Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What Happened to North Carolina's US Representatives and Senators During the War?

On the verge of the conflict in 1861, North Carolina had eight representatives in the US House, and two in the US Senate. Every state has two senators, but house numbers are determined by population. What happened to these men during the war?

William Nathan Harrell Smith was born in Murfreesboro, NC, in 1812 and graduated from Yale University in 1834. He returned to Murfreesboro to practice law. He held several local political offices before becoming a member of the both the NC House and Senate. Smith was elected as an Opposition Party candidate to the 36th Congress, and ran unsuccessfully for the speakership. He went on to serve in the Confederate Congress. After the war, he served as council for W. W. Holden during the 1871 impeachment trial, and as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, from 1878 to 1889. He died in November 1889 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh.

Thomas Hart Ruffin was born in Louisburg, North Carolina, in September 1820. He was a graduate from the law school at the University of North Carolina in 1841 and practiced law for a time in Missouri. In 1853, he was elected as a Democrat to the US Congress and represented NC until March 1861. He served as a delegate to the provisional Confederate Congress in 1861. Ruffin raised a company of cavalry out of Wayne County, and was elected captain. That group became Company H, 1st North Carolina Cavalry. In June 1863, Ruffin was promoted to the rank of major and transferred to the field and staff of the 1st Cavalry. A month later, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. In the meantime, he suffered a saber blow to the head at Gettysburg. Sometime around September 1863, Ruffin was promoted to colonel of the 1st Cavalry. At a skirmish at Auburn Mills, Virginia, on October 15, 1863, Ruffin was mortally wounded and captured. He died on October 18, 1863, and is buried in Louisburg, North Carolina.

Warren Winslow was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1810. He was a graduate of the University of North Carolina, and then studied law, practicing in Fayetteville. In 1854, Winslow was elected to the state senate, and elected as speaker. When Governor Reid accepted an appointment to the United States Senate, Winslow became acting governor, and is recognized as the 33rd governor of the state. Winslow then served in the US from 1855 to 1861. When Governor Ellis became ill, Winslow was a part of a three-man board appointed by the governor to advise him on military and naval matters. Winslow went on to represent Cumberland and Harnett Counties in the 1861 convention. Winslow died in Fayetteville in August 1862, and is buried at Cross Creek Cemetery.

Lawrence O'Bryan Branch was born in November 1820 near Enfield, Halifax County. He lived in Tennessee for a brief amount of time before being adopted by his uncle, John Branch. John Branch had already served in the General Assembly, and as governor of North Carolina (1817-1820). When Lawrence joined his uncle, he was living in Washington, D.C., serving as a United States Senator, and then later, as Secretary of the Navy under his friend Andrew Jackson. Lawrence grew up in Washington, D.C., and was tutored at one time by Salmon P. Chase. Lawrence attended the University of North Carolina for a while, eventually graduating first in his class at Princeton. He studied law in Nashville, Tennessee, where he also owned a newspaper. Branch was admitted to the bar in Florida, but married and moved back to Raleigh in 1852, practicing law and becoming president of the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad Company. Branch was elected as a Democrat to three terms in the US House, starting in 1855. He was not running again in 1860. He also declined a position of Secretary of the Treasury by President James Buchanan. Once North Carolina joined the Confederacy, Branch served as Quartermaster General for North Carolina, and then as colonel of the 33rd North Carolina Troops. He was appointed a brigadier general in November 1861, and in April 1862, his brigade joined the army in Virginia. Branch was killed at the battle of Sharpsburg on September 17, 1863. He is buried in the Old City Cemetery in Raleigh.

John Gilmer was born in Guilford County, North Carolina, in November 1805. He studied in local schools, taught school, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1832. Gilmer was a member of the State Senate from 1846 to 1856, and in 1856, was an unsuccessful Whig candidate for governor. He served in the US House from 1857 to March 1861 as a member of the American, and later Opposition parties. He was considered by Lincoln for a cabinet position. Gilmer served in the Secession Convention. In November 1863, he won an uncontested race as a representative to the Second Confederate Congress, and was chairman of the Committee on Elections. He opposed many of the laws that advanced the powers of the central government, and was an active peace advocate, persuading Davis to send a delegation to Hampton Roads to talk to Lincoln. Gilmer supported Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction program after the war. He died in Greensboro in May 1868, and is buried in the Presbyterian Church Cemetery behind the Greensboro Museum of History.

James Madison Leach was born in January 1815 in Randolph County, North Carolina. He attended the Caldwell Institute in Greensboro, and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1838, going on to study law. Leach practiced law in Lexington, North Carolina, and served in the General Assembly from 1848 to 1858. In 1859, Leach was a representative in the US House. Once the war commenced, he served in the 21st North Carolina, and then as a member of the Second Confederate Congress. Leach is probably the most famous peace advocated in the Confederate Congress. According to one sketch, Leach "fought all administration programs. He voted to override every presidential veto and approved resolutions declaring Secretaries Benjamin, Memminger, and Regan incompetent... by April 1865, he was urging North Carolina to begin separate state negotiations." After the war, Leach served four terms in the NC Senate, and in 1871 to 11875, in the US House. He died in Lexington on June 1, 1891, and is buried in Hopewell Cemetery.
Francis Burton Craige was born near Salisbury in March 1811. Craige graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1829, edited the Carolina Watchman, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1832, and served in the NC House before being elected as a Democrat to the US Congress, serving from 1853 to 1861. Craige was a delegate to the secession convention in May 1861, introducing the Ordinance of Secession. He was also a delegate to the Confederate Provisional Congress, supporting the central government in their effort to win the war. He declined to run for the regular Confederate Congress, and apparently retired from public life. Craig died in Concord on December 30, 1875, and is buried in the Old English Cemetery in Salisbury.

Zebulon Baird Vance was born in Buncombe County May 30, 1830. He was the youngest of the North Carolina delegation sitting in the US House in March 1861. Vance was educated at Washington College, and then at the University of North Carolina. He began practicing law in Asheville in 1852, and was elected county solicitor. He served in the NC House  in 1854-1856, and in the US House 1858-1861. Vance was elected captain of a company from Buncombe in May 1861, and then colonel of the 26th North Carolina Troops, in August 1861. He led the 26th Regiment through the battle of New Bern and Seven Days. On being elected governor in August 1862, Vance resigned his commission and led the state through the war years, until being arrested on his birthday in Statesville in 1865. After the war, he practiced law, again becoming governor of North Carolina (1876-1878), and then serving in the US Senate from 1878 until his death in Washington, D.C., in 1894. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Asheville. