|Birthplace and Family Home of Zebulon Vance|
There was a 500-volume library in the Vance home, and young Zebulon read voraciously. At age twelve, he was sent to study at Washington College in Tennessee, now known as Washington College Academy.
|Zebulon at the age of 20|
|Asheville, North Carolina|
On August 3, 1853, he and Harriette Espy were married. Vance bought a five-acre lot in the middle of Asheville with his new wife's dowry and built a home. Their first child, a son called called Espy, was born two years later, but he died soon after. Hattie sought consolation in her religious faith. They would subsequently have four more sons: Charles Noel (b. 1856), David Mitchell (b. 1857), Zebulon Baird, Jr. (b. 1860) and Thomas (1864).
|Harriette Espy Vance|
In the sunmer of 1855, he severely criticized his cousin, James S. T. Baird, for leaving the American party. A challenge for a duel was issued by Baird and Vance apparently accepted.
|Vance in 1858|
|26th North Carolina Regiment Band|
|New Bern, North Carolina|
"I cannot now speak of the thousand dangers which I passed through I was quite surprised at my feelings, excitement and pleasure removed every other feeling and I could not resist cheering with might and main."Vance also led the 26th at Richmond. The 26th regiment was ultimately destroyed at the Battle of Gettysburg, losing more than 700 of its original 800 members, though Vance at that time was no longer in military service.
Vance's older brother, Robert B. Vance, was a brigadier general in the Confederate army.
Anti-administration opponents had established a loosely knit organization called the Conservative Party, and they picked the popular colonel to head the 1862 gubernatorial contest against Democrat William Johnston. The campaign was fought in the press, and with the full support and vitriolic pen of William Holden, editor of The North Carolina Standard, Vance was elected in September by an overwhelming majority, more than 32,000 votes.
|Vance as North Carolina Governor, 1862|
Later in the war, there was a sizable element of the population suffering from discontent, frustration, alarm at the growing presence of Union troops in the state, resentment of the Davis government for failure to protect them, and defeatism as the hope of victory slipped further away. Led by William Holden, who had broken ties with the Vance, the group initiated a peace movement to take the state out of the Confederacy. Holden took the issue to the voters by challenging Vance in the election of 1864, but the governor’s efforts on behalf of the people had increased his immense popularity and he was re-elected by a four to one margin.
Soon after his reelection, Vance began to sense that the days of the Confederacy were numbered. In a letter to his friend David Swain he wrote,
"I have always believed that the great popular heart is not now, and never has been in this war. It was a revolution of the Politicians; not the People."
|State Capitol, Raleigh, North Carolina during the Civil War|
|Charlotte, North Carolina|
Around 1870, Zebulon Vance composed "The Scattered Nation," a speech he would give hundreds of times to sold-out crowds in lyceums and lecture halls all across America in years to come, including his 20 years as a U.S. senator. Drawing on its author's oratorical gifts and wide reading in ancient and biblical history, the lecture makes a powerful case against what it calls "the wickedness and the folly of intolerance."
In 1876, Vance was elected Governor of North Carolina again, during which time he focused on education. In the first two years of his administration, railroad construction resumed; the financial structure of the state was placed on a more solid footing; and the last federal troops left the state.
In October of 1878, his mother died. His wife, Hattie, died the following month, on November 8. Vance's emotional reaction to this was to espouse the religious faith of his wife and to join a church for the first time in his life.
|Vance as Senator|
Vance's sons by Hattie - Zebulon, Charles, David, and Thomas - all had a series of misfortunes with which he had to deal. David and Charles had severe drinking problems; David had a short and disastrous marriage that ended with his wife's death; Zeb was stabbed and nearly killed while in the military; and Thomas had financial problems. In addition, Vance had to wrestle with the problems of his stepson Harry Martin as he attended Georgetown University, and to comfort Florence when her mother died in 1889.
Vance himself suffered from a variety of ailments that included having a tumor lanced in 1882, having an operation in 1885, being thrown from a wagon and injured in 1887, and suffering from a severe cold during the fall of 1888. His health began to fail in 1889 with the removal of one of his eyes.
He traveled to Europe for several months in an effort to recover, but he remained weak throughout much of 1892. In the winter of 1893, he went to Florida for rest and only returned to Washington in March 1894 under political pressure. By this point, Vance's legs were paralyzed and he was growing progressively weaker.
He died of a stroke on April 14, 1894 at his home in Washington, D.C. He died one month before his 65th birthday.
When Vance's sons found out, they took their stepmother to court, got a judgment, had their father dug up again and reburied him in the original plot.