Call them fireflies, call them lightning bugs, whatever you call them they are certainly one of the the bright spots of summer. Most people can remember spending a lazy summer evening catching these bioluminescent bugs and putting them in jars. Summer nights wouldn't be the same without them.
Gettysburg wouldn't be the same without them either. Each summer brings thousands of lightning bugs to the battlefield. While this might not seem that strange or blog-worthy, the sheer number of lightning bugs in certain areas of the battlefield certainly is something to take note of. A few years ago while investigating an area near Spangler's Spring and Rock Creek, myself and several other investigators came upon trees filled with fireflies. There were thousands. So many that it looked as though someone had strung hundreds of strands of white fairy lights in the trees. I have never witnessed anything else like it before or since. Fireflies are usually seen in fields flying around at night, not perched in the trees.
That isn't the only strange firefly story from the Gettysburg Battlefield. About a year ago, I had someone contact me about an unusual lightning bug encounter that occured at The Angle. A family member of hers shared that in late fall (I want to say she said November) he saw what he was certain were fireflies in the field. Only fireflies are not out in the fall and certainly not as late as November. Recently while out jogging the road that runs from the PA memorial to The Angle, I noticed hundreds of fireflies along the side of the road. It was such an unusual sight that I stopped my run to watch and look at all the bugs. It was amazing.
So what can I offer other than a couple of oddball bug stories that occured on a haunted battlefield? In the Mayan culture, the firefly or kuhkay was associated with the practice of smoking cigars. Fireflies were also associated with stars, comets and several Mayan deities. But the most interesting and important association comes from the Japanese culture.
In Japan, fireflies are thought to be the souls of soldiers who have died in battle.