Bennett Place, the Second Appomattox

The end of the American Civil War, the "War Between the States", the "Great Rebellion" the "War of Southern Independence", the "War of Northern Aggression" or the "Freedom War", is commonly associated with the April 9th, 1865 surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, of Robert E. Lee's beloved Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Potomac.

It is not as widely known of a greater battle and it's subsequent treaty finalized in a humble tobacco farmhouse further south in central North Carolina 2 weeks after the signings at McLean House. Though many events related to the war occurred after it had been officially concluded (some re-surfacing in recent years), the surrender at Bennett Place near Durham, North Carolina, is the most prominent.

Manuevers of the Carolinas Campaign
Manuevers of the Carolinas Campaign | Source
Major General William Tecumseh Sherman - U.S. Army
Major General William Tecumseh Sherman - U.S. Army | Source

The Carolinas Campaign

The fall of Atlanta and subsequent culmination of Major General William Tecumseh Sherman's "March to the Sea" at Savannah, marked the beginning of the Carolinas campaign as Sherman turned his drive northward in pursuit of the remaining defenders of "Old Dixie".

Sherman departs Savannah

Grant initially requested Sherman to move his troops north by ship to Virginia to reinforce his Army of the Potomac as they lay siege upon Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Petersburg. Sherman, gaining Grant's approval of his strategy to drive north through South Carolina and conquer the first state to secede, thereby lowering southern moral and avenging the attack on Fort Sumter 4 years earlier, departed Savannah and proceeded into the Carolinas by late January.

Rivers Bridge - February 3, 1865

Instead of marching on Charleston, Sherman decided to swing around the known Confederates there and advance upon South Carolina's capital of Columbia. Major General Francis Blair encountered an attempt to thwart their advance across the Salkehatchie River by Confederate Major General Lafayette McLaws, which served to stall the Federals for a day. Time was of the essence for the Confederates, as every extra day provided precious time to regroup their fragmented army.

Advance Upon Columbia, South Carolina

As the Union army closed in on the South Carolina capital, Lieutenant General Hardee's Confederates defending Charleston scrambled to get around the invaders and join the regrouping forces to their north.

On February 17, Columbia surrendered to Sherman's army prompting the release of Federal prisoners of war and emancipated African Americans, which quickly turned into riotous celebration resulting in fires and chaos. The fires, fanned by strong winds, spread rampantly across the city. By the 18th, the city of Columbia had been completely sacked with anything of military value destroyed. Sherman then continued north into Wilmington, North Carolina, which surrendered on February 22nd.

Wyse Fork - March 7-10, 1865

By late February, the Union drive had become a 3-pronged offensive into North Carolina. With General Schofield's corps concentrated along the Carolina coast, Sherman ordered him inland from Wilmington and Major General Jason Dolson Cox (future Governor of Ohio) westward from New Bern to converge upon Goldsboro. Strong resistance by General Braxton Bragg defending Kinston, successfully stalled the Union advance at Southwest Creek until the arrival of Union reinforcements and a breakdown in his communications forced him to withdraw across the Neuse River, leaving Kinston open.

Monroe's Cross Roads - March 10, 1865

Major General Henry Warner Slocum's divisions on the left and Major General Oliver O. Howard's to the right comprised the other 2 prongs of the Union offensive and were moving towards Fayetteville from the south. Protecting Slocum's left flank was Major General Judson Kilpatrick's cavalry who were surprised in an early morning attack by Lieutenant General Wade Hampton's cavalry after making camp at the Monroe House on the 9th of March, resulting in complete Union disarray until finally regrouping for a counterattack. After a day of intense fighting, Wade's cavalry withdrew to conserve his losses against expected Union reinforcements.

Confederate Resistance Outside of Fayetteville

On March 15th, Kilpatrick again encountered Confederate resistance, this time from Hardee's corps, at the Raleigh Road near Smithville. Realizing the strength of the Confederate position, Kilpatrick withdrew to await reinforcements.

