“Almost Scared Speechless”

Sergeant D. H. Hamilton battled with the First Texas in Hood’s Brigade, a unit known for its fierce courage. But in the autumn of 1863, he had a “creepy” experience that reads almost like a classic ghost story.

Read it aloud in the tone of a campfire storyteller…if you dare!

In a few days we were moved around to the foot of Lookout Mountain and from there we crossed Martin’s Creek and fought a night fight while it was so dark we could not tell one man from another. We recrossed the creek and went back to the foot of Lookout Mountain, on the east side, where we remained several days.

While there we discovered a cave in the mountain which we were told extended several miles. Three of us decided we would explore it and see what was in it. We took three days short rations and having no lanterns, we had to provide a good supply of pitch pine for torches. 

It was dark as midnight in the cave. We set bravely out on the exploration at about nine o’clock in the morning. The first thing we found was about a ten foot jump-off into an open chamber as large as a house, with [a] smooth stone floor, all dry and dusty. We found a door leading out of this room which led us into a tunnel and, after going thirty or forty feet in it, we found another large stone room, the floor of which was wet from constant dripping of water. In this room we found two doors leading into tunnels, we selected one and after going thirty or forty feet we found another but a smaller stone chamber.

Continuing our explorations, in a short while things began to look rough and more and more dismal and ghost-like and my eyes began to enlarge and things began to seem creepy. I began to mistrust my luck. 

For some time the other boys had ceased to be talkative. Our lights were getting dim and the pine supply was short When I looked at the boys their eyes looked like fried eggs, and no doubt my own looked the same. I was waiting for them to say go back but I was afraid to speak first because I was afraid they would laugh at me, and yet I was afraid to go on.

We found another tunnel door and followed that some distance when we came to another chamber more dismal and ghostly than all the others. By this time our torch pine was nearly exhausted and I was getting more and more creepy. I was afraid to give the boys a hint of my feelings and I thought they never would say quit. I kept watching them and finally I discovered that they were as badly frightened as I was, but they would not talk.

At last I saw that it was up to me to talk, laugh or no laugh, so I just came out with it and, when I did, they jumped for joy for by this time they were almost scared speechless.

We replenished our torches and got out of there much fast than we went in. We got out about one o’clock, having been about four hours in the cave, and all considered ourselves lucky to get out. It seemed to me like we had gone into the cave about a mile but under the circumstances my judgment as to distance was by no means reliable; it may not have been more than two or three hundred yards.

Source:

History of Company M: First Texas Volunteer Infantry, Hood’s Brigade. Accessed via HathiTrust. Pages 35-37. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009536075

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, historian, editor, and historical fiction writer. When sharing history, I try to keep the facts interesting and understandable. History is about real people, real actions, real effects and it should inspire us today.
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5 Responses to “Almost Scared Speechless”

  1. Dan Hurley says:

    Any evidence of this cave today? Interesting about various chambers.

  2. Katy Berman says:

    Edgar Allen Poe could have done a lot with this!

  3. BillF says:

    When they came out they found “See Ruby Falls” stickers attached to their wagons.

  4. I’ve visited Lookout Mountain and there’s this big attraction called “Ruby Falls”. I didn’t go because it was stupid-crowded, but it’s reputably the “tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States”. These caves might be part of that system. Very cool!

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