DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR 1960 to 1961, Stephen Poleskie taught art at the public high school in Gettysburg, PA. He endured this torture solely to avoid being drafted into the army. He had no teaching credentials, and had not majored in art. In fact he had only taken two art courses, in which his performance had not been exemplary. He got his job purely on his portfolio, and was issued a temporary teaching certificate, with the proviso he would pick up the required education credits by taking night classes during the year.
When he went over to Gettysburg College to inquire about courses, Poleskie ended up being hired to teach an evening painting class, so never had time for the education courses he needed. At the end of the term the high school principal asked him: "Just what do you plan to do next year?" Poleskie then realized that he had been fired. The sound of school buses still makes him nervous.
While in Gettysburg, Poleskie rented a house on the corner of Culp's Hill and Baltimore Pike. This house had stood during the Battle of Gettysburg, and purportedly served as a makeshift hospital for wounded soldiers. The structure has since been bought by the National Park Service and preserved.
Poleskie had been told that the house was haunted by the spirits of the men who died there. There were even stains on some of the wide floor boards that were supposed to be bloodstains from the war. Poleskie does not like to admit that at numerous times during the night he thought he heard cries, and even the sound of gunshots and cannon fire. The house was in the middle of the battlefield, and so it was not uncommon to look out the window and see men on horseback, and charging infantrymen, but these were only some of the many monuments that surrounded him.
One day, when he was adjusting a piece of loose molding around the fireplace, a small door popped open, revealing a narrow staircase. This seemed to lead to a basement, which Poleskie was not aware the old house had. It took him several days to work up the courage to go down those dark stairs, although he maintains it was because he did not have a flashlight, and kept forgetting to buy one when he went into town.
When he finally did go down, Poleskie did not find very much, some old barrels and empty chests that looked more like they dated from the 1920's. But, rolled up, and tucked behind a beam, he found a poem. The handwriting was clear, but there was no signature only a date, 1863. The title appeared to originally have been, "Culp's Hill Now," but the author had scratched over Culp's Hill and written Gettysburg. The text of this poem is reproduced below.
Cool shadows falling
once the sound of battle rang
thicket and meadow and rock,
Far past the field
the sound of picnic
as once the drums had rolled,
Cool now in idle forests
have felt the heat
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Sidney Grayling, Editor