Thousands of sight-seers, military enthusiasts, and nature-lovers from far and wide flock to Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in northern Georgia and eastern Tennessee each year. As part of the National Park Service, this storied military park preserves the sites of two American Civil War battles: The Battle of Chickamauga and the Chattanooga Campaign.
The military park consists of four areas, including the Chickamauga Battlefield, Missionary Ridge, Lookout Mountain Battlefield, and Moccasin Bend. Military historians love to visit the park’s various memorials and monuments — including the iconic stone memorial to Col. John T. Wilder — and to explore its rich military past. But did you know that the national park is also a favorite haunt of ghost-hunters? We’ll explain why.
The Ghosts of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
Combat arrived with a vengeance in the region in 1863, and it was home to the second-largest battle — and one of the bloodiest — of the Civil War. That means scores of mass graves and unmarked tombs make the area rife with lost military spirits, as explained by author Jim Miles in Civil War Ghosts of North Georgia. The battlefield is so popular among spirit-seekers that it has its own recurring cast of departed characters.
Ol’ Green Eyes — The most famous ghost to hang around the Chickamauga Battlefield is without a doubt a spirit by the name of Ol’ Green Eyes or Chickamauga Green Eyes. Legend has it, the green-eyed apparition who roams the grounds at Chickamauga was once a confederate soldier. Reportedly, a canon blew the soldier’s head off in battle. As the story goes, fellow soldiers buried Green Eyes without his destroyed body, so his spirit roams around the battlefield searching for it. Others believe that he wasn’t a slain soldier but a beastly being who haunted the area long before the war.
The Lady in White — Over the years, paranormal experts have seen the ghostly lady in white roaming around the park. According to legend, the woman’s husband died in battle, and she spends her afterlife searching for his body. Observers note that the lady tends to roam in and out of the graves, traveling the fields before slipping into the woods. Visitors report seeing the lady — dressed in a white, flowing dress — at all hours of the day and night.
The Headless Horseman — Sources on this ghost vary, but this regular visitor is allegedly the ghost of Lt. Colonel Julius Garesché, a well-revered soldier who met his fate with a cannonball during battle. A stampede of horses trotted by, squashing the officer’s head and carrying it with them for several yards. Soldiers discovered his “headless trunk” after the incident, and visitors report seeing a mysterious, headless figure on horseback galloping through the woods at night. Interestingly, however, Lt. Colonel Garesché was killed during the Battle of Stones River, near Murfreesboro, not Chickamauga.
Throughout the years, many seemingly paranormal signs have spooked park visitors. For example, some visitors report seeing strange, flickering lights off in the distance. Chickamauga regulars believe that these lights are the ghostly lights of lanterns carried by the wives and lovers searching for their dead and wounded husbands. Additionally, visitors sometimes report feeling watched in the area, especially in the woods at night.
People who live nearby report hearing gunshots, moaning, and crying throughout the night, while others swear they heard the harmonious sound of soldiers marching. In 1960, reports circulated of a man who climbed the 85-foot Wilder Tower and fell inside. The man reported that he believed he was jumping out of the tower from a ground-level window, but actually fell some 25 feet. The accident left him paralyzed.
Whether you’re a paranormal seeker or a military historian, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is certainly worth a visit. Just make sure you keep your guard up and record any strange sights and sounds to share with your fellow ghost-lovers. Want more ghostly history? Explore our titles related to the haunted and paranormal.