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The Spirits Of Cold Harbor


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...

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The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, Wil1974, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments and participate in the discussion.

VeronicaMarie (5 stories) (106 posts)
4 years ago (2020-06-02)
Wil1974, a very eerie story. I think one of the reasons some people might have doubts is that your first few paragraphs are directly taken from It doesn't mean necessarily that your own experience wasn't real, but I think it's more helpful to only use your own words (except, of course, when you're quoting people). It is an interesting story, nonetheless. Did your Sgt. Bill ever elaborate more on what he'd seen?
Wil1974 (2 stories) (2 posts)
4 years ago (2020-06-02)
Everything seemed real, the fire, the sounds, I could smell the fire.
MrsRamsay (guest)
4 years ago (2020-04-17)
I've had experiences at my own nearby battlefield park, I think I documented here and it's named, Them Soldiers Is Dead.

I'm most interested in what you might've noticed about the fire. Did it look like a real fire? Did it also just disappear?

Also, the eyes. Near me is a house that was for sale recently. I was interested in it because I knew (as a former reporter) that a murder had taken place in it, and I thought it was interesting when someone decided to start fixing it up to flip it. I went on one of those real estate websites to see what it was like inside. The photos seemed normal except for one. It was a picture taken from out on a sun porch, with the camera pointed towards the house. In the window that looks like it might be over the kitchen sink, you can see a figure looking out at you. The figure is NOT holding a camera (meaning, it's not a reflection of the Realtor taking a photo). It's just standing there looking out, and where the eyes should be are just black spaces. I don't know if there was anyone else WITH the Realtor that day, or if he/she was there alone, but I do know that figure looks like a spirit. I submitted this to YGS a couple months ago and sent the photo in also, but have not seen it here. Perhaps it wasn't within the rules. But I would truly love to know if the figures you saw had eyes that looked like that photo. I believe you. I believe battlefields are some of the most amazing places on Earth.
Wil1974 (2 stories) (2 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-17)
This happened. You can read a lot of literature on Cold Harbor. Its packed with activity. I have spoken to park rangers and they have even seen things. What I experienced was real.
AugustaM (7 stories) (996 posts)
4 years ago (2020-03-30)
I am torn - I live in Virginia also, have worked several historic sites, grew up in the reenacting community and for my husband into it... Between personal experiences and things heard around campfires, I have no doubt that many of our historic sites are haunted; especially places where so much anguish and fear were expended. That all makes this encounter very likely in my book but I do wonder if, perhaps, some of the details may have been enhanced. I agree with SDS that the overall feel is a bit too cinematic for my complete credulity.
Rajine (14 stories) (797 posts)
4 years ago (2020-03-25)
It's no surprise that a place where so many people met such a gruesome and tragic death, would have spirits. It's believed that when a person dies prematurely and in a very tragic and horrible way, they spirit will linger on until it's time for that person to leave at the correct time.
en_chuu (4 stories) (27 posts)
4 years ago (2020-03-25)
Hi Wil1974,

Thoroughly chilling! I'll have to read about Cold Harbor now. The soldiers may have been just as startled that someone's able to see them.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us!
sds (14 stories) (1436 posts)
4 years ago (2020-03-24)
Hello Wil1974, I have read about the Civil War quite a long time ago.

But, I am sorry to say that your narrative is from out of one of the scary movies. It is quite hard to believe.

This is my opinion.

Regards and respects to you.

Lealeigh (5 stories) (512 posts)
4 years ago (2020-03-23)
Hi Wil1974,

I have read a lot about Cold Harbor as I have always been very interested in The Civil War - along with anything that went on during the nineteenth century in any country.

It is startling that the ghosts of the Union Soldiers acknowledged you when you called out to them! They definitely were not residual.

Thank you for sharing this!

- Maria

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