Zebulon Baird Vance

Part of the Cool Civil War Names series.

This guy had ambition. Studying law by 21 and in the North Carolina House of Commons by 24, Vance made friends and won elections with his oratorical skills and soon entered Congress as the youngest legislator and one of the few Southern supporters of the Union. This is 1860, mind you, and Vance’s fire-breathing neighbors to the south are calling for secession. Yet once his home state voted in favor of it, he resigned his seat and returned and raised a company of soldiers dubbed the “Rough and Ready Guards.” He fought his way up to colonel and by 1862 was on the gubernatorial ballot as the “soldier’s candidate.” It’s tough beating a popular soldier during wartime, so he won handily and left his regiment just before it was decimated at Gettysburg.

His time as governor was noteworthy for a few reasons: he pissed off the Richmond crew because of his insistence on local self-governance, meaning he didn’t always play along with the rest of the Confederacy. North Carolina was the only rebel state to keep its civilian courts open and observe habeas corpus, and Vance refused to let blockade runners pass through until Carolinians had their share. That was all well and good until the war ended and Vance was arrested and imprisoned for a time (that whole rebellion thing usually backfires). No worries though – he was paroled eventually and went back to governating to much popular acclaim.

Up next in CCWN, the scandalous Samuel Clarke Pomeroy. 

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