GETTYSBURG BATTLEFIELD
Southern Pennsylvania


Click on the Book Cover Above for More Information on Troy Taylor's Spirits of the Civil War, which contains a complete look at the Spirits of Gettysburg!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Most Civil War enthusiasts would say the battle which was fought near the small Pennsylvania town in 1863 was the greatest battle of the war.... or at the very least, a turning point which led to the fall of the Confederacy. For ghost hunters, the mere mention of Gettysburg conjures up images of haunted buildings, strange battlefield encounters and restless ghosts.

THE GUNS OF GETTYSBURG

By early summer of 1863, the war in the east was going well for the Confederacy. Lee, confident after his victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, urged President Davis to once again take the war to the north. By doing so, this would take the fighting out of Virginia and relieve the pressure being felt by the government in Richmond. It would also ease the load on the Confederate supply lines because if the invasion could be pushed far enough to the north, it would allow the soldiers to live off the land. In addition, Lee’s invasion would also draw attention away from Grant’s siege of Vicksburg, plus, if any northern towns could be captured by the Confederates, it just might push the war-weary citizens of the north to the discussion of a settlement between the two nations.

It seemed as though the outlook for a northern invasion was completely positive and if a downside existed, Lee couldn’t find it. So, moving in secret, Lee began his northern thrust on June 3, 1863. He marched his troops into the Shenandoah Valley and pushed them on, using the mountains as a shield. After the death of Stonewall Jackson a short time before, the Army of Northern Virginia had been re-organized into three corps, each commanded by A.P. Hill, Richard S. Ewell and James Longstreet. The cavalry was commanded by the magnificent J.E.B. Stuart.

Although unaware of Lee’s plans, the Army of the Potomac, under the command of Joseph Hooker, realized that a major enemy troop movement was underway, following a cavalry engagement at Brandy Station on June 9. Hooker then cautiously followed Lee’s march to the north, keeping his army east of the mountains and between Washington and the Confederates. On June 15, Lee overwhelmed a Union force at Winchester and then continued northward. By June 28, all of the Confederate troops had crossed over into Union territory. They were still widely scattered out, but all were converging on the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg.

Meanwhile, tension between Washington and General Hooker was increasing. Once again, Lincoln was disappointed by the inaction of one of his generals and on June 28, he appointed George Meade to replace Hooker as the head of the Army of the Potomac.

Coincidentally, on this same day, General Lee received a message that the Union Army was on the move, heading toward his new location. This came as a shock to Lee, as he had been depending on Stuart to keep him aware of all enemy activity. Although no one knew it at the time, Stuart had seemingly vanished. He was involved in a daring raid east of the Federal army and all communications with the main Confederate force had been cut off.

Lee’s information came from a shadowy figure who has been remembered throughout history only as "the spy Harrison", a man who worked for Longstreet but who disappeared after the battle. He informed Lee that Meade was now in charge of the Union Army and was marching north to meet the Confederates.

With the news that the Federal Army was aware of his plans, Lee sent out an order to concentrate the Confederate forces at Cashtown, a small village between Chambersburg and Gettysburg. Here, Lee would prepare to confront the Federal advance troops. The Confederate Army was now in place to the north and west of Gettysburg, while Meade pushed the Federal Army from the south, moving northward from the area around Frederick and Emmitsburg, Maryland. Both armies were in the dark as to the whereabouts of the other on June 30, the day that cavalry units under command of General John Buford rode into Gettysburg.

Before this time, there was nothing to set Gettysburg apart from hundreds of other small communities in America. The population of the small town was of about 2,400 people and aside from a thriving carriage industry, its only claims to fame were its two colleges, the Lutheran Theological Seminary and Pennsylvania College (Gettysburg College). It was nothing more than a sleepy little Pennsylvania town in 1863.... but all that was about to change.

