Hauntings Part 4: Lincoln Ghost Train

Photo Credit: Haunted Hudson Valley
Photo Credit: Haunted Hudson Valley

As soon as I was old enough to have free rein in the library, I have gravitated to ghost stories. I used to give myself nightmares reading “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and later the short-lived “Tales from the Crypt” graphic novels. But always the stories that drew me in hard, the ones that still linger in my dreams to this very day were the ones involving ghostly vehicles. Ghost ships, ghost trains, ghost cars. And despite what I have come to understand about ghosts, such things still give me the heebie-jeebies. There are number of reported sightings of such things over the years. The Mary Celeste, the Porsche 550 Spyder James Dean died in, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Manfred von Richthofen’s signature red tri-plane, and my personal favorite, Black Sam’s ship, the Whydah. There are hundreds more of course, haunted carriages in Europe, haunted semi-trucks, and even a haunted space shuttle.

Part of the reason I think they’re cool is they defy explanation. I know, it sounds kooky in an article about ghosts, but ghosts are the remnants of what was once alive. Unless you’re going to tell me a story of some kind of wicked AI, most of these things weren’t. The closest I could come is that the people that owned them, loved them, or simply just inhabited them in a way that was unique or different, their spirits became synonymous with the vehicle in question. The other thing is that they always always seem to signify some kind of prophetic (frequently catastrophic) change.

The facts: After Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, his funeral train containing his body and the body of his son (who had died some years earlier) left Washington some 6 days after his death on a slow, criss-crossing journey across the eastern part of the country to arrive in his final resting place (Springfield, IL) almost two weeks later. It ranged from Philadelphia to New York City to Columbus and many points in between. In each town the train passed through, crowds would gather around the tracks to watch the progress of the United States’ 16th president reach his final destination.
On several stretches of this journey, many individuals have reported seeing a spectral old timey coal-burner train with an obsidian-draped funerary car chugging silently through a foggy night with naught but a long, lonely train whistle to portend it’s passing….

Yeah, I’m primarily a fiction writer so that got a bit dramatic, but here is the rub: If I had not seen this phenomenon with my own two eyes, I would not believe it or a moment. And it was pretty much EXACTLY how I described it above… freaked me out to no end. I stood my ground when my fellows ran, however, and watched as the train passed. Only when it was maybe fifteen feet away could I hear the faint strains of gaskets and valves extruding their pressures, and the deep chest-thumping chugging of it’s huge engine. It would have been exhilarating save for one simple thing: This sense of pure loneliness that followed in the train’s wake. I’ve never in my life felt so alone and I pray to our Robot Overlords that I never will again.


Hatfield – McCoy Family Feud

The Hatfields 1897 (Google images)
The Hatfields 1897 (Google images)

When thinking of great family feuds most would think of the Wars of the Roses but for Americans, The Hatfields and Mccoys feud is notorious. The Hatfields of West Virginia were led by William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield while the McCoys of Kentucky were under the leadership of Randolph “Ole Ran’l” McCoy. Those involved in the feud were descended from Ephraim Hatfield and William McCoy.

The majority of the Hatfields lived in Mingo County (then part of Logan County), West Virginia and fought for the Confederacy in the American Civil War; most McCoys, lived in Pike County, Kentucky, also fought for the Confederacy; with the exception of Asa Harmon McCoy, who fought for the Union (his own family was upset with his decision). According to his pension statement, was discharged from the army early because of a broken leg.

Tensions within the two families heated up when Harmon was murdered by a group of ex-Confederate Homeguards called the Logan Wildcats (local militia group with members from the Hatfield family including Devil Anse) as he returned home from war. Devil Anse was a suspect at first, but was later confirmed to have been sick at home at the time of the murder. It was widely believed that his uncle, Jim Vance, a member of the Wildcats, committed the murder. Vance warned Harmon he could expect a visit from the County Wildcats. Frightened by gunshots as he drew water from his well, Harmon hid in a nearby cave, supplied with food and necessities each day by his slave, Pete, but the Wildcats followed Pete’s tracks in the snow, discovered Harmon, and fatally shot him on January 7, 1865.

