Getttysburg, PA

On a balmy afternoon in June of 1863, Federal General John Buford peered through his binoculars across a field just west of the town of Gettysburg. He was perplexed as he gazed at a column of Confederate soldiers marching along Chambersburg Pike. He knew this body of men was too large for a raiding party; what he didn’t know was that they were an advance element of Confederate General Heth’s division. What he didn’t know was that he was to be the general to instigate the pivotal battle of the American Civil War. What he didn’t know was that three days later, fifty three thousand men would soak the fields red with the blood of the dead and dying.
It is with little wonder that an abundance of ghost sightings are reported time and again from visitors who frequent the town and battlefield year after year. It is as well with little wonder that Gettysburg has obtained the reputation of being the most haunted place in America. Even the skeptics who refuse to believe even in the possibility of ghosts, won’t refute the possibility of this haunted locale. Could that be due to the magnitude of the historical event? Could it be the reverence of this hallowed ground by students of history and John Q. Public? Could it even be that the ardent skeptic will unknowingly open themselves up to the possibility with the mind numbing knowledge of the macabre event which took place 136 years ago.
On July 1, 1863, what began as a skirmish soon escalated into a heated battle with the arrival of Federal General John Reynolds’ infantry. The Confederates pressed, and soon found the Union troops retreating chaotically towards the little town. The streets were thick with soldiers as the Federals retreated toward a designated rallying point just beyond town at Cemetery Hill and Culps Hill. Confederate sharpshooters took up positions through out as their prey was easy and plentiful. Some took position in the Farnsworth House, a small home situated along Baltimore Pike. Their perch was magnificent due to the locale on the main road through town. They mercilessly fired upon retreating soldiers, often hitting their mark. The streets were strewn with dead.
Today, the Farnsworth house functions as a Bed & Breakfast. Bullet holes can still be seen on the southside wall. It is here that many guests report seeing an apparition at the end of the bed during the night, while other guests have reported doors opening and closing through their own volition. One woman incredulously has reported her infant being lifted by unseen hands and gently placed back down.
A local radio station wished to broadcast via remote one Halloween in particular. They contacted a local author/historian who in turn contacted a renowned psychic. As airtime approached at 6:00 am, the crew needed to tap into the phone lines for the broadcast. The crew needed to run cables to another sight since all phone lines were down at the Farnsworth. No lights, no dial tone, nothing. As the psychic toured the house to gain impressions, she got the distinct feeling that someone was trying to convey concern that traitors were about, and they didn’t want their position given away. It was realized later that the radio crew was wearing all blue. Blue shirts, and blue jeans. They also referred to their contact at the radio station as “ The Captain”. Could those Confederate lost souls have misconstrued the presence of these individuals as Federal soldiers?
The time had come for the crew to depart to a different area of town while continuing their broadcast. As they were leaving, every light on the phone began flashing desperately, and then reducing to one intercom light. As the psychic picked up the receiver, she heard no one and hung up. The light began flashing with desperation again, while the psychic picked up the receiver. This time she spoke aloud to an unseen visitor. She instructed this poor individual to move on, that he didn’t need to be a soldier anymore. As they left, the light continued to blink. Perhaps this soul was unable to let go.
The group continued down the street to the Jennie Wade House. It was here that the only civilian casualty was to meet her fate. As twenty-year old Jennie baked bread for Union troops, a bullet ripped through the door, striking her down in an instant. Given the danger outside, the family and soldiers removed a wall and carried the body to the basement. Jennie was to lie in state for the duration of the battle while her family grieved and took refuge in the cellar. A beautiful young woman who lost her life before she could find out the fate of her beloved fiancé; sergeant Johnston (Jack) Skelly, killed in a battle near Winchester. The unlucky individual who had the unfortunate task to inform her was a childhood friend, Wesley Culp, who had joined a Virginia militia and therefore went to war with the Confederacy. Wesley found Jack wounded and dying as a prisoner of war and swore he would deliver the horrible message. He never had the opportunity. Early on July 3 1863, Wesley himself would meet his demise; struck down upon the hill bearing his family name; Culps Hill.
As the radio crew and psychic approached the house, she immediately sensed uneasiness. Many visitors before have felt the same while some refused to enter the cellar. Still, others would leave hurriedly while video cameras that worked without flaw prior to the basement, will record nothingness. As the psychic relayed the presence of at least three souls, a feeling of torment prevailed. The group began to ascend the stairs and when she halted along with the house manager, the chain separating the visitor area and the spot where Jennie laid began to swing. The movement was odd, for it swung as if it were a solid wire. For a full minute, the chain swung like this as other members of the group quickly descended the stairs. The chain stopped swinging abruptly, deliberately.
The morning of July 2 1863 awoke with the battle lines drawn. The Federal lines extended from Spangler’s Spring and Culps Hill southward to a hill known as Little Round Top, resembling that of a fish hook. The Confederate lines paralleled the Union lines about a mile away. Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered simultaneous attacks on both the left and right flanks. Confederate Texans under General John Bell Hood assaulted with wave after wave through the Triangular Field, across the Devils Den and up the rocky height of the Little Round Top. It was here that Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of the 20th Maine Regiment made his lionhearted stance. With fewer than thirty percent of his original regiment, and dry of ammunition, he ordered a bayonet charge against the Confederates, taking them utterly by surprise, thus preserving the Union left flank.
