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 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.

Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground: True Tales from the Haunted Hills of the Mid South.
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.

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 & Haunts of the Civil War. True accounts of haunted battlefields, CW ghosts and other unexplained phenomena.