Built in 1840 the Frederick County Courthouse in Winchester, Virginia (now the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum operated by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation) is not only a place that houses many valuable artifacts, but is itself an important artifact connecting to Winchester’s wartime experiences. It was from the steps of that building that individuals delivered speeches condemning or advocating Virginia’s secession. During the conflict’s four years the building served as both a hospital and prison for soldiers of both armies.
Today, the interior courthouse walls bear testimony to its incessant use. Throughout the structure one can find graffiti left by Union and Confederate soldiers. Some soldiers simply inscribed their names and regimental affiliation. One piece of graffiti, however, is of particular note—a curse to Jefferson Davis which can be found on the building’s south wall, second floor. The curse reads “To Jeff Davis: May he be set afloat in a boat without compass or rudder then that any contents be swallowed by a shark. The shark by the whale, the whale in the devil’s belly and the devil in hell. The gates locked, the key lost and further may he be put in the northwest corner with a southwest wind blowing ashes in his eyes for all Eternity.”
The Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum is open throughout the year. Additional details about specific hours and entrance fees can be found at civilwarmuseum.org