Chickamauga Battlefield

Chickamauga : This battle of the American Civil War (1861–65) was fought in Tennessee in 1863 and initially was a victory for the South. It resulted in some of the most macabre hauntings of Civil War battlefields.

Chickamauga, named by the Cherokee Indians, means “River of Death.” In two days of fighting (September 19–20) there were 35,000 casualties. The Battle Chickamauga was one of two critical battles fought after the turning points of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (September 17, 1862), and Vicksburg, Mississippi (July 4, 1863), both won by the North.

Confederate forces had been deeply lodged in Tennessee, and for most of 1862, the North had been trying to rout them out. General Ulysses S. Grant was especially interested in taking Tennessee for it would put the North in a good position to drive deeper into the South and thus divide it.

The two armies fought repeatedly in Tennessee, finally coming to Chattanooga. Confederates, under General Braxton Bragg, lured the Yankees, under General William Rosecrans, to nearby Chickamauga Creek, where they dealt them a stunning defeat.

The terrain was rough, and men often became separated from their units. Much of the fighting was hand to hand. Union troops retreated to Chattanooga and were not pursued by Bragg—a serious Confederate mistake. Grant replaced Rosecrans with George Henry Thomas, whose fighting had earned him the nickname “Rock of Chickamauga.”

The North regrouped. On November 24, the North launched the battle of Chattanooga and overran the Confederates. Union soldiers screamed “Chickamauga!” as they charged at the Southern line. The South was defeated, and 4,000 Confederate prisoners were taken.

The Confederate victory of Chickamauga was short lived. Haunting Activity The Chickamauga battlefield is one of the largest of the Civil War. Corpses lay for weeks before burial, and most were buried where they fell; some were interred in mass graves. There are no markers.

Throughout the area visitors see misty apparitions, as well as strange fl ickering lights believed to be the ghostly lights of the lanterns of the women who went out at night searching for the wounded and bodies. A lady in white drifts about, reputedly the ghost of a woman who lost her husband or lover and who continues to search in vain for him.

People feel watched in the woods, especially at night. A headless horseman has been seen galloping along. Chickamauga’s most noted ghost is “Old Green Eyes,” so-christened for his glowing eyes. According to lore, he is the ghost of a Confederate soldier who had his head blown off.

Only his head was buried; his body could not be found. His ghost roams about looking for his missing body. He terrifi es people by the sudden appearance of his green, glowing eyes and by his moaning sounds. Older legends are associated with Old Green Eyes.

Prior to the Civil War, there were stories of a humanlike beast with green, glowing eyes; waist-length, light-colored hair; and huge, ugly jaws with protruding fangs. This beastly Old Green Eyes also has been encountered in modern times.

Further Reading:

  • Taylor, Troy. Spirits of the Civil War. Alton, Ill.: Whitechapel Productions Press, 1999.

The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits– Written byRosemary Ellen Guiley – September 1, 2007
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