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



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In 1865, Governor Zebulon Vance’s final months in office were overshadowed by the steady advance of federal forces throughout North Carolina. General Sherman’s army marched north from South Carolina while Union troops captured Wilmington on the east. 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 signed a letter to Sherman requesting “a suspension of hostilities.”

Toward the end of the war, Vance’s wife Hattie and their sons were living in Statesville. On May 4, Vance traveled to Statesville and joined his wife and children. Nine days later, on Vance’s thirty-fifth birthday, a squadron of Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry surrounded the house, and arrested the governor. Vance was held at Old Capitol Prison in Washington D.C. until July 5.

Vance’s arrest and imprisonment left Hattie alone with the children in Statesville.
On June 5, 1865, Hattie wrote to Vance,
“Indeed the kindness I have received at the hands of the people of Statesville & surrounding county is unbounded. Their concern for your welfare & that of your family will ever be appreciated by both of us. I will remain in their midst as I am very comfortably situated & can get news from you so much more readily than at Asheville.”
Hattie’s letters to Vance not only provide context for their life in Statesville, but important insight into the transition of the relationship between the enslaver and formerly enslaved. In 1860, Hattie and Zeb owned six people. In the same letter from Statesville on June 5, 1865, Hattie references three people,
“Isaac & Julia have left, greatly to my satisfaction as they were trying me not a little. Hannah is still with me & never did so well in her life, indeed I never kept house with less trouble.”
Hattie went on to reference Hannah again in a letter to Vance, dated June 9, 1865, giving more detail on the movement of the formerly enslaved people and hopeful reunification of family members.
“Julia & Isaac, I wrote you, had left. I know not what has become of them. Marion wrote to Hannah he would come up for her to go to Raleigh, if she wished to go. She does not seem to want to leave me, but wants to be with her husband, which is very right. She wrote him to come up & they could then decide what was best. I will offer to hire him for what is considered proper until your return home.” In the 1870 census a Hannah and Marion Love, the only married African American couple with this name, are said to be living in Raleigh.
Though she sent several letters to Zeb reporting her good health, at the end of May, Hattie nearly died after suffering a hemorrhage in her lung. Vance had been struggling to gain parole on his own merit, but President Johnson was sympathetic to Hattie’s illness. On July 6, Johnson granted Vance parole so that he could return to his family, and within a week Vance was back in Statesville where Hattie was recovering.
Zeb was with his family once more, but he was deeply unhappy. Without a pardon, Vance could not run for office and could only participate in politics from the sidelines. The loss of the political spotlight led Vance into a depression and led him to contemplate relocation from North Carolina. In February of 1865, he suffered a stroke that left him temporarily paralyzed and eventually caused “the muscles of the left cheek and eye to occasionally jerk and twitch, so that he was at times nervous…” With his and Hattie’s fragile health in mind, Vance chose to move the family to Charlotte, where he set up a law practice with Clement Dowd and R.D. Johnson. The Vance family would not live in Statesville again.
In 1867, President Johnson officially pardoned Zebulon Vance. However, Vance was still unable to vote or hold office due to the restrictions imposed by the ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868. As Section III states, “No person shall…hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath…to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof….” Vance particularly resented this limitation when the same amendment granted African American men, whom he viewed as inferior, legal citizenship, and full political rights. With his strongly held belief in white supremacy, Vance naturally gravitated away from the Republican party of Lincoln and gave his support to Conservatives. Using his considerable political clout, Vance began campaigning on behalf of Conservative politicians within the state, using extremely racist dialogue to gain supporters.
Vance would continue to fight against his restriction from political power. In 1875, Vance was included in the amnesty bill signed into law by President Grant. Once again able to hold office, Vance began a tense battle with Augustus Merrimon over North Carolina’s open US Senate seat. In a hotly contested bid for the party’s nomination, Merrimon ultimately won the majority. Vance continued to keep his eye on politics, always looking for a way to return to the spotlight. His chance came with the 1876 gubernatorial election. He won against Republican, Thomas Settle Jr., and took office on January 1, 1877. Then on January 21, 1879, was elected as a US Senator. He would resign as governor, taking his seat in Washington D.C. on March 4.

Gordon B. McKinney, Zeb Vance: North Carolina’s Civil War Governor and Gilded Age Political Leader (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004)
Joe A. Mobley, War Governor of the South: North Carolina’s Zeb Vance in the Confederacy (Florida: University Press of Florida, 2005)
The Papers of Zebulon Vance, ed. Joe A. Mobley (Raleigh: NC Office of Archives and History, 2013), 494-497.
Zebulon Baird Vance Papers, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh
Zebulon Baird Vance Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hil
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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