J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “Confederates”

Halloween Hauntings and the Civil War (Pt. 4)

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One of the most haunted places in America related to the Civil War is Point Lookout in Maryland. Point Lookout was a notorious Confederate prison camp during the war. At one time, over 50,000 men were held captive, which was far more than what the prison was designed to hold. Because of overcrowding, over 3,000 men died due to the horrific living conditions. They were buried in the swampy marsh of Chesapeake Bay.

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The place where the prison once stood is now a national park and historic site, and the men who died at Point Lookout are remembered in a war memorial cemetery, which is actually a mass grave. Not surprisingly, many strange things have occurred on this haunted and hallowed ground. Visitors have reported a multitude of paranormal phenomena, including ghostly figures of soldiers seen running from the location of where a smallpox hospital once stood, which was a regular escape route for prisoners. A slender man has often been seen loping across the road into groves of pine trees.

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Rangers have described how frequent, low lying, damp fog would suddenly become impenetrable and chilling. The sudden change in atmosphere sent their dogs into a panic. Recorded devices have picked up strange snippets of conversation at all hours of the night. Some of the phrases heard included a man say, “Fire if they get too close to you.” A woman’s voice was heard saying, “Let us take no objection to what they are doing,” and a child’s voice asked to play in the water.

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Point Lookout’s lighthouse has experienced the most activity. Former park ranger Gerald Sword said his Belgian Shepherd regularly lunged at unseen figures. Once, Ranger Sword saw a young man in a sailor’s uniform enter the lighthouse and then disappear into thin air. Voices and piano music frequently float through the lighthouse halls, and fishermen have often told him they’ve heard phantom cries for help coming from the water.

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Halloween Hauntings and the Civil War (Pt 1)

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(Ghostly apparitions on the Chickamauga battlefield. Photo courtesy of Danial Druey)

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. What better time to write about spooky happenings and haunts as related to the War Between the States? Now through Halloween, I will share with you some of the scariest Civil War-related places.  First up is the Chickamauga battlefield.

“Wherever there has been great suffering, people are always seeing strange things.”

The Battle of Chickamauga was a costly one. On September 19 – 20, 1863, approximately 35,000 men were killed, wounded, or missing. It was considered a Confederate victory because the Rebels halted the Federal advance. Chickamauga, meaning “River of Death” in Cherokee, lived up to its name. Not surprisingly, the site of the battle in Georgia is reportedly haunted.

In 1876, thirteen years after the battle, ex-Confederate Jim Carlock participated in a centennial celebration. While walking across the battlefield, he and his friends saw something ten feet high with a “big white head.” He said the entity appeared to be a black woman carrying a bundle of clothes on her head.

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Edward Tinney, former historian and chief ranger at Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park from 1969 to 1986, said ghostly sightings are not uncommon. The most famous phantom is known as “Old Green Eyes.” This ghost takes on many different shapes, including a Confederate soldier and a green-eyed panther. Old Green Eyes was spotted soon after the battle ended when surviving soldiers saw the strange specter.

“Green Eyes is rumored to be a man who lost his head to a cannonball, frantically searching the battlefield at night for his dislocated body,” Tinney said.

According to legend, the ghost of Old Green Eyes existed years before the battle took place, possibly during the time that Native Americans lived on the land.

One night in 1976, Tinney was on the battlefield checking on camping reenactors. A man over 6 feet tall, wearing a long black duster, with stringy black, waist-length hair, walked toward him. Intimidated, Tinney crossed to the other side of the road. The man reached him and flashed a devilish grin. His dark eyes glistened. Just then, a car came down the road and the scary apparition vanished.

Another ghost appears in the form of a lady in a white wedding dress. Known as the “Lady in White,” the ghost is supposedly searching for her lover. Many visitors have reported hearing gunshots and hoof beats, or smelling the strong scent of alcohol. Reports of ghostly encounters and paranormal activities number in the hundreds.

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(Ghost horse behind reenactor. Photo courtesy of Rick Kanan)

Several years ago, David Lester was camping on the battlefield with several other reenactors. Some of his comrades wandered over to a neighboring camp to say hello to the soldiers. They talked for several hours before returning to their camp. In the morning, they returned to the camp, only to discover that there was no sign of a campfire or any trace of human occupation. There was only undisturbed land.

(Quote courtesy of Edward Tinney)

To Build and Not Destroy

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With all the destruction of Confederate monuments going on, it’s refreshing to see one Southern city defend its heritage and erect a new monument in honor of an historic occasion. Kudos for not bowing to political correctness and unfounded threats.

