Mythical Monday: The Ghosts of Gettysburg by Mae Clair

As Halloween draws nearer and thoughts turn to all things spooky, it seemed a good time to shine my Mythical Monday spotlight on rumored hauntings. Most of you know I live in Central Pennsylvania, which places the battlefield of Gettysburg not far from my doorstep. My husband and I have visited often, soaking up the history of this landmark site that was the turning point of America’s Civil War.

Confederate soldiers advance Civil War battle reenactment

I never really stop to think about it being haunted when I visit, but as a place where an estimated 50,000 Union and Confederate Soldiers met their end in a three-day battle, it stands as one of the most haunted locations in America. I’ve never encountered a ghost there (I don’t think I’d want to) but I do recall feeling significantly “creeped out” during one venture onto Little Round Top.

If you’re unfamiliar with Civil War history, Little Round Top (a large rocky wooded hill on the battlefield) was held by Union forces when the confederates launched repetitive assaults. The day culminated with a grisly downhill bayonet charge by the 20th Maine under Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. Union forces—who were out of ammo by that point—took the victory but it was costly to both sides.

The_New_York_Monument_on_Little_Round_Top By DeeFabian (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The_New_York_Monument_on_Little_Round_Top By DeeFabian (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve hiked Little Round Top numerous times but on the last occasion, I distinctly recall being uneasy as I walked downhill. Usually there are other people around, park visitors taking the trail up and down from the summit. On that day it was just me and my husband, and the surrounding woods felt entirely too still, much too solemn. Even today, I have a vivid memory of anxiously wanting to reach the bottom, imagining some unseen danger lurking in the trees. A presence I couldn’t name. It’s interesting to note I didn’t realize the site was haunted at the time. I’ve since heard there are numerous apparitions that have been spotted at Little Round Top—soldiers moving in formation through the trees, a headless horseman, and even an old private.

According to legend, when the movie Gettysburg was being filmed, many actors, hired as extras, would wander the battlefield in costume between takes. On one such occasion, a small group hiked up Little Round Top to enjoy the sunset. Near the top, they heard a rustling of leaves and turned to spy a haggard-looking old man approaching. Dressed in the uniform of Union private, he was filthy, his clothing reeking of sulfur (sulfur was a key ingredient of the black powder used in 1863). Approaching the group, he extended his hand and passed over a few musket rounds. “Rough one today, eh, boys?” he asked, then vanished while the men were focused on the ammo. No one had ever seen the old private before. When the men took the musket rounds into town they were authenticated as original rounds, 130 years old.

Photo of Devil's Den on Gettysburg Battlefield By Hal Jespersen at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Devil’s Den on Gettysburg Battlefield By Hal Jespersen at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Devil’s Den, a ridge strewn with large boulders, known as the “slaughter pen” for the inordinate amount of lives lost there, is another hotspot for paranormal activity. It is considered by many to be the most haunted spot on the battlefield. Visitors routinely have issues when trying to use cameras at Devil’s Den. Perhaps the reason can be traced back to Civil War photographer, Alexander Gardner. Controversy has swirled over whether or not Mr. Gardner moved a confederate sniper’s corpse, dragging the body into the Devil’s Den area to create a better shot with more photogenic surroundings.  Such callousness didn’t go over well with the men who fought and died there, and as a result visitors frequently complain of their cameras jamming and, on some occasions, even being thrown to the ground by an unseen force.

There is an interesting tale of a woman who was attempting to take a picture one morning when an apparition appeared. The phantom, described as a “scruffy-looking hippie type with ragged clothing, a shirt without buttons, a big hat and no shoes, directed the woman to take a picture of Plum Run instead, saying “What you are looking for is over there.”

Apparently this same phantom, identified as a Texan soldier, has taken a liking to the living and is often mistaken for a Civil War re-enactor. He has posed for photos with visitors, but the space where he was standing is always mysteriously blank when the film is developed. I have to say, I have never taken photos at Devil’s Den, but this has me curious to attempt it. I’ll definitely try it on my next visit.

