April 1865 was one of the most significant months in the duration of the American Civil War. It marked a day when two opposing Generals of a tragic and horrific war, met to discuss what needed to be done in order to reach a peaceful solution to end the strife between them.
Confederate General Joseph Johnston and Union General William Sherman met under a flag of truce at small farmhouse owned by the Bennitt family, who lived in Orange County between Greensboro and Raleigh. The two generals met at this farmhouse on three separate occasions to talk about all that had happened and what the available options where. The first meeting occurred on April 17, where initial conferencing began and where Johnston first learned of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination. While Sherman was willing to offer military terms similar to those given to General Lee from Union General Grant, Johnston desired political terms, as well as ones that would ensure a lasting peace. During a second meeting on April 18, Johnston reviewed a submitted "basis of agreement" from Sherman which included terms such as depositing weapons and disbanding weapons, but also allowed for recognition of state governments, restoration of civil and political rights and amnesty. Although Confederate President Jefferson Davis approved of these terms, the Union did not and Sherman was ordered to renegotiate new terms.
Stricter terms were put forth and though Davis balked at the new terms and ordered Johnston to disband the infantry and escape, Johnston disobeyed these orders and met with Sherman at the Bennitt farm again on April 26. Johnston was aware of the tragedies that went along with a prolonged war and desired some kind of resolution. Sherman and Johnston finally agreed on a military surrender which involved nearly 90,000 soldiers and ended the war in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. This surrender spared North Carolina the type of destruction caused by Union forces to many of its neighboring states. Bennett Place earned its permanent spot in war history by becoming the site of the largest troop surrender of the Civil War. The Bennitt farm remained standing until a fire destroyed most of it in 1921. Today, visitors can see carefully restored structures and reproductions that give an idea of a modest dwelling that housed a monumentally important moment in American history.
War-a Part of Life
Wars have been fought for thousands of years and for a variety of reasons, but most of them have the same results. There is usually a winning side and a losing side but for all intents and purposes, nobody really wins because of the loss of life and sometimes senseless and agonizing tragedies that occur as a result. It has been a fairly consistent cycle for thousands of years and though wars seemingly occur with less frequency in these modern times, they are still in existence and battles are still being fought in various places around the world to this day. War has and will continue to redefine our civilization and reshape the world for many years to come and though we may live to see one or two or maybe none at all, history will record these moments in time for the entire world to know and remember.