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Robert Hayes, former director of the South Carolina League of the South, along with the State’s division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, will erect an 11-and-a-half foot monument on Secession Hill dedicated to the 170 signers of South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession, ratified in Charleston a month after the Abbeville speeches.

To unveil the monument on Nov. 10, the town of Abbeville, which has its first black mayor, is hosting a parade.

The Abbeville monument weighing about 20 tons with a full inscription of the state’s secession ordinance, is planned for Secessionist Hill fronting a well-traveled corridor on Secession Avenue.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans picked Hayes’ property in Abbeville only after it was rebuffed twice in its attempts to place it on public land near Charleston, where the secession ordinance was signed and the Civil War started.

The group first eyed a location near Charleston Harbor in 2010 but the Patriots Point Development Authority rejected the offer in a split vote.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey then offered a spot in Riverfront Park but withdrew after he said “some who stand on both sides of this issue have attempted to divide our council and our city along racial lines.”

The Sons of Confederate Veterans’ secession monument, paid with private donations, landed on Hayes’ property because it’s privately owned and historical.

(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, September 14, 2018 ed.)

Sioux Falls and the Civil War

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Last week, my husband and I attended a presentation hosted by the Minnehaha County Historical Society in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The program was held at the Old Courthouse Museum, and discussed “Civil War Veterans of Minnehaha County.” All of these veterans fought for the Union, and most were from the Midwest. Twenty veterans were highlighted, and most were founding fathers of Sioux Falls.

Bill Hoskins, director of the Siouxland Heritage Museums and a member of the 13th U.S. Infantry Regiment, Company D, was the speaker. According to Mr. Hoskins, there are 347 documented veterans of the Civil War who are buried in 18 cemeteries in the county. Five percent were held as prisoners of war in Andersonville, Georgia, Camp Floyd, Texas, and Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. There are only 55 Confederate soldiers who are buried in the Dakotas.

Over the course of the war, the Union army grew from 10,000 soldiers to over one million. Some were mustered out in the summer of 1866 in my hometown of Sioux City, Iowa. After the war, many veterans participated in westward expansion through the Homestead Act. According to Mr. Hoskins, ex-Confederates were not allowed to participate. Many Confederates who were held captive at Rock Island Prison Camp in Illinois stayed in the Dakotas to fight Indians after they took the oath.

Fort Dakota was built on the banks of the Big Sioux River in June, 1865, where Sioux Falls is now. Two hundred and twenty-one men were members of the G.A.R. in Minnehaha County, and seventy percent were farmers. Some had various professions at the same time, such as doctors and fire chiefs. They promoted veterans’ affairs, and many were members of the Mason’s. These men helped shape South Dakota into what it is today.

Haunted Houses and the Civil War

I previously mentioned a famous haunted house in Gettysburg known as the Farnsworth House, which stood witness to the battle in July, 1863, and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address the following November. So many other houses are reportedly haunted that the list is virtually endless, but a few host more Civil War ghosts than others.

One other house in Gettysburg is supposedly haunted by Jennie Wade, who resided there and was killed by a stray sharpshooter’s bullet during the battle. The Carter House and the Carnton House, both in Franklin, Tennessee, are still visited by ghosts who witnessed the horrible Battle of Franklin in 1864. The McRaven House in Vicksburg, Mississippi, as well as the Lee-Custis House in Arlington, Virginia, are also ghostly dwellings.

New Orleans entertains its share of Civil War ghosts, along with many other spiritual entities. The Beauregard-Keyes House is said to play host to its former owner, General P.G.T. Beauregard. On several occasions, witnesses have heard and/or seen Beauregard’s Confederates charge through the dining room, complete with yelling, screaming, gunfire, and cannonade.

I met a nice young man last weekend who, once he found out I was a Civil War author, proceeded to tell me about the house he grew up in near Nashville. When I asked if it was haunted, he nearly turned white as a ghost, and told me that he had witnessed strange, scary, unexplainable things. I can’t wait to hear more about what happened. Another friend lives in an old plantation house in Hernando, Mississippi. This house is haunted, too. Not long ago, he and another friend, (both Civil War reenactors) were sitting in the parlor area when a candlestick on the mantle rose up, floated over to the center of the room, and fell to the floor with a crash on its own accord. Skeptics once, they believe in the supernatural now.

Civil War Songs

I recently had the honor of giving a presentation about Civil War music. This is always fun, as most everyone has heard of at least one song presented. I received the greatest participation when I started singing “Dixie,” (of course!) otherwise known as “Dixie’s Land.”

