Smithfield’s Civil War sites will come alive Saturday night with interpreters, carriage rides and traditional hymns.
From 6 to 9 p.m., candlelight tours will take visitors to Riverside Cemetery, home to Smithfield’s Confederate Memorial and the resting place of many Southern soldiers who died at the Battle of Bentonville.
The guided tour, a project of the Johnston County Heritage Center, will take about an hour to complete, and the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp. will provide free carriage rides for families with small children and people who have trouble walking. Tour tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students; they will be available only at the Heritage Center, 241 E. Market St., Smithfield.
Todd Johnson has been planning the tours since he became director of the Heritage Center last spring. He timed them to compliment this weekend’s 150th anniversary observance of the Battle of Bentonville.
“They didn’t have any events planned for Saturday night, so we’re providing an activity for all these thousands of visitors that are coming in,” Johnson said.
“And we really want our local folks to participate as well.”
The tour will feature five historic sites and a total of eight stops where interpreters will dress in period clothing and assume the personalities of historical figures. Tour stops and the historical figures include:
▪ The Smithfield Masonic Lodge, built 1854, and Confederate soldier, farmer and prankster Eli Olive.
▪ Smithfield Primitive Baptist Church, where visitors will sing a cappella from the 1841 Benjamin Lloyd Hymnal, as was common in the 1860s.
▪ A field hospital staffed by Confederate surgeon Dr. Jim Metts.
▪ The antebellum medical and law office on North Second Street, built circa 1850, with physician Dr. Alexander F. Telfair and attorney Claudius Brock Saunders.
▪ The site of the Neuse River bridge, which Confederate soldiers destroyed after losing the Battle of Bentonville in order to slow Union troops. Also, free black carpenter Bryant Alford and slave Charity.
▪ The Hastings House, built in 1854, and Confederate generals Joseph E. Johnston, William J. Hardee and Joe Wheeler.
▪ Riverside Cemetery and Confederate Pvt. Andrew Johnson Roberts of Georgia.
During the tours, the Heritage Center’s Civil War exhibit, “American vs American: Our Most Cruel War,” will also be open to the public. The display features artifacts from the era and documents Johnston County’s reluctant involvement in the Civil War.
Pieces include a Confederate officer’s sword and hand-painted canteen; a bugle played at Appomattox by a local soldier; a bayonet found in a tree near Bentonville; a rifle made in 1864 at the Fayetteville Arsenal; a soldier’s wallet with a girl’s tintype photograph still inside; Confederate currency; a saddle from a Union cavalryman’s horse; and uniform buttons and other items unearthed by local residents.
Save the Date
What: candlelight tours of Smithfield’s Civil War sites.
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, March 21.
Where: Tours begin at the Johnston County Heritage Center, 241 E. Market St., Smithfield.
Tickets: $5 for adults, $3 for students. Available only at the door.