The coming of the new year of 1864 brought North Carolina partisan politics out of the shadows and into the bright glare of the light. Zeb certainly expected this to happen. He wrote to William A. Graham on the first day of 1864 and told the author of the Conservative Party compromise that it was now dead. Zeb explained that he knew for certain that William W. Holden was sponsoring public meetings at which participants were calling for a state convention that would be used to seek peace. Zeb indicated that he would not allow such a program to be carried out. He asserted, "I will see the Conservative party blown into a thousand atoms and Holden and his understrappers in hell … before I will consent to a course which I think will bring dishonor and ruin upon both state & Confederacy."1 From Vance's perspective, the compromise had come to an end and Graham needed to accept the changed situation and prepare for the coming political campaign.
The next day Zeb wrote an unusually introspective letter to David L. Swain. Toward the end of the letter, Zeb asked Swain if he thought Zeb should run for reelection. In fact, the query was more a request for Swain's blessing than for his advice. In the remainder of the letter, Zeb provided a detailed explanation of why he felt that he had to campaign against Holden and the convention movement. He informed Swain that Holden and others had already drawn up resolutions and sent them to Johnston County for presentation at an upcoming gathering of peace protesters. Zeb told Swain, as he had told Graham, that he would not accept this course of action, "believing," he said, "that it would be ruin alike to the State and Confederacy, producing war and devastation at home, and that it would steep the name "of North Carolina" in infamy and make her memory a reproach among the nations."2 Zeb placed great emphasis upon the impossibility of compromising with Holden and his followers.
Then Zeb took the unusual step of taking a broad look at what the future held for North Carolina and the Confederacy. He told Swain that he thought that the American patriots had faced equally daunting odds during the Revolutionary War and yet had prevailed. Thus, it was possible that the Confederacy would succeed if it could manage to feed the families of sol-