More Bennetts, And A Surrender For The Ages
So, last time, I was writing about the surrender at Bennett Place...and I’d been a bit of a coy dork by saying that Sherman, the Union general, had a secret.
Okay, I’m going to let Vincent explain that. As he told us that morning on the way to the Bennett Place, what Sherman knew, and what nobody else knew, was that Lincoln had been assassinated at Ford’s Theater. He knew because a coded telegram had been sent to his camp with the news. But he’d sworn the telegraph operator to secrecy.
“Because,” Vincent said, as he drove, “he knew that if his own soldiers found out...it would have been a bloodbath.” The Union troops would have sought vengeance on their Confederate foes, and who knows where it would have ended.
So, the assassination was kept a secret from Sherman’s own men.
Meanwhile, Sherman and the Confederate General, Joe Johnston, were riding toward each other. Johnston noticed a small house along the way. It was, of course, the home of the Bennetts. But, he didn’t think much about it.
He and Sherman encountered one another. Sherman asked Johnston if he knew of any place about where they could talk in private. Johnston remembered the huts he seen a short ways back, and off they went.
The two parties met at the house and knocked. The Bennetts took one look at the much medaled generals and their heavily armed escorts and, wisely, cleared out.
Sherman and Johnston began their conversation, safe from the prying eyes and the over-sensitive ears of their men. Johnston heard about Lincoln’s death and went ashen. He knew what would happen if news got out. So, the two commanders entered into a conspiracy of silence. Their troops would not learn for long days of Ford’s Theater.
Then they got down to business.
I’ll spare you the details of the surrender negotiations (you can read all about them here: https://www.bennettplacehistoricsite.com/history/surrender-negotiations/). Suffice to say that they were complicated and involved much interference and outrage from Washington (which, as I say, was furious with Sherman for being too gentle), but eventually it all got done.
And so, Bennett Place went down in history as the site of the single largest surrender of the war. Here quoting Wikipedia, “Johnston surrendered the Army of Tennessee and all remaining Confederate forces still active in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. It was the largest surrender of the war, totaling 89,270 soldiers” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_E._Johnston#North_Carolina_and_surrender_at_Bennett_Place). Again, think of how different things would have been if even a small number of those soldiers had remained in the war, even for a short time.
The film ended. The lights came up and we found that it had been just us in the theater, except for a gentleman who had been in the front row. We three and the man stood up. The volunteer/guide who had greeted us asked if we’d care for a tour of the site. We all four of us said yes, eagerly.
The Guide smiled.
But, I’m sure, the poor man had no idea what he’d just gotten himself into.
More to come.
About the photo: Again, nothing about Durham, but, once more, I happen to like the photo. This is from one of our first trips to San Antonio, and dates from a lunch we we had at the time. These three charming rogues are, needless to say, Emily, Martha, and David.
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