Graffiti House Listed on National Register of Historic Places

The Graffiti House in Brandy Station has received recognition for its importance to America's history, having met the following two criteria for inclusion on the National Register.
  1. Property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history
  2. Property has yielded, or is likely to yield information important to prehistory or history.

The Graffiti House stands on a small lot facing the Orange and Alexandria Railroad in the village of Brandy Station. The house’s orientation to the railroad is characteristic of a period when railroads were the primary source of long-distance travel. When the Civil War began, the line became one of the most strategically important in Virginia. Both the Union and Confederate armies used the railroad to transport troops and supplies.

James Barbour, who had the Graffiti House built about 1858, lived at Fleetwood (now called Beauregard), which stands on a hill to the north overlooking this house and the village of Brandy Station. Considering its location adjacent to the railroad, the house probably functioned as a dwelling, or a boarding house, or a commercial structure, or some combination thereof. During the war, as the graffiti inside the building make clear, it sheltered both Confederate and Union soldiers, and according to local tradition it may have been used as a hospital.

The graffiti includes names of offices and soldiers, dates, names of cities and battles, and drawings of a bird, women and both Union and Confederate soldiers, distinguishable because of their hats. Most of the graffiti is undated.

The earliest date remaining on the walls, March 16, 1863, was inscribed the day before the Battle of Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River, which occurred about five miles southeast of the Graffiti House. The battle – the first in which Stuart’s cavalrymen failed to soundly beat Union troopers – was also notable for the mortal wounding of Major John Pelham, the young horse-artillery officer. The date is attached to a piece of graffiti called the "Maryland Scroll." It contains the names of the sixteen-man crew of Rifle Gun No. 1, Captain James Breathed’s Battery, Stuart’s Horse Artillery, which was "on picket" at the house.

An additional item of graffiti is the date "June the 8th 1863" when Stuart held a "Grand Cavalry Review". Lee attended this review, which took place about two miles southwest of the Graffiti House. Stuart put his cavalrymen through several maneuvers in a large field; some of the men grumbled at the display, which tired their horses. Unfortunately for the Confederate troopers and their horses, the review occurred the day before the Battle of Brandy Station, the largest mounted engagement in the history of North America.

Lieutenant James Marshall, Co. E, 12th Virginia Cavalry, scrawled his name and unit on a wall. A great-nephew of Chief Justice John Marshall, James Marshall was twenty-five years old at the time of the Battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, when a bullet wounded him. Perhaps he wrote his name and unit on the wall of the Graffiti House while recuperating there after the battle.

Michael Bowman, 7th Virginia Cavalry, also wrote his name on a wall in the same room. He was later wounded during the Battle of the Wilderness on May 5, 1864. He survived the war and lived until early in the twentieth century, residing for part of that time in Madison County. Other Confederates who left their names in one room or another include Sergeant Allan Bowman, 12th Virginia Cavalry, Private George W. Butt, Norfolk Light Artillery, Lieutenant Joseph D. Moore, Norfolk Light Artillery, Private Lewis Miller, 1st Virginia Volunteer Cavalry, and Privates James A.T. Cooper and George Orrison, 35th Virginia Cavalry.

Colonel "J. Egbert Farnum" also signed his name. He commanded the 70th New York Infantry Regiment and fought in the Battles of Williamsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Other Federal officers who names appear on the wall include Captain Edwin or Lucius Dillingham, 19th Vermont Infantry and Lieutenant Walter Gale, 15th Massachusetts Volunteer.


Return to top