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Reenactors descend upon Lotz House, share personal stories of bloody battle

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When the Battle of Franklin, one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, broke out on the evening of Nov. 30, 1864, the Lotz and Carter houses along Columbia Avenue were caught in the epicenter.

While the two families as well as Carter’s slaves hid in the stone basement of Fountain Branch Carter’s brick farmhouse, fierce fighting went on above them. When they emerged the following morning, they were witnesses to the carnage of dead and wounded men and horses and a devastated landscape. 

Albert Lotz’s wooden frame house was severely damaged by gunfire and cannon balls. Despite the damage, which included the south wall being blasted out, the Lotz family, like many residents in Franklin at the time, turned what was left of their home into a field hospital for wounded Confederate and Federal soldiers. 

Lotz’s house remained a field hospital well into the summer as Lotz himself worked on repairing the structure. 

In memory of the those who fought and the civilian residents who suffered their own losses and yet had the compassion to help the wounded and dying soldiers on both sides, reenactors of the 33rd Alabama Infantry, which served with Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee, the 4th Kentucky Infantry, the 48th Alabama Infantry and the 8th Tennessee Infantry spent this past weekend in a re-created field hospital at the now historic Lotz House. 

They spoke with visitors, telling stories of some of the wounded and dying and lived the life of a 19th-century Confederate soldier who survived the battle or wounded Federal soldiers who were hospitalized prisoners of war.

“History is much more than facts and figures; it’s a portrayal of personal stories,” said Thomas Cartwright, executive director of the Lotz House. “Having reenactors helps us remember those great Americans on both sides by telling their stories. There was so much loss here. We don’t glorify their deaths but their lives. ... Their names aren’t just names, they are their stories.” 

Tom Thompson was one of the reenactors. He served as a private in the 33rd Alabama Infantry.

“Our flag was captured over by the cotton gin close to where (Major Gen.) Patrick Cleburne was killed,” he said. 

The stories he tells are personal. Two of his ancestors, Pvt. William Green Snell, with the 33rd Alabama Infantry, and Seaborn H. Brooks, with the 1st Alabama Infantry, were killed during the Battle of Franklin. 

“(Snell is) one of the unknowns in the cemetery at Carnton,” Thompson said. 

Brooks was “probably killed west of the Carter House,” near where Tod Carter was mortally wounded, he added.

Snell’s brother, Pvt. James B. Snell, was killed in the Battle of Chickamauga and was buried in a Tunnel Hill, Georgia cemetery.

Later in the afternoon, reenactors representing the 33rd Alabama Infantry marched up to the breast works at the cotton gin to present Cartwright with a replica of the flag of the 33rd Alabama Infantry.

“I was overwhelmed; speechless,” Cartwright said of the gift. “It was very kind of them, and the flag will he here at the Lotz House for the rest of eternity.” 

On Sunday morning, the unit visited McGavock Cemetery to honor the Alabama soldiers who died 156 years ago during the battle.

The Army of the Cumberland Living History Corps, which features reenactors representing Federal soldiers and U.S. Colored Troops soldiers will camp out at the Lotz House from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in memory of the 156th anniversary of the Battle of Nashville (Dec. 15-16, 1864) and Dennis Boggs, who is well known for his portrayals of Abraham Lincoln, will visit the encampment.

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