As on ‘Mercy Street,’ Spying and Smuggling Were Common in Civil War Tennessee

By Rob DeHart
Tennessee State Museum

Alice Green (AnnaSophia Robb) and Capt. Lance Van Der Berg (Chris Wood). Credit: Courtesy of PBS/Erik Heinila

Spoiler alert: This blog post may contain plot spoilers.

In The House Guest, this week’s Mercy Street episode, Alice Green feigns love for a Union soldier in order to gather information for the Rebellion. This scheme turns out to be more dangerous than she thought and results in tragic consequences. Green’s actions mirror Civil War stories of Middle Tennesseans who tried to aid the Confederacy through espionage and smuggling.

Though women could not join the Confederate Army, there is widespread evidence that they tried to help the cause by smuggling goods across Union lines into the camps of Confederate soldiers. This was enough of a problem that in December 1862, the Nashville Daily Union announced: “To the Ladies – We are informed that the Military Police of this city have adopted a rule to examine all females passing through the lines, who may be suspected of carrying contraband goods, letters, etc. The practice has become so common that they have deemed it absolutely necessary to adopt this course.”

The Annals of the Army of the Cumberland provides an account of an unnamed African-American female servant and her employer caught smuggling for the Confederacy. She was trying to leave Nashville in a cart when it was stopped and searched. The Union guards found nothing suspicious in the cart, but when the woman jumped down to be searched, a “string broke from about her waist, and down tumbled to the ground two pairs of long-legged cavalry boots” which had been hidden in her skirt.

There are also accounts of Confederate spies in Middle Tennessee. One of the most infamous female spies associated with Nashville was Clara Judd. The Annals reported that she traveled from Nashville to Louisville with the purpose of acquiring quinine and other medicines for the Confederacy, but her true intent was to pass Union Army information to Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan. Judd’s information on Union troop strengths and locations along the Louisville and Nashville Railroad helped Morgan lead successful raids. When the Union Army learned of Judd’s involvement, she was arrested and sent to a military prison in Alton, Illinois.

Sam Davis’ boot. Tennessee State Museum.

Tennessee’s most famous Civil War espionage story, however, is that of Sam Davis. Born in Rutherford County, Davis served in the 1st Tennessee Infantry, and by 1863 had become a member of “Coleman’s Scouts.” Davis’ job was to work behind enemy lines collecting information on Union troops and delivering that information to Confederate authorities. He was captured in Giles County by Union troops in November 1863 and accused of being a spy when papers with sensitive information were found in one of his boots. It was believed this information could only have come from a Union officer and not just from his observations as a scout. Davis’ life would have been spared had he revealed his source, but he refused, saying “Do you suppose that I would betray a friend? No, sir, I would die a thousand times first.” He was then hanged at the age of 21.

The Union chaplain who attended Davis at the scaffold collected his effects and sent them to Davis’ mother in Smyrna. Eventually many of these items came into the collection of the Tennessee Historical Society and the Tennessee State Museum. Davis’ boot, which is reported to be the one cut open by Union soldiers to reveal the hidden papers, is on display. One account suggests that the shackles worn by Davis while he awaited execution were cutting off his circulation, which may explain why the boot was cut down almost to its sole. Visitors can also see Davis’ overcoat at the museum. More than 150 years old, this coat has been carefully conserved to inhibit deterioration.

Sam Davis’ overcoat. Tennessee State Museum.

Because Davis accepted death rather than reveal his source, some called him the “Boy Hero of the Confederacy.” In the late-19th century, a group of citizens funded the building of a monument to Davis that still sits on the Tennessee State Capitol grounds. Also, his boyhood home in Smyrna is now preserved as the Historic Sam Davis Home and Plantation. Davis’ short life demonstrates the danger faced by soldiers and civilians who engaged in espionage during the Civil War.

Rob DeHart received his M.A. in public history from Middle Tennessee State University, is a peer reviewer for the American Alliance of Museums and is currently developing content for the new Tennessee State Museum opening in 2018.

NPT wins 2017 Midsouth Emmy Award; Producer Simington Honored

Matthew Emigh, J.T. Ellison, Beth Curley, Linda Wei and Mary Laura Philpott at the 2017 Midsouth Regional Emmy Awards.

Nashville Public Television’s A Word on Words received an award in the Interstitial category at the 31st Annual Midsouth Regional Emmy Awards on January 21, 2017, at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville. Statuettes went to producer Linda Wei; photographer Will Pedigo; editor Matthew Emigh; hosts J.T. Ellison and Mary Laura Philpott; and executive producer Beth Curley.

NPT productions went into the awards with 4 nominations.

Also during the awards ceremony, NPT producer Ken Simington was posthumously inducted into the Silver Circle with a video tribute and an acceptance speech by Joe Elmore, host of NPT’s popular Tennessee Crossroads magazine program. Simington, who died in August of last year, was the longtime executive producer of Tennessee Crossroads. The Silver Circle honors those with at least 25 years of service to the television industry and who have made a significant contribution to the community and to Midsouth television.

NPT would also like to congratulate our friends and partners on their Emmy wins, including Todd Squared (Bluegrass Underground; Nitty Gritty Dirt Band & Friends – Fifty Years, Circlin’ Back!); BoneSteel Films and Concentrix Music (America’s First Forest: Carl Schenck and The Asheville Experiment).

For a full list of winners please visit the NATAS-Nashville Chapter website at

‘Mercy Street’ Battles Smallpox in Season 2 Opener

By Rob DeHart
Tennessee State Museum

Charlotte Jenkins (Patina Miller), Nurse Mary Phinney (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Samuel Diggs (McKinley Belcher III) in Mercy Street. Credit: Courtesy of PBS/Erik Heinila

In the opening episode of Season 2 of Mercy Street, a smallpox epidemic ravages a camp for freed African Americans. Mansion House’s doctors initially ignore the epidemic, viewing it as a “slave disease,” until Nurse Mary Phinney eventually convinces the hospital to take it seriously.

This was an all too common occurrence during the Civil War. As we saw in Mercy Street’s first season, medical practitioners during this era were just beginning to recognize the link between cleanliness and disease. It was more common to blame the smallpox epidemic on the victims’ ethnicity rather than on the unsanitary conditions of the camp and lack of adequate nutrition. Further, military leaders often unknowingly encouraged the spread of disease by not allowing the proper burial of victims or by neglecting to burn the contaminated items of patients.

Historian Jim Downs documents how African Americans disproportionately suffered from disease during the Civil War in his book Sick from Freedom (2012). Downs estimates at least 60,000 former slaves died from smallpox between 1862 and 1870 from an epidemic that began in Washington and spread throughout the South. Mortality statistics for civilians are not well documented from this period, but Downs believes as many as a quarter of the four million slaves freed by the war may have died from disease – a statistic that is largely omitted when discussing Civil War casualties.

Evidence suggests that smallpox is as old as civilization itself. Pathological examinations of Egyptian mummies have alluded to the presence of smallpox scars, and reports of the disease are found in early European, Asian, and African accounts. In England during the 1700s, the fatality rate for smallpox outbreaks ranged from 20 to 60 percent, and the disease proved especially deadly in infants. Smallpox did not exist in the Americas before the arrival of Europeans, which explains why it so devastated Native American populations during the era of exploration.

Note certifying the 1866 death of Pleasant Miller, a freed slave and soldier in the 14th United States Colored Infantry. Miller died from illness contracted from exposure in Nashville in December 1864. Tennessee State Museum, 2002.118.4.

It is also tragic that smallpox epidemics were so preventable. As early as the 1720s, physicians experimented with inoculation for smallpox. They noticed that victims who survived the disease did not get it a second time. Physicians began taking contaminated material from the sores of smallpox victims and infecting the skin of healthy patients. Results were promising: People intentionally given the disease died at a significantly lower rate than those who naturally contracted it. One early advocate of smallpox inoculation was Gen. George Washington, who persuaded the Continental Congress to allow the inoculation of American military recruits.

By the early 1800s, British physician Edward Jenner published his experiments on using the cowpox virus to immunize humans against smallpox. The viruses are similar, but cowpox is much less lethal to people. Jenner was not the first to recognize its ability to make humans immune to smallpox, but his publication – which named the procedure after vaccinia, the Latin word for cowpox – started a movement to promote vaccination against smallpox in Europe and the United States.

Although medical science could have declared victory over smallpox, 19th-century doctors did not widely practice vaccination, and smallpox became a disease associated with poverty and people of color. The unsanitary conditions and deadly diseases faced by freed African Americans who fled to Union contraband camps are poignant to consider; however, for most it was still likely preferable to the misery of bondage.

Rob DeHart received his M.A. in public history from Middle Tennessee State University, is a peer reviewer for the American Alliance of Museums and is currently developing content for the new Tennessee State Museum opening in 2018.

