Halloween is coming up…
What’s the strangest, scariest Civil War story you’ve heard or read? Does it have factual base or is it a good legend?
For civilians in the “old Northwest” during the Civil War, the threat of attack by Native Americans was a real and present danger, especially with most of the military-aged men sent away from Iowa and Minnesota to fight in Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee. (Most feared was being abducted, or scalped.) That fear was realized by the settlers of New Ulm, Minnesota in August 1862 (resulting in a new front opened during the Civil War, pitting the U.S. Government against the Sioux and their allies.) The “Dakota War” drew off men and material that might otherwise have been used against Rebels further east. As the conflict against the Sioux and Lakota in the Northwest intensified through 1863 and 1864, the U.S. Government allowed Confederate POWs to swear allegiance to the United States, earn their release… and many “Galvanized Yankees” were then sent to join the fight in the Dakota Territory, serving alongside their former enemies.
Former enemies, fighting against the Sioux while the Civil War was taking place… the strangest story I know.
For those same Native Americans, starvation on reservations while corrupt white Indian agents pocketed the $$$ was a real and present danger. And it led to the 1862 uprising.
There’s still a couple of days before Halloween. You can go as Indian Agent W. W. Dennison (from South Carolina) and I’ll go as Little Crow… or maybe, General Albert Pike… I have yet to decide which Civil War combatant was “scarier.”
I think it’s the tales of the fighting in The Wilderness battle, where soldiers on both sides were burned alive. Hideous and harrowing,,,
That coupled with the foreboding night before the Battle of the Wilderness. Some of the Union troops marched through and even camped amongst the bones of their units from a year before @ the Battle of Chancellorsville. There’s @ least one account of utilizing these skulls to tell ghastly stories of the fighting and death @ Chancellorsville, presumably scaring the hell out of @ least a few as they tried to sleep the night before the Wilderness and it’s awful fires killed many, some @ night even. The many accounts of warriors of both sides trying to rest, listening to the pop -pop of the wounded’s ammunition bursting from the heat and fire ?…
Hancock and the Second Corps that settled in around the Chancellor House ruins and the bones of their comrades were all around. One Union soldier recalled that the men felt “a sense of ominous dread which many of us found almost impossible to shake off.” Another prodded one of the skulls that were abundant in the area and grimly remarked:”This is what you all are coming to, and some of you will start toward it tomorrow.”
Into the Wilderness with the Army of the Potomac — Robert Garth Scott borrowing from Catton
One story that fascinates us is presumably a legend of Gettysburg. Long after Mississippi General William Barksdale was killed and buried in a temporary grave at the Hummelbaugh Farm, his widow, Narcissa Saunders Barksdale, is said to have visited Gettysburg to retrieve his remains. As the story goes, she brought with her the General’s favorite hunting dog. After her husband was exhumed, Mrs. Barksdale prepared to leave for home with his body, but the dog would not go with her. She reluctantly departed without him. The dog was said to have remained at the grave site, refusing food and water, and eventually starving to death. In some versions of the story, the dog was buried in the General’s temporary grave. Other storytellers question whether Mrs. Barksdale had found the right grave, and suggest that the loyal dog knew his master had been left behind. It was said that long afterward, the dog could still be heard at night howling in grief. And some storytellers say the General’s own cries for water continue to be heard. We’ve been unable to find any historical reference to Mrs. Barksdale visiting Gettysburg. And the origin of the story is also a mystery. Does anyone at Emergingcivilwar know its original source?
Narcissa Barksdale never visited Gettysburg. The General’s body was exhumed from the burial site near the Hummelbaugh House soon after the battle, was embalmed, and rested in a funeral parlor in Washington DC until it was retrieved by his nephew and former aide Harris B. and returned to Jackson MS where it lay in state followed by a state and masonic funeral. Gen. B was buried in his brother’s family plot at Greenwood Cemetery. This is covered in detail in my biography FEARLESSLY INTO THE FIGHT:The Life and Battles of Confederate General William Barksdale from the Halls of Congress to the Fields of Gettysburg being published by Savas Beatie for release Spring 2019.
Thank you for debunking the tale about Mrs. Barksdale’s visit and for the information about your upcoming book. It sounds like a must read, and I’ll share that with some folks who I know will be interested.
Iverson’s field at Gettysburg. After the war Mr. Forney who owned the field could not get workers to farm the field. I decided to walk the field to see what I could ascertain about the reaction. Albert Iverson commanded a North Carolina brigade in Rhodes’ division. When Rhodes’ division reached the battlefield near Oak Hill on the northern end of the field, he had a golden opportunity to attack the right flank of the I Corps defending against Heth’s division coming east from Chambersburg. Rhodes committed his troops one brigade at a time. After the first brigade (O’Neal’s) was repulsed, the I Corps brigade(Baxter’s) defending its flank reformed behind a stone wall and waited. Rhode’s sent Iverson’s brigade forward across an open field. Iverson, possibly drunk, failed to reconnoiter the ground his brigade would cross, and they marched forward. When they were in the middle of the field, the Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania troops rose up and poured a perfectly deadly volley into the Confederates at virtually point blank range. When Iverson saw many of his men in a prone decision in almost perfect alignment, he ordered them to get to their feet and continue on, not realizing dead men could not hear. They were buried where they lay, but later after the war reinterned in southern cemeteries.
From the stone wall at the edge of the field where the blue clad troops probably hid, there is a worn path over the field leading to a monument where several hundred of the North carolinian troops surrendered rather than being mowed down by a successive volley. I walked that trail in the early morning and as I stepped along I had a sensation of dred, depression, and generally sorrowful feelings not unlike those of dying men realizing that their ends had come, that they would not be going home, and that they wold never see their loved ones again. I stepped off that worn trail and the feeling went away; I stepped back on the trail and continued to walk towards the monument and the gloomy feeling came back. It stayed with me as I returned from the monument, and became a memory when I went back across the stone wall. If I wee a field hand, I certainly would not have remained on that field planting or harvesting a crop with that feeling of doom enveloping me as I walked over the ground littered with the deal and dying soaking up the blood that was draining the life from those who could never go home again.
My girlfriend wanted to buy a house very far from Detroit so she was looking in a rural area roughly 30 miles north of Detroit. She called me because she was so excited after seeing it with the real estate agent saying of course how perfect it was in every single way. I went with her the second time to look it over and it was after dinner in dark because I always have dogs I happen to make my way out to the backyard I saw a strange dip in the lawn so is it went up closer I realized there was a headstone and it was a Union soldier who had been buried and what was now a subdivision but at the time just a whirl Farm house probably. I thought it was pretty cool to be honest and no disrespect to the Dead but I wanted to take it out to see the uniform Etc. Anyway once I told my girlfriend about the body buried in the backyard there was no chance that that house was going to become a part of our lives although I must say it didn’t bother me in the least I thought it was pretty cool actually.
I live in the southern part of Stafford County (VA), which was the site of Union encampments. A few years ago, a neighbor, who was not allowed to smoke inside, was in his yard in the middle of the night. He swears that 2 men in Union uniforms went through his yard. He told me that he said “hello”, but the men ignored him.
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