Much to my surprise, I recently ran into the battle of Bentonville—south of Fayetteville.
I was heading north on I-95 through North Carolina when I pulled into a rest stop. There, on the edge of a parking lot, I saw a monument to the battle: a metal plaque mounted on a brick face.
The monument dates to 1962 and was erected by the state highway department. So, it’s not like a huge surprise that a monument suddenly appeared along the interstate—it’s just that it’s new to me because I’d never stopped at that particular rest stop before. I wasn’t really expecting a Civil War monument.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by a seemingly surprising roadside monument, though. Earlier in the afternoon, in South Carolina, I had stopped at a rest area that had a small circular fountain off to the side of the restrooms. On the concrete bench surrounding the fountain were inscribed words from JFK’s inaugural address: “we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship…” and so on. I was delighted to find such wonderful words in such an unexpected spot.
The Bentonville monument features a sketch that originally appeared in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. That same sketch appears on the Emerging Civil War Series book Calamity in Carolina: The Battles of Averasboro and Bentonville by Dan Davis and Phill Greenwalt. In fact, that’s what first caught my eye. “Hey, it’s the cover of Dan and Phill’s book!” I thought.
You can find more on the history of the monument and an inscription of the text at the Historical Markers Database.
The unexpected nature of my find—again, unexpected to me—brought to mind a rest area along I-95 south of Fredericksburg, just before the exit to Caramel Church and the North Anna Battlefield. There, displays explore “Petersburg: The Last Days of the Confederacy.” Petersburg is nearly an hour further to the south, with Richmond in between, so I always thought it an odd place to have Petersburg stuff. However, with the I-295 bypass around Richmond that terminates near Petersburg, I guess it makes sense to try and attract the attention of as many wayfarers as possible before the highway splits.
That got me to wondering: Where along your travels have YOU run across unexpected Civil War monuments?