The Child Ghost of Cold Harbor

Most Civil War battlefields are haunted by the restless souls of fallen soldiers. And of all the battles of the war, Cold Harbor ranks as one of the bloodiest. In less than thirty minutes, Grant lost over 7000 troops at the hands of Lee’s Army of Virginia, a loss that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

A Cold Harbor burial detail.

But of all the restless souls that wander this historic battlefield, both Union and Confederate, one ghost stands out from the rest. She is known as The Child Ghost of Cold Harbor.

Visitors to Cold Harbor, located in Mechanicsburg, Virginia, often remark of hearing phantom cannon fire, screams of wounded men, and calls from commanders still leading their men into a battle that occurred over 150 years ago. Some visitors even say they can smell smoke from the cannons and hear the distant hoof beats of charging cavalry.

And they also talk of seeing the ghost of a little girl in a white dress and bonnet wandering through meadows and graveyards that border the battlefield, or peering at them from the windows of the Garthright House, a historic home that sits on the edge of the Cold Harbor battlefield.

The Garthright House as it appears today.

The Garthright House was once used as a field hospital for wounded troops. It’s rumored that the little girl, thought to be the daughter of a local gravedigger, fell to her death from one of the windows as the battle raged around her in the surrounding fields.

Most visitors understand the presence of the souls of Civil War dead when they visit one of the battlefields. The Civil War was a violent, horrible conflict that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of men. But the Child Ghost of Cold Harbor reminds us that children often perished, sometimes in great numbers, during the four years of the war.

And sometimes the ghosts of these children stay behind, a sorrowful reminder of the terrible price of war.

2 thoughts on “The Child Ghost of Cold Harbor”

  1. I also was intrigued by the story of the little girl ghost. So with my spirit box (like a radio that scans stations real fast ) I decided to venture over to the Garthright house one afternoon and sit at the picnic table in the back yard.

    I asked questions and waited for responses. Nothing real solid or concrete. I took lots of pics and decided to walk around to the side of the house nearest the woods. I again asked if there was a little girl here with me. Immediately the clearest response , “Penny Free….” . I have played it over and over and I can’t make out the last name. I have done research on the family and even going back several generations. I even checked recent families that lived in the house and without much information to go on I could not find a “Penny” listed. I contacted a very well known civil war historian that knows the area well and he suggested the Virginia Historical Library in Richmond as the place to search genealogical records.

    I’ve been back a few more times and was unable to spend as much time and did not really get anything concrete. However I went over to the cemetery across the street and walked around the caretakers house and even asked if Penny was here with me. A second later I get a clear response in a girls voice “what is it?”

  2. I live in Mechanicsville and visit the Cold Harbor Battlefield frequently. I also go there when my family comes to visit because we are all interested hearing or seeing something paranormal.

    We were there a week ago and the weather was perfect. We hear the rumors that at around 1AM you can hear unexplained sounds from the battle. We did hear the sounds of horses hooves like they were crossing the street, also a strange fog rolled in at 1 AM

    We drove over to the Gainsmill Battlefield after sitting in the Cold Harbor Cemetery for about an hour. As soon as we parked at Gainsmill in the strange ground fog under the moonlight we saw this bright blue flash at the end of the path, no sound just a bright blue flash. We watched for another 15 min but no other strange things happened.

    The next time you visit Cold Harbor can we walk around together?

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