Haunts & Jaunts: Going to Gettysburg

Fire holds mystery and a glimpse of the past.
Photo by Rick Hinton

   This past weekend was a Boy Scout one. The Ritual is something I’ve participated in for 12 years now. 150 individual fires this weekend sequentially dotted the meadow, casting a curtain of blue fog smoke while wood cracked and popped. I sat in the center of the meadow taking it all in. As it always does, and has over the past years, my thoughts turned towards the Civil War and how troops from the North and South had made overnight camps such as these, constructing small cooking fires very much replayed in this scene. The Civil War makes me think of Gettysburg, and on this night, I was excited: I will be going there in a month!

   The battle at Gettysburg, Pa. marked the turning point of the war effort, being the last Confederate invasion. The three-day campaign, July 1 – 3, 1863, left thousands dead—both North and South. Is the battlefield park haunted? Yes it is. Strong emotions, violence and sudden death have been known to generate a form of carry over. Maybe it’s  just be a “playback” or something more significant. For years Gettysburg has been known for apparitions and the continuing sound of military battle; residual offerings emitting an event from the past, yet carrying over into the here and now.  It’s not only the battlefield, but also the town itself that retains these past ties.

   I chaperoned my son’s 5th grade school trip to Washington D.C./ Gettysburg years ago. On the way to Pennsylvania I contracted a case of food poisoning. My recollection of Gettysburg is lying in the fetal position on the bus moaning. It was a blur.  I look forward to going back!

   So many sites within the park… so little time. There’s Big and Little Round Top, with Devils’ Den as a prelude; the Wheat-field, Peach Orchard, Plum Run Creek, and the Valley of Death; Seminary and Cemetery Ridge; and Pickett’s Charge culminating in the end of the battle. Devil’s Den is the one I struggle with. The same boulders are there as they were during the battle 154 years ago. One can hold a photograph of a dead soldier lying across the very boulder you are now standing upon. It’s unnerving to say the least. And in the general scope of the battlefield, most likely wherever you walk is the chance that in 1863 a soldier dropped there. Also, unnerving!

   Friend and writer Alan Hunter will be the tour guide on the journey. Gettysburg seems to be an obsession for him. Quite possibly, it will also become mine.