Buford’s cavalry rode into town on June 30 and established a picket line on the other side of the Lutheran Seminary to guard approaches to the town from the west. By coincidence, a brigade of Confederate Infantry under General John Pettigrew, of A.P. Hill’s Corps, had been sent to Gettysburg from Cashtown to scout out the area that same day. Legend has it that the Confederates were actually looking for shoes, but they were actually on a reconnaissance mission. For whatever reason the two groups bumped into each other, it seems likely, with two large armies in such close proximity of each other, they were bound to run into each other at some point. However, once the Confederates spotted the Union pickets, they rode to the west to report the enemy’s presence.

The fighting lasted for three days, across the hills and through the forests and even in the streets of Gettysburg itself (for more information and details of the three days of fighting, see Troy Taylor's book, Spirits of the Civil War)

By the end of the third day, the Battle of Gettysburg was over. It would be remembered as the bloodiest day of the war as almost one-third of the men engaged in it were lost.

The next day, July 4, both armies remained on the battlefield, with Meade and Lee each waiting for the other to move. When nothing of significance occurred that day, Lee realized that his invasion of the north had come to an end. He was now far from his supply line and was running low on ammunition, not to mention the fact that the Confederacy could not afford the over 28,000 casualties they had sustained. It was time to return home.


That afternoon, Lee began his long retreat back to Virginia while Meade, despite urgings from Washington, declined to attack the retreating force.

Behind them, the streets and fields of Gettysburg were littered with the bodies of the dead, slowly decaying in the heat of the Pennsylvania summer. The people of the town were also left with thousands of the wounded to attend to and homes and businesses were quickly turned into field hospitals. "Wounded men were brought into our houses and laid side-by-side in our halls and rooms," one local woman recalled. "Carpets were so saturated with blood as to be unfit for further use. Wall were bloodstained, as well as books that were used as pillows".
The dead also lined the streets and walkways, rotting in the summer sun. "Corpses, swollen to twice their original size," wrote a Federal soldier, "actually burst asunder.... several human, or inhuman, corpses sat upright against a fence, with arms extended in the air and faces hideous with something very like a fixed leer..."

In terms of significance, Gettysburg will always be remembered as one of the greatest battles in American history. It was the turning point in the war and it was probably not a coincidence (in the greater scheme of things, at least) that the day after the battle ended also marked the fall of Vicksburg to General Grant. The war had just taken a darker turn for the Confederacy.
The battle would have a lingering effect on the country, not only for the armies of the Civil War, but for the America itself.... an effect that still lingers today.

It goes without saying that the Battle of Gettysburg left a tremendous mark on the small town and on the fields where the fighting actually took place. Few are surprised to learn that many of the buildings in Gettysburg and many locations on the battlefield are now believed to be haunted. In places where so much death and destruction took place, the stories of ghosts and spirits often follow.
And in Gettysburg, such spirits make themselves known more strongly than just about anywhere else.....

GETTYSBURG HAUNTS

There’s an interesting thing about visiting the Gettysburg Battlefield. You can go into just about any business in town and ask where to find the battlefield and they will tell you that you are standing in it! Of course, the "official" battlefield, which lies just outside of town, is operated today by the National park Service but during the fighting of July 1863, virtually the entire village was a battleground.

Skirmishes took place throughout the town and when the Federals retreated on that first day of the battle, they poured into Gettysburg, fleeing to the relative safety of Cemetery Hill. Many were killed here, their bodies left to await burial on the streets of the town. The fact that these bodies were left here in the July heat has given rise to one of the many ghostly tales of Gettysburg. As mentioned in the first chapter to this book, I had my own experience with one of the "phantom smells" of Baltimore Street, the lingering odor of peppermint. According to the tales, the ladies of the town were only able to walk the streets after the battle with scented handkerchiefs pressed to their faces to combat the horrible smell of death. The stories say these odors of peppermint and vanilla are still present today.... and as I mentioned earlier, I certainly believe they are, and I am not an easy person to convince of these things.

Pennsylvania Hall

Located within the boundaries of the town is Gettysburg College, or as it was known in 1863, Pennsylvania College. This small, attractive campus seems a quiet place today and anyone who visits here would probably be surprised to learn that during the battle, the college was in the midst of the fighting. At the time, the college consisted of only three brick buildings, which provided lodging and classrooms for little more than 100 students. When the battle erupted, the campus was thrown into the midst of the fight, providing shelter for the wounded and dying as a field hospital.

