The American Civil War Through A Durham Lens

In advance of the 2011-2015 sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary of the American Civil War, this site is a look at the role of what is now the City and County of Durham, North Carolina. There may be more famous places, but few with a broader involvement in so many pivotal areas.

    • People living here were instrumental prior to the war in shaping national compromise to preserve the Union including U.S. Senator Willie P. Mangum, president pro tem of the 27th and 28th Congresses of the United States of America and a key ally of Henry Clay in the Compromise of 1850.
    • At the time, people here reflected a microcosm of North Carolina’s ambivalence or divide about secession. Free blacks lived much like their white neighbors, some skilled but, most just plain dirt farmers, alongside one of the largest plantations in the South. Some were against slavery and others for slavery, some Federalists and others Secessionists.
    • Surrounded by secessionist states as hostilities grew, North Carolina was last to secede, but many in what is now Durham rallied to the cause, dying on the front lines in some of the earliest battles of the war including First Manassas (aka Bull Run) and at Gettysburg.
    • In the end, Durham was the site of fighting and the pivotal surrender at Bennett Place, now considered by many to have effectively ended the Civil War 20 days after Lee surrendered only his own army at Appomattox.
    • Returning home to Durham, veterans worked alongside freed blacks to forge national enterprises manufacturing textiles and tobacco, excelling in finance and leveraging a global role today in education, healthcare, and research.

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