Tuesday, February 23, 2016
HGB Podcast Ep. 107 - Franklin Battlefield
Moment in Oddity - Portugal's Stone House
Suggested by: Jorge Almeyda
Up in the Fafe Mountains of Northern Portugal, on a remote hilltop, is a most unusual house. This is a home that looks straight out of a Flintstone's cartoon because it is made out of stone and set between four large boulders. It's known as Casa do Penedo or "House of Stone" in English. Many people who see a picture of the house think it is photoshopped, but it's quite real. Thousands of tourists visit the location each year. The two story stone house features the traditional front door, windows and shingled roof, but also amentities like a fireplace and a swimming pool that was carved out of one of the boulders. Much of the furniture is made from stone and the stairs were fashioned from logs. Large three bladed wind turbines line the hills near the house and help provide energy to it. It was built in 1974 as a family's vacation home, if you will. The fact that it blends in to the natural setting so well is part of what has made it so popular. It is so popular that the current owner has had to leave to get away from all the tourists. Robbery attempts have forced the installation of a steel door and bullet proof windows. How the family managed to build this home and get the supplies here is a mystery. The fact that the stone house of Portugal appears to be straight out of the Stone Age certainly is odd!
This Day in History - United States Aquires Control of Panama Canal
By: Jessica Bell
On this day, February 23rd, in 1904, the United States acquires control of the Panama Canal Zone for $10 million. The idea of creating a water passage across the isthmus of Panama to link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans dates back to at least the 1500s, when King Charles I of Spain tapped his regional governor to survey a route along the Chagres River. The realization of such a route across the mountainous, jungle terrain was deemed mpossible at the time, although the idea remained important due to the need for a potential shortcut from Europe to eastern Asia. The French were the first to try to create the passage, but after 10 years of work, the spending of $260 million, and the loss of 20,000 lives, the French sold control of their rights and property in the area to the United States for $40 million. When a proposed treaty over rights to build in what was then a Colombian territory was rejected, the U.S. threw its military weight behind a Panamanian independence movement, eventually negotiating a deal with the new government in 1903 that gave them rights in perpetuity to the canal zone. Part of the deal was that the United States agreed to pay a rent of $250,000 per year to Panama for a zone six miles wide. The Panama Canal, a 52-mile long waterway, was completed in 1914, at a cost of $352 million, remarkably under budget and under schedule. Control of the world famous Panama Canal was transferred from the U.S. to Panama in 1999.
Franklin Battlefield (Suggested by Thomas Cartwright)
Franklin, Tennessee is a warm small town that just oozes history. The Civil War's Battle of Franklin took place in this town in 1864. This was one of the Confederate Army's worst battles. In fact, the assault has been dubbed "The Pickett's Charge of the West." The Carter House, the Lotz House and Carnton Mansion sit where the battle took place. As is the case with so many battlefields around the world, this one is reputed to be haunted as are the nearby homes. Join us as we explore this fascinating town, the horrific battle and the history and hauntings of the Franklin Battlefield.
On October 26, 1799, the city of Franklin was incorporated and named for Benjamin Franklin in the state of Tennessee. The man responsible for both was state senator Abram Maury, Jr. Before the Civil War, Franklin was in one of the wealthiest counties in Tennessee and it was the center of the plantation economy in the state as well. The Civil War weighed heavily on the town. Union forces occupied the city for three years. It's difficult to talk about the battle named for this city without referencing the entire town. Every building that existed during the Battle of Franklin was used as a hospital, whether it was a private home or a public gathering place. It took decades for the town to recover economically.
The Battle of Franklin was one of the bloodiest of the Civil War, which is saying a lot since so many of the battles were devastating in this war. There were 8,500 casualties in this one day battle that took place on November 30, 1864. Atlanta, Georgia had fallen to General William T. Sherman on Sept. 1, 1864. Confederate forces that had been defending the city were under the command of General John B. Hood. The defeat caused General Hood to take his forces, that numbered 30,000, into Tennessee. Hood thought he could weaken Sherman by going after the supply line coming from Nashville. Sherman wasn't worried about a supply line at this point. He figured that his army could take whatever they needed from the homes along their path. He did, however, send the Ohio Army under General John Schofield into Nashville to hold the area for the Union. That army was 30,000 strong.
