Trace the Civil War’s End in Salisbury, Old Salem and Durham

Trace the Civil War’s End in Salisbury, Old Salem and Durham

At Bennett Place, you can trace the events that led to the largest troop surrender of the war

By the time Union troops reached Salisbury, Durham and the towns in between in early 1865, the Civil War was all but over. What was left was negotiating surrender, celebrating emancipation and erecting monuments to fallen soldiers, even those who died as prisoners. Through historical markers, museums and guided tours, you’ll get to know the people who took on these tasks and understand the why and how of their actions.

3-Day Itinerary

Day 1: Visit the Salisbury National Cemetery memorials for Union soldiers who died in a prison long gone before you visit the home of its chief surgeon.

Day 2: Discover how an African-American congregation in Old Salem learned of the Emancipation Proclamation, and then stop at skirmish sites in Yadkinville before visiting the East Bend home of an anti-secession judge.

Day 3: Follow the negotiations of the war’s largest surrender at Bennett Place, and then tour a Jamestown plantation, where a wagon used to help slaves escape is parked.

Day 1: Salisbury National Cemetery

Start at the Salisbury-Rowan County Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Visitor Center, and purchase a CD that will aid you on the self-guided driving tour of the Salisbury National Cemetery. The tour leads you to monuments honoring the Union prisoners who died at a prison that once stood here. While the total number remains debated, 3,700 prisoners perished in one five-month span toward the end of the war. Other gravesites, including one for a Medal of Honor recipient, are on the tour.

Dr. Josephus Hall was the prison’s chief surgeon. You can visit his home, which is now a museum. You’ll find original furnishings and details of how Union Gen. Stoneman used the house as his headquarters. A restored kitchen, slave house and prison cannon also are there, along with a desk President Andrew Jackson used while studying law in Salisbury in the 1780s.

Drive 40 miles to Old Salem Museum & Gardens, a recreated 17th and 18th century Moravian settlement, where you’ll start Day 2. It has restaurants and lodging, including the Tavern at Old Salem and Augustus T. Zevely Inn, which is furnished in mid-1800s style.

Day 2: Old Salem, Yadkinville and East Bend

Start at St. Phillips Heritage Center in Old Salem, where you’ll find a Civil War Trails marker. It’s here that a Union clergyman shared news of the Emancipation Proclamation with the African-American congregation.

You’ll find two Civil War Trails signs in Yadkinville. The first marker notes an 1863 shootout and an 1864 raid by Union supporters on home-guard weapon stashes. The second is at Bond School House, where Confederate militia killed several anti-war supporters. Richmond Hill Park in East Bend is just up the road. The home of N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Richmond Mumford Pearson, who opposed secession and worked to free draft-dodgers, is in the middle of the 30-acre park. You’ll find a Civil War Trails marker here, and with some scheduling, one of the monthly living-history events.

Durham is the next stop; it’ll take 90 minutes to get there. It’s home to Duke University, and there are many places to stay. But American Tobacco Historic District may be the most unique place to find dinner. It’s a mixed-use development of offices, shops, restaurants and night spots in former warehouses. Another option is Elmo’s Diner, which has a stack of “Best of” awards. But it might be better saved for breakfast.

Day 3: Bennett Place & Mendenhall Plantation

At Bennett Place, trace the events that led to the largest troop surrender of the war. Guided tours last about 45 minutes and take you through the reconstructed farmstead. If you feel adventurous or time is short, take the tour yourself with a brochure from the Visitor Center, which has Civil War-era weapons, tools and other artifacts on display. In the home, you’ll find the fully refurnished parlor, a recreation of where Union Gen. Sherman and Confederate Gen. Johnson hashed out terms.

Interstate 85 south will take you back to Salisbury, but there is one stop along the way: Mendenhall Plantation in Jamestown. It is the home of Quaker Richard Mendenhall, an abolitionist, and a unique wagon. Originally owned by a Greensboro couple, runaway slaves hid under its false bottom, riding north to freedom. Local legend says the plantation was a stop on the Underground Railroad. You can decide for yourself after touring the grounds, which include the home, spring house, barn and early medical school.

Pete Anderson is a Gastonia-based writer who says lakes, race tracks and barbecue joints are his favorite places to enjoy North Carolina.

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