Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bennett Place State Historic Site - Durham, North Carolina

Bennett Place State Historic Site
It is somewhat strange to think that after four years of hard war and a desperate quest for independence, many of Florida's Confederate troops saw the end of their fight come not on a battlefield or in a grand hall, but at a small two-room farm house in North Carolina.

The Bennett Place was the family farm of James and Nancy Bennett, who lived in the countryside near what was then Durham Station. The station, of course, is now the City of Durham and the entire area is part of the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area.

1865 Sketch of the Surrender Talks

In 1865, however, Durham Station was a small dot on a map and the Bennett Place was a working farm, where James Bennett and his family grew crops and supported themselves. They owned no slaves, but the Bennetts were strong supporters of the Confederate cause and had given up two sons to the cause of Southern independence. A third son disappeared during the war years and his fate remains a mystery to this day.

They likely watched on April 17, 1865, as General Joseph E. Johnston rode by on the road from Hillsborough to Durham Station, escorted only by a small force of Confederate cavalry.

Reconstructed Surrender Scene
A couple of miles up the road, Johnston met with his Union counterpart, General William Tecumseh Sherman, and the two agreed to find a nearby house where they could talk in private. Johnston remembered having passed a couple of houses along the way, and the two men turned west with their escorts and rode back along the same road. They stopped first at a house where the occupants refused to allow Sherman to come under their roof. Rather than push the issue, the two generals rode on to the nearby Bennett house, where the family agreed to let them use their place to meet.

The meeting at the Bennett House led to the surrender of the famed Army of Tennessee, not just once, but twice. To learn more about the surrender and the Bennett Place State Historic Site, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/bennettplace.

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