I’ve said before: I’m not psychic. I don’t get impressions, and I’m not prone to see ghosts everywhere I look. I’ve often described it as: I can’t see where ghosts are, but I can see where they’ve been.
The first time I visited the Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, I was a child--about eight years old. It was an elementary school field trip that brought me there. I recall my teachers telling us on the bus how important it is to be respectful. That we were going to hollowed ground. I didn’t know the meaning of the word “hollowed” back then, but I liked the sound of it. I liked that this area needed its own word.
When we filed off the bus, we entered the wax museum. There were wax figures sawing limbs off of wax wounded soldiers, there were limbs in piles. The boys especially in my class were wide eyed. Clearly this museum knew how to reach us. But that was inside the building. The whole thing was artificial. Once we were outside, and walking through some of the battlefields, a hush fell over the crowd of kids. Put this gaggle of children anywhere else and you couldn’t shut us up with chloroform, but somehow the power of that place fell over us, and we knew to listen to whatever message it had to give us.
There were 51,112 casualties for both the North and South over the span of July 1-3, 1863. That includes the dead, wounded, captured, and missing. But numbers are cold.
So the number of casualties in that battle would come just shy of selling out Yankee Stadium. So what?
Not until you get to a battlefield like Gettysburg can you feel the power of what those numbers mean. When you understand and explore the history, when you hear the story of a single soldier who died right at your feet, that is haunting. When you multiply that single story by 51,112, then you understand the power of Gettysburg.
Connecting with people, both living and dead, is a sign of empathy. It’s one of the most important functions of humanity because without it, we’re detached, and truly alone. Empathy reminds us that we’re all connected to each other. That your fate is intertwined with my own. We’re all actors on the stage, and history is the setting. Historical events are the beats that move our narrative along and develop our character. We ignore those events at our peril.
History leaves a mark. Ghosts are history demanding to be remembered. Nowhere is that more true than battlefields. With all of the fear, anger, rage, and all of the other emotions of battle, it’s no wonder that these events cause a scar that won’t ever heal. Touching the scar is like poking an old wound where the pain brings up all of the memories of that place.
Battlefields the world over are haunted because they should be. A few years ago, I explored this topic in detail in my book: Ghosts of War. This month we’re going to talk about the experiences we’ve had in and around haunted battlefields. If you have had an encounter at a battle site, please submit it to our encounters section: https://ghostvillage...your-encounter/