GHOSTS OF THE PRAIRIE
THE CARTER HOUSE
Few homes in Tennessee have as much reason to be haunted as the Carter House in Franklin. The house was built in 1830 by Fountain Branch Carter, never realizing that it would be in the center of one of the most terrifying battles in the Civil War, a battle in which nearly the entire Army of Tennessee was destroyed.
After the Fall of Atlanta, General Hood's Confederate troops marched northward to Columbia, Tennessee (about 25 miles from Franklin), flanking around General Schofield's Union troops.
The Carter House in Franklin
Hood continued north to Spring Hill, which he reached on the night of November 29, 1864. Schofield desperately needed to join ranks with General Thomas at Nashville but to do this, he had to get past Hood. Somehow, under the cover of darkness, Schofield was able to slip past Hood and move further north. When Hood found out that he had been outmaneuvered, he marched his men in pursuit of the Federal troops. He then made one of the worst mistakes of his career.... he chose to take the fight to Schofield.
In the late afternoon of November 30, Hood's men charged the entrenched Federal troops. A few hours later, he had lost 6200 men. By dawn the next day, Schofield himself had lost over 2300 of his own men. He withdrew his remaining troops and started for Nashville, leaving the Confederates in chaos behind him.
In the midst of all of this carnage stood the Carter house.
When the Union troops had arrived in Franklin, General Cox had commandeered the house as a command post. The Carter family had been roused from their beds in the middle of the night, only to watch helplessly as the Federal troops moved in.
During the fighting the next day, the Carter's took refuge in the basement. Fountain Branch Carter was the head of the family but he was elderly and a widower, so his oldest son, Lt. Colonel Moscow Branch Carter, took charge of the family. Carter, having been taken prisoner in an earlier battle, was home on parole. He rounded the family into the cellar beneath the house. Besides the two Carter men were three daughters, a daughter-in-law, children, a few neighbors, and servants, making twenty-two people to huddle in the darkness.
The Carters were cut off from the battle, except for what they could hear taking place. They heard gunfire, bullets striking the house, screams of dying men and even a cannonball crashing into the side of the building. Soldiers fought hand-to-hand on the porch and in the rooms. The Confederates charged the Union position a dozen times, but each time they were beaten back.
The Carter family somehow survived the battle. Late that night, after it was all over, they left the basement and got some terrible news. Another son, Tod Carter, had been with the Confederate troops in the assault. He was lying somewhere on the battlefield with the thousands of other soldiers who were wounded, dead or dying. Moscow Carter went in search of his brother with only a lantern to guide the way. He wandered aimlessly for hours, searching everywhere. While he was gone, General Smith arrived at the Carter house. Tod had been on Smith's staff, serving under General Hood, and Smith knew how close the boy had been to home. He rallied all efforts to find the lost soldier. Smith took another lantern and started his own search, finding Tod Carter some time later. The boy had only been about one hundred yards away from the house when he had been hit.
Smith and the Carter's carried Tod into the house and placed him in a first floor bedroom. He was tended for two days before he died.
The Carter House was opened to the public in 1953 and in 1961 was listed as a Registered National Historic Landmark. It operates today as a historic museum to the Battle of Franklin.
Despite heavy tourist traffic, the staff members and visitors are not the only ones who walk in this house. Most agree, given the history of the place, that it is not surprising that it is haunted. Poltergeist-like pranks often occur in the house and have been attributed to the ghost of Annie Carter, one of Tod's sisters. During a tour one afternoon, one of the staff members was interrupted during a talk by a visitor who pointed out that the statue behind her was jumping up and down. Other events also point to a playful ghost like objects that appear and disappear and the sensation of a child tugging at staff member's sleeves when they believe they are the only ones in the house.
One staff member even claimed to have seen the apparition of a little girl disappear down an upstairs hallway and down the steps. Others have spoken of hearing the friendly and welcoming voice of a woman in the house.
Not surprisingly, Tod Carter has also made an appearance in the house. The young man has been seen several times and recently, a visitor was looking into the bedroom where he died and saw his apparition sitting on the side of the bed. He was visible for only a few moments before he vanished.
The Carter House is located in Franklin, Tennessee, in the central region of the state and a short distance south of Nashville. The house is located south of Franklin at 1140 Columbia Avenue.
Copyright 2001 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.
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