Jane Phillips: It was not Halloween on the Lenoir County battlefields but there was horror and terror
Halloween is coming soon with its ghost and scary monster stories. But stories of horrific deaths and strange occurrences are a part of Lenoir County history and has nothing to do with Halloween.
The stories are based on facts as reported at the time of the Civil War, some experiences of this writer and others of today. Civil War ghost stories are told about most battlefields and the Battlefields of Kinston and Wyse Fork are no different.
The death toll of the American Civil War is unprecedented in our nation’s history—an estimated 620,000 soldiers died during the four-year conflict. With so many lives lost, if there are such things as ghost could it be no wonder the ghosts of the past still linger in the present over a century later? Battlefields are sites where huge numbers of people meet their end.
With so much human emotion focused in one area, many believe the battlefields of the world to be littered with ghosts and paranormal activity. Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, it is undeniable that some places have a creepy and unsettling atmosphere, which may or may not explain why so many reports of ghost sightings exist.
A home during the Kinston Battle in December of 1862, had served as a field hospital and the battle had raged all about it. During the twentieth century the William’s family lived in the same house that had served as the field hospital.
Once when their grandson came to visit, after he had gone to bed an apparition appeared. It was a man dressed in a Civil War uniform. The boy laid in fright frozen to the bed. This happened again on another visit. The second time it happened the lad ran scared from the room and he never again would sleep there.
Upon growing up he became the owner of the property and has always maintained the story is true of the apparitions he saw. To this day he feels uneasy when he is at this property that he now owns and rents out to someone else.
A short ways down the road was Harriet’s Chapel, a Baptist church. The history of a Massachusetts Regiment tells of soldiers in the Battle of Kinston who were moving forward with the sound of rifle fire and cannonading all about them.
The cannon blasting had caused loblolly pines to catch afire and they were burning all around them. Suddenly one of the men had his head severed from his body by that of a cannon ball. His blood and brain matter splattered onto the soldiers near him. But the battle raged on, and a call came for a double-quick march.
The nearby soldiers scared and in despair had no choice but to leave his mangled and beheaded body lying on the ground. The hearts of these men must have been beating rapidly with dismay as they continue forward into battle. Could it be possible that this northern soldier’s spirit has found no peace due to the horrific cause of his death and his soul is trapped in an in between world?
As on every battlefield there were other deaths that were terrible in other ways. Such as during the Kinston Battle while crossing a burning bridge coming into Kinston, A Union officer’s body caught afire while the bridge was burning. The next day his body burned to a crisp was seen by many soldiers in the low ground as they crossed the partly burned bridge making their way toward Goldsboro.
At one time the Eastern Carolina Paranormal Investigators came to investigate the Harriet’s Chapel and Starr’s Battery site of the Kinston Battlefield Park. I and others were not sure what to expect from them and were a little leery. It was their mission to see if any evidence for paranormal activity was present.
Often, they found none but then again sometimes found the activity of unexplained phenomenon. I will never forget the day I walked with the medium who was a member of the group. She was a quiet woman of few words. As we slowly walked alongside the authentic earthworks, I was waiting for her to speak.
Finally, I ask, not knowing the right terminology to use, “Are you feeling anything?”. She looked up at the trees and said, “it’s as if the trees have eyes.” I never have been sure what that meant. A few moment later she said, “I have never been anywhere where I felt as much energy as I am feeling right here”. I later learned the energy she was referring to was believed to be probably the spirits of soldiers that had died there.
No one knows whether spirits are able to consciously harness this energy or not, but orbs are often witnessed at locations where some form of paranormal activity has reportedly taken place. While many people believe that orbs are paranormal entities such as ghosts or even aliens, skeptics maintain that these apparitions are explainable by science.
I myself have seen the presence of orbs on my digital camera at the site of Harriet’s Chapel. I saw them moving from one side of the church to the other. I could not see them without the camera. I would look in the camera and it was there, and I would lower the camera and it was gone. I would again look in the camera and it was there and lower the camera and it was gone. After a few moments it disappeared from the camera’s eye. I’m not saying it was a ghost orb but it sure gave me goose bumps.
A friend Cindy once told me of a woman that claimed to see ghost around her home that is located on the Wyse Fork battlefield. I wanted to meet and talk with her. So, Cindy and I went to her home and met with her. After telling her who we were and what we had heard about her seeing ghosts, she had no reservations in telling us her experiences.
From time to time she would see, and it was always in her peripheral vision, people dressed in Civil War uniforms walking around her large yard. She told us they never bothered her, and she was not afraid of them. She said sometimes she would hear them singing. After we left, I thought the lady must have some issues. Cindy was more open to what she had told us.
A few weeks later Cindy, Jan and I were across the highway from that lady’s house looking at a piece of property that was for sale. It was an open area with the grass well cut. The three of us were walking side by side engrossed in conversation when suddenly in my peripheral vison I saw a dark shadowy figure like lighten quickly zoom pass me and it was gone as quickly as it appeared.
I was so frightened by it and reacted by lunging to my right almost knocking down Cindy and Jan. They both said my face had turned white. It left me for a while with a sense of consternation. To this day I do not know what it was, but it did give me renewed thoughts on the lady across the road.
Camp Poole was a Confederate Army post along the Neuse River near Kinston. During the Battle of Kinston, the Union had about 4 or 5 small armed boats sail up the Neuse River from New Bern to aid the Union Infantry in the battle. Near Camp Poole in the Neuse River were obstructions (pieces of a concrete like substance) and wooden pickets (that could be raised and lowered) that had been placed in the river to prevent Union boats from passing.
It was near this point on the river that Camp Poole’s cannons began to fire on the boats along with rifle fire from the soldiers. The boats began to back down the river and made their way back to New Bern. Residents that have lived in this area have heard the sounds in the distance of canons and guns being fired and voices yelling. The sounds seem to come from an isolated area where Camp Poole once had been. No explanation has ever been found as to what made these sounds.
I’m sure there are many other stories that have been told but for now this is what I have but my research continues. If anyone reading this has a Civil War ghost story concerning the Lenoir County battlefields I would love to hear it.
The picture is of the church called Harriet’s Chapel on the Kinston Battlefield and was taken a few years ago after it had snowed. It was taken by Dr. Lonnie Blizzard. Use your imagination and look closely sitting on the side steps are several Civil War soldiers and one is in the tree.
Source: The Lenoir County Civil War Cultural Resource Survey
Massachusetts Regiment History