Multispectral images of signatures at Historic Blenheim
Photo courtesy of R.B. Toth Associates

Illuminating one of the graffiti-covered walls. Photo courtesy of R.B. Toth Associates

One day in the early 1860s, a Union soldier named Stephen signed his name on the wall of a Virginia farmhouse, adding his tag to hundreds of others that covered the inside of the structure. The house, today known as Historic Blenheim and located in the City of Fairfax, has fascinated historians for decades, in large part because of all this graffiti. But until recently, only a small portion of the scrawlings—primarily in the attic—had been visible. The rest of the house’s secrets have been buried under layers of paint and wallpaper.

So while researchers had learned about some soldiers who passed through—men such as Henry van Ewyck, a Dutch immigrant in the 26th Wisconsin Infantry who deserted after recovering from illness at Blenheim, then…

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