Hauntings of the Seven Hills: Suburban Spooks of Nashville

Howard Pyle's painting of the Battle for Shy's Hill, today part of Green Hills.  In December of 1864 a bloody battle was fought over most of what is now suburban Nashville.
Howard Pyle’s painting of the Battle for Shy’s Hill, today part of Green Hills. In December of 1864 a bloody battle was fought over most of what is now suburban Nashville.

Although I wrote about the ghosts of “The Seven Hills” in Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee, due to technical issues I wasn’t able to illustrate it the way I would have wished, which is one of the reasons why this blog exists–to update and supplement the true ghost tales I have already related to you.

Green Hills Mall, a modern shopping center located in the center of a battlefield.  Reports of apparitions surface from time to time here.
Green Hills Mall, a modern shopping center located in the center of a battlefield. Reports of apparitions surface from time to time here.

For those not native to Nashville, Tennessee, “The Seven Hills” does not refer to specific hills in the city (there are far more than seven) but to a cluster of suburban neighborhoods southwest of downtown which share similar names: Green Hills, Forest Hills, Hillsboro Village, etc. Although to the casual visitor they all seem pleasant affluent areas (they are) they also hide darker secrets as well: all possess their fair share of ghosts.

Most popular of the neighborhoods by far is Green Hills, and in Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee I detail several hauntings there. One of the most interesting is at that mecca of Nashville fashionistas, Green Hills Mall. The mall has had repeated reports of hauntings. Other reports of hauntings in Green Hills come from the homes in the area as well.

Apparently some time back a shoe clerk at The Mall reported seeing an apparition wearing a tricorner hat on a number of occasions. It is thought that this spirit may have been a victim of an Indian attack during the frontier era, when raids and scalpings were commonplace in Nashville.

However, in these neighborhoods an even more common cause of the many reports of haunted homes is the fact that this part of Nashville is where some of the bloodiest fighting of the Battle of Nashville took place. In December of 1864, Green Hills and adjacent Forest Hills saw horrific bloodshed before the Confederate Army was finally defeated. The dead and dying lay everywhere after the battle.

While quietly buried in a modern suburban neighborhood, this old home dates back before the war.  Privately owned, it has had several reports of poltergeist activity, including old coins appearing out of nowhere!
While quietly buried in a modern suburban neighborhood, this old home dates back before the war. Privately owned, it has had several reports of poltergeist activity, including old coins appearing out of nowhere!

While these days on cable television, ghost hunters claim able to not only identify who is haunting what house, but also what they had for breakfast the day they died, the reality is that most hauntings cannot really be pinned to any known person. Residents or owners will report uncanny happenings, mysterious sounds or, more rarely, actually seeing a visual presence. In truth, however, identifying the ghost as a particular individual is mostly speculation. The fact that right after the battle, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dead Confederate were hastily thrown into mass graves in The Hills and never properly buried, is the most probable source of most of these continuing poltergeist activities. As in the movie “Poltergeist,” these subdivisions were often built over the mass graves of the dead without the graves being relocated.

Belmont, home of Adelicia Acklen, Headquarters of US IV Corps during the Civil War and today part of Belmont University.  Open to the public, the ghosts are at no additional charge.
Belmont, home of Adelicia Acklen, Headquarters of US IV Corps during the Civil War and today part of Belmont University. Open to the public, the ghosts are at no additional charge.

One exception to the above rule of thumb, however, is Belmont Mansion. This grand old dame of antebellum architecture stands on a tall hill overlooking Hillsboro Village, a popular destination for both the college crowd and music industry executives. Today Belmont is the campus of a prestigious Christian school, Belmont University. During the Battle of Nashville it was headquarters for the Union Army’s Fourth Corps and the battle lines lay only a few blocks away. While it is thought several ghosts haunt Belmont Mansion, the one most commonly associated with it is Adelicia Acklen, a Southern belle possessed of beauty, brains and lots and lots of money. Despite all that, she suffered the loss of several of her children in the house and it is believed that that is why she still resides there.

Adelicia Acklen, the Phantom Belle is one of several ghosts reputed to reside in Belmont Mansion., and located near Hillsboro Village
Adelicia Acklen, the Phantom Belle is one of several ghosts reputed to reside in Belmont Mansion., and located near Hillsboro Village

For more on the hauntings of The Hills see Chapter 13, Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee; for more about Adelicia and her restless spirit, see Strange Tales, Chapter 26.

Old Green Eyes: the Green Ghoul of Chickamauga

Old Green Eyes has roamed Chickamauga ever since the famous battle there in 1863
Ol’ Green Eyes, whatever it is, has roamed Chickamauga Battlefield since at least the time of the Civil War.

In my very first book of all things weird, wondrous and wicked in the Mid-South, Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, in addition to the traditional haints, haunts and boogers, UFO’s and other unexplained phenomena, one curious tale revolved around the northern Georgia Civil War battlefield of Chickamauga. In that chapter I chronicled several of the battlefield apparitions known to haunt the battlefield, but the one which was the most curious, to my mind, was Ol’ Green Eyes, sometimes also known as the Green Ghoul. Since publishing that account, I have run into a few folks who have had their own tales to tell about this particular spook, so this venue I judge to be a good place to update my readers until I can prevail on my publishers to let me do a revised edition of that classic book.