The second recorded instance of violence in the feud occurred thirteen years later, in 1878, after a dispute about the ownership of a hog: Floyd Hatfield, a cousin of Devil Anse’s, had the hog, but Randolph McCoy claimed it was his, saying that the “notches” on the pig’s ears were McCoy, not Hatfield, marks. The matter was taken to the local Justice of the Peace, Anderson “Preacher Anse” Hatfield, who ruled for the Hatfields by the testimony of Bill Staten, a relative of both families. In June 1880, Staten was killed by two McCoy brothers, Sam and Paris, later acquitted on the grounds of self-defense.

The feud escalated after Roseanna McCoy entered into a relationship with Devil Anse Hatfield’s son Johnson, known as “Johnse” (spelled “Jonce” in some sources), leaving her family to live with the Hatfields in West Virginia. Roseanna eventually returned to the McCoys, but when the couple tried to resume their relationship, Johnse Hatfield was arrested by the McCoys on outstanding Kentucky bootlegging warrants. He was freed from McCoy custody only when Roseanna made a desperate midnight ride to alert Devil Anse, who organized a rescue party. The Hatfield party surrounded the McCoys and took Johnse back to West Virginia before he could be transported the next day to the county seat in Pikeville, Kentucky. Despite what was seen as a betrayal of her family on his behalf, Johnse Hatfield thereafter abandoned the pregnant Roseanna for her cousin, Nancy McCoy, whom he wed in 1881. Roseanna and their baby girl sadly died. Its believed Roseanna died of a broken heart.

The feud continued in 1882 when Ellison Hatfield, brother of Devil Anse, was killed by three of Roseanna McCoy’s younger brothers: Tolbert, Pharmer, and Bud. During an election day in Kentucky, the three McCoy brothers fought a drunken Ellison and his other brother; Ellison was stabbed 26 times and finished off with a gunshot. The McCoy brothers were initially arrested by Hatfield constables and were taken to Pikeville for trial. Secretly, Devil Anse organized a large group of followers and intercepted the constables and their McCoy prisoners before they reached Pikeville. The brothers were taken by force to West Virginia, to await the fate of mortally wounded Ellison Hatfield and when Ellison died from his injuries, the McCoy brothers were killed by the Hatfields’ vigilante justice in turn: being tied to pawpaw bushes, where each was shot numerous times with a total of 50 shots fired. Their bodies were described as “bullet-riddled”.

About twenty men, including Devil Anse, were indicted. All of the Hatfields escaped arrest and this greatly angered the McCoy family, who took their cause up with Perry Cline (married to Martha McCoy). Historians believe that Cline used his political connections to reinstate the charges and announced rewards for the Hatfields’ arrest as an act of revenge. A few years prior, Cline lost a lawsuit against Devil Anse over the deed to thousands of acres of land, subsequently increasing the hatred between the two families.

Hatfield–McCoy feud site along the Tug Forktributary (right) in the Big Sandy River watershed (Google images)
Hatfield–McCoy feud site along the Tug Forktributary (right) in the Big Sandy River watershed (Google images)

The feud reached a boiling point when what is now known as the 1888 New Year’s Night Massacre occured. Several members of the Hatfield clan surrounded the McCoy cabin and opened fire on the sleeping family. The cabin was set on fire in an effort to drive Randolph McCoy into the open. He escaped by making a break for it but two of his children were shot, and his wife was beaten and left for dead. The remaining McCoys moved to Pikeville to escape the West Virginia raiding parties.

Between 1880 and 1891, the feud claimed more than a dozen members of the two families. The Governor of West Virginia once threatened to have his militia invade Kentucky. In response, Kentucky Governor S. B. Buckner sent his Adjutant General Sam Hill to Pike County to investigate the situation. Nearly a dozen people died and at least 10 people were wounded.

Jim Vance was eventually hunted down by “Bad” Frank Phillips, who was an enterprising lawyer and gun for hire. He had bad blood with the Hatfields and convinced the Kentucky Govenor to increase the focus on the feud. Kentucky Governer Buckner offered rewards on the capture of the Hatfield gang. He also named Frank as his special deputy to track down and capture or kill the Hatfield’s. Nancy McCoy would later divorce Johnse Hatfield to marry Phillips.

