Straight From the Snallygaster's Beak

Like any good yarn, the story of the snallygaster is exaggerated from person to person; consequently, its appearance varies with each retelling. However it is hardly contestable that the greater majority of snallygaster sightings were concocted simply as a means of self-promotion. Perhaps the first and only honest report of an authentic 7ldquo;snallygaster” comes from the pages of the The Anderson Intelligencer under the heading, “The Confederate Soldier as a Curiosity.” In the article a Civil War veteran relates a firsthand encounter between South Mountain citizens and those notorious breed of monsters.

According to the report a Confederate troop, tired and hungry, takes to thrashing an orchard for food. Subsequently, they are seized for “molesting the apples” under a General’s orders. Later released, they journey to Middletown, Maryland where they stumble upon a city noticeably empty. Smoke from a chimney draws them to the only sign of life, where they make the following discovery. A young lady remarks how passing Union troops had informed them that the “dirty rebels” possessed, “but one eye and a horn, both in the middle of the forehead.” Moreover, rather than having a taste for apples they stated the rebels subsisted solely upon— “women and children.”1

Leaving under the shadow of South Mountain, the storyteller explains what the good people of the valley, so perturbed by this superstition, did to quell the wrath of those monster deities:

“The heathens offered up sacrifices to appease the anger of their gods. In the valleys of the South Mountain, in Maryland, they lined the fence with wheaten bread, covered about an inch thick with apple butter, to appease our anger. For once I was thankful to be numbered with the gods.”

Such is the stuff that legends are made of.

1. W. A. Johnson, 2.
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