BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR
One July a couple of years ago, Robert and Diane arrived in
Gettysburg for a one-week vacation, far away from their Midwest home. Although Robert had been there several times before, it was Diane's first visit to the well-known battlefield. The couple met some friends who were residents and, together, they traveled the grounds pointing out many sites. After a couple days of sightseeing, Robert suggested to Diane to see the battlefield at night. He jokingly warned her of the
spirits that haunt the battlefield, particularly at night. They made the decision and they were on their way to a night time tour of the place.
The serenity of the area intrigued Diane in the dark, but hardly the least worried about ghosts. One favorite place on the battlefield, according to Robert, was undoubtedly mystical Devil's Den. Here was an area filled with tales of haunting, just the right place for Diane to experience the unknown. It was quite dark as they drove into the parking lot next to the big boulders of Devil's Den, perfect for an uninvited guest.
Robert and Diane made their way to the top of the boulders, with the aid of a small flashlight. They turned off the light and, in the calm of the evening, talked about the horrors of the battle, including the deaths occurring at Devil's Den. After about fifteen minutes, Robert started talking about the supposed ghosts in the area. Diane listened intently, but mockingly challenged any ghost to dare show up. As expected, not a single ghost was seen. Not even so much as an unusual sound was heard that evening.
As they left, Diane told Robert, "I told you so," as she laughed. Robert, however, did not rule out any abnormal sightings and although he joked earlier, he did believe strange things happened at Gettysburg.
For the rest of their vacation, the couple enjoyed a variety of activities. Soon, however, they found they had just one day left before they had to leave. Cramming as much as possible into their last day, the two returned again to Devil's Den late in the evening, for one last look. Already dark, they made their way atop the boulders to say farewell and goodbye. Diane spoke out, telling the ghost she was leaving, and sarcastically invited them to get into the car and come along. Both found the statement amusing and the next day were on their way home, back to the Midwest prairies.
One evening about a month later, Diane was alone in her family room reading a magazine, when movement caught the corner of her eye. Startled, she quickly looked up. For an instant, she thought she saw the shape of a man, but nothing was there. She was not really concerned until a week later, again in the evening and again alone. This time as she watched TV, Diane swore she saw a man in the adjacent room. She sprang up from the chair, only to find the room empty.
Now Diane was worried because, twice, she thought she saw a man in the house. She contemplated telling Robert of the visions, but stopped short for fear of ridicule. Another month went by and Diane completely forgot the two incidents until late one evening. Engrossed in a book, she had a strange feeling she was not alone and lifted her head, looking into the other room. There it was again! She swore that same man's images momentarily appeared, just long enough to get a quick glimpse, and then was gone. "What on earth is going on?" Diane thought to herself. "Am I losing my mind?" In her quick sighting she saw the man wearing a loose-fitting shirt, trousers with suspenders, and a floppy hat upon his head. Still unsure whether or not to tell Robert, she thought it over and decided to withhold her visions.
From time to time, Diane would see, or thought she saw, the lonely image of the man. Ironically, while Diane was having her phantom visitations, Robert was going through much the same thing. He too, was reading a book in the quiet hours of the evening, when much to his surprise he believed he saw a person in the next room. This happened to him, not once. but several times. Just as had happened to Diane, the image would only stay an instant, then quickly vanish. Robert, at first, was going to tell Diane, but changed his mind. He remembered telling her of the ghost stories in Gettysburg and watching her laugh them away. He did not want to be humiliated by telling more stories of the supernatural. After all, she did not believe before, why would she now ?
As with Diane, Robert witnessed the vision many times over the next months. They were always the same, just appearing for an instant. Each time they wondered if they really saw a man, or were their minds playing tricks on them. Both kept their secret from the other. Close to a year after touring the battlefield, the couple's friend from Gettysburg drove to the Midwest to visit with them. They engaged in casual conversation and later found themselves talking about their last time in Gettysburg. Diane finally felt at ease enough to speak of the sightings in her house and went on to tell her friend John what she thought she saw. Hearing this, Robert was speechless. He could not believe it. The same thing happened to him and both described the man exactly! Robert then told his experiences and the two could finally relieve their minds of the secret burden. They were absolutely in awe. They thought about what happened over the past year and both were convinced that, when Diane invited the ghost to come back with them, that is exactly what happened! Although not physically bothered by the visions of the man, Robert and Diane thought the ghost belonged in Gettysburg. Diane said it worked before, and with that, sternly told the ghost to get into the car and go back with John.