Anyone who has visited Chickamauga knows it is a brief run from downtown Chattanooga—a brief run, that is, if you are a Yankee soldier trying to flee from ten thousand Rebels with bayonets all yelling like a banshee. Otherwise, it is about ten miles or more. At any rate, between the eighteenth and twentieth of September, 1863, thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers lost their lives fighting there, while thousands and thousands more suffered agonizing wounds.

It is not surprising, therefore, that quite a few ghost stories and reports of eerie encounters at Chickamauga have surfaced over the years. As I tell in my book, one version of Ol’ Green Eyes holds that he is a stone monument—dedicated to the Union brigade known Opdycke’s Tigers—that comes to life at night and stalks the countryside. I personally am dubious of that one—it has all the earmarks of a story invented around a campfire to scare gullible youths.

Opdycke's Tigers, battlefield monument. Chickamauga; some claim this is Ol' Green Eyes; others say it dates back to Indian days.
Opdycke’s Tigers, battlefield monument. Chickamauga; some claim this is Ol’ Green Eyes; others say it dates back to Indian days.

Another version holds that Green Eyes is a human looking ghoul, with top hat, gentleman’s cloak and long stringy hair; after the battle, it was said, this green eyed fellow went about munching on the bodies of the dead. It’s been a long time since that feast and he’s built up a powerful appetite since then. According to one source, this version was invented out of whole cloth by Park Ranger Ed Tinney some years back to entertain tourists.

While I can’t judge the veracity of the Tinney version, I do know that some park rangers go out of their way to deny any paranormal activity, in order to discourage people trespassing there at night. In all fairness, some self-appointed ghost hunters have vandalized historic sites in pursuit of nighttime thrills. The rangers at Chickamauga have been known to shut down all the secondary roads in the area at Halloween to keep out the thrill-seekers. So officials at Chickamauga National Battlefield have a rather strong motivation to deny accounts of Ol’ Green Eyes and other hauntings there, valid or not.

To my mind, the most credible accounts of Green Eyes are less specific; some have seen a green glowing light about Snodgrass Hill, while others describe a pair of eyes. Is it a ghoul, a ghost or a beast? Hard to say, but I have spoken to one man who had a close encounter.

Although Ed Tinney popularized Green Eyes, according to this local source, folks have known about the creature for generations; it’s just that in the old days you didn’t talk about such things, and certainly not to strangers.
After Strange Tales came out, I was doing a signing and this gentleman from Chattanooga, who bought a copy, told me of his experience.
It was some years back, when he was a hot blooded young teenager and since he had a few years on me, I am judging this was sometime back in the 1950’s. Well, he took a date out one Saturday night and after a little dinner and dancing they decided to park after dark; it was somewhere near Snodgrass Hill.

Then as now the park was closed to the public at night, but it was a favorite place for couples to go nonetheless. They were parked in his car with the top down, and he and his girlfriend were, shall we say, somewhat distracted at the time; that was until he felt the sensation of warm moist breath behind him. With a start he turned around to see two large green eyes glowing behind him.

The eyes were set apart, farther apart than any human pair of eyes could possibly be, and the creature was close enough to tell it was on the curved trunk of his car or close to it. Romance turned to terror in an instant; the teenager fumbled for the ignition, slammed his car into gear, and high-tailed it out of there as fast as his jalopy could go, just barely avoiding being Ol’ Green Eyes next meal.

There are those who scoff and those who deny, but for that mature gentleman at least, there is no denying that Ol’ Green Eyes is very, very, real—whatever it may be.

For more accounts of Civil War Ghosts and Haunts, read Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground; also see Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War.

For Whom the Belle Toiled: The Twelve Ghosts of Christmas, Post 11

Adelicia Acklen, whose skill at manipulating men would have made Scarlet O'Hara seem like a schoolgirl.
Adelicia Acklen, whose skill at manipulating men would have made Scarlet O’Hara seem like a schoolgirl.

Many female devotees of the Late Unpleasantness are great admirers of the fictional heroine of Gone with the Wind, Scarlet O’Hara. Her wilfulness, her ability to manipulate men and her all around bitchiness have made her a role model for generations of GRITS (Girls Raised In The South). Outside of Middle Tennessee, however, there are few who know that there was a real life Southern belle whose actual antics put the fictional Scarlet to shame. Her name was Adelicia Acklen, the Mistress of Belmont Mansion.

Not that Adelicia was at all unpleasant or, shall we say bitchy. Oh no; butter would not melt in her mouth; she was a godly woman and prolific progenetrix. And she was very, very wealthy.

Where once rows of magnolias blossomed, today stands Music Row; other vestiges of Adelicia’s estate have also gone with the wind (or kudzu as the case may be) but the mansion she once resided in, Belmont, remains and–at least at Christmastime–so does she.

Adelicia started off her career as a humble country girl in Sumner County, with several thousands of acres of prime farmland and a few dozen champion show horses to her name. Her father was a simple farmer whose wealth could only be counted by a handful of accountants working night and day. However, wealth begets more wealth, and the young and beautiful Adelicia married a prosperous doctor who amplified her estate and sired several children with her. Poor thing, his health was not so strong as her loins and he died prematurely, leaving her a wealthy widow.

