Wesley Culp-Down On The Farm
The story of Wesley Culp is well known and documented in the annals of Gettysburg history. As a boy and young man, he grew up playing around town with his two close friends, Jennie Wade and Jack Skelley. Prior to the Civil War he moved to Virginia with the company that employed him as a carriage maker. Having made new friends and joining the local militia, it was only natural that he cast his lot with the Confederate Army when the war began. He served bravely in the famous Stonewall Brigade.
Just prior to the battle of Gettysburg, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia won a victory in Winchester, Virginia. After the battle, Wesley spotted a group of captured Union soldiers. Among these soldiers was a group of boys from Gettysburg. This is where he found his good friend and boyhood companion Jack Skelley seriously wounded. While visiting his friend the next day, he promised to deliver two personal messages (whenever he returned to Gettysburg): One to Jennie Wade, the other to Jack’s parents. Neither message was written down; they would be delivered in person.
Wes returned to Gettysburg with the army and attempted to deliver the messages on the evening of July 2nd. It was not to be. Jennie Wade was at her sister’s home South of town between enemy lines. Jack’s parents were hiding in a neighbor’s cellar and could not be found!
The next morning, Wesley Culp was dead, shot while fighting on his uncle’s farm on Culp’s Hill. Jennie Wade was to meet her maker within the hour, killed by a stray confederate bullet while making biscuits at her sister’s house. Jack died of his wounds just nine days later in Winchester, Virginia.
I first became aware of this ghost story in 1990 while doing research for a book about the monuments at Gettysburg. I was along East Confederate Avenue photographing monuments when a troop of Boy Scouts came hurrying down the road; they stopped to rest not far from where I was parked near Spangler’s meadow. As I approached my vehicle, the leader hurried over to me and asked if I had seen a lone confederate going through the area? At first I thought he was talking about a reenactor and said “no not lately.” He began to get all excited as he told me that as his group hiked down the road near the Culp farm, they were approaching a man in a confederate uniform staring toward Culp’s Hill. He seemed normal at first but as they got about 200 feet away, they realized that something was not right. As the figure turned to look in their direction, he seemed to move in slow motion; very “unreal” is how the scoutmaster described it. A moment later he turned again toward the Culp farm and as he did, he disappeared. They were certain that they had just been given a rare opportunity to look into the “other side” and were now hurrying back to their cars to make a hasty getaway back to camp.
(To be continued…)