Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Civil War Graffiti at Mount Vernon

The tomb of George Washington

The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association took over operation of George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon in 1860 in an effort to stabilize and restore the mansion. As restoration efforts progressed, the American Civil War broke out. Throughout the war, the estate was managed by two staff members a Northerner and a Southerner.

Washington’s tomb was a place of veneration for both Union and Confederate soldiers.  Soldiers visiting the estate were requested to be neither armed nor dressed in military uniform. Such actions ensured that Mount Vernon remained neutral, hallowed ground. Mount Vernon remained safe and open throughout the war.

During the war, some soldiers left their names or initials etched on the brick wall surrounding the tomb of George Washington.  Most of this graffiti was left by soldiers whose identity has been lost to history, but there is one notable exception, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. 

Chamberlain is thought by some to have prevented the Confederate army from winning the Battle of Gettysburg.  Chamberlain was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1862. He became commander of the regiment in June 1863. On July 2, during the Battle of Gettysburg, Chamberlain's regiment occupied the extreme left of the Union lines at Little Round Top. Chamberlain's men withstood repeated assaults and finally drove the Confederates away with a bayonet charge. Had the Confederates taken Little Round Top they would have rolled up the Union line, won the Battle of Gettysburg, and changed the course of history.

Chamberlain’s name is carved into the brick wall of the tomb near the American flag. 

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