By Jim Miles
Chickamauga was the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War, trailing only Gettysburg in casualties, and appears to be the country’s second most haunted historic site.
Famed ghost hunter Dale Kaczmarek conducted the first in-depth ghost research at Chickamauga. Edward Tinney, chief historian at the battlefield park, who worked here from 1969-1986, told him the legend of Old Green Eyes, the ghost of a Confederate soldier whose body was destroyed by an artillery shell. Only his head was left to be buried, and it regularly bobs across the battlefield at night, particularly on Snodgrass Hill, where it searches for its’ body. One employee maintains that the beheaded soldier was a Confederate killed by his Federal brother.
“History says ghosts in the battlefield such as the Green Eyes tale began happening soon after the war,” Tinney said.
Old Green Eyes, Chickamauga’s most reported haunt, is often seen around dusk, two big glowing eyes that approach the unwary and groans mournfully.
Tinney claimed he was “not a superstitious man,” but freely admitted, “I’ve seen Green Eyes. You know he’s watching. We all know he’s watching us. It’s enough to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.
Tinney was hiking a park lane on a foggy morning in 1976 when he had a close encounter with a human-like shape. “When it passed me,” he told Richard Winer in 1981, “I could see his hair was long like a woman’s. The eyes-I’ll never forget those eyes-they were glaring, almost greenish-orange in color, flashing like some sort of wild animal. The teeth were long and pointed like fangs. It was wearing a dark cape that seemed to be flapping in the wind, but there was no wind. I didn’t know whether to run or scream or what.”
Tinney, long since retired, was out early that day, four or five a.m. on the anniversary of the battle, walking along a park road to check on reenactment groups camped on the grounds.
“As I was walking down the moon was still out and you could see just as the same as daylight. I noticed someone coming toward me. I thought it might be one of the reenactors but not knowing for certain I moved over to the other side of the road and the closer it came the more apprehensive I get. Because it didn’t look normal. It didn’t look human.”
When just a few feet away, “It turned to me,” he said. “I turned to it. When it turned to me it began to smile.” The grin on its face, Tinney stated, “said drop dead.”
As soon as they passed each other a car came around the bend, headlights blazing through the fog. Tinney walked backward to keep an eye on the figure, which “never looked back at me. After it got parallel with me it looked forward and it just kept looking up the road. It dissipated, it vanished. What happened to it?” The creature did not cross the road to his side or he would have seen it. It did not go into the woods on the other side because the underbrush was impenetrable. “Now where did he go?” Tinney asked. He did not know what it was, but it was definitely not of this world.
“Whatever this was had to be alive at one time because it walked,” he thought. ”This walked, just like you and I.”
Other witnesses swear that if the apparition makes eye contact, it will stare a witness down until it passes out of sight.
“Wherever there has been great suffering,” Tinney said, “people are always seeing strange things.”
The monster has been spotted briefly by several rangers on night patrol, the green eyes passing in front of their vehicles and disappearing into a perpetual mist which is said to roll nightly over the battlefield, a phenomenon that is absent outside park grounds.
Yet another legend of Old Green Eyes comes from a battlefield monument to the 125th Ohio Infantry. Those men fought so bravely at Snodgrass Hill that their commander named them the Tiger Regiment. The unit lost 17 killed, 83 wounded, and five missing.
Atop the monument is a prowling stone tiger carved from stone. The ghostly green eyes are said to belong to the wild animal that patrols the hill at night seeking the regiment’s casualties, its emerald eyes glowing menacingly at visitors.
According to Georgiana C. Kotarski in Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley, in 1964 John Hodges, with a convertible full of teenagers, were cruising the park searching for Green Eyes. Parking near the Wilder Tower they walked into a field where a light abruptly winked into existence. The light, six feet off the ground and bluish green, approached through trees and underbrush and split into two lights at a distance of 100 yards. At that point the boys conceded the field, leaping into the car and racing away.
On the night of October 20, 2001, members of the Foundation for Paranormal Research visited Chickamauga to search for Old Green Eyes at Snodgrass Hill. They interviewed a ranger who had been patrolling the park one night and received reports of trespassers. Investigating, he drove to the area and found a family in a hysterical state running at full speed. While walking through a field they had suddenly became alarmed for no discernible reason, then experienced a strong scent. They looked around and saw nothing, but decided to leave rapidly. As they ran an arm appeared from nowhere and scratched one of the adults. The ranger confirmed that the man’s shirt was torn and several scratches were still bleeding. When the ranger searched the area, he found nothing visible but did experience a horrible stench.
The Ranger pointed out the Tiger Monument as the place haunted by Old Green Eyes. The group took a photograph that showed a mist surrounding the memorial.
From Civil War Ghosts of North Georgia.
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 email@example.com