Not surprisingly, the college is said to still bear the marks of not only the physical effects of the battle , but the spiritual effects as well...

One of the most haunted buildings on campus is said to be Pennsylvania Hall, a large building with stately white columns. It once served as a dormitory for students and now houses the campus administrative offices. The hall was constructed in 1837 and is often referred to as Old Dorm. The large structure was taken over by the Confederates during the battle, not only for use as a field hospital, but as a look-out post as well. A number of officers, including General Lee, used the cupola of the Old Dorm to keep an eye on the progress of the battle.

It has been said that on certain nights, students and staff members of the college have reported seeing the figures of soldiers pacing back and forth in the cupola of the building. The descriptions of the men vary but it is believed they may be sentries who were placed on duty there to guard the safety of Lee, or to deliver messages to the battlefield.

One student reported that he and his roommate, who lived in a dorm about 50 yards away from Pennsylvania Hall, saw a shadowy figure in the tower over a period of several nights. On another occasion, a figure was seen to be gesturing wildly, apparently to a student below. When the student called out to him, believing that perhaps someone was trapped in the tower, the figure vanished. An investigation by campus security found the building to be empty.

It is believed to be the terrible conditions of the field hospital however, which have left the strongest impressions on the building. According to the records of the time, blood sprayed the walls and floors of the rooms as doctors operated without anesthetic, dealing with bullet wounds by the preferred treatment of the time... amputation. Outside of the operating rooms was an area where those who could not be saved were left to die. There is no way that we can even imagine the horrible wails, groans and cries that echoed in this area.

Perhaps the most famous story connected to the time of the battle was related by author Mark Nesbitt. He told of two college administrators who were working on the fourth floor of the building one night. As they were leaving, they stepped into the elevator and punched the button for the first floor. Instead of taking them to their destination, the elevator mysteriously passed it and came to a stop on the basement level. The elevator doors then opened to a terrifying scene....

The basement storage room had vanished and in its place was the blood-splattered operating room of 1863. Wounded men were lying prone on the floor and administering to them were doctors and orderlies in bloody clothing. The entire scene was completely silent, although it was obvious that it was one of chaos.

Stunned and horrified, the administrators repeatedly pushed at the elevator button, desperately trying to close the doors and escape the scene which lay before them. Just before the doors closed though, one of the spectral orderlies was said to have looked up, directly at the two administrators, as though asking them for help.

Whatever happened that evening, the two administrators were shaken and frightened by it and needless to say, never forgot their strange experience. However, you couldn’t fault them for their bravery. In the same circumstances, I am not sure what I would have done... but both of these men continued to work in the building. In small concession to the weird experience though, whenever they had to work at night, they always departed the building by way of the stairs. 

BATTLEFIELD HAUNTINGS

There are scores of ghostly stories and supernatural incidents which have been recorded and experienced by everyday people across the official confines of the Gettysburg Battlefield. Factor into this number the encounters of those ghost seekers who have purposely traveled to the battlefield in search of spirits, and the number of strange tales becomes an amazing one.
It is not, however, my intention to try and present all of those experiences here. As I wrote when I opened this section, such stories have been prolifically chronicled by others. My goal is to present you with an overview of the haunts connected to the official battleground... and a closer look at the most haunted places.
Do the spirits of the past still walk at Gettysburg?  This is one place where I feel safe in telling you that they most assuredly do!

There are a number of once private residences scattered across the battlefield which have reportedly played host to the spirits in the years that have passed since the battle. Most of these homes are now the property of the National Park Service and often they serve as residences to park rangers and personnel who stay in the houses to keep them occupied and in good repair.

Nearly all of the nearby homes were used during the battle as makeshift field hospitals and as shelters for the wounded during the fighting. Many believe that such incidents may be what has caused them to gain reputations for being haunted over the years. Perhaps these traumatic events served as catalysts for the ghostly events which have allegedly followed.

