Things That Go "Bump" in the Bell Tent
(other than married reenactors)
Scanned and plagarized by Jonah Begone
I sometimes find the notion of walking around in reproduction military uniforms (or "Dead Man's Clothes," as a co-worker used to refer to them) at battlefields pretty spooky. The only thing spookier, however, is actually meeting an apparition. This I have never done, although some reenactors have resembled the Dead after the Saturday night campfire. Here's a couple of Revy War ghost stories, culled from John Alexander's GHOSTS: Washington's most famous ghost stories. My comments in brackets.
The Continental Soldier Pays His Respects
The lower level of the Capitol, where George Washington was to have been entombed, is the haunting ground of a famous apparition. The empty tomb, beneath the crypt area of the Capitol, is used to store the catafalque on which the nation's great lie in state. It is said that on certain days, at midnight and occasionally at noon, the locked door noiselessly swings open. Wind stirs the air and a cold spot envelops whoever might be watching, as a "fine-looking gentleman in Continental uniform" passes slowly around the bier, through the dark passage, and out the door, which silently closes behind him.
George Washington Rides Again [Yeeehhhaaa!]
George Washington's plantation stretched south and east, from near the Federal District almost to Williamsburg, Virginia. Often he would make social calls on the Byrds of Westover, the Lees of Stratford, and the Carters of Shirley. He would ride up to Alexandria for fellowship, too. Whether the General saw any of the ghosts that are said to frequent those old Virginia mansions is strictly conjecture, but there is some evidence that Washington, at least once, had an encounter with something that shook him tremendously.
It supposedly happened as he was working on a dispatch, alone in his tent, during the Revolutionary War. The National Tribune reported in a story in 1880 that Washington aide Anthony Sherman said that the General had confided in him that "a beautiful female figure" spread America's future before him. The spirit unfolded a vision that included not only Washington's successes, but the nation's international destiny, too.
Some have theorized that the thought of that vision was with the President when he wrote his farewell address. In that speech he warned against permanent alliance with foreign powers, big public debt, a large military establishment, and the devices of "small, artful, enterprising minorities" [a.k.a. Democratic Party constituent groups] to control or change the government.
Washington retired to Mount Vernon to live out the remainder of his years. Some who have worked there swear that he comes back from time to time. There have been various accounts down through the years of the General riding on horseback across his estate to the stables, much in the way he did on his last ride, on a cold and rainy December night so long ago.