The Triangular Field , situated one hundred yards southwest of the Devils Den is notorious for supernatural activity. It is common for recording equipment to either malfunction or cease to work at all. Visitors have reported the sounds of gunshots and drum rolls emanating from the wooded area of the field. Others have reported the apparitions of sharpshooters among the tree line, taking careful aim at an enemy absent for over a century. The local author/historian mentioned earlier, escorted a television camera crew out to the field for a special on Gettysburg ghosts. A prior equipment check showed everything was in working order. At the moment they entered the field, all equipment malfunctioned. As they exited the field, the cameras began working again. They entered and exited the field numerous times, only to have this bizarre pattern continue. As they filmed the field just outside of it’s perimeter, they were disappointed to learn that no film recorded of the field itself came out.
The Devils Den is a large patch of rocks where many Confederate sharpshooters took refuge in order to exact their death toll upon Union officers atop the hills of Little and Big Round Tops. In 1970, a tourist approached a park ranger and inquired about stories of Gettysburg being haunted. The Park Service cannot answer such questions but the ranger asked ‘why?’ The woman stated as she was taking photographs of the Devils Den, a man suddenly appeared beside her and said, “What you’re looking for is over there.”  Pointing northeast toward the Plum Run, she turned to look and the man vanished. The ranger asked for a description, and she felt he looked ragged and like that of a hippie. Barefooted with torn butternut shirt and trousers, wearing a big floppy hat. This was often the attire of Confederate Texans. A few weeks later, the same ranger was approached by yet another visitor with the same question. The man said he was taking pictures and a man mentioned to look elsewhere and disappeared. His description was identical to the woman’s. 
The Little Round Top is an unimpressive hill overlooking the Devils Den and the wheatfield. As the extreme left flank of the Federal lines, it has had its share of carnage. During the filming of the movie Gettysburg, many re-enactors would find themselves with some down time. Although the movie was not filmed on the battlefield, it was not uncommon for these extras to walk upon the battlefield in their period uniforms. One small group of men found themselves atop the Round Top, admiring the view as the sun began to set. A rustling of the leaves behind them alerted them to the presence of a stranger. From the brush emerged a rather haggard looking old man, dressed as a Union private. The man was filthy and smelled of sulfur, a key ingredient of the black powder used in 1863. He walked up to the men and as he handed them a few musket rounds, he said “Rough one today, eh boys?” He turned and walked away. As the re-enactors looked upon the musket rounds, they looked up to see the man had vanished. When they brought the rounds into town, they were authenticated as original rounds 130 years old! Many visitors have reported the smell of gunpowder, and have heard gunshots and screams from the Little Round Top over the years.
Friday, July 3 1863 was a new day already polluted with the stench of death and war. For two days, 175,000 men have engaged in the bloodiest battle before or since on the American continent. The morning was somewhat uneventful, with the exception of some fighting at Culps Hill; which had ended by late morning. At 1:00 p.m., 140 Confederate cannon opened fire on the Union center. For two hours, the largest cannonade ever witnessed pounded the Federal lines. So fierce was the shelling, that one could not see across the mile of open field to ascertain whether or not their targets have been hit. So loud was the shelling that the attack was heard in Washington DC; some 80 miles away. This was the preamble for one of the most infamous military events. This was the preamble for what was to become known as Pickett’s Charge. After the second hour of the cannonade was up, some 12,000 Confederate infantrymen emerged from the woods. Formed in battle line, they began the deadly march across the mile of open field. How the Union soldiers must have gazed wide eyed as 12,000 fixed bayonets glistened in the summer sun, all preparing to converge on a single stretch of stone wall known as The Angle. Long range cannon fire sent explosive shells into the rebel ranks. As they neared, the artillerymen changed to canister shot; a typed of buckshot fired from a cannon. Closer still the rebels marched; closing holes in the line left by soldiers killed en masse.  A deafening musketry opened from the Yankee lines behind cover of the stone wall. Still, the Confederates came. As the survivors reached the stone wall, brutal hand to hand combat ensued, but alas, the rebels, tired and outnumbered quickly lost momentum. 
The entire charge lasted less than an hour. In that time, 10,000 Confederates lay dead and dying. With the failure of the charge, the battle ended. Robert E. Lee retreated back into Virginia. Thus ended Lee’s second invasion of the north. Thus ended the Confederacy’s hope for independence. Although the war would continue for two more years,  the Army of Northern Virginia would never fully recover from this loss.
The Angle is a beautifully maintained area of landscape. One can still look out across the field from where Pickett’s Charge originated. A park ranger while on routine patrol one night noticed a man on horseback. As the rider neared, the ranger wondered who would be on the battlefield so late; on horseback. Upon closer inspection, the ranger noticed the attire of the rider. It was that of a Civil War officer although the allegiance could not be ascertained. The unknown horseman approached to within 10 feet of the car and promptly disappeared. Other visitors have reported the sound of galloping horses in the immediate area of The Angle, although none were present. Sounds of the cannonade have permeated through time as people report hearing the thunderous roar of battle. One visitor even reported seeing Robert E. Lee himself, sitting atop his horse, Traveller, on the opposite side of the field. A resident of Gettysburg, and amateur ghosthunter mentions that during a stroll across the field on a warm summer night, cold spots were common. Going from balmy humidity to sudden cold, so cold he could see his breath, the fellow continued the path of Pickett’s infantrymen.
Although there are literally hundreds of ghostly tales concerning Gettysburg, one must wonder how many more stories are out there. Surely, not everyone who has experienced such phenomenon has reported it. Even to walk the field, especially at night or early morning, when the crowds have gone; one can feel the energy, the aura of this most hallowed ground. A truly humbling experience as one contemplates the enormity of this event. Do the dead look at us with equaled wonderment? Are they forever trapped in a pocket of time, a nightmare from which they cannot awake? The ghosts are there, you can feel them. You can feel the event if you allow yourself, as this ground has been consecrated by the blood of tens of thousands.

by (Phil Keller)

Special thanks to Mark Nesbitt, whose books Ghosts of Gettysburg Volumes I-IV served as an invaluable resource

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