Chronology of Events -
The Civil War & Durham, NC
Durham, then the eastern part of Orange and north western part of Wake counties, is a rural society of whites, slaves and free blacks. Free blacks lived much like their white neighbors, some skilled as blacksmiths, mechanics, carpenters, millers, ditchers, stonecutters, shoemakers and even a very rare lawyer, but most, like whites, were just plain dirt farmers.
From what is now Durham County, North Carolina, Senator Willie P. Mangum, as president pro tem of the 27th and 28th congresses and an important ally of Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, is key in the passage the Compromise of 1850, credited with postponing the Civil War another decade.
1853: Durham Station becomes a post office.
March 1855: The railroad is completed to Durham Station.
1858: The first tobacco factory is established in Durham Station.
Disputes dating as far back as the constitutional convention between South and North over slavery, states’ rights, tariffs and agrarianism vs. industrialization reach the breaking point with the election of Abraham Lincoln as President, with 60% of the vote in anti-slavery states along with a majority of the Senate and House.
Durham reflects North Carolina’s ambivalence about secession, with anti-slavery Federalists and Unionists emblematic of sentiments more common to the west and mountains, alongside one of the largest plantations in the south and sentiments more common from Raleigh across the coastal plain.
December 20, 1860
South Carolina declares its right to secede from the Union, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Federal Government rejects states’ right to succeed and both President Buchanan and President-elect Lincoln refuse to recognize the Confederacy.
March 4, 1861
Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated 16th president of the United States of America.
April 12, 1861
Confederate troops fire the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. President Lincoln calls on the governors of every state to send troops to put down the rebellion. Virginia and Arkansas join secession.
May 20, 1861
Surrounded by secession states and asked by the Federal government to send troops to put down the rebellion in South Carolina, the state of North Carolina reluctantly becomes the last state to secede from the Union and joins the Confederate States of America (CSA).
Flat River Guards
The Flat River Guards, organized in 1860 in what is now north Durham County, NC, march into Durham Station. Durham residents also join units like the Durham Light Infantry (aka the Orange Grays) and the Cedar Fork Rifles organized in January 1861 in a part of Durham that at the time was western Wake County. Most become companies of the 6th Regiment of North Carolina State Troops.
July 21, 1861
Lt. William Preston Mangum, son of former U.S. Senator Willie P. Mangum and a member of the Flat River Guards, is among the first casualties in the first major land battle at First Manassas (aka Bull Run in the North.)
Fighting as part of the 6th North Carolina and the Third Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah, Lt. Mangum helps take Henry Hill, a key Federal artillery position for Stonewall Jackson.
Ironically, at the time he is killed in action, he is serving under Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston, who would effectively end the Civil War with his surrender four bloody years later at Bennett Place in Durham.
September 7, 1861
Former Senator Willie P. Mangum dies of a stroke, following the death of his son in combat and after witnessing the failure of his pre-war compromises to preserve the Union.
The Durham Light Infantry as part of 6th North Carolina and Hoke’s Brigade makes the charge up Cemetery Hill, Gettysburg, where 75 troops from the 6th temporarily take the position and plant the colors.
125,000 North Carolinians serve the Confederacy in the war, including home guard and militia. Last to secede, North Carolina suffers 40,000 casualties, more than any other state in the Confederacy.
March 1, 1865
General Sherman’s troops enter North Carolina on their march through the south.
March 8, 1865
General Sherman enters North Carolina and advises subordinate officers to encourage the troops to treat North Carolina easier than South Carolina, in anticipation of the peace movement and meeting Union sympathizers. Despite this leniency, Fayetteville and most of the longleaf pine forests between the Pee Dee and Cape Fear rivers are torched.
March 21, 1865
Union General William T. Sherman defeats Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston at the Battle of Bentonville near Smithfield.
Richmond, VA, the capital of the Confederacy falls to the Union army. Durham native Washington Duke, fighting there in the Confederate Navy, is captured and sent as a prisoner of war to New Bern.
April 4, 1985
President Lincoln is celebrated by the city’s black population as he walks the streets of Richmond.
April 9, 1865
After failing an attempt to retreat to North Carolina and link up with General Johnston, General Robert E. Lee disobeys orders to break into small guerilla units and surrenders only his Army of Northern Virginia, including Durham units in the 6th North Carolina, to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, VA.
With Union General William T. Sherman’s troops closing in on Smithfield and Raleigh, Governor Vance and former Governors Swain and Graham meet to discuss the "state of public affairs" and the possible cessation of hostilities.
Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, including Durham units, are officially paroled, including Pvt. Julian S Carr, a private in the 3rd North Carolina Cavalry of Barrington’s Brigade, soon to be legendary in Durham’s development.
