded and mulched the garden, and mowed with a brand new lawnmower. 


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Pfiles Speak to Good Shepherd Group


On February 20, 2008 BSF board members Bob and Shirley Pfile gave a presentation on the Graffiti House to the Good Shepherd Group of Springfield/Annandale.  There were about 20 people in attendance at the Wednesday morning “Adventures in Learning” session.  There were lots of questions and interest voiced in making a trip to visit the Graffiti House.  In fact, several members of the group have visited since this presentation.  Should you know of any groups who would like to hear a presentation about the Graffiti House, please refer them to Bob and Shirley at


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Celebrating 150 Years at the Civil War Graffiti House


Soldiers found comfort in me at the end of the day

And before the war was over I helped both Blue and Gray

By Robert Payne

On the evening of April 18th, the Brandy Station Foundation celebrated the 150th anniversary of the building of the Graffiti House. The event, which was attended by 150 guests, was part of a County wide festival Remembrance Days.

During the course of the evening, Master of Ceremonies, Clark B. Hall, introduced the Graffiti House Remembers. Three descendants of soldiers who left their mark on the walls were in attendance to tell about their ancestors’ experiences during the war. The Foundation appreciates the long distances traveled by David Bridges (Breathed), the Bowman family (Sgt. Allen Bowman) and the Kellys (J. Egbert Farnum) to share their stories with us.

More recent history was presented by David Quinn, who discovered the graffiti in the late 1980s, and by Greg Hebler, who rescued the house from demolition in the 1990s and restored the structure to what we see today. Helen Geisler and Virginia Morton were recognized for the part they played in purchasing the house for the Brandy Station Foundation.

To celebrate the evening, Robert Payne wrote a moving song with words reflecting observations that the house might make, if the walls could talk. Prince Michel developed a Private Label Graffiti House wine which is available for sale on their website.  Proceeds are directed to the Graffiti House Restoration Fund. Patricia Lattin donated a beautiful drawing of the Graffiti House for a live auction. And, as always, the Brandy Station Fire Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary served an excellent dinner.

Over the past year, studies of what must be done to “Save the Graffiti House” were conducted using funds provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Historic Resources. Results of these studies were presented that evening by Della Edrington and Doug Gilpin. Further information about the Graffiti Exposure and Preservation Assessment conducted by Kirsten Travers is available in this edition of the BSF newsletter. Information regarding the Architectural Report will be presented in the next newsletter.


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Graffiti Exposure and Preservation Assessment at the Civil War Graffiti House


The following summary was written by Contract Administrator, Della Edrington. Please address questions to:


PURPOSE OF THE INVESTIGATION: The purpose of this phase of work was to investigate a variety of paint removal methods on site to determine the most appropriate technique for removal of layers that would safely and effectively reveal the underlying Civil War Graffiti. Nature of paint layers and condition of layers were evaluated, measurements were taken, and the rate of removal was noted and used to compile an estimate for the overall Graffiti exposure and preservation throughout the second floor. The exposure process was documented before, during, and after treatment.

PRESENT CONDITIONS: The Graffiti appears to have been written in pencil and charcoal. Pencils, both lead and graphite, were a common writing tool amongst soldiers in the mid-nineteenth century. It is believed that the charcoal inscriptions were executed using a hunk of coal from the stove or fireplace. While the properties of these materials on plaster are not yet completely understood, testing indicates that the inscriptions remain unchanged even after delicate swab cleaning and/or the swift scraping action required to remove the brittle whitewash layers that cover it.

PLASTER: Although the graffiti is in good condition, the plaster walls are not. Eyewitness accounts have observed rapid deterioration of the walls since the BSF bought the house in 2002. Video and photographic documentation taken at various times in the past decade confirm these suspicions. As mentioned earlier, some sections that were dangerously close to crumbling were skim coated with plaster, reinforced with plastic mesh, and painted over with latex paint. None of these areas were worked upon during this investigation, due to their extremely delicate nature.  It is recommended that these areas be treated by a plaster specialist before any paint removal continues.

TESTING RESULTS:  Upon paint layer investigation, many walls in the house appear to have been whitewashed first. This whitewash is the layer that is in direct contact with the graffiti. The walls appear to have been repeatedly whitewashed, and it is difficult to distinguish an exact number of layers. The top layers are water soluble, blue-gray distemper paints.

Testing indicates that most whitewash layers can be removed with a gentle scraping with a single edge razor blade. All other paint layers (distempers, whitewashes, latex), are removed at the same time as this whitewash is scraped off. The surface to be scraped is misted with water to keep the dust level down while scraping. This misting also serves to soften any thin plaster skim coating that sits on the surface, facilitating its removal with the blade.

Removal efforts on the whitewashed walls were very successful.  A number of names, regiments and dates were discovered, as well as some interesting horse drawings in charcoal. The graffiti beneath the whitewash layer is very well preserved and legible and further exposure efforts are expected to yield a substantial amount of intact graffiti.

In one room, the first layer of paint sequence is not a white wash and a light blue layer of paint is in direct contact with the graffiti. This layer is extremely hard, and the most effective method to remove it is to shave it down, layer by layer, with a scalpel and/or razor blade.  The result of this scraping is not a clean, white wall as seen in the other rooms. Much of the paint residues are left on the wall, obscuring the graffiti. Some of these residues can be shaved down until they are transparent, and graffiti can be viewed through the paint.

CONCLUSION: It is estimated that there is an additional 430 square feet of Civil War Graffiti to be uncovered at the house. It is recommended to remove all paint from the original plaster walls using the methods found effective during the testing phase. Already exposed graffiti may require a light cleaning with denatured alcohol to remove dirt and grime. Once this is complete, all walls will be coated with a coating that will minimize damage from abrasion and protect from dust and dirt buildup.


