Thursday, April 18, 2013

Surrender at Bennett Place, North Carolina April 18, 1865

Bennett Place, sometimes known as Bennett Farm, in Durham, North Carolina, was the site of the largest surrender of Confederate soldiers. 

William Sherman
After General William Sherman's March to the Sea, he turned north for the Carolinas Campaign. 

Joseph Johnston

President Jefferson Davis, fleeing south after the fall of Richmond, met with General Joseph Johnston and ordered him to continue the fight, even if that meant allowing the conflict to deteriorate into guerrilla warfare. The President continued his flight to the Deep South.  

Knowing that he could not defeat the armies of both Grant and Sherman once they combined, and unwilling to launch a guerrilla war, Johnston resolved to meet with Sherman.  
Johnston sent a courier to the Union troops, 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 North Carolina, realized it could not continue the war now that General Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

Bennett Farm
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.   Sherman and Johnston discussed the surrender inside the farmhouse with no witnesses.  The first day's discussion on April 17 was intensified by the telegram Sherman handed to Johnston, informing him of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.   

Johnston and Sherman inside Bennett Farmhouse
They met the following day, April 18, and signed terms of surrender.

Signing Terms of Surrender
Unfortunately, they were rejected by government officials in Washington as they were more generous than those which General Ulysses 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.

April 26th, 1865
James and Nancy Bennett were like many families who suffered tremendously during the four years of war. They lost three sons: Lorenzo, who served in the 27th North Carolina; Alphonzo, who was unaccounted for; and their daughter Eliza's husband, Robert Duke, who died in a Confederate Army hospital.  The Bennetts never fully recovered from the war, and by 1880, 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.

Bennett Farm Historic Site

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