Capitol Ghosts–More Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee

Restless Spirits Walk Tennessee’s Legislature

In my earlier books I chronicled all things weird, wonderful and otherwise beyond the mortal ken occurring south of the Mason-Dixon Line.  While my more recent efforts are more in the realm of legitimate history, those earlier works dealing with the paranormal were based on actual incidents and real people—what folklorists like to call, “told as true.”

As time goes by I often accumulate more information about one or another of those paranormal subjects.  Should the publishers of Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground or Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War ever choose to do revised editions of my books, I have a wealth of new matter to include in them.  Until then, I am afraid readers will have to be content with occasional updates on this blog; of course if you see an entry here and go back to consult the fuller account in my book, you will get the whole story.

One such case regards the spirits of the Tennessee State Legislature—that old Grecian temple that sits atop Capitol Hill in downtown Nashville.  As I write, work crews are busily working inside its halls tearing things up and renovating the work spaces.  The last time that construction crews were in there they not only stirred up some dust—they also stirred up a few ghosts or two.  We shall see.

In the chapter on capitol ghosts in Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, there was one haunting which I did not learn about in time to make it into the book.  Since that pioneering book on Nashville and the Mid-South’s ghosts, a whole host of ghost tours have sprouted up in Music City and from what I can gather they have got this particular ghost story all wrong.  Since I received it from inside sources who know its history, I thought I ought to pass along the true story of the Ghost of the Capitol Cupola.

Atop Tennessee’s Capitol is an ornate cupola with glass sides, atop which sits the flagpole where the United States flag flies.  In February of 1862, however, another flag flew there—the Confederate flag.

In the early part of that year, however, the Yankee army under General Grant defeated and captured the Rebel army defending Forts Donelson and Henry, the two bastions on the state border guarding the Tennessee and CumberlandRivers respectively.  When they fell, a panic ensued in Nashville and all the planters and planter’s sons who had been militant secessionists fled the city, their carriages loaded with all the loot they could carry.

Not long after, towards the end of February, Yankee gunboats arrived at Nashville, their big guns pointing ominously at the city.  Yankee troops soon arrived in large numbers to occupy the city.  The first place they went was up to the capitol to haul down the Confederate flag.

Jogging double-quick time up the hill, the color-guard, their steel bayonets gleaming atop their muskets, made their way up the steps of the capitol.  Inside the building they climbed inside the cupola, where a narrow, winding wrought-iron staircase led to the flagpole.

As they neared the top of the spiral staircase, the Yankees found the way blocked by an elderly gent.  Unlike the other politicians, this fire-eating secessionist refused to leave—or see Old Glory fly over the capitol.  Armed with an antique flintlock, he proclaimed: “you’ll raise that flag over this building over my dead body!”

Before the young officer in charge could answer, a shot rang out from below.  The old Rebel clutched his chest, then tumbled down the stairs.  The color guard climbed over him and so the American flag flew over the state capitol once more.

Nowadays, maintenance workers in the capitol don’t have much cause to go up into the cupola—nor do they wish to.  When workers are up there they generally have a very eerie feeling, like someone is watching.  They do their repairs and hastily leave.

On more than one occasion, however, state workmen have seen a gray mist hanging around the top of the spiral stairs.  The cloudy image is indistinct, but one senses a hostile presence there.  Long time employees know what it is—the ghost of the dead Rebel senator, still barring the way to the top.  For him the war will never be over.

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