north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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      On April 10, 1865, word arrived in Raleigh that Lee’s army had surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse. Possessing that knowledge, along with the fact that Sherman’s army was only miles from the city, North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance hurriedly sent as many state records and papers as possible to points west of the city. He also persuaded two former governors, William A. Graham and David Swain to meet Sherman and convince him not to burn Raleigh.

      Vance fled the city shortly afterwards, arriving in Hillsborough where, on April 14, he learned of Sherman’s entrance into Raleigh. Later that day he received word from Confederate President Jefferson Davis instructing him to meet Davis in Charlotte. He did so, but upon learning Davis intended to flee into the Trans-Mississippi Region, decided the war was over and headed back to Raleigh.

      Union soldiers under Major General J. M. Schofield stopped Vance in Greensboro, refusing to let him pass until negotiations between Joseph Johnston and Sherman had ended. After Johnston’s official surrender on April 26 at Bennett Place, Vance offered himself to the Union soldiers, however since no arrest warrant had been issued he was released.

      When Vance left Charlotte for Raleigh, he had left his wife and sons with family friends in Statesville. On May 4, Vance returned to Statesville and joined his family at the house of David Waddell. Nine days later, on Vance’s thirty-fifth birthday, a squadron of Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry surrounded the house, and arrested the governor.

      The Union cavalryman intended to carry Vance to Salisbury but only had packhorses. Samuel Wittkowsky, a local Jewish citizen, volunteered his horse and buggy to take Vance. Fifteen miles outside of Statesville, the column stopped to have lunch. Vance’s charisma and humor so won over his Union captors that they took off his handcuffs and ,when they arrived in Salisbury, the officers only asked for his word of honor that he would present himself at the depot for the train the following day.

      Vance was held at Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D. C., until July 5, when he was allowed to return home. His cellmate at the prison was Virginia Governor J. D. Letcher. Vance returned to Statesville after his release where he lived for a short time before moving to Asheville, eventually serving another term as governor and as a United States senator.

      After the war, Judson Kilpatrick falsely began a rumor that he personally had captured Zebulon Vance, and forced him to ride to Salisbury on the back of a mule. In a response published in the New York World, Vance wrote, “I saw no mule on the trip, yet I thought I saw an ass at the general’s headquarters; this impression has since been confirmed. Respectfully yours, Zebulon Vance.”


References:
William S. Powell, “The Arrest of Zebulon Vance,” The State, June 7, 1941
New York World, October 13, 1868
Gordon B. McKinney and Joe A. Mobley, eds., The Papers of Zebulon Vance (1963-1995)
Gordon B. McKinney, Zeb Vance: North Carolina’s Civil War Governor and Gilded Age Political Leader (2004)
Clement Dowd, The Life of Zebulon Vance (1897)
Zebulon Vance, The Scattered Nation (1916)
Gordon B. McKinney, “Zebulon Vance and His Reconstruction of the Civil War in North Carolina,” North Carolina Historical Review (January 1998): 69-85
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