This is a true experience I had recently while sitting in a tree stand while hunting deer.
Before I relate my experience, let me take you back 150 plus years. The country was split much like what is happening in the United States this fall. People believe in a cause or happening and are willing to fight for what they believe is just and right. Back then, states chose sides and before long brother fought brother, sons fought fathers and no one came out a winner. Skirmishes, engagements and battles were fought on many fronts across the eastern states. Virginia was ‘host’ to many of these. Today, the small community of Overall consists of homes and farms. One hundred fifty plus years ago Overall, then called Milford, was a thriving town known for its commerce as it was located on the Shenandoah River as well as the railroad and was located about half way between Luray to its south and Front Royal to the north, both growing and prospering communities located in the Page Valley, part of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.
Milford was also a strategic location for engagements between the Federal and Confederate troops. It was located at the narrowest point of land between the Massanutten Mountains to the west and the Blue Ridge Mountains to its east, both big hindrances to troop movements. From 1862 through 1864 thousands of troops moved through Milford to engagements being fought up and down the Shenandoah Valley. To put a stop to Federal troop movement, the Confederacy established a battle line (front) between the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah river. They didn’t continue the line to the Massanutten as the river was a force in itself and was almost impossible to cross. Camp Skymont, a Federal encampment, was located on the eastern bank of the river between the river and the railroad tracks just north of the town. Most of the action that Milford saw was in both 1862 and 1864. Calvary skirmishes as well as unmounted conflicts accounted for troops, as well as their mounts being killed, wounded, drown or captured. Some Federal troops did move across the Massanutten trying to circumvent the blockade, only to be stopped by the river. I have not found any mention of battles being fought on our side of the river but have been told by a neighbor that he knows the location of a grave of a Federal trooper who perhaps drown trying to escape the harassment of Confederate troops. I found no mention of the total deaths from engagements fought in and around Milford, but found mention of 2 killed in this skirmish, 4 killed in that engagement, etc. These deaths evidently didn’t amount to any great number, but were deaths none the less.
The battle line, as well as Camp Skymont, was located just across the river from where we live. My tree stand is located just across the river, probably a couple hundred yards, from the location of the camp and battlefront. Keep the above in mind as you read about my experience.
Before I begin, a couple of days before the incident I’m going to tell you about, I had this picture on my trail camera. The camera is facing south. I want to direct your attention to the bottom left hand corner of this photo where an apparition seems to appear behind a tree.
I try to get into my tree stand or blind around 3:30 in the afternoons I’m hunting. This day was no exception. My camera on this trail is almost directly below my stand. I clipped my crossbow onto the rope I use to raise and lower it and climbed the steps to the platform. I raised my crossbow and nocked a bolt and settled back. As I was sitting 18 feet in the air, looking down at where the apparition appeared, I was still trying to figure out what we were seeing on the photo. Then I remembered an episode that happened shortly after we moved in to our home. One of us, I won’t say who, was looking out our bedroom window one evening as we were getting ready for bed. What appeared to be a swinging lantern was moving from left to right between the house and the tree line 5 yards away. Nothing was said as it wasn’t known for sure if this was actually happening. Sometime later this was brought to the attention of the other one of us who jokingly said it was probably the ghost of some civil war sentry walking guard duty. The ‘seer’ disagreed and said it was probably lightning bugs. Nothing else was said on this subject since then. Like the apparition, we have no explanation for this episode either.
As I sat there, watching the trail intently, I closed the top button of my hunting jacket as the sun would soon be setting behind the Massanutten and the temperature would soon be dropping. All of a sudden I felt a tap, tap-tap, tap on my left shoulder. Knowing that there was no one else in the tree with me, as it is a one-man stand, I discounted the tapping and thought it was my imagination. A few minutes went by and once again on my left shoulder I felt a tap, tap-tap, tap. My thoughts once again turned to the swinging lantern and apparition but again I dismissed the tapping as I don’t put much stock in the super natural. After the third episode of tapping, sitting very still, I slowly turned my head looking to the right, not the left where the tapping was coming from. My mama didn’t raise no dummy. So many times someone taps you on one shoulder and they’re standing on the other side of you. Guess what. No one was there. I did check for deer that may be coming from that direction while my head was turned, but the trail was clear.
By this time, sunset was about to happen and legal shooting hours would end 30 minutes after that. I was thinking about getting out of my stand as the last cup of coffee before leaving the house was starting to take effect and the night breeze was picking up. Then, all of a sudden, the tap, tap-tap, tap on my left shoulder happened a fourth time. Throwing caution to the wind, I inched my head to the left. There, sitting on my shoulder was a tiny woodpecker pecking at a branch on my camo jacket. It looked up about the same time and our eyes met. Its eyes grew to the size of dimes as it stood there wondering what the heck was sitting in its tree looking back at it. I could only imagine how big my eyes must have been. I thought for sure some Confederate sentry was in that tree with me. As the little woodpecker shot off my shoulder, I decided then and there it was time to climb down and head to the house before darkness set in.
You see and hear many strange sights and sounds in the woods while hunting, but I’ll remember this experience for a long time.
Keep your fork