With that, neither Robert nor Diane were ever visited again by the image of the man. However, the story does not end here. John returned home to Gettysburg and after a few days, noticed strange things begin to happen. He thought it peculiar that he was frequently misplacing items in his home. He would remember exactly where he left something, but when he went to get the object, it was moved or gone. One night he wanted to light a cigarette, and finding his lighter empty, used matches instead. John placed the empty lighter on his bed and the matches on the dresser, then walked out of the room. Minutes later, he reentered the room, and to his surprise, neither the matches nor the lighter were there! He thoroughly searched the whole room, and when done, checked the other room, without success. Frustrated, he walked to a nearby store to purchase a new lighter. Upon his return, he was shocked as he opened the door, there were the lighter and matches!
Occasionally, John came back to the room in disarray, with clothes strewn about, drawers emptied, and papers scattered around. It is John's belief that the same ghost that frequented Robert and Diane's home did indeed return with him to Gettysburg, now resides in his home. Only this time, the apparition is showing disapproval over the new residence. The dissatisfaction may be because the apartment, they say, is built upon the graves of Civil War casualties.
Gettysburg has, over the years, had many occasions with superstition playing a major roll in the irrational, or perhaps unexplainable, beliefs associated with the battlefield. One such conviction had its origins beginning decades ago.
Tony, when a young boy, would gather up his neighborhood friends and all would hike across the battlefield, ultimately ending at Devil's Den. Tony and his companions all lived in the area, having the opportunity to regularly play on the battlefield. One day Tony came across something, nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary mind you, just an every day coin, but this small object would forever change his beliefs in mysticism.
It so happened that on that particular day, Tony was atop Devil's Den on a large boulder. It was about the highest point in the Den, situated above Smith's Battery in front of the 99th Pennsylvania monument. While playing ''Yanks and Rebs," Tony selected that boulder for its advantageous height, allowing him an excellent view of the area. It was then, as he stood on the boulder, that he glanced down at his feet and something caught his eye. Laying in a depression of the boulder, partially covered by a small stone, he found a coin, A Lincoln head penny. No sooner did he spot the penny, when his friend Peter joined him atop the boulder. Tony showed him his new discovery and Peter began discussing the possible different types of candy they could purchase with the find. As Peter moved the tiny stone and picked up the penny, he jokingly told Tony, "Look, Lincoln is facing in the direction he gave his Gettysburg Address."
Happy with the find, the two boys decided to leave the battlefield and spend the penny, after whetting their appetite with visions of sweet candy. Peter tucked the penny in his pocket and they started to leave when, after just moments, he lost his footing on one of the rocks, falling onto the hard surface breaking his arm. Fortunately, help was not far away and the poor boy was soon at the doctor's office mending his wound.
After a few weeks, Tony and his friends returned to the battlefield, This time, their parents who learned of the mishap, sternly warned the boys to be careful on the rocks. Tony's favorite spot was atop the boulder at Devil's Den, so he made his way to it and continued to play. To his complete surprise, he found another penny in the same depression, covered by a small stone, again, Lincoln facing the same direction! Thinking his pals were playing a joke on him, he called them over and pointed out the penny asking who placed it there. The boys were bewildered and none claimed to have put it there. Besides, these particular children did not have money to be throwing around, especially considering a penny could buy something in those times. Still not believing his friends, Tony said "Oh well, guess I got me a penny then." With that, he picked up the coin and the boys continued with their play. Then something unexpected happened that made young Tony think perhaps his friends did not put the penny there. As they were playing, Tony was pretending he was a General, charging at a full speed run. Usually surefooted, he tripped, falling face first onto one of the flat rocks. His nose began to bleed and his eye swelled shut. Tony in tears and pain made his way home, somehow thinking that penny had something to do with it, after all, Peter previously took the penny and got hurt.
