Zebulon Baird Vance

34th Governor of the State of North Carolina - 1862 to 1865 and 1877 to 1879

Date Born: May 13, 1830

Date Died: April 14, 1894

Place Born: Buncombe County, NC

Place Buried: Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, NC

Residence: Charlotte, NC

Occupation: Lawyer


Zebulon Baird Vance was born on May 13, 1830 on Reems Creek in Buncombe County, NC, the son of David and Mira (Baird) Vance. At age twelve he was sent to study at Washington College in Jonesboro, Tennessee, now known as Washington College Academy. The death of his father forced Vance to withdraw and return home at the age of fourteen. In 1850, Vance read law briefly under John W. Woodfin.

To improve his standing, Vance determined to go to law school. At the age of twenty-one, he wrote to the President of the University of North Carolina, where he was a member of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies, former Governor David L. Swain, and asked for a loan so that he could attend law school. Governor Swain arranged for a $300 loan from the university, and Vance performed admirably after enrolling in June of 1851.

In 1852, after being licensed to practice in the state's county courts, Zebulon Baird Vance returned to Asheville and was immediately elected Solicitor for Buncombe County. In 1853 he was admitted to practice law in the state's superior courts.

On August 3, 1853, Zebulon Baird Vance married Harriett Espy of Quaker Meadows in Burke County, and they had four children.

In 1854, Zebulon Baird Vance was elected to represent Buncombe County in the NC House of Representatives of the:
- 70th General Assembly that met from 1854-1855

In 1858, Zebulon Baird Vance was elected to represent North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 35th U.S. Congress, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Thomas L. Clingman. Vance also won a seat in the 36th U.S. Congress (1859-61), the last before the disruption of the Union.

By the time the ordinance of secession had passed in May of 1861, Zebulon Baird Vance was a Captain stationed in Raleigh, commanding a company known as the "Rough and Ready Guards." By June, the "Guards" were made "Company F," now part of the 14th North Carolina Regiment. That August, Zebulon Baird Vance was elected Colonel of the 26th North Carolina Regiment.

The 26th NC Regiment engaged in battle in New Bern in March of 1862, where Col. Vance conducted an orderly retreat. Col. Vance also led the 26th NC Regiment at Richmond, VA. The 26th NC Regiment was ultimately destroyed at the Battle of Gettysburg, losing more than 700 of its original 800 members, though Col. Vance at that time was no longer in military service.

In 1862, Zebulon Baird Vance was elected the next Governor of North Carolina. He served two terms, from September 8, 1862 to May 29, 1865. In the Confederacy Gov. Vance was a major proponent of individual rights and local self-government, often putting him at odds with the Confederate government of President Jefferson Davis. For example, North Carolina was the only state to observe the right of habeas corpus and to keep its courts fully functional during the war. Gov. Vance also refused to allow supplies smuggled into North Carolina via many blockade runners to be given to other states until North Carolinians had their share. Gov. 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."

Governor Zebulon Baird Vance was arrested by Federal forces on his birthday, May 13, 1865, and spent time in prison in Washington, DC. Per President Andrew Johnson's amnesty program, he filed an application for pardon on June 3, and was paroled on July 6. Governor Vance was formally pardoned on March 11, 1867, though no formal charges had ever been filed against him leading to his arrest, during his imprisonment, nor during the period of his parole.

After his parole, he began practicing law in Charlotte, NC. In 1870, the state legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate, but due to the restrictions placed on ex-Confederates by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, he was not allowed to serve.

In the 1876 general election, Zebulon Baird Vance was again elected Governor of North Carolina, his second time in office. He served from January 1, 1877 to February 5, 1879. During this term in office, Gov. Vance focused on improving education in North Carolina.

In 1879, the NC General Assembly again elected Zebulon Baird Vance to the U.S. Senate. This time he was seated, and he served in the Senate until his death in 1894.

In 1880, Zebulon Baird Vance married the widow Florence Steele Martin of Kentucky; they had no children.

Vance's health began to fail in 1889 with the removal of one of his eyes. On April 14, 1894, Zebulon Baird Vance died of a stroke at his home in Washington, DC. After a funeral in the U.S. Capitol, he was buried at the Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, NC. As his funeral train moved westward through the state, thousands of humble people lined the tracks to pay their last respects to one whom they loved and admired very much.


Zebulon Baird Vance (May 13, 1830 – April 14, 1894) was a Confederate military officer in the American Civil War, twice Governor of North Carolina, and U.S. Senator. A prodigious writer, Vance became one of the most influential southern leaders of the Civil War and postbellum periods.

Zebulon Vance was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina, the third of eight children. His family is known to have owned a relatively large number of slaves (18). His uncle was Congressman Robert Brank Vance, for whom his elder brother, Robert B. Vance, was named. At age twelve he was sent to study at Washington College in Tennessee, now known as Washington College Academy. The death of his father forced Vance to withdraw and return home at the age of fourteen. It was during this time that he began to court the well-bred Miss Harriet Espy by letter.

