Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bennitt Farm

Most school children who learn about the Civil War hear about the surrender at Appomattox Court House. The way it is typically taught (and even the way I was first taught it), when General Lee surrendered at Appomattox the Civil War was considered to be over. What they don't teach you is about the rest of the war.

General Lee surrendered on April 9th, 1865. Despite Lee's surrender Jefferson Davis was determined to continue fighting, and he ordered General Johnston, who was in North Carolina at the time, to retreat with his cavalry so that they could continue the fight somewhere else. General Johnston disobeyed orders and met with General Sherman on April 17th to discuss terms of surrender. They met at a farm house about halfway between the train station of Durham and the town of Hillsborough. The owner of the farm was named James Bennitt (also spelled Bennett). At the time General Sherman had just received news that President Lincoln had been assassinated a few days previously on the 15th. They went ahead and negotiated terms of surrender which were considered very lenient on the part of the Union.

Because of the assassination of President Lincoln, congress would not accept the terms of surrender and ordered General Sherman to force harsher terms of surrender. Thus General Sherman (and General Grant, who had arrived from Virginia) met with General Johnston and on April 26th negotiated new terms of surrender. The troops under the control of General Johnston numbered approximately 89,000 and were spread over several states. This was the largest and as some argue the most significant surrender of the Civil War, thus marking the end of the war, but due to the assassination of President Lincoln and other things, there was only one reporter who showed up, and thus the surrender did not gain much press. Thus the surrender at Bennett Place (or the Bennitt Farm) was never considered as significant as Appomattox.

Today we went and visited the Bennitt Farm and learned all about the surrender and things we never knew. Here is a picture of the farm house. The original burned down in 1920, but the stone chimney is original. It is very well preserved and we even had the opportunity to talk to a "living historian", someone who dresses up in a Confederate uniform and talks about the history.

1 comment:

Eliza said...

Kirk took me there one of the times I was able to visit North Carolina. It was a neat place.