Big Muddy Bridge Haunting

History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern IllinoisFrom History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern Illinois by Bruce Cline.

The Big Muddy River railroad bridge just north of Carbondale on RT 51 was the site of an encampment of Union soldiers during the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln personally directed that a company of militia be stationed in Carbondale to guard the Big Muddy railroad bridge. This was the first Presidential War Order issued during the Civil War. General Prentiss deployed a regiment of soldiers and cannons to protect the bridge from the Confederates and Southern sympathizers. Although many people in southern Illinois were sympathetic to the Confederate cause, there are no recorded attacks on the Union Army stronghold at the Big Muddy Bridge.

The day to day boredom of the Union soldiers was at times almost unbearable. Every day was the same; drill, picket duty, inspections and so forth. As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months and the months into years, the daily routine of these weary soldiers left an imprint in the land around the bridge and river.

Many years after the Civil War, travelers on the road between Carbondale and DeSoto would report seeing blue balls of light moving around the bridge at night and the sounds of a phantom drum beating a cadence, then fading away. On misty or foggy days, there have been reports of apparitions of Civil War soldiers and horses on and near the bridge. Several years ago S.I.U. students were going home after a night of partying on the strip. As they neared the Big Muddy Bridge, their car had a flat tire. As they were fixing the tire they were confronted by two tall, men wearing blue civil war uniforms. As the phantom soldiers approached the car, they just faded away.

Copyright Bruce L. Cline, 2014. You do not have permission to copy this post.



  1. Michael Ladd says:

    Mr. Cline: By way of introduction, my name is Michael Ladd. I grew up in Carbondale and am currently researching the Swift’s movement to Cairo and the role Carbondale and the bridge played in that event. I did not know that Lincoln ordered the troops guard the bridge. Would you share with me how you know this and where I can find a copy of Lincoln’s War Order re: the bridge. I have researched this point and, while I find copies of his executive orders, I do not fine this particular one.

    Thank you for any assistance you are willing to give me.


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