U.S. Civil War History & Genealogy


Gettysburg Ghost Stories I


WE ARE NOT ALONE

On a cloudy day not very long ago, Joseph and Martha, alluded by previous visits to the Gettysburg battlefield, again made the trip. As with many others, they could not seem to get enough of the place and were drawn back repeatedly. They looked forward to each visit, learning new and interesting anecdotes each time. However, on that cool and cloudy fall day, Joseph and Martha were about to embark on a journey of lifetime.

Their day started the same as all the others, excited about the visit. They were enjoying a leisurely day of browsing and getting acquainted with new parts of the battlefield of Gettysburg. Although they have been close to the Wheatfield before, they never walked it nor read the markers. Joseph and Martha paused long enough to read a tablet describing gruesome accounts of the battle on the Wheatfield.

That field on July 2,1863 was turned into what they have described as a 'Whirlpool of death' in the late afternoon. The battle raged for two and a half hours as the Confederates under General James Longstreet attempted to crush the line held by the Union troops. Each side held the field at different times, six to be exact. As Longstreet's men forced the assault, the Union sent in reinforcements, pushing back the Confederates. Men on both sides took what little shelter they could find in that open field-- the 'stony-hill and stone wall providing defenses for some. Still, with each renewed attack men fell wounded and killed in the valiant assault. At about 6:30 p.m. the Confederates began to surround the Wheatfield resulting in the Federals falling back. Pools of blood were on the field, along with the wounded, dead and dying. At the end of the day, General Longstreet's Confederates were victorious and held the Wheatfield.

Now that Joseph and Martha had a better understanding of the terrible loss of life that took place in front of them, they continued their walk onto the field with a solemn attitude. With a slight chill in the air and overcast skies, the battlefields had very few visitors that day. As they walked the hallowed-ground of the Wheatfield, they could not help but notice they were alone. " What a difference between today and that ill-fated day of July 1863," Martha remarked.. " Back then, this field was packed full of desperate soldiers and today only the two of us."

They continued their walk to the first New York Light Artillery Battery D monument. They stood there looking at the impressive monument with its bronze cannon leaning against a spoked wheel. Martha was talking about the monument when she abruptly stopped in the middle of a sentence looked at Joseph. Simultaneously, both suddenly had a strange feeling someone was behind them. Quickly turning around, what they did NOT see startled the frightened couple even more nobody was there. The first words coming out of Joseph's and Martha's mouths were identical--- "WE ARE NOT ALONE!!"

For those that are skeptical, I would suggest taking a walk in the Wheatfield, preferably after dark and alone, and see if you do not get a bone chilling feeling.

THE BEAT OF A DISTANT DRUMMER

The battle of Gettysburg on July 3,1863, became known as The High Water Mark of the Confederacy. At 1:00 in the afternoon, General Lee, in an attempt to crush General Meade's troops, chose to attack dead center into the Union forces, then on Cemetery Ridge. Trying to break the Union battle lines, Lee instructed his massed artillery to open fire on the unsuspecting men, sending a barrage of deadly shells into their foes.

To this, the union soldiers answered with their own lethal volley in a punishing manner. The exchange of artillery fire continued for some time. However, because of the limited vision caused by the powder darkened skies, Lee's attempt to soften the Union lines was mostly inconsequential. When the guns ceased, General Lee instructed General Longstreet to begin the mass assault on the Union position.

The famed General George Pickett was directed to send his 15,000 Confederates into the center of the Union Line in a desperate attempt to break, and ultimately win the three day battle. The men marched a mile across the field, each step of the way being bombarded with shot and shell, and when within range, fired upon by volleys of musketry. With dead and wounded rapidly littering the field, the men desperately fought their way forward. The effort was in vain, for only a few could reach the Union line before being driven back. In about an hour it was all but over, there on the bloodstained field were 10,000 casualties. After Pickett's charged failed, the battle was over and for Meade, a decisive victory.

For many reenactors, walking Pickett's Charge is an honor and done in memory of those who died in that futile attempt more than a hundred and thirty years ago. Each person has his or her own reason, but for Mike and Dan, they wanted to experience what it felt like just to walk that same battlefield. However, they would ' experience' more than just a feeling.

