Before I get into the actual Nyogtha of this week, I should explain what is actually going on. You’ve seen McCullar, Hevia, and Matt all say their goodbyes last week, saying they are done with their Daily Pulse columns. Well, that’s true. They are done. The Daily Pulse concept began on August 16th, 2004, where Widro came up with the idea of people doing something different from what they usually did for the site as a headliner/intro for the reader’s here each day. It was also an attempt to be a bit of an unabashed plug for each of the other sections. But as you can see, it just didn’t work out that way. Well except for mine. The Daily Pulse started with me, and it’s only appropriate it ends with me.
That doesn’t mean Nyogtha is going anywhere though. It will still be here on Mondays maintaining its long running (and most likely unbreakable) streak of on time columns filled to the brim with quality from both myself and the best authors on the planet.
Today is the last day of Inside Pulse: V1.0. Much like the Daily Pulse’s started with me, so too did the whole ball of wax here at IP. Trivia for you: Our first top story was my review of Echo Night, a game probably less than 3000 people played. So it’s really up to me to let you know that tomorrow brings you all a new layout, new faces, new names, and so much more.
And with that bon voyage, let’s get back to what I do best.
Last week we started on Civil War battlefields. I promised to talk about a series of three. We’ve already done Chickamauga, so let’s move on to the battle of Antietam.
Antietam Creek is near a town called Sharpsburg in the state of Maryland. The battle of Antietam was in fact, THE bloodiest battle of the entire Civil War. More people died on September 17th, 1862 in this small patch of land, than in any other battle or skirmish that took place during the war between States.
Before going into the hauntings themselves, I should tell a little about this battle first. Think of it as a history lesson.
1862 was the second year of the Civil War (1861-5), and it was not going very well for the Union. The Confederate army, led by General Robert E Lee had been out maneuvering and out thinking the North, leading to consistent brutal defeats. At the same time, President Lincoln was dealing with Generals who were refusing to listen to him and doing things their own way, so he fired the majority of them, and began spending every free moment reading about the History of War and strategic placement. Although this choice by Lincoln would actually be one of the eventualities that led the North to win the Civil War, the effects of this decision would not be felt for another two years.
In Sept, General Lee, confident that the North would be crushed in a matter of months, decided to take the battle out of the Southern States and into the North itself. On September 4th, Lee’s troops entered Maryland. Sharpsburg was only 17 miles from Harper’s Ferry, a place of significant importance, as Harper’s Ferry was a mere 55 miles away from Washington DC itself. Harper’s Valley was also where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers met, and the small town was also located at the base of the Blue Ridge mountains. So as you can tell, this gave the area extra protection. Strategically, it was the perfect place to launch an all out attack on the Union Capital.
However, whether it was a spy or just rotten luck, a written copy of Lee’s plan and orders was lost/taken from him, and it was found by Union soldiers wrapped around a package of cigars. The head of the Union’s army, General george McClellan, know had access to all the Confederate’s objectives, the routes they would take to reach their goal, and even their time tables.
With this amazing amount of information at the Union’s hands, one would think they would act on it and have slaughtered Lee and his troops, right? Wrong!
McClellan, whether lazy or just overconfident, failed to at quickly on what was literally handed to him. He took far too long moving his men, and overestimated the number and strength of Lee’s troops. McClellan assumed since lee was coming for the kill, he had brought his best soldiers, full of bloodlust and prepped for the kill. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lee’s Confederate troops were exhausted from Lee’s timetable. Many were wearing tattered rags for clothes, and some were shoeless. Due to a lack of food production, the Confederate army had been living off corn and apples, and thus were suffering from wide scale diarrhea. And because McClellan chose to wait for the Confederates instead of taking the battle to the exhausted troops, he inadvertently gave the Confederates time to recover from their illness and exhaustion.
Both sides finally came face to face at Antietam on Sept 17th, 1862, at 5am. The result of this battle would forever change the dynamic of the war.
From the first shot of the battle to the last, Antietam was filled with an insane amount of carnage. The bloodiest part of the battle took place in a sunken road that after this day would forever be named “Bloody Lane.” The road was the central line of the Confederate Army, and General Lee demanded that Bloody Lane be protected and held at all costs. The reason behind this is that the lane formed a natural bunker which gave those defending it a natural barrier. And considering the rest of the landscape was pretty flat in this area, a single advantage like Bloody Lane had the ability to turn the entire battle around. Throughout the battle, Union troops tried their best to dislodge the Confederates, but to no avail. Finally, somehow, the union troops managed to get into a position where they could fire directly into the lane. This turned Bloody Lane from a strategic vantage point, to little more than a culling pen, where the only way out was through abject slaughter. By the time the fighting was done, Bloody Lane became an oversized mass grave, with bodies piled three men deep.
Even with this whole scale slaughter by the Union army, the battle ended in a stalemate, thanks to massive casualties on both sides. The Confederates were unable to take the bridge towards Harper’s Ferry from the Union and Lee had no choice but to withdraw his troops from the area. By dusk, the battle was done.
Both sides expected the battle to continue the next day, but oddly enough, it was General McClellan who decided to call a truce. Both the Union and Confederate armies joined together for that day only to help the wounded and bury those that died that day.
Lee withdrew the next day to the other side of the Potomic, claiming victory as none of his lines were broken, and more Union soldiers died than Confederate. In truth, had the battle continued, the South would have assuredly lost due to the taking of Bloody Lane by the Union.
Due to the lack of accurate records or notes from the battle, we’ll never know exactly HOW many people died that day, but from the rough estimates given, we know it was quite a few. The Confederates listed the toll for their side at 1,546 dead, 7,752 wounded, and 1,018 missing. The Union counted 2,108 dead, 9,540 wounded, and 753 missing. The missing either ran from the battle, or were killed and buried in unrecorded graves.
