Governor Zebulon Vance Civil War Proclamation

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Governor Vance Proclamation

Gov. Zeb Vance
Governor Zebulon Vance.jpg
Governor Zebulon Vance


The "Hideous Mark" to be fixed
on Cowards and Traitors to
the Confederacy.


Woe to the Men who Refuse
to Fight for the South.


Union Men not to be believed
on oath when the "South"
is independent

Union Men to be "Hustled"
from the Polls.



        WHEREAS, I HAVE LEARNED WITH great pain that there have been lately numerous desertions from the ranks of our gallant army and that there are many persons in the country who incite and encourage these desertions and harbor and conceal these misguided men at home, instead of encouraging them to return to duty :

        Now therefore, I ZEBULON B. VANCE, Governor of the State of North-Carolina, do issue this my proclamation, commanding all such evil disposed persons to desist from such base, cowardly and treasonable conduct, and warning them that they will subject themselves to indictment and punishment in the civil courts of the Confederacy, as well as to the everlasting contempt and detestation of all good an honorable men.

        Certainly no crime could be greater, no cowardice more abject, no treason more base, than for a citizen of the State, enjoying its privileges and protection without sharing its dangers, to persuade those who have had the courage to go forth in defence of their country, vilely to desert the colors which they have sworn to uphold, when a miserable death or a vile and ignominious existence must be the inevitable consequences. No plea can excuse it. The father or the brother who does it should be shot instead of his deluded victim, for he deliberately destroys the soul and manhood of his own flesh and blood.--And the same is done by him who habors any conceals the deserter. For who can respect either the one or the other? What honest man will ever wish or permit his own brave sons or patriotic daughters, who bore their parts with credit in this great struggle for independence, to associate even to the third and fourth generations, with the vile wretch who skulked in the woods, or the still viler coward who aided him, while his bleeding country was calling in vain for his help? Both are enemies--dangerous enemies to their country, before whom our open foes will be infinitely preferred. Both are foes to their own kindred and noble countrymen who are electrifying the world by their gallant deeds, and pouring out their blood upon the field of battle to protect those very men who are sapping the vitals of our strength. And woe unto you, deserters, and your aiders and abettors, when peace being made and independence secured, these brave comrades whom ye have deserted in the hour of their trial shall return honored and triumphant to their homes! Ye that hide your guilty faces by day, and prowl like outlaws about by night, robbing the wives and mothers of your noble defenders of their little means, while they are far away facing the enemy, do you think ye can escape a just and damning vengeance when the day of reconning comes? And ye that shelter[,] conceal, and feed these miserable depredators and stimulate them to their deeds, think you that ye will be spared? Nay! rest assured, observing and never failing eyes have marked you, every one. And when the overjoyed wife welcomes once more her brave and honored husband to his home, and tells him how in the long years of his absence, in the lonly hours of the night, ye who had been his comrades rudely entered her house, robbed her and her children of their bread, and heaped insults and indignities upon her defenceless head, the wrath of that heroic husband will make you regret in the bittereess of your cowardly terror that you were ever born. Instead of a few scattered militia, the land will be full of veteran soldiers, before whose honest faces you will not have courage to raise your eyes from the earth. If permitted to live in the State at all you will be infamous. You will be hustled from the polls, insulted in the streets, a jury of your countrymen will not believe you on oath, and honest men everywhere will shun you as a pestilence; for he who lacks courage and patriotism can have no other good quality or redeeming virtue. Though many of you rejected the pardon heretofore offered you, and I am now not authorized to promise it, yet I am assured that no man will be shot who shall voluntarily return to duty. This is the only chance to redeem yourselves from the disgrace and ignominy which you are incurring.

