Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bennett Place


                                                        April 26, 2015


On April 26, 1865, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his army to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman at a small farm between Durham and Hillsborough, North Carolina. 

 It is at Bennett Place that the American Civil War came to an end.
One Hundred and Fifty years later, the Fat Bald White Guy and his faithful Hiking Companion ventured to this special place to watch a reenactment of the surrender complete with  Billy Yanks and Johnny Rebs.

A young private from the 21st Ohio stood guard at the Unity Monument.  Note the wreaths of flowers placed at the monument and the black arm band on the soldiers arm. 

Over 600,000 Americans lost their lives in this senseless war, a fact that was on my mind today.  This young man would have been the age of a typical soldier.

The Bennett Farm house was chosen because it was conveniently located between the two armies.  The farm had been occupied by the Bennett Family since 1846.  Several members of the family were Confederate soldiers, at least one had died from illness while deployed.  

The two Generals looking for a way to end the war met on several occasions beginning April 17, 1865 and ending with the formal surrender and stacking of arms on April 26, 1865.  The historical site features a visitor's center and museum as well as a historically accurate replica farmstead.

The original chimney adorns farm house where the negotiations and final surrender took place. 
An open parade ground is adjacent.  On this day the farm was buzzing with activity as Union soldiers were bivouacked in the woods on one end of the field and Confederate soldiers occupied the other end.  

The camps had open fires and were period correct.  The soldiers were eager to pose for pictures and explain what it was like to live and fight in the Civil War era.

We got to watch the Confederate Soldiers muster and go through the manual of arms. This is a rag tag group....a bit older and fatter than you would expect of a typical civil war soldier...

In the Union Camp, the fife and drums were especially entertaining playing tunes made familiar from Ken Burns series on the Civil War. 

Milling around the parade ground intermingling with the spectators were some of the principal actors of the day.  General Johnston was in a finely tailored grey dress uniform and "Uncle Billy" Sherman sported a ruddy red beard.  


The Generals also took time to talk with members of the North Carolina General Assembly.... Gosh, I hope they are not negotiating new surrender terms!  I would hate to think we would have to allow more Yanks to move south!

At two o'clock, the drums and fifes began to play and the two armies marched on the field. The first was the Confederate Army under the watchful eye of members of the Union Cavalry.

As they passed by the Bennett Farm, they were greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Bennett. 

On the parade grounds, the Confederate Army presented arms welcoming General Johnston to the field where he read to them General Order 22, dismissing them from service concluding: 

Comrades...I earnestly exhort you to observe faithfully the terms of the pacification agreed upon; and to discharge the obligations of good and peaceful citizens, as well as you have performed the duties of thorough soldiers in the field. By such course, you will best secure the comfort of your families and kindred, and restore tranquility to the country. 

Receiving their final orders, the Confederate Army marched across the field and faced the Union Army and began the surrender of arms.  

But first they paid honor to their flag. 

 Each man in turn touching and even kissing the flag before stacking arms.

During this ceremony, not a word was said by anyone.  It was a solemn and sad experience, with one spectator behind us even wiping her eyes as she softly cried as the arms were stacked.    
As I watched I recalled the words of a Confederate Veteran who said:  

"May justice and righteousness dwell in the land, may mutual tolerance and forbearance take the place of sectional jealousy and bitterness; may the God of love so completely fill the hearts and minds of  this people that the god of battles may nevermore find room in their thoughts; may the reign of the Prince of Peace speedily begin and His  blessed dominion extend over God's  beautiful earth." (Dr. H.T. Bahnson) 

The day ended with a show of unity before the memorial.  The armies marched in and saluted the two generals as they rode between them. 

Musicians sang patriotic songs of the era.....and folks gathered to commemorate the day with a Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.

Many a son of the Old North State gave their life in this senseless war.  Over 600,000 men died....slaves were freed ....but it took 100 years for African Americans to be afforded equal rights.  There had to have been a better way.

It was not a hike.....but it was a great day. The Bennett Place is a great North Carolina Historical site to visit.  I even got to take a picture with the General.....not Uncle Billy....but General Joseph Johnston....a great American, soldier, congressman, patriot.....who became close friends after the war with William Tecumseh Sherman.  Overall a 10+ day!

I end with some shots of some interesting faces of the day.

Notice the sad looks.  I think everyone was in character today. 
Joseph E. Johnston stood bareheaded at the February funeral of General Sherman in New York.] A concerned bystander leaned forward. "General, please put on your hat; you might get sick." But Johnston would not. His warrior's heart would not let him deny his old friend a soldier's last honor. "If I were in his place," Johnston said, "and he were standing here in mine, he would not put on his hat." Ten days later, Joe Johnston was dead.
in To The Last Cartridge by Robert Barr Smith


  1. Tommy - enjoyed your take on the Bennett Place Surrender re-enactment. I publish a site called - basically a collection of maps showing all the trails in my area of Orange/Durham counties... gimme a shout next time you're headed to Eno River State Park or nearby - you might enjoy some of the State and National history of this area I could talk about while we roam the woods.

  2. thanks for your kind comments...I have accessed your site when I hiked Eno River and appreciate your detailed of my favorite winter time hikes....too hot in the summer!.....Hope we can meet up soon FBWG