Tuesday, February 9, 2010


The word "chickamauga" comes from the Cherokee language; it means "river of death".

This is a highly appropriate name for a field where more than 34,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed on September 19 - 20, 1863. It's now a park, but the events of 1863 linger on.

After the battle finally ground to a halt, many of the soldiers' wives took lanterns and searched through the night for their loved ones. The bodies left on the battlefield weren't buried for two months; given the state of the corpses by that time, they were simply buried three to four in a grave, usually in shallow graves. To this day, it's not unusual for one of the soldiers' bodies to be found in the park; it's a giant graveyard, with no map telling where the bodies are.

Civil War reenacters frequently come to Chickamauga, acting out one of the Civil War's bloodiest battles. One group, camping overnight in the park, met up with another group; the first group sat around the second group's campfire, trading stories, then returned to their own camp to get some sleep. The following day, no trace was to be found of the second group - no food, no tents, no sign of a campfire.

Visitors and rangers alike have experience paranormal phenomena. The spirits of the dead appear with ghastly wounds. Hoofbeats and footsteps are heard. Sounds of moaning, and of sobbing women (the soldiers' wives, most likely) echo through the area. A headless horseman has been seen. Mist swirls through the field.

The "River of Death" continued to act thirty years later, when troops of men were stationed at Chickamauga for training prior to being shipped down south to fight in the Spanish-American War. Many of them fell ill and died.

These days, the park is also a spot where people have been murdered, or where murder victims have been taken and dumped; the soldiers of 1863 aren't the only ones whose remains have been found here. One memorable story concerns a man whose wife and her lover attempted to murder him. He managed to escape, though badly wounded, and ran screaming through the park before a ranger found him. The two would-be murderers were still chasing him, each of them armed with a knife.

Several photos showing inexplicable images have been taken at Chickamauga - misty forms, strange shadows, and so forth.

The park is open daily - and at night, I'm sure it's even more open, but be sure to get permission, if you feel like braving the nighttime atmosphere.

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