Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ghost Stories & Tales of the Unexplained that you might like...

Halloween is upon us again and whether you are "for" the holiday or "against" it, I thought you might enjoy reading some unique legends from Southern history.

Ghost stories and tales of unexplained creatures and events are part of our culture. Long before radio, tv and internet came along, our ancestors used to sit around fireplaces and campfires at night and tell stories. Some of these tales have been handed down for hundreds of years and others are a bit more recent.

Because we focus on Southern history and culture, we make a diligent effort to preserve the legends of our past (and present, in some cases). Here are a few of my favorites that I thought you might enjoy:
 You can read many others by visiting our special section on Ghosts, Monsters & Unexplained Mysteries at

Monday, October 25, 2010

Battle of Sunshine Church - Round Oak, Georgia

By the time his 2,000+ man force approached the little country chapel called Sunshine Church on July 31, 1864, Union General George H. Stoneman knew he was in trouble. The disaster stalking him hit hard there in an event remembered today as the Battle of Sunshine Church.

Stoneman had ridden south from Decatur four days earlier, planning to break the railroad between Atlanta and Macon before charging into the latter city and releasing the Union prisoners held there at Camp Oglethorpe. This achieved, he planned to ride on to Andersonville and free the tens of thousands of Federal p.o.w.'s at Camp Sumter, before returning to the Union lines at either Atlanta or Pensacola a hero.

Things, however, did not go as planned. Stoneman was defeated by swarming Confederate troops on the outskirts of Macon at the Battle of Dunlap Hill. Beginning a rapid retreat back up the railroad for the safety of Sherman's lines around Atlanta, he received multiple reports that Confederate cavalry was on his heels.

When he reached Sunshine Church, which was then located just south of today's community of Round Oak, Stoneman learned that Confederate troops were also blocking his way. He had no way of knowing it, but he was opposed by Confederate General Arthur Iverson, who had grown up in the vicinity and knew the backroads and trails north of Macon far better than the Federal soldiers. He got in front of Stoneman and entrenched his men along a ridge just north of the 1864 site of Sunshine Church (the church was relocated a couple of miles north to Round Oak after the war).

While Iverson blocked the way, other Confederates from Macon swarmed up behind Stoneman, effectively trapping the raiders.

The Battle of Sunshine Church lasted into the night of the 31st until the morning of August 1, 1864. It ended on a rise known still today as Stoneman's Hill, where General Stoneman and hundreds of his men raised the white flag in one of the few signal defeats of Union troops during Sherman's Atlanta Campaign.

To learn more about this fascinating battle, please visit

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ghosts of the Russ House - Marianna, Florida

Built in 1895, the historic Russ House in Marianna is one of the most beautiful old houses in Florida. Some say it is also one of the most haunted.

Now the home of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, the restored house faces West Lafayette Street (U.S. 90) in Marianna, a Northwest Florida city founded in 1827 and rich in history. For 100 years, however, the Russ House was a family residence and seems to have been the focal point for an unusual series of tragedies. These included disputes over a marriage, the loss of a family fortune and the suicide of its builder.

Perhaps because of these events, the house has developed a reputation for ghosts. Photographs taken of the structure's exterior sometimes show what appears to be the indistinct of a man looking out from the windows, even when no one is inside. Visitors report encountering strange scents that remind them of old-fashioned powder or perfume. Employees say the elevator opens and closes on its on and without explanation.

Ghost hunters have investigated the house and have come away convinced that it is haunted by at least two ghosts, one of a man and one of a woman. Those who believe in such things are convinced and many report having seen the figure of a man with a mustache looking down from the top of the stairs. Skeptics, of course, say that the stories originate from the fact that for many years it was a big, weathered, spooky old house.

To learn more about the history of the Russ House and some of the ghost stories told about it, please visit

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Battle of Dunlap Hill (Dunlap's Farm) - Macon, Georgia

On July 30, 1864, things began to go very wrong for Union General George Stoneman's raid into Middle Georgia when he came up against Confederate forces at the Battle of Dunlap Hill.

Also called the Battle of Dunlap's Farm, the engagement was fought to defend Macon from Stoneman's 2000+ Federal raiders.

Stoneman's Raid had begun on July 27th when he left Decatur, Georgia, for a move down the railroad from Atlanta to Macon and beyond. The Atlanta Campaign was then underway and the city had not yet fallen, but by cutting the railroad, Stoneman hoped to hasten its surrender. He also had convinced a somewhat skeptical General William Tecumseh Sherman to allow him to attempt a daring raid to free the tens of thousands of Union prisoners of war being held at Camp Oglethorpe at Macon and Camp Sumter at Andersonville.

Sherman cautioned Stoneman, however, not to attempt the extended raid if it seemed Confederate forces ahead of him were too strong. Stoneman, however, rode his mounted force directly into the jaws of waiting Confederate forces.

