Friday, November 19, 2010

Fourscore and Seven...

Gettysburg National Cemetery image from Obit Magazine

The Gettysburg National Cemetery was dedicated on November 19, 1863. The main speaker at the ceremony was Edward Everett, but history will remember that Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on that day.

It contains the remains of over 6,000 warriors who served from the Mexican-American War to the present day. 3,512 Union troopers are buried in the cemetery; of these, 979 are unknown soldiers.

But the removal of Confederate dead from the field plots wasn't begun until seven years after the battle. From 1870 to 1873, various Ladies Memorial Associations dug up 3,320 Confederate bodies and reburied them in southern soil. The problem is that about 3,500 graycoats were killed in action and and hundreds more died from their wounds shortly afterward in battlefield hospitals.

Not surprisingly, the most often reported sighting is of three rebel spooks who approach visitors and then drop as if they're shot. Some people believe they died during the fighting at Cemetery Hill, part of which is the site of the graveyard (along with the Everett Cemetery), while others think they are apparitions of rebs whose bodies went unclaimed during the transfer.

The haunting starts before you even reach the cemetery proper, at the Cemetery Lodge, found at the entrance of the graveyard by the intersection of Emmitsburg Road and Baltimore Pike. The building stored all the unclaimed personal belongings of the soldiers killed during the Battle of Gettysburg for decades.

People report hearing footsteps on the stairs, supposedly from entities upset that their belongings were held there instead of being sent home according to some and from a lone sentry patrolling the gatehouse according to others. The cries of babies can be heard outside the structure; there's no reason known for that particular phenomena.

Once you make it past the Lodge, it's said that ghostly footsteps follow some visitors around the cemetery. Many people have reported soldier's spirits roaming the grounds, along with floating orbs and unexplained sounds. You can sometimes hear the sound of phantom Civil War band music being played in the woods of Cemetery Ridge by the Pennsylvania Monument. A blue column of light has been spotted coming from Cemetery Hill.

They also retell the famous haunting by Cavalry Captain William Miller. He was buried at the cemetery, but his stone didn't mention that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor. His spirit restlessly roamed his gravesite for years until a psychic contacted him and found out about the omission. The honor was belatedly added to his marker, and Miller rested peacefully ever after.

One final bit of the paranormal. There are reports that claim that the "Gettysburg Address" is still heard being spoken by Abraham Lincoln seven score and seven years after the event...well, let's hope those words ring forever.

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