A Tale of Civil War Ghosts for Halloween

Today, Oct. 19, is the 159th anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Creek, which took place about 20 miles from my home.

The battle was decisive in routing the Confederates and preventing them from traveling through the Shenandoah Valley to threaten the Union capital of Washington, D.C. There was a high toll for that victory. Hundreds of Union and Confederate soldiers were killed, and thousands more wounded.

I’ve walked the site of the battle, which is now a peaceful field with a view of busy I-81.

According to local lore, however, the dead were still fighting after the war was over (see, for example, The Ghosts of Virginia by L.B. Taylor Jr.) There were sightings of ghostly squads. People living in the area heard gunfire on the battlefield and the thunder of hooves even though there was no man or horse in sight.

A nearby Episcopal church that was turned into a hospital during the battle also was reputedly haunted. Long after the dead were buried or taken away, locals continued to hear mysterious footsteps and groans in the church at night, and even music from an invisible army band.

It seems the paranormal activity lessened after the battlefield was plowed over to raise crops. Some swear, however, that on certain still nights, you may still see and hear things related to that particularly bloody encounter.

[The photos show a monument commemorating the role of the Eighth Vermont Infantry in the Battle of Cedar Creek.]


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