Does the ghost of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson haunt the Shenandoah Valley, site of his legendary 1862 Valley Campaign?
What a silly idea! Family and friends buried Jackson more than 150 years ago in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Lexington, Va. Later renamed the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, the burial ground contains ol’ Stonewall and other Southern soldiers.
But what if Stonewall still wanders the Valley?
Just maybe he does …
In mid-April 2017, Dave Sulin and I traveled in Jackson’s wake with Peter Dalton, the Midcoast Civil War buff who operates Shenandoah Civil War Tours. A Rockport resident, Dave portrays a green-uniformed Berdan’s sharpshooter when re-enacting the Civil War.
Peter specializes in the ’62 Valley Campaign. On this particular three-day tour he took us just about everywhere Jackson could have conceivably gone while crisscrossing the Valley and thrashing three Union armies.
We visited McDowell, Winchester, Front Royal, Cross Keys and nearby Port Republic (back-to-back battles), Buckton Station (think Turner Ashby), Harrisonburg, Edinburg, Mount Jackson: You name the place, we went there.
We talked about Stonewall, we read about Stonewall, we even visited the site on the Valley Pike where he supposedly slept in a fence corner. We visited out-of-the-way Jackson-related places that Mainers might miss altogether.
Late one afternoon, we toured Elkton, called Conrad’s Store during the Civil War. Albeit quite worn out, the original Conrad’s Store still stood.
Having brought his soldiers to rest a spell in the Elk Run Valley (one of various valleys with the Valley), Jackson appropriated a fine, two-story brick house as his headquarters from April 19-30, 1862. Constructed in 1827 by Henry Miller Jr., the house (not quite “mansion” in quality) was later purchased by John Argabright.
He died, and his widow Polly (a Henry Miller daughter) occupied the house when Stonewall rode up. The house stands in Elkton today as the Miller-Kite House, a museum operated by the Elkton Historical Society, but the place has been called the Miller-Argabright-Cover-Kite House in the past.
Peter Dalton pulled up in our tour-mobile, and Dave and I exited our comfortable seats to check out the fine-looking Miller-Kite place. We had arrived too late to visit the museum, but we explored the grounds.
We were chatting about Jackson’s affiliation with the house when I looked up to the second floor — and almost lost my gourd! There was Stonewall himself, his ghost, peering down at me!
I admit that goose bumps popped and my spine shivered. The spectral Stonewll stared at me, and when I moved a few feet left or right, his eyes followed my every move … apparently …
Perhaps he startled Dave Sulin, too; I think Peter knew that Jackson’s ghost routinely checks out Miller-Kite House visitors. After a moment I realized the “ghost” was a life-size Jackson, a cardboard cut out draped with light-colored night clothes. His bed only a mattress, Jackson had slept in an upstairs bedroom.
Had we disturbed his eternal rest? Had we wandered by when his ghost was returning to an old haunt?
I can’t say for sure, but from his light gray face to his light gray bedclothes, Jackson certainly looked dead.
We chuckled over my fright. I looked back as we drove away.
Stonewall still watched me.
Brian Swartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.