‘Mercy Street’ Civil War Drama and State Museum Curator’s Blog Return

Jack Falahee as Frank Stringfellow and Hannah James as Emma Green of Mercy Street. Credit: Courtesy of PBS

Mercy Street, PBS’ original Civil War drama in more than a decade, returns for a second season Sunday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m. Again this year we’ve invited Tennessee State Museum curator Rob DeHart to write a weekly blog post that will draw on the museum’s collection to localize the story to the Middle Tennessee region.

DeHart has 16 years of museum experience and is a curator at the Tennessee State Museum here in Nashville where he specializes in technology and cultural history. He is currently developing content about the period from 1760 to 1850 for the new state museum opening on the corner of Jefferson Street and Rosa Parks Boulevard in 2018. DeHart received his M.A. in public history from Middle Tennessee State University and is a peer reviewer for the American Alliance of Museums.

Mercy Street revolves around the staff and patients of Mansion House, a Union hospital that has been set up in a former hotel owned by a Confederate-sympathizing family in the occupied city of Alexandria, Va. Season 2 begins with a visit by President Abraham Lincoln in the midst of a thwarted assassination attempt. Loyalties shift this season as doctors, nurses, military personnel, locals, free persons of color and slaves coexist in a rapidly changing and dangerous time and place.

Much of the original cast returns, including Mary Elizabeth Winstead as feisty New Englander and widow nurse Mary Phinney; Josh Radnor as Dr. Jedediah Foster, a civilian contract surgeon who grew up in a privileged Southern slave-owning family; McKinley Belcher III as Samuel Diggs, a free black laborer with a secret knowledge of and ability in medicine learned as a young servant; and AnnaSophia Robb as Alice Green, who becomes the most fervently committed member of her family.

Mercy Street airs Sundays at 7 p.m. through March 5, with a break for the Academy Awards on Feb. 26. Watch this space for NPT’s Mercy Street blog posts in the coming weeks.

‘Victoria on Masterpiece’ Begins Jan. 15; How to Binge-Watch

The much-anticipated Victoria on Masterpiece begins Sunday, Jan. 15, at 8 p.m., on NPT. While the Victorian era has been a go-to time period for Masterpiece and PBS for decades, this is a new look at the storied reign of the legendary monarch. Prefer to binge-watch? Following the Jan. 15 premiere, the entire season of the new drama will also be available for streaming on NPT Passport.

If you are already a Passport-activated member, you’ll have immediate access to the entire series. For non-Passport viewers, each episode will available online following the Sunday broadcasts and will remain available for viewing for two weeks.

Written by historical novelist Daisy Goodwin, Victoria on Masterpiece chronicles Victoria’s first years on the throne as she displays a surprisingly determined manner. The cast stars Jenna Coleman as Victoria; Rufus Sewell as Prime Minister Lord Melbourne; and Tom Hughes as Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Victoria’s consort. Victoria on Masterpiece airs Sundays through March 5 (with a break Feb. 26 for the Oscars).

NPT Passport is the member benefit streaming portal through which you can enjoy past episodes of many of your favorite PBS and NPT shows on demand using your streaming media player, computer, smartphone or tablet. Learn more about the Passport membership benefit here.

Opera Based on Ann Patchett’s ‘Bel Canto’ Airs Jan. 13 on NPT

The Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Bel Canto the Opera, an adaptation of Nashville author Ann Patchett’s award-winning novel about a hostage crisis in a South American embassy, will air on PBS’ Great Performances series, Friday, Jan. 13, at 8 p.m. on NPT. The new opera was composed by Jimmy López with a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz and curated by legendary soprano Renée Fleming, Lyric’s creative consultant, who hosts the broadcast. This performance was recorded in Chicago last January.

‘Bel Canto’ world premiere at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

NPT spoke with Ann Patchett recently about the experience of having her book adapted for the operatic stage, an occurrence none too common these days, but undeniably appropriate for this particular book. Yet Patchett wasn’t entirely convinced it would happen.

“The thing about Bel Canto is that it has almost been so many things,” Patchett said by phone from her home in Nashville. She ran through a list of proposed adaptations: an opera in Santa Fe, a Broadway musical, a stage play. “It has almost been a movie more times than I can count,” Patchett said. “It’s not that these things didn’t happen because it was so hard, it’s just the process of doing collaborative art is hard.”

What was different this time around? Patchett’s good friend Renée Fleming approached her after being named creative director at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. “I said, sure, go ahead, knock yourself out. But I didn’t actually think it was going to happen; nor did I think that it wasn’t going to happen. I’d been down this road so many times before that I just didn’t think about it very much,” she added.

