Haunted Cemeteries of Gettysburg: Chilling Reminders of Our Civil War

Posted by US Ghost Adventures Contributor in US Ghost Adventures
Haunted Cemeteries of Gettysburg: Chilling Reminders of Our Civil War - Photo

Did you know that most cemeteries are not considered haunted? Indeed, the place where bodies are interred are believed to be an eternal resting place. However, some spirits are restless and refuse to succumb to death and linger in this world.

Why? Here are a few theories:

  • Unfinished business on this side, such as revenge 
  • A sudden death that left the soul oblivious that their mortal body had died
  • There is a message to deliver 
  • Their interred bodies were not properly identified or treated with dignity

Think of all those young men who died quite suddenly within those three fateful days in July of 1863. The average age of a soldier that fought in these fields of Gettysburg was 19, with the youngest barely 12! They hadn’t even reached the prime of life! It is no wonder that many of those spirits remained restless long after their physical bodies were interred. Many of those over 52,000 troops who had died at Gettysburg were not properly identified or, unfortunately, misidentified; the spirits linger still to right the wrongs done to them 150 years ago. And within the confines of Gettysburg, the ghosts seem to remain simply as a warning to this country to never raise arms against one another. This is the haunting reminder of Gettysburg.

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Gettysburg National Cemetery

photo shows rows and rows of headstones
WWII headstones at Gettysburg National Cemetery. Source: Flickr

Gettysburg National Cemetery was constructed as a burial place for Union deaths sustained at the Battle of Gettysburg. The cemetery includes the tombs of 979 unknown soldiers as well as holding 3,512 burials from the Civil War. It has sections for veterans of the Spanish–American War, World War I, World War II, and other conflicts in which the men and women of the United States fought and died for. Along with the graves of the veterans are those of military wives and their children. The total interred in this cemetery is well over 6,000. It is little wonder that some of these souls do not rest easily. Some are buried with the children they never met in this life. Others lie in the ground without a name, while still others are seen as misty phantoms wandering about the stones of this solemn and hallowed cemetery. 

Evergreen Cemetery

photo shows the lagre, brick gateway of the evergreen cemetery
The entrance to Evergreen Cemetery. Source: Flickr

Without the aid of a pregnant woman, how many more ghosts might haunt the town of Gettysburg?

This cemetery was established in 1854. The name “Evergreen” was borrowed from the Victorian rural cemetery movement where large, beautifully landscaped properties were developed to provide inspirational “green space” in cities. Town cemeteries were more than just burial grounds—they were a place to talk to the deceased, honor them with flowers, and even have a family picnic. These cemeteries were essential multipurpose parks. It was at this cemetery park that President Abraham Lincoln delivered his eloquent “Gettysburg Address.” This was an appropriate spot on which to deliver such a speech because this cemetery was not only an appropriate green setting, but this place actually witnessed the bloodshed of the Battle of Gettysburg and much of it was desecrated during the War in 1863. No ground was safe from the ravages of this war, not even the final resting place of loved ones who had passed many years before this conflict.

The burial of the battle’s dead fell largely on the shoulders of a pregnant woman. While her caretaker husband was away serving his country, Elizabeth Thorn found herself with the daunting task of burying Gettysburg’s dead while six months pregnant. With her husband off to war, she took on the role of superintendent and soon-to-be-mother and buried nearly 100 Union soldiers’ remains in the Evergreen Cemetery. Today, there is a statue of a pregnant Elizabeth, which serves as a memorial to her and all women who offered service and support during the battle and its aftermath. It may be her ghost that is still seen moving about this cemetery, going from headstone to headstone, often times carrying a lantern that appears like a ghost light in the foggy nights. It has been said, too, that the cry of a newborn baby is sometimes heard within the confines of this cemetery. 

Cemetery Hill

photo shows a side by side image of cemetery hill in 1863 and cemetery hill today
From battlefield to burial site: Cemetery Hill – Then and Now. Source: Flickr

Originally named Raffensperger’s Hill, after farmer Peter Raffensperger, who owned over 6 acres around this site, the area would become known appropriately enough as Cemetery Hill after the dreadful events that unfolded July 1-3. Cemetery Hill, near the site from which Union forces repelled Pickett’s Charge on Cemetery Ridge, was in the months after the Battle of Gettysburg transformed into the final resting place for over 3,000 fallen Union soldiers. Fearing an epidemic spreading from the maggot-ridden corpses and trying to do the honorable thing for the fallen dead, the decomposing corpses were buried in hastily dug graves, but wind and torrential summer rains removed the soil covering many of the shallow plots, exposing the bodies to the elements. Elizabeth Thorn, the pregnant wife of the keeper of Evergreen Cemetery who was off at war, her parents, and hired hands dug 105 graves for these soldiers killed at or near Cemetery Hill, giving them the dignity they deserved. 

To this day, ghosts, appearing as rotting corpses, some skeletal, some with decaying features, have been witnessed roaming about the field where they died and were eventually buried.  

Lincoln Cemetery

photo shows the lincoln memorial
The Lincoln Memorial at Gettysburg. Source: Flickr

 

Lincoln Cemetery reminds us that war isn’t the only inhumanity perpetuated by mankind. This burial site is the cemetery for Gettysburg’s African American citizens and Civil War veterans. In keeping with the laws and customs of the times, African American veterans were denied the honor of being buried in the National Cemetery. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, African American veterans were still set apart even in the North! Segregated even in death, there are some thirty members of the US Colored Troops buried here. Many of the town’s earliest black residents were re-interred in this cemetery when the town’s “Colored Cemetery” became inconvenient and was promptly cleared in 1906 to provide space for the building of new homes. The forlorn and melancholy specters of these people, American in every way, some of them veterans, others just lost souls, are seen within the confines of the Lincoln Cemetery, still separated from the world of the living.

Sources

Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts And Haunts Of The Civil War: Authentic 

     Accounts Of The Strange And Unexplained. Barnes and Noble, 2003.

Murphy, Ronald L. On Ghosts. Camonica Books, 2016.

O’Neil, Bill. The Great Book of Pennsylvania. Independent, 2019.

Reardon, Carol and Vossler, Tom. A Field Guide to Gettysburg. University of  

     North Carolina Press, 2017.

Roberts, Nancy. Civil War Ghost Stories and Legends. Independent, 2016.

Rowland, Tim. Strange and Obscure Stories of the Civil War. Skyhorse, 2011.

Sears, Stephen W. Gettysburg. Mariner Books, 2004.

Trudeau, Noah Andre. Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage. Harper Perennial, 2003.

Featured Image Source: History Net