Joseph Alexander Smith Acklen, Adelicia's second husband who died in 1863 while looking after their cotton investments along the Mississippi. Adelicia set off through the war torn South to retrieve not Joseph, but her cotton crop. Adelicia's Odyssey through wartime Dixie is the stuff of legends.
Joseph Alexander Smith Acklen, Adelicia’s second husband who died in 1863 while looking after their cotton investments along the Mississippi. Adelicia set off through the war torn South to retrieve not Joseph, but her cotton crop. Adelicia’s Odyssey through wartime Dixie is the stuff of legends.

However, beautiful Adelicia did not long remain a widow.  She remarried, this time to a far wealthier man, Joseph Acklen, who owned large and profitable plantations on the lower Mississippi, all of which produced bountiful crops of cotton.

In due course, Adelicia bore Joseph a bountiful crop of several more children and he in turn built her the magnificent Italianate mansion of Belmont. Sitting on a long sloping hill, one approached Belmont in the old days as if one were ascending Mount Olympus to visit the gods. Downton Abbey would have been a pauper’s hut compared to Belmont in its heyday. All went well, until the War.

Belmont Mansion's modest back yard, ca. 1863.
Belmont Mansion’s modest back yard, ca. 1863.

In February, 1862, Nashville fell to the invading Yankee hordes and the miles between the Rock City and the Acklen cotton plantations in Louisiana were long indeed; for most of the war the area between the two waas a no man’s land in which the various armies marched and fought.

Not long into the conflict, husband Joseph headed south to look after their financial interests along the Mississippi, lest their family fortune be ruined. Adelicia remained home to look after her growing brood of children and her thoroughbred horses.  She was devoted both to her children and her horses.

Then one fateful day came word that her beloved Joseph had died of a fever tending to their cotton (some say it was a carriage accident).

Adelicia sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, saying “What am I to do, what am I to do!” and then it struck her: what about the cotton? Where the hell was it; had it been harvested; was it ready to be shipped—and how?

Adelicia, for all her beauty, was not one to simply fan herself and stand idly by while her family fortune went up in flames. With no further ado, she piled a female cousin and two loyal servants in a carriage and headed into the hundreds of miles of lawless no-mans land, where deserters and robbers and guerillas on both sides would sooner kill you as look at you.

In the end Adelica saved the cotton.  Through cajolery and charm, she shipped it abroad and sold it in England for premium prices, emerging even wealthier than before the war—a feat unique among Southern planters. In the postwar Dixie for many years she was the queen of Southern society and her evening parties and Christmas Balls were legendary. Belmont became the epicenter of the postwar South’s high society.

After she died, the aura of Belmont as a grand and elegant place continued on. It became an aristocratic girl’s finishing school, Ward-Belmont, and ultimately a well respected modern academic institution, Belmont University. But over the years, various alumni and staff have had odd encounters within its august halls, things that cannot be explained by natural causes.

No one has actually seen Adelicia roaming the halls; but on more than one occasion, student, faculty and staff have had fey and uncanny experiences in the mansion, especially at Christmastime, that make them believe she is indeed still inhabiting the old manse.

One of the annual Christmas celebrations at Belmont is called “Hanging of the Green” and the students stage an elaborate ritual revolving around a tall winding staircase. Over the years, students involved in the Yuletide ritual have reported feeling a female presence there, while waiting for the ceremony to begin. Others hear the rustling of crinoline dresses, when no one is there. Other unexplained encounters also occur with uncanny frequency, especially around Christmas.

The front façade of Belmont Mansion, the grand Italianate home of Adelicia Acklen, today home to a Belmont University major Southern University. Adelicia is long dead, but she still roams the old manse's hallways and stairs, especially at Christmastime.
The front façade of Belmont Mansion, the grand Italianate home of Adelicia Acklen, today it is home to a Belmont University, a prestigious major Southern University. Adelicia is long dead, but she still roams the old manse’s hallways and stairs, they say, especially at Christmastime.

So, do Adelicia and other members of her ghostly clan really still inhabit the august halls of Belmont Mansion?

Go there sometime and find out for yourself.

For more about Belmont Mansion and its ghostly guests, see Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground; Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee will also you tell you more about the areas favorite haunts. Belmont Mansion is located at 1700 Acklen Avenue
Nashville, TN 37212 and is open to the public: cf. http://belmontmansion.com/

Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground chronicles true stories of unexplained phenomena in the Mid South.
Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground chronicles true stories of unexplained phenomena in the Mid South.

The Dying Rebel: The Twelve Ghosts of Christmas, 6

Captain Todd Carter, CSA, whose ghost still haunts the ancestral home at Yuletide.
Captain Todd Carter, CSA, whose ghost still haunts the ancestral home at Yuletide.

While I have written about this haunting before, notably in Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, and briefly in passing in Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee, it does fit in with the current theme of this blog, as it is most certainly a Yuletide ghost. So for those of you who have read my books, please forgive the redundancy; but as I’m sure there are many who haven’t yet, please bear with me.