In Nashville, General George Thomas already had 25,000 Union soldiers. If Schofield got there in time, the Confederacy's Hood would be outnumbered almost two to one. Hood decided to meet Schofield before he got to Nashville and he was successful in splitting the company. But Hood and the Confederacy were going to start making a series of mistakes. The first would be miscommunication. Schofield's army was able to regroup and pass by Hood's men in the night unscathed. The Union troops made it to Franklin. They regrouped and formed an imposing line of defense. Hood made another bad decision by deciding to pursue Schofield into Franklin. And the reason why is that this was going to become like Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. The Union was tucked nicely behind secure areas and the Confederates were going to have to cross two miles of open ground to even get to where they could engage the Union.
General George Wagner of the Union met Hood's forces a half mile in front of the Union's main line. Hood managed to press ahead because the Union soldiers behind the line didn't want to kill any of their own with friendly fire. Hoods forces slammed into the union right outside of the Carter family's house and combat took place in the gardens there. The Confederates started to win using bayonets, shovels, whatever they could find to fight. Union Commander Emerson Opdycke had disobeyed orders to join the Union line at the front and he had forces behind the Carter House. This was good because he was then able to surprise the Confederates and kept the union from facing disaster.
The Carter House was built by Fountain Branch Carter in 1830. It was a one-and-a-half story brick house meant to house his family of twelve children. Mr. Carter already had a successful business in town and he was looking to pursue farming at this new home. He was very successful and grew the farm from nineteen acres to two hundred and eighty-eight and a cotton gin was installed. This battle that is currently raging around this beautiful farm is now tearing up the land. The lives of those at Carter House would be forever changed. Brigadier General Jacob D. Cox took possession of Carter House and set up his headquarters in the parlor. The Carters grabbed their slaves and they ran to their basement and hid in a north room there. The Lotz family that lived across the street hid with Carters as well. The Carter's son Tod served as an aide to Confederate Brig. Gen. Thomas Benton Smith during the Battle of Franklin and he was wounded during the fight. Several men carried his body to his family home where he would die two days later. The Carter farm never recovered and it was sold in 1896. The State of Tennessee eventually bought the Carter House in 1951 and it opened the home to the public in 1953. The Battle of Franklin Trust manages the property today.
The battle continued to rage and the Union once again had the upper hand. A side note about this is that the Union had an advantage because they had seven-shot Spencers. Christopher Miner Spencer was an inventor and he came up with the Spencer Repeating Rifle. It was revolutionary and reliable. The ammunition magazine was placed in the rifle's buttstock. There were seven shots that were manually fed into the chamber by lever action. It fired as fast as a man could cock the hammer and work the lever. The Confederates kept pressing forward. They were stopped by a twist of timbers that they were forced to climb. It was a horrible decision and the Confedrates were picked off. Union soldiers described the scene as nightmarish with twisted corpses caught up in the timbers. The Confederates retreated and reformed and then went forward with a new attack six different times. They were nothing if not tenacious. Hood sent a final group forward in the dark. It was yet another foolish decision and the group was quickly felled in the torchlight.
The Confederates finally fell back, leaving thousands dead and wounded near the Carter House. Schofield drew his troops back to Nashville. In the end, 7,000 Confederates were left dead or wounded. Fourteen of them were generals. The Union suffered less than 2,000 casualties. It was a disastrous loss for the Confederacy. General Hood wasn't finished though. He decided to pursue Schofield and eventually there was the Battle of Nashville.
The Carnton Mansion was built in 1826 and was later inherited by John and Caroline McGavok in 1844. The home was visited by dignitaries that included Andrew Jackson and Sam Houston. Right before the battle began on November 30th, Caroline noticed that the cattle were acting strangely. If she didn't know better, she would think they were scared. She would soon find out why the livestock were shaken. They apparently could hear the charge of General Hood's forces on the Union strongholds. The sounds increased as the battle raged and got closer to the mansion. The screams of dying men were everywhere. It must have been truly horrific for the McGavoks. When the battle wound down, injured men were brought to the house.
Caroline jumped into helping the wounded men. She told the servants to roll up the rugs to prevent them from being damaged and the wounded were brought inside the mansion. In all, 200 men were cared for inside the house. Their wounds were dressed with pieces of clothing that had been torn apart and everyone was fed. Doctors came to the house and literally performed operations in the parlor. Those that didn't make it, were carried outside and laid out on the back porch. When the numbers of the dead were too much for the porch, bodies were stacked up against the back of the house. Unsubstantiated stories claim that there were so many dead, they were stacked in huge columns.