In order to improve his standing, Vance determined to go to law school. At the age of twenty-one, he wrote the President of the University of North Carolina, former Governor David L. Swain, and asked for a loan so that he could attend law school. Governor Swain arranged for a $300 loan from the university, and Vance performed admirably. By 1852 Vance had begun practicing law in Asheville, and was soon elected county solicitor (prosecuting attorney). By 1853, he and Harriet Espy were married, and they would subsequently have four sons.

At the age of twenty-four, Vance ran for a seat in the State House of Commons as a Whig, beating a man twice his age. He was defeated for State Senate and for Congress in 1856[1]. But he went on to win election to the United States House of Representatives, first by a special election in 1858 caused by the resignation of Thomas L. Clingman to become a Senator. [2] 1856 was the last time Vance would be defeated in an election.

At the age of twenty-eight, Vance (now a member of the American Party) was the youngest member of Congress. While in Congress, Vance was a staunch supporter of both the Union and states' rights. In March 1861, however, when indications were that the North Carolina legislature was going to vote for secession, he resigned his seat and returned home.

By the time the ordinance of secession had passed in May, Vance was a captain stationed in Raleigh, commanding a company known as the "Rough and Ready Guards," part of the Fourteenth North Carolina Regiment. That August, Vance was elected Colonel of the Twenty-sixth North Carolina. The Twenty-sixth engaged in battle in New Bern in March of 1862, where Vance conducted an orderly retreat. Vance also led the Twenty-sixth at Richmond. The Twenty-sixth was ultimately decimated at the Battle of Gettysburg, losing more than 700 of its original 800 members.

In September 1862, Vance won the gubernatorial election. In the Confederacy 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 writ 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.

Governor Vance was arrested by Federal forces in May 1865 and spent time in prison in Washington, DC. He was soon paroled, however, and began practicing law in Charlotte, North Carolina. Among his clients was accused murderer Tom Dula, the subject of the folk song "Tom Dooley."

In 1870, the state legislature elected him to the United States Senate, but as he was still on federal parole, he was not allowed to serve. In 1876, Vance was elected Governor once again (during which time he focused on education), and in 1879 the legislature again elected him to the United States Senate. This time, he was seated, and he served in the Senate until his death in 1894. After a funeral in the U.S. Capitol, Vance was buried in Asheville.

Starting in about 1870, Vance gave a speech hundreds of times he called "A Scattered Nation," which praised the Jews and called for religious tolerance and freedom amongst all Americans.


Vance, Zebulon Baird, (nephew of Robert Brank Vance [1793-1827] and brother of Robert Brank Vance [1828-1899]), a Representative and a Senator from North Carolina; born on Reems Creek, near Asheville, Buncombe County, N.C., May 13, 1830; attended the common schools of Buncombe County, and Washington (Tenn.) College; studied law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; admitted to the bar in 1852 and commenced practice in Asheville, N.C.; elected prosecuting attorney of Buncombe County in 1852; member, State house of commons 1854; elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-fifth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Thomas L. Clingman; reelected to the Thirty-sixth Congress and served from December 7, 1858, to March 3, 1861; during the Civil War entered the Confederate Army as a captain and was promoted to the rank of colonel; elected Governor of North Carolina in 1862, and reelected in 1864; removed from office in 1865 when he was arrested and imprisoned in Washington, D.C. for Confederate activities; elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in November 1870, but did not present his credentials; unsuccessful Democratic candidate for election to the United States Senate in 1872; Governor of North Carolina 1876-1878; elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1879; reelected in 1884 and 1890, and served from March 4, 1879, until his death; chairman, Committee on Enrolled Bills (Forty-sixth Congress), Committee on Privileges and Elections (Fifty-third Congress); died in Washington, DC., April 14, 1894; funeral services were held in the Chamber of the United States Senate; interment in Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, NC.
Zebulon Baird Vance, twice governor of North Carolina, was born near Asheville, NC on May 13, 1830. His education was attained at Washington College in Tennessee, and at the University of North Carolina, where he studied law. He established a successful legal career, serving as the Buncombe County prosecuting attorney in 1852. Vance first entered politics in 1854, serving as a member of the NC House of Commons, a position he held two years. He also served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1858 to 1861. When the Civil War started, Vance first served as Captain of a Confederate regiment, and later earned the rank of Colonel for his participation in the New Bern and Seven Days’ Battles. Returning to his political career, Vance won election to the governor’s office in 1862, and was re-elected in 1864. During his tenure, war issues were addressed; the matter of conscription was contested; and pardons were granted to North Carolina deserters. On May 13, 1865, Governor Vance was removed from office and imprisoned by Federal authorities for his Confederate actions. Two months later he was released, and in 1867 he was pardoned. Vance returned to politics in 1868, serving as a member of the Democratic National Convention. In 1870 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, however he did not take his seat. Vance next won re-election to the governorship in 1876. During his final term, railroad construction was promoted; educational improvements were lobbied for; and state finances were improved. Upon his election to the U.S. Senate, Vance retired from the governor’s office on February 5, 1879. He then served in his senatorial seat from 1879 until April 14, 1894, when he passed away. Zebulon B. Vance was buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, NC.

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