The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas: Day Eleven — The Hitchhiking Ghost

Advances in military technology during the Civil War led, naturally, to advances in medicine and surgery. Military units couldn’t travel with entire hospitals, so surgeons went to the battlefields, and set up field hospitals for the care of the wounded. The surgeons did the best they could for the men under their care, and these makeshift camps were better than nothing.

Deering J. Roberts, a Confederate surgeon, was charged with setting up a temporary hospital after the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. When he arrived with his hospital steward, he went to work finding suitable buildings to set up as hospitals. One such building was an old wagon shop, two stories high, with plenty of windows for good lighting. Roberts set his team to preparing this building and two others to house wounded soldiers.

The Battle of Franklin turned out to be one of the bloodiest engagements of the war. It lasted only five hours, but the Confederate assault was bigger than Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. The Confederates lost 1,750 men that day, and 3,800 were wounded.

Roberts was a talented, caring surgeon who did his best for the men entrusted to him. His policy was not to amputate a limb without the patient’s consent.

One soldier, wounded in the battle, adamantly refused amputation, even though the bones of his arm had been shattered by a Minie ball, and the wound was already badly infected. Roberts took pity on the terrified soldier, and accepted his decision not to amputate, although privately he described wounds left by Minie balls as “both remarkable and frightening.” Roberts later wrote in his journal that the soldier suffered not only from his grievously wounded arm, but also “nostalgia and despondency.” The man had but one wish: to walk home in time for Christmas.

Unfortunately, the soldier didn’t achieve his goal. He died at the hospital December 23, 1864.

Apparently, though, he hasn’t given up on getting home for Christmas. Travelers on the highway outside of Franklin have reported appearances of the hitchhiking ghost of a Confederate soldier. Maybe one of these years he’ll make it home.

We’re creeping up on Christmas … let’s go see what the Weird Darkness Weirdos are up to!

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