The Battle of Averasboro, NC

By dawn of the 16th, 4 divisions of Federal reinforcements had arrived, leading a morning advance that drove back skirmishers but was stopped by the main Confederate line and counterattack. A renewed Federal attack later in the morning, drove back 2 of the rebel lines but was unable to dislodge Hardee's Confederates holding the 3rd line. Additional reinforcements were approaching by late afternoon, but were stalled until nightfall due to the swampy terrain. Hardee's stingy defense, withdrawing under cover of darkness, had stalled the Union advance by 2 valuable days.

Though the losses for each side were roughly the same, the Union could afford them while the Confederacy simply could not at this stage of the war.

The Battle of Bentonville - "The Last Huzzah of the Confederacy"

Prelude

The Confederates had been reorganizing a remnant army, which they named the "Army of the South", since Robert E. Lee's orders on February 23rd for Johnston to take command of the combined armies of Georgia, Florida. the Carolinas and the Army of Tennessee, while also intervening in the northward advance of Sherman's offensive with its ultimate objective of linking with Grant's Army of the Potomac in Virginia.

This Astounding Close: The Road to Bennett Place
This Astounding Close: The Road to Bennett Place

Even after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, the Civil War continued to be fought, and surrenders negotiated, on different fronts. The most notable of these occurred at Bennett Place, near Durham, North Carolina, when Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered the Army of Tennessee to Union General William T. Sherman. In this first full-length examination of the end of the war in North Carolina, Mark Bradley traces the campaign leading up to Bennett Place.

 

The goal of this phase of the Federal offensive was Goldsboro, expediting the advance by splitting its forces and using multiple roads. Sherman's objective was not clear to Johnston until learning of his intentions from prisoners captured at the Battle of Averasboro .

Sherman was near to uniting his left wing, led by Slocum, with Howard's right wing in an area approximately 20 miles west-southwest of Goldsboro and roughly 5 miles south of the Neuse River. Johnston, using maps based on skewed intelligence, believed the 2 Union wings to be separated by at least 12 miles (a day of separation from supporting each other), and planned to attack Slocum's left wing before the arrival of Howard.

With Sherman's headquarters now in Raleigh, and Johnston headquartered 25 miles southeast in Smithfield (centrally distanced between Raleigh and Goldsboro), their 2 armies met on March 19th on the Goldsboro Road, 1 mile south of Bentonville, North Carolina, where they commenced battle until March 21st.

It would be the last significant battle of the war.

Day One - March 19th

"If the foragers could not clear the way, nothing less than a brigade need try it."
- Lt. Allan H. Dougall, Adjutant, 88th Indiana, Hobart's brigade; Medal of Honor recipient for saving the 88th's flag from capture in the Battle of Bentonville.

Battle of Bentonville, N.C., fought March 19th, 1865. ~  Author: United States. War Department  ~  Date: 1895
Battle of Bentonville, N.C., fought March 19th, 1865. ~ Author: United States. War Department ~ Date: 1895 | Source

The day began early with C.S.A. General Braxton Bragg, Commander of the Department of Carolina, directing Major General Robert Hoke's division south of Bentonville to block the Goldsboro road. At 6:00 a.m., U.S. Generals Sherman, Slocum, and XIV Corps commander Jeff C. Davis (no relation to C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis) held conference at the crossing of Goldsboro Road and Smithfield-Clinton Road.

Sherman was confident that he would be joining General Howard's right wing, approaching Goldsboro from the south, at Cox's Bridge by afternoon. With occasional skirmishing in the area, General Sherman seemed unconcerned and played down the urgency voiced by his subordinates as General William Passmore Carlin's First division, XIV Corps, Army of the Cumberland, advanced eastward along the Goldsboro Road.

A division of Hardee's Corps under McLaws was resting at Bentonville as Carlin's Federals engaged Hoke's Confederates on the Goldsboro Road near the Cole House. Confederates of the Army of Tennessee under Lieutenant General Alexander P. Stewart began to arrive just north of the road.

Carlin is assisted by a division of Brigadier General James D. Morgan's Second, XIV A.C. as Slocum advances his wing from the south, sending a courier to Sherman with the message:

"Fearing that the firing would be heard by General Sherman and cause the other wing (Howard) of the army to delay its march, I sent Major E. W. Guindon of my staff [to tell] Sherman ... that I should not need assistance... confident that I should be at the Neuse [River] at the appointed time."