Not surprisingly, as employees of the United States Government, the rangers are usually very reluctant to discuss their supernatural encounters on the battlefield. Those who do speak, usually do so off the record, which nevertheless, creates a fairly impressive documentation of events beyond our understanding.

The George Weikert House is one such odd location on the battlefield. This small house has had a surprising number of different occupants over the years, many of whom have had stories to tell. One of the previous residents of the house spoke of a door on the second floor which refused to stay closed, no matter what they did to it. One ranger even nailed the door shut with a small wire nail, and yet it refused to stay closed.

Possibly connected to this, other tenants reported the sounds of footsteps pacing back and forth in the attic. They would hear the heavy tread cross the area above their heads, and then cross back, as if someone up there were worried or deep in thought. Needless to say, when they would go up to the attic to check for an intruder, they would find the area to be deserted.

Another residence is the Hummelbaugh House, where the stories say the cries of Confederate Brigadier General William Barksdale can still be heard on certain nights. Barksdale was wounded while leading a charge on Seminary Ridge and was brought to the Hummelbaugh House. According to an officer from the 148th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Barksdale was last seen lying in front of the house and a young boy was giving him water with a spoon. The General continued to call for water, as though the boy did not exist.... calling over and over again. In the years since, the legends say the sound of Barksdale’s voice can still be heard.

And that is not the only story connected to the house, or to Brigadier General Barksdale either. The other story is connected to the days after the battle, when Barksdale’s wife journeyed to Gettysburg to have her husband’s remains exhumed and returned to their home in Mississippi. She was accompanied on her trip by the General’s favorite hunting dog. As the old dog was led to his master’s grave, he fell down onto the ground and began to howl. No matter what Mrs. Barksdale did, she was unable to pull the animal away.

All through the night, the faithful dog watched over the grave. The next day, Mrs. Barksdale again tried to lure the dog away, but he refused to budge, even though the General’s remains had already been loaded onto a wagon to begin the journey back to Mississippi. Finally, saddened by the dog’s pitiful loyalty, she left for home.

For those who lived nearby, the dog became a familiar fixture during the days that followed. He would occasionally let out a heart-breaking howl that could be heard for some distance. Many locals came and tried to lead the dog away, offering him food, water and a good home. The dog refused all of their gestures and eventually, died from hunger and thirst, still stretched out over his master’s burial place.

Within a few years, a tale began to circulate that the animal’s spirit still lingered at the Hummelbaugh Farm. It has been said that on the night of July 2, the anniversary of Barksdale’s death, an unearthly howl echoes into the night.... as the faithful hunting dog still grieves from a place beyond this world.

The Rose Farm is another such location. During the battle, the house was used as a field hospital and burial ground. Hundreds of Confederate and Federal soldiers were buried in rows all around the house and property. They would later be exhumed in November 1863, although the claiming of the bodies and the re-burials would continue on for years afterward.

According to a local doctor named Dr. J.W.C. O’Neil, and reported by author Mark Nesbitt, one of the daughters on the Rose Farm actually went insane during the exhumations, having lived through both the battle and its aftermath. Allegedly, she was to have seen blood actually flowing from the walls of the house.... perhaps a grisly reminder from the days when the house served as a bloody field hospital?

Was the house actually haunted though? Or were the strange visions simply the workings of a fevered mind?

An account recorded by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s came from a man who reportedly worked at the Rose Farm just a few weeks after the battle. He was returning home one evening, shortly after darkness had fallen, and claimed to see an strange glowing shape appear near the graves of the slain soldiers. Could it have been a ghost?

In addition to these former private residences, spirits on the battlefield itself abound. There are numerous reports of apparitions of phantom soldiers.... seen marching in formation, riding horses, and still seemingly fighting the battle.... from various parts of the park. These ghosts haunt the fields where Pickett’s Charge took place, the slopes of Little Round Top, the Peach Orchard, the Wheatfield, and many other places.

