USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘civil war’
Folk Beliefs
Legends

Waverley Mansion

Title: Waverley Mansion

Category: Legend, Ghost-Story

Informant: Evan A. Lewis

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: Upper 80s

Occupation: Retired— Radio Broadcaster, Laundry Mat Owner, Koren War Vet, etc.

Residence: 5031 Mead Drive/ Doylestown PA, 18902 (Suburban Home)

Date of Collection: 4/08/18

Description:

After purchasing the mansion for renovation around the early 1960s, Mrs. Snow began noticing strange and abnormal occurrences around the house. Sometimes when passing by the grand hall and lower ballroom, Mrs. Snow noticed the faint sounds of music and conversation coming from the empty chamber. On a different occasion, Mr. Snow was working in the back fields of the home when he noticed the figure of a confederate solider on horseback riding across his property.

The most striking tale of ghosts on the property stems from a story from Mrs.Snow and other visitors who’ve come to experience the estate. When Mrs. Snow was working on the second floor in the upper dining room, she heard a young girl’s voice calling for her mother. Believing the voice to belong to one of her own children, Mrs.Snow walked over to the column staircase to look down for the child. When she looked over the balcony, she saw no child but continued to hear the voice coming from the same location. On several other occasions, Mrs. Snow could hear the voice of the girl calling for her mother and once saw her looking down from the balcony down to her.

As history recalls, Waverley mansion once served as a make-shift hospital during the course of the Civil War. Mrs. Snow believes that the ghost of the little girl belongs to a child who might have passed away from illness during the war and her soul is trapped haunting the mansion in search of her late mother. Mrs. Snow and women seem to be the only people who ever encounter the voice of the little girl ghost. The central location of the girls activity stems from the second story bedroom just off of the central staircase.

Mrs. Snow believes that this must have been the bedroom that the girl was kept in and has since kept the bedroom vacant and the bed made. Patrons to the estate and The Snows themselves have both seen the impression of the little girl’s body made on the comforter. Mrs. Snow has walked up to the comforter and smoothed it out only to have the impression of the body re-appear hours later.

Context/Significance:

Waverley mansion is a Southern plantation home located in Columbus/West Point Mississippi directly 10 miles outside of West Point. The plantation is settled around acres of cotton and includes such artifacts as an abandoned house, family graveyard, a collection of exotic peacocks, gardens, orchards and livestock. The mansion was constructed in the mid 1850s and later bought in 1962 by the Snow family and has since been renovated to its original glory. The house fell into disrepair upon reaching the end of the Young family line in 1912 before being purchased by the Snows.

The mansion is claimed to be haunted by a collection of ragged spirits. While almost all of them are declared harmless and welcoming by the Snow family, more than one person has claimed a supernatural experience on the property. The house is now open for tours most days of the week save for holidays and religious celebrations.

Personal Thoughts:

As many of these Southern ghost stories seem to go, I grew up immersed in the experience. Since a young age, my family has been making road-trips and visits to the heartland of “Dixie” for the sole purpose of familial exploration and reconnecting. My mother and grandfather (both hailing lineage to the location) have made a point of visiting these historic landmarks of the region.

The main take away I got from visiting Waverley was how sad and lonely the property feels despite the visits it receives from locals and tourists on a daily basis. I haven’t visited since I was around the age of seven, but I remember the peacocks and tapestry filed rooms almost perfectly. While I never saw the ghost myself, perhaps I was too young and distracted to pay attention to such things, I do not doubt the ghosts existence. I live for the ghost stories of the South that developed during the turn of the 20th century, and feel that they hold a special place in my heart due to their historic and ageless appeal.

Festival
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The University of Mississippi, Football Game Attire

Title: The University of Mississippi, Football Game Attire

Category: Legend

Informant: Evan A. Lewis

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: Upper 80s

Occupation: Retired— Radio Broadcaster, Laundry Mat Owner, Koren War Vet, etc.