General Joseph Eggleston Johnston - C.S.A.
General Joseph Eggleston Johnston - C.S.A. | Source
March 19th (1st Day) 2:45 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.
March 19th (1st Day) 2:45 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.
March 19th (1st Day) 345 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
March 19th (1st Day) 345 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
March 19th (1st Day) 4:30 p.m. - Nightfall
March 19th (1st Day) 4:30 p.m. - Nightfall
Joe A. Mobley, the University of North Carolina Press, and the North Carolina Office of Archives and History. Bentonville maps attributed to Mark Anderson Moore.
Joe A. Mobley, the University of North Carolina Press, and the North Carolina Office of Archives and History. Bentonville maps attributed to Mark Anderson Moore. | Source

The strength of the Confederates are lightly regarded as only a few dis-mounted cavalry with some pieces of artillery at their avail.

By noon, it becomes evident that the Confederate strength is underestimated as demonstrated with Lieutenant Colonel David Miles 3rd brigade and repeated Union probes being repulsed by Hoke's troops with heavy losses and breaches beginning to appear in the Union formations, namely between Colonel Harrison Carroll Hobart's wings (Colonel Cyrus A. Briant's north of the road and Lieutenant Colonel Michael H. Fitch's to the south of the road). McLaws division follows Stewart's men onto the field and is requested by Bragg to reinforce him to exploit the Union gaps, taking away roughly a quarter of the force Johnston is assembling at the Cole Farm.

Three captured southerners inform their interrogators that

"There is a very large force in your front ... all under the command of Joe Johnston."

Feedback from Johnston's staff urged him to advance the line believing that the Union positions were on the verge of crumbling, then at 1:00 p.m. Webb's 19th Indiana battery deployed on Fitch's left prompting Scovel's 1st Illinois battery to shift further left.

Slocum, realizing the strength of his opposition, sent the following message to Sherman at 1:30 p.m.:

"I am convinced the enemy are in strong force in my front ... I shall strengthen my position and feel of their lines, but I hope you will come up on their left rear in strong force."

At 2:00 p.m. Slocum again messages Sherman:

"It is reported by prisoners that Johnston and Hardee are here. I think a portion of the RIght Wing should be brought forward at once."

Shortly after, lead elements (Hawley's brigade) of the Federal XX Corps arrive at Morris Farm while Robinson's brigade moves on to Cole Farm to plug a gap in Carlin's formations. Robinson takes position in a shallow ravine, unconnected on either flank with Carlin's troops, before sending 2 regiments back to the Morris Farm. Carlin's lines are yet to stabilize as Johnston prepares for an all-out assault at 2:45 p.m., calling in Brigadier General William B.Taliaferro's division to the extreme right to outflank Brigadier General George P. Buell, as suggested by Johston's corps commander William Bate.

As the assault gets under way, Carlin ignores warning to reposition to the south of the ravine on Robinson's left -

"Being confident of my ability to hold my position until the troops in rear should come up." Carlin reports, "I decided not to fall back, but made dispositions to fortify my left flank against movements of the enemy [Taliafero] in the direction."

Carlin made a tactical error by allowing himself to be caught trapped within a geographical obstacle as opposed to utilizing it to his advantage. As a result, the Confederate full assault succeeded in turning the Union left, sending Buell and Briant (Hobart) back towards Morris Farm. Carlin's ranks are decimated by Hoke's artillery after trapping themselves in a fence-lined ravine that had previously served to protect them from artillery. Robinson, realizing that his position had become untenable as a result of the collapse of Carlin's division, also pulled back to the Morris Farm. Talioferro's flanking maneuver around Buell succeeded unopposed and the Confederate troops of Major General D. H. Hill and Major General William W. Loring overrun Webb's battery, capturing three guns. A fourth gun and its team are saved by the 31st Wisconsin Infantry.

Union reserves form on the Morris Farm at 3:00 p.m. consisting of Brigadier General William Cogswell's brigade of Ward's division of the Third, XX A.C. (Army of the Cumberland).

