The Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862 was the bloodiest single day in American History. The casualties on that day exceeded the casualties of all of America’s previous wars combined. That such awful butchery would leave its mark on the field of battle is therefore not too surprising.
Visitors to Antietam have had many spectral encounters over the years at Antietam, but one of the more curious incidents is the one I documented in Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War. In Ghosts and Haunts I relate how a whole class of students from a private boys school report hearing unseen voices singing Christmas carols on the battlefield. On reading their class reports about their field trip, their history teacher, an expert on the Civil War, was perplexed. The young scholars had penned their reports on the bus ride back from the battlefield and did not have time to engage in any collusion or organize a practical joke.
On quizzing the students, the majority told him they heard the caroling near the sunken road now called Bloody Lane, a place made famous by the Union Irish Brigade, who suffered terrible losses in their charge there. When asked exactly what Christmas song they heard, they were united in saying “Deck the Halls” with its chorus of “fall-a-lalla-la.” It was then a light suddenly went on in the teacher’s brain: “Faugh a Ballagh!” was the war cry of the Irish Brigade—yet none of the students could have known that!
The Bloody Lane is not the sole spot at Antietam with a haunted reputation. Burnside Bridge, where Yankee troops tried to force a crossing over Antietam Creek and paid dearly for it, has had numerous visitors give reports of spectral encounters. Many report seeing ghostly figures, strange blue balls of light and the sounds of a phantom drummer drumming.
Dunker Church, another local landmark that figured in the battle, has had reports of people seeing spectral soldiers haunting its environs. It is a small country church which during and after the battle was used as a field hospital. Soldier’s limbs were hacked off by the score without anesthesia and many the man it was who died in agony there. Besides the phantoms said to roam its bloodied floorboards, eerie lights have been spied there at night.
The Pry House, used as McClellan’s headquarters, is now The Pry House Field Hospital Museum, and is open daily June-October. It served as a Union field hospital and visitors to it have also had uncanny encounters in and around it.
There are enough re-enactors and tourists who have experienced things at Antietam that cannot be explained, that you do not need some hokey TV ghost hunter running around with a flashlight to his face for one to know that Antietam is a most seriously haunted piece of Civil War real estate.
For more about Antietam’s spectral encounters, see Chapter 13, Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War. If you want to learn of Lincoln’s paranormal relationship with the battle, see Chapter 10, The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Happy haunting!