By: Mark Nesbitt
Do you love a good scare, especially at this time of year? Or perhaps simply want to commune with spirits of the long-dead that may still walk among us. Satisfy your ghostly cravings with a trip to Gettysburg, the site of the largest, costliest, and deadliest battle of the Civil War and a well-known hang-out of the ghostly crowd. It is on these hallowed grounds that many of the 7,058 known dead Union and Confederate soldiers and upwards of 11,000 missing are believed by many to still roam this earth.
How exactly can one tell ghosts are around? About 10 percent of Gettysburg ghost encounters have been visual with almost two-thirds auditory, i.e., footsteps, cannon fire, hordes of men cheering, and intimate whisperings in one’s ear. Others have been tactile – unexplained taps on the shoulder, clothes pulled, or the sensation of being pushed by invisible hands. Still others have reported smells with no obvious source: cigar smoke, lilac or rose water as in old-fashioned perfumes, or the strong and pungent smell of sulfur, a key component of black gunpowder. Bottom line: Be sure all your senses are on high alert when ghost hunting.
If your goal is getting the living bejeebers scared out of you, visit one or more of these out-of-the way places on your own where the restless spirits of hundreds of soldiers and some townsfolk are said to still wander. You might hear the sounds of horse hooves and frightened neighs of horses who fell victim during the battle’s carnage.
- Spangler’s Meadow, just east of Spangler’s Spring, is where hundreds of Union soldiers from Massachusetts and Indiana lost their lives on the morning of July 2, 1863. Be on the lookout for the legendary “Woman in White” who has been seen countless times since the battle. She appears floating, then bending down, apparently searching for someone. While no one knows her name, some have speculated she is one of many nuns who came from a nearby convent to tend to the wounded right after the battle.
- Confederate Angle, on Culp's Hill, is the location of still existent (but empty) burial pits. Listen carefully and you might here the painful and pitiful cries of “Help…Help me…” – a perhaps ghostly plea from a long-dead soldier still seeking to return home.
- Hospital Woods, on Country Club Lane, served as one of the battle’s primitive temporary field hospitals. In a recent paranormal investigation, gifted medium Kayla Miner reported seeing two officers from the 42nd Mississippi, one named “Feeney” and the other “Moseley.” A Colonel William A. Feeney and a Lieutenant Colonel Hillery Moseley indeed served in the 42nd Mississippi and were stationed in Hospital Woods. Both were wounded at Gettysburg.
Other souls are said to frequent Hospital Woods, reportedly kicking doors, turning on lights and activating electronics, moving heavy furniture around, and leaving nail holes in fine furniture in one of the homes along the lane – all when the home was completely locked. Also, frequently seen is the spectre of a woman from the neighborhood who committed suicide years ago.
So, why, you may be wondering do spirits appear to be “stuck” in a place like Gettysburg?! Undoubtedly, it is due to the extreme expenditure of human emotional energy embedded in the physical surroundings from the Civil War, Battle of Gettysburg that took place on July 1-3, 1863 when nearly 180,000 soldiers from the Union and Confederate Armies battled each other with thousands losing their lives or grievously injured.
Emotions were running at a fever pitch as the battle began. All soldiers, north and south, knew what was on the line: Reunion of the two sections of the country for the north; Independence for the south. Individually, each man’s energy was piqued contemplating what might happen in the next few seconds: Life, sudden death, or a hideous, painful wounding, lingering to wonder about one’s family and home, death and whatever comes after. For those who died on the battlefield, there was no peace with many lying where they fell for days or even weeks, while others were placed in shallow graves still subject to the rain and winds. Even after a proper internment, so many died so far from home.
The Union dead were eventually moved to the new National Cemetery, their graves consecrated on November 19, 1863 and the cemetery dedicated by President Abraham Lincoln. The Confederate dead would have to wait in their unconsecrated, rude graves until southern women gathered enough funds to have them brought home in the early 1870s. Some—both north and south—never made it from their graves in the fields and backyards of Gettysburg with the most recent remains discovered almost 135 years later near the Railroad Cut in 1996. As Shakespeare wrote, “I am afeared there are few die well that die in battle.”
Mark and Carol Nesbitt are the owners of The Ghost of Gettysburg Tours,
visit their website to learn more.
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