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Bennett Place State Historic Site
|Location||Jct. of SR 1313 and 1314, Durham, North Carolina|
|Area||30.5 acres (12.3 ha)|
|NRHP Reference #||70000452|
|Added to NRHP||February 26, 1970|
Bennett Place, sometimes known as Bennett Farm, in Durham, Durham County, North Carolina, was the site of the largest surrender of Confederate soldiers ending the American Civil War, on April 26, 1865.
After Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea, he turned north through the Carolinas for the Carolinas Campaign. Confederate President Jefferson Davis met General Joseph E. Johnston in Greensboro, North Carolina, while Sherman had stopped in Raleigh.
Though Davis wished to continue the war, Johnston sent a courier to the Union troops encamped at Morrisville, with a message to General Sherman, offering a meeting between the lines to discuss a truce. Johnston, whose army was still an active fighting force encamped in Greensboro, realized it could not continue the war now that Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House on April 9. Johnston, escorted by a detachment of about 60 troopers of the 5th South Carolina Cavalry Regiment, traveled east along the Hillsborough Road toward Durham Station. Sherman was riding west to meet him, with an escort of 200 men from the 9th and 13th Pennsylvania, 8th Indiana and 2nd Kentucky Cavalry. The farm of James and Nancy Bennett was the closest and most convenient place for privacy. The first day's discussion (April 17) was intensified by the telegram Sherman handed to Johnston, informing of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. They met the following day, April 18, and signed terms of surrender. Unfortunately, they were rejected by government officials in Washington as they were more generous than those Grant had given Lee. The opposing generals met again on April 26, 1865, and signed the final papers of surrender, which disbanded all active Confederate forces in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, totaling 89,270 soldiers, the largest group to surrender during the war.
James and Nancy Bennett were like many families who suffered tremendously during the four years of war. They lost a son and son in law: Lorenzo, who served in the 27th North Carolina, buried in Winchester, Virginia; and their daughter Eliza's husband, Robert Duke, who died in a Confederate Army hospital and is buried in Lynchburg, Virginia. Their 3rd child, Alfonzo, was not in the war but died during the Civil War years (1864)
The Bennetts never fully recovered from the war, and in 1878, James Bennett died and the family moved to the new community of Durham to begin a life without him. The Bennett Farm was abandoned and fell into ruin, a fire finally destroying the farmhouse in 1921. In 1923 the Unity monument was dedicated on the site. In 1960 the Bennett Farm site was fully reclaimed and restored by local preservationists. It was then turned over to the State of North Carolina and made a state historic site.
Largest Surrender of the American Civil War
The difficulty in reaching a surrender agreement lay in part in Johnston's desire, influenced by President Davis, for more than the purely military surrender that Major General Sherman offered. Sherman's original terms matched those offered by Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant to General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, but Johnston along with General John C. Breckinridge, also serving as Secretary of War for the Confederacy, insisted on resolutions of political issues, including the reestablishment of state governments, return of some weapons to state arsenals and civil rights after the war. Sherman, in accordance with Lincoln's stated wishes for a compassionate and forgiving end to the war, agreed on terms that included the political issues. However, Union officials in Washington, angry over the recent assassination of Lincoln on April 14, rejected them. In response, Jefferson Davis ordered Johnston to disband his infantry and escape with his mounted troops. However, Johnston disobeyed his orders and agreed to meet again with Major General Sherman at the Bennett Farm again on April 26, 1865. The rival generals signed new surrender terms identical to the ones Grant gave Lee, which ended the war for the 89,270 soldiers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Three more primary surrenders would follow in Citronelle, Alabama, Galveston, Texas, and Doaksville, Oklahoma.
Bennett Place State Historic Site
The home of James and Nancy Bennett, simple yeoman farmers, served as the site of the surrender negotiations between Major General William T. Sherman and General Joseph E. Johnston April 17, 18, and 26, 1865. It was the largest surrender of the American Civil War, officially ending the fighting in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The original house burned in 1921, and reconstructed as a one-story log structure covered by weatherboards with a gable roof and a shed addition. Also on the property are the contributing log kitchen and smokehouse.
In 1923, the Unity Monument was placed on the site to commemorate this historic event. Among the many contributors to the preservation of this historic landmark were the Duke, Everett, and Morgan families.
Today, Bennett Place State Historic Site is located in the west end of Durham, near Duke University. The site is open to the public, Tuesday-Saturday, 9am-5pm, with a visitor center, museum, theater presentation, "Dawn of Peace", research library, gift shop, and the reconstruction of the Bennett Farm. Living history programs and the commemoration of the surrender take place throughout the year. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
On April 15, 2010, the Bennett Place Historic Site unveiled a new painting by renowned Civil War artist Dan Nance, entitled "The First Meeting". On the same day, the site gave its first William Vatavuk Scholarship, a yearly scholarship for students who wish to major in history in college. The scholarship honors the late William Vatavuk, who wrote Dawn of Peace, the first guidebook for the historic site.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- John B. Wells, III (March 1971). "Bennett Place State Historic Site" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2014-10-01.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bennett Place.|
- Bradley, Mark, This Astounding Close: The Road To Bennett Place. UNC Press.
- Wise, Jim, On Sherman's Trail, The Civil War's North Carolina Climax. History Press.
- Longacre, Edward G. Worthy Opponents. Rutledge Hill Press.
- Bennett Place Staff, Guide Book for Staff & Volunteers of Bennett Place State Historic Site.
- Arnett, Ethel Stephens, Confederate Guns Were Stacked, Greensboro, North Carolina. Piedmont Press, 1965.
- Symonds, Craig L. Joseph E. Johnston: A Civil War Biography. New York: W. W. Norton, 1992. ISBN 978-0-393-31130-3.