Residence: 5031 Mead Drive/ Doylestown PA, 18902 (Suburban Home)

Date of Collection: 4/08/18

Description:

The tradition of dressing up for football games has been popularized by Southern institutions beginning with University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). While a majority of other schools (USC included) usually wear an abundance of sports gear iconic to the University that the fan is cheering for (ex: Football Jerseys, face/body paint, pom poms, College T-shirts, etc.), Ole Miss students attend games in their Sunday best. Clothing found at these games are often still in the colors of the school but often include items such as: Button down shirts with Kahkis, blazers, suits, ties/bow ties, heels, formal cowboy boots, dresses, pearls, etc. Students wake up early on game days and wear formal attire throughout all tail-gating activities and throughout the football game itself to show support for their team.

Context/Significance:

The tradition of wearing formal attire to football games is believed to stem from around the late 19th century after the end of the Civil War. At that time, almost the entire undergraduate population of the University was enrolled to fight for the Confederacy. When the Confederate army was called away to fight, the “greys” marched through town as the women and children dressed up in their “Sunday best” to show the men off into battle, knowing they weren’t likely to return.

By the conclusion of the Civil War, almost the entire undergraduate population of the University was eradicated. The university then had to close and restructure their system before being able to re-open. In solidarity for the lost men after the war, on the first football game of the next season, the entire town of Oxford and the student body dressed in their “Sunday best” as they once again sent their football team off into battle against their opponents.

The tradition has remained a part of the University since the late 19th century and the practice is obeyed by students, parents, fans, and even some visitors.

Personal Thoughts:

Growing up, I often participated in this tradition but never knew the story behind it until recently. Both my mother and older brother attended the University of Mississippi. My grandfather was actually “The Voice of the Rebels” on the radio before TV took over. Almost every year, since I was a child, my family would drive into Mississippi for a game and visit old relatives.

It wasn’t until this project that I asked my grandfather why it is that Ole Miss is known for dressing up for football games. Since a majority of Southern schools have since adopted the practice, I wasn’t entirely sure which school started this first. Being the super fans that my grandfather, mother, and brother are, they since informed me of the history and the significance behind the dress code.

The tradition is meant to pay homage to the lives of the soldiers lost during the war. Dressing up is seen as a sign of respect, solidarity, and class.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Material

Bateman House

Title: Bateman House

Category: Legend, Ghost-Story

Informant: Evan A. Lewis

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: Upper 80s

Occupation: Retired— Radio Broadcaster, Laundry Mat Owner, Koren War Vet, etc.

Residence: 5031 Mead Drive/ Doylestown PA, 18902 (Suburban Home)

Date of Collection: 4/08/18

Description:

In the mid 19th century just before the outbreak of the Civil War, Nellie Weaver (the daughter of the original homeowner) was betrothed to a Mr. Charles Tucker and both resided on the estate. The two had a daughter and Mrs. Weaver was overcome with joy. In her happiness, Mrs. Weaver carved her first name “Nellie” into the window pane of the south parlor at the front of the house.

Sometime after the outbreak of the war, her husband left and was never heard from again. In desperation of funds, Mrs. Weaver opened up the house as a nursery and school before the once great mansion slowly fell into disrepair. Mrs. Weaver continued living in the house until her later eighties and died as a result do to burns she received when her dress caught fire from sparks coming from the fireplace in the rear parlor.

At some point in the 1950s, after several decades of disrepair, a couple purchased the home and renovated it to its past historical being. During its renovation, a construction worker propped up a ladder against the salon window and accidentally broke the pane with Nellie’s name in it. The pane was cleared away and replaced with a new one.

Sometime after this, Mrs. Bateman (who purchased the mansion along with her husband) went to close the blinds in the south parlor after noticing how warm and sunny the room became. As she closed the blinds, she looked to the pane glass surrounding the front window and saw that the name “Nellie” had been re-carved into the glass in the same handwriting and font size as the earlier message. It had been carved from the inside of the home.

