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Civil War Personality: Matilda Lotz


Civil War Personality:  Matilda Lotz

The Battle of Franklin is full of stories of military tactics and heroism. A group of Leadership Franklin members worked with the Battle of Franklin Trust to tell more of the human story – one you can only try to imagine. Today you will hear from Matilda Lotz, a nine-year-old girl on the day of the Battle of Franklin and read about how her life was forever impacted.

Editor’s Note: The Battle of Franklin is full of stories of military tactics and heroism. A group of Leadership Franklin members worked with the Battle of Franklin Trust to tell more of the human story – one you can only try to imagine. Over the next six weeks, the Home Page will tell 15 of those stories that led to the commemoration of the Battle of Franklin and the events surrounding the Sesquicentennial. Each story has an introduction to a personality involved in the battle, a first-person account compiled from historic documents by LF class members, and a conclusion that lets you know what happened to our personality after the battle. Today you will hear from Matilda Lotz, a nine-year-old girl on the day of the Battle of Franklin and read about how her life was forever impacted.

Matilda Lotz, later in life
German immigrant, Johann Albert Lotz

Introduction of Matilda:

In 1855, German immigrant Johann Albert Lotz , purchased 5 acres of land from Fountain Branch Carter. Three years later, after doing most of the work himself, Lotz completed his home in 1858. By trade, Mr. Lotz was a master carpenter, a piano maker and he also repaired guitars and violins. His home, served as his “show house” to demonstrate his carpentry work to potential clients interested in hiring him for his services.

On the night of November 29, 1864, approximately 20,000 Union soldiers retreated from Spring Hill into Franklin. These troops quickly dug protective trenches and made barricades with everything they could get their hands on, including the Lotz family’s white picket fence. The Lotz family watched with fear as it became apparent they would be in the path of a Confederate advance. Matilda Lotz was six years old this day, an innocent child of German immigrants who had claimed Franklin as the place their family would make a new life.

Hear from Matilda Lotz:

When our family awakened on the morning of November 30, we found the main Union Line had been established approximately 100 yards south of our home. My father feared that our family, my mother Margaretha, my brothers Paul and Augustus and myself would not survive the battle in our “wooden plank house.”

Our neighbor, Mr. Carter had compassion on our family. He sent a message to my father with an invitation to please make plans to come over to the Carter house in great haste for they were seeking safety in their basement. This generous invitation was eagerly accepted with gratitude for we believed it was possibly our only source of protection from the bullets, cannons and fire of the enemy.

We sought refuge in the brick basement of the Carter House for 17 hours while the horrific battle raged all around us. It was a deafening sound. We could not speak. We could not communicate at all. We huddled in fear as the world became a deafening roar all around us. Much of what we heard could not be understood until the next day.

Our family, along with 20 other people, remained safe and survived. When we exited the basement the next morning, we were horrified to see the bodies of dead soldiers. Between the Carter House and our home, where I had played with my brothers and drawn farm animals in the dirt, the dead and injured were so thick that you couldn’t take a step without walking on one of them. That place of innocence was gone forever in my mind.

Our house served as a hospital for the wounded soldiers on both sides until the following summer. To this day, one can step into the Lotz House and see numerous blood stains in all of the rooms. The house itself suffered severe battle damage, but father was quick to make repairs.

During the battle a solid shot cannon ball crashed through the roof, smashing into the floor of an upstairs bedroom and down to the first floor. The large repaired patch made by my father remains in the second floor. And on the first floor where the cannonball finally came to rest you can clearly see where the hot lead ball first hit, burning the floor as it rolled.

The Lotz House, modern day

Our family was never able to recover our struggling life in Franklin following the Civil War. My father made a mighty attempt to make it work but poverty struck and our family was forced to leave the home in which my father had taken such pride.

We migrated west first to Memphis, Tennessee for a brief time and then via covered wagon all the way to California. It was in the autumn of 1870 when we arrived and settled in San Jose, California. There I received my first true art lessons from my older brother Paul and other artists in the area.

I would go on to have a long career as an artist and some of my paintings have returned to Lotz House and are displayed there today.

What happened to Matilda Lotz?

Matilda Lotz studied painting all over the world and became a sought after artist. While at home 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.

DOWNLOAD THE APP: You can now download for free an iPhone app called The Voices of the Battle of Franklin. This app features many first-person accounts from local historic residents, as well as a driving tour through the area of Franklin which served as the battlefield on November 30, 1864. Whether you are local to the Franklin community or a visitor, we encourage you to download the app to transform your experience into an historic one. To download The Voices of the Battle of Franklin app, click here.

This app was produced by a Leadership Franklin group for the Battle of Franklin Trust, which now offers it for free to visitors. Donations to Franklin Battlefield preservation made be made by visiting their site, click here.

About The Author

Kelly Gilfillan is the owner-publisher of Home Page Media Group which has been publishing hyperlocal news since 2009.

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