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After visiting Bennett Place in Durham and Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, area Civil War enthusiasts can now cruise over to Morrisville to see more artifacts at another site where the North and South clashed.
Morrisville Town Council members unveiled a North Carolina Civil War Trails marker at 100 Town Hall Drive on Friday commemorating the 147th anniversary of the Morrisville Skirmish, when soldiers fought over Confederate supplies at the train depot.
Morrisville is also where initial armistice correspondence made it into Union hands.
“This is part of a long running effort to put Morrisville in the spotlight of national history,” said preservationist Ernest Dollar. “For only a few days, Morrisville was part of a tragic chapter in our nations’ history. I think it’s important to remember Morrisville’s place.”
Dollar worked with Planning Director Ben Hitchings to get the marker. Dollar also gave a presentation to about 40 people about Morrisville’s role in the Civil War at Friday’s ceremony.
After the capture of Raleigh, Union General H. Hudson Kilpatrick’s cavalry skirmished with Confederate Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry as it retreated west.
The battle began April 13, 1865, at the Morrisville Depot of the N.C. Railroad.
At about 2 p.m., Wheeler galloped into Morrisville with the federal soldiers close behind. Wheeler’s cavalrymen erected barricades around the depot to protect a locomotive loaded with supplies and wounded who were headed out of town, reads the marker
Union horseman charged within 100 yards of the train before Confederate bullets stopped them. Confederates unloaded the supplies in order to allow the wounded to escape, said the marker.
At about midnight, Union advance guard or “picketers” outside Morrisville spied a Confederate soldier carrying a white flag with a message from Confederate President Jefferson Davis asking for armistice, Dollar said.
Kilpatrick sent the note on to Union Gen. William Sherman in Raleigh. Four days later, Sherman and Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston met in Bennett Place to discuss surrender and end the war.
It would take two attempts and on April 26, 1865, the two reached an agreement. Johnston surrendered about 89,000 troops, Dollar said.
Visitors to Morrisville Town Hall’s history center can see videos about the town’s history, see artifacts collected from the time period and read the marker outside.
“I hope it means getting more tourism into Morrisville,” Dollar said. “I hope it brings Morrisville’s history to life.”
With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War coming up, the marker could prove to be an economic boon for the town.
According to the July 2010 U.S. Travel Association survey 31 percent of U.S. adults – or 72.2 million potential domestic leisure travelers – reported interest in a Civil War site or trail while traveling on a trip.
The marker is already generating interest.
Living historian Ken Vrana and his wife Lisa Vrana, of Cary, have already made the trip.
“I heard about this on (National Public Radio),” he said. “I decided to come out because there are so few things around here where you can visit places where there were Union soldiers.”
Ken Vrana showed up dressed as Union General Don Carlos Buell.
Mayor Jackie Holcombe said the town has experienced huge growth and the marker gives new residents a chance to learn about Morrisville’s past.
“It gives us a chance to talk about history and this makes sure it stays alive,” Holcombe said. “We talk a lot about Morrisville’s identity. This is something that is unique to Morrisville.”