By 3:15 p.m., Colonel William Hawley's 13th New Jersey and Brigadier General James S. Robinson's 82nd Illinois attempt, in vain, to rally the stampeding men of Carlin's mass retreat to the Morris Farm. Brigadier General John G. Mitchell's brigade of Morgan's division, had begun to form south of the road to face the oncoming Confederates, but were forced into a north facing salient due to fleeing Union soldiers, of which some continued towards a swamp to the south.

Brigadier General Benjamin Fearing's brigade from Morgan's division is hurriedly moved from its reserve position to the Union left in the face of a sea of advancing Confederates, colliding with troops of Hill's corps on his right flank and his front. Along with the 86th Illinois and 52nd Ohio, Fearing's line caved in, retreating in disorder to the south and the west. Stephen's battery (C, 1st Ohio), was deployed to XX Corps line at the Morris Farm:

"So closely were we pressed that our Gen [Mitchell] told us to tare [sic] up our 'flag' and tramp it into the ground before surrendering . . . . [W]ithout any joking we came very near taking a trip to Richmond or some other Rebel 'sea port' [but] we whipped them so badly they knew not from where they came." --William Kemp, 98th Ohio, Mitchell's brigade, on the fighting below the Goldsboro Road.

After being recalled from Bragg's position by General Hardee, McLaw's division was moved to the Cole Farm, as Johnston regretted sending McLaws to Bragg's aid earlier in the battle where it sat idle, proving to be a major tactical error.

Hoke's division rejoins the fight at 4:00 p.m. against Morgan, now positioned in the swamp south of the Goldsboro Road and with Colquitt's brigade (commanded by Colonel Charles T. Zachry) smashing into Mitchell's angulated line and Hill's advance against Morgan's north-facing salient, send the Union scrambling deeper into the swamps. Only the 34th Illinois remained to keep the angle intact and save Morgan's position. The 60th Illinois and 14th Michigan surged onward through a confused state of hand-to-hand combat to counterattack the advance of Hoke. Battle lines had become nearly impossible to discern through the smoke and dense forest and the organization of formations difficult in the swampy conditions.

Bentonville: The Final Battle of Sherman and Johnston (Civil War America)
Bentonville: The Final Battle of Sherman and Johnston (Civil War America)

The battle of Bentonville, the only major Civil War battle fought in North Carolina, was the Confederacy's last attempt to stop the devastating march of William Tecumseh Sherman's army north through the Carolinas. Despite their numerical disadvantage, General Joseph E. Johnston's Confederate forces successfully ambushed one wing of Sherman's army on March 19, 1865 but were soon repulsed. For the Confederates, it was a heroic but futile effort to delay the inevitable: within a month, both Richmond and Raleigh had fallen, and Lee had surrendered.

 

Major William A. Holland's 40th North Carolina lost its colors to the 14th Michigan during the action as Hill's troops filled the gap left by the dismantling of Fearing's brigade, pushing to the east towards Morgan's rear. Though Hill's men advanced, the engagement with Fearing's brigade resulted in disorganization as their advance began to lose momentum.

Cogswell's brigade of XX Corps, called upon by General Jeff C. Davis, reinforced the Union right, and emerged from the swamp to find themselves on the right rear flank of Hill's men attacking the rear of Morgan's line. Morgan's men, having repulsed Hoke from one side of their breastworks, now switch to the opposite side to fend off Hill's advance on their rear.

Successful with their counterattack against Hoke, the 60th Illinois and 14th Michigan charge westward into Hill's line, the 14th Michigan capturing the colors of the 54th Virginia of Brigadier General Joseph B. Palmer's brigade. Also joining in, the 17th New York and 10th Michigan aid Cogswell's advance and begin to dash any hope of success by the Confederates south of the road as Hill's men are forced to retreat north across the Goldsboro Road.

Morgan's division, after being attacked from 3 sides, still held their position.

"If the Lord will only see me safe through this job, I'll register an oath never to vote for secession again as long as I live." --Unidentified Soldier of Elliott's Brigade, Taliaferro's Division, prior to the battle for the Morris Farm.

