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Monday, March 14, 2011

Camp Chase Cemetery and the Gray Lady

Camp Chase Cemetery, Columbus Ohio

Another bleary day in March and I find myself staring out my office window wondering about odd things as I typically do. Go figure.

My thoughts drift to some of my favorite cemeteries that I love to walk through. This leaves me wishing for warmer weather of course! As I look through some Ohio cemetery photographs, I wonder about some of the entities that are said to haunt these locations. There are many stories of ladies in white, women in black and gray ladies as well that dot the very fabric of ghostly strorytelling. Some border on fact, not fiction as everyday people have caught glimpses of these specter like visions as they walk the silent cities of the dead.

The Lady in Gray has been seen on many occasions. She walks the stoic rows of stones at one of Ohio's two Confederate soldier cemeteries, Camp Chase. Camp Chase was a prison during the America Civil War and was home to thousands of Confederate soldiers, and even some civilian prisoners of war. The cemetery is located at 2900 Sullivant Avenue, on Columbus's west side. The Gray Lady we are referring to is  Louisiana Rainsburgh Briggs. At least that is what some people say her name is. She never interacts with other visitors and tends to disappear before your very eyes. She weeps quietly over the grave of one Benjamin F. Allen, a private in the 50th Tennessee Regiment, Company D. 
 His date of birth was Jan. 30, 1842.

                       His date of death was on Sep. 15, 1864.

   Today people see fresh flowers placed on the grave of Benjamin Allen on a regular basis. Also, there are several stories about people hearing sobbing or crying while visiting Camp Chase.  Once during a Civil War memorial, many participants heard the crying, followed by a huge gust of wind that blew over tables and tents. Many believe it was The Lady In Gray.


Some claim to see shadowy figures that walk among the graves....

In May of 1861 a Union military training ground was established here under the name Camp Jackson. Two months later in July, the first prisoners were admitted. The name had been changed to honor President Lincoln's Secretary of State (and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), Hamilton County native Salmon P. Chase.

The prison population grew rapidly. Small Pox epidemics, dysentery and poor sanitary conditions claimed thousands of men.
 By 1863 there were 8,000 men incarcerated behind the high, staked walls of the Camp.

Why would a cemetery be haunted??
Overcrowding forced two to three men to share single occupancy bunks, and led to severe shortages in food and medicine and general health care. Clothing and blankets were scarce. The men were malnourished and low in morale making them susceptible to disease. In the February of 1863 alone, 499 men died from smallpox. My own 3 great grandfather is said to have been one of these men who perished. No grave exists for him at the cemetery. Many people believe that there are unmarked braves that exist at this cemetery. I believe that as well. And I am speaking from personal experience as I have used dowsing rods to locate unmarked graves on several occasions at this site. I have also come across newspaper articles stating that local medical schools would visit the cemetery and remove bodies so that they could be studied...and they did this at night and before laws were enacted protecting the dead.

When you walk the lines of gray stone markers, take a moment to read the names and dates as you stroll past. Each one has a story, each one had a family, a life, goals and dreams. All were cut down early and probably by disease, starvation or wounds received in battle. If you are quiet...and a bit observant, you may also see a melancholy figure in gray bending over gracefully to place a flower at a grave.

If you visit
Private Allen's grave is number 233 out of 2,260.
All Confederate soldiers or southern in their sympathies.

Camp Chase is open daily from 8AM-5PM
Do not visit after dark!