Context/Significance:

The Bateman House is located in Columbus Mississippi on the outskirts of town. Built around 153 years ago by a rich merchant, William B. Weaver, this top drawer 1848 Italianate mansion has “six soaring fluted columns, and delicate arches across the roof of the front verandah.” The inside is just as glorious. There are twin parlors that showcase dazzling chandeliers that reflect in room mirrors. The ceiling is decorated with lovely plaster medallions of acanthus leaves. Servant’s houses were also built on the property. When finished, it was considered one of the finest mansions in town.

Many think that the spirit of Nellie is letting the Batemans know how happy she is that they restored her beloved home. The Bateman house is now open for tours and the carving can be seen in the glass by all tourists/visitors to the site.

Personal Thoughts:

My mother grew up in Columbus Mississippi and knows of the homes origins from personal experience. When visiting family, my mother has taken me to the house and I’ve been granted the opportunity to see the etching for myself. It’s much smaller than I had perviously thought, and could conceivably have been done by the Batemans as a way of creating a tourist industry based on the collection of Southern ghost stories populating the region.

As a fan of ghost stories myself, I can’t help but believe and cherish the story. My grandfather taught this story to my mother who then taught this story to me.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Ghost of Antetum

Background: E.M. is an 18-year-old student at USC studying Cinema and Media Studies. She is Salvadoran but as lived all over the US, so she has picked up folklore and customs from a lot of different places. When she was living in Maryland, she would often take tours to historical sites and picked up multiple stories from each of these sites and the people she met there.

 

Main piece:

When I lived in Maryland, we would often visit Civil War battlesites. Um and one of the major ones that was near where we lived was Antetum in Sharpsburg Maryland? Yeah Sharpsburg. Basically one of the bloodies battles of the civil war happened there. And it’s very chilling to go now because it’s all cornfields and it’s very quiet and lonely and you really get a sense of quiet and foreboding when you’re there. One of the park rangers actually shared this story with me, with us, with our family, um about uhh these strange happenings that occurred around a road known as Bloody Lane in the middle of the battlefield. Some people had reported smelling gunpowder when they walked down the lane and later it was found out that that road had been the site of this kind of standoff between the Unions and the Confederates where they were basically shooting at each other from opposite sides of the road for hours, and thousands of people died there. So it was said you could hear gunshots in the distance or even battlecries. There was also an old bridge in the park, um, where you could supposedly hear distant drumming if you walked over it at night. When I asked the park ranger whether they thought it was true, um she said that uh she had never experienced any of the gunshots or any – she had never heard anything strange. But one time she saw a woman dressed in this very old fashioned style? in the middle of one of the fields? Reading a book. And when she saw her, she assumed she was a reenactor, because there were civil war reenactments all the time, so she assumed it was a costume. But when she asked back at the visitor’s center, when she asked one of the coworkers if they were having any events that day, and the coworker said that they weren’t. So um she didn’t actually believe that she had seen a ghost, but she said that it was definitely one of the stranger things that had happened to her while she was there. When she went back the lady was gone.

 

Performance Context: This legend would be told when tourists would visit the battle site of Antetum in Sharpsburg, Maryland.

 

My Thoughts: I think that this legend was either created or shared as a way to get visitors interested in the history of the place, because everyone loves to hear ghost stories whether they believe in them or not. Such stories help visitors to connect to the site and to make it come more alive, especially for those who are not as fascinated by history.

Legends
Narrative

Fort Monroe – Confederate ghost stories

ITEM:
(1) The informant’s father’s family had just moved into Fort Monroe — her father was visiting from his undergrad (Purdue) and was almost 20 at the time. The night he came home, everyone in the family heard the sound of heavy chains dragging across the floor of the upstairs attic. The next day, her dad and his dad went to investigate. They saw nothing, and it never happened again, but everybody agreed on the sound.

