Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Gettysburg ghosts II

More documented stories

Several people responded well to my last Gettysburg post, with some requests for more...so, here are a few more stories to hold you over -- especially since I may not be able to Blog much for the next couple weeks.

But before I share these stories, I just have to add a caveat regarding 'ghost encounters.' Please be aware that not all ghost stories [or sightings, etc.] are equal. Not all are benevolent. And not all are human spirits. We live in a spiritual world with both good and evil, with humans called to choose sides, to actively live out good through our Lord Jesus Christ. And many manifestations do not encourage such true life under Christ...

There's a whole cottage industry grown up around ghosts and contacting 'the other side,' or "Crossing Over" as one show puts it. I am against that, strongly, for several reasons...which I'll be glad to share [if you email me]. There is also a very malevolent side to some 'ghost encounters,' which results in fear, control and possession.

However, much of what I hear about Gettysburg battlefield incidents makes them seem a different class, for several reasons: one, they are not sought after; two, they are usually seen by multiple witnesses; and three, under conditions which are known to mimic original battle conditions -- almost as if real events are dimly replaying through the fabric of time, with spirits of real men focused on a given mission, not on 'haunting' per se.

Many of these sightings occur during re-enactments of the Battle of Gettysburg, as if the replayed sights and sounds of the acted battle trigger some response in the unseen world. I've heard several amazing stories from the filming of
Gettysburg, filmed for several months in the summer of 1992. Some of these stories are very moving...like the thousands of men who reenacted Pickett's charge, as they moved through the waving fields of grain, being overcome by such great emotion that they began to spontaneously weep. One reenactor general on a horse, felt the wave of emotion, looked behind him only to find his two adjutants in open tears, streams covering their face as they strode with pride and sorrow toward the bloody stone wall. Literally hundreds of these men on this same charge tell of the hotness of the day -- one of the hottest on record -- and crossing that field in great heat...and tears...only to suddenly enter a swale where the temperature dipped below freezing. Looking at one another with shock and surprise, they saw their breath in the air...frozen...only to pop out on the other side, back into the relentless summer heat.

There's just something about the
Gettysburg battlefield. Once you've been there, and felt the greatness of the place, the mingled sorrow and joy, great devotion and peace, peace built upon unmatched turmoil and tears...you'll know what I mean. Great deeds were done on that day, which human tongue nor pen will ever tell.

Perhaps it is that sense of greatness, or duty, which compels me to memory of these men...in stories not of this world? Perhaps! Perhaps it is the fact that great heroes are dying, even as we speak, for freedom. Perhaps it is the fact that great deeds are being done, in the souls of great men and women, as they carry out duty unseen...for Christ. Perhaps!

And so, for your enjoyment, and recalled duty, here are several stories, most from the 1992 filming of
Gettysburg, witnessed by multiple persons. The stories here are chronicled and retold by Mark Nesbitt. The first is one of my favorites, of Confederate battalion forming for battle in a thunderstorm...

No reenactor is foolish enough to march around in a thunderstorm.

One night during the first few days of August a typical summer thunderstorm with lightning, roiling thunder, and a solid wall of rain advanced, like some infernal army, from the bins to the west across the encampment site. A lone reenactor ventured from his tent out into the night to watch the majesty of the battle in the sky, and was surprised and a little shocked to see a battalion-size group of Confederate infantry forming up in line and coming to attention across the road from the camp. He called to some of his friends in the surrounding tents and those who peeked out saw the same thing: uniformed men, seemingly driven by foolishness, or an inconceivably strong devotion which appeared to conquer even the fear of death by lightning strike, to reenact a Civil War era scene. They could be seen clearly through the rain, but even more distinctly during the lightning, making preparation for battle. The men in the tents watched. They saw the battalion finally aligned; a great flash of lightning illuminated them one more time. As the observers' eyes adjusted to the darkness after the flash, they saw that the unit was gone -- vanished in an instant, called suddenly into some unseen combat, crossing through time's illusionary wall.

Though the timing is uncertain, either shortly before or after this event, a lone
Confederate battalion was seen, in swinging route step, marching along one of the [reenactment] camp roads through the Union campsite. Was it the same group seen in the field outside the camp? For that matter, was this phantom battalion perhaps the same one seen by dignitaries on Little Round Top years before? Or the one that continues to be seen to this day near where battalions of live men were mown like so much grass in the once-deadly Wheatfield? [1]

Then Nesbitt tells riveting story about a pastor who missed an opportunity to bear witness to a group of spirits:

There was the pastor -- a minister in real life who reenacts as a man of the cloth -- who had gone out of the campsite to get something out of the trunk of his car. It was around 10:30 p.m. and most of the reenactors had bedded down after a sunrise-to-sunset schedule of shooting the film. As the pastor was moving things about in his trunk, he felt a sudden uneasiness...as if be were being watched.

