Commemorating a Milestone
Commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War is underway. Durham had a significant involvement in the war - it effectively ended at Bennett Place. Three state historic sites operate today at places that offer a deep inventory of history allowing visitors to step back in time.
Historic Stagville gives visitors insight into a prewar Durham where white subsistence farmers lived alongside skilled freed blacks next to one of the largest plantations in the South. Stagville, a plantation of 30,000 acres and home to nearly 900 slaves, lay at the center of the Benehan-Cameron family estate. North Carolina was emblematic of the dichotomies that shaped the state and the union before and after the war. Durham reflected both the unionist, peace movement, anti-slavery attitudes prevalent to the west, combined with the plantation pro-slavery and secessionist tendencies to the east.
North Carolina was the last state to secede from the Union but provided the most troops for the Confederacy. In the end, North Carolina troops suffered the most casualties with Durham residents serving in companies that saw the bloodiest battles of the war. The last picket battles in North Carolina were in Durham leading to the truce between Generals Johnston and Sherman. At the Durham farmhouse of James and Nancy Bennitt, now commemorated as Bennett Place, the two generals drafted a document outlining the terms of the largest Confederate troop surrender of the Civil War.
After the end of the war, veterans returned home and again worked alongside blacks to forge enterprises launching North Carolina into the industrial revolution and beyond. Duke Homestead is the site where Washington Duke first grew and processed tobacco. Duke's tobacco empire, among others, paved the way for Durham tobacco factories, textile factories and hydroelectric technology. Much of Duke's profits were invested in land and industries but others were used for humanitarian causes, including Duke University.
>> Each of Durham's Historic Sites offer programming in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. For more information, visit NC Historic Sites.
>> Additionally, Civil War Durham offers additional information and resources about Durham's celebrated Civil War involvement.
Photo Credits: Bennett Place State Historic Site - DCVB; Duke Homestead - Duke Homestead/DCVB; Historic Stagville - Paul Liggitt/DCVB