Gettysburg, Pa. -- We didn't see any ghosts. Not one. And we didn't hear any funny noises either. Nevertheless, we had a restless stay at the Farnsworth House Inn, a pre-Civil War home that is now a bed and breakfast.
My wife and I tossed and turned, occasionally pulling the covers over our heads, expecting some 19th-century spirit to pop in. After all, the Farnsworth House Inn, built in 1810 along one of the main roads through Gettysburg, is said to be haunted by Civil War soldiers and other ghosts.
We'd heard the stories. Tales of a woman named Mary who strolls the upstairs hallway dressed in dark clothing. Sudden cold drafts in the four rooms available to overnight guests. The melodic sounds of a jew's-harp drifting down from the garret, where Confederate sharpshooters secured a vantage point during the three-day battle in July 1863.
Neither lack of ghosts nor lack of sleep detracted from our visit to the Farnsworth House Inn, however. Its Victorian elegance and 19th-century antiques gave us a sense of stepping back into another era, when this small town found itself playing unwitting host to a bloody battle.
Mementos of the now-famous battle can still be found at the Farnsworth House Inn. The two-story brick house was hit almost 150 times by bullets during the three days of fighting. Most of the bullet holes are still visible. Some of the bullets dug out of the house are on display inside.
The inn is filled with all kinds of artifacts, many dug up from the battlefield. The stone cellar contains display cases of Civil War hand grenades, artillery shells, bullets and belt buckles bought from local collectors, says Loring Shultz, the inn owner who likes to share his collection with guests.
Commanding portraits of Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. George C. Meade, whose armies clashed on the farm fields and woods around Gettysburg, can be found in the period dining room. There, guests will find original letters written by Lee and Gen. George Pickett and photographs by Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, all part of Mr. Shultz's collection.
It's more than ghosts and artifacts that makes the Farnsworth House Inn a delight for Civil War buffs, though. Its dining room offers delectable Civil War-era fare, including peanut soup, pumpkin fritters, sweet potato pudding and spoon bread, a Southern dish made of white corn meal, eggs and milk. Meals are served in an intimate, candle-lit dining room, where wooden tables are set with pewter dishes and silverware, and servers are dressed in period costumes.
The house specialty is game pie, a savory combination of pheasant, turkey and duck served with wild rice and mushroom sauce under a thin crust. It's a recipe the Shultzes have culled from the past and changed only slightly. Pennsylvania Dutch relishes, such as sweetened watermelon rinds and corn relish, are served between courses. A walnut-apple pie, made in the inn's kitchen from another mid-19th-century recipe, is a winner for dessert.
In a recent profile of the Farnsworth House Inn, Bon Appetit magazine said, "History never tasted so good." Indeed.
Any visitor to the Farnsworth House would be remiss not to step into the tavern for a draft of Guinness stout. The tavern is a popular hangout for Civil War re-enactors and battlefield guides. You'll find them engaged in lively discussions about obscure military tactics, the legendary events on the battlefield, and Civil War personalities.
During battlefield-related events, such as Remembrance Day in November, don't be surprised to find costumed re-enactors -- both Union and Confederate -- sharing space at the bar. We were lucky enough to hear Union re-enactors sing a memorable rendition of "Maryland, My Maryland."
The tavern features a display of costumes and props used by actors in the movie "Gettysburg." Many of them hung out here during the filming, and some are known to return.
A few beers, though, weren't enough to dampen our apprehension about the possibility of ghostly visitors. We had heard too many stories, and we were subject to a few more while relaxing in the tavern.
Many a guest has come down to the dining room for breakfast complaining of unusual noises, pacing in the upstairs hallway, doors slamming through the night. Some guests have even felt someone sitting at the foot of their beds, says Patti O'Day, Mr. Shultz's daughter, who helps run the place and captivates audiences with ghost stories in the summer and fall.
"It's been kind of quiet here lately. There hasn't been too much going on," says Ms. O'Day, who likes to keep track of these things. "I would say, though, that the activity here in general is as strong as ever."
Gettysburg is as likely as any place to be haunted. Local author Mark Nesbitt, who has chronicled ghostly incidents in popular books, believes Gettysburg may be the most haunted place in America. Some 50,000 soldiers were killed or wounded at places like Devil's Den, Little Roundtop and the Wheat Field.