Smithfield, NC is a small town located in Johnston County, North Carolina. Despite its size, it has a rich and diverse history that dates back to pre-colonial times. Over the years, many important historical events have taken place in or near Smithfield, shaping the town and its surroundings. In this article, we will explore seven of the most significant historical events that have taken place near Smithfield, NC.
1. Battle of Bentonville - The Battle of Bentonville was fought during the Civil War from March 19-21, 1865, and was the last major battle of the war in North Carolina. Located just 10 miles north of Smithfield, the battle was fought near the town of Four Oaks and involved over 80,000 soldiers from both sides. This battle proved to be decisive for the Union Army, leading to the surrender of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston a month later.
2. Neuse River Bridge Burning - On March 20, 1865, just one day after the Battle of Bentonville, Confederate soldiers burned the Neuse River Bridge near Smithfield to prevent Union troops from advancing further into North Carolina. This action effectively cut off communication and transportation from Raleigh to the southern part of the state, further hastening the surrender of Confederate forces.
3. Ava Gardner Museum - Smithfield is home to the Ava Gardner Museum, which exhibits the life and legacy of Hollywood actress Ava Gardner, who was born and raised in the town. The museum features over 5,000 items, including her personal belongings, costumes, and movie memorabilia.
4. Johnston County Courthouse - The Johnston County Courthouse is located in Smithfield and is a historic landmark that has stood since the early 20th century. This courthouse was the site of several historical trials, including the trial of Frank Stith, one of the first African American men to be executed for a crime in North Carolina.
5. Sherman's March to the Sea - During the Civil War, General William T. Sherman led his Union troops on a march from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia, which came to be known as Sherman's March to the Sea. The troops passed through Smithfield, damaging property and destroying resources along the way. The march was a major turning point in the war and led to the eventual fall of the Confederacy.
6. The Fred Douglas School - The Fred Douglas School was built in Smithfield in 1926 as a segregated school for African American children. The school played an important role in the education of Black children in Johnston County until it closed in 1969. Today, the school is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a community center.
7. The Tuscarora War - The Tuscarora War was fought from 1711-1715 between the English colonists and the Tuscarora tribe, who inhabited much of eastern North Carolina, including Smithfield. The conflict was one of the bloodiest and longest Native American wars in colonial history and resulted in the defeat of the Tuscarora and their forced relocation.
In conclusion, Smithfield, NC has a fascinating history that has been shaped by many significant events over the years. From battles to civil rights movements, this small town has seen it all. Visitors interested in learning more about this history can explore local museums and landmarks, or simply take a stroll through the town's historic streets.
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