One generation’s graffiti, another’s history lesson

“Civil War soldiers often signed their names at mustering sites before heading off to fight. Countless signatures have been painted over. But on a plaster wall at the courthouse in Gates County, N.C., you can still see signatures dated June 12, 1861. One signer was 18-year-old John Gatling, who survived the war and returned to the courthouse in 1915, at age 72, to speak at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the war’s conclusion.

” ‘Those signatures are a momentary record, captured in time,’ says Josh Howard, research historian with the North Carolina Office of Archives and History. ‘If you touch their names, you’re literally touching history.’ ”

— From “Erasing Signatures from History” in the Wall Street Journal (March 2) — fascinating and far-reaching.