However, the highest concentration of ghostly sightings and strange experiences seems to be in the area called the Devil’s Den, and also in the areas around it. It is in the nearby Triangular Field where electronic equipment and cameras are said to seldom work. It is in the aptly named Valley of Death where the apparitions of soldiers are frequently reported.
And it is in the Devil’s Den itself where not only are the ghosts of the slain soldiers seen, but heard also.
If there is a place on the Gettysburg Battlefield which is more haunted than any other... there is little doubt that such a place would be the Devil’s Den.

The Devil’s Den... Gettysburg’s Most Haunted

The event which created the lore and legend of the Devil’s Den is undoubtedly the fighting which took place here on July 2, 1863, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. However, stories surrounded the place long before the battle was ever fought.

According to early accounts from the area, the tangled, outcropping of rocks was a Native American hunting ground for centuries and some say that a huge battle was once fought here, called the "Battle of the Crows" during which many perished. A Gettysburg writer named Emmanuel Bushman wrote in an 1880 article of the "many unnatural and supernatural sights and sounds" that were reported in the area of the Round Tops and what he called the Indian Fields. He wrote that the early settlers had told stories of ghosts that had been seen there and that Indian "war-whoops" could still be heard on certain nights. In addition, he reported that strange Indian ceremonies also took place here.

In 1884, Bushman also wrote, with the idea that an ancient tribe had once lived near the site of Devil’s Den, that he believed the scattering of boulders to have once been part of a tall pyramid. He stated the crevices in the rocks bore evidence of this and that the pyramid had undoubtedly been destroyed by some forceful blast. While this is (extremely) doubtful, it does give the reader an idea of the lore that surrounded the area, even before the battle.

Also according to local legend, the name "Devil’s Den" was actually in use before the battle took place. Most everyone, in their letters home and in the explorations of the battlefield after the fighting, referred to the rocks as a "desolate and ghostly place" or mentioned the "ominous" character of the rocks. Many others felt that the rocky outcropping actually marked the entrance to a cavern and while no cave exists here, those who visit the location can understand the mistake. The rocks are piled so high that the crevices between them seem to plunge down into total darkness.

But how the area got its name remains a mystery. Many believe that the strange atmosphere of the area itself may have contributed to the designation. Another legend persists that the Devil’s Den was always known for being infested with snakes. The legends say that one gigantic snake in particular eluded the local hunters for many years and they were never able to capture or kill him. He was allegedly nicknamed "the Devil" and thus, the area of rocks was called his "den".

No matter how the area got its name, it was apparently already considered a strange and "haunted" spot before the battle, at least according to Emmanuel Bushman. In the years which would follow, the Devil’s Den would gain an even more fearsome reputation.

On the morning of the second day of battle, General Lee was of the opinion that by simultaneously attacking the Union flanks, he could drive the enemy from the field. His plan was to send Longstreet’s corps against the Round Tops, with his main thrust of attack being made by divisions under John Bell Hood and Lafayette McLaws against the Federal left flank. Lee ordered Longstreet to move his men southward, without being detected, and form lines against the Union flank.

Unfortunately, the southern troops had no guide to the battlefield and huge delays were caused by marching and countermarching. These delays then led to exhaustion and frustration on the part of the troops. By the time they were in position, some of the officers raised doubts about being able to mount much of an attack before dark.

To make matters worse, they also soon discovered that their battle lines did not envelop the Union flank, thanks to the fact that General Sickles had decided that he didn’t like the area where he had originally been posted. The Union lines now stretched into the Peach Orchard and appeared to extend all of the way to Big Round Top. This relocation had placed Sickles in front of the rest of the army, opening up his flanks to attack. The Peach Orchard had become the center of Sickles’ line with his second division, under Brigadier General Andrew A. Humphreys, curving back to fill the space between the Peach Orchard and the Devil’s Den. He had all but abandoned Little Round Top.

The position of the Devil’s Den was commanded by Brigadier General John Henry Hobart Ward and it was located at the far end of the Union line.

