Durham News

‘Soldier’s Walk, ‘Freedom 150’ also commemorate war’s end

Reenactor Philip Brown plans to retrace Washington Duke’s walk home from New Bern, in Duke Homestead State Historic Site’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s end.
Reenactor Philip Brown plans to retrace Washington Duke’s walk home from New Bern, in Duke Homestead State Historic Site’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s end. Courtesy Duke Homestead State Historic Site

Besides Bennett Place, Durham County’s two other state historic sites have plans of their own for commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s end.

Duke Homestead, where Washington Duke began the family tobacco empire, is sponsoring “A Soldier’s Walk Home”: a reenactment of Duke’s journey on foot from New Bern to his farm after he was released from a Union prisoner of war camp.

Historic Stagville, a portion of what was North Carolina’s largest antebellum plantation, is holding “Freedom 150”: an event on how the war’s end, and freedom, affected the plantation’s enslaved population.

‘Soldier’s Walk’

Drafted into the Confederate Navy at age 43, farmer Washington Duke spent much of his military service in a Union POW camp. After the war he was released near New Bern and walked about 135 miles to get home.

Philip Brown, a 24-year-old Civil War reenactor from Greensboro, plans to retrace Duke’s route, starting May 11 and walking 15 to 20 miles a day, to reach Duke Homestead during the site’s annual Bull Fest May 23.

“He is not supposed to be Washington Duke, but he is representing all soldiers walking home after the Civil War,” said Mia Berg, Duke Homestead’s interim manager.

“With that overarching theme, we’re trying to incorporate all veterans of all wars,” she said, with veterans’ organizations holding events at Brown’s 11 stops along the way. “Each stop is doing something unique.”

The Duke Homestead staff came up with the idea and found a willing Brown through reenactor contacts, she said. For information on “A Soldier’s Walk Home,” including a map and itinerary, see nando.com/14z.

Duke Homestead is at 2828 Duke Homestead Road in Durham. See nando.com/14-.

‘Freedom 150’

Before the Civil War, Stagville was part of the Cameron family’s plantation complex, which covered 30,000 acres with a slave population of almost 1,000.

“Other sites, their focus is on battles and other parts of the war,” said Stagville Site Manager Stephanie Colbert. “So we’re focusing on the effect that it had on the African American population.

“We’ll have historic interpreters who’ll be talking about life on the plantation 1865 and later, and effects of the Civil War on Stagville as well as the African American population across the state,” she said.

“We’ll have historic open-hearth cooking going on,” Colbert said, and Joseph McGill, who leads a project to preserve slave dwellings, is coming to talk about his work and spend a night in one of the houses at Stagville’s Horton Grove quarters.

The two-story Horton Grove cabins, built in 1850, actually remained in use well into the 20th century as some of the plantation’s former slaves, and their descendants, remained on the property as sharecroppers, she said.

“Freedom 150,” 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 30, takes the place of this year’s Juneteenth Festival at Stagville, an event that commemorates word of emancipation reaching slaves in Galveston, Tex. on June 19, 1865.

Historic Stagville is at 5828 Old Oxford Highway in northeastern Durham County. See nando.com/150.

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