There are numerous other reportedly haunted sites on the battlefield and in the town proper of Gettysburg. Several locations have been featured on “Ghost Adventures,” and there are numerous ghost tours available for anyone to eager to seek out phantoms. You Tube is loaded with videos of apparitions caught on tape.

An integral part of American history, Gettysburg entertains its share of ghost hunters all year, but probably more so near Halloween.

If you had the chance, would you go ghost hunting?

 

Sources:
http://hauntedhouses.com/
http://www.pennlive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2013/06/gettysburg_150_12.html

25 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: The Ghosts of Gettysburg by Mae Clair

  1. wow – this is a valuable story, I remember this topic and content when I was preparing my Master Degree in London, Good Memories always stay and suddenly you are sharing this wonderful composition!

  2. Yes, I heard about the haunting of this place. Interesting and creepy too.
    No, I wouldn’t go ghost-hunting as you can never know what kind of spirits you may encounter. I think it was better you had no idea about the haunted place before visiting it. Generally, places where bloody battles took place are haunted. I have such an example in my novel.
    Thank you for the informative, detailed post!

    • I think had I know about the hauntings at Little Round Top, I probably would have read something into every rustle of leaves and cracking of twigs. *shiver*

      I do have another, different, vivid memory of LRT. Once when reaching the summit, one of the monuments at the top was surrounded with dozens upon dozens of Monarch butterflies. They were everywhere! I’d never seen so many in one place before.

      And I’m in agreement with you about ghost hunting, Carmen. That would be a definite “no go” from me!

  3. Wow, interesting stuff! It’s heartbreaking at how many lives were lost. I actually have ancestors who fought on both sides of the war–I can’t even imagine how that must have been for them. Since I’m the world’s biggest fraidy cat, who gets skeered just READING your posts — LOL — you can be my proxy for the ghost hunting adventures. 🙂

    • LOL! You always make me grin. I’m a scaredy cat too, Donna, when it comes to ghosts and things of that nature. Reading about them is as close as I want to get to any real investigation. I’d rather search for Nessie and the Mothman. 😀 😀

  4. The stories of ghosts and Gettysburg are so abundant that one can’t help but think there are souls who have never left the battlefield…kind of sad really. One of these days I would love to visit the area, so until then Mae, take your pictures and tell me what you get! (and you know you had me with this one, right?)…

    • Heehee. Yep, I thought about you as I was putting this one together. There are just so many places in and around Gettysburg that are rumored haunts, it was hard to select a few. I almost included an old covered bridge too–Sachs Bridge– where three Confederate deserters (or spies, depending on the version of the tale) were hung, but it was so creepy, I couldn’t even write about it. *shudder*

  5. Definitely an interesting and eerie post, Mae. I’ve never been to Gettysburg, but I have been to Shiloh as a kid, and that place is creepy enough. My brother and I both heard horse and men in the woods almost like a whisper, but not quite truly audible. It’s impossible to fully describe. There was a sense of dread to the place, of looming danger. As we drove through, it was like something pressing on me, making it a little hard to breathe. Gettysburg must be worse. Part of me would love to go because I’m naturally curious about everything, but I dread the day I might actually see something.

    As for ghost hunting, I’d probably bow out of that one. My grandma has told me too many stories of her seeing ghosts, and since I’ve felt stuff before, I’m afraid I’ve inherited her natural sensitivity to such things. I’d be terrified of what I might encounter. But I’d wonder. That curiosity thing, but I don’t have nine lives to spare.

    Perfect Halloween post. Let us know if you ever see or hear anything at Gettysburg.

    • That sense of dread and looming danger is what I felt that day on Little Round Top, Laura. A good way to describe it. I fear I may be “sensitive” too, which is all the more reason I’d never go ghost hunting. Far to scary for me!

      Thanks for visiting and sharing your experiences!