At 4:30 p.m. Cogswell's troops moved into position to the left rear of Mitchell's brigade where they engaged Loring's and Brigadier General Edmund W. Pettus's Confederates in an intense fight lasting until nightfall. Union artillery south of Goldsboro Road began to drop shot and shell on the Confederates battling Cogswell as Taliaferro's division engaged the Union XX Corps at the Morris Farm. Brigadier General Stephen Elliot Jr.'s brigade was quickly neutralized by Union artillery and flanking fire from the 13th New Jersey and 82nd Illinois. Rhett's brigade (under Colonel William Butler) with Bate's veterans from the Army of Tennessee forged ahead to attack Robinson's position.

The 143rd New York moved from its reserve position to join Robinson's left as Taliaferro attacked and as Rhett's brigade reached to within 30 yards of Robinson's men lying behind works of light rails. As Robinson's line began to crumble, Lieutenant Colonel Hezekiah Watkins of the approaching 143rd New York, bullied Robinson's men back into formation, and with 16 Federal guns on the north of the road in addition to Stephen's battery C, 1st Ohio, trained on Taliaferro's and Bate's troops, the high water mark for the Confederates at Bentonville had been reached and withstood by the Federals.

By sundown, the remnants of Brigadier General William Thomas Ward's division had moved to Hawley's left and Kilpatrick's cavalry had arrived and moved into position at the extreme Union left.

McLaws, having arrived at the Cole Farm as the fighting raged, directed three brigades forward with Conner's brigade (under the command of Brigadier General John D. Kennedy) to relieve Colonel James Jackson's command south of the Goldsboro Road. Kennedy engaged Cogswell until dusk as Colonel George P. Harrison's brigade of McLaw's division advanced beyond Bate's position well after dark, too late to provide any valuable assistance.

Lieutenant Colonel David Miles' 3rd brigade and Lieutenant Colonel Michael H. Fitch's regiment, out of action since the attack of the Army of Tennessee, headed for the Morris Farm to join the remnants of Carlin's division.

With a weak attack after dark by Colonel Washington Hardy's brigade of McLaws's division on a detachment from the 121st Ohio, the first day of fighting comes to a close.

Slocum's final appeal to Sherman for reinforcements at 8:00 p.m.:

"I have positive information that General Johnston is here in person with a heavy force. I feel confident of holding my position, but I deem it of the greatest importance that the Right Wing come up during the night to my assistance . . . . From prisoners I learn that the corps and commands of Hardee, Stewart, [S. D.] Lee, Cheatham, Hill, and Hoke are here."

Major General Joseph Wheeler with his cavalry positioned several miles west at the Smithfield-Clinton Road, is instructed by Wade Hampton at 9:00 p.m.:

"[L]eave sufficient force to hold the bridge on Clinton and Smithfield road [at Stone Creek] and bring the rest of your command to Bentonville. . . .General Johnston proposes to maintain his position to-morrow. Send out your best scouts to get information."

Through the evening, the Confederate troops fall back to their original positions. The first day ends in a tactical stalemate.

Sherman had expected only defensive measures by his waning opponent and was taken aback by the ferocity displayed in the final, last ditch efforts exerted by Joe Johnston's patched together Confederate army.

Harper House - served as Union field hospital
Harper House - served as Union field hospital | Source

Day Two - March 20th

The second day saw scattered skirmishing on the field as the Confederates removed their wounded to be transported north to Johnston's headquarters in Smithfield.

Howard's wing arrived on the field by late afternoon and positioned on Slocum's right. The bolstered Union line now extended towards Mills Creek. In response, Johnston pulled back Hoke's division positioning it at a right angle to Stewart's left, then deployed a division of Hardee's corps at a right angle to Hoke's left. A skirmish line consisting of Confederate Cavalry protected the flank to Mill Creek.

When asked years later why he didn't leave the field knowing he was vastly outnumbered, Johnston claimed that he stayed to remove his wounded, not needing to mention his hope of drawing Sherman to the attack again, like at Kennesaw Mountain nearly a year prior.

Concluding Day - March 21st

Requesting permission from his corps commander to commence a probe to his front, Major General Joseph A. Mower, instead, attacked with 2 brigades the Confederate left flank defending the Mill Creek Bridge, their rear exit point from the field.

Within a mile of crossing the bridge, Sherman ordered Mower to withdrawal. Sherman admitted in his post-war memoirs that his order to fall back was a mistake, costing an opportunity to end the campaign then and there and capture Johnston's army in its entirety.