On a cool day, Mike and Dan decided it would be a good time to walk the field, and after an early breakfast, drove to the Virginia monument. The sun had just begun to rise and the battlefield was void of any people, perfect for contemplating on the war dead, as they would walk. As Mike and Dan started their stroll, they tried to imagine what was going through the minds of the thousands of Confederates as they face sure devastation. As hard as they tried, they could not come close to the frightful sight witnessed by the soldiers under Pickett's command.

Slowly continuing across the field, they stopped about a third of the way when both said it seemed as if an energy was all around them. They looked around and still were the only people on the desolate field. Mike and Dan heard of people experiencing a certain unexplainable " feeling", yet until then had never personally had it happen to them. Unsure of what was happening, they continued walking, trying to understand the unknown source of energy. When about half way across Pickett's Charge, Dan stopped again, turned to Mike and said, " Listen do you hear that? " Listening intently, he heard nothing until a few steps later, then he heard it too. They could hear the faint beating of a drum, the same beat heard as troops march. Thinking it strange, they concluded other reenactors must have been some where close by, also visiting the battlefield in the early morning hour.

They again looked around as before, not a soul was within their sight. Not overly concerned, Mike and Dan resumed their walk, only to be stopped again by the sound of drums, this time louder. Now troubled by the unexplained event, they came up with several possibilities trying to ease their minds. Satisfied that the sound was coming from a distance and carried to them, they started walking. Just when they thought they had the logical answer, the drumming started again, louder than before. Thinking other reenactors playing their drums were getting closer, they could not understand why they could not see them yet. The drumbeats continued to get louder, just as if the drummers were approaching Mike and Dan, still, they could see nobody. By now, the mysterious beating of drums baffled the two men. As they stood as still as statues, they heard the drums increase in volume to such an extent, they believed the sound to be coming from a few feet away! They did not speak or move as the phantom drumbeats continued, apparently moving in the direction of the Union side. Mike and Dan stood there, nervous and trembling, hearing the drum beats passby, then the sound continually diminished until finally they could no longer hear it.

After the initial shock of the unexplained event, Mike and Dan are forever convinced that they had witnessed first hand a supernatural event.

REENACTING THE PAST

Gettysburg draws many Civil War reenactors to the town and surrounding battlefield, but why? Perhaps because it was the site of one of the most famous battles in American history, or, could it be the close connection between reenactors and the spirit world? We may never know, but what we do know is that uneven proportions of reenactors have strange encounters and sightings with their counterparts of the past. Several of these stories recently reported follow.

WHISPERS

A couple of uniformed Civil War reenactors were taking in the sights on the battlefield when they decided to visit Big Round Top. They were driving at low speed, with the windows rolled down to allow the best view of the area, making an occasional stop. They crossed Emmitsburg Road and went on at low speed still taking in the sights, when they heard soft voices in conversation. At first they thought it was the radio but soon discovered it was off. They had a strange desire to find where the voices were coming from and, consequently, believing the sounds to be from a nearby picnic area, drove into it.

Once in the picnic area they found nothing --not a soul to be found. The two men, confused and questioning their own minds, continued their journey to Big Round Top. Reports of people hearing voices, cannon shots, muskets, and noises of all description, only to find there is no source for the unexplained sounds, are common occurrences on the battlefield. The next time you hear an unexplained sound while on the battlefield with no visible origin, you might ask yourself, " Do I just hear extraneous noises, or could I be listening to a supernatural experience?"

BANGS

Two reenactors dressed in their Civil War apparel, ventured into the Triangular Field wanting to get a first hand look at the locality. As they passed through the gate and started down the slope of the field, they talked and looked around at the view. Nobody else was in the area, or at least, they saw nobody. All the two men could heard was the muffled noise of distant traffic. Soon they were half way down the slope into the field and could no longer hear the traffic. Now what they heard was the distinct firing of cannons and the beating of drums. A quick look around for the origin of the sounds showed nothing but the emptiness of the Triangular Field, void of any other human beings. The two men both agreed that what they had just experienced was an unearthly visit from the past. Not knowing why it had occurred, the reenactors, as they vacated the field, left a token cigarette on a rock inside the gate for the unseen apparitions.