Turning, be saw that he was virtually surrounded by a company-size group of what he thought were reenactors. But the looks on their faces seemed to indicate serious work ahead. Inconceivable as it was -- for reenactors are by nature nice people -- he felt as if he were about to be attacked. Nervously he asked, "What's the problem here?" The entire group slowly melted away, back into that strange land where there is apparently no leave from duty for those soldiers caught there...

And restless a few of them were indeed. About three-and-a-half hours later, at
2 a.m., one of the reenactors was at the phone bank calling his wife on the West Coast. The conversation went on as they discussed with her when he'd be coming home. He wanted to stay in Gettysburg for more of the filming and figured he'd be home in a few more days, or perhaps as long as a week. Over his shoulder he saw several men in uniform behind him whom he hadn't noticed before. He told his wife that be must go now because there were others waiting to use the phone. He looked back at them and, as he stood listening to his wife ask again when be was coming home, they simply dematerialized. There was an uneasy silence coming from his end of the line until he finally answered his wife: "I'll be coming home tomorrow." [2]

Not all of the ghost stories visual. Many are auditory: sounds of horses galloping, neighing, and breathing; cannons in the distance, musket and rifle fire, shouts, cries for help, cries of victory or sorrow or pain...and many of these are also witnessed en masse.

A young woman wrote to tell of her experience with the 6th New Hampshire reenactment regiment on the 130th anniversary of the great battle. They were encamped on the 4th of July not too far from the wooded area in the campsite. It was a week of record high temperature in Gettysburg, aggravated by the lack of any breeze on that particular night. She and a few of the regiment were gathered around the cooking fire, finishing off some dinner. Suddenly, one of the men stopped eating and cocked and ear. "Listen," he said. He stood, looking toward the darkened woodline. As the others stopped eating and put down their plates, from the woods came the unmistakable sounds of a large body of troops moving. There was the clatter and clank of bayonets against canteens, the rattle and murmur of thousands of men shifting and adjusting personal things like packs and rifles, the low rumble of what sounded like a wagon, and random but rhythmic shuffle of feet as men moved wearily through the woods.

The reenactors looked at each other with anxiety -- they all heard it. One nervously suggested that it was only the wind, but his theory was belied by the motionless, oppressive heat around them and the campfire smoke rising in a straight column. From less than a hundred yards away -- the young woman thought the sounds came as close as only fifty yards at one time -- echoed the rumble of an invisible army. The sounds apparently came so close that someone in the group nervously suggested that perhaps they should go for a walk to another part of the large campsite. The young woman later frankly said that the stroll was prompted not so much for the exercise, but by fear. [3]

What do you make of these stories?

There are too many multiple witnesses to discount them utterly. And yet the train moves on, unexplained. Perhaps it is best captured, with other things, by Maj. Gen. Joshua L. Chamberlain:

The invisible, ethereal soul of man resisting and overcoming the material forces of nature; scorning the inductions of logic, reason and experience, persisting in its purpose and identity; this elusive apparition between two worlds unknown, deemed by some to be but the chance of intersecting vortices of atoms and denied to be even a force...[yet] lives on.

Well, said, Maj. Gen. Chamberlain!

These sightings presage the greater truth of a great morning in the by and by, when we will "know even as we are known," through faith in Christ, and duty well done!

And, speaking of duty, again I ask an interest in your prayers in the next three weeks. My schedule is duty laden with things beyond me, and I seek an interest in your prayers, for strength of body, clarity of mind, peace of soul, and purity of spirit...to accomplish Divine will!

God bless you one and all.

Good night!


Anonymous said...

Your interests in the other world was brought to my attention...and after reading your "ghost" stories, I would like to invite you to seek out the accounts regarding incidents surrounding Ft. Reno.
And do you have any knowledge of the battleground at Prarie Grove?

Loy Mershimer said...

Thank you! Could you share some of those stories with me, either here or on email?

And, let me know any information or thoughts that you have, personally? I'd be interested...

talk soon,


Anonymous said...

Yes, I will send you my stories & personal experiences at those places.
I don't have time right now to write out all the stories, but I will get them to you soon.
I think there is a definite difference in ghost stories, stories of the spiritual realm, and actual scientifically verifiable recordings of past events. In our finite minds we have to categorize everything, but the world that God created might not always fit into our human classifications. I believe that sometimes for whatever purpose, humanity experiences all of those different realms.

Loy Mershimer said...

Thank you! I look forward to your thoughts...

And I would agree that this world [in reality] cannot fit into quantifiable or measurable parameters. And, I also agree that humanity experiences other dimensions at some points...