Civil War Graffiti at Washington's Tomb – Alexandria, Virginia - Atlas Obscura
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Alexandria, Virginia

Civil War Graffiti at Washington's Tomb

The tomb was guarded by soldiers from both sides of the war, and some left their initials carved in the brick.  

You can’t help but feel a patriotic solace when visiting the grave of George and Martha Washington at Mount Vernon. It is quite a surprising site to see. One might expect a grand and elaborate monument to the founding father, but the modest tomb actually fits the president’s reserved and private personality. 

One interesting feature of the tomb site are the many graffiti marks, initials, and dates left by Civil War soldiers from both the North and South during the course of the war.

No actual battles took place at Mount Vernon, but the land did change hands from time to time throughout the war. Sometimes Union soldiers guarded Washington’s grave and sometimes Confederate soldiers watched. Boredom had to set in quickly, and there was little to do to pass the time. So, at some point soldiers started leaving their initials and dates etched in the red brick of Washington’s tomb. This was not done out of disrespect or vandalism; it was more of a testament to the time soldiers stood guard there.

Know Before You Go

Washington's grave at Mount Vernon takes a bit of a hike to get to, but is worth the extra steps to see. Many of Washington's family members are also buried in the area. Follow the signs after you have seen the mansion, and they will take you directly to the tomb. This is a place of respectful silence as visitors offer their thoughts, reflections, prayers, and tears to one of America's Founding Fathers. 

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