Virginia is full of history, especially that of the civil war. One of the most bloody called Cold Harbor. Located in Mechanicsville, Cold Harbor Battlefield is where "one of American history's bloodiest, most lopsided battles" occurred. It was a part of Union General Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign, also known as the Wilderness Campaign. Though the strategic operation included many raids and skirmishes, the Battle at Cold Harbor was particularly disastrous and grisly. Grant himself would later reflect:
"Cold Harbor is, I think, the only battle I ever fought that I would not fight over again under the circumstances. I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made."
A priest who was at the battle, Winthrop Phelps, confirms:
"You cannot conceive the horror and awfulness of a battle. I never wish to hear another much less see it. I went out to see this but found myself in such danger I soon fled... Pray for me. I cannot write - am not in a fit state of mind."
June 3rd was an especially devastating day; in under an hour, around 7,000 of Grant's men were slaughtered. On a blood stained diary entry, one Union soldier wrote: "June 3. Cold Harbor. I was killed.
My reenacting unit used to do living history at Cold Harbor very frequently. We were allowed to camp over by the Garthright house and when people would stop by, they'd ask questions about us, Cold Harbor and questions in general about the war.
One particular night about 10 of us had laid down for the evening, it was a full moon, and chilly. I was awoken by the sound of clanking, sort of like the sound of a tin cup banging on a canteen or haversack buckle. I had to use the bathroom anyway so I went to see what I could find. I walked back the gravel path about 40 feet, and the sound got louder and louder. I could then faintly see a campfire, and what seemed to be two reenactors sitting around it. I thought it was odd due to the fact fires aren't allowed on Federal property. I walked closer, I noticed that the two men were talking and were drinking from their tin cups. They were union soldiers, and had their muskets stacked together, both men were sitting on crates.
I walked closer and called out, "hey there". No response... I called out again, "hello"... Both men stopped what they were doing, almost like they were frozen in time, they then turned and looked at me. They stared at me in a strange way, like I have never been looked at before. I then saw something I wish I'd never seen, the men were wax like, white pale skin and their eyes seemed hollow, as if there were no eyes... One of the men stood up and then pointed at me. The other turned and half of his face was shot away, like he'd been hit by a shell and his face exploded! I turned and ran so fast I almost tripped.
I woke my fellow reenactors up and told them they had to come see what I had experienced. They reluctantly came with me and I guided them to the site where I had seen the men, I was rambling like a madman trying to explain the whole story as fast as I could. When we arrived,...nothing. No sign of a fire, men or anything. Most of the guys thought it was a joke and went back to camp. My Sgt. Bill believed me. He said,"I have been coming here for many years and I tell ya, I have seen some strange things too."
I reluctantly stayed the night but didn't get a wink of sleep. The next morning I went to where I saw the two specters and there was nothing there. If you ever go to the Garthright house, walk the path to the left in the visitor area. Maybe you will see two union soldiers still stuck in purgatory...