Ghosts of Hannahs Creek Swamp
Many of North Carolina's ghost stories have roots that are deeply embedded in the state's rich history. Since many of the battles of the civil war were fought right here, it's no wonder that some of the souls that were lost on the battlefields have never left. Such is the case of the ghosts of Hannah's Creek Swamp.
As the union soldiers continued their march through the state, heading south, they were allowed to plunder both homes and individuals, but were given strict orders to leave enough food and supplies for families to survive, and not to cause harm to unarmed civilians.
Most of the union soldiers followed their orders, but a group of rogue soldiers took it upon themselves to make up their own rules of war. Ignoring the strict instructions, this group pillaged and plundered homes and families, leaving a trail of murdered bodies and burning structures in their wake.
These men were led by none other than Colonel David Fanning of the Union army. Among the families that Fanning and his men terrorized was that of Confederate Colonel John Saunders, and his wife, at their home in Smithfield. He killed the man and his wife, not realizing that his actions would come back to haunt him- literally- for all eternity.
Colonel John Saunders had a son, Confederate Lieutenant John Saunders, who vowed revenge on the ones responsible for the death of his parents. Lieutenant Saunders and his men searched for weeks for the marauders with no luck. Finally, much to his surprise, he learned of a group of Union soldiers who were taking refuge at Hannah's Creek Swamp in Johnston County.
The residents of the town were all too happy to loan the Confederate soldiers civilian clothing, and dressed in their disguises, they rowed to the small island in the middle of the swamp where the men were reportedly hiding.
By the time the rogue soldiers realized that they had been tricked, it was too late; they were completely surrounded by Saunder's Confederate soldiers. Saunders ordered the Yankees searched, and even searched Fanning himself. When he found the small gold crucifix that had belonged to his mother, he knew exactly what he must do.
A gun was held to the back of Fanning's head, making him watch as his men were hung to their death from the trees on the island.
Saunders then marched Fanning back to his parent's home in Smithfield, where mercilessly hung Fanning in the family graveyard, right above his mother and father's grave.
A century and a half has passed since the end of the civil war, but the ghosts of Colonel Fanning's men seem to continue on. Visitors to Hannah's Creek Swamp have claimed to experience cold spots, and unexplained feelings of dread. Some have reported hearing mens voices, begging for their lives to be spared. Still others have reported hearing the creaking of the ropes as the bodies still swing from trees.
What really happened at the Island of Hannah's Creek? No one knows for sure. What is known though, is that the Union Soldiers of Colonel Fanning's army continue to call out in the darkness, pleading for mercy, begging for forgiveness for the crimes they committed during their lives.