by Simon Cordwainer

(Posted here by permission of the author.
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Since January of this year approximately 43 new Civil War-related books have been released, and while some offer new insights on familiar battles, leaders and units, most have unfortunately consisted of a rehashing of well-worn topics.

It was refreshing, therefore, when I discovered a new book that tackles a subject hitherto ignored by historians. The book is entitled "The Civil War of the Worlds: First-Hand Accounts of UFOs and Other Mysterious Phenomena During America’s Civil War", by Edgar Riley. I must admit that, until I read this book, I was totally unaware of the apparent wealth of written and photographic evidence of unidentified flying objects, sea creatures, and other strange beings from the 1860’s. After I finished reading this book, I was not so amazed by the sightings themselves as I was in Mr. Riley’s ability to amass such a collection of evidence. If there were a Pulitzer Prize for research, Mr. Riley would win, hands down.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the wealth of photographs and illustrations Riley includes in the book. It is one thing to read about a weird experience and quite another to see photographic proof, and this book will more than satisfy those who must see something before they’ll believe it. Among the forty-eight photographs in this book is this picture, taken in Charleston, South Carolina in early 1865. Although Charleston’s devastation was caused by Northern artillery and not by alien spacecraft, the appearance of these four objects over the war-ravaged city is almost reminiscent of the film "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers".

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The diary of Captain Marcus Twining, a member of General Hooker’s staff, includes an account of "a metallic object that hovered over the (Rappahannock) riverbank for almost ten minutes" in March of 1863. Members of the 10th New Jersey Cavalry stopped to watch it as it floated over a Union pontoon bridge. Photographer Joshua Rice managed to capture the incident on film, just moments before the object disappeared over the hill, flying at a tremendous speed.

(Click for full sized image)


Nathan B. Maddington, an artist for Leslie’s Illustrated, was present at the Battle of Gettysburg. He remained in the town after the battle to sketch various battlefield scenes for Leslie’s. In 1994, Maddington’s great-great-niece Marcie Maddington Pence discovered a Maddington sketchbook in a trunk she retrieved from her aunt’s attic. Among the various sketches was this one, a scene of Confederate dead in The Wheatfield, which includes what appears to be crop circles in middle of the field. This drawing may actually be the first visual evidence of crop circles in history. In addition, this sketch may explain a stanza in soldier/writer Lucius Dodd’s poem, "Mark the Gravesites, Boys" that has puzzled historians for years:

Amongst the circles of The Wheatfield

Yankee boys did fall;

Ground lines point to Rebel batt’ries,

A hail of buck and ball.


Riley’s book also includes sightings of unusual creatures, such as the two Tennessee infantrymen who had an encounter with Bigfoot on the eve of the battle of Chickamauga. Privates Ott Morton and Billy Chandler were on picket duty when they heard "a shreek the likes a I nevver heerd before or evver agin", according to Morton. They approached the edge of the woods to investigate and literally ran into a ten-foot-tall hairy creature. "It had eyes like hot coals," stated Chandler, "and breth like a smell of rotten meet." They ran back to camp, screaming. Their sergeant didn’t believe them at first, until they took him to the woods’ edge the next morning. There, imbedded in the wet ground, were footprints 22 inches long.

A highlight of Riley’s book is an incredible photograph - possibly the only one in existence, but certainly the oldest - of the Chesapeake Bay sea creature known as "Chessie". The photo was taken at City Point, Virginia in 1864. On the left-hand side of the photo, the head and neck of Chessie can clearly be seen as she (or he!) swims past the Union ships delivering supplies for the Federal army. Look closely and you can even see the body of the creature just below the surface of the water. The picture has been examined by photographic experts and has been declared genuine.

If you have an interest in Civil War history, or if you are merely a fan of the strange and paranormal phenomena, you will thoroughly enjoy "The Civil War of the Worlds: First-Hand Accounts of UFOs and Other Mysterious Phenomena During America’s Civil War". Riley plans on releasing a second volume near the end of this year, and I will anxiously be awaiting its release.