The fight for the Devil’s Den soon began and as the battle progressed, the terrifying terrain and the sharp piles of boulders created a maze for the troops on both sides. The lines were broken, first into regiments, and then it was man against man. The boulders provided dozens of hiding places and ambush spots and men ran from boulder to boulder, ducking and shooting as they ran, never knowing if enemy or friend lay around the next corner.

Before the Confederates could even reach the Devil’s Den, they had to cross an area known today as the Triangular Field. Waves of Confederate troops from Texas, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia crossed the field, clashing with the Union soldiers who hailed from places like New York, Maine and Pennsylvania. As the southerners came, they were cut down by the cannons posted atop the ridge ahead, and yet still they came, pushing hard against the Union lines.

As the Texas troops mounted the slopes toward the Federal position, they were attacked by the 124th New York, who soon withdrew from the ferocity of the Confederate charge. As the Union men fell back, Alabama troops swept into the Triangular Field and charged into the boulders beyond it. Deadly fire was poured down upon them and yet they managed to get through, but not without giving the area a gruesomely appropriate nickname, the "Slaughter Pen".

The Confederate men overwhelmed the enemy position and took control of the ridge.. but they would not hold it for long. The Federal forces counter-charged and the Maine and Pennsylvania troops pushed the Confederates back. The rocks of the Devil’s Den had become a slaughterhouse. Bodies were strewn across the boulders and they had tumbled down into the wedges between them.

The Federals were attacked again, this time by troops from Georgia, who had been given the grim task of advancing across the Triangular Field against the Union position. As they reached the Slaughter Pen, they were charged by the 40th New York, who were soon driven back and forced to retreat as the Federals pulled back their lines. One last surge of men from Texas and Georgia finished the skirmish and the Confederates claimed the Devil’s Den as their own.

The Texans swarmed over the ridge and once again reached the Union’s abandoned guns. They turned them to point the muzzles toward the fleeing enemy, but there was no ammunition to be found. The Federal troops continued to fire upon their deserted position and many of the Texans continued to fall. George Branard, a color bearer, planted the flag of Texas on the highest rock above the Devil’s Den, only to be hit by a Union shell.

After the withdrawal of the Federals, the Georgians reported the overwhelming sound of the Rebel Yell from the Devil’s Den and they pushed hard against the Union troops still to the front of them. The Federals were moved back and began to suffer from heavy fire from the Devil’s Den. Finally, it was more than they could take and they began to retreat.

After hours of bloody fighting the Confederates finally controlled the area. The fight for the Devil’s Den may have been the most confusing and intense skirmish on the battlefield that day. The heat of the afternoon and the collapse of the battle lines, thanks to the difficult terrain, had caused the entire chain of events to happen so fast that many of the men were almost stunned to find the battle was over.

Stranger yet were the reports from the men who were ordered to stand guard in the tangle of boulders that night. Many of them later spoke of the macabre and unnerving surroundings... sharing the space in the looming boulders with the bodies of the dead.

Days later, the Federals would return to the Devil’s Den, this time triumphant as the battle had come to an end with a Confederate defeat. As men approached, they were stunned by the scene which greeted them. The hills and boulders were covered in blood and carnage and the dead lay scattered about in every direction. One of the first soldiers to enter the area recalled that some of the dead men "had torn and twisted leaves and grass in their agonies and their mouths filled with soil... they had literally bitten the dust."

That afternoon, the rain began to fall in a heavy downpour that lasted for several hours. The dead men, who were already bloated beyond recognition, were now drenched and beginning to decay. No one knows just how long the Confederate dead remained unburied around the Devil’s Den but it could have been days or even a few weeks. And many of the bodies were said to not have been buried at all, but merely tossed into the deep crevices between the rocks.

The sheer number of supernatural incidents said to have taken place here do lend some credence to the belief that the Devil’s Den may be haunted. If Emmanuel Bushman was correct, then the forbidding jumble of rocks was already long haunted before the battle was even fought. If this was the case, then what sort of impact did the hundreds who suffered and died here have on the place?
A ghostly impact? I’ll cite the evidence... you be the judge.