STRANGE LOOKS

In the evening around 8:30, two reenactors, fully dressed in their sharpshooter uniforms, ventured up the hill to the top of Little Round Top. Because of the time of year, darkness had already set in and the two men were equipped with only a lantern to guide their way. Looking around some, they made their way to the top of the 44th New York Monument to extend their somewhat limited view. One man at first looked to his left, then forward, and finally to his right in the direction of Governor K Warren's vigilant statue. Governor K. Warren was the Union officer who, during the Battle of Gettysburg, went atop Little Round top because it offered a good view of the area to observe enemy actions. While up on the ridge, Warren spotted the Confederates and then was searching for his union soldiers. The men walked toward the Warren statue, stopping near the boulder with the Signal Corps Memorial Tablet. As one of the reenactors looked at Warren's statue, he was frozen with fright when, to his astonishment, Warren's head shifted twice, looking toward the stunned man. Thinking he was "seeing things," he quickly told his friend to look at the Warren statue again, the head shifted, looking toward the dazed reenactors. After the two men witnessed the same occurrence, they immediately left, walking briskly away, almost running down the path from Little Round Top. Remember, the two men were outfitted in Union uniforms- is this the spirit of Governor K Warren still looking for his Union soldiers?

EVIL IN THE TRIANGLE

Until the time they visited the battlefield of Gettysburg, most people never experience ghost or the supernatural. Yet, once introduced to those fields of violent deaths, many people experience feelings never before felt. For some, it is extended past the point of feelings and they hear unexplainable sounds, voices, and, the most chilling of all, witness obscure apparitions..

Who are these people? They come from all walks of life, construction workers, lawyers, doctors, clerks, clergy and truck drivers, just to name a few. Neither age nor gender makes a difference. For many, the story is the same or very similar, reporting their first time encounters. Probably the most frequently heard statement is, " I got a strange feeling on the battlefield." Most have no idea what that feeling means, still, they believe it has something to do with supernatural forces surrounding Gettysburg.

Some people, on visiting the battlefield, have a strong feeling of déjà vu, the sensation of being in that spot before, thought its their first time there. A good example would be General Patton, of World War 2 fame, known to have said on several occasions, " I've been here before, " as he walked ancient battlefields. For some people it goes beyond the déjà vu stage, having powerful feelings of being killed in the battle of Gettysburg.

Still others find they are troubled in certain spots on the battlefield, some so much so they are physically unable to go near specific areas. With thousands of people visiting Gettysburg each year, many never experience anything out of the ordinary or have any desire to return. On the other hand, many are moved by their experience in Gettysburg and unexplainably keep returning to the hallowed ground. When asked why they return, one answer often heard is, "I don't know why, I can't explain it, there's just something about Gettysburg that makes me want to come back." Some say because of the thousands of soldiers dying so traumatically and quickly, their spirits remain where they died, unable to make the transition to the other side. For these souls, they are still fighting the Battle of Gettysburg- a haunting reminder of another world.

Although it is impossible to know the exact number of people's encounters with the unexplainable in Gettysburg, particular sections or areas have high frequencies of occurrences. When one studies the reports, it becomes evident that those areas were witness to heavy destruction with a tremendous amount of loss of life. One of these places is the Triangular Field. On July 2, 1863 around 4 p.m., Robertson's Brigade of Longstreet's Corps arrived on the field, advancing against Union positions. Later, the 4th and 5th Texas assisted, attacking Little Round Top until dark. Following is just a sampling of the many experiences people have had while at the area of the battlefield known as the Triangular field.

A CONFUSED AIR

Recently, Charlie and Linda made one of their treks to Gettysburg, anticipating another enjoyable visit. The day happened to be pleasant, partly cloudy and mild. They spent some time in town, going through many establishments, browsing and purchasing an occasional item. After that, they decided to take a leisurely tour of the battlefield, with no particular target in mind just drive aimlessly around.

They slowly drove along the peaceful roads, often stopping to walk out to a monument or marker. Charlie remarked that although he has been on the battlefield often, he constantly sees more monuments previously unknown to him. They are simply amazed at the vast number and variety of monuments found at Gettysburg Battlefield. Charlie and Linda stopped at some popular spots; Devil's Den, Little Round Top, and the High Water Mark. As expected, they were enjoying a relaxing and pleasurable tour, as they randomly moved across the battlefield. Until this time, neither Charlie nor Linda had ever had any unusual experience of any kind associated with the spiritual world. This would soon change.

