Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bennett Place State Historic Site - Durham, North Carolina

Bennett Place
The largest troop surrender of the Civil War took place on April 18, 1865... and again on April 26, 1865... at the Bennett Place in Durham, Noarth Carolina.

Now a state historic site, Bennett Place was where Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston surrendered the Army of Tennessee to Union general William Tecumseh Sherman.

In 1865, the Bennett Place was the family farm of James and Nancy Bennett, who lived on the road from Raleigh to Hillsborough near what was then known as Durham Station. Like most Southern farmers, the Bennetts did not own slaves, but worked their land with their own hands. They supported the Confederacy and, in fact, lost three sons to the war. Two died in service and the fate of a third is unknown.

1865 Sketch of the Surrender
On April 17, 1865, Johnston and Sherman met at the Bennett Place to discuss possible terms of a truce. The Confederate commander had heard of the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and was considering whether to continue the fight or seek honorable terms.

Sherman offered terms so generous that on April 18, 1865, Johnston agreed to the largest troop surrender of the war. His command included some 89,270 soldiers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, along with thousands of pieces of artillery and large stocks of military supplies.

Reconstructed Bennett House
Officials in Washington, however, rejected the terms offered by Sherman. Lincoln had just been assassinated and they felt Sherman had been overly generous with his still-undefeated foe. Many felt the South should be severely punished for her role in the war and some went so far as to accuse Sherman of being a traitor to the Union cause for offering Johnston terms that complied with Lincoln's belief in a peace with "malice toward none, with charity toward all."

The two generals, both now personally and professionally humiliated, were forced to meet again. With little other option now left to him, Johnston surrendered - again - on April 26, 1865.

Bennett Place State Historic Site does an outstanding job of interpreting the events that took place there in April of 1865. The house and kitchen, central to the surrender events, have been reconstructed on their original sites and rail fences line the historic road along which Johnston and Sherman approached the surrender site. The museum is very nice, with exhibits both on the surrender itself and North Carolina's role in the war.

To learn more, please visit

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