We must go back more than one hundred fifty years, to the ill-fated Autumn Campaign of 1864, which was the last gasp of the Confederacy. In a bold maneuver the gallant Army of Tennessee marched northward, even as Sherman’s marched southward to burn and pillage their way to the sea. The idea was to capture Nashville, restock the Confederate army there with the abundant warehouses full of supplies and then chase the Yankees back into Kentucky, take Louisville, burn Cincinnati and hopefully make the North sue for peace. Perhaps it was a vain and hopeless quest to start with; or perhaps in the hands of a better general than John Bell Hood, it just may have had a chance for success.

A sketch of the open fields the Rebels had to charge over--a longer distance than Pickett's Charge. via Harpers
A sketch of the open fields the Rebels had to charge over–a longer distance than Pickett’s Charge. via Harpers

In any case, after several delays and missed opportunities, the Rebel army lay before the town of Franklin, less than a days march from Nashville. In their way stood two Yankee corps, doing their best to avoid being annihilated by Hood, yet still stall the Rebels advance on Nashville. Just the night before the Yankees, under General John Schofield, had escaped from the trap set them near Springhill, escaping in the dark and filtering into Franklin by the dawn’s early light.

In a rage Hood pursued, ready to attack anyone and anything that dared get in his way. On the southern outskirts of Franklin the Yankees had been entrenching all day, posting their cannon and rearguard behind trench and wall to keep the Rebs at bay. Hood was advised to simply go around the town and outflank the rearguard; to use his cavalry to cut them to ribbons on the road into Nashville; but he would hear none of it. Attack, he said; the enemy is before us; attack!

The Battle of Franklin, September 30, 1864
The Battle of Franklin, September 30, 1864

And so, late on the afternoon of November 30, 1864, even as the sun was westering on the horizon, the gallant Army of Tennessee advance over a broad plain of cleared fields, marching as if on parade and fully exposed to the deadly rifle and cannon fire of the enemy. They talk about Pickett’s charge being an ill conceived attack at Gettysburg; it had nothing over the charge at Franklin, where the distance to cover was far greater and equally clear of cover. Yet the men advance behind their colonels and brigadiers, some quietly reciting the poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” with its refrain, “someone had blundered.”

Among this band of brothers in butternut was one who knew the ground well. Todd Carter had grown up in Franklin, and like his older brothers, had volunteered for service in the Confederacy. As quartermaster of his regiment, he was not required in the front lines; but there he was nonetheless, advancing with the rest. Half a league, half a league onward the army advance, with shot and shell growing fiercer and more accurate as they closed with the Yankee lines, whose center lay just before the carter home.

Confederate troops charging the Yankees at Franklin, by a veteran.
Confederate troops charging the Yankees at Franklin, by a veteran.

With a blood-curdling yell the Rebels rushed the Yankee defenses which sat astride the Columbia Pike and for a crucial few minutes it seemed as though they might win the day. In the end, however, they were forced back from the parapets, and though the fighting continued on into the darkness, despite the Rebel soldiers best efforts, the enemy slipped away in the night.

The side of the Carter House in Franklin still pock-marked with hundreds of bullet holes. It was here Capt. Carter was brought home to die.
The side of the Carter House in Franklin still pock-marked with hundreds of bullet holes. It was here Capt. Carter was brought home to die.

The next morning, the carnage was ghastly to behold; men heaped in piles, horses, five generals and twenty colonels lay among their men; fully a third of the Confederate army dead or wounded—among the Captain Todd Carter. His family found him lying close to the Union lines, shot more than once, but still clinging to life. They brought him home, put him in a room in the rear of the house and nursed him as best they could.

Todd Carter was alive, but his wounds were serious. He lingered to life for a few days; but the wounds were too serious and he finally died. He was waked in the front parlor of his home and buried nearby in the family plot. But though he was buried, he was hardly laid to rest.

Todd Carter lingered in his father's home for weeks before he died. His ghost lingers there still.
Todd Carter lingered in his father’s home for weeks before he died. His ghost lingers there still.

For every year, about the time of his wounding and death, visitors will report seeing a young man, all bandaged up, in that room in the rear ell where he lay before dying.

I have been to the Carter House and seen the hundreds and hundreds of bullet holes still in the brick and wood; I have been to the room where Todd Carter died, and while I saw no ghost, I felt his presence nonetheless.

So if you go, let me know, if you see the yuletide ghost of Todd Carter.

For more on the ghost of Todd Carter and other Civil War ghosts of Franklin, see Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War and the latest, Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee.

Ghosts & Haunts of the Civil War. True accounts of haunted battlefields, CW ghosts and other unexplained phenomena.
Ghosts & Haunts of the Civil War. True accounts of haunted battlefields, CW ghosts and other unexplained phenomena.
Strange tales of unexplained phenomena and paranormal activity in the Mid-South.
Strange tales of unexplained phenomena and paranormal activity in the Mid-South.

The Christmas Picket: A Civil War Ghost Story

 

Valerius Cincinnatus Giles, was in northern Virginia when he had his uncanny encounter on Christmas Day, 1861.
Valerius Cincinnatus Giles, was in northern Virginia when he had his uncanny encounter on Christmas Day, 1861.

It was the twenty-fifth of December, 1861, the first Christmas of the War.

