June 14 Gettysburg Campaign: Battles, Religion & Ghosts

After rushing to leave their camps around Culpeper yesterday, Thomas Ware and his Confederate comrades end up spending this Sunday in their new camp. He mentions that there is some preaching in the camp and that they drew two days rations. Some rations kept better cooked, so the boys are busy cooking them up. Reasoning that rations carried more easily in a their stomach than in a haversack (the over-the-shoulder sling-pouch most soldiers travelled with), a soldier might eat their rations immediately.

Franklin Horner also writes about the boys going to church. Religion was important to both sides in the Civil War. There were several revivals during the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s encampment around Fredericksburg in 1862-3. While religion may have helped the men steel themselves for upcoming hardships and potential death, it added a moral burden.

In my narrative for this day I write about the various “sins” readily available to men in the army. In addition to lying, gambling, swearing, and getting drunk, the responsibility of duty weighed heavily upon each of them and it was often a deadly one. Marching into battle under orders could, at any second, cost the soldier his life. Even mundane duties could be lethal. The simple act of a country boy unaccustomed to staying up late, falling asleep on midnight picket duty could place him in front of a firing squad. Lincoln personally pardoned a number of these cases.

The moral dilemma of a young man who attempts to follow the Ten Commandments then finds himself peering down the muzzle of a Springfield rifled-musket at a fellow human and pulling the trigger is obvious. Later in my career, when I worked on the Ghosts of Gettysburg series, I realized that fear of judgment was one possible reason why spirits remain earthbound and unable to move on, chained to the place, so to speak, where their earthly bodies expired.

In fact, all the reasons cited for why ghosts remain rooted to a spot could stem from battles: A youthful death with unfinished business; a violent, sudden death wherein the spirit doesn’t know its body is dead; a fear of the ultimate judgment before God. The living, mourning too long for the dead is apparently another reason why the spirit lingers. When 1.6 million visitors come to see battlefields such as Gettysburg and, in essence, ponder and mourn the men sacrificed there, that simple act may hold the spirits to the place.

Battles are the “perfect storm” for creating ghosts.

Later on their journey, Horner and Ware will have opportunities to ponder the fate of their bodies and souls.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote


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