In 1888, Wall Hatfield and eight others were arrested by a posse led by Phillips and brought to Kentucky to stand trial for the murder of Alifair McCoy, killed during the New Year’s Massacre. She had been shot after exiting the burning house. The United States Supreme Court became involved and ruled 7–2 in favor of Kentucky, holding that, even if a fugitive is returned from the asylum state illegally, instead of through lawful extradition procedure, no federal law prevents him from being tried. Eventually, the men were tried in Kentucky and all were found guilty. Seven received life imprisonment, while the eighth, Ellison “Cottontop” Mounts, was executed by hanging. Mounts was mentally challenged, and many viewed him as a scapegoat even though he had confessed his guilt. Although public executions were against the law in Kentucky, thousands of spectators gathered to witness the hanging of Ellison Mounts on February 18, 1890. Reports claim that his last words were: “They made me do it! The Hatfields made me do it!” Valentine “Uncle Wall” Hatfield, elder brother of Devil Anse, was one of the eight convicted and eventually died in prison of unknown causes. He petitioned his brothers to assist in his emancipation from jail but none came for fear of being captured.

Fighting between the families eased following the hanging of Mounts. Randolph McCoy became a ferry operator and in 1914 he died at the age of 88 from burns suffered after catching fire over a cook stove/fire. He is buried in the Dils Cemetery in Pikeville, next to his wife Sarah. It’s believed he continued to be haunted by the deaths of his children. Devil Anse became “born again” later in life when he was baptized for the first time at age 73 and in 1921 died at the age of 81 of pneumonia.

Today, the Hatfields and McCoys still live in the same area but now live peacefully together.


Battle of Maidstone

Maidstone, East Farleigh Bridge
Maidstone, East Farleigh Bridge

Towards the end of May, 1648, with Charles I imprisoned in Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, with the threat of invasion from the Scottish Engagers coming South, and Cromwell having to quash an uprising in Wales, the New Model Army was divided in two. Many accompanied Cromwell to take care of Wales, and the remainder under command of Sir Thomas Fairfax were to march North to head off the Scottish attack.

Plans changed abruptly when small pockets of Royalist supporters rose in support of the King, fearing the New Model Army and demanding their removal, with the reinstatement of Charles. This rebellion was assisted and gained momentum and support when ships crews under Cromwell, moored off Dover split and declared for the King. Bolstered by local support around Kent, they quickly took major towns, including Gravesend and Rochester, and Dover Castle.
Fairfax changed his plans, and on hearing the rebels were congregating near Maidstone under the Earl of Norwich, ready to march on London, abandoned the defence from the Engagers, and set off on May 27th with 8000 of his Parliamentarian veterans to stop the Royalist uprising, leaving remaining forces under Major Skippon to go to London, and barricade themselves inside the city walls to defend the Capital, and Colonel Barnstead moving to defend Southwark to the South.

Norwich, with his untrained band of “Cavaliers, citizens, seamen and watermen” reached the outskirts of Maidstone on the 29th, and around 3000 set about barricading themselves around the town, whilst the Earl divided his remaining 7000 men into key areas outside of the town. Fairfax reached the outskirts of Maidstone at around four o clock in the afternoon on 1st June, but instead of marching straight into the town, he circled his man around the perimeter, away from the rebel stronghold, and after crossing the Medway unchallenged, laid plans, which in the end never came to be used, to attack the next day. That evening in a thunderstorm and torrential downpour, an advance guard came under attack from the rebel forces, and Fairfax chose to retaliate by driving straight through the middle, head-on into the main town centre.

Maidstone Memorial
Maidstone Memorial

Despite initial surprise resistance from the considerably weaker Royalist supporters, Fairfax and his men soon had them on the defensive, taking first one barricade and then another, pushing the small hotch-potch army ever backwards, until they were backed up into the Churchyard of St Faith’s Chapel. Around 300 Royalist supporters met their end in this final defence. After securing their victory a little after midnight, Fairfax, with the loss of only 80 men was taken by surprise when the Chapel doors opened and around 1000 Royalists emerged to offer their surrender. Fairfax allowed these men to return to their homes, in exchange for no further participation in rebel activity.

Norwich meanwhile escaped with around 3000 of his force to attempt London before Fairfax could send word. The rest of his army dissipated quickly and quietly, no doubt aware of their good fortune in being spared death or imprisonment, however as the reduced force neared Blackheath, it became obvious that the gates of the city were closed to them and Major Skippon with a force to defend their attack, most of the remaining rebels fled, and left Norfolk with a small group of around 500 die-hard supporters who re-routed to Chelmsford.


