The Surrender at Bennett Place and the End of the Confederacy

Tuesday April 26, 2015, marked the 150th anniversary of the Confederate surrender at Bennett Place in what is now my hometown of Durham, North Carolina.

In April of 1865 Union Major General William T. Sherman had completed his Atlanta campaign and his army was working its way back through the Carolinas. Confederate President Jefferson Davis fled the Confederate Capitol in Richmond with his cabinet on April 2 and Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9 at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.

While Davis wished for remaining Confederate forces to reorganize and continue the fight, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston realized the war could not be continued after Lee’s surrender. Johnston, encamped with this army in Greensboro, North Carolina, sent a courier to Sherman in Raleigh requesting a meeting to discuss terms of a truce. The two commanders traveled toward each other converging at Durham Station along the Hillsborough Road.

Johnston and Sherman chose the homestead of James and Nancy Bennett to host the negotiations which were held April 17, 18 and 26. The opening day of negotiations was intensified by word from Washington of the assassination of President Lincoln. Johnston and Sherman came to an original agreement of terms on the April 18, however Sherman had overreached his authority on non-military issues. The original agreement went beyond that reached by Lee and Grant two weeks prior and had to be renegotiated and was signed on April 26.

The resulting surrender agreement ended the war for 89,270 Confederate soldiers, representing all active fighting forces in North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. It was the largest single surrender of the war and effectively ended meaningful hostilities. The Civil War was over and a nation was left to rebuild.

The collapsed Confederate States of America left a numismatic legacy that included 70 different treasury note types, (not including the T-47 and T-48 fantasy notes) the extremely rare 1861 Confederate half dollar and the rare 1861 Confederate cent. 

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