Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tour of the Bennett Place

Last week we drove out to the Bennett Place State Historic Site in Durham, North Carolina and took the tour of where the largest surrender of the American Civil War took place. 

When we first arrived in Durham, NC, we knew this was one of the places we would visit, for sure.  We love any history about the Civil War and so always try to visit anyplace about it.  We are not Civil War history buffs or anything like that, but love to visit the places where any of it took place.

During our visits we hope the kids pick up some knowledge on the evolving of America by experiencing some of the events which helped shape it.  The Civil War is just such an event and anytime we can expose the kids to it, in person or as a living history, we do.

The house that belonged to James and Nancy Bennett just happened to be at the right place at the right time on April 17, 1865.  

Since it was located close to a central point between the Confederate army under General Joseph Eggleston Johnston and the Union army under Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, it was perfect for negotiating the terms of surrender for the Confederate army, which ended the war for the southern armies that were in the Carolinas, Florida, and Georgia.

We were actually told, by our tour guide, that there was a farm which was even closer to center point, but the owners did not want any Yankees on their land, so the next closest one was the Bennett Place.

The original roadbed for the Old Hillsborough Road that connected Raleigh from the east and Hillsborough from the west ran right through the Bennett farm which has been preserved still today. 
Original Hillsborough Road facing west towards Hillsborough.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could stand in the middle of the road, or maybe on its edge would be better, and be transported back in time when General Sherman and General Johnston met here in 1865?

To stand here and see who all has been up and down this old road and what it looked like back in 1865 would be amazing.  For now though, we will just have to use our imagination.
Original Hillsborough Road facing east towards Durham and Raleigh.

Unfortunately with the loss of both James Bennett's sons and son-in-law due to the war, he could not keep up with the daily work on the farm which he completely quit farming in 1875 and then died in 1878.  The original house, which was already in despair, burned down during a fire in 1921.  

The one that is on the property today is actually the Proctor family's house built in the 1840's about four miles away from the Bennett's farm and was moved on site in 1960.  All that remains of the original Bennett house is the stone chimney that the Proctor house is attached to.  The Proctor house was very similar in construction to the Bennett house and so, is a good replacement.
Replica of the Bennett's house.  The original one was destroyed by fire 1921. 

View of the original chimney.
The interior of the Bennett house where the Generals talked.

The replicated table and chairs the Generals discussed the terms of surrender at.
One of the two bedrooms in the house.
Some of the items the family might of had that helped make life a little easier.
The smoke house was another building that was built out of material from the Proctor farm on the original location.  Since there were no refrigerators during this time, meats needed to be smoked so that they could be kept from spoiling and stored for later use.
It was also used to store vegetables and any other food supplies that were needed.  It also served as a outbuilding for storing tools and any other item that needed to be kept out of the elements.
The very important smokehouse.
The fire that would be built to smolder and smoke the meat hanging in the smoke house.

Tools would have also been stored in the smoke house to keep them out of the elements.
Meat would have been hung from the rafters to be smoked to keep it from spoiling while stored for winter.
As with most farms during this time frame, the kitchen was not attached to the living quarters, but was a separate building.  The biggest reason for this was to keep the heat from the kitchen out of the living quarters, but it also prevented the house from catching on fire, since a fire was more likely to start in the kitchen than anywhere else.

The kitchen is also reconstructed out of time related material from the Proctor farm.
Tia looking out one of the windows from the kitchen house.

A weaving loom that would have been used to weave fabric for clothes and other materials.

Everything needed to cook with would have been kept in the kitchen house.

Most of the meals would have been eaten in the kitchen house so naturally the dinnerware was kept there.

What the dinner table may have looked like in the kitchen house.
As with most of the farms of this age it was very common to have a kitchen garden next to the kitchen house so that fresh vegetables and herbs could be grown and used with every meal.

In 1865 you did not run to the local grocery store or corner market for your produce.  You had to grow and harvest it yourself.
The kitchen garden next to the kitchen house.
In 1923 The Unity Monument was placed on the site to show the dedication to peace and the reunification of the Unites States even though it was objected to by The United Daughters of the Confederacy who thought it represented a dedication to defeat.
Unity Monument.

If you would like more history on this historic place, you can click on any of the links I have put on this blog to include the NC Historic Sites - Bennett Place web page for more info.

We are very happy that we finally made it out to the Bennett Place and got to step back in time for a little bit.  It is hard to imagine exactly how life was back in the late 1800's, but easy to see how many more conveniences we have today and take for granted.

We are all so blessed to be Americans living in such a great country that survived a civil war and continues to let us live with the freedoms that we have.  God has been good to us and our nation.

Even though there are some who may try to limit our freedoms, we have the freedom to oppose them without the fear of retaliation and punishment.

God bless America and the men and women who have fought and fight for our freedom everyday!
Ian, Chloe, Courtney, Misty, Avery's right arm, and Tia's right arm and leg at The Unity Memorial.

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Don, Misty, and Kids...


  1. Glad to hear how well your aunt is doing Misty. I enjoyed this blog..I too like civil war history...I did not know about Bennett place, should have I guess!!! Every time I see a large RV I think of you all...there are a lot of large 2 tone brown and tan RVs. Lol love to all and continue to let us know where you are and what you are doing. Until the next time. :-)

  2. We are glad you liked it. I still want to do a couple more on NC and then some on TX since that is where we are going next.

    We have been having quite the adventure going to TX this time with one of them being that we almost ran out of fuel. I think we have around 10 gallons left when the fuel gauge says empty, but I do not want to gamble on it.

    Love you,

  3. Hi Donald,

    I am a designer for the 2015 Official North Carolina Travel Guide. We will be running a piece in the guide about Hands on History, and it highlights Bennett Place in North Carolina. Will you be willing to submit IMG_1045.jpg for possible publication in the guide?
    Here is a link to this year's guide if you would like to take a look:
    Please email me for further details.


    1. Kacey,

      So as not to undermine any professional photographers I would have to ask that we be compensated the normal amount for use of our picture.

      According to a professional photographer I know, when amateurs give away their photographs, it makes it hard for the professionals to make a living, which is something I do not want to cause.

      So please do not use the photo unless you are willing to compensate with a monetary value.

      Don Lively