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The final act

By Chip Pate
Posted Friday, July 29, 2005

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Bennett Place official discusses actual ending to U.S. Civil War

Siler City, NC - Pick up many history books and you'll read that the Civil War ended in the rolling hills of central Virginia, when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Federal Gen. Ulysses S. Grant near a tiny community called Appomattox Courthouse.

It's one of the best-known "facts" of the war.

The only problem: It's not true.

The largest surrender of the conflict actually came weeks later on the Bennitt family farm, located in what is now Durham.

Kent McCoury, assistant site manager for the Bennett Place State Historic Site, will discuss surrenders ending the war and other questions about the Civil War on Aug. 12, when he speaks at the Wren Library in Siler City.

His presentation, sponsored by the Col. John Randolph Lane Society, will begin at 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

Though Lee's surrender in Virginia garners far more attention, events in Virginia still left the Confederate Army of Tennessee on the battlefield.

It wasn't until Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Federal Gen. William T. Sherman that both major Confederate forces were defeated.

"The two generals met three times in a farmhouse between their two lines and finally reached an agreement," says McCoury, who has spent decades conducting research and managing the historic site. "It came more than two weeks after Lee surrendered, and it almost didn't happen at all."

McCoury said smaller surrenders took place even later. But events in North Carolina removed from battle a substantial portion of the Confederate armed forces.

The war's closing chapter will be the primary focus of McCoury's presentation. The historian will spend some time recounting those final events, show a 15-minute video on the Bennett Place site and then spend the balance of his time fielding questions about the broader conflict.

"That seems to work well," McCoury said. "I've found that people have a lot of interesting questions about the Civil War. So, I'd like to hear what people are wondering about and give my own perspective, based on the research we've done."

After the presentation, there will be a short intermission before the Lane Society's business meeting, which also is open to the public. Guests are invited to meet McCoury during that break.

Based in Siler City, the Col. John Randolph Lane Society is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the legacy of Chatham County's Confederate veterans and preserving their history. Society projects include restoring veterans' cemetery markers, providing living history interpretations for school and civic groups, and publishing information about local veterans.

Several society publications -- including the "Roster of Confederate Veterans from Chatham County, North Carolina" -- have been honored by the North Carolina Society of Historians and other historical groups.

Note:The site is the "Bennett Place State Historic Site," though subsequent research found that the family name was spelled differently, as "Bennitt." These two spellings are used in the release -- "Bennett" for the site and "Bennitt" for the family.

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