War, Bennetts, and “Unity”
Hey, everyone! As you know, I'm in the middle of my Durham series. But I’ve got more material than time to post it. So I thought I’d start posting three times a week instead of twice, at least for a little while.
Last time, I was talking about how our friend Vincent was taking us to the Bennett Place State Historical Site...and about why the Site is, indeed, Historical.
We drove from his home to the Site. It was a short trip...just six miles and ten minutes. Again, we were struck by how beautiful the countryside was, and how attractive the city. Then, we were in the parking lot of the Site. Before us was a modern building (the museum, theater, gift shop, and offices) and behind that, a long path through a grassy area that finally ended in a cluster of little wooden buildings--the original Bennett homestead. This was definitely not Tara. No Scarlet in a billowing white dress ever flounced about here while she was waiting for Rhett. This was a working class or, at best, a working middle class abode.
Up along the side of the path, about half-way from the modern building to the old ones, there was a marble monument--a plaque between two Greek pillars with a cross-stone bearing an inscription reading, “Unity.”
Vincent parked and we followed him into the modern building. A gentleman -- a volunteer guide -- met us and said that if we wanted to see it, there was a movie about to begin which explain the area’s history. Well, actually, it had already begun, but only seconds before. “And so far,” he said, smiling, “you’ve only missed a few opening credits and the sound of birds tweeting.”
Vincent had seen the film several times, but he urged us to see it as well. “I learn something new each time,” he said, so we followed him into the darkened theater space and watched. It repeated much of what Vincent had already told us, plus a good deal more detail.
Basically, by 1865, the war was ending, but was far from over...in spite of what you hear about Appomattox. Almost 90,000 Confederate troops (well, 89,270 of them, according to Wikipedia) were still under the command of General Joseph Johnston, a brilliant military technocrat who is considered, by some historians, among the best of the South’s generals. Actually, not all those men were available to Johnston. They were scattered about in various theaters all the way to Florida. But, technically, they were his to command. And, they had not surrendered.
In any case, Johnston and some of his soldiers were in North Carolina. They faced the Union general, William Tecumseh Sherman, he of the “march to the sea” and an architect of total war. To this day, Sherman is hated in the South (and other places) for the way he waged his war against civilians as well as soldiers.
Ironically, he was hated in the North (and, in some quarters, still is) for being too kind to the South after he’d won. In fact, he was accused of treason.
Personal confession: on some level, while I am appalled by the knowledge of what he did and what he permitted...still, I have to admire him a bit. He knew, long before so many others, what war would be like in an industrial age. It wasn’t his fault that armed conflict in such situations is inevitably terrible. The moral failure, I think, belongs to those in power who declare such wars in the first place, either ignorant of the fact, or not caring, that the results are always horrific.
Anyway, the two men and their armies were searching for each other in North Carolina. Sherman had marched North from Georgia. Johnston was trying to figure out what to do and where to go. Upon hearing of Lee’s surrender, he knew the jig was up. . He contacted Sherman and they agreed to meet “somewhere” on the road between their two encampments. Both men set off with escorts under white flags.
But...Sherman wanted someplace private to meet with his Confederate analog. He wanted someplace where they could speak without being overheard.
For, you see, Sherman had a secret.
And it could make all the difference in the world.
More to come.
About the photos: One is of the “Unity” pillar. Another is of the homestead and the pillar. And the other has, as usual, nothing to do with the story and is just there ‘cause I like it. ‘Tis of Martha at a restaurant in Austin.
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I provide these blog postings for free. That’s fine and I’m happy to do so. But, long ago and far away, I was told that if you give away your material, that means you don’t really think it has any value.
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If you like what I write or the videos I produce, and feel you could make a small contribution to support my efforts, please go here:
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Again, I don’t mind if you don’t. I just want to provide you with the option so that I won’t feel quite so much like I’m just tossing my works into the wind.
Either way, thanks hugely for dropping by the blog :-)
Copyright©2022 Michael Jay Tucker
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