Biscuits and baseball, what do they have in common? A ghost story. Yes, haunted baseball fields may be something you’d expect to see in a movie with Kevin Costner, plowing under his corn to make room for a baseball field, bringing with it ghostly players. “If you build it, they will come”, that’s what the spirits told Ray Kinsella in the movie, Field of Dreams and Montgomery has a similar story, but one that is much more tragic.
The Montgomery Military Prison was established in the Spring of 1862, after the battle of Shiloh. It housed more than 700 Federal prisoners, most of which were captured in southeastern Tennessee. Reports from the prison were well kept and document the harsh conditions prisoners were forced to live in. Captives often went without water and were destitute and had very little rations. A sliver of spoiled meat and a small portion of cornbread was what they were given daily at best. Basic supplies were low and with the raging war progressing these dire circumstances were inevitable. Men perished from starvation and disease, most preventable with basic sanitation which was denied. 198 men died at the Montgomery Military Prison from April to December of 1862. A portion of Oakwood cemetery was designated for those Federal prisoners to be buried. Today, most of those Union POW graves have been moved to the National Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia but one or two still remain at Oakwood.
|The Civil War dead. Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress|
The Cotton warehouse used for the Montgomery Military Prison is now gone, it’s been replaced with a spectators sport that draws crowds by the hundreds every baseball season. The Montgomery Biscuits Stadium now stands where the once filthy, vermin ridden, prison stood and team spirit isn’t the only spirit found here. Since the biscuits stadium opened for business, ghost sightings have been common, leading some to believe that the spirits of the soldiers who died at the prison, now haunt the dirt diamond. One vagabond-like spirit appears as a homeless man, typically only asking the passerby for food or water, never for money or other resources. He’s described as being very dirty, his clothes tattered and warn. Often in the winter months, when baseball isn’t in full swing, people have seen him huddled near the fence with nothing but the clothes on his back for warmth. Those feeling sorry enough to approach the man, in an attempt to offer him a hand out, find that he will vanish before them.
|African slaves collecting the bones and dead of the American Civil War. Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress.|
Others say the spirits of the Biscuits Stadium are many, in the early morning hours, moans and screams come from within the stadium. Occasionally the sounds are reported to the local Police department but no evidence of a crime is ever found. Another skeletal, gangly and dark figure seeks out those headed to the concession stand during the 7th inning stretch. It’s followed a hand full of people around the stadium attending fan night. Essentially, the Biscuit’s stadium is part of Montgomery, the prison now a part of its past. It’s hard to understand why death has tied these spirits to what they suffered in life. Regardless, Montgomery built it and they came. Or did they ever leave?