As civilians came back to their farms and normal lives, they would find decomposing corpses everywhere. Dead bodies in their yards. Dead bodies in their homes or cellars or attics. Dead bodies in haystacks or by their animals. Dead bodies everywhere from the wounded that tried to flee and later died from their injuries. With this level of death in one spot, and normal 19th century Americans finding corpses like some deranged scavenger hunt, it’s no wonder the stories of hauntings began to spread.
Today, the obvious hot spot people claim to see ghosts or spirits at around Antietam is around Bloody Lane. Many people who go there experience chills or a sense of dread when entering the area. Whether it’s the subconscious mind reeling from the reality of the events that took place here, or an actual throng of specters still doomed to inhabit the land in which they were cut down is open to speculation.
Locals and visitors alike claim that at night spectral voices ranging from loud angry shouts to sinister whispers can still be heard, along with the occasional sounds of battles from yesteryear. Most interestingly enough about the phantom voices is that several people claim to have heard the phrase “Faugh-a-Balaugh!” in the area of Bloody Lane. “Faugh-a-Balaugh” is Gaelic for “Clear the way!” 540 members of the Irish Brigade fell at Antietam, and this was their battle cry. A group of schoolchildren also reported that they heard some sort of singing or chanting in the area when they visited the battlefield for a field trip.
But Bloody Lane is not the only part of the battlefield that has accrued many tales of hauntings of the years. Another such location is the Burnside Bridge. The Burnside Bridge is named after Major General Ambrose Burnside, who held the bridge for the Union along with his troops. The area around the bridge was where most of the battle casualties were buried, and as such, ghost sightings and spectral apparitions have been reported in the area.
People claim that at night, phantom drumming can be heard, and if one looks out at the bridge, or actually goes out onto the field at night, strange blue balls of glowing light will be seen floating through the air and around the nearby woods. It is surmised the Will O’ the Wisp type apparitions are the ghosts of slain soldiers.
There are several other areas around Antietam where hauntings are reported. One such place is the Phillip Pry farmhouse, where Union General McClellan set up his base of operations. This old farmhouse is reportedly haunted by a Phantom woman dressed like an upper class lady from the time around the Civil War. Phantom footsteps are also supposedly heard on the stairs of the farmhouse as well. The owners of the Pry farmhouse do not allow the public to enter their building. However there are two odd notes about this case. The first is that no women were killed at this battle. The second is that no hauntings were reported at the farmhouse until after the original house was burned in 1976 and restoration began.
On the battlefield itself is a building called the Piper House. This building now serves as a bed and breakfast inn after being renovated sans the battle. This is where Confederate Major General James Longstreet made his headquarters. The attached barn acted as an impromptu field hospital. After the battle ended, three dead soldiers were found under the piano in this building. Since about 1900, ghostly voices and noises have been heard in this part of the Inn.
Finally, we have the St. Paul Episcopal Church, which was partially destroyed during the battle, and also acted as a Confederate hospital after the battle. Here in this Sharpsburg Church, one can still hear strange inhuman screams or those that died from their wounds here. There are also strange flickering lights in the Church’s tower, where no electricity or sources of light actually reside.
I want to thank Rosemary Guiley and her book entitled, The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits for the information about these last three hauntings.
And that’s it for this battlefield. Next week, we kick off Gettysburg. Of course, Nyogtha won’t be in the Daily Pulse position, so how will that work exactly? Stay tuned!
I’m not really a sweets sort of person. It’s just one of those things. Aside from fruits and vanilla, I really am more a salty person. However, my one big exception is for homemade fresh baked cookies. You know what I’m talking about. When they first come out of the oven and they’re all gooey and warm and they just melt in your mouth? Delicious.
Of course, the most popular type of cookie is Chocolate Chip. But god forbid I do anything that common, right? Your gothie gourmet has to be a little more creative than that.
So this week, I’m going to make Peppermint Chocolate chip cookies. Best of all, we’re not going to use peppermint extract, but instead, we shall use crushed peppermint candies! Just note these are not cookies for people with braces or dentures due to the tiny candy pieces these cookies will contain.
1 and one-half cups PLUS 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
One-half teaspoon baking soda
One-half teaspoon salt
One-half cup solid vegetable shortening (4 ounces)
8 tablespoons/1 stick cool, UNSALTED butter, cut into small pieces
One-half cup granulated sugar
One-fourth cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
One-half teaspoon vanilla extract
2 and one-half cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, or semisweet chocolate chunks
One and one-third cups crushed peppermint candies (Just smash them good in a Ziploc bag. It’s that simple)
1. Position the rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchement paper or a silicone baking mat; set aside. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl until the soda is evenly distributed. Set this aside as well.
2. Soften the shortening and butter in a large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed for about one minute. Add both kinds of sugar and then continue beating until light and fluffy. This should take about two more minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth. Turn off the mixer, add the prepared flour mixture, and beat at low speed until the mixture is just moistened. Then use a wooden spoon to stir in the chocolate chips and crushed peppermint until evenly distributed.
3. Make tablespoonfuls and place them onto the prepared baking sheets. Make sure to space the dough blobs about two inches apart. Bake for about twelve minutes, rotating the sheet 180 degrees halfway through baking. The cookies should be LIGHTLY browned and then set to cool on the baking sheet for two minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow the cookies to cool completely. Let the baking sheet cool for 5 minutes before making the next batch. In all you should have about three and a half DOZEN cookies. Go Diabetes!
And so we bid a fond farewell to the concept of the Daily Pulses, as well as Volume One of Nyogtha. This column managed to stand as the most unique on the website, as well as the hardest to pronounce the title of. I’ll be back next week with the first issue of Volume II. I’ll see you then.