By Glenn Smith
Gettysburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg just to name a few of some of the major battlefields I have visited and studied throughout the years. I’ve been to lectures and conferences on most of the major campaigns on the American Civil War. I have met and talked to many of the Civil War accomplished professors and scholars such as Troy Harmon, Scott Hartwig, and Gary Gallagher; all of whom have been on the history channel sporadically. I’m always learning and trying to improve my knowledge on the subject, and more importantly, open to new twists on any of the stories of the war that took so many soldiers’ lives.
Now, with that being said, I’m always questioned by friends, family, and colleagues on certain aspects on battlefields and campaigns. The one thing that is constantly brought up is the subject of the paranormal, in particular at Gettysburg. I was never a big believer on these stories, but recently certain things have opened my eyes and mind to the possibility of paranormal activity.
The one particular story involves the Triangle Field, also known as the Triangular Field. This area is located directly behind Devils Den and situated on the southern side of Rose’s Woods. It’s about three acres in size and the physical appearance is pretty much the same as it was in July of 1863. It was in this field that General John Bell Hood of the Texas Brigade would clash with Captain James Smith’s artillery and the 4th NY and 124th NY infantry. Hoods’ objective was to silence Smith’s cannons and push back both NY infantries. After 90 minutes of heavy fighting, General Hood took Devil’s Den but with heavy casualties on both sides. Smith’s artillery consisted of only four cannons (still on site today) but tore apart the Confederate lines before they were silenced. Horrific losses occurred on both sides including the loss of arms, legs, and even heads blown off.
Once the battle was over, photographers rushed to the town of Gettysburg to get pictures of the battlefield, including the dead bodies. At Triangular Field, these photographers faked some of the positions of the dead bodies by removing them from where they fell and positioned them for more dramatic shots. Sometimes, this occurred using the same body in multiple shots in numerous locations.
It is rumored that if you visit Triangular Field today and attempt to take photographs, you will get a black picture, a negative photo back in the era of 35 mm film, or even no picture at all. Being the skeptic that I am (or was), during one of my many trips to the battlefield with my young family of my wife and kids, I took my 35 mm camera to snap some photos on the guided tour. At the time, this was a state of the art camera. With my camera in hand, I began taking pictures of pretty much everything.
I began with the Railroad Cut where Federal General Reynolds was shot dead. We followed the tour to the Peach Orchard, Wheatfield, Little Round Top, Seminary Ridge, Cemetery Ridge, the Angle at Pickett’s Charge, Devil’s Den, and ended at the Triangular Field. At that point, I had completely forgot about the story of the blank photographs. We had taken some family pictures in Triangular Field and Devil’s Den as well as some location shots where the original photographers captured the battle pictures.
I sent the film out for development (showing my age here) and when I received the photos back from the lab, every picture came back just fine; except for about 10-15 photos taken at Triangular Field. Every single one of those pictures was completely black, so were the negatives. At first, I thought something went wrong with my brand-new camera. After I had taken it to a shop for an evaluation, the technician told me nothing was wrong with the camera and it was functioning perfectly fine. However, thinking about it, those black pictures were taken in the middle of Triangular Field on a bright, sunny afternoon at a plethora if different angles. That’s when I began to begin to think a little harder about those paranormal stories.
After some research, I learned that legend says the spirits of the dead soldiers were so upset about their bodies being prostituted out for more dramatic pictures instead of being treated with respect that they ruin pictures taken in that spot to this very day. If this is true or not is beyond me, but I do have the blank hard-copies of those black photos as my own evidence.
I’d like to test this theory, like many others have, with digital photography. Keep in mind, those pictures are now about twenty years old taken with a Canon Rebel. Yes, the Rebel is a real brand; coincidence? You tell me…