A nineteen year old private in the Confederate army, Valerius Cincinnatus Giles, was outside on guard detail along the Potomac River.  Facing him on the Maryland side were the Yankees of General Sickles’ Brigade–The Excelsior Brigade.

As a picket, his duty was give the alarm of any enemy activity, lest the Yankees should decide to abandon the comfort of their warm huts and brave the bleak cold outside.

Private Giles’ unit, a detachment of the 4th Texas Infantry, had just relieved another unit which had been guarding that sector. The men would rather have been back in camp, enjoying the holiday as best they could; but duty called, and someone needed to be on duty, no matter what the day.

Private Giles and his two brothers had all answered the call of duty and volunteered for the Confederate army. Giles, still smartly dressed in his long grey frock coat with black waist belt and black strap over his right shoulder, and adorned with a black Hardee hat with one side turned up, looked the model of a military man. One of Giles’s brothers was with the Tenth Texas Infantry in Arkansas, while the other, brother Lew, was with Terry’s Rangers (Eighth Texas Cavalry), somewhere in Kentucky.

There was little likelihood of Valerius being in any personal danger. The Yankees desired a break from war that day as much as the Rebels did.

That afternoon there was a brief to-do when a Yankee steamboat came in sight. But it was soon recognized as a hospital ship and not a gunboat and was left alone to ply it trade on the opposite shore.

More out of boredom than necessity, Private Giles began to walk his post, tramping through snow knee deep in places. The colder clime of northern Virginia was a change of scene for the Texas boy and there in the piney woods in midwinter, when the earth and green branches of the trees were covered with snow, there was no sound of birds singing or crickets chirping. With not a breath of air blowing, the stillness all around him seemed oppressive.

Valerius’s thoughts started to wander, thinking about home and family that Christmas Day.

It was at four p.m. that afternoon when he heard it. He remembered that he was not sleepy or drowsy and perfectly wide awake when he heard it.

He heard his brother Lew Giles’s voice, clear as day, calling out his name:

“It was then 4 P.M., December 25, 1861. I was not sleeping or dreaming. and firmly believed at the time that I heard my brother calling me, but it must have been a delusion of the imagination.”

Knowing Lew was far away to the west in either Kentucky or Tennessee, Val thought at first that somehow it was just his homesickness playing on his imagination; that it was some kind of delusion. Yet he knew his brother’s voice and knew that the voice he had heard was his brother’s.

It was only later that Val learned that Lew had been wounded in Kentucky on the seventeenth of December. Seriously injured, he had been taken to Gallatin, Tennessee, to the home of a family friend, where he lingered for several days.

Wartime image of Gallatin, Tennessee, which changed hands several times during the War.  Lew Giles died here the same day he appeared to his brother in Virginia.
Wartime image of Gallatin, Tennessee, which changed hands several times during the War. Lew Giles died here the same day he appeared to his brother in Virginia.

 

According to information the family later received from their father’s friend in Gallatin, Lew Giles expired at exactly four p.m. on Christmas Day of 1861.

 

 

 

For more true Civil War ghost stories, see: Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground and Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War, at better bookstores and available online.

GHOSTS AND HAUNTS OF THE CIVIL WAR 3x5
Ghosts & Haunts of the Civil War. True accounts of haunted battlefields, CW ghosts and other unexplained phenomena.
Paranormal Presidency cover suitable for online use 96dpi
The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, documented accounts of Lincolns beliefs in the paranormal and his encounters with unexplained phenomena and uncanny experiences.

Long Shadows in Franklin, Tennessee

“In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays.  Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls….And lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.”

—Col. Joshua Chamberlain, 20th Maine

There are ghosts, and there are GHOSTS.  Not just one, mind you, but dozens–perhaps hundreds.  That’s the way it is with Civil War battlefields in general; and when you combine a whole town with many convenient old buildings to haunt, well then, you have Franklin, Tennessee.

Late November being the anniversary of the one-day battle, it seems a good time to discuss this battle and its haunts.  Probably there are any number of folks in Franklin who have forgotten more about the battle than I could ever tell you and the same holds true for its many haunts.  For those unfamiliar with the battle, however, a little background is in order.

John Bell Hood was appointed by Jefferson Davis to head the Army of Tennessee because Davis did not think its previous commander, Joe Johnston, aggressive enough.  The Army of Tennessee was second only to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in fighting ability, elan and experience.  The only difference being that this Confederate army suffered from the same debility that plaugued British cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars.  Napoleon said that British cavalry was “the noblest and most poorly led.”

General Hood was a brave officer but had never commanded an entire army; he had also lost a leg and an arm at Gettysburg and Chickamauga and by the time he took charge of the army, while he was neither drunk nor high on morphine, he had to have been in great pain and his judgment may have been impaired.  At Springhill, Tennessee, on November 29, 1864, Hood seemingly had Union General Schofield’s army trapped; yet it escaped during the night.

When he found the Yankees gone the next morning, one witness described Hood as “wrathy as a snake.”  Pursuing the Federals to Franklin he resolved to attack them regardless of the cost.  He threw his whole infantry across two miles of open field against the Union rearguard, which had had all day to dig in.

