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Zebulon Baird Vance
Zebulon Baird Vance

43rd Governor of North Carolina
In office
January 1, 1877 – February 5, 1879
Preceded by Curtis Hooks Brogden
Succeeded by Thomas Jordan Jarvis

37th Governor of North Carolina
In office
September 8, 1862 – May 29, 1865
Preceded by Henry Toole Clark
Succeeded by William Woods Holden

United States Senator from North Carolina
In office
1879 – 1894
Preceded by Augustus S. Merrimon
Succeeded by Thomas Jordan Jarvis

Born May 13, 1830(1830-05-13)
Weaverville, North Carolina
Died April 14, 1894 (aged 63)
North Carolina
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Harriette Vance
Children 4
Profession lawyer, colonel, politician

Zebulon Baird Vance (May 13, 1830 – April 14, 1894) was a Confederate military officer in the American Civil War, the 37th and 43rd Governor of North Carolina, and U.S. Senator. A prodigious writer, Vance became one of the most influential Southern leaders of the Civil War and postbellum periods.


Zebulon Vance was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina near present-day Weaverville,[1] the third of eight children. His family is known to have owned a relatively large number of slaves (18). His uncle was Congressman Robert Brank Vance, for whom his elder brother, Robert B. Vance, was named. At age twelve he was sent to study at Washington College in Tennessee, now known as Washington College Academy.The death of his father forced Vance to withdraw and return home at the age of fourteen. It was during this time that he began to court the well-bred Miss Harriette Espy by letter.[2]

File:Zebulon Vance's Birthplace.jpg

Zebulon Vance birthplace

In order to improve his standing, Vance determined to go to law school. At the age of twenty-one, he wrote the President of the University of North Carolina, where he was a member of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies, former Governor David L. Swain, and asked for a loan so that he could attend law school. Governor Swain arranged for a $300 loan from the university, and Vance performed admirably. By 1852 Vance had begun practicing law in Asheville, and was soon elected county solicitor (prosecuting attorney). By 1853, he and Harriette Espy were married, and they would subsequently have four sons.

Civil War[]

By the time the ordinance of secession had passed in May, Vance was a captain stationed in Raleigh, commanding a company known as the "Rough and Ready Guards," part of the Fourteenth North Carolina Regiment. That August, Vance was elected Colonel of the Twenty-sixth North Carolina. The Twenty-sixth engaged in battle in New Bern in March 1862, where Vance conducted an orderly retreat. Vance also led the Twenty-sixth at Richmond. The Twenty-sixth was ultimately destroyed at the Battle of Gettysburg, losing more than 700 of its original 800 members, though Vance at that time was no longer in military service.

In September 1862, Vance won the gubernatorial election. In the Confederacy Vance was a major proponent of individual rights and local self-government, often putting him at odds with the Confederate government of Jefferson Davis. For example, North Carolina was the only state to observe the writ of habeas corpus and keep its courts fully functional during the war. Also, Vance refused to allow supplies smuggled into North Carolina by blockade runners to be given to other states until North Carolinians had their share. Vance's work for the aid and morale of the people, especially in mitigating the harsh Confederate conscription practices, inspired the nickname "War Governor of the South." Vance was re-elected in 1864.

Post-War career[]

Governor Vance was arrested by Federal forces on his birthday in May 1865 and spent time in prison in Washington, D.C. Per President Andrew Johnson's amnesty program, he filed an application for pardon on June 3, and was paroled on July 6.[3] After his parole, he began practicing law in Charlotte, North Carolina. Among his clients was accused murderer Tom Dula, the subject of the folk song "Tom Dooley." Governor Vance was formally pardoned on March 11, 1867, though no formal charges had ever been filed against him leading to his arrest, during his imprisonment, nor during the period of his parole.[3]

In 1870, the state legislature elected him to the United States Senate, but due to the restrictions placed on ex-Confederates by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, he was not allowed to serve. In 1876, Vance was elected Governor once again (during which time he focused on education), and in 1879 the legislature again elected him to the United States Senate. This time he was seated, and he served in the Senate until his death in 1894. After a funeral in the U.S. Capitol, Vance was buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Asheville.[3]

Starting in about 1870, Vance gave a speech hundreds of times he called "The Scattered Nation," which praised the Jews and called for religious tolerance and freedom amongst all Americans. In 1880, Vance married Florence Steele Martin of Kentucky. [4][5]


About Vance[]

"He was the Mount Mitchell of all our great men, and in the affections and love of the people, he towered above them all. As ages to come will not be able to mar the grandeur and greatness of Mount Mitchell, so they will not be able to efface from the hearts and minds of the people the name of their beloved Vance."

-- T. J. Jarvis, Governor from 1879 to 1885

By Vance[]

"The purpose of war is to explore each other."


"A vale of humility between two mountains of conceit."

Supposedly said by Vance about North Carolina. The two mountains of conceit are Virginia and South Carolina. This is also attributed to Alexander Hamilton, but probably predates both Hamilton and Vance.


There are several monuments dedicated to Vance:

  • An obelisk dedicated to Vance in Pack Square, Asheville
  • A statue on the south grounds of the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh
  • A bronze in the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington, D.C.
  • A small monument located where his post-war home once stood (1865–1894), at sixth and college street, in Charlotte
  • One of the administrative buildings at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is named Vance Hall in his honor.
  • A portrait of Vance hangs behind the President's chair of The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • His birthplace is a state historic site in Weaverville[6].

Several locations and schools in North Carolina bear Vance's name:

  • The town of Zebulon, in Wake County
  • The town of Vanceboro, North Carolina
  • Vance County on the North Carolina - Virginia border
  • Zebulon B. Vance High School in Charlotte
  • Zeb Vance Elementary School in Kittrell
  • Vance Masonic Lodge A.F.&A.M. #293 in Weaverville

Template:Libship honor

External links[]


Further reading[]

  • Clement Dowd, Life of Zebulon B. Vance (Charlotte, N. C., 1897)
  • Gordon McKinney, Zeb Vance : North Carolina's Civil War Governor and Gilded Age Political Leader (Chapel Hill, N. C., 2004)

Template:Start box Template:S-off |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Henry T. Clark |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Governor of North Carolina
1862–1865 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
William W. Holden |- |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Curtis H. Brogden |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Governor of North Carolina
1877–1879 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
Thomas J. Jarvis |- |- ! colspan="3" style="background: #cccccc" | United States Senate Template:U.S. Senator box |} Template:Governors of North Carolina Template:USSenNC

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