The list of songs created during the War Between the States is almost endless. As Ken Burns said in his documentary, “it was a singing war.” On many occasions, the Confederates and Yankees would find themselves camped on opposite sides of a river, where they would exchange songs. Inevitably, the bantering led to “Home Sweet Home.” When the song ended, quiet remorse followed.

The Civil War spawned such great songwriters and composers as Stephen Foster, (“Camptown Races,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” “Genie With the Light Brown Hair,” and “Oh! Susanna,”) as well as Henry Clay Work and Daniel Emmett. Songs ranged from patriotic compositions to marching songs, melodies about political figures to spirituals. Music was an important release for soldiers, who carried along their harmonicas, banjos, drums, jaw harps, guitars, and violins. Many made their own instruments out of bones, cigar boxes, tree branches, or whatever else they could find. Songs were sometimes taken from old traditional melodies, and several variations of a song were frequently invented with new lyrics written for whatever occasion presented itself.

Hollywood Forever Confederates

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During a recent trip to southern California, I visited the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (formerly Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery) in Los Angeles. This is a very fascinating place, as are all cemeteries for historical authors such as myself, because it’s amazing what you can learn about people by reading their headstones. Anyway, while touring the grounds, I discovered several Confederate graves.

The cemetery is unique in that it was founded in 1899. Many famous celebrities are buried there, including Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, Bugsy Siegel, John Huston, Jane Mansfield, Johnny Ramon of the Ramones, Peter Lorre, and Mel Blanc, the famous voice of Bugs Bunny and other Warner Brothers characters. The cemetery backs to the Paramount Studios lot. Paramount purchased 40 acres with RKO by 1920.

The cemetery nearly went bankrupt, but in 1998, all 62 acres were purchased for $375,000, refurbished, and renamed “Hollywood Forever.” Besides celebrities, an entire section is dedicated to Jewish people, as well as to the aforementioned Confederate veterans. This section is impressively quite large, proving that, after the War Between the States ended, many Civil War veterans migrated to California.

Haunted Civil War (Part 3)

Most people think of cemeteries and battlefields when they hear about strange apparitions that exist in regard to the Civil War. However, many old fortresses are rumored to host the spirits of soldiers past as well. As my final installation of “Halloween Haunts,” I bring to you the forts that time forgot.

Fort Delaware, located in Delaware City, Delaware, is an imposing structure that is said to be one of the most haunted places in America. It is no wonder, considering the suffering that took place during the War Between the States. The fort unintentionally became a prisoner of war camp, with most of its inhabitants being captured at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The fort, located on six acres, with 32 foot high walls and surrounded by a medieval moat, housed over 40,000 men by war’s end. The fort had the highest mortality rate of any POW camp: 2500 to 3000 men died. The ghosts of incarcerated Confederates still inhabit the place, as does a woman and several children. Across the river is Finn’s Point National Cemetery, where most of the Confederate soldiers are buried. Sadly, only one marker is placed, which reads, “Erected By The United States To Mark The Burial Place Of 2436 Confederate Soldiers Who Died At Fort Delaware While Prisoners Of War And Whose Graves Cannot Now Be Individually Identified.”

Fort Monroe, where President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned following his capture after the fall of the Confederacy, is another ominous place that seethes with spiritual energy. Located in Virginia, which ranks as the most haunted place in America according to the National Register of Haunted Locations, the fort has reported many spiritual sightings, including those of Abraham Lincoln and General U.S. Grant.

Off the gulf coast of Alabama, two ancient forts exist that have now become tourist attractions: Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines. Both forts have a long history of military service, surviving many wars, and not surprisingly, both have their share of supernatural inhabitants. Visitors have reported hearing footsteps, seeing strange apparitions that follow them out of the park areas, and noticing ghosts that observe them while they are there.

A National Day of Fast

On this date in 1862, Confederate President Jefferson Davis proclaimed a national day of “Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer.” Aware of what was in store for his beloved country, Davis asked for the fast so that people could have the opportunity to reflect on the circumstances at hand.

Ulysses S. Grant, a relatively unknown Union general, had won significant battles at Fort Henry on February 8 and Fort Donelson on February 18. This was a daunting situation for the South, because the loss of the two forts signified loss of control of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, thus allowing the Yankees to attack the Confederacy’s interior. Nashville had been lost to Federal invasion on February 23, which was also alarming to the Confederacy.

Davis’ proclamation for a day of prayer was significant for a time when this country was deeply rooted in Christian ideals and beliefs. Every event that occurred during the Civil War was attributed to God’s will. Davis had previously proclaimed a national day of fasting on June 13, 1861, and would request ten more during the course of the war, asking Southern citizens to attend church and fervently pray for the preservation of the South.

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