Town Lore

John Burns
   A local resident John Burns was the oldest person to fight in the battle of Gettysburg, and even with his outdated flintlock, old style clothes, Burns fought for the Union until at least three gunshot wounds stopped him from fighting. Many years after the war, Burns was walking in the woods at age 75 along the McPherson farm when the ghost of a Confederate soldier stepped into his path and pointed a rifle at him. Burns left the woods, quickly and never came back to that part of the forest again.

First on the Field
   Contrary to popular belief the first evidence of a ghostly presence at Gettysburg was not related to the battle. It happened when soldiers in the 20th Maine, (who later won their fame at Little Round Top), claimed they saw George Washington's spirit guiding them along their forthcoming attack. What could the explanation be behind this story?

I See You!
   Ghosts on the Gettysburg battlefield rarely have evil connotations but rather excite the sympathy of those who view them. Many different kinds of ghosts exist on the darkened fields of Gettysburg. A few of them, such as a tattered Rebel at Devil's Den, are widely known, while most of them are known only to those who witness their presence.

Sorrow At the Spring
   At Spangler's Spring, farmland once claimed to have been used as the site where both Union and Confederate sprang during the battle, lives the legend of the "Woman in White." Her story is tragic but vivid...she was apparently engaged to be married, when her fiance decided to terminate the engagement, and, distraught, the young woman took her own life. Not a small few have attested to seeing the woman wandering around Spangler's Spring.

Carrying Empty Weight
   In 1992, Gettysburg received a huge boost in popularity when the movie "Gettysburg" was being filmed there. It was a frequent occurrence for the local citizens to drive the movie's extras from Gettysburg to where they would begin filming. So when a woman with a pickup truck who had just done this very thing noticed a couple of soldiers lounging in her truck, she assumed some of the actors had forgotten to leave, or perhaps were in a playful mood. But as she went to ask what was the matter, the bed of the truck was empty. Had anyone really been there?

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Life is Fleeting
   The Farnsworth House, now operated as a bed and breakfast inn, was a private residence during the three-day battle, and consequently the attic was used by southern sharpshooters as a nest for picking off boys in blue on Cemetery Hill. If history is to be believed, one of the soldier in the attic happened to targeting a doorknob on a small red brick house a small distance from there to see if the wind favored him. But the bullet went astray, bursting through two doors and right into the back of a young, 20-year-old woman named Jennie Wade. Jennie had been kneading dough to make biscuits for Union soldiers. Thus, Jennie Wade had the terrible classification of being the only civilian in Gettysburg who lost her life while the battle raged.

Learning A Different Kind of Lesson
   Pennsylvania Hall, originally a dormitory and now home of campus administrative offices, appears to be a building with stern visage, dedicated to learning, dedicated to seeing things responsibly. But apparently there is more to this edifice than meets the eye... The building was brought to life in 1837, now known as Old Dorm. The Confederates put Pennsylvania Hall to use during the battle as a look-out post and also as a field hospital.    A well-known tale exists of the Hall that was shared by Mark Nesbitt, author of the Ghosts of Gettysburg book series. According to Nesbitt, one night two college administrators, hard as work on the fourth story of Pennsylvania Hall, decided to call it a night. They whisked themselves into the elevation and hit the first floor button. But something went horribly wrong. When the elevator reached the first floor, it continued down to the basement and the doors flew open... There was no storage room any longer and everywhere the dazed onlookers could see, it appeared to be a full-fledged Civil War hospital. There were men with bloody wounds lying around the floor and doctors and orderlies, their clothes dirty and gore-stained, attended to them. Everything was utterly quiet, defying the terrible situation. Is this story true? Visit Pennsylvania Hall...at night. The storage room is still there. See for yourself.

A Cry For Help
   Brigadier General William Barksdale was not cut a fair deal in life. He was commanding Mississippians at Gettysburg, and had thus far not been wounded in the fray. As the days progressed, however, and his men led a gallant charge, he soon found himself mortally wounded and taken to a field hospital known as the Hummelbaugh House. He was soon laid to rest in the ground nearby, but to this day, some hear his cry for water, if it is the right time of year.

Tribal Connection
   Although Devil's Den certainly gained its fame from the Battle of Gettysburg, talk was floating around about this strange labyrinth of huge rocks years previous to the battle.

    Early local accounts state that Devil's Den, a jumble of huge boulders growing up around each other, was a Native American hunting ground many years ago. There are also some that will argue that a large battle took place here, known as "the Battle of the Crows," which claimed many lives. Emmanuel Bushman, a Gettysburg resident and also an author, wrote in an article from 1880 describing the "many unnatural and supernatural sights and sounds" frequenting the space in and around the Round Tops and the places he denoted as "the Indian Fields." Mr. Bushman further explained that early settlers had tales of ghosts sighted there..."war-whoops" of a Native American band were audible if you listened on the right night. Also, there seem to have been odd Indian ceremonies occurring here.

Hard to Catch
   Again counting on local legend, "Devil's Den" was used for the boulder formation previous to the battle. Nearly all who wrote home and who tempted fate by exploring the battlefields when the fight was over, knew Devil's Den as a shadowy, dark place and felt a certain degree of forboding about the rocks. A few guessed that a cavern actually existed and that the huge rocks were merely an entrance to that cavern. There is no cavern, but it is easy to think so, looking down in the great large dark spaces between the boulders.

    No one still is sure of how Devil's Den was named; some people think that the place "named itself" by having a mystical appearances. But legend says that Devil's Den was a great gathering place for snakes. A certain huge snake made fair game local hunters for a long time and they could never catch him or lay hand upon him. So he was supposedly named "the Devil" and the maze of rocks was known as his "den."

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