The Confederacy and the road to war

Various flags of the confederacy during the Civil War.
Various flags of the confederacy during the Civil War.

With all the high-profile news stories we have seen recently regarding the South Carolina shootings and the ensuing commotion over flags associated with the Confederacy I thought it was about time we did a post regarding the history and causes of the Civil War. But before I begin I want to make it absolutely clear, that not only am I completely against racism in any shape or form (and this goes for all the Naked History team) but that as a Historian, the contents of this post are unbiased and objective. We condemn racial violence in all its forms, and any discussion regarding this post MUST remain tolerant of all regardless of skin colour, culture or beliefs.

The basis of the Civil War in America, has been argued to be found within the constitution itself. Written by the Founding Fathers of the United States, one of the most important passages concerned the right to overturn any government which consistently abuses and usurps the governed and was contained within the Declaration of Independence.

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.’

When Independence was declared from Britain in 1776, the Continental Congress allowed for the protection of the rights of the population to be protected from unfair powers, taxes and so forth being imposed on them, without the lawful right to terminate that power. This right was subsequently incorporated into the Bill of Rights and further the Constitution. However when the Constitution was agreed and ratified it left out any mention or formal Bill of Rights, concluding that this would be assumed at State level. A bill was later added as a series of ten amendments by James Madison who although agreeing its omission in the first instance, came to see it as a necessity later on.
The problem started with issues arising from these various decrees of the fledgling nation. The main problems being those who contested the constitution discreetly allowed the right to hold slaves, as they were considered ‘property’ and the fact that Jefferson et al had transferred the ‘inalienable right’ to life and liberty, which meant ALL men. Pro-slavery advocates insisted that this meant all WHITE men, further that all men are created equal, also excluded black men. Jefferson, Washington and Franklin all owned slaves. It has been shown that a total of twelve US Presidents owned slaves, eight whilst in office.

As the North of America expanded with a substantial increase in population, particularly Europeans, and a rapid growth in industrialisation, the Social Class system inherited from the immigrant forefathers who settled the first colonies declined rapidly in conjunction. Gone were the days of the elite minority holding sway over a large working class majority. Now it was within the boundaries of possibility for a hard-working lower class man to invest and progress upwards to become a successful and fairly wealthy man. And this was proven time and again. The opportunities were available, and were taken. The Southern states however were still very much an agrarian region, heavy on the plantations and farmsteads of old. Cotton and Tobacco were still the staples of the states, and land was still owned by a few high-class elite and worked by a large population of slaves. It has been stated though, that the notion of all southern white men owned lots of black slaves, is a misconception.

Around 25% of the Southern families owned one or more slaves. The majority of these slave owners worked alongside of their slaves in the fields, and the largest part of them were treated moderately if not extremely well, when other comparisons were added for context. As the South were known to be deeply Christian for the most part, although slavery was claimed as accepted within the bible, many felt this did not mean they had to treat them badly. The moral responsibility of owning a slave, and the financial investment that went with buying and housing slaves, providing for their well-being and so forth, meant it was within the boundaries of common sense to ensure your slaves were well looked after. Of course, there were many that couldn’t grasp this concept and as a result subjected their slaves to harsh inhumane treatment. Probably as many in the North as in the South. We rarely hear the tales of well-kept slaves, illiteracy and various other factors no doubt play a great part in that. And from a modern apologist viewpoint, lets face it, tragedy and hardship “sells” better than “well actually, i was pretty well looked after, thanks very much.”

As further territories joined the Union, the push particularly from the South came to allow these states to become slave-states. A bill had been passed to restrict movement, import and sale of slaves at the turn of the century. The South’s issue was a congressional one. Due to their lack of voting population in comparison with the Northern States, the three-fifths compromise had been instituted which gave the Southern states a portion whereby each slave owned was representative of three fifths of a man/vote and therefore the tally gave them an extra three fifths representation in Congressional seats, which gave them an edge in elections. On the downside, it was argued that this three fifths should also be factored in when assessing the South for taxes and tariffs meaning they paid considerably more than their Northern counterparts. As they were a poorer region, their main staples being export goods, both to Britain and to the North, the increase in tariffs meant it was cheaper for their buying market, to purchase both the finished goods and the raw materials, elsewhere, causing a further loss of revenue. Congress would not allow all new territories to become slave-states, which impeded the movement of the established Southern population into these new areas.