One of the casualties of the day, was Willie Hardee, the Confederate Lieutenant General's 16 year old son. General Hardee had relunctantly allowed his son to join in with the 8th Texas Cavalry only hours before the attack.

Under the cover of darkness, Johnston withdrew his army north across the Mill Creek bridge, ordering it fired by a detachment of cavalry left behind to guard the rear.

Sherman was unaware of the Confederate retreat until it was over and chose not to pursue them but continue on to Goldsboro where the Union forces of Schofield and Major General Alfred Terry (lauded for his success at Fort Fisher) were joined.

The Confederacy's last chance to win a decisive victory over the Union army in North Carolina had failed.

To Robert E. Lee;

I can do no more than annoy him. I respectfully suggest that it is no longer a question whether you leave present position; you have only to decide where to meet Sherman. I will be near him. - Joseph Johnston

Jefferson C. Davis - President, Confederate States of America
Jefferson C. Davis - President, Confederate States of America | Source
Edwin McMasters Stanton - U.S. Secretary of War - Matthew Brady
Edwin McMasters Stanton - U.S. Secretary of War - Matthew Brady | Source

Last Days of the Confederacy

Within 3 weeks of the Battle of Bentonville, Lee surrendered at Appomattox, desolving the last glimmers of hope among the Confederate troops remaining in the field. Against the wishes of C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis, Joe Johnston sent a courier from his headquarters, now in Greensboro, across the lines to Sherman's headquarters in Raleigh to discuss a truce. Sherman was willing to negotiate. Johnston proposed a meeting on April 17th and Sherman accepted.

On April 11th 1865, North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance submitted a letter to General Sherman surrendering the state capital of Raleigh to the Union. Governor Vance expressed his hope that the Union General would protect it's institutions, libraries, museums, public records and requested safety for the city's "defenseless inhabitants" stating,

"I can but entertain the hope that they may escape mutilation or destruction in as much as such evidences of learning and taste could advantage neither party in the prosecution of the war whether destroyed or preserved."

The Governor made many efforts in the hope of saving North Caroliina from the fates suffered by the other southern states through which Sherman had marched. Sherman replied to the letter granting Vance and other government officials safety to remain in Raleigh but that he was unsure whether the fighting had ceased.

Only 5 days after the surrender in Virginia, a well-known stage actor named John Wilkes Booth, fatally shot President Lincoln while he and the First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln, were viewing "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater in Washington. Lincoln was taken to a house across the street where he died the next morning. The assassination was the only successful part of a conspiracy that also plotted to kill Vice-President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward. The objective of the pro-southern conspirators was to send the inner workings of the U.S. government into disarray by eliminating the top 3 in the line of succession and proceed with the war. Though 4 of the 8 conspirators tried were sentenced to death by hanging, evidence has emerged in the years since of a larger conspiracy including involvement by C.S.A. Jefferson Davis with connections extending into Canada. On May 10th 1865, Davis was captured, charged with treason, but never tried. Though he was declared ineligible to ever accept public office again, he persisted to remain defiant by refusing to accept defeat and resisting reconstruction. It wasn't until the 1880s that Davis began to encourage southern loyalty to the Union.

Headquartered in Raleigh since April 13th, Sherman agreed to meet with Johnston along the Hillsboro Road near Durham Station, centrally located between Sherman and Johnston's headquarters in Greensboro. Upon meeting for the first time, Sherman accompanied by Brigadier General Kirkpatrick with a cavalry honor guard and Johnston by Lieutenant General Wade Hampton and a cavalry escort, both Generals remained mounted and shook hands in a courteous fashion. Arriving at the house of James Bennett, both Generals dismounted and went inside. When the officers were alone, Sherman handed Johnston a telegram he had received that morning from William M. Stanton, Secretary of War, relating the news of the assassination of the President. The Generals proceeded with the negotiations, unaware of the difficulties that would arise as a result of this news.