        Again our troops have met the enemy and a great and glorious victory has been won. But several thousand of our soldiers fell in achieving it for us. Every man is needed to replace the gallant dead, and preserve an unbroken front to our still powerful enemy. Unless desertion is prevented our strength must depart from our armies, and desertion can never be stopped while either through a falese and mistaken sympathy or downright disloyalty, they receive any countenance or protection at home. I therefore appeal to all good citizens and true patriots in the State to assist my officers in arresting deserters, and to frown down all those who aid and assist them. Place the brand upon them and make them feel the scorn and contempt of an outraged people. Unless the good and patriotic all over the land arise as one man to arrest this dangerous evil, it may grow until our army is well nigh ruined. The danger of starvation having happily passed away--the approaching and apparently bounteous harvest giving evidence of ample supplies for the coming year--our great army in Virginia again jubilant over a mighty victory--I am well assured that our danger now lies in the disorganization produced by desertion. You can arrest it, my countrymen, if you will but make a vigerous effort, if you will but bring to bear the weight of a great, a patriotic and united community in aid of our authorities.

        [L. S.] In witness whereof, ZEBULON B. VANCE, Governor, Captain General and Commander-in-Chief, hath signed these presents and caused the great seal of the State to be affixed.

        Done at the City of Raleigh, this 11th day of May, A. D., 1863.


        By the Governor:

Private Secretary.

  This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.

Recommended Reading: Zeb Vance: North Carolina's Civil War Governor and Gilded Age Political Leader (Hardcover) (528 pages) (The University of North Carolina Press). Description: In this comprehensive biography of the man who led North Carolina through the Civil War and, as a U.S. senator from 1878 to 1894, served as the state's leading spokesman, Gordon McKinney presents Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-94) as a far more complex figure than has been previously recognized. Vance campaigned to keep North Carolina in the Union, but after Southern troops fired on Fort Sumter, he joined the army and rose to the rank of colonel. He was viewed as a champion of individual rights and enjoyed great popularity among voters. Continued below.

But McKinney demonstrates that Vance was not as progressive as earlier biographers suggest. Vance was a tireless advocate for white North Carolinians in the Reconstruction Period, and his policies and positions often favored the rich and powerful. McKinney provides significant new information about Vance's third governorship, his senatorial career, and his role in the origins of the modern Democratic Party in North Carolina. This new biography offers the fullest, most complete understanding yet of a legendary North Carolina leader.

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Recommended Reading: They Went into the Fight Cheering: Confederate Conscription in North Carolina. Description: They Went Into The Fight Cheering focuses on the inner workings of conscription and its related enforcement in North Carolina. It is meticulously researched and presents the often overlooked aspect of troop procurement by the Confederacy in North Carolina as initial enlistment periods expired. The discussion of conscription (and desertion) in this book does not besmirch the honor of southern soldiers. Continued below…

Hilderman's book, They Went into the Fight Cheering, is a fascinating read on the North Carolinian and conscription during the War Between the States. Much has been written on the New York City draft riots and on the bounty jumpers of the north, but here is a factual and well documented history of how North Carolina, a late secession state, grappled with the effects of compulsory military service. Hilderman draws from a vast resource – the soldiers’ actual letters – to enable the reader to experience the war from the soldier's perspective. Be they volunteers or conscripts, after reading this book, there should be no question as to the bravery of the Tar Heel State’s soldiers. Hailed by many and criticized by others, it is, however a well written and balanced work. It is also a refreshing study that brings balance to the immense volumes that have previously presented history as either black or white. They Went into the Fight Cheering is a welcome addition to personal, school and community library Civil War and North Carolina history collections.


Recommended Reading: War Governor of the South: North Carolina's Zeb Vance in the Confederacy (New Perspectives on the History of the South) (Hardcover: 288 pages) (University Press of Florida). Description: Zebulon B. Vance, governor of North Carolina during the devastating years of the Civil War, has long sparked controversy and spirited political comment among scholars. He has been portrayed as a loyal Confederate, viciously characterized as one of the principal causes of the Confederate defeat, and called “the Lincoln of the South.” Joe A. Mobley clarifies the nature of Vance’s leadership, focusing on the young governor’s commitment to Southern independence, military and administrative decisions, and personality clashes with President Jefferson Davis. Continued below…

As a confirmed Unionist before the outbreak of the war, Vance endorsed secession reluctantly. Elected governor in 1862, Vance managed to hold together the state, which was divided over support for the war and for a central government in Richmond. Mobley reveals him as a man conflicted by his prewar Unionist beliefs and the necessity to lead the North Carolina war effort while contending with widespread fears created by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and such issues as the role of women in the war, lawlessness and desertion among the troops, the importance of the state’s blockade-runners, and the arrival of Sherman’s troops. While the governor’s temperament and sensitivity to any perceived slight to him - or his state - made negotiations between Raleigh and Richmond difficult; Mobley shows that in the end, Vance fully supported the attempt to achieve southern independence.


