Have you ever heard of Georgia’s own Loch Ness Monster legend? “Ol’ Green Eyes,” a mythical creature that, according to numerous ghost hunters and tourists through the years, haunts the Chickamauga Battlefield. Ol’ Green Eyes isn’t the only apparition roaming the grounds of Chickamauga, but he certainly is the most famous.
On September 20th 1863, after the Battle of Chickamauga, the sun had set and fog rolled over the hills, something stepped out of the woods on Snodgrass Hill. It was seen by soldiers lying wounded in the field, and by ladies searching for the bodies of their slaughtered kin. Even in though they were surrounded by the horror of a battlefield, witnesses were deeply scared by the unknown being. As it prowled among the sea of human corpses, the beast inspired terror. Not even the locals – farmers and mountain folk, who knew the usual wildlife – recognized this creature.
It became known as “Ol’ Green Eyes”. Labelled as a ghost, it’s occasionally still seen almost 200 years later.
Who or what is Ol’ Green Eyes? There are two legends concerning this. One is that a Confederate soldier’s head was severed from his body, after his body was shattered into pieces by a cannon ball. All that was buried was his head and, according to legend, on misty nights he roams the battlefield, moaning and searching for his body.
The second legend is that the Green Eyes spirit existed long before the Civil War when the Native Americans inhabited the land that would later become the battlefield of Chickamauga. It is also possible that Green Eyes dates back to the ancient times of the mound builders and guards the sacred worship mounds.
Edward Tinney, former historian and chief ranger at Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park. Tinney, who worked at the park from 1969 to 1986, said ghostly sightings at the Chickamauga Battlefield or any Civil War site are not uncommon. He claims to have seen Old Green Eyes on several occasions. He said one foggy night while walking along one of the park’s many trails. He saw a human-like shape but he knew it wasn’t human. He described the hair on the “thing” as long, like a woman’s hair, with eyes almost greenish-orange in color. The teeth were long and pointed like fangs. It was wearing a cape which appeared to flap in the wind, even though there was no wind that night! The next thing Tinney knew, it just vanished right in front of him.
Ol’ Green Eyes, in its various forms, is not the only phantom people claim to see in the park. There is also a ghost believed to haunt Snodgrass Hill, which saw some of the fiercest fighting and is home to the Snodgrass family cabin, which served as a field hospital to both Union and Confederate soldiers during the battle.
This ghost, is a lady in a white wedding dress, known as the “Lady in White”. She is searching for her husband, who died during the battle. The lady tends to roam in and out of the graves, traveling the fields before slipping into the woods. Visitors report seeing the lady at all hours of the day and night.
David Lester, Civil War enthusiast and re-enactor, tells of the time when he and some of his fellow re-enactors were camping out at the battlefield as part of “Living History Days,” an event similar to ours here at the Tunnel.
Lester and his comrades wandered to a neighboring camp to say hello to their fellow soldiers. The men talked with the neighboring campers for several hours before returning to their own camp to sleep for the night.
When day broke, the men went back to the camp to wish them a good morning and see how they were getting along, but they were gone. There was no sign of their campfire from the night before, not one trace of any human occupation at the site — only undisturbed land.
Throughout the years, many seemingly paranormal signs have spooked park visitors. For example, some visitors report seeing strange, flickering lights off in the distance. Locals say that these lights are the ghostly lights of lanterns carried by the wives and lovers searching for their dead and wounded husbands. Other stories of hauntings on the battlefield include visitors’ hearing gunshots, hoof beats, or smelling the strong scent of alcohol.
The National Park Service has no official opinion about the legend of Ol’ Green Eyes or any of the other ghostly tales that float from the confines of the park. So, is this a legend, a creature or a ghost? If you ever find yourself close to the Chickamauga Battlefield, and feeling brave, take a long slow ride through the battlefield after dark and peer into the woods for a pair of green eyes. If you see them, let us know!