John Cabell Breckinridge, Confederate States Secretary of War
John Cabell Breckinridge, Confederate States Secretary of War | Source

Finalizing the Paperwork at the Bennett Farm

The general terms of the surrender were originally based on the guidelines used in the Appomattox documents, however, Sherman added political and civil provisions with an attitude of leniency in the spirit of Lincoln's views - "malice for none: with charity for all ." Since the assassination of the President, Washington was taking a more punishing stance towards the south and were displeased with the generous terms Sherman offered to Johnston. Johnston, with the approval of Confederate Secretary of War Major General John C. Breckinridge, had agreed to surrender his entire force based on the offer on the table which was a motivator for the Union to approve the agreement, but Washington rejected it.

Grant appeared at Sherman's headquarters unannounced on the morning of April 24th tasked with taking over the negotiations in Sherman's stead, however only instructed him to revise the terms as a simple military surrender such as those used at Appomattox .

The entire negotiation process came very near to abandonment by both sides due, at least in part, to the timing of the assassination of Lincoln. Jefferson Davis and Breckinridge were able to agree upon the initial set of terms though Washington was not, and there were even accusations of treason against Sherman coming from the capital. The revision contained no political measures and compelled the southern negotiators to consider giving up the truce and going back to fighting. Davis even ordered Johnston to disband the infantry and flee the area with mounted troops as soon as possible. Johnston however, dismissed the order and met again with Sherman at Bennett Place on the 26th.

General Joseph E.Johnston signed the terms in 2 separate agreements, since Washington rejected the first set of terms - much to the personal and professional embarrassment of Johnston and Sherman. Johnston, In essence surrendered twice with documents dated April 19th and April 26th, the latter of which effectively surrendered 90,000 southern troops of the Army of Tennessee and the combined Confederate armies of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Provisions of the pact required the surrendered to relinquish their weapons, vow to never take up arms against the United States of America again, and peacefully return to their homes to abide by the laws in force where they may reside.

It was the largest troop surrender of the American Civil War.

Parole and Mustering Out

Though the signing of the surrender took place at the Bennett's farm, the issuance of paroles and mustering out of the surrendered troops occurred in Greensboro with much chaos. A supplemental set of terms were agreed upon by Johnston and General Schofield, who was in charge of operations in North Carolina, to eliminate confusion, expedite processing and facilitate the return home of Confederate officers and men.

Bennett Place was virtually the end of the war, though it wasn't until the surrenders of General Richard "Dick" Taylor's (Zachary Taylor's son) small force at Citronelle, Alabama on May 4th and General E. Kirby Smith's group at New Orleans on May 26th to Union commander E. R. S. Canby that all organized resistance east of the Mississippi effectively ended.

Chronology chart of the Carolinas Campaign & Events Surrounding the Bennett Place Treaty
Chronology chart of the Carolinas Campaign & Events Surrounding the Bennett Place Treaty

Post-war

Troops from both sides stationed around Bennett Farm during the negotiations, created a demand for the local "brightleaf" variety of tobacco due to its mild qualities, boosting the development of the area's lucrative future in the tobacco industry.

dawn of peace: the bennett place state historic site
dawn of peace: the bennett place state historic site

From: The Bennett Place Support Fund (1989)

 

Following the surrender, the Bennett family sold the farm and relocated to nearby Durham Station.

Following years of disuse and destruction by fire of the main house in 1921, a tract on the property was bequeathed to the state in 1923 with funds for the erection of a monument. The State of North Carolina accepted the gift and established the Bennett Place Memorial Commission. The site continued to grow into a memorial park through a number of benefactors over the years.

A substantial gift in 1958 made possible the reconstruction of the main house and kitchen and in July of 1961, the project was incorporated as a State Historic Site into the program of the Division of Historic Sites of the State Department of Archives and History.

The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources conducts an annual reenactment and living history event at the Bennett Place historic site.

With this year's 146th Surrender Celebration concluded, the 150 year Anniversary Series is currently underway.

Afterword

As my mother, father and I were living in Durham in the 1960s, we would take-in the many attractions all over the Carolinas and Virginia during our years there.

One particular sunny afternoon in April of 1965, the 3 of us ventured over to Bennett Place for a commemorative launch by The North Carolina Confederate Centennial Commission as part of the "Centennial of National Unity" program, dedicating the park as a National Historic SIte. As the crowd was rather large and I was particularly small at that time, a gentleman offered me the use of his binoculars to take a gander at the podium from where the speaker's voice was originating.