As he moved south toward Macon, he did put men at work breaking the railroad - although the damage would be quickly repaired by Southern workers - but also spread his men out to inflict as much destruction as possible. Homes were invaded and looted, innocent civilians terrorized, livestock stolen or killed, barns destroyed and as much other damage possible inflicted.  By the time the Federals reached the northern outskirts of Macon, however, the Confederates were waiting.

Despite a strong attack against Southern positions at Dunlap Hill and around the Dunlap House (now in Ocmulgee National Monument), the Union troops were unable to break through Confederate lines to secure the railroad bridge they had targeted. To make matters worse, they were unable to bring their own artillery to bear on Southern cannon firing on them from nearby Fort Hawkins. Instead, they opened on civilian targets in the city itself with their two 3-inch rifled cannon.

Stoneman finally withdrew, but he had ridden into a situation from which he would not escape. He surrendered two days later after the Battle of Sunshine Church.  To learn more about the Battle of Dunlap Hill, please visit

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Edgefield Ghost - A Poltergeist in Antebellum South Carolina

Ghost stories abound in the South, but few are as well documented as an incident that took place in the Edgefield District of South Carolina in 1829. It was known at the time as the Edgefield Ghost.

The strange encounter took place in the home of Isaac Burnett and began as strange sounds heard in and around the house, but gradually escalated to what newspapers of the time described as a full blown paranormal encounter. The ghost was not seen, but would routinely talk, answer questions and even whistle songs. Word of the haunting quickly spread through the Edgefield District and scores of other individuals came to see it for themselves. The ghost, or whatever it was, obliged, talking to everyone from neighbors to an old time fire and brimstone Baptist preacher.

The Edgefield Ghost was widely documented in letters and newspapers of the time and continued to be mentioned by editors for decades to come.

The site of the haunting, which gradually faded away in the 1830s, is now in Greenwood County, South Carolina, roughly between the cities of Edgefield and Greenwood. The Burnett house is long gone, as are all traces of the old farm, with only woods and overgrown fields marking the site.

To learn the full story of this remarkable event, please visit

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Leaf Change turnining the Alabama Mountains Gold and Red

The staff at Cheaha Lodge at Cheaha State Park in Alabama reports that the drive up the mountain from Talladega is beginning to take on excellent color as the reds and golds start to move down the slopes of the state's highest point.

The park encompasses thousands of acres at Mt. Cheaha, the highest point in Alabama and a mountain rich in history and scenic beauty. Cheaha State Park, which features a very nice restaurant with possibly the best view of any dining establishment in the state, was established as a public works project during the Great Depression and preserves many original structures and trails first established by workers of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

The fall is a particularly beautiful time to visit the mountain, which offers beautiful scenic drives and overlooks where the stunning reds and golds of the leaves can be enjoyed. There is a fully accessible walkway leading to Bald Rock on one end of the mountain, where visitors of all abilities can take in the scenic view. The area also features waterfalls, hiking trails, cabins, a hotel, rock formations and adjoins the beautiful Talladega National Forest.

To learn more, please visit

Monday, October 4, 2010

Talimena Scenic Drive - Arkansas & Oklahoma

With the first cool weather of fall now in the air, it is a great time to explore some of the beautiful and historic scenic roads and byways of the South. A personal favorite is the Talimena Scenic Drive, which stretches across the tops of the Ouachita Mountains from Mena, Arkansas to Talihina, Oklahoma.

The beautiful roadway, which was built through the Ouachita National Forest in 1965-1969, follows earlier dirt roads opened by pioneers of the region during the 19th century and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the Great Depression. It is now recognized as one of the most beautiful scenic byways in the South and offers drivers paved access to the stunning scenery of such locations at Rich Mountain, Queen Wilhelmina State Park, Winding Stair National Recreation Area and more.

Along the way, you can learn about a wide array of historic sites. The Rich Mountain Fire Tower, for example, was the location from which one of the largest forest fires in Southern history was first spotted. Queen Wilhelmina State Park, sometimes called the Arkansas Castle in the Sky, was first established as a stunning stone lodge by railroad companies during the late 19th century. The park today features numerous historic sites, beautiful overlooks and other points of interest including a hotel, cabins, restaurant, miniature train, hiking trails and more.

Just up the drive from the state park is the historic Rich Mountain Cemetery, established before the Civil War by early settlers of the Ouachitas. It is noted for its tale of the Ghost of Rich Mountain, the sad story of a young girl who froze to death nearby after being cornered by wolves during the tragic days of the Civil War.

Along the Oklahoma section of the drive, you will find such sites as Horse Thief Springs, once used by Old West outlaws, and Old Military Road Historic Site, which preserves a section of the historic road that connected Fort Smith with Fort Towson.

To learn more about the Talimena Scenic Drive, please visit