Friday, January 03, 2020

Are Civil War Battlefields Haunted?

There is a huge body of circumstantial evidence of battlefield hauntings stretching back to ancient times, when ghosts were seen and heard to engage on the plains of Marathon after the battle (the Battle of Marathon was fought in 490 BC).  In the 1930s visitors to this region of Greece were still claiming to have heard the sound of metal clashes and screams coming from the battlefield. In Vita Isiclori, Damascius tells us that after a battle outside the walls of Rome against the Huns in 452AD, ghosts were reported to still be fighting for three days and nights after the battle, the clash of their weapons being heard all over the city.  The first major battle of the English Civil War (1662) produced a well-documented case of ghost armies fighting as reliable witnesses reported the phantom soldiers engaged in battle.  King Charles I was so intrigued by the stories that he sent a Royal Commission to investigate.  The trusted officers of the Commission reported back that they too had seen the ghastly spectacle and even recognized the ghosts of some of their fallen friends.  The phenomenon continued for some time, gradually lessening over time, until now there are only occasional reports of people hearing the sounds of battle at Edgehill.

How do we account for such stories?  The two most often reported types of hauntings are categorized as residual hauntings and intelligent hauntings.  Residual hauntings are the most common form of hauntings and may eventually be found to be natural phenomena.  A residual haunting is similar to a DVD that is played over and over again.  In a residual American Civil War battlefield haunting, for example, the sights, sounds, and even smells of battle are continually replayed and are always the same. Apparitions may be seen, but they will not notice living people around them.  The theory here is that energy created by the strong emotions created in battle imprints itself on a physical place and that an individual sensitive enough to pick up this embedded energy sees and hears ghostly events while those who lack such sensitivity do not. Since current science has no instruments to measure such embedded energy or test for individual psychic sensitivity to that energy, such hauntings are dismissed out of hand, even though they may actually exist.  

Paula Ann Kirby, author of  A Yankee Roams at Dusk, describes two types of  hauntings that may be occurring at Manassas, (1) residual hauntings, which are a manifestation of stored up energy replaying endlessly like an old movie, and (2) intelligent hauntings, which are rare instances in which ghosts try to interact with the living.

A brief but fascinating look at humor in the Civil War including: (1) Stories Around the Campfire, (2) Parody, (3) the Irish, (4) Humorous Incidents, (5) Civil War Humorists, and (6) Lincoln.

A quick look at women doctors and medicine in the Civil War for the general reader.

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