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Brandy Station Foundation volunteer recognition


Graffiti House Volunteer, Clint Robertson, was recently recognized for his production of an outstanding video for the Brandy Station Foundation. Clint was given a Silver Award at the 29th Annual Awards in the 'Not-for-Profit' category for his video about the Graffiti Exposure and Preservation Assessment that was conducted at the house in July of 2007.


Presidential Service Awards. The Piedmont Volunteer Center and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)  announced the availability of the President's Volunteer Service Award, a prestigious national honor given by the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation on behalf of the President of the United States and honors individuals, families and groups who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to volunteer service over the course of 12 months. Adults may receive : Bronze Award  for 100-249 hours; Silver Award for 250-499 hours; Gold Award for 500 or more hours. Bronze Awards: Robert Pfile, Shirley Pfile, Mike Block, Barry Atchison and Peggy Misch. Gold Awards: Robert Luddy and Della Edrington.


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2008 Lecture Series – Graffiti House from 2 to 3:15 PM


  Graffiti House – 19484 Brandy Road, Brandy Station Virginia 540-727-7718

Reservations are not required.  Donations to the Brandy Station Foundation are welcomed and will be used for the operation and restoration of the House. Free refreshments will be served.


May 25 – The Atlanta Campaign: Richard Deardoff will describe the series of maneuvers between Chattanooga and Atlanta as General Sherman went after General  Johnston.


June 29 – Cavalry Fights in Fauquier County - Coffee Hill/Buckland Races:  Joe McKinney will review the October 1863 actions at Auburn and Buckland, which was Stuart’s last victory.

July 27 - West Point at the Outset of the War – Class of 1862: Brian McEnany will describe how these cadets, with divided loyalties, reacted to the beginnings of the War.


August 31 – The Union Executions at Beverly’s Ford: Bud Hall will speak about the August 29, 1863 execution of five men for desertion as the entire 5th Corps observed from a nearby hill.

September 28 – Colonel and Mrs. J. Egbert Farnum (portrayed by Ed and Mary Kelley) will reminisce about their War experiences, including writing his name on the wall at the Graffiti House.

October 26 –Recovering the Remains of Capt. Farley – Archeological Perspective

Dale Brown will describe the process of exhuming Captain Will Farley’s remains from the Fairview Cemetery that were reinterred in Laurens, SC, his home. Farley was one of JEB Stuart’s key scouts


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2008 Battle of Brandy Station Driving Tours


BSF is presenting a series of two-hour tours, one devoted to each of the four engagements that comprise the Battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863. Transportation: Personal vehicle caravan will depart from the Graffiti House at 10AM. No advance reservation required. Cost $10.


Beverly Ford & St. James Church – April 5, May 31, July 26

The first tour in the series covers the early morning fighting between troops under the command of Union General John Buford and those commanded by his West Point classmate, Confederate General William E. "Grumble" Jones. Incidents examined include the death of Union Colonel Benjamin Franklin Davis in a one-on-one encounter with a Confederate lieutenant on the Beverly Ford Road, and the charge of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry against Confederate artillery at Saint James Church. 


Kelly’s Ford & Stevensburg – April 19, June 14, Aug 9

The second tour in the series begins with a discussion of the Union river-crossing at Kelly's Ford, and then follows the route of march of the Union cavalry division commanded by Colonel Alfred Napoleon Duffie, a deserter from the French army, to Stevensburg. The fighting at Stevensburg, a neglected aspect of the Battle of Brandy Station, is presented in detail. This tour concludes with a description of the mortal wounding of Captain William Farley, JEB Stuart's volunteer aide de camp.


Fleetwood Hill – May 3, June 28, Aug 23

The third tour focuses on the fighting for Fleetwood Hill, the most intense and prolonged combat on June 9, 1863. At one point 12 regiments -- 6 Union and 6 Confederate -- struggled for control of the hilltop. Unlike most Civil War battles, the troopers fought from the saddle, mostly with sabers. One frustrated Rebel was heard to shout at his Yankee opponent, "Why don't you Yankees put away your sabers, draw your pistols, and fight like gentlemen!"


Buford Knoll & Yew Ridge – May 17, July 12, Sept 6

The final installment in the series of tours presents the fighting that took place later in the afternoon of June 9 between General Buford and General W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee's brigade. During the fighting, Rooney Lee, Robert E. Lee's second son, was shot in the thigh and carried from the field. Colonel Solomon Williams of 1st North Carolina Cavalry, commanding his regiment in battle for the first time, was shot in the head and killed. He had been married just two weeks earlier.

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2008 Battle of Brandy Station Horseback Tour


June 21, 2008 Horseback Tour of the Battle of Brandy Station

  • Riders must furnish their own horses.

  • Reservations are required in advance. Call 540-547-4106.

  • Fee: $20


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Volunteers Needed For Civil War Graffiti House


Are you interested in Civil War History?


Like to talk to people and share experiences?


The Brandy Station Foundation is looking for you!


From April through October, the Graffiti House is open four days each week (Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) from 11AM to 4PM. This requires 160 hours of volunteer service each month. One person is needed downstairs to greet visitors, run the video and attend to the gift shop while another volunteer is upstairs telling the stories of the Graffiti.


 You are invited to join our team of dedicated volunteers who keep this National Historic site open free to the public.  If you have a few hours to spare, please contact Della Edrington at (540) 825-4543 or by email.


Positions available:  Volunteer interpreters (tour guides) and Greeters to welcome house visitors,
                              operate the gift shop and run the media center.

Where:                    The Graffiti House, 19484 Brandy Road, Brandy Station, Virginia


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Become a Member


If you have not already done so, we'd love to have you as a member.  Click here, then print the application form.   Fill out the form and send it today with your tax deductible donation.  We depend on your support!!


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