The Confederate Army decided to bury their dead outside of the Carter House. John McGavok was not happy with that arrangement and he decided to have the bodies moved to Carnton in an official cemetery. Caroline took it upon herself to make detailed records of the dead for the benefit of their families.They searched the bodies for any kind of identification they could find. She wanted to bring some kind of peace for the families of the lost.
German immigrant Johann Albert Lotz purchased five acres of land from Fountain Branch Carter in 1855. Lotz built his home on the land and it took him three years. Lotz was a master carpenter and his home displayed this skill. He built three fireplaces with mantles and they revealed the range of his skill from simplistic to complex. A wonderful black walnut wraparound handrail stretches from the ground floor to the second floor. It was an engineering feat for the time. The outside features cartouches, millwork and hand carved acorn finials. The house boasts a battle scar made by a cannonball when it flew through the roof, through the floor of a second story room and landed on the first floor and rolled. A charred, rounded indentation can still be seen on the floor. The home was across from the Carter House as mentioned before, so the house was witness to the battle and death as well. And the land was devastated. What we hadn't mentioned until now was that the Union had cut down most of the trees and poisoned the water. The Lotz House today is a Civil War Museum.
The fact that bodies were moved after being buried may have led to some unrest at the Carnton Mansion. The Restless Soldier is the most famous ghost at this location. His full body apparition is seen walking through the mansion and he likes to hang out on the back porch. Occasionally, he ventures away from the house and marches the perimeter of the house as if on guard duty. People know that he is nearby because of the sound of his noisy booted footfalls. A former cook has been reluctant to leave the mansion as well. A photo captured her head hovering in a hallway many years ago. Caroline McGavok is still here in her home some say. She is this location's "Woman in White." People are not sure, which of these ghosts is fond of breaking glass, but it happens sometimes. The spirit of a girl who was killed here in the 1840s might also be the culprit.
The Lotz House has its ghosts as well. In fact, this house was described by the Travel Channel in 2012 as one of the “most terrifying places in America.” A woman wearing a nightgown is seen and heard crying out for her lost loved ones. This house also features a young female ghost who is witnessed looking out through the windows. The current owner's wife claims she was asked by a woman one day in the home, "Where is Anne?" The wife was the only one in the home and this woman was in period clothing. Papers and other items go missing and are found elsewhere in the house. The craziest story from the Lotz House is about a 911 call made from the house one evening. When the police arrived, they found the entire family sleeping. No one had made the call. The phone lines were checked and everything seemed fine. Two more 911 calls were made from that house that evening.
The Carter House is plagued with a poltergeist. Some claim that it is one of the Carter's daughters named Annie. A tour guide was interrupted one afternoon by a guest who pointed out that a statue behind the guide was moving up and down. Objects appear and disappear on a regular basis. And staff members claim that they feel a child tug at their clothes. The apparition of a little girl was seen running in the upstairs hallway by a staff member. Makes us wonder if this same little girl is seen in all three houses. A disembodied female voice is heard occasionally and people claim she sounds friendly. And since Tod Carter died in this house, it's not surprising that people claim to see his ghost as well. Recently, a visitor claimed she saw Tod sitting on the side of the bed of his former room. He was there for only a moment and then he disappeared.
The battlefield itself is rife with activity. There are disembodied voices, the sound of people running, gunshots and drums. As has happened at Gettysburg, ghosts have been mistaken as re-enactors. One visitor to the site claimed to have had a long conversation with a Confederate soldier who disappeared after their discussion. In all, 1,700 Confederate soldiers were buried in the cemetery. One lone spectre has been seen standing guard outside the cemetery. Mischievious ghosts, that some believe are twin brothers, enjoy tickling people and tugging on clothing. A young girl's spirit runs about the cemetery as well.
So much suffering happened on this plot of land. The Civil War brought strong emotions to the town of Franklin. Has something from the past continued on into the present? Is there residual energy continuing the fight? Do ghosts continue to walk these historic homes? Is the Franklin Battlefield haunted? That is for you to decide!
Franklin on Foot Ghost Tour: http://franklinonfoot.com/tours/ghost-tours/