One of the several individual flags of the confederacy, this one representing Mississippi displaying the now controversial "battle flag" in the corner.
One of the several individual flags of the confederacy, this one representing Mississippi displaying the now controversial “battle flag” in the corner.

Eventually as things grew harder, the Southern states began to talk of secession from the Union, their argument being that their right upon independence was to form a Union based on individual sovereign states, and the formation of a federal government was based on their right to opt in or opt out. As they had effectively opted out the last time a centralised government had removed their rights, they were able to use the same rules to do so again. As Lincoln was elected President, South Carolina, followed by six other slave states, withdrew themselves from the Union, and began to install their own alternative Confederation. Within a short space of time four further states joined the new Confederacy and two further states, declaring neutrality, were considered to be included within the parameters, Missouri and Kentucky.

Lincoln and Congress promptly declared the new confederation to be rebels and their government illegal. The Confederates argued that under the terms of the Constitution they were within their rights to form their own country. A blockade was then self-imposed by the breakaway states, where exports of their materials were restricted, in the hopes that the trading nations would be forced to accept their legitimacy. It backfired. England had stockpiled enough raw materials to keep themselves supplied for the foreseeable future, The Northern states bought it in from elsewhere, in particular, Southern states that remained within the union.

Now…. About that flag! The confederation produced their own seal, and designed their own flag. It was a circle of seven stars on a background of blue, cornered on a larger flag with three bars, of red and white. As time progressed, with the accompaniment of four further states into the confederacy and the two assumed, the number of stars within the circle increased to thirteen. Although the Confederate flag was unpopular with some, claims of being reminiscent of the stars and stripes of the Union, the stars and bars remained the flag of the confederation until 1863. A later design contained the familiar ‘Battle Flag of the Confederate Army’ that people recognise MISTAKENLY for the flag of the confederacy, sitting in a corner of a sea of White. This flag was designed by early white supremacist William Thompson, and was rejected as it was too white and looked like a flag of surrender. A red bar was later added to the far right of the flag, and this design was accepted in the later stages of the war, but lasted only a few months until the defeat and surrender of the Confederacy.

To this day, the flag of the Confederacy was, is and remains, the circle of stars on blue, placed on red and white bars. There were 250,000 free black men living in the confederate southern states during the civil war, many of which assisted and supported the Confederate movement in various ways – for example there were at least FIVE units of militia in the South made entirely of black soldiers. Many were unable to fight in combatant roles, and so took none combatant roles instead, and it has been offered in debate that these men were somehow coerced or forced to fight alongside their owners. This is entirely without foundation. They were FREE men, who wanted to protect their homes and families from the Union forces about whom they had heard terrible tales; Rape of wives, murder of their children, burning of their homes and so on.

The second version of the Stars and Bars showing the updated 13 stars representing the secession states of the Confederacy.The original had seven stars.
The second version of the Stars and Bars showing the updated 13 stars representing the secession states of the Confederacy.The original had seven stars.

It needs to be said, that the Confederacy itself started to break down quite quickly, as internal differences grew between its member states who disagreed on fundamental issues and the financial hardships and the emotional cost of the war began to take their toll. There was talk of further secession amongst the Confederate states. Some areas making moves to rejoin the Union, as early as 1863. We must also remember that several southern areas were Union sympathisers, and several Northern areas were Confederate sympathisers. It was not as clear cut and straightforward as north versus south. Fractures within states, Virginia for example occurred. To take this monumental event that affected an entire country and had repercussions on the fundamental laws and rights of the nation, and turn it into a simple issue of “to have slaves or not” is to grossly misrepresent an entire population, the difficult choices they had to make, and the outcome of those choices.

As with the Swastika of the Nazi party, previously a symbol of peace, and an emblem of the Boy Scout movement, more recently the attempted misappropriation of the Poppy, Symbol of remembrance of the fallen of the Great War and subsequent conflicts for 20th and 21st Century Allied military forces, which British Nationalist parties have attempted to claim as a symbol of their dedication to promoting National Pride to the exclusion of anybody who doesn’t fit that model, the battle flag of the Confederate Army has been mistakenly claimed as a symbol of something it didn’t represent, and furthermore shouldn’t. It is one symbol of a piece of American History that shaped the Nation it has become, a nation that continues to grow and learn. That war was about the rights of the Nation and the rights of the People. Not a flag.