Former Governors Swain and Graham deliver a letter to Sherman regarding the "final termination of the existing war".
April 13, 1865
As Union troops occupy the state capital of Raleigh, Governor Vance flees for Greensboro, where President Jefferson Davis is encamped, and residents plead with Sherman to spare the city.
Union Cavalry General Judson Kilpatrick continues to pursue Confederate Generals Joseph Wheeler and Wade Hampton through Garner, Cary, and Morrisville.
April 14, 1865
President Lincoln meets with his cabinet, declaring “there is no greater task before us” than resolving the end of the war and restoring states back to the Union.
President Lincoln is shot at Ford’s Theater by John Wilkes Booth. An attempt is made to assassinate Secretary Seward, from which he recovers. There is no follow through on a planned attempt on Vice President Johnson.
President Lincoln is declared dead at 7:22am and at 10:00am Vice President Johnson, who was born in Raleigh, is sworn in as President of the United States of America. Radical Republicans push for vengeance to replace Lincoln’s reconciliation approach.
April 16, 1865
General Sherman receives a letter from General Johnston regarding the “needful arrangements to terminate this war” after it is delayed by General Kilpatrick, thinking it is a trick.
April 17, 1865
Before departing Raleigh by train that morning to meet General Johnston near Durham Station, Sherman receives a telegram that President Lincoln had been assassinated.
Telling no one else of the assassination, Sherman travels to Durham Station where he meets up with General Kilpatrick and a small escort to ride west with a white flag of truce as General Johnston and General Hampton do the same from Hillsborough to the east. They meet at the farmhouse of James and Nancy Bennitt (later called Bennett Place) in what is today Durham.
At the suggestion of Johnston in consultation with CSA Secretary of State Breckinridge, Sherman drafts a document outlining the terms of an agreement that would return the South to "status quo ante bellum" on the condition all Confederate troops lay down their arms. President Jefferson Davis agrees.
April 24, 1865
General Grant arrives in Raleigh to inform General Sherman of the rejection by officials in Washington, now under the influence of Radical Republicans, and orders Sherman to grant only the terms of the Appomattox surrender.
After protesting in writing to Grant and Federal officials, Sherman returns to Durham Station and the Bennett House, where under orders from Grant and Secretary of War Stanton, he withdraws the surrender agreement and demands that Johnston accept the same terms as Lee. General Johnston agrees while disobeying orders, as Lee had done, to fight on by falling back to Georgia to pursue guerilla war. He surrenders 88,000 troops throughout the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, the largest of the war. Many experts believe this is effectively the end of the War.
On the same day as the Bennett Place surrender, President Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, is shot by Union troops and later dies.
Following Lee and Johnston, over the next four weeks, Lt. General Richard Taylor, son of former President Zackary Taylor, surrenders 42,000 troops in Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana, including the cavalry corps under Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest who also resists the order to conduct guerilla warfare.
On behalf of General Kirby, 36,000 troops west of the Mississippi are surrendered, including General Thompson’s troops in Missouri.
Historian and author Jay Wink writes that April 1865 is the month that saved America through events that avoided anarchy after the assassination, and valiant Confederate generals like Lee, Johnston and Forrest who disobeyed direct orders in order to surrender.
May 10, 1865
Confederate President Jefferson Davis, on the run now some 400 miles, much of it on horseback, is captured by Union troops in Georgia.
Captain James Iredell Waddell from Pittsboro, south of Durham, hears from a British ship that the Confederacy has surrendered. Having learned June 23rd of Lee’s surrender in April, Waddell continued hostilities with the commerce raider CSA Shenandoah, a warship converted from the British merchant ship Sea King. The last shots of the war had seized and destroyed Northern ships whaling in the Arctic off Alaska.
August 20, 1865
President Andrew Johnson declares end to the war. The United States had maintained a technical “state of war” from May to August to give the President time to put Military Governors in control of each of the Southern states to obtain quasi-legal control and begin the period of “Radical Reconstruction” President Lincoln had rejected.
Soldiers in Durham Station during the surrender negotiations write from home to get resupplies of tobacco from John R. Green’s factory.
Confederate veterans Julian Shakespeare Carr and Washington Duke soon launch Durham and North Carolina into the industrial revolution. First through tobacco and textile manufacturing leading to hydroelectric power, the establishment of Duke University and Durham’s economy of today, based on healthcare, biotech, pharmaceutical research and manufacturing and much more.
American Tobacco Company
Sources: The History of Durham County by Jean Anderson, Durham a Bull City Story by Jim Wise, April 1865 by Jay Winik, Dawn of Peace by William M. Vatavuk, Sea of Gray by Tom Chaffin, various Internet sources.