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!
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