Not thinking about it meant not being involved in any way; all creative decisions were left to Fleming and others at Lyric Opera. “What do I know about opera? I think if you make a decision to sell your work, you’ve sold it,” Patchett said. As it turned out, she didn’t see Bel Canto the Opera until opening night, after a delayed flight cancelled her plans to attend a dress rehearsal with Fleming. By the time Patchett reached Chicago, there was just enough time to get to the pair’s speaking engagement.

“I’m glad in a way that’s the way it turned out,” Patchett said. “It was a beautiful experience and I genuinely loved the opera.” The lighting, the sets, the staging all brought out aspects of the story the author hadn’t previously considered. And she admits to enjoying taking a bow after the performance (though she protested at the time) and staying out late for the cast party. Patchett isn’t planning a party for Friday’s broadcast — but will be watching.

In the production, internationally acclaimed soprano Danielle de Niese stars as the American opera diva Roxane Coss, who is making a special appearance at a diplomatic gathering in Lima when terrorists storm the mansion. The hostage situation becomes a siege as government forces surround the compound. During the months-long crisis, lines blur and unexpected alliances form between captors and captives, with Roxane’s singing becoming a powerful, humanizing force.

Among the hostages are Japanese industrialist Katsumi Hosokawa (who is obsessed with the opera singer and who is the reason she was invited to perform) and his translator Gen Watanabe, portrayed by Jeongcheol Cha and Andrew Stenson, respectively. J’nai Bridges sings the role of guerilla Carmen; with Rafael Davila as General Alfredo; William Burden as Rubén Iglesias, the vice president; Anthony Roth Costanzo as César; and Jacques Imbrailo as Joachim Messner, the Red Cross intermediary for the hostages, captors, and government officials.

Bel Canto the Opera is sung in Spanish, English, Japanese, Russian, German, French, Latin and Quechua, with projected English translations. Sir Andrew Davis conducts the Lyric production directed by Kevin Newbury.

Win Tickets from NPT to See ‘Sherlock’ in Nashville

NPT is offering viewers the chance to see The Final Problem, the Sherlock on Masterpiece Season Four finale, on the big screen.

The feature-length episode will be shown at three Nashville movie theaters – the Regal Green Hills Stadium 16, the Regal Hollywood Stadium 27 (100 Oaks) and the Regal Opry Mills Stadium 20 – at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 16, and Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. The theatrical release includes 15 minutes of additional material featuring one of the show’s most beloved characters.

Click here to register for the chance to win tickets to the screenings. The contest runs through Jan. 12.

Tickets for Sherlock: The Final Problem can be purchased online by visiting or at participating theater box offices. For a complete list of theater locations, visit the Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change).

Sherlock’s fourth season began Jan. 1, 2017, on NPT and continues with “The Lying Detective” (8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8) and “The Final Problem,” (6 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 15).

New Masterpiece Dramas Start January 1 with ‘Sherlock’

A fresh trio of Masterpiece dramas premiere in January, starting with Sherlock on Masterpiece on New Year’s Day at 8 p.m., followed in the coming weeks by the new series Victoria, and the second season of Mercy Street.



Season 4 of Sherlock begins with “The Six Thatchers,” which finds the famously manic and brilliant Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) back on British soil and once again facing antagonists and his own demons. Meanwhile, his friend and colleague John Watson (Martin Freeman) and his wife, Mary (Amanda Abbington), are expecting their first child. As with 2016’s “Abominable Bride,” each Season 4 episode will air in the U.S. and Britain on the same day.



In addition to the season-opening adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons” – which, like it’s predecessor, starts with a miscreant smashing busts of the titular political figure – this fresh batch of Sherlock episodes includes “The Lying Detective” (based on “The Adventure of the Dying Detective”) airing 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8, and “The Final Problem,” airing 6 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 15.

“Sherlock: The Final Problem,” the season conclusion, will be shown at three Nashville movie theaters – the Regal Hollywood Stadium 27 (100 Oaks), The Regal Green Hills Stadium 16 and the Regal Opry Mills Stadium 20 – at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 16, and Wednesday, Jan. 18. NPT is giving away five pairs of tickets for each day’s shows; check our website and social media for details.

We had a spirited audience at our Dec. 11 “Victoria Preview Screening and Victorian Celebration” at the Franklin Theatre (see some of the great costumes here), so we’re especially excited about the two-hour television premiere of Victoria on Masterpiece on Sunday, Jan. 15, at 8 p.m. The multipart drama chronicles the legendary queen’s first years on the throne as she evolves from a sheltered 18-year-old into a confidant young woman leading a growing empire.



