Storytelling Matters

The Live Art and the Power of Words

Daily Ghost Post – O is for Old Green Eyes

Nate has always been a history buff. Throughout his childhood, he and his parents visited every Revolutionary War historic site in New York and Massachussetts. Even historic site markers were exciting day trip destinations for his family.

Whenever they went down south to visit relatives, they would rack up visits to Civil War sites. One autumn they walked Gettysburg and Nate stood behind every single cannon (it was a long walk). One spring break they went to Antietam, where Nate educated the park rangers about the battle.

The summer Nate turned 17, they went to Chickamauga, near Chatanooga, TN. It was late evening when they arrived, but Nate couldn’t wait until morning. He had to get there. Quietly, he sat on a rock, gazing out at the field. As he reverently bowed his head, he remembered that the Battle at Chickamauga cost 35,000 casualties. Included in that huge number were 4,000 men who died in the very field where Nate sat.

When he looked up, he saw what he was hoping to see. Glowing, green lights were creeping across the field.

“Mom, Dad, didn’t I tell you? There they are! Those are lantern lights of the women who helped at the battle,” he told his parents.

But Nate was confused. He thought there would be more than two lights. When they went to the museum the next day, he found out why.

“Yep, some people say those lights are the women. But, if you saw only two lights…” and that’s when the docent told Nate and his parents about the Chickamauga haunting.

The Civil War Battle of Chickamauga took place some time after Gettysburg. It was a massive, two staged battle. The Confederates won the first stage, and in the second stage victory went to the Union soldiers. But who really wins any battle when there are so many casualties on both sides?

The dead and wounded lay on the field for days after the battle. Women came to seek their loved ones in a human carpet of gore. Their lantern lights still linger as it is said that they are patiently hunting to this day.

But the docent told them that there are more ghosts who haunt the place. The ghost of a headless horseman roams the woods nearby. Another Confederate soldier is there too. His head was blown off in battle.

“Yep, that’s Old Green Eyes,” said the docent. “His head was the only part of him that they buried. It roams the land even now. It cannot rest until it finds the rest of its body.”

His eyes are green, his beard hangs long. And there is nothing more to him than that. Old Green Eyes, a disembodied head, haunts the fields near the Chickamauga Creek, searching, searching.

“Yep,” said the docent, “Old Green Eyes is around. People still see him. Sometimes he causes car accidents. Sounds like you saw him last night.”

The docent never mentioned the beast however. Old Green Eyes may be a new name for an old ghostly beast that pre-dated the Civil War. The beast has glowing eyes and sports fangs. Perhaps it is the reason the Cherokee named the creek The Chickamauga, which means “River of Death.”

Like other history buffs, Nate still scours the past for details about the battles. He knows weaponry and battle strategy. But at Chickamauga he learned something about human nature. You see, it is profoundly human for people to go in search of themselves. We do it in many ways – by getting education, practicing arts, or meditating, for example. We are happy and whole when we find ourselves. But Old Green Eyes is much more literal his search. And when he finally finds himself, the rest of himself, that is when he will finally be at rest.

Do you know of any war-time ghosts? As always, I love to hear from you and will write and visit back!

— Jeri
Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen (2007). The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, 3rd Edition. New York: Checkmark Books.

PHOTO CREDIT: Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

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12 thoughts on “Daily Ghost Post – O is for Old Green Eyes

  1. Gettysburg has its share of ghosts as well, reminiscent of the battle carnage that town was subjected to. My son is a similar battle history buff, and we spent many vacation trips exploring the battlefields of the Civil and Revolutionary Wars. Little Round Top has a ghost as does the Devil’s Den and the Ghost Tour tourist companies will tell you about many more. At first the Ghost Tour business bothered me, but then when I saw the groups I realized it was a modern entertainment packaging but in reality it is creating an interest in history. Teach them the history any way we can, lest we repeat it!

  2. This is one of my favourite post on your challenge.
    I loved the true life story and the link to historic fact, and the story of the ghost itself.

    And you’re right. Everyone search for themsleves. Old Green Eyes is a sad ghost.

    • Thank you :). In the Ghost series I’ve tried to present each post in a different way – I liked this one too- but mostly because of the poignancy of what war ghosts like this signify. And alas Old Green Eyes is not the only war ghost…

  3. Tarkabarka on said:

    At some point I learned that there are several volumes of ghost stories collected just from Gettysburg. Seems like ghosts are the most popular form of folktales in the USA (which is curious to me because Hungary almost has none at all). This one is very chilling!

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
    MopDog – 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

    • I completely believe that about the Gettysburg ghosts. There are so many! I am very intrigued about Hungarian ghosts (or lack thereof). Let’s talk more about that sometime. But here’s a question – I have learned recently that some people died viciously in Medieval Hungary. Are there no accounts of any of those folk returning?

      I love the similarities between cultures AND the differences. Luscious stuff.

  4. No. But considering how many wars have been fought in the world, I think there would be a lot of war ghosts.

  5. I don’t know of any specific war ghosts, but when we visited the battlefield of Culloden it was a very eerie place even on a sunny day.
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

  6. I didn’t know that was the meaning of chickamauga. And I’ve never heard of Old Green Eyes. Very cool!

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