James and Nancy Bennett are an example of a typical family living in America at the time of the American Civil War. Average middle class, they were considered at that time to be “yeoman” farmers, farmers who owned small acreage, working the land themselves, and providing for themselves through their skills of sewing, making and repairing tools, and other aspects of self sufficiency. The Bennett Family never owned slaves as this was a very expensive business endeavor. Less than 20% of the American population could afford to enter in to this type of agricultural economic structure.
James and Nancy had three children. Lorenzo Leigh, Eliza Ann, and Alphonzo Jackson. All grew to adulthood. When the American Civil War erupted in April 1861, the Bennett family was reluctant to get involved in the conflict. They owned no slaves, and much of central North Carolina had voted secession down. However, on May 12, 1862, Lorenzo answered the call enlisting in the 27th North Carolina Infantry, Company G out of the neighboring town of Hillsborough . It was not long after his regiment went to Virginia that he died of typhoid pneumonia in October 1862 in a Confederate Army hospital in Winchester , Virginia . He is buried in the Mount Hebron Cemetery in Winchester, Virginia.
Alphonzo, who is believed to have remained on the homefront during the war also died in 1862. It is unknown as to where he is buried. Perhaps in the Bennett Family Cemetery on the Bennett Family property. Research continues on his personal background.
Eliza married a local fellow named Robert Duke, who went off to war. During that time Eliza remained home with her parents. She was with her parents at the farm when General Johnston and Major General Sherman met at their home. Following the war, her mother and she made efforts to maintain the family farm. However, with the passing of James, the women moved to what was then becoming the thriving tobacco city of Durham . She is buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Durham, North Carolina.
As for James and Nancy, after the war, they like so many Southerners had to rebuild their lives through the period of Reconstruction. Life was even more challenging than before the war with new laws and a change of lifestyle. James died in 1878, and Nancy could no longer maintain the farm with her daughter.
It is believed that James and Nancy are buried on their farm just down the street from their family home in the Bennett & Neal Family Cemetery. Preservation work of the family cemetery is still in progress.
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