While walking part of the High Water Mark, Charlie suggested they go to the Triangular Field. He did not know why, he just knew he wanted to go there. They finished walking the High Water Mark, entered their car and continued their leisurely journey parking near the Triangular Field. As they walked into the field, Charlie remembered what he had read about the struggle that took place there. Walking farther, they remembered the pain and suffering that went on during that terrible time, and soon began to get strange feelings. Both told each other about the peculiar feeling they were experiencing. If only one had experienced it, it would not have been too serious, however, with both affected the same way, they knew something out of the ordinary was taking place.

Reluctantly, they continued, drawn forward by some unknown force. Charlie happened to have with him a police scanner, on, but with the volume turned down. Oblivious to the scanner, Linda and Charlie were more tuned-in to the strange feeling coming over them, than the muffled sounds emitted by the electronic device. They took a few more steps when the sounds of the scanner got their attention. For some unknown reason, the volume increased dramatically, then as quickly, returned to its previous setting. Temporarily forgetting the Triangular Field, Charlie's attention was directed to the malfunctioning scanner, checking the battery connections or any other obvious potential problem. Everything checked out ok and no sooner did he lift his head away, than the scanner again blurted loud sounds. He listened intently and to his surprise, heard channels coming in that were not designed for the scanner, not one but many! They could not believe what they were hearing. The scanner acting erratic and weird was as if was possessed, with no control whatever over the inner workings. Charlie and Linda looked at the scanner, then each other, and without so much as a word, turned about-face and left the field. Once back to their car, Charlie tried the scanner- it worked perfectly! They had no doubt in their mind that they crossed paths with a powerful force from another dimension.

OUCH

For another person, the Triangular Field would provide a memory in her mind she would never forget. Most encounters with the ghost are of a nonphysical nature, usually just hearing or perhaps even seeing a phantom. However, occasionally people have been known to be touched by a ghost. Such was the case of a young woman, Kelly, as she ventured onto the battlefield. It was not the first time she was on the battlefield, but for Kelly, it was the first time she ever encountered any abnormal experience.

It was just another typical day at Gettysburg and a group of people, including Kelly, chose to walk the battlefield at night. What began as an entertaining filled trip onto the field was to take a bizarre turn for the unsuspecting Kelly. The small group of people walked onto the Triangular Field in the dark of the night, allured by the unknown. As they walked along, they told jokes about the ghosts and sarcastically dared them to show their faces. They chuckled and giggled, half-serious about the ghost appearing, still taunting. Kelly and the others were close enough to hear and see each other, but not close enough to touch.

Walking deeper into the Triangular Field, Kelly could see the others several yards away. She was listening to one of her group tell stories about the dead found on the field, when suddenly and without warning, someone grabbed her by the hair, jerking her head back. She let out a frightful scream, quickly turning to see the culprit, however, much to her surprise, no one was there. Her head ached after the pull, bringing tears to her eyes. The others ran over to her, none saw anything in the area. For Kelly, the Triangular Field will forever hold a haunting memory and reminder that there are powerful and unexplainable force lingering on that bloodstained ground

IF LOOKS COULD KILL

Both during and after the filming of Gettysburg, scores of reenactors were drawn to the mystique of the battlefield. Of these, there have been many with frequent reports of unusual occurrences, ranging from strange sounds and smells, to actually seeing illogical visions. One explanation is, because reenactors customarily dress in uniforms while visiting the battlefield, the spirits see them as familiar or " one of the boys." These sightings or visualizations happen more than have been reported. Many remain untold simply because the person or persons involved do not think people will believe them, or possibly they feel what they saw was just their imagination. Yet of the many reports, the main subject seems to be soldiers, Confederate and Union, randomly appearing day or night on all parts of the battlefield. This is not unusual when one considers the immensity of the battle. On July 1, 2 and 3, 1863, more men died at Gettysburg than any other battle on this continent upwards of 50,00 dead and wounded. With so many souls suffering horrifying deaths, is it any wonder so many people make contact with apparitions.

One of these reports occurred several years ago during July to a group of Confederate reenactors portraying a Virginia infantry unit. The group consisted of five men, gathered with thousands of others for a once in a-lifetime event, the 130th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. The Virginia group set up camp along with other reenactors, partaking in a variety of living history events, sightseeing, and just plain having fun.

