Divided State
Zebulon Vance & North Carolina's War


     The secession question in North Carolina was better off playing safe than sorry. Among the citizenry throughout ran mixed emotions of breaking free from the Old Constitution and setting an unknown course for a new one. Once the question was determined and war loomed in on the horizon, she was faithful to provide her sons to the cause.

     Those who had been die hard Unionists, like the southern sympathizers in the border states of Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri were, for the time, better off keeping their devotion under wraps. In 1861 secession fever was running high, there was no guarantee in personal safety with an adverse public opinion.

     With continual disturbances throughout the state during public meetings in support of the Confederate Constitution, threats had been openly expressed to the obstruction of the Congressional Laws of the land, and Governor Zebulon Vance finally stepped forth to put an end to it.

     By proclamation sealed by his hand on the 7th day of September 1863, the governor appealed to the good nature of his citizenry to act accordingly to the laws then on the books, refraining from civil unrest and causing a revolution within the borders and against their own neighbors. He called for a united North Carolina to stand together, whatever may come. So many of the tar heel soldiers had spilled their blood upon the battlefield, given their lives or spent it lonely, hundreds of miles from home in a federal prison for a state that could not maintain humanities at home among themselves.

     His address may have sparked some attention among his own constituents, however, the governor's office in Raleigh maintaining state's rights advocacy, openly arguing with the Davis government in Richmond, Virginia. Vance promised them, he'd turn his own troops on the Confederate Authorities should they even attempt to deprive his North Carolinians of the writ of habeas corpus. His seat continued to enforce the law within his own borders and he would not stand by and allow the soldiers of the Confederate States to disrupt them.

     Disruption came however; rioting broke out in the capital when the offices of the State Journal were ransacked only days after Georgia Soldiers destroyed the Raleigh Standard for advocating a Confederate peace movement.

     The former Confederate Colonel, now State Executive may have harbored unionist sentiment himself seeing the predicament North Carolina found itself in. State's rights, always foremost on his mind, yet the populous had suffered from all sides as a result of fiery contentions of loyalty. The governing power in Virginia however, was well aware of Governor Vance's continual contact with the Lincoln Administration. With no hope of resurrecting the slave institution and the blockade making life miserable from within, the governor became hopeful of peaceful negotiations and maybe even restoration to the Union.

     Caught in the midst of a war that offered a no win situation for the state, North Carolina would not afford putting the interests of the central government above itself. Elected to govern his state, Zebulon Vance would see it through one way or the other, come victory or defeat.


Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2003

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwar.net