The stories about the Devil’s Den being haunted began not long after the battle itself. Local legend had it that two hunters had wandered onto the battlefield one day and had gotten lost in the woods near the rocky ridge. They had completely lost their way when one of them looked up and saw the dim figure of a man standing atop the boulders. He gestured with one hand as if pointing the way and the hunter realized it was in that direction they needed to travel. He looked back to thank the man.... but the apparition had vanished.

Even those who are skeptical about the hauntings at Gettysburg, and who claim that the stories of ghosts here are a recent addition to the battlefield, admit that there have always been tales recalled about supernatural doings at the Devil’s Den. While admittedly, most of these stories are of a rather recent vintage, Emmanuel Bushman wrote of "many unnatural and supernatural sights and sounds" back in 1880 and local lore has always included odd happenings in the area.

One afternoon in the early 1970’s, a woman was said to have gone into the National Park Service information center to inquire about the possibility of ghosts on the battlefield. One can imagine just how many times this question must come up and, although the official position of the park is to neither confirm nor deny the ghostly tales, the ranger on duty was reported to have asked why the woman wanted to know.

The visitor quickly explained that she had been out on the battlefield that morning, photographing the scenery. She had stopped her car at the Devil’s Den and had gotten out to take some photos in the early morning light. The woman stated that she had walked into the field of smaller boulders, which are scattered in front of the Den itself and had paused to take a photo. Just as she raised the camera to her eye, she sensed the uncomfortable feeling of someone standing beside her. When she turned to look, she saw that a man had approached her.

She described this man as looking like a "hippie", with long, dirty hair, ragged clothing, a big floppy hat and noticeably, no shoes. The man looked at her and then simply said, "What you are looking for is over there," he said and pointed over behind her.

The woman turned her head to see just what the unkempt fellow was pointing at and when she turned around again, he had vanished. There was no trace of him anywhere.

A month or so later, the same ranger was on duty at the information desk when another photographer had come in and asked almost the same question. He too had been taking photos at the Devil’s Den, only this time, he had taken a photo about a month before in which the image of a man had appeared on the exposed frame... a man who had not been there when the photo was taken!

When asked what the man had looked like, he also described the man as looking like a "hippie" (remember, this was the early 1970’s) and also mentioned his long hair, old clothing and the fact that he was barefoot.

Could this have been the same man? And if so, who was he?

During the war, many of the Confederate soldiers, and especially those connected with the fighting at the Devil’s Den, were from Texas. At that time, this was America’s most remote frontier and most of these men did not receive packages from home containing shoes and clothing as many of the men from states in the immediate vicinity did. Because of this, the "wild" Texas boys were often unkempt and dirty, lacking shoes and new clothing.

Could this reported specter be one of the soldiers from Texas, still haunting the rocks of the Devil’s Den? Since those reports from the 1970’s, this same soldier (or at least one fitting his description) has been reported several times in and around the rocks of the Devil’s Den. According to some of the stories, a number of visitors have mistaken the man for a Civil War re-enactor and have even had their photographs taken with him. The accounts go on to say that when they return home and have their film rolls developed, the man is always missing from the photo.

In addition to this apparition at the Devil’s Den, there are also reports of a ghostly rider who has been seen and who in turn vanishes; the sounds of gunfire and men shouting which cannot be unexplained (not unlike Bushman’s phantom "Indian whoops" from long ago); and literally dozens of photographs which allege to be evidence of supernatural activity.

And speaking of photographs... another paranormal happening in the immediate area is the reported failure of cameras in the nearby Triangular Field. According to the stories, it has been said that video and still cameras do not work properly, if at all, while the photographer is standing in the field. How much truth there is to this allegation is unknown, as I have seen many photos (including my own) which have been taken there without incident. However, there are also dozens of anecdotal reports, from reliable people, who claimed unnatural failures of their equipment in the area.
Could this be the result of an energy still lingering behind?

So, do the Spirits of Gettysburg still wander the fields and streets of this tiny Pennsylvania town?
Read the book and then you can be the judge!


To purchase your own copy of Spirits of the Civil War, see our special section of books
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