Saturday, April 26, 2014

Surrender Anniversary in the Carolinas

Bennett Place State Historic Site
Durham, North Carolina
149 years ago today (April 26, 1865), Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman. The surrender was carried out at what is now Benton Place State Historic Site in Durham, North Carolina.

Johnston's surrender was the largest of the War Between the States (or Civil War) and came after his army waged one last brutal fight at the Battle of Bentonville. The Confederate attacks came close to wiping out one wing of Sherman's larger army. The tide of the battle turned when Sherman rushed reinforcements to the field and Johnston called off the attacks and withdrew.

Road by which Johnston approached Bennett Place
By early April 1865, he had moved his army into positions at Hillsborough about 35 miles northwest of the state capital of Raleigh. The Union army took Raleigh and moved into positions there. Johnston and Sherman faced each other from the two cities when news arrived of the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of North Virginia at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

Johnston now found himself in a critical position. With Sherman's much larger army just 35 miles away in Raleigh, he knew that if he continued to fight he could expect Union General Ulysses S. Grant to push down from the north. His small army would be swallowed up.

Restored farm and monument at Bennett Place.
His situation became even more stressful when President Jefferson Davis, fleeing south after the fall of Richmond, ordered the veteran general to continue the fight. Davis, in fact, told Johnston that if he could not defeat the armies arrayed against him, he should break up his own force and turn his men into guerrillas who would continue the war for years if need be.

Rather than launch a guerrilla war that would flood the South with blood, Johnston decided to meet with General Sherman. He sent a letter through the lines, Sherman responded, and the two generals met near Durham, about half-way between their armies. They decided to find a house where they could sit down and talk, but the first home-owner they approached refused to let Sherman set foot in his house. They moved on to the Bennett Place, home of James and Nancy Bennett, who consented to allow the generals to meet in their home.

Table at which the surrender document was prepared
On the next day, April 18, 1864, Johnston agreed to surrender the Army of Tennessee. Sherman offered him extremely liberal terms. When the proposed surrender terms reached Washington, D.C., however, Union officials said no. The North was then outraged over the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and Sherman's humane terms were refused by his superiors. He accordingly notified Johnston that he would have no choice but to continue the fight in 48 hours.

Johnston knew that he had no hope of defeating Sherman, so on April 26, 1865, he surrendered the Confederate Army of Tennessee and all Confederate forces east of Alabama on the harsh terms demanded by the politicians in Washington.

To learn more about the surrender at Bennett Place, please visit

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Azaleas near PEAK at Callaway Gardens in Georgia

Callaway Gardens
If you have been wondering when will be the best time to see the azaleas at Callaway Gardens, now is the time!

Located at Pine Mountain, Georgia, the gardens feature some of the most spectacular azalea gardens in the world. This year's blooms may be the most spectacular ever.

Conceived in 1930 by Cason J. Callaway after he and his wife found a rare wild azalea growing on overworked farm land, Callaway Gardens have emerged to become one of the most beautiful gardens anywhere. They cover more than 16,000 acres of rolling mountain terrain at Pine Mountain between Atlanta and Columbus.

A highlight each spring is the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl, a massive azalea garden that explodes with color. The cold wet winter was very good for the azaleas and officials at the gardens say that this may be the best year for azaleas in their more than 80 year history.

To learn more, please visit or  Here is a special video invite from Edward Callaway:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Muskogee Azalea Festival begins but blooms running slow

Muskogee Azalea Festival
Muskogee, Oklahoma
The 2014 Muskogee Azalea Festival is underway in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The annual festival begins on April 1 of each year.

The severe winter, however, is likely to have an impact on the blooms this year. Record-breaking cold and ice in Oklahoma over the winter has stunted the azaleas and slowed the blooming season. Officials with the Muskogee Parks Department report that the buds are just beginning to show and the blooms are running well behind this year.

There are still plenty of reasons to go!  Honor Heights Park is beautiful every spring, even more so with the recent addition of its new Butterfly Papilion & Gardens. Parks officials indicate that the tulips will be especially beautiful this year. Other plants and trees will be in bloom as well and the azaleas will be later this month.

The main day of this year's Azalea Festival will be April 12. The annual parade will step off at 11 a.m. in downtown Muskogee, followed by a day of events at Honor Heights Park.

For more information on the 2014 Muskogee Azalea Festival, please visit