When Hunter McEaddy's family bought their second home about 20 years ago, they were looking for a country escape — and ended up with a unique piece of history.
They landed at the William Seabrook House, a plantation home on Edisto Island. McEaddy said the family found the home "warm and friendly," despite its grand stature, double staircase and wrought-iron fence with the initials "W.S."
But the home had other, less elegant quirks as well, including multiple drawings on the walls that have been there from the time it was occupied by Union soldiers in the aftermath of the American Civil War.
"It's part of the history of the house. You get used to it. You don’t feel like it’s anything unusual, although obviously it is," McEaddy said. "We always have fun showing it to guests or friends while they're there."
McEaddy's home is remarkable in that it still includes many surviving examples of this graffiti, including a rendering of the Great Seal and an uncomplimentary cartoon of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. But it's by no means the only historic home in the Charleston region that still has signs of the country's greatest internal conflict.
Edisto Island has several properties that housed Union forces during the war. Later, in the Reconstruction period, the Seabrook house was the headquarters of the Freedmen's Bureau, said Gretchen Smith, director of the Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society.
Just a mile away, the Cassina Point Plantation house was built for a daughter of the Seabrook family and her husband. It also has evidence of occupation, with drawings of naval vessels on the walls of the ground floor, said owner Bruce Earnshaw.
"It's what the guys saw on their lookout duties," he said.
At McLeod Plantation, on James Island, the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, one of the country's first all-black regiments, signed the chimney in the attic while they were housed there, said Katherine Pemberton of the Historic Charleston Foundation.
On the peninsula, there are more signs of actual fighting, including homes damaged during bombardments of the city. The Robert William Roper house, at 9 East Battery St., may be the most striking example.
In February 1865, Pemberton said, Confederate troops were in the midst of withdrawing from the city as Union forces advanced. But as the Confederates fled, they made a tactical decision to blow up one of their best armaments, a huge Blakely Gun that was positioned on the Battery.
The gun was too big to take along, and too important to fall into the enemy's hands. After the detonation, a 500-pound hunk of molten metal lodged itself into the attic of 9 East Battery.
The brick-and-column Greek revival mansion is today held by a historic property trust.
"Every engineer that’s ever kind of looked at it has been like, 'Well, don't mess with it, leave it alone,'" Pemberton said. "It’s still there, and you can still see it."
The signs of conflict like cannon bombardments are sometimes taken as a point of pride. South Carolina's statehouse building in Columbia still has several brass stars affixed today, noting the places where the building was hit as Gen. William T. Sherman sacked the city in 1865.
But many of the homes on Edisto eventually made their way back to the original owning families after Reconstruction. In some cases, interior graffiti then disappeared. Earnshaw said all of the plaster on the first and second floors of Cassina Point was at one point replaced, leaving the only remaining evidence on the ground floor.
While the Seabrook house has some of the most extensive remaining graffiti, McEaddy's family did decide to cover up some of it when they started using it as a family escape. They were careful not to damage the drawings, however, using a special wallpaper and glue that could be removed without damaging the surface of the wall.
"As best I recall, there was just typical things soldiers went and wrote about that were just a little bit off color for young daughters of ours," McEaddy said.
Today, the family has put the house on the market, where its list price is about $8.5 million.
The next buyer will find themselves with a more than 8,000-square-foot mansion designed by the same architect as the White House, two guest homes, two docks onto Steamboat Creek and an extra dose of history on the walls.
"It wasn't always pleasant, but it is an important part of history," Smith said. "That's the real value or credit that should be given to the property owners, who do see (the damage) as history and not destruction."