The boys stayed away from Devil's Den for quite some time. After several months, for the most part, forgetting the two injuries suffered by them, they ventured back onto the battlefield and ultimately to Devil's Den. Tony, with Peter and another friend Jim, stepped on top of their favorite boulder. To their astonishment there it was, just like the others, and covered by a small stone. A penny with Lincoln facing the same direction! This time though, Tony and Peter having previous ominous circumstances linked to the penny, refused to pick it up. However, Jim telling them how silly they were acting, did not hesitate to take the penny, even as Tony pleaded with him not to do it. As they continued with their play, Tony kept insisting Jim return the penny to the spot he found it. Then it happened, Jim, almost identical to Tony's mishap, lost his footing and tumbled down, breaking his index finger. In excruciating pain, Jim beseeched Tony's forgiveness for not believing him, as he now, too, became a victim of the mysterious appearing pennies.
Time went on and as the boys grew older, they did on occasion venture back to Devil's Den. At times reporting that they indeed did see the mysterious penny in the same spot, however, refusing ever to take it, for they now knew the consequences. As they aged and reflected back on their most unfortunate experiences, they firmly believed that, while unsure of how the penny was placed there, it was meant to ward off the evil spirits from Devil's Den. Not only was it considered bad luck to remove the penny, but as they could attest to, chances of something bad happening to them were quite high.
It should noted, that over the years, those boys and unrelated parties, have come across a penny on that boulder and, after picking it up, received various degrees of misfortune. We have also heard that from time to time, pennies have been left there for good luck. Although we have not come across the penny ourselves, others in the recent years have. We can only say that if we do have the opportunity to see the penny, it will definitely remain where it is. If you see it. Do what you may, but remember the dire consequences that could be awaiting you if you choose to take it.
BATTLEFIELD GUIDE STORIES
1. Captain Frank Bell, 13th Pennsylvania Reserves, was wounded in the
ankle near the east side of Rose's Wheatfield on the afternoon of July 2nd. Before being removed to the rear, he watched his regiment become very exasperated at the difficult time it took to make the Confederates give ground. At one point as, the two fighting lines collided, one Southern soldier fired his rifle directly in the faces of Bell's men, dropped his musket, threw up his hands and falling to the ground cried out, " I surrender!" Captain Bell stated that at that moment, Lieutenant R. Fenton Ward approached the
repentent enemy screaming: "You can't shoot and surrender in that way," and immediately blew the Rebel's brains out with his pistol.
2. Louisiana and North Carolina troops charged up Cemetery Hill on the evening of July 2nd as part of Lees plan to drive the Union army off the high ground south of Gettysburg. One of the officers who helped to defend the hill was Lieutenant Charles B. Brockway, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery. He explained an unconventional practice used by the batteries when hard pressed by infantry at close quarters.
We bore the brunt of the attack along our left piece, which was close to the stone wall, was spiked by the enemy, but only after they had killed, wounded, or taken prisoners every man belonging to it. Some of the drivers were bayoneted on their horses. Still our men stood at their post, the officers and drivers supplying the places of those who had fallen. Our canister failing, "rotten shot" was used; that is shrapnel shell without fuse, the shell bursting at the muzzle of the gun.
3. Private Benjamin H. Stone of Page's Virginia Battery was mortally wounded fighting Union infantry at close quarters. He was reported shot to death "with twenty five musket balls in his body." Stone was buried on the field and later removed to his old home in Ashland, Virginia.
Another bizarre incident relating to rifle fire at Gettysburg, ending on a happier note, is that of Private Wiley J. Pope of the 22nd Georgia. On the evening of July 2nd, he was shot by a stray ball which hit him in the nose, passed through his head and lodged in the back of his neck. The wound bled profusely and Pope went to the rear for medical aid. On the retreat he walked back to Winchester, Virginia, a distance of seventy-five miles. He said he suffered a great deal on this march, but eventually got better and was soon discharged for disability.
4. During the battle James P. Ulrick, Company G, 147th Pennsylvania angrily snapped at one of his comrades for kicking his rifle out of his grasp while he was loading it. The friend denied the accusation, and when Ulrick came to a ready position in order to prime his weapon with a percussion cap, he found that the whole stock had been carried away by a Confederate musket ball.
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