Zebulon Baird Vance ~ 13 May 1830 – 14 April 1894
Three time Governor of North Carolina, U.S. Congressman, State Legislator, Confederate Colonel, and one of the most influential leaders of the Civil War and the Reconstruction era. Zebulon Baird Vance was the most popular political leader that the state has produced.
Zebulon Baird Vance was born on 13 May 1830 near Reems Creek in Buncombe County, North Carolina where he grew up. He was the son of Captain David Vance and Mira Margaret Baird. He was also the nephew of Congressman Dr. Robert Brank Vance and his brother is Congressman Robert Brank Vance. He had three brothers and four sisters. At the age of 12 he was sent to Washington College in Tennessee however he was not able to complete his studies there as his father died when he was 14 forcing his return to the family homestead. He married Harriette Espy in 1853. They went on to have four sons. Vance attend law school at the University of North Carolina and by 1852 he was a practicing attorney in the Asheville North Carolina area where he was elected to serve as the prosecuting attorney.
The start of the United States Civil War Vance began his military service as a Captain in the Army of the Confederate States of America, commanding a company known as the “Rough and Ready Guards” who were part of the 14th NC Regiment. Vance was elected as Colonel of the 26th North Carolina and led them to battle in New Bern and Richmond.
Vance left military service to run for the office of the Governor and in September 1862 he was elected to serve as Governor of The Confederate State of North Carolina. 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 right 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.
On 13 May 1865, he was arrested by northern forces and spent time in prison in Washington, D.C.. He was released under President Andrew Johnsons Amnesty program on 6 July 1865 and was issued a full pardon on 11 March 1867 despite the fact that he was never formally charged with any offence. He returned to Charlotte, N.C. where he practiced law.
In 1870 he was elected to serve in the United States Senate however because of his service for the Confederate States of America he was not allowed to serve. In 1876 Vance was elected Governor again and again in 1879 he was elected to serve in the United States Senate where he was this time seated and served until his death is 1894. His funeral was held in the U.S. Capitol and he was then buried in the historic Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, North Carolina.
There are several monuments dedicated to Vance:
An obelisk dedicated to Vance in Pack Square, Asheville, North Carolina.
A statue on the south grounds of the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina.
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 Streets, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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.
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
In World War II, the United States liberty ship SS Zebulon B. Vance was named in his honor.
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