It was not for lack of bravery or aggressiveness that the Army of Tennessee failed to defeat the Yankees.  They charged headlong into a withering fire and fell by the thousands.  Five generals and at least twenty colonels died leading the charge.  Even nightfall did not end the bloodletting and the Rebel troops kept pressing the attack, the dead piling up in heaps before the Yankees trenches.  A few days later the servants of the Carter family, whose house was smack in the center of the death-dealing, had to use garden rakes to clear the grounds of the house of the thousands and thousands of spent bullets.

The men who fell before the Yankee muskets were not strangers in a strange land; they were the husbands, sons and brothers of the families of Franklin and the neighboring communities.  The Carter House is haunted by the ghost of Captain Tad Carter, who died within yards of his father’s home.  Other ghosts haunt the Carter House and the Lotz House, standing just across the street.  Because the Columbia Pike ran through the Union Defenses right here, this was the weak point of the Federal defenses and it was here the fighting was hottest.

Another famous haunt is Carnton Mansion, belonging to the McGavock family, and lying on the eastern fringe of the battlefield.  The five dead Confederate generals were brought here and laid out on the back porch; the other Confederate dead were piled like cordwood in a great long heap; most were buried on the grounds.  With so many young men cut down in their prime, the Mansion has several ghosts–some thought to be former family members. As originally chronicled in Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, there are many eyewitness reports of ghosts haunting the grounds of Carnton.

Nor are these spots the only places in Franklin, Tennessee where the ghosts of the Confederate dead still linger.  The day after the battle both sides moved on to Nashville, to the siege and the battle in December; but in Franklin the wounded lingered on in agony for weeks; amputations, disease and cold all took their toll.  Local families took many of the wounded in, but the number of casualties was overwhelming and many died from lack of care.  The old buildings that still stand in the core of town house many such ghosts; some today are retail stores, music recording studios, law offices or residences.

The restless dead still abide in the prosperous modern town of Franklin; so in between the soccer moms, the Yuppie suburban subdivisions, the upscale boutiques, one may still encounter a Rebel soldier’s shade who does not quite know the war is over–or that he is even dead!

For more about the ghosts of Franklin and Civil War ghosts, Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War, Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, and my latest, The Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee.

The Restless Dead of Fort Donelson

October 28, 2012    The Thirteen Days of Halloween, Blog 10

While I have devoted a whole book chronicling Civil War ghosts and parts of two others, in truth, true accounts of encounters with the restless spirits of those who died during the Late Unpleasantness could fill a whole ‘nother volume and then some.  As I live within driving distance of the sites of six of some of the biggest battles of the war, I have had ample opportunity to explore them–and that doesn’t count the many skirmishes, raids and lesser actions that dot the Mid-South.  Many of these sites come with some lore attached and I have often collected tales of the spirits which still haunt them.  One site which I haven’t yet chronicled in print is Fort Donelson.

Before there was Bloody Shiloh, there were the twin battles of Forts Donelson and Henry.  These were the twin Confederate bastions which guarded the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers at the border with Kentucky.  The Rebels had fortified the two rivers where they came close to one another–called Land Between the Rivers then and now, thanks to the TVA, is Land Between the Lakes.  Here in the winter of 1862 a Union amphibious force came to break the Confederate defences.  Led by General Ulysses S. Grant, the Yankees first bombarded Fort Henry on the Tennessee into submission and then, in a bold move, Grant took a small force overland and besieged Fort Donelson from landward, catching the Johnnies off-guard.  The Rebels had all their big guns pointing down-river, in the direction they thought the Yankee fleet would come.

It was a bitter cold winter and both sides suffered terribly; the wounded in the no man’s land between the two forces suffered as much from the cold as they did from their wounds and many died a slow and agonizing death.  The Rebel troops were ill-prepared for a winter campaign and suffered even more than the Yankees from the cold.  Ultimately, Grant bluffed the incompetent Rebel commanders into surrendering, assuring his fame and opening the way to  conquering the heartland of the Confederacy.

Although the dead of both sides were quickly interred, their undead shades lingered–they linger still at Land Between the Lakes.  After my first book, Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, which chronicled a few of Shiloh’s ghosts and haunts, I talked with several re-enactors who had camped at Fort Donelson at various times, trying to re-create conditions as close to January, 1862, as they could.

The re-enactors I spoke with told me it was not uncommon for one or another of their ranks to have uncanny encounters at Fort Donelson.  One lady, a sutler, describes awakening in her tent in the dead of night to fight all her wares and her tent violently shaking and rattling.  There was no wind or storm or any natural event that night to explain it.  But apparently there was something supernatural that could.

Another re-enactor told of performing picket duty at night while his unit was there.  Many re-enactors try to get into the spirit of the period not just for visitors during the day but at night as well and an onlooker might well mistake them for the real thing.  This re-enactor was on duty late at night when he saw a light coming up the hill in the distance.  The dim glow grew larger and larger as it approached him and at first he could not make out what it was.  Then it came close and passed him; in the eerie glow he could see the torso and head of a man–seemingly an officer, wearing a broad-brimmed hat and smoking an old-fashioned stogie; it was the phantom cigar that illumined the figure.  It almost seemed as if the phantom officer were making the rounds, checking on the bivouac to see all the guards were on duty.  But the cigar-smoking figure was no re-enactor; he had no lower body, just a materialized torso and be-hatted head.  Was it the ghost of General Grant? Or was it the shade of some other tobacco-loving commander, North or South?  Who knows?

To paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill about another war, Fort Donelson was not the beginning of the end of the Rebellion; but it was the end of the beginning.  And they’re those who say that many who met their end there abide on the grounds of the battle-field still.

For more Civil War ghost stories see my Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War; Rutledge Hill did the original editon which is still in print, although Barnes & Noble, Lone Pine and Sterling have come out with economy hardcovers in addition to the paperback editions.  My first book, Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, also chronicles the battlefield hauntings of Shiloh, Chickamauga and Franklin.

Sumner Spirits, Halloween Hauntings, Part 8

Halloween Hauntings, Part 8:

Sumner Spirits

“And all we see and all we seem/Is but a dream within a dream”  EDGAR ALLEN POE

There are those who say that ghost are just a figment of the imagination, or delusion of the masses; that those who see such things are hallucinating or having a “waking dream.” 

Then there are those like Mark Twain, who said “I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’m still skeered of ’em.”  Perhaps such doubting Thomases may want to take a day trip to Sumner County some October eve, just a few miles north of Downtown Nashville.

Gallatin, Tennessee, the most haunted town square in the state.

Downtown Gallatin, Tennessee, is home to several resident ghosts, all of which are fully documented in Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee

Crossing over Mansker’s Creek, the first place you come to is Monthaven–the old Fite place.  It used to sit in splendid isolation on a hill overlooking the creek, where Gallatin Pike and Centerpoint Road meet.  Nowadays it has a cluster of apartments and condos nestled all about it.

During the Civil War, the mansion was the site of a dust-up between General Morgan’s Rebel raiders and some Yankees, and the mansion was used as a temporary field hospital. Moaning in pain and begging for some laudanum or whiskey, wounded soldiers were carried upstairs to a room where a door panel had been converted into an operating table and their limbs were sawed off to the sounds of them shrieking in pain. Several of the soldiers died there and their ghosts still haunt the place.

Monthaven, the old haunted Fite House in Hendersonville
Monthaven,  otherwise known as The Fite House, sits on land which dates back to frontier days. It was also used as a temporary hospital after a cavalry skirmish during the Civil War and some of the casualties still haunt the house.

A little farther up the buffalo trail that is now Route 31E is Hazel Path.  Like Monthaven, this old antebellum home used to sit alone on a hill; now it is the center of an office complex and not lived in–but the dead still reside there and in the adjacent school built over the old pioneer cemetery there.

Edging up several miles more, just before Gallatin proper, is the entrance to what they now call “The Last Plantation.”  At one time, Fairvue Plantation would have put Scarlett O’Hara’s Tara to shame.  It was once the home of the fabled Adelicia Acklen–the original Steel Magnolia.  Opulently wealthy and stunningly beautiful, Adelicia knew how to wrap men around her dainty fingers.  She went through three husband, bore  a number of children and managed to come out of the Civil War richer than when she went in, despite the depredations of the Yankees.  While today a gaggle of upscale homes cluster around Fairvue, the old manse still stands–and is haunted by multiple ghosts,

Fairvue, once the abode of the Famed Adelicia Acklen, is now a wealthy subdivision--but not so exclusive that ghosts don't haunt it still.
Fairvue, once the abode of the Famed Adelicia Acklen, is now a wealthy subdivision–but not so exclusive that ghosts don’t haunt it still.

We would be remiss not to mention the old downtown of Gallatin itself–alleged to be the most haunted town square in Tennessee.  Surrounding the county courthouse are a cluster of old buildings, some dating back to before the war.  Some of them are occupied by law offices, others by retail stores, some are vacant; but all are occupied by ghosts of one description or other.

In this short space I cannot begin to list all the spooky spirits of Sumner: for a more complete accounting of the unaccountable, I refer you to the chapter in my Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee by the same name as this blog, where more details are available.  In the meantime–good haunting!

Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground: True Tales from the Haunted Hills of the Mid South
Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground: True Tales from the Haunted Hills of the Mid South
GHOSTS AND HAUNTS OF TENNESSEE
Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee offers all things spooky in the Mid South and covers the favorite haunts of downtown Gallatin plus other Country spooks.

Tennessee’s Haunted Capitol: The Cupola Ghost

Restless Spirits Stalk Tennessee’s Legislature

Brent Moore state capitol at night
More than politics bedevils Tennessee state Capitol!

In my books I chronicle all things weird, wonderful and otherwise beyond the mortal ken occurring south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

As time goes by I often accumulate more information about one or another of those paranormal subjects.  Should the august 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 as well as select images for your edification.  Until then, I am afraid readers will just have to be content with occasional updates on this blog. Of course, if you read an entry here, go back to consult the fuller account in my book..

The Tennessee State Legislature—that old Grecian temple that sits atop Capitol Hill in downtown Nashville—has stood majestically overlooking the city for over a century and a half.  From time to time, work crews have been brought in to renovate the inside work spaces or to restore its structure.  The last time that construction crews were in there they not only stirred up dust—they also stirred up a few resident phantoms or two.

