Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Statesville: the Last North Carolina State Capital during the War

Continuing my "Stump the Historian" series today. Last week, I spoke at the Iredell County Public Library, and the claim of the Vance House as the last North Carolina Confederate capital was brought up. According to an early linen postcard, the Vance House was the "Former Capital of North Carolina During Vance's Occupancy."

Hmm, the only problem with that claim is that Vance had already abdicated his position as governor before he got to Statesville.

On April 12, 1865, Vance left Raleigh, and by April 13, was meeting with Generals Johnston, Hampton, and Secretaries Regan and Breckinridge in Greensboro. Vance eventually went on to confer with Jefferson Davis in Charlotte, but returned to Greensboro and attempted to contact General Sherman. Sherman had already left North Carolina, and Vance had to deal with General John M. Schofield. Vance offered to surrender on April 27, but Schofield told him to go home. Vance issued a proclamation on April 28, calling for a return to social peace and an end to the strife caused by the war. It was his last official act. Instead of returning to Raleigh, Vance went to Statesville. He had sent his family to Statesville on the approach of Sherman towards Raleigh. When Stoneman approached the town, Vance's family fled to Lincolnton. Just when they returned, I have not found. Vance arrived in Statesville on May 4 and was in Statesville when he was arrested on May 13, 1865.

W. W. Holden, who was Vance's political rival, and who was appointed Governor of North Carolina by US President Andrew Johnson on May 29, 1865, firmly believed that once Vance left Raleigh, he relinquished his position as governor.

In looking through various biographies on Vance, I can find nothing that states that he attempted to conduct the business of the state from the house he rented in Statesville. He was only there for nine days before his arrest and transfer to the Old Capital Prison in Washington, D. C. 

So, I would argue that Statesville did not serve as a capital of North Carolina. Thoughts? 

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