Ghosts of Gettysburg

The Gettysburg Battlefield has to be the most haunted place in America. That is if you believe all the ghost stories. The three days of battle in July 1863 produced more than 7,800 Union and Confederate dead and tens of thousands of wounded. It has a right to be the most haunted place in the U.S. Countless sightings and ghostly battle sounds have been reported in and around the battlefield: the Farnsworth House Inn, Little Round Top, Pennsylvania Hall at Gettysburg College with its Phantom Surgery, Sachs Covered Bridge, General Lee’s Headquarters, the Jennie Wade House, the Gettysburg Hotel, and perhaps one of the unlikeliest battlefields, the Devil’s Den. That battle and one of its persistent ghosts was recently reported by the superb historical blogger, MB Henry, who personally pursued the ghost that haunts Devil’s Den. This poem is about that battle and its enduring phantom.

The Devil’s Den


If you’ve not been to Gettysburg
I urge you to visit there,
Especially a place called Devil’s Den.
(Some call it the Devil’s lair.)

Large rocks and twisted crags,
A maze of geology,
Steeped in a deadly past,
And some say mythology.

For in July of sixty-three,
Death and horror there,
When Blue and Gray bled and died
As grapeshot filled the air.

In the Peach Orchard, on the Wheat Field,
And also the Devil’s Den,
The Rebels mounted ferocious attack
But the Yankees would not give in.

The Devil’s Den was the strangest place
To fight a battle there.
It seemed like Nature had gone mad,
Obstacles everywhere.

Into the welter of canyons and rocks,
Some as big as a shack,
The rebels, confused by twisting ravines,
Continued to press the attack.

Soon, due to fighting in such a place,
Amid canyon and sandstone shelf,
Organization quickly broke down.
It was every man for himself.

Then came the deadly cannon fire.
Plunging shot and canister rain
Brought screams of unbearable agony
And shrieks of insufferable pain.

After the horrible battle that day
The rocks were left blood-red,
And all the cracks and fissures there
Were filled with the blackened dead.

If you visit there today
You may find a surprise.
You may see a specter
Appear before your eyes.

More than few people have seen
A shagged-haired man in ragged clothes,
Wearing a cockled, floppy hat,
Who mysteriously appears, then goes.

He quickly disappears.
Just vanishes in the air.
As strange as it may seem,
That’s what people swear.

He apparently doesn’t like
Visiting cameramen,
Or any other person
Photographing Devil’s Den.

He shows up in images,
Even when no one’s around,
Or causes camera failures.
Stories like this abound.

Is he a ghost of rebel dead
Seeking what they died for?
Was he a local citizen
Marred by the dolor of war?

Or does he want to tell us
To leave our cameras behind
And contemplate the tragedy
Of what happened at that time?

Does he want us to think about
The sacrifice made there?
Not the perfect photo,
But understand and care
About what was at stake
On those fateful days,
Amidst the Minnie balls,
And cannons’ cordite haze?

It was fought for greater good,
And sacred obligation,
To save the Founders’ vision
And preserve the Nation,
So the world would know through the years
America would always be
A land of opportunity
Where all men will live free.

Sources: Based on the excellent blog post, “A Ghost At Gettysburg: No Photographs Please…”  by MB Henry, posted October 5, 2020 at https://mb-henry.com/; “7 of the Most Haunted Places in Gettysburg” by Karen Frazier,  https://paranormal.lovetoknow.com/;  “Gettysburg Encounters: Real Encounters with Civil War Soldiers” by Stephen Wagner, https://www.liveabout.com/.

Note: For more stories about patriotic events see Patriotic Poems by Lee Austin, available through Amazon.

10 Responses to “Ghosts of Gettysburg”

  1. kathygrover@comcast.net Says:

    👍

    >

  2. M.B. Henry Says:

    My favorite is when something I write about inspires someone else to write about it too 🙂 🙂 You’ve made my day Lee! May I tweet this??? 🙂 🙂

  3. A Ghost at Gettysburg: No Photographs Please... - M.B. HENRY Says:

    […] in some ghosty poetry about this story? Visit my friend Lee Austin’s blog for a Devil’s Den post that […]

  4. Dave Grover Says:

    Lee, as always you provide additional incite into something many of us know about. Thanks.

  5. Sandy Says:

    Lovely. It makes one stop and think about the very real sacrifice of the men there!

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