Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I always figured when I got older, God would sorta come inta my life somehow. And he didn't. I don't blame him. If I was him I would have the same opinion of me that he does.

- Ed Tom Bell, No Country for Old men

It may just be coincidence that I picked up Gettysburg and watched it again, or grabbed the soundtrack and played it in my car on the way to work today, but Ghost Hunters is exploring the Cashtown Inn tonight. It's a place that I have passed in my travels, and is nearly legendary in the lore of we that have studied the Civil War extensively.

The brief history is that the Cashtown Inn is just that... an Inn at a hole in the wall town in the Pennsylvania hills named Cashtown. What makes it special? It was the headquarters for Major General A.P. Hill's III Corp in the few days before Gettysburg. On the night of June 30, General Henry Heth, one of Hill's brigade commanders, asked Hill if he had any objections to Heth going into the town of Gettysburg the next day. Many of his soldiers had made the long march from Virginia barefoot, and he'd heard there was a shoe factory in the town.

Hill uttered the words that would send over 50,000 men to the boatman- "None in the world."

General Hill

The next day, Heth brought his boys down the Chambersburg Pike, heading towards town... and came under fire from General John Buford's Union Cavalry. Heth's men broke off the Pike, formed battle lines, and attacked... and when they did, every soldier on both sides began making a beeline towards the small crossroad town of Gettysburg- in a day, there'd be over 170,000 men facing murderous hails of bullets on these gentle rolling hills.

On Ghost Hunters, the fella that owns the Inn said something about how when people go into the basement, sometimes the water heater and piping is gone. The whole thing. Gone.

In it's place is a scene 150 years old, where two soldiers are helping one man who seems mortally wounded... and the indicators of the present are erased, like God swiped it away with His mighty hand.

They say it's a residual haunting, like a memory caught in time, bound to replay itself again and again.

Hell, search it online. This is the first picture I found- there's a face in the window at the top.

Here's a close up of the face:

Now, I know more ghost stories about Gettysburg than I could tell you. I know more about the battle of Gettysburg than any scholar you've seen on TV. I know the position and troop strength of every brigade throughout the battle. In seventh grade my teacher let me teach the class for two days about Gettysburg, then concluded it by saying, "You know more than I do."

They say some folks are just drawn to the town, like magic, like they know they should live there.

I think I'm drawn there because these stories... they're all I got. They're as American as can be. For instance, the story of Winfield Scott Hancock and Lew Armistead, two men who were close as brothers before the war, only so they could split up, with Hancock going North and Armistead going South. In a Biblical twist of irony, Armistead led Pickett's Charge against Hancock's men at Gettysburg. Armistead was mortally wounded in the charge. Heaving, on his deathbed, he asked to see General Hancock, only to have someone tell him that Hancock had also been hit. Armistead went nearly hysterical, dying soon after. Hancock survived.

It is said that on the last night before they left California, where they were stationed before the war, Armistead grabbed Hancock on that last night, and with tears in his eyes, said, "Win, if I ever raise my hand against you... may God strike me dead!" I never caught the significance of this story until my own best friend was dead. I could picture me saying something like that to Ryer, because I am overly dramatic like that... and then one of us not making it out.

It is the story of the dead Carolinian, where on his body, they found a note saying, "Tell my father I died facing the enemy."

It is the story of the boy Liutenant who cut the last tendons of his leg off with his pocketknife after an artillery ball shattered it.

These stories, and the stories of their hauntings... they're all I got. I always keep thinking that one day, when I'm old and ready to die, that God will have entered my life, and I'll have made peace, and I'll get to heaven.

But He doesn't seem to be getting any closer. And what if I don't make it long enough? Then I die a half-Catholic, and go... to Hell? If I die in a car accident tomorrow, which is as likely as it isn't, I'm FUCKED.

So I'm left with Ghost Hunters. I'm left with the recording they got of a picture frame sliding across the table, as if A.P. Hill himself saw something important in that old brass frame. I'm left hoping that I'm not one of those miserable, trapped souls that has to reenact the bad scenes in my life over and over. The energy doesn't leave this world. The love you have, the anger, the strength, the loneliness.... that stuff doesn't dissipate. It changes forms... but it doesn't leave. Some things are forever.

Let me be honest with you people- I am absolutely terrified.

Don't ever wonder why I drink so damn much. Although I doubt any of you do.


Trashman said...

I don't buy into ghost too much but I do love me some Ghost Hunters. One of the things I miss about the East Coast is all the neat scary shit you could find.

BH said...

God has entered your life. If (s)He hadn't, you wouldn't even be posting this. You just continue to question like the rest of us.

Buzz said...

I was a complete G-burg fanatic growing up too, had relatives that lived about an hour away so we'd hussle there when we'd visit in the summer.

You're right, about everything concerning that place. My Pops was cool enough to give me a time and place to be and then let me roam around on my own through those fields. Pretty dang humbling. I'm a fan of Custer Vs. JEB Stuart, and the role that the Stovepipe Brigade guys from Michigan had in those three days. Every time I'd been there it always felt the same, which was... well, different.