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The Ghosts of Antietam


It was hallowed ground…well, is hallowed ground. Haunted ground, if anything; my grandfather always said that the spirits still fought across the land, kept the grass as bloodstained and dirty as the day those 23,000 men lost their lives.

Pick 'em up and put 'em down again and watch the miles roll on…

I could see the sea of grass clear as day. Steady rain kept falling; nobody else was at the memorial this day. The only reason I was there was because of the funeral, after all, for my boss insisted that I stayed out of the office for at least another week to grieve. What he doesn't understand is that I absorb my grief within doing things. I cannot sit around in sorrow; I have to bury it in something, for I am a man of sustenance, not of idleness. What compelled me to drive over forty miles into the state of Maryland that day was far beyond even my own comprehending, however.

How many miles, how many fears…

How long had I been standing in the same spot now? I heard a commotion behind me, which is what awakened me from my daydream. By now my hair was sopping wet, the raindrops dripping in beneath my eyelids. The lower elevation of the field I was standing upon made the water gather up, making a small river at my feet. Other than the weather merely adding to the solemn scene, I could not spot anything in the distance that could have stirred me from my thoughts…which was funny, for I could have sworn I could hear gunshots in the distance…
My grandfather's ghost stories were haunting me.
Except that they were not ghost stories. I knew this now, after finishing my schooling and initially earning a Bachelor's in American History, also inspired by my grandfather's passion for the United States' past, present and future, though I never did end up using it.

How many days, how many years…

I found out quickly that what my grandfather told me was far more than what the history books would tell me; though it was not him but his father's father who fought in the Civil War, he spoke of it as if he were the one shooting his own neighbor, that he was the one who wore the blue and shot at the gray...there was that sound again. My heart skipped a beat in surprise, for there was no way I could have imagined it twice, both times so clear, so real.
A chill ran down my spine…I could not believe what I was seeing…it was my grandfather's nightmare, come to life from the mass grave of the soil of Antietam.
Thunder crashed, the first signal of an oncoming storm I had heard the entire time I was in Maryland, out in the rain. Of course I knew I was drenched, but regardless of the mild weather, I found myself shivering as a white, misty figure rose from its crude crypt in the ground. I could see its gray, tattered uniform, blood-soaked and tattered, whipping in the winds as it raised its gun, aiming straight and true for my head. I felt a cold hand on my shoulder and yelled out as a Union soldier—or rather, the ghost of what this man once was, took the invisible shot from the Confederate officer's weapon. Before my eyes, I watched as the ranks were filled, watched as the most gruesome, bloody battle in American history took place right in front of me.


The nonexistent gunshots still split my eardrums, crushed my heart…

Pick 'em up and put 'em down again
Until we're six feet underground…

I watched in horror as young men—practically boys—sank to the tear-soaked ground, their corpses rendered dead yet again. How many times must they be tortured?

How many times into the fray…

How many more times must they be shot at, be killed?

How many men won't walk away…

What kind of purgatory was this that I was witnessing? I couldn't tell what was real and not real anymore, for the horror of the battle was as much there as the damning lightning strikes.

Bodies all lay in the tall summer grass,
Swollen and butchered and still…

I looked away as a Confederate cavalry man was struck down by a Union rider with his broadsword, his torso split clear open, entrails dripping onto his saddle as his horse bucked and whinnied in fright…until it itself was shot down. In the direction I turned, I witnessed a young boy struck down onto his stomach, watched him as he lifted his head up to the face of his attacker…only to swallow yet another bullet. I couldn't even tell what side he was on; his uniform was so tattered in death…

…Suddenly, I heard a solemn chant, a quiet whisper of a war song, sung by both sides, Confederate and Union…North and South…both pleading:

How many days, how many more
How many men lost to this war
I can't remember what we're fighting for
How many times into the fray
How many men won't walk away
How many hells filled with
How many devils to pay?

At that point I was racked by emotion, so much that I had fallen to my knees, burying my head in my hands, the fact that this madness was occurring right before my eyes and I could do nothing to stop history from repeating itself, could not keep the ghosts from resurrecting becoming too much for my already sorrowed soul. How long must this horror story replay itself…?
When I lifted my eyes back up to the surface, there were no more gunshots. Only the silence of the dead.


I made no move to rise to my feet, even after all the ashen bodies had dissipated from the misty grass, even after all the ghosts of Antietam returned to their graves.

Pick 'em up and put 'em down again…
…Until this bloody war is through…

…but it never will be.
So my most recent musical obsession has been the musical "The Civil War" by Frank Wildhorn; if you are a history or broadway lover--or a lover of both, like myself--then you should definitely check it out, it's wonderful and heartbreaking and...just go check it out. XD

Anyway, so this is kind of a horror story/songfic based upon my favorite song from the musical, "How Many Devils." Enjoy!

all things "The Civil War" (c) Frank Wildhorn
AgentBabycakes Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Ooh, two of my favorite obsessions in one. That could either be really good (Broadway = great, Civil War = great) or really bad (two totally different things in one).
MusicianInTraining Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Only one way to find out ;) sounds like it may be worth a listen to you!
AgentBabycakes Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I will keep it in mind.
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Submitted on
July 24, 2012
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