When Zeb presented his first message to the state legislature, North Carolinians had already begun to experience the hardships that would rule their lives during the remainder of the war. In many households in the state, a husband, son, nephew, uncle, or brother had been killed or dangerously wounded. The shock of these events to the families and communities directly affected was devastating. Not only did the deaths create a personal void that could never be completely filled, but they also removed needed producers from local economies. Because many North Carolinians had joined the Confederacy reluctantly and only at the last minute, their commitment to the new nation was often both tenuous and incomplete. Grief and financial hardship took their toll as the war progressed, increasingly causing discontent among certain segments of the state's population. Zeb and other leaders recognized that old policies would not suffice in this emergency.
At the same time, the leadership of North Carolina proved unwilling to make some of the sacrifices necessary for the state to make a maximum contribution to the war effort. Zeb and his allies felt, quite accurately, that because of their previous political affiliations or their positions on secession they had been systematically excluded from positions of responsibility and denied promotions. Now that they controlled the governor's office and the legislature, however, their decisions about patronage and electoral matters could not be blocked. Unlike Abraham Lincoln in the federal government, Zeb and his friends made little effort to reconcile with their political enemies. They turned both prominent and lesser-known secessionist leaders out of office and put their bitter opponents in place. While Zeb's policy initiatives were often in line with what the secessionists approved, these patriotic Confederates were marginalized in the country that they had founded, and such poor treatment alienated many people who might have been able to make significant contributions to the war effort. Zeb and his political allies may have found it personally satisfying to exact revenge, but their actions were partly responsible for splintering the political leadership of