(2) One time, a bunch of the army wives got together and they were talking about their houses. They ended up comparing ghost stories. One of them was saying that she walked into the kitchen with her husband and there was a cat there — they didn’t have a cat. The cat looked at them, and then turned away and walks through a wall. Eventually, the family looked up the plans for the building in the engineer’s office and originally there’d been a door in the space the ghost cat walked through.

BACKGROUND:
The informant’s ethnicity is half-white, half-Filipino American. Her father, who is white, was in the army, and his father flew helicopters in Korea and Vietnam — their family grew up moving from army base to army base.

Fort Monroe, in Hampton, Virginia, was where they kept the really important POWs from the Civil War, like Jefferson Davis. For those POWs, they would build quarters for their wives. It was widely understood that the town ghost was the ghost of a woman whose face sometimes appears in the widow at Mrs. Davis’s old quarters, waiting for her husband to come back.

CONTEXT:
The informant, who is one of my housemates, told me the stories, which originated from her father, in conversation. Her father actually recently visited her (4/30/14), and later corroborated details of her stories with him, the primary source.

ANALYSIS:
Whenever people live in older areas, or areas with a lot of history, it seems much more common to encounter ghost legends, and for people to be more comfortable with the idea of ghosts. This is of course helped along by my informant’s father’s religious upbringing. His family was Catholic — it was totally normal to talk about ghosts, and nobody talked about them as if they’re inherently scary.

Additionally, Fort Monroe is an area so closely tied to the Civil War, the bloodiest and one of the most traumatic events in American history. The distance in time between then and the modern day isn’t as far as people might think, and one way to tie these two eras together is by passing on legends about local history.

For more information about Fort Monroe’s ghost sightings, click here.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Haunted Civil War House

“Okay, so when I was a kid growing up in Fairfax, Virginia, there was a house about a half-mile away from the house I grew up in and, uh, it’s a very old house – very well maintained, people do live there – but, uh, legend has it that it served as a hospital during the Civil War and, uh, obviously, injured soldiers would go there and, of course, some of the soldiers died. The legend is that, um, the house is haunted with the ghosts of the dead soldiers from the Civil War and this was well-known throughout my neighborhood among the children, and whenever we passed by the house, we’d always get a little nervous or scared or excited, and, um, we would also play in the front yard. The front yard was quite large – a few acres – and it had beautiful boxwood plants, all around the front yard and we would, uh, play hide-and-seek in the front yard, and it had a creek that ran through the front yard along with trees, and it was a lot of fun to play in the front yard. We also played in the backyard, which consisted of grass and, uh, thick woods. We played in the woods. We didn’t play in the grass area of the backyard, and there were times when I had met other adults my age who had grown up in the same city and, uh, for whatever reason, once in a while we would, uh, talk about that haunted house and the other people would remember that as well – that they had grown up believing it was a haunted house as well.”

The informant describes a childhood folk belief about a haunted neighborhood house. He heard about this folk belief from his peers. They would play in the yards of the haunted house. Though they believed in the spooky legend, it seems as though they played in the surrounding areas to taunt the “ghosts” residing in the house. The neighborhood children freely played outside in nature and allowed their imaginations to consider the possibility of the existence of Civil War soldiers’ ghosts. However, context is important. The children played near the well-maintained house presumably during the daytime. So, the idea of ghosts probably seemed less scary. In addition, the house was not considered taboo or forbidden. In bright daylight they were able to entertain the thought of ghosts and treat it as a subject that was not so serious. Had they met up at the woods around a dilapidated house at nighttime, maybe their attitudes toward the legend would have changed.

Through this pastime of playing in the woods, the children were able to share the story of a neighborhood house. The legend of the house and their playing near it affected the young children so much so that later, they were able to recall this story in their adulthood. This memorable pastime seems to be a defining, shared characteristic of their respective childhoods. Thus, the story holds significance in intertwining personal, regional, and national histories.

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