      • I am pretty sure I have no sensitivity whatsoever, which makes me happy. I have never, that I know of experience a ghost. I don’t think. But I have a pretty vivid imagination. One time as a kid, I woke up in the middle of the night and was sure a man stood in my doorway, as I remember, he seemed to be standing against my door. Hard to remember, soooo long ago, but it was vivid. He had black hair and a bright white shirt, rolled up at the sleeves. I never said a word to anyone, and I thought it was my imagination like the clothes in the closet that always turned into faces and creepy things, so I kept the closet door shut. Now I wonder if perhaps it was my Portuguese grandfather who died long before I was born. Hmmmm.

      • What a story, Mary! You either had/have a very vivid imagination (as we know writers do), or maybe there was something kind of supernatural involved. I’ve got some weird memories from childhood too, things I thought I saw, that are still extremely vivid in my mind today. Like you, I never said anything to anyone.

        Your “phantom” sounds like he would make a good addition to your paranormal real estate mystery series!

      • Oh my! What an awesome idea Mae! Rosemary’s grandfather come to visit or *goosebumps* her mother. That was my biggest fear as a teenager that my mother would come to visit.

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

      • Oooh, love the idea of her grandfather! Think of him and Marcus together….over-protective grandfather and intense vampire. I see major conflict! 🙂

        I was always torn about my father….I wanted to see his ghost, but was terrified by the prospect at the same time. I think it’s better he never made an appearance, except in dreams.

  6. Love this post, Mae. I’m terrified of meeting a spirit, which is odd because I write about a ghost communicating real estate agent, as you know. I think it’s a way to work through my fears. I’m still scared though. I only visited Gettysburg once during a business trip so it was just a drive-by. As much of a scaredy-cat as I am, I think I would like to go back and check out the battlefields. I look at that rocky gorge and think how awful it must have been to fight there amidst all those boulders. Marcus Lyons died in the Civil War. Perhaps that’s the spot. Something to think about. The story is written, one of the many novels waiting for revision.

    I have a family letter dating back to the civil war. It was one brother writing to his parents about the death of their other son. It went into detail of his brother’s death. I can’t find that letter now, and it makes me angry. My husband claims he didn’t throw it out. (He’s a big declutterer, but he’s learned the danger of that, be it plant cutting or crumpled up napkin full of seed clusters) It’s only a copy, so hopefully one of my family has a copy or I find it tuck safely away somewhere.

    Mary

    • I didn’t realize Marcus died during the Civil War. I can’t wait to find out those details. And I had to chuckle about you being terrified of meeting a spirit but writing about a ghost-communicating real estate agent. I hadn’t thought about it like that, LOL, although your books are always a fun combination of mystery, paranormal and lightness 🙂

      Sure hope you find that letter too. How horrible the man had to write his parents about his brother’s death. What a keepsake though, and something representative of a truly awful time in history.

  7. I’ve been to Gettysburg many times (having grown up half an hour away) but have never seen a ghost there. I’d be surprised though if the place weren’t haunted. It’s hard not to feel the weight of all that history when you’re there.

    • Hi, Julia. Wonderful to see you here. I didn’t realize Gettysburg had been that close to you. You are so right about the weight of history when visiting. I’m always in awe when I visit. Thanks so much for dropping by!

    • Hi, Flossie. I think Gettysburg must be loaded with residual energy. And so interesting that the Texas soldier has grown fond of interacting with mortals. He must have been quite the character in life!

  8. I enjoyed reading this post. Given the significant loss of life, I’m not surprised to hear Gettysburg is a haunted place. You must let us know how you get on with the camera next time you are at Devil’s Den.
    I would love to go ghost hunting. In fact it was only today I actually Googled local ghost investigators.

    • Emma, I can totally see you participating in a ghost hunt. And then I’ll be content to sit back and read about your adventures from a safe distance. I’d much rather search for cryptids…at least they have a physical presence! *shiver*

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