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Historic Franklin battlefield artifacts uncovered in cellar

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FRANKLIN, Tenn. - Franklin's Lotz House Executive Director J.T. Thompson recently announced historian John Marler has completed a two-year archeological excavation project in the Lotz House cellar uncovering and meticulously documenting approximately 900 Civil War relics and items connected with civilian life from the mid to late 1800s. The Lotz House was built in 1858 and is located at 1111 Columbia Pike, at the epicenter of the Battle of Franklin held Nov. 30, 1864.

John Marler began this project two years ago to see if there were any artifacts that could be recovered in an effort to help preserve the story of the Lotz family and the Battle of Franklin. As a result of many hours of hard labor and careful removal, he recovered 900 items ranging from canister shots, bullets and Civil War uniform buttons and buckles to civilian items such as a whiskey flask bearing a patriotic eagle, doll parts, toys and chips of china.

This project was started in August 2011 when Marler was showing Thompson jars of Waltham Watch tins in varying stages of conservation he had collected from the basement of the 19th-century cellar in Petersburg, Va. Thompson asked if Marler was interested in checking out the Lotz House cellar to see if there were any artifacts. An electrician working on the house months earlier had brought Thompson an apothecary bottle he found on the ground while working in the cellar. The project was started.

Marler had a full-time job so the project occurred on his weekends and after hours on his work days in the dirty, unconditioned environment for two years. He carefully worked in a standard accepted methodology documenting what items were found in each section of the cellar.

The findings help tell the story of the battle as iron canister spheres, bullets and remnants of leather Civil War accoutrements were found in the dirt. It also demonstrates that the Lotz family at one time used the cellar as their resting place as doll and toy pieces, along with china pieces were recovered.

Marler described the overall cellar “as if the cellar door had been shut and locked in the late 1860s and left closed until 2011.” Marler added, “I was pleasantly surprised to find there was only a very small amount of modern litter from current day. Usually in situations like this you’ll find bottle cans and caps and other debris. This was clear of any modern day trash.”

Some of the items found were numerous .577 Enfield and .58 caliber Springfield minie' balls; Williams Patent Cleaner Type III rounds (or bullets); army issue leather knapsack fragments; examples of brass buckles as often seen on sword belt rigs worn by officers of both sides; bottles from the 1840’s to the turn of the century; buttons of glass, porcelain, china, and bone; standard issue three-piece Federal Eagle button complete with shank and in fine condition; countless examples of hallmarked china, stoneware, cream ware, etc,; portions of the original Lotz Family coal burning stove; a door knob likely dating to the time when the home was first built in 1858 and the only known surviving example; several unglazed clay marbles; 4 iron canister rounds with mold seams indicative of Confederate manufacture; fragment of fruit jar with raised lettering which reads "30th NOV 1858;" copper fiddle back spoon with remnants of silver plating; original 1858 window glass fragments; 1850s era photographic "gem-type" with original case; unfired percussion caps; examples of horse/cavalry tack both leather and iron examples; leather strap with iron buckle as seen on officer haversacks of the period; a wooden matchstick of the type see during the 1860’s that has been lit but was immediately blown out; countless bottles some still with corks and an eagle embossed whiskey flask in perfect condition.

Click below to see video coverage of the find:

Marler has written a book entitled “Forgotten Treasures of a Forgotten Battle: The Lotz House Cellar and the Battle of Franklin” which was just released. In addition, Thompson produced a 34-minute DVD on the project.

Visitors who tour the Lotz House will now have an opportunity to see some of the many items collected and preserved at the museum.

About the Lotz House

The Lotz House was built in 1858 by German immigrant Johann Albert Lotz who repaired the damage to the house after the Battle of Franklin. He and his family lived in the cellar following the battle, as his home was used as a hospital to care for the wounded after the battle.

The house is open Monday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday 1–4 p.m. Closed on holidays. The Lotz House is located at 1111 Columbia Avenue. For more information about this historic home, call 615-790-7190 or visit

  • The 2014 Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Event will be held in Franklin, Tenn., Nov. 13-14, 2014. For more information, visit

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