These Walls Do Talk

The aptly named Graffiti House attracts Civil War and other history buffs as well as paranormal-believing “ghost hunters.”

Article by Richard Deardoff
Photos by Jan Kamphuis

“The Dancing Lady” During the five month winter encampment following the Gettysburg campaign, families of officers were allowed to come to camp.  Here a female visitor carefully picks her way through the mud between the Graffiti House and the railroad tracks

“The Dancing Lady”

A few miles south of the Rappahannock River in Culpeper County lays one of the nation’s historical treasures – the Graffiti House on the Brandy Station Battlefield. Built in 1858 as an adjunct to the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, it served both sides during the Civil War. For the Confederates it was a field hospital, while the Federals used it as a divisional headquarters for the five months they wintered over in 1863-1864.

It was because of this utilitarian value that the small frame house escaped the destruction visited upon many other buildings as soldiers from both sides searched for material to use in constructing shelters, or simply for firewood.

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The Graffiti House
before & after
restoration

Nearby Fleetwood Hill may be the most fought over piece of real estate in American warfare: opposing armies either sought to defend or gain this valuable high ground for use as an artillery platform. After each clash of arms, the wounded and prisoners would be brought to this house either for medical help or to be transported to distant hospitals or POW camps.

During the five month winter encampment following the Gettysburg campaign, families of officers were allowed to come to camp.  In the above drawing “Dancing Lady,” a female visitor carefully picks her way through the mud between the Graffiti House and the railroad tracks

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Period photograph
of Michael Bowman

In addition to its historical value, the building has also proved to be of interest to a variety of paranormal groups, who have described it as one of the most active sites for research in the area. These investigators have spent numerous nights at the house tracing spirits and tape recording conversations from beyond. A DVD of their experiences is available for viewing at the Graffiti House. At left is the “Ghost Room,” where most of the paranormal activity has been detected.

Michael Bowman was a confederate private who was paid $11 a month. He spent $2 to have his picture taken. His portrait (pictured) – and perhaps his presence – remains in the Graffiti House.

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Visit the Graffiti House website and don’t miss their Holiday Open House on Sat. Dec. 12.


About the author: Richard Deardoff is a docent at the Graffiti House and has served on the Board of Directors for the Brandy Station Foundation, has been named Teacher of the Year for Fauquier County Public Schools twice, and is a former Civil War Trust Teacher of the Year.  He and his wife, Suzanne, live in Culpeper County; he is currently teaching at Kettle Run High school.