Recommended Reading: Desertion during the Civil War (251 pages) (University of Nebraska Press). Description: Desertion during the Civil War, originally published in 1928, remains the only book-length treatment of its subject. Ella Lonn examines the causes and consequences of desertion from both the Northern and Southern armies. Drawing on official war records, she notes that one in seven enlisted Union soldiers and one in nine Confederate soldiers deserted. Lonn discusses many reasons for desertion common to both armies, among them lack of such necessities as food, clothing, and equipment; weariness and discouragement; noncommitment and resentment of coercion; and worry about loved ones at home. Some Confederate deserters turned outlaw, joining ruffian bands in the South. Peculiar to the North was the evil of bounty-jumping. Continued below...

Captured deserters generally were not shot or hanged because manpower was so precious. Moving beyond means of dealing with absconders, Lonn considers the effects of their action. Absenteeism from the ranks cost the North victories and prolonged the war even as the South was increasingly hurt by defections. This book makes vivid a human phenomenon produced by a tragic time. About the Author: Ella Lonn (1879–1962) was a professor at Goucher College and the author of six histories of the South and the Civil War. Introducing this first-ever paperback edition is William Blair, an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


Recommended Reading: More Damning than Slaughter: Desertion in the Confederate Army (Hardcover). Description: More Damning than Slaughter is the first broad study of desertion in the Confederate army. Incorporating extensive archival research with a synthesis of other secondary material, Mark A. Weitz confronts a question never fully addressed until now: did desertion hurt the Confederacy? Continued below...

Coupled with problems such as speculation, food and clothing shortages, conscription, taxation, and a pervasive focus on the protection of local interests, desertion started as a military problem and spilled over into the civilian world. Fostered by a military culture that treated ‘absenteeism leniently’ early in the war, desertion steadily increased and by 1863 reached epidemic proportions. A Union policy that permitted Confederate deserters to swear allegiance to the Union and then return home encouraged desertion. Equally important in persuading men to desert was the direct appeal from loved ones on the home front--letters from wives begging soldiers to come home for harvests, births, and hardships. By 1864, deserter bands infested some portion of every Confederate state. Preying on the civilian population, many of these bands--commonly referred to as irregular or guerrilla units--frustrated virtually every effort to subdue them. Ultimately, desertion not only depleted the Confederate army but also undermined civilian morale. By examining desertion, Weitz assesses how deteriorating southern civilian morale and growing unwillingness to contribute goods and services to the war led to defeat.


Recommended Reading: North Carolinians in the Era of the Civil War and Reconstruction (The University of North Carolina Press). Description: Although North Carolina was a "home front" state rather than a battlefield state for most of the Civil War, it was heavily involved in the Confederate war effort and experienced many conflicts as a result. North Carolinians were divided over the issue of secession, and changes in race and gender relations brought new controversy. Blacks fought for freedom, women sought greater independence, and their aspirations for change stimulated fierce resistance from more privileged groups. Republicans and Democrats fought over power during Reconstruction and for decades thereafter disagreed over the meaning of the war and Reconstruction. Continued below...

With contributions by well-known historians as well as talented younger scholars, this volume offers new insights into all the key issues of the Civil War era that played out in pronounced ways in the Tar Heel State. In nine fascinating essays composed specifically for this volume, contributors address themes such as ambivalent whites, freed blacks, the political establishment, racial hopes and fears, postwar ideology, and North Carolina women. These issues of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras were so powerful that they continue to agitate North Carolinians today.

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