“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Smithfield in Johnston County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)

Occupation of Smithfield

“cheering … rolled along the lines”


— Carolinas Campaign —

Occupation of Smithfield Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Coughlin, August 18, 2006
1. Occupation of Smithfield Marker
(Preface):The Carolinas Campaign began on February 1, 1865, when Union Gen. William T. Sherman led his army north from Savannah, Georgia, after the “March to the Sea.” Sherman's objective was to join Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia to crush Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Scattered Confederate forces consolidated in North Carolina, the Confederacy's logistical lifeline, where Sherman defeated Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's last-ditch attack at Bentonville. After Sherman was reinforced at Goldsboro late in March, Johnston saw the futility of further resistance and surrendered on April 26, essentially ending the Civil War.

This is the Johnston County Courthouse, the third to occupy this site. Here, on the steps of the second courthouse, on April 12, 1865, Union Gen. William T. Sherman announced Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, three days earlier. After some street fighting on April 11, the Confederates withdrew, burning the Neuse River bridge. Elements of the 75th Indiana Infantry were the first to occupy Springfield.

When Sherman arrived, he immediately established
Photograph from Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Coughlin, August 18, 2006
2. Photograph from Marker
General William T. Sherman, seated in center, poses with his staff.
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his headquarters in the courthouse. At about 5 a.m. the next morning, he received word of Lee’s surrender, and throughout the day he stood at the top of the courthouse steps and gave the news to his men as they marched by. Major Henry Hitchcock, of Sherman’s staff, watched as “brigade after brigade came along our HsQrs and were told the news …. Imagine the billows of tumultuous cheering which rolled along the lines … Meanwhile, band after band … made the little old town echo with music as beautiful as it was patriotic.” The Union army occupied Smithfield for two days before advancing on Raleigh.

“The streets are wide. The walks are nicely shaded by elms and hackberry …. Most of the houses are now deserted. Many of them have long been …. But the glory of Smithfield has departed, and that, too, before the war …. At the court house I noticed the shelves, in the offices, are emptied of their contents on the floor. The archives of Johnson [sic] county lie in confusion amongst the dirt …. The churches are open and the books scattered about the pews. At the graveyard I noticed the graves of a number of rebels, bearing ominous dates – about the time of the Bentonville fight.” - Chaplain John J. Hight, 58th Indiana Infantry
Erected by North Carolina Civil War Trails.
Topics and series.
Johnston County Courthouse image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bernard Fisher, March 8, 2010
3. Johnston County Courthouse
This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the North Carolina Civil War Trails series list. A significant historical month for this entry is February 1864.
Location. 35° 30.699′ N, 78° 20.843′ W. Marker is in Smithfield, North Carolina, in Johnston County. Marker is on E Market Street (State Highway 70), on the right when traveling east. Marker is located in front of the Johnston County Court House. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Smithfield NC 27577, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Sherman Receives News of Lee's Surrender in Smithfield (within shouting distance of this marker); Edward W. Pou (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Town of Smithfield (about 700 feet away); Hastings House (about 700 feet away); a different marker also named The Town of Smithfield (about 800 feet away); Freedmen’s School, 1868 (approx. 0.3 miles away); Ava Gardner (approx. ¾ mile away); Sherman’s March (approx. 0.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Smithfield.
More about this marker. The bottom left of the marker features a photograph of the Second Johnston County Courthouse (1843-1921), from which Sherman greeted the troops arriving in Smithfield with the news of Lee's surrender. Photo courtesy Johnston County Heritage Center. The upper right of the marker contains a photograph of Gen. William T. Sherman and his staff, Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration.
Credits. This page was last revised on March 30, 2021. It was originally submitted on December 24, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 1,282 times since then and 36 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on December 24, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.   3. submitted on March 12, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.

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Aug. 7, 2022