Zeb Vance: North Carolina's Civil War Governor and Gilded Age Political Leader

By Gordon B. McKinney | Go to book overview

17 PRISONER

The last three weeks of April would be the most difficult of Zeb's life. The Confederacy was falling apart, and he had to find a way to reconcile his duty to the people of North Carolina with his loyalty to the Confederate government. This task would ultimately prove to be impossible, and Zeb would remain sensitive about the events of these weeks to the end of his life. It was distressing to Zeb to find that he was no longer in control of events. There were two large armies in the vicinity of Raleigh, and neither was likely to be persuaded that Zeb needed to be consulted. In addition, there were civilians who sought to influence Zeb's actions. Several times during the ordeals of April 1865, Zeb was accused of committing treason against the Confederacy, and he rejected the charges as false. But as he would note later, the Confederacy had virtually ceased to exist at the time he was supposed to have betrayed it.

On April 9, David L. Swain traveled to Hillsborough and met with William A. Graham to discuss whether there was a way for North Carolina to escape the fate of South Carolina. Graham proposed that North Carolina should seek a separate peace, and Swain agreed. Graham suggested, among other things, that Zeb should send a commission to General William T. Sherman to request an armistice. The next day, Swain brought Graham's proposals to Zeb for consideration. Zeb refused to act on the ideas, saying that he needed to consult with General Joseph E. Johnston. When Zeb asked the Confederate general his opinion, Johnston replied that he thought Zeb should obtain the best terms that he could. As soon as he received this message, Zeb sent for Graham. In the meantime, he contacted General Sherman in an attempt to shield Raleigh from the ravages that had been visited on Columbia, South Carolina. He pleaded for protection for the "Charitable Institutions" and the "Capitol of the State with its Libraries, Museum and much of the public records."1

Graham arrived before the sun was up on April 12 and soon met with Swain and Vance. The three of them composed a letter to Sherman that followed the formula developed earlier by Graham. It said, in part, "I have to request, under proper safe-conduct, a personal interview, at such time as may be agreeable to you, for the purpose of conferring upon the subject

-248-

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Zeb Vance: North Carolina's Civil War Governor and Gilded Age Political Leader
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vi
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1: What Manner of Man? 1
  • 2: A Mountain Boyhood 5
  • 3: Scholar and Suitor 16
  • 4: Lawyer and Apprentice Politician 31
  • 5: Congressman 49
  • 6: Secession Crisis 65
  • 7: Colonel of the Twenty-Sixth Regiment 78
  • 8: Campaign for Governor 97
  • 9: Building a Strong North Carolina 110
  • 10: Relations with the Confederate Government 130
  • 11: Growing Challenges 152
  • 12: Protest 168
  • 13: Challenges to the Compromise 185
  • 14: Campaign for Reelection 200
  • 15: Returned to Office 217
  • 16: Defeat with Honor 231
  • 17: Prisoner 248
  • 18: The Politics of Reconstruction 264
  • 19: Frustrated Politician 283
  • 20: The Battle of Giants 302
  • 21: Governor Again 324
  • 22: United States Senator 345
  • 23: Party Leader 366
  • 24: Farmers' Alliance and Reelection 384
  • 25: Decline 397
  • 26: Monuments and the Man 406
  • Notes 417
  • Index 467
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