The man I saw through the binoculars I immediately recognized from TV, newspaper and magazine photos as then Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey, and his speech addressing the major civil rights issues there at that time, stressed desegregation.

Unity

Bennett Place National Historic Site
Bennett Place National Historic Site | Source

Sources

North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources:

North Carolina History Project:

North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Calendar:

The Way We Lived in North Carolina - Bentonville Battle Maps:

Wikipedia:

Archives & History Centennial Celebration - 1903-2003:

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Comments 9 comments

Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

Superbly done Veterans Day article stevarino! If things had just gone a bit differently that first day for Johnston. Carlin's men were certainly surprised. Its really great to see this battle getting its proper due over the last several years. I've read the first two books you've got on here and they're very good reads. A relative is a re-enacter and recently they did one at Bentonville which drew a huge crowd, believe he said 4,000 spectators or so. At any rate, really enjoyed getting refreshed on the campaign. Btw, the Harper house is reportedly haunted; something in one of those Nancy Roberts books about N.C. ghosts. It was a bloody fight for sure. Good job my friend!


stevarino profile image

stevarino 5 years ago from East Central Indiana Author

Thanks Alastar! When we visited the Bentonville battleground in the mid 60's the park hadn't been completely developed yet, but I do remember going inside the house - the first floor was like a museum with period pieces, but when I re-conned the upstairs (which was not really open to the public at the time, I snuck under the rope) there was only storage up there. It actually looked like it may have been haunted now that I think about it!

My Dad keeps saying that I found some minnie balls embedded in a tree trunk and a rusty bayonet in the dirt, but I don't remember that. Perhaps he was just embellishing the trip for the sake of telling good story? Or maybe I've just lost too many brain cells over the years, either way, it was a memorable visit. I'm anxious to read about Moores Creek!

Thanks again!

Steve


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA

Very good and well researched hub on one of the last major campaigns that brought the Civil War to an end. Thumbs up on this one. I enjoyed reading it.


stevarino profile image

stevarino 5 years ago from East Central Indiana Author

I'm glad you enjoyed it melpor! In revisiting the details while preparing this hub, I clarified a few facts that I've had a vague understanding of over the years. It is easy for a young person to get a little confused with some of the similar names, such as Bennett Place vs Bentonville, Greensboro vs Goldsboro, etc.. The piece was originally intended to be brief and more focused on the Bennett Place, but seemed to grow in scope as I delved into it. This been a great refresher course.

Thanks for your feedback!


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

We didn't let anything like a little rope stop our curiosity back then did we stevarino. You may well have found some minie balls and a rusted bayonet back then. The pops grew up next to Look-Out Mt.and would find cannonballs and stuff. Unlikely to find anything nowadays after archeologists and collectors have been over them like they have. Lets see...next one on the Rev.War will be a request for Tarleton at the Waxhaws which will include Camden; and then the following one should be on the Moores Creek battle. Again, thanks for reminding me about that one.


WesternHistory profile image

WesternHistory 5 years ago from California

Excellent hub. Enjoyed reading. Lots of information there I was unaware of. Communication at the time of the Civil War was not the greatest and it's understandable that pockets of resistance continued in the south. Another interesting story at the end of the war was Jefferson Davis' flight out of Richmond after the surrender by Lee.


stevarino profile image

stevarino 5 years ago from East Central Indiana Author

Jefferson Davis is another interesting character out of the period, with his military experience dating back to the Mexican-American war and all. I intend to read more about him in the very near future.

Thank you for your input!


Civil War Bob profile image

Civil War Bob 4 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

Excellent article stevarino. All the detail and the book ad for Bentonville: The Final Battle (an excellent read) took me back to 2005 when I finished my research and writing of a book called God Caused the Civil War; which was written from the point of view that Stonewall Jackson might have taken, had he survived. Sadly, 71 publishers rejected it as too controversial. Looking forward to more hubs from you.


stevarino profile image

stevarino 4 years ago from East Central Indiana Author

Thanks for your input Civil War Bob. I'm currently reading James Robertson's biography of Stonewall Jackson and just finished reading about his Mexican War experiences. He is truly an interesting character.

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