Warren Winslow, for twenty-five days in 1854 the governor of North Carolina, was born in Fayetteville. His paternal grandfather, the Reverend Edward Winslow, had been a chaplain in the British army. Warren Winslow graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1827 and studied law while in Chapel Hill, returning to Fayetteville to set up a practice. Winslow declared himself a Democrat and, caught up in that party’s resurgence, was elected to represent Cumberland County in the State Senate in 1854. Intra-party maneuverings and compromises placed him in the position of speaker of that body. He had barely assumed that role when Governor David S. Reid accepted election to a vacant seat in the United States Senate.
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Until 1868, the state constitution did not provide for a lieutenant governor; therefore, the speaker of the Senate was next in line for the office of Chief Executive. Reid turned over duties to Winslow who qualified as governor on December 6, 1854. Thomas Bragg, however, had been elected to the office in November and was to be inaugurated on January 1, 1855. Warren Winslow was governor of North Carolina for twenty-five days, the shortest tenure in the state’s history. Winslow was elected to represent District 3, which included Cumberland County, in the Congress later in 1855. Though he took little active role in the proceedings, he quietly defended southern rights on the constitutional issues. He left the U.S. House with the close of the 1861 session.
During the early stages of the Civil War, Winslow was an adviser and agent of Governor John Ellis. On April 22, 1861, after the outbreak of hostilities but before North Carolina seceded from the Union, Winslow negotiated the surrender of the United States Arsenal at Fayetteville to the state. He continued in charge of the facility during the spring of that year. In May the legislature created the Military and Naval Board to advise and aid an ailing Governor Ellis in the conduct of his office. Winslow was named chairman of that board. Unfortunately, he delivered to Ellis the unwise and erroneous advice that the coast of North Carolina was adequately protected by the natural shoals and sand bars, and that the forts (Hatteras and Clark) would not need large garrisons. When the forts fell and the northeastern coast succumbed to Union blockade, many citizens blamed Winslow, destroying his influence and prestige.
Winslow had been a delegate to the Convention of 1861 that voted for secession and which acted as the state’s legal body for the first year of the war. A few months after the debacle at Hatteras, he resigned his seat and retired to Fayetteville. Winslow died less than a year later and was buried in Cross Creek Cemetery.
Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1971 (1971)
John L. Cheney Jr., ed., North Carolina Government, 1581-1979: A Narrative and Statistical History (1981)
Beth Gilbert Crabtree and James W. Patton, eds., “Journal of a Secesh Lady”: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmonston, 1860-1866 (1979)
Frontis Johnston, ed., Zebulon B. Vance Letters, Vol. 1, 1843-1862 (1963)
Noble J. Tolbert, ed., The Papers of John Willis Ellis, 2 vols. (1964)
Samuel A. Ashe, History of North Carolina, II, 502-503
John A. Oates, The Story of Fayetteville and the Upper Cape Fear (1950)