Regarding my chapter on Capitol Ghosts in Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, there was one haunting which did not make it into the book.  Since that pioneering book on Nashville and the Mid-South’s ghosts, a whole passle of ghost tours have sprouted up in Music City inspired by the book. Sadly, not only do they not credit Strange Tales as a source of information, from what I can gather, they have the account of the Capitol ghosts all wrong.

Whatever their version may be, if any, herein is the authentic account. Since I received my information from inside sources who know the building’s history intimately, I thought I ought to pass along the true story (so far as we mortals can know it) of the Ghost of the Capitol Cupola.

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

Nashville Confederate Capitol Bldg
On the Confederate twenty dollar bill is displayed the Tennessee State Capitol; ironically, this bill wasn’t issued until AFTER the city fell to the Yankees!

In the January of that year, a Yankee force under General Ulysses S. Grant captured the Rebel army defending Forts Donelson and Henry, two mighty bastions on the state border with Kentucky, guarding the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers respectively.

When the two forts fell, a panic ensued in Nashville the likes it has never seen since. All the planters and all the planter’s sons who had so recently been militant Secessionists fled the city, their fancy carriages laden down with all the loot they could carry.

Order out of Chaos Gen Forrest restores order during the Great Panic Feb 22 1862 by Mort Kunstler
Order out of Chaos: Gen. Forrest restores order in Nashville and evacuates Confederate military stores even as Yankee troops occupy the city.

Not long after, Yankee gunboats arrived at Nashville, their big guns pointing ominously point blank at the city.  Yankee troops soon arrived in large numbers to occupy the city.

The first place the Federals went was up to the capitol to haul down the Confederate flag–the symbol of treason and disloyalty.

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 gentleman dressed in a long greyish jacket.  Unlike the other politicians, this fire-eating Secessionist refused to leave—much less see Old Glory fly over the capitol.

Armed with an antique flintlock, the Secesh proclaimed: “you’ll raise that flag over this building over my dead body!”

Before the young officer in charge of the color guard could answer, a shot rang out from behind him.

The old Rebel clutched his chest, a surprised look frozen on his face, then he tumbled down the stairs ’till he came to rest at the young lieutenant’s feet.

The color guard clambered over the corpse and ascended up to the spire and raised their battle standard over the newly won possession. The American flag flew over the state capitol once more–the first Rebel capital to fall to the Union. Some days later another, another, bigger, flag was raised–Old Glory–which had been kept in secret by a local loyalist, Captain William Driver.

Raising the US flag over the Tennessee state Capitol during the Civil War
Federal troops raise Old Glory over the Tennessee Capitol–for the second time.

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, 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 however—the ghost of that dead Rebel senator, still barring the way to the top.  For him, the war will never be over.

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Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground: True Tales from the Haunted Hills of the Mid South.
GHOSTS AND HAUNTS OF THE CIVIL WAR 3x5
Ghosts & Haunts of the Civil War. True accounts of haunted battlefields, Civil War ghosts, presentiments and other unexplained phenomena.

Abraham Lincoln and the Supernatural

Lincoln and the Dancing Piano
While attending a sance at the Laurie’s, Lincoln was given a “ride” on their piano by their adopted daughter, a “physical” medium.

In  The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, (Schiffer Press) I document Abraham Lincoln’s beliefs and practices regarding the supernatural. While Lincoln’s fascination with the paranormal has pretty much been known for over 150 years, but before my new book, no one had taken a serious look at the evidence.

To be sure, popular Lincoln biographers like Carl Sandburg and Jim Bishop have occasionally mentioned one incident or another about Lincoln and the paranormal. But these anecdotes were largely thrown in to enliven the narrative and rarely taken seriously.

PP LINCOLN 02
Abraham Lincoln visited mediums and attended séances with and without his wife, dating to before the war.

One issue The Paranormal Presidency does not tackle is whether Abraham Lincoln was actually psychic or not. This tome is a work of serious history and, while I document what Lincoln and his contemporaries believed and did, the issue of whether he was psychic per se is not dealt with. That is outside of the realm of history.

What we can say is that from early youth Lincoln had a firm belief in things we would call supernatural. Prophetic dreams, visions, omens and signs, and other uncanny events were all part and parcel of Lincoln’s life and career. But did he actually have psychic gifts?

17 1865 Broadsheet blaming war on Spiritualism via Am Memory
Many blamed the outbreak of Civil War on Lincoln’s and other politicians’ fascination with Spiritualism.

While many of the incidents surrounding Lincoln and the paranormal may easily be dismissed as either superstition or folklore, nevertheless, there is a hard core of well documented incidents where Lincoln seems to have had genuine foreknowledge of coming events—even of his own death.

 

For more on Lincoln and contemporary beliefs about the supernatural, see The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln and Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War.

Paranormal Presidency cover suitable for online use 96dpi
The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln documents the spiritual and supernatural beliefs of Abraham Lincoln and his experiences with presentiments, omens, visions and prophetic dreams, as well as his involvement with Spiritualism and how these beliefs influenced the conduct of the war.

 

GHOSTS AND HAUNTS OF THE CIVIL WAR 3x5
Ghosts & Haunts of the Civil War. True accounts of haunted battlefields, CW ghosts and other unexplained phenomena.