The third day, they had a very long day, filling every minute with as much excitement as possible. They knew soon they would have to leave Gettysburg, perhaps never again to return, As the evening approached, the Virginia group, still dressed in their Confederate uniforms, left their campsite to once again tour the battlefield, soon arriving at Devil's Den. They had all been there several times and suggested walking up to Little Round top, to which they quickly agreed, hoofing up the paths.

Once up the hill they decided they should not miss the area of the 20th Maine charge before parting, and shortly were walking through the woods. As they walked, examining everything in sight, they commented on the bizarre feeling they were getting in the densely wooded section of the hill. It was twilight with patches of fog in the vicinity, when one man thought he saw something ahead. Sure enough, out of the fog emerged three Confederate soldiers with forbidding looks on their faces, dressed in ragged and torn uniforms. The Virginia reenactors all stopped and watched curiously as the three Confederates approached, none speaking, just examining the reenactors. When the three were close enough, the Virginia men, thinking they were also reenactors, asked with what group they were. No response. They thought they did not hear and again asked the same question, but again, no response . The three mysterious men, now only several feet from the group, stopped momentarily to observe the reenactors, then walked off.

Quite bewildered, the Virginia group watched as the three Confederates walked into the fog, even more astonished when the soldiers vanished. A few of the reenactors quickly ran to the spot they last saw the three men, but not a trace of any of them was to be found. The Virginians dumbfounded, looked at each other for confirmation on what they had just witnessed. They concluded that they were visited by three phantom Civil War soldiers. The reenactors believe that, after being scrutinized, the apparitions were satisfied they were no threat to the Confederacy, and continued on their timeless vigilant journey, back into their clandestine world.

A THIRST FOR THE UNKNOWN

As the sun rose and burned off the lingering fog, another day in Gettysburg began. Among a group of tourists were a young man and woman, Mark and Linda, dressed in Civil War clothes. They got an early start and visited many battlefield sites, like Little Round Top, Devils Den, and the Wheatfield, on that hot summer day. Absolutely enchanted by the monuments and places of century old carnage, they could not bring themselves to leave. They stopped only briefly for quick snacks and cold drinks to help alleviate the punishing heat furnished by the unforgiving sun. Soon, Mark and Linda found the day was almost consumed, as it was already late in the evening with very little sunlight remaining. Still thirsty from the days relentless heat, Mark took a drink from the bottle of soft drink he purchased earlier, but found it to be warm and undrinkable, so he told Linda they should go back to Town.

Driving through the battlefield, however, they were impelled to make just one more stop before leaving-- the High Water Mark. So drawn to, and impressed by that spellbinding area, Mark wanted a keepsake of the moment. Therefore, he directed Linda to sit and pose upon a caisson while he took a photograph. As he focused his camera to take the picture, he noticed a very dark unrecognizable image behind Linda. Thinking a person's shadow or reflective glare caused the image, Mark slightly moved the camera and began to refocus. To his utter astonishment, the image now took the shape of a man mounted on a horse. As Mark watched through his lens during that instant of time, the man dismounted and the image just as quickly disappeared. Mark still shaken by the incident tried to finish taking the picture but found the camera inoperable. Having another camera in his car, Mark quickly retrieved it, hoping to get another glimpse of the phantom horseback rider. This time, as he looked through the lens and snapped the shutter, he could see Linda as before, however, no other figure appeared in the scene.

As they talked about what had just happened with disbelief, Mark, now thirstier than before, needed to quench his thirst. For some strange unexplained reason, he felt compelled to stop yet again at the nearby Cushing monument. Linda was leading the way as she stepped on something in her path, then Mark following, stepped on the same object stopping briefly to kick it out of the way. After viewing the Cushing monument, they returned the way they came, using the same route, and again stepped on the same object Mark kicked aside minutes earlier. Thinking it was a tin can, Mark this time wanted to pick the object up and dispose of it when, to his amazement, saw it was a rusted Civil War canteen.

Mark and Linda are convinced, to this day, that the apparitions of the man dismounting the horse, and the Civil War canteen mysteriously appearing in their path, were supernatural. They believe a spirit from the battle of Gettysburg attempted to come to the aid of Mark, seeing him as perhaps, a thirsty soldier, on that blistering hot summer day, over one hundred and thirty years later.




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