In this new series written by Daisy Goodwin, Victoria (Jenna Coleman) gains a valuable ally in Prime Minister Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell), but their closeness triggers a Parliamentary crisis. Later, Victoria meets and marries Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (Tom Hughes). Victoria on Masterpiece is a beautifully filmed, historically informed series full of the intrigue and glamour viewers came to love in Downton Abbey. Watch Sundays at 8 p.m., Jan. 15 through March 5 (with a break Feb. 26 for the Oscars).

PBS premiered its first original American drama in more than a decade in 2016; that series, Mercy Street, is back for a second season 7 p.m. Sundays from Jan. 22 through March 5 (with the exception of Feb. 26). Set in a military hospital in Union-occupied Alexandria, Va., Mercy Street deals with smallpox, an inquisitive detective, a former slave turned activist, numerous romances and a Rebel spy over this season’s six episodes. In the opener, the Mansion House staff rallies to save one of its own during a visit by President Abraham Lincoln amid a foiled assassination attempt.

This season’s directors include Stephen Cragg (“Scandal,” “Nashville,” “How to Get Away With Murder,” “ER,” “Boston Legal,” “Grey’s Anatomy”); Laura Innes (“How to Get Away With Murder,” “The Affair,” “Brothers & Sisters,” “The West Wing,” “Grey’s Anatomy”); and Alexander Zakrzewski (“Bosch,” “Blacklist,” “Salem,” “The Good Wife,” “The Wire,” “Oz,” “NUMB3RS”).



Mercy Street was inspired by the stories of real people and in that spirit Tennessee State Museum curator Rob DeHart will write blog posts about each week’s episode highlighting a related object from the museum’s connection again this season.

Find our full programming schedule for NPT and NPT2 at

‘Downton Abbey’ Marathon Anchors NPT’s 2016 Holiday Programming

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – if you love Downton Abbey, because we’re showing every episode from all six seasons over Christmas weekend. The marathon starts Friday, Dec. 23, at 8 p.m. and concludes Monday, Dec. 26, 10:30 p.m. We’ll leave Downton briefly to air a new Call the Midwife Holiday Special on Sunday, Dec. 25, at 6:30 p.m. Consider that a stocking stuffer just for being extra good this year.

In this year’s Call the Midwife Holiday Special, the Nonnatus House team heads to South Africa to help out a tiny mission hospital.

Here’s a list of the other holiday treats we have you this season. And remember to kick off 2017 with The Six Thatchers, the Sherlock on Masterpiece Season 4 opener, airing New Year’s Day at 8 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 19, at 8 p.m. Broadway star Laura Osnes and actor Martin Jarvis are this year’s featured artists for Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Four Metropolitan Opera soloists will also join the performance.

Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. The season-nine Voice winner released an album of holiday standards this year and performs them in his first concert special, Jordan Smith ’Tis the Season.

Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 11 p.m. Journey to Trondheim, Norway, for an evening of holiday favorites in Christmas in Norway with the St. Olaf Choir.

Thursday, Dec. 22, at 8 p.m. Enjoy the 2015 Christmas at Belmont concert showcasing the university’s student ensembles along with guest performers. Grammy Award-winning artist Kathy Mattea hosts this special recorded at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.


Thursday, Dec. 22, at 11 p.m. Keith Lockhart conducts Happy Holidays with the Boston Pops, a new program that includes the orchestra’s signature rendition of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride”; a reading by Mad Men and Broadway star Robert Morse; and a performance by country artist Sara Evans.

Joyce DiDonato. Credit: Courtesy of Simon Pauly

Joyce DiDonato. Credit: Courtesy of Simon Pauly

Saturday, Dec. 31, at 8:30 p.m. The annual New York Philharmonic New Year’s Eve on Live from Lincoln Center features mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in a performance of classics by Rodgers & Hammerstein and other American composers. Musical director Alan Gilbert conducts in his final season with the orchestra.

Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. Another tradition, Great Performances’ annual presentation of the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Celebration, is once again hosted by Julie Andrews. Gustavo Dudamel of the Los Angeles Philharmonic serves as the orchestra’s guest conductor.

Friday, Dec. 16, at 9 p.m. Lidia Bastianich returns in a new special, Lidia Celebrates America: Holiday for Heroes. This year the chef/cookbook author visits veterans in four states and hosts a holiday dinner for 250 active duty Navy troops aboard the USS George Washington at the Naval Station Norfolk.

Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 9 p.m. Explore holiday traditions in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and Europe in Rick Steves Special: European Christmas.

GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW judges Paul and Mary Berry. Credit: Courtesy of Andy Devonshire

GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW judges Paul and Mary Berry. Credit: Courtesy of Andy Devonshire

Thursday, Dec. 22, at 9 p.m. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood were exacting judges on the popular Great British Baking Show. In the Christmas Masterclass episode, the pair demonstrate how to create spectacular holiday treats.

Saturday, Dec. 31, at 10 p.m. Prepare for tomorrow’s Viennese celebration by watching Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi as the host learns how to waltz.

Finally, what would the season be without evergreen holiday episodes of Keeping Up Appearances and the Lawrence Welk Show? Watch them Saturday, Dec. 17 and 31.

Find our complete viewing schedule for NPT and NPT2 at

Happy holidays from NPT!

Enjoy Victorian Holiday Celebrations in Advance of Victoria on Masterpiece

victoria-06Victoria on Masterpiece premieres with a two-hour special, Sunday, Jan. 15, at 8 p.m. This new series follows the feisty teen queen’s reign after she ascended the British throne in 1837 and features finely appointed interiors, lavish costumes and extravagant ballroom scenes as it provides a look at the woman who gave her name to an era.  NPT celebrated the series launch with a Victoria Preview Screening and Victorian Celebration Dec. 11 at the Franklin Theatre.



Victoria’s 63-year reign coincided with the Industrial Age, the Dickensian era and the American Civil War. It was also the time when many of our holiday traditions were established, among them the adornment of Christmas trees, the Christmas Carol story and the sending of Christmas cards. Appropriately, our Victoria preview event takes place during the holiday season.

Here are some opportunities to enjoy a Victorian holiday experience in the Nashville area.

Franklin's Dickens of a Christmas. Ryan Jason Photography

Franklin’s Dickens of a Christmas. Ryan Jason Photography

Dickens of a Christmas, Downtown Franklin
At this time of year, Downtown Franklin looks like the set of a holiday movie and becomes even more festive during the Heritage Foundation of Franklin & Williamson County’s annual Dickens of a Christmas. The 32nd edition of the event takes place the weekend of Dec. 10-11 and features Tiny Tim and the Cratchits, Scrooge, Marley and other characters plucked from Dickens’ stories; 200 musicians and dancers, a stilt walker and a unicyclist. Sugar plums, roasted chestnuts and other 19th-century English fare will be available from vendors; while a Victorian Father and Mother Christmas will distribute treats to children.

Remember, if you’re planning to attend Dickens of a Christmas on Sunday, finish the experience with NPT’s Victoria Preview Screening and Victorian Celebration!





Belmont Mansion

Belmont Mansion

Belmont Mansion
Adelicia Acklen, the remarkable heroine of Belmont Mansion, was born just two years before Victoria. A portrait of the young queen dressed in ceremonial robes and wearing a glittering crown hangs at the center of Belmont Mansion’s grand staircase. During the holidays, seasonal flowers are added to the staircase and the mansion is bedecked in swags of greenery and arrangements of greenery and berries reminiscent of those of Adelicia’s time.

Belmont Mansion is celebrating a two-year restoration of Adelicia’s central parlor to its 1860s glory with a special Christmas treatment of festive greenery above the doors and windows. The mansion’s dining room has been laid with desserts and multi-course table setting typical to the Victorian era.




Grassmere Historic Home, Nashville Zoo
Yuletide tours of the Grassmere Historic Home will be offered weekends Dec. 3-4 through 17-18 and will include live entertainment. The house will be decorated with greenery in the Victorian style using ribbons and decorations that belonged to Margaret and Elise Croft, the sisters whose family bought Grassmere in 1888. Docents will explain Victorian traditions that are still part of modern celebrations, while discussing customs such as taking a turn stirring the Christmas pudding for good luck.

Grassmere Historic Home

Grassmere Historic Home


Lotz House Civil War House Museum
This historic home was completed in 1858 and survived the brutal Battle of Franklin. The house was built by German immigrant Albert Lotz, a master carpenter who created the home’s stunning cantilevered staircase and free-floating handrail. During the holiday season Lotz House is decorated in the manner of a mid-1880s Christmas and will be part of Twinkling Tennessee Christmas, a Gray Line tour of exterior light displays in Franklin. The Lotz House stop includes hot apple cider and cookies.

Lotz House Civil War House Museum

Lotz House Civil War House Museum