Whether expressing wartime frustrations, transmitting cryptic messages or simply letting the world know, I'm alive, graffiti was one of the ways soldiers told their tales of the Civil War. From teenage privates to generals, their scrawls still live on the walls of historic sites near Fairfax County, Virginia. Download your own Northern Virginia Graffiti Trail brochure.
Historic Blenheim, in the City of Fairfax, contains one of the most voluminous and best-preserved examples of Civil War inscriptions in the nation. More than 100 signatures, art and poetry comprise a "diary on walls," penned by Union soldiers during their occupation of the Fairfax Court House area in 1862-63.
Next, drive to Mt. Zion Historic Park in Aldie, located in Loudoun County. Built in 1851, the site was used as a Union hospital and graffiti on the walls are remnants of the soldier's days spent in recuperation.
Last, head to The Old Court House Civil War Museum in Winchester, VA. The court house was the most important public building in Winchester during the Civil War and was a natural spot to treat the wounded and to hold prisoners. Many of the prisoners wrote their names on the walls of the courthouse.
Start your day at Ben Lomond Historic Site in neighboring Prince William County. Following the Battle of First Manassas Confederate forces used the house and grounds as a hospital. By the spring of 1862, Union forces occupied Ben Lomond. Today, visitors can read their graffiti on the walls inside the house.
The Graffiti House, in nearby Culpeper County, served as a field hospital for the South during The Battle of Brandy Station, one of history's greatest cavalry engagements. Drawings and signatures from both sides were rediscovered in 1993 and much has been preserved. The earliest date deciphered is from April 1863 when the Federal cavalry crossed the Rappahannock River at Beverly's Ford to initiate the Chancellorsville Campaign. Civil War graffiti wasn't limited to the young and rebellious. Among the signatures at Graffiti House are Colonel John Farnum, Commander of the 70th New York Infantry and General J.E.B. Stuart, Calvary Commander of the Confederate Army.