DURHAM, N.C. – “North Carolina is not depicted that much in Civil War paintings. I had been reading and studying up on the meeting, which is part of being a historical painter,” comments artist Dan Nance. At Bennett Farm in Durham, Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston and Union Gen. William Sherman met in the waning days of the Civil War to formally end hostilities. The moment of that meeting is captured in Nance’s oil painting The First Meeting, which will be officially unveiled at Bennett Place State Historic Site (http://www.nchistoricsites.org/bennett/bennett.htm) on Thursday, April 15, at 7 p.m. Limited edition prints will be sold at the unveiling and at the April 17-18 re-enactment.
“Johnston was neat and proud,” says Nance. “Sherman had been traveling a lot and was muddy and untidy. The painting captures that, and the Bennett house nearby.”
Although the adversaries had battled on the field of war, they first met on April 17, 1865, to negotiate the surrender of Confederate forces and transition to a stable peace. After three meetings over three days, an accord was reached. The necessity of a signed agreement with satisfactory terms was exacerbated by the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14. It was necessary for Sherman to secure the agreement before bitter Union soldiers could react in anger. It was necessary for Johnston to secure the deal to minimize loss of life and property in North Carolina. The situation was grave.
“We have never had a painting that authentically depicts Gen. Sherman and Gen. Johnston meeting at Bennett Place,” Site Manager John Guss explains. “Considering the importance and consequences of their meeting on this hallowed ground, I felt we needed a prominent painting depicting this event in American history.”
The Bennett Place Support Fund, Inc., a nonprofit friends group, commissioned the painting from well-known historical painter Dan Nance (www.dannance.com) of Charlotte, who has been painting Civil War scenes for about 20 years.
Nance will attend the unveiling of the 44”x64” painting, and he will sign prints then and this weekend. Reservations are free but required for the business attire unveiling event. The William Vatavuk scholarship will be awarded to a high school senior, and the Everett-Thissen Research Library also will be dedicated that night. The free weekend re-enactment will include re-enactors, music, book readings, merchants and more.
For reservations call (919) 383-4345. Bennett Place State Historic Site is within the Division of State Historic Sites in the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities, and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social, cultural and economic future. Information on Cultural Resources is available 24/7 at www.ncculture.com.
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