Ghosts of Gettysburg


Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Three days of brutal combat at the height of the Civil War left 50,000 Union and Confederate casualties.  The creeks literally ran red with blood.  Some report that Gettysburg is still haunted by the ghosts of those cut down in battle. Author and historian Mark Nesbitt offered this theory as to why:

“At Gettysburg, there was so much emotional energy expended in a short period of time, from the 15-year-old kid who was scared to death that he'd never make it home, or the 40-year-old man who'd just been shot through the lungs and was dying and thinking about his family.  You have to think that some of it must remain.”

Many of the ghostly sightings have been reported by Civil War re-enactors. Dressed in period costumes, they re-stage the battle, blow by blow.  One re-enactor, Ray Hock, says he and a friend were approached by a haggard figure, too realistic to be just another

“I think I seen a ghost.  I think this guy had original equipment on.  Original coat.  Everything, to me, points out that it was original.”

Ray says a ghost gave him this bullet

Ray says the soldier handed them each two authentic-looking cartridges. When they looked up, the mysterious visitor had vanished.

Live ammunition hasn't been allowed at Gettysburg for 100 years.  Ray, a university expert, determined that the cartridges were genuine Civil War issue, vintage 1863.

In the summer of 1993, some friends were at Gettysburg for the battle re-enactments.  One evening, as they hiked along a creek called Bloody Run, they came across a man laying in the bushes.  Richard Knapp described what he saw:

“He appeared to be a man laying there, but he wasn't solid like you and I are.  I mean, he was more of a hazy mist.  He was shivering 'cause it looked like he was in a lot of pain.  I couldn't go no further.  Emotionally, I broke down and cried.  I was shaking.  I had to actually have somebody come back and lead me out of the trail.”

The terror of Gettysburg was not limited to the battlefield. According to Mark Nesbitt, Army surgeons, lacking medicine and proper instruments, handled most injuries with one quick treatment—amputation:

“Many of the men underwent amputations of limbs without any anesthetic whatsoever, except perhaps a shot of good old-fashioned army whiskey.  So the Civil War hospital then was probably as close to a descent into hell on Earth as these Civil War soldiers would have ever gotten to.”

One building, Pennsylvania Hall, was a field hospital during the battle. Today it’s the offices of Gettysburg College. But some say the cries of the wounded still echo here.  One night close to midnight, two school administrators were alone in the building. They were using the elevator when the doors suddenly opened onto a real-looking Civil War hospital. Mark Nesbitt described what the women experienced:

“The stench of a hospital was all around. As they peered out on this, of course they began to panic.  There was no place to go. Suddenly, one of the orderlies turned to them and looked at them beseechingly, as if he needed help with this horrible task that he was doing or perhaps help to get out of this forced incarceration he'd been in for the last 13 decades.”

That night, the two officials told their story to a campus security officer. Timon Linn,
chief of security at Gettysburg College, remembered the incident:

“I would have to say that something frightened them. I can't explain it.  Although I don't believe in ghosts, I guess to a certain extent I believe that they saw maybe what they said they saw only because I know them as credible people.”
Is it possible these ghostly sightings were imagined?  Or, will the spirits of Gettysburg’s soldiers remain here forever? 

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