Story Update: Money Raised To Protect Civil War Land

Oct 23, 2014

This is the Unity Monument at Bennett Place. The vulnerable tract of land is across the street from this monument.
Credit NC Department of Cultural Resources

Update 10/23/14:

North Carolina has raised the more than $300,000 needed to protect land near Bennett Place Historic Site in Durham. The site witnessed the largest Confederate troop surrender of the Civil War.

The money will be used to buy 1.9 acres located near Bennett Place and the "Unity Monument" which symbolically marks the reunification of the country.

The state received two grants of $150,000 each. $13,000 more came in through smaller donations.

Original story:

In April 1865, Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston met Union Gen. William T. Sherman at an unassuming farmhouse near present-day Durham, N.C. Experts say that day marked the largest troop surrender of the American Civil War, effectively ending the bloody conflict.

It's quite something to imagine. Johnston made his way on horseback from Greensboro, Sherman rode from his headquarters in Raleigh. Johnston was escorted by 60 soldiers from the 5th South Carolina Cavalry Regiment. Sherman had an escort of 200 men from the 9th and 13th Pennsylvania, 8th Indiana and 2nd Kentucky Cavalry.

They met three different times that April at the Bennett Place farmhouse.

Bennett Place is now a state historic site. There is a statue on the land to commemorate its significance.

There is a parcel of land however, across from the farmhouse and the statue, that was originally part of the Bennett farm. That land is undeveloped and it is now on the market. The state has an option on the land which is about to expire. To purchase the land, the state needs to raise more than $300,000 by the end of the month.

John Guss works at Bennett Place. He says that the land is a crucial, unexplored link to the history of the area.

This wooded lot likely housed Union and Confederate soldiers during the negotiations that effectively ended the Civil War.
Credit Pickett-Sprouse Real Estate

"There were over 250 Confederate and Union soldiers on the ground during the meetings in April," Guss said. "The soldiers and their horses were spread out all across those grounds."

The property that's for sale would have been an ideal place for all of those soldiers to camp with their animals during the meetings.

"I don’t think anybody has understood the impact of what Bennett Place means," Guss said. "We are the Rodney Dangerfield of the Civil War." (Dangerfield was a comedian known for saying the phrase "I don't get no respect!")

"This property that's up for sale has the capability of having tremendous archeological significance, for research and study," notes Guss. There could be a button from a uniform buried in the woods for example, or other items left behind from the approximately 250 soldiers who attended the meetings.

The property is listed by Pickett-Sprouse Real Estate. It's zoned as light industrial.

Information about donations is available on the Bennett Place Support Fund site.