A conservator working this week at the historic Graffiti House in Brandy Station has for the first time uncovered Civil War-era writing on the ground floor of the structure.
The newest uncovered writing appears to be from Union soldiers, apparently during the period the house was used as part of the headquarters of Union Gen. Henry Prince, said Foundation President Jim McKinney.
Since buying the house in 2002, the foundation has been working to uncover and preserve graffiti written on the plaster walls within the structure. Until now, all of the graffiti had been located in rooms on the second floor, McKinney said.
Architectural Conservator Chris Mills of Christopher Mills Conservation Services in Massachusetts said he thought he had found all the graffiti which had survived inside the historic structure.
But during his last visit to Brandy Station, Mills said he checked out the bathroom which had been added under the stairway in the 1930's. There he found evidence of more original plaster which had been covered by drywall, layers of wallpaper and numerous coats of paint.
Returning to the house this week, Mills uncovered the new section of plaster bearing graffiti.
McKinney said the new writing appears to be from the Union occupation of the house between November 1863 and May of 1864.
Included on the uncovered plaster is a reference to a "light infantry" group, an unusual reference, McKinney said.
There are also mentions of a unit from Ohio and a five-pointed star, which Mills said seems to have been drawn with some sort of paint — also unusual for the house.
Most of the graffiti uncovered upstairs was written with charcoal from the house's fireplace or pencil, he said.
"We don't know much about it yet — we just uncovered it yesterday (Wednesday)," Mills said.
McKinney said the foundation will now begin the painstaking process of researching the new references and names uncovered on the plaster.
Much of the research is done by BSF members and former foundation presidents Bob Luddy and Bob Jones, McKinney said.
McKinney said the foundation has already identified more than 50 soldiers from both sides of the conflict who had signed the walls.
"First you have to interpret what the names are," McKinney said. "The Park Service has a data base for the war which is very helpful. If you have the unit to go with the names it makes it a lot easier."
Mills said he will probably leave the site this week after stabilizing the newly uncovered section of plaster and using a endoscope to look inside the other walls downstairs to see if there is any more plaster.
"The great thing about this is that it is first generation, first hand," Mills said. "There is no speculation; there is no interpretation. Their signatures on the wall means they were definitely here."
The Graffiti House will remain closed as the work continues through this weekend. It will reopen Jan. 30. The facility is open to the public Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no charge for admission, but donations are welcome.
For more information, call the Graffiti House at (540) 727-7718.