By Jim Miles
Old Green Eyes, One of Many Chickamauga Ghosts
Blake Burnette grew up in Fort Oglethorpe and camped on the battlefield with other Boy Scouts. One night he and other boys were wrestling along LaFayette Road near the Florida monument. Several hundred feet away, “I saw something really big cross the road in the headlights,” he said, according to Georgiana Kotarski in her wonderful book Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley. “I guess it was seven and a half to eight feet tall. It wasn’t wearing any clothes. It was hairy. It started walking across the road, but then it went into a little gallop on all fours.”
It was either Green Eyes or a grizzly bear. Burnette thinks the creature is a soldier “that got betrayed or got messed over.” He heard stories that Green Eyes was killing Union veterans visiting the fields as far back as the 1870s. “Or people would just disappear,” he said. Today, however, Green Eyes has a better attitude. “You don’t mess with him and he don’t mess with you,” Burnette believe.
One of Chickamauga’s most moving memorials is the Wisconsin Cavalry Monument near the Wilder Tower. The rider-less horse was meant to have emerald eyes, Georgiana Kotarski reported, stones from the earrings a Union officer had given his wife before he was killed here. When the memorial was unveiled, the stones had disappeared. The stones, according to Patrice Hobbs Glass, were taken by the ghost of the officer, who eternally seeks his wife on the battlefield.
On one anniversary of the battle, Brett McNair and his girlfriend were visiting Chickamauga from Chattanooga. As dusk settled on the field, the couple were walking back from Winfrey Field on a lightly traveled trail to their car. Although they were alone, they felt apprehensive. According to Debra Glass and Heath Mathews in Skeletons of the Civil War, 20 yards ahead of them they saw a man dressed in a white shirt and gray pants, who avoided eye contact. At first they assumed he was a ranger, but then the figure disappeared in a thicket. Brett and his girl hurried to their vehicle, where they found a real ranger who believed the park was deserted.
Kotarski described James Hunt, who constructed his Chickamauga home in the 1830s, married Clarissa Gordon, and had two sons and two daughters before his death. Clarissa and the children ran the farm until the Civil War arrived in September 1863, when projectiles penetrated the structure and Federals arrived in search of food and plunder. When they shot one of Clarissa’s hogs, she squatted on the animal, telling Union soldiers, “It’ll rot before you get it.” Angered, a Federal shattered her wash pot with a bullet, and the widow complimented him on his heroic action. The real trouble started when a soldier insisted on inspecting her attic. Clarissa grabbed or pushed the man, who fell to the floor and broke a shoulder. The soldier wanted to shoot the woman, but an officer intervened. Clarissa was taken to Crawfish Springs for interrogation. Returning home after the battle she discovered two Federals dead on the front porch. A deceased Confederate was found in the cellar, another near the road. All were buried on the property and may contribute to Chickamauga ghosts.
According to Kotarski, Karen lived on Park City Road near Fort Oglethorpe and not far from the Chickamauga battlefield and McFarlan Gap. She told her boyfriend, Mike Moore, that on the anniversary of the great battle, September 19 and 20, the sounds of horsemen could be heard. At two a.m. one summer morning Karen and Mike walked out of her home. When a small white sphere was seen above the woods, she said, “There’s your ghost!”
“It was like a basketball sitting in the top of an oak tree, but it was white like an orb,” said Mike. “It looked like it was rolling around the limbs. It would land on a limb, and once it came off the limb, it started falling like a waterfall, it started turning into two more waterfalls.”
On the ground the falls turned into three human shapes that approached Mike and communicated spiritually with him. He described them as three young men marching to Chattanooga in the Union rout. One, a nineteen year old with a six inch wide hole in his stomach, was being carried by his friends. Karen, who kept her distance, witnessed only three white mists. One man kept looking behind him judging the pursuit, but the other two looked into Mike’s eyes. The men seemed bewildered, seeking guidance from Mike. “You’re dead,” he told the spirits. “It’s time for you to go.” He explained about the battle of Chickamauga and how long they had been dead. “Follow the light,” he advised. These Chickamauga ghosts reformed into balls of light and disappeared.
The House Haunted by Civil War Soldiers
The Grant House, constructed in 1855 by Colonel J.J. Griffin, stands in Blowing Springs, near Flintstone below Lookout Mountain. During the Chickamauga Campaign Federals passed through, drowning their thirst at the refreshing springs, and after Lookout Mountain the house was a Union hospital.
Georgiana Kotarski found that the most important figure associated with the house was Leila Grant, born here in 1891, who married Robert Wert and resided in the home until her death in 1977. Miss Leila’s pride and joy were the bountiful wildflowers lining her walk. Since she passed, said Thom Calvin, a later owner, “you could smell her flowers throughout the house,” a strong scent of magnolias or roses. Thom and others report a sense of “immediate peace” from the presence.
Light through a window cast a living image of a young woman on a wall. One man found a male figure in overalls with a long beard floating above the bed. A woman woke one night to find a phantom breathing over her. A renovator twice found tools missing from the kitchen relocated to the backyard. Lights and televisions flickered on and off. Rick and Kathy Williams kept a pet rabbit that one morning had an overwhelming smell of roses. An infant cooed as if interacting with an invisible playmate and her father was overcome by a warm feeling. The ghost also released a German shepherd from a latched room. Some residents have heard an entity walking the stairs, but it always skipped stairs.
John Nichols, a musician and truck driver, returned to the house near dusk one day. “I looked in the side mirror of my car, and there was a Union soldier,” Nichols said. The man, only twenty feet distant, was short and thick bodied, with a full beard and dark hair, and looked to be in his late thirties. “I saw him plain as day,” Nichols continued. “He looked like he was a ranking officer, had a couple of belts across his uniform, a pair of big boots, carrying a long saber or sword.”
The ghost was agitated, staring Nichols full in the eye with “an angry face on-very serious. He had a saber out, swinging…back and forth.” Nichols glanced away for a moment, and the ghost vanished. Years later a nearby resident spotted a soldier, sword raised, within his house.
Ironically, Miss Lelia’s father was a Union soldier, Captain Herman W. Grant, 4th Michigan Cavalry, which operated in north Georgia during the Chickamauga and Chattanooga campaigns.
Georgiana Kotarski”s book Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley, which includes many Chickamauga ghosts, is still in print.
Jim Miles is the author of two Weird Georgia books, seven books about Georgia ghosts and eight books about the Civil War. To see all of his books go to the Jim Miles Author Page on Amazon. Order autographed books or contact Jim directly at firstname.lastname@example.org