Civil War Graffiti in the Elliott House

George Parsons Elliott built the mansion located on the corner of Bay and Charles Streets (1001 Bay Street) in circa 1844. Guests passed by elegant iron railings and entered through the lovely fanlit doorway to admire the detail-oriented opulence of the interior: breathtaking marble mantels and heavenly gilded cornices and moldings. Dr. William Jenkins acquired the house prior to the Civil War, and he was considered one of Beaufort’s wealthiest men, owning 1500 slaves.[1] However, Jenkins quickly lost his estate when he evacuated in November of 1861, running from the invading Union soldiers during Beaufort’s “Grand Ske-daddle.” Jenkins left a book collection, furniture and family portraits which were moved to Hilton Head Island during the occupation. (He was only able to retrieve these items after the war because a faithful servant knew where they were hidden).[2] Today, the two upper floors of the building are being used as private offices. The “basement” rooms are actually above ground, yet the ceilings are much shorter than those on the upper floors. These foundational rooms are being used commercially by The Spirit of Old Beaufort, the Green Fish Gallery and Hank’s Framing and Art.

The Elliott House was used as Union hospital number fifteen during the occupation. Union sentries were posted upstairs in front of the window, where they could watch the bay from the best vantage point. There was no upper verandah at that time, so the lookouts were confined indoors, flanked by nothing but a blank- walled hallway. To ease the monotony (there was never any action in peaceful, war-pardoned Beaufort), they began drawing on the walls, using led pencils. Union speculator, George Holmes purchased the house during the Direct Tax Sales and probably covered the offensive graffiti with new wallpaper. The led did not fade like the graphite of modern pencils would, so the “cave drawings” are well-preserved and were discovered during a restoration. The walls are still covered with scribbles on both sides of the upstairs hallway, everywhere within arm’s reach. These plaster sections of wall are untouched, but the rest of the walls in the house are now painted.

Drawings include a soldier in uniform, a man’s profile with dark, curly hair, a woman walking in a black dress with curly hair under a hat (she is about out 1.5 inches tall), a plant, cannons, three suggestive nude people, and two very detailed examples of male genitalia. Most of the signatures are indecipherable to the untrained eye.  Paul Brodee’s name was written clearly, and he became a famous architect after the war (information courtesy of Tom Perkins, financial rep, who works in the house). More signatures include the following: “Charles Littleton, Drum Corps, 50th Regiment Pennsylvania and Eli Miller (best I can read), Northumberland Pennsylvania 47th Regiment: formerly a shoe maker by trade.”  Miller later got into the boot and shoe business in 1868, and he carried one of the most complete lines of boots and shoes in New York. In 1884, he partnered with George S. Billmeyer and began a clothing and merchant- tailoring business. He married Angeline Mathais, fathered three children, and remained independent in politics.

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[1] A Guide to Historic Beaufort. Beaufort: Historic Beaufort Foundation, 1999. 102

[2] News and Courier Charleston Wednesday Morning March 14, 1951, “Beaufort Tour will end today at Jenkin’s House,” by Lynn Christensen