A ghost story….
A Carpet of Orange Blossoms
The approaching dawn found him in his usual position, perched on a boulder next to the statue of General Warren. He had been doing this for a number of years now. It was his favorite time of day in his favorite season of the year. The sun would rise behind him, over the Round Tops. The woods and fields from Seminary Ridge to the west of Gettysburg would be the first to benefit from the light of the rising sun. Immediately below and to his front, Devil’s Den, the Peach Orchard and the Wheat Field would still be in the shadows of the Round Tops. The early morning mist would lay heavy in the low points of the uneven ground. Yes, he loved this time of day, the quiet before the throng of park visitors crowded the crest of Little Round Top, asking about where was it that Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine changed the course of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Over the next half hour, the sun cleared the Round Tops and the mists gave way to a haze which indicated that this late June day was going to be a hot one. Loud voices off to his left shook him from his reverie. Scowling at his watch, he mumbled “‘it’s a bit early for visitors”. Not yet ready do deal with anyone, he stood up, stretched and slid down from his perch to move into the shade behind an observation tower to see how things would play out. The approaching group was revealed to be a Boy Scout troop supervised by several adults. Spotting the observation tower, the young scouts shouted “look, a castle tower! Last one to the top is a rotten egg!” The adults managed to stop the stampede. One adult, the Scout Master, said that before going up the tower, Mr. Brampton is going to tell us what happened here. Still unseen behind the tower, the man cringed when this Brampton fellow began to speak in a flat monotone, reading from a small booklet. It was obvious that most of the scouts could care less about Brampton’s talk as they sprinted off to the tower before he finished. Peeking around the side of the tower, the man noticed that there were three scouts standing next to one of the adults. He heard one scout ask “Dad, could you tell us a little more about what happened here?” The father replied “sure, Jeremy, if you guys are interested”, and he began to talk. The man behind the tower was curious now, as the father spoke from memory. The man’s interest grew exponentially as the father spoke, initially with great enthusiasm, then with obvious emotion as his voice began to tremble. When the father finished speaking, two of the scouts thanked him and joined their friends. The father and son remained behind, peering through their binoculars at Devil’s Den. The man now stepped into full view and eavesdropped on the conversation between father and son. He heard the son say, “do you see those reflections of light from around the boulders in Devil’s Den? What are those? There is not anybody down there!” The father replied “Jeez Jeremy, you are right. I don’t see anybody, just those scattered flashes of light.” With a smile, Jeremy’s father turned to him and said “if I did not know better, I would say they seem like muzzle flashes from Rebel snipers”. Jeremy and his Dad both shrugged, laughed, and returned to peering through their binoculars. The man stood staring at Jeremy’s father. There was something awfully familiar about him. “I think I need to make my presence known”, he thought, “this is certainly very curious”.
Approaching father and son, the man now heard the father exclaim “Look over at Seminary Ridge Jeremy! That looks like Rebel cavalry coming out of the tree line!” Jeremy replied “I know! The haze makes them appear almost ghostly.” Both father and son suddenly put down their binoculars and stood blinking at the distant ridge. They looked at each other and spoke at the same time “did they just disappear”? Both Jeremy and his Dad jumped when the approaching man said “Perhaps”.
Jeremy’s dad was going to upbraid the approaching stranger for scaring the hell out of them but he was unable to speak. Mouth hanging open, he was staring at a man wearing a faded blue, Civil War era uniform of a Union infantry Colonel. The man in the uniform had also stopped and was staring at Jeremy’s Dad. A strong vibe of recognition passed between them. Jeremy’s Dad shook his head as though clearing it of a bad dream and spoke first: “are you a re-enactor? Or a living history volunteer for the park?”. The man in uniform just stared back a moment longer then slowly said “Captain Nicoll, as I live and breath”. Confused now, Jeremy’s Dad said “What? Who? Is that your name? I am sorry, I am flustered. Let me start over, Hi, my name is Ed Mullins, this is my son Jeremy. Do you work for the park?”. The man in uniform seemed to recover as well. He replied, “Yes, I guess you could say I am part of the park”. Jeremy Mullins, who had stood with a bewildered expression this whole time blurted out “You are Augustus Van Horne Ellis! Colonel of the 124th New York! The Orange Blossoms! My Dad showed me your picture!” Pointing to Devil’s Den Jeremy continued “you were killed in that triangular shaped field just over there! Dad! We are talking to a ghost! Is this real? Am I dreaming?”. The man in the uniform chuckled and spoke “What a bright young man you are. I am indeed Colonel Ellis. This is no dream. Sadly, mine, and the bodies of my Orange Blossom regiment carpeted that Triangular Field”. Pointing to Jeremy’s dad the man in uniform said “And you sir, I am certain, are Isaac Nicoll, Captain of my Company G. You may be who you say you are today, but on July 2, 1863, you were my Captain Nicoll! You witnessed what happened here. I am damn glad you have returned to us sir! If the two of you want to see ghosts, I invite you to join me in Devil’s Den at dusk! Nicoll, Mullins, whatever your name sir, you will see your old friends. And. We. Will. Have. A devil of a time sir! We will indeed”!
Chatham Creative Writing Group
2 thoughts on “A Carpet Of Orange Blossoms”
Always entertaining prose from Mr. Stricsek.
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Thank you my friend! I joined a writing group when we moved here last year. The prompt for this week was to write a ghost story. I used a trip I made with our son and his Boy Scout troop to Gettysburg as the basis, then wove a ghost story around it.