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The Lotz House
The Battle of Franklin was a tragedy similar to Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. At Franklin approximately 20,000 Confederates, supported by just one battery of artillery, advanced over two miles of open ground to strike the Union line made up of three tiers of sturdy breastworks and abatis that, in most places, stood about eight feet high. Private Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee called it “the blackest page in the history of the war.” In about five hours of battle, around ten thousand men became casualties on both sides, roughly seven thousand of them Confederates. Fourteen Southern generals became casualties, more than any other battle in the war.
In the midst of this nightmarish battle were the Carter House, at 1140 Columbia Avenue, and the Lotz House, at 1111 Columbia Avenue.
Johann Albert Lotz and his wife Margaretha were German immigrants to Franklin, Tennessee. Margaretha bore six children, Paul and Amelia (from a former marriage), Augustus, Matilda, and twins Julius and Julia. In 1855, Lotz purchased five acres from Fountain Branch Carter, who had completed his federal style brick farm house in 1830. Lotz was a master carpenter and piano maker, who also repaired guitars and violins. So Lotz built his home, just across the street from the Carter House and completed in 1858, as a show case house to demonstrate his carpentry skills.
When the Lotz family awoke on the morning of November 30, 1864, they found the main Union Line established approximately 100 yards south of their home. The Lotz family and the Carter family homes were in the midst of the raging battle that began around 5 pm in the afternoon and lasted until around midnight, when Federal troops began a withdrawal from the battlefield, en route to Nashville. During the awful hours that the battle raged around them, the Carter family took refuge in their basement, as did Albert Lotz and his family from across the pike. Historians describe the fighting that took place at the Battle of Franklin and in the Lotz front yard as “some of the most severe hand-to-hand fighting during the four-year-long-war.”
Coming out of the basement on December 1, 1864, the Lotz family felt great joy at still being alive, but as they made their way across the street to their severely damaged home, it was said that they could make the walk without ever stepping on the ground, so many were the bodies of dead soldiers lying on top of one another tenfold.
There were plenty of horses among the casualties, too. Lotz found 17 dead horses in his front yard. General John Adams’ horse was found with two of his legs on one side of the earth works and the other two on the other side of the earth works. Major General Patrick Cleburne was riding a brown mare that belonged to Lieutenant Tip Stanton, a member of his escort. The horse was killed about eighty yards from the earthworks. James Brandon, a courier from Mississippi, dismounted to give the general his horse, but the animal was killed before General Cleburne could place himself in the saddle. As he rode forward, Corps Commander David Stanley, of Emerson Opdycke’s brigade, had his horse shot out from under him and a bullet passed through the back of his neck, putting him temporarily out of action. Brig. Gen. John Adams attempted to rally his brigade by galloping his horse directly onto the earthworks. As he attempted to seize the flag of the 65th Illinois, he and his horse were shot and killed.
After the battle, the Lotz home, as did other still-standing structures, became a hospital for the wounded. One can still see bloody “seat” prints from where wounded soldiers had sat on the floor in the parlor. As soon as he could, Lotz set about repairing his damaged home and, after four years, successfully repaired the damage. (It had only taken him three years to build the home.)
Having repaired his home and returned, they thought, to a normal life, Lotz built a grand piano on with a controversial image carved into it: an American eagle holding an American flag with one foot and a battle-battered Confederate flag with the other. Word got around to members of the Ku Klux Klan in Pulaski, TN, who didn’t like the tattered Confederate flag displayed on his piano. Members made a visit to Lotz’ home and threatened to tar and feather him – a certain death sentence. They took the piano outside and burned it. Afterward, the Lotz family loaded what belongings they could, and made their way to California. They passed through Memphis, TN for a brief time, then continued their journey via covered wagon to San Jose, California, where they settled in 1870.
Lotz’ children were as artistically talented as their father. Daughter Matilda, from a very early age, showed much talent for drawing and painting. Even as a 6-year-old, her drawings and paintings of animals had remarkable realism and detail. The move to San Jose proved to be a great benefit to Matilda; that is where she got her first art lessons, from her older brother Paul and other artists employed by Wrights Photography Gallery. Paul was a pioneer in color photography.
In 1874, Matilda began a six-year course of study under Virgil Williams at the school of design in San Francisco, where she won several gold medals and graduated with highest honors. Matilda was also a pupil of William Keith and in the 1880’s furthered her art study in Paris, France under Felix Barrias and the famous animal painter Van Marcke. In Paris, she received honorable mention for her work exhibited at the Paris Salon and was awarded two gold medals by the Paris Academy of Painting (the first woman ever to be honored by the Academy).
During a return visit to her family in California, she was commissioned to paint the portrait of George Hearst, father of William Randolph Hearst. Matilda’s painting of George Hearst hangs today in The Hearst Castle. Matilda was also retained to paint the portrait of former California Governor Leland Stanford, the founder of Stanford University. That portrait remains on display at Stanford University.
Matilda Lotz (1828-1923) is recognized as one of California’s premiere early female artists, and her work is highly prized. An oil-on-canvas painting of Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford driving a four-in-hand on the beach at San Francisco, signed Matilda Lotz and dated 1878, sold at Christie’s this year for $15,000. (photo of her painting is shown in the print edition of the Mid-South Horse Review)
Find more information about the Lotz House at: http://www.lotzhouse.com; information about the Carter House and Carnton Plantation at: http://www.battleoffranklintrust.org;/ and about historic Franklin, TN at: http://www.visitwilliamson.com/
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