Story by Christina Hedding
Guests filled the Senior Citizen Center in the Village of Florida on Thurs., Oct. 27 for a night of history and spirited storytelling. Guest lecturer, Carolyn Ivanoff, spoke to the audience about the Battle of Gettysburg, its pivotal impact on the Civil War and the ghostly activity that surrounds the sight. The lecture was hosted by the Golden Floridians and the Seward/Mapes House Restoration committee as a fundraiser for the restoration project.
There was a strong community presence at the lecture. Many local residents came out on the chilly and foggy night to support the community and a project they believe in. Among the crowd was Pramilla Malik, candidate for the 42nd District State Senate seat; Charles La Rocca, a descent of the 124th Orange Blossoms of the Battle of Gettysburg and Florida native; and actor John Dever, who appeared in Lincoln and episodes of HBO’s “Legends and Lies.” Also in the crowd for the event was Village of Florida Mayor James Pawliczek.
“It is a great event to have and people really enjoy it. I hope we can continue to have these educational events throughout the year,” said Pawliczek.
Carolyn Ivanoff, who is an assistant principal in Connecticut, is a member of the Civil War Trust for over twenty years and travels around the county giving lectures of the Civil War. Ivanoff is committed to bringing historical and social studies outside the classroom to the community. She got the idea for the lecture, “The Ghosts of the Gettysburg Battlefield,” from her many visits to the Gettysburg battlefields and the stories her friends and visitors would tell her.
Ivanoff began her lecture by saying she felt it was her mission to inform people about the three-day battle. “It’s important to preserve the history we have,” said Ivanoff. “Gettysburg is the way it is today because of the restoration efforts of so many people.” As the lecture was meant to be a fundraiser for a part of Florida’s historical legacy, the introduction was fitting and captured the crowds’ ear.
She proceeded to talk about the battle as the greatest forced march in the Civil War as Confederate General Robert E. Lee searched for Union General George Gordon Meade’s troops in southern Pennsylvania. The battle, which consisted of some of the bloodiest fighting in the war, left thousands of soldiers and horses dead. According to Ivanoff, the ghost stories started the first night after the first day if fighting.
Stories of a mysterious figure on horseback wearing a tri-cornered hat passed through the camps and the soldiers spread rumors that George Washington’s ghost was circling the camp. It was believed to be a good omen in the minds of the soldiers.
As Ivanoff continued, she spoke about more recent sightings reported to her. Over the years, visitors to the battlefields of Gettysburg have reported various kinds of paranormal activity at the site. They report feeling intense chills on hot days, smelling sulfur or smoke and other sensory experiences. Ivanoff concluded by showing the captivated audience pictures people have sent her of mysterious sighting and glowing orbs captured on film. The orbs appear in several photographs taken on the triangular field at the battle sight. She claimed to have no explanation for the images in the photos and does not claim to know what caused them. But in knowing the history of the bloody battle and the many lives lost tragically and too soon, the stories are not hard to believe.