The Christmas Picket: A Civil War Ghost Story

 

Valerius Cincinnatus Giles, was in northern Virginia when he had his uncanny encounter on Christmas Day, 1861.
Valerius Cincinnatus Giles, was in northern Virginia when he had his uncanny encounter on Christmas Day, 1861.

It was the twenty-fifth of December, 1861, the first Christmas of the War.

A nineteen year old private in the Confederate army, Valerius Cincinnatus Giles, was outside on guard detail along the Potomac River.  Facing him on the Maryland side were the Yankees of General Sickles’ Brigade–The Excelsior Brigade.

As a picket, his duty was give the alarm of any enemy activity, lest the Yankees should decide to abandon the comfort of their warm huts and brave the bleak cold outside.

Private Giles’ unit, a detachment of the 4th Texas Infantry, had just relieved another unit which had been guarding that sector. The men would rather have been back in camp, enjoying the holiday as best they could; but duty called, and someone needed to be on duty, no matter what the day.

Private Giles and his two brothers had all answered the call of duty and volunteered for the Confederate army. Giles, still smartly dressed in his long grey frock coat with black waist belt and black strap over his right shoulder, and adorned with a black Hardee hat with one side turned up, looked the model of a military man. One of Giles’s brothers was with the Tenth Texas Infantry in Arkansas, while the other, brother Lew, was with Terry’s Rangers (Eighth Texas Cavalry), somewhere in Kentucky.

There was little likelihood of Valerius being in any personal danger. The Yankees desired a break from war that day as much as the Rebels did.

That afternoon there was a brief to-do when a Yankee steamboat came in sight. But it was soon recognized as a hospital ship and not a gunboat and was left alone to ply it trade on the opposite shore.

More out of boredom than necessity, Private Giles began to walk his post, tramping through snow knee deep in places. The colder clime of northern Virginia was a change of scene for the Texas boy and there in the piney woods in midwinter, when the earth and green branches of the trees were covered with snow, there was no sound of birds singing or crickets chirping. With not a breath of air blowing, the stillness all around him seemed oppressive.

Valerius’s thoughts started to wander, thinking about home and family that Christmas Day.

It was at four p.m. that afternoon when he heard it. He remembered that he was not sleepy or drowsy and perfectly wide awake when he heard it.

He heard his brother Lew Giles’s voice, clear as day, calling out his name:

“It was then 4 P.M., December 25, 1861. I was not sleeping or dreaming. and firmly believed at the time that I heard my brother calling me, but it must have been a delusion of the imagination.”

Knowing Lew was far away to the west in either Kentucky or Tennessee, Val thought at first that somehow it was just his homesickness playing on his imagination; that it was some kind of delusion. Yet he knew his brother’s voice and knew that the voice he had heard was his brother’s.

It was only later that Val learned that Lew had been wounded in Kentucky on the seventeenth of December. Seriously injured, he had been taken to Gallatin, Tennessee, to the home of a family friend, where he lingered for several days.

Wartime image of Gallatin, Tennessee, which changed hands several times during the War.  Lew Giles died here the same day he appeared to his brother in Virginia.
Wartime image of Gallatin, Tennessee, which changed hands several times during the War. Lew Giles died here the same day he appeared to his brother in Virginia.

 

According to information the family later received from their father’s friend in Gallatin, Lew Giles expired at exactly four p.m. on Christmas Day of 1861.

 

 

 

For more true Civil War ghost stories, see: Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground and Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War, at better bookstores and available online.

GHOSTS AND HAUNTS OF THE CIVIL WAR 3x5
Ghosts & Haunts of the Civil War. True accounts of haunted battlefields, CW ghosts and other unexplained phenomena.
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The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, documented accounts of Lincolns beliefs in the paranormal and his encounters with unexplained phenomena and uncanny experiences.
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Emily and Heathcliff Have a Thing Going On: CHRISTMAS SPIRITS

 

Emily Bronte was a brilliant writer who died young. Her novel, Wuthering Heights is considered a masterpiece--creepy, but a masterpiece nonetheless.
Emily Bronte was a brilliant writer who died young. Her novel, Wuthering Heights is considered a masterpiece–creepy, but a masterpiece.

Blame it all on Dickens, I suppose, but I seem to have English spooks, spirits and  Santa on my mind.

When it comes to English spooks and Gothic tales, one cannot do better than Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. While Heathcliff and Cathy get all the love (or whatever it was they had going on) few know that Emily Bronte herself is reputed to haunt the very same Yorkshire moors her two creepy lovers inhabit in her fiction.

Emily Bronte is perhaps the best known of that literary sorority, the Bronte Sisters, famous for her creepy Gothic romance, Wuthering Heights.

WUTHERING HEIGHTS FRITZ EICHENBERG 1943
WUTHERING HEIGHTS after Fritz Eichenberg’s 1943 engraving. A cozy little place to go mad in.

Although a classic of literature, for many years it was out of favor (at least with the male gender) but as supernatural romances are now back in vogue in a big way, this grandmother of all creepy romances has come into its own.

FRITZ EICHENBERG Wuthering Heights ill Catherine
Emily Bronte was a talented young authoress whose talents were taken from us too soon. She was reputedly working on a sequel to Wuthering Heights but the manuscript mysteriously disappeared upon her premature death.

Only a morbidly romantic mind such as Emily Bronte’s could dream a tale like Wuthering Heights up, so it should not be so surprising that this nineteenth century authoress is also reputed to haunt the very landscape she wrote about.

Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights when she was only 27 years old. Set in the Yorkshire Moors she knew so well, it is a moody novel full of yearning and secrets–and did I say it again–creepiness?

HEATHCLIFF REALLY DUG CATHERINE
Heathcliff REALLY dug Catherine

Emily died only three years after writing her masterpiece, in the very same rural Yorkshire countryside that her masterpiece is set in. Like her novel, hers was a life full of unfulfilled Victorian desires.

Emily Bronte is said to walk in the gardens of her former home in the Yorkshire village of Haworth.

They say she only can be seen in Haworth there between December 19th and January 2,  coinciding with Yuletide. Those who claim to have seen her aver that she seems to be deep in thought.

HEATHCLIFF WAS ALWAYS ON CATHYS MIND FRITZ EICHENBERG
Heathcliff was always on Cathy’s–and Emily’s–mind.

And what stroll across the Yorkshire Moors is complete without encountering a Devil Dog?  This would be the “Gytrash” a phantom demon canine said to haunt Ponden Hall, where the Bronte sisters used to hang out. Ponden Hall has become a mecca for Wuthering Heights fans and followers of the Bronte sisters in general.

Pembroke Devil Dog image
The Gytrash is a Demonic canine said to haunt the Yorkshire moors seeking the ruin of lost souls such as Heathcliff and Cathy–and perhaps Emily Bronte as well.

Legend has it that Emily wrote a book even greater than Wuthering Heights but that it mysteriously disappeared soon after her death.

Rumor has it that sad, lonely, Emily wanders the moors looking for that lost manuscript and that until it is found her literary spirit will find no rest.

People who have encountered her shade along the byways of the North Country claim that if one tries to approach her, she will vanish like a puff of smoke.

So this beautiful phantom of a young girl remains forever out of reach–even if your name be Heathcliff.

For more true ghost stories, see Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, Dixie Spirits, and Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee.

GHOSTS AND HAUNTS OF TENNESSEE
Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. True haunting tales of the Mid South
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Strange Tales of the Dark & Bloody Ground, true accounts of unexplained phenomena and paranormal activity in the South.