What’s the spookiest story you’ve read or heard about the Civil War?
Probably Abner Small’s recollection of an event that occurred during the Battle of the Wilderness:
“There was no moon to light the clearing, only dim stars, and the air was hazy and pungent with the smoke and smell of fires yet smouldering. …Once, when the darkness was torn suddenly away, I saw a dogwood all in flower, standing asleep and still. I groped on, stumbled, fell, and my outflung hands pushed up a smoulder of leaves. The fire sprang into flame, caught in the hair and beard of a dead sergeant, and lighted a ghastly face and wide-open eyes. I rushed away in horror, and felt a great relief when I found our line again and heard the sound of human voices.”
This is a fictional one, but I always remember the scene in Red Badge of Courage where the young hero is fleeing his first battle and runs into dark, dense woods alone and comes face to face with a moldering, green corpse of a soldier propped against a tree. Read it in the book first many years ago, and then later saw Audie Murphy play it in the movie.
There are plenty of horrid/creepy/spooky stories in aftermath studies. For example, this one from Culp’s Hill, Gettysburg:
“The dead lay all about, some with a smile upon their faces, and others horribly contorted as if the death agony had been photographed or modeled in clay. As [our] burial party was going over the rebel field, suddenly some one shouted to a comrade, ‘Look out! There’s a Johnny aiming at you!’ And sure enough, there he was, with his musket in position across a large stone and his face down on the breech. He had been struck in the forehead in the act of firing, and was instantly killed. There was not the slightest thing in appearance to indicate that the soldier’s alarm was not well founded.” (Connecticut Soldier, page 92 in “A Strange and Blighted Land” by Gregory A. Coco)
Or the soldier who was shot by a ramrod and pinned against a tree…found dead there. (Also on Culp’s Hill, Gettysburg.)
Battlefield robbers are pretty scary too – going through the pockets of fallen soldiers in the dark nights. Oooh…scary fiction story, right there!
And, this might be TMI, but maggots in wounds is one of the Civil War medical facts that scares me the most. As awful as it sounds, the maggots were eating the dead flesh, and many of those soldiers recovered better than others. Still, the thought sends terrified shivers up my spine…
Just being at Antietam at sunset(in April, of all things) was very spooky. Also, Fort Warren’s Lady in Black is spooky. I would never, ever want to spend the night out there…yikes!!
At Second Fredericksburg, the burial trenches from the 1862 battle in front of the Stone Wall had settled. Arms, legs, and in one case a head were visible (and the head was turned toward the Stone Wall, as if watching the 1863 proceedings). Anyone who charged over that field had a graphic reminder of what had gone before.
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