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.
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.
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.
Ben Lomond Historic Site, in neighboring Prince William County, features an 1832 house that was used as a Confederate hospital during and after the Battle of First Manassas in July 1861. Union soldiers campaigning through the area in 1862 also left graffiti on the walls of the home.
Though all this graffiti was considered destructive and disrespectful at the time, it is now a valuable chapter in the story of our nation. Your stay in Fairfax County puts you in the midst of three notable examples of this rare testimony. Download your own Northern Virginia Graffiti Trail brochure today and hit the road to discover the past.