north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

      In 1846, James and Nancy Bennitt (the spelling was changed later), along with their three children, settled on a 325-acre farm. James worked as a farmer, cobbler, shoemaker, and sold plug tobacco and distilled liquor. The Civil War proved quite tragic for the family, as James lost both of his sons, as well as his son-in-law during the conflict.

      In April 1865, negotiations that led to the largest troop surrender of the American Civil War took place at the family farm. Under a flag of truce, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the Confederate Army of Tennessee, met with Major Gen. William T. Sherman commanding the Grand Army of the West for the first time on April 17, three days after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

      At the initial meeting Sherman showed the telegram announcing Lincoln’s death to Johnston. Sherman first offered Johnston the same terms Ulysses S. Grant had offered Robert E. Lee’s army, but Johnston argued for political concessions as well as military, urging for example the reestablishment of state governments. On April 18, Sherman agreed to surrender that called for an armistice that could be terminated on forty-eight hours notice, with the disbanding of armies following the deposit of weapons into federal armories, followed by restoration of civil governments, political rights, and a general amnesty. Jefferson Davis approved the terms, but Union officials in Washington rejected such lenient terms.

      Davis ordered Johnston to disband his infantry and continue to fight using his cavalry, but Johnston disobeyed the order. He met with Sherman again on April 26, and negotiated on the terms given to Lee at Appomattox Courthouse. The surrender affected 89,270 soldiers located in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. The mustering out of the Confederate army took place at Greensboro in early May, where paroles were issued to the soldiers.

      After the war, the farm passed through a series of owners, falling into increasing disrepair. In 1919 Samuel T. Morgan of Richmond purchased the home with the intention of building a park, but died before his plans could be put in motion. Two years later, the building where negotiations took place burned to the ground. In 1923, R. O. Everett of Durham, a member of the General Assembly, secured an agreement that the state would construct a monument and maintain the site for a grant of three and a half acres. The Bennett Place Memorial Commission was created and later that year the Unity Monument was raised.

     The Civil War Centennial provided a revival of interest in Bennett Place, and a reconstruction project began in 1960. A condemned structure, about the same size and age as the original Bennett house was discovered nearby and moved to the site for restoration. Two years later, the park was officially designated a State Historic Site. A 1860 smokehouse was later moved to the site, and in 1982 state officials dedicated a visitors center and museum there.

Mark L. Bradley, This Astounding Close: The Road to Bennett Place (2000)
William M. Vatavuk, Dawn of Peace: The Bennett Place Historic Site (1989)
Arthur C. Menius, “James Bennitt: Portrait of an Antebellum Yeoman,” North Carolina Historical Review (Autumn1981): 305-326
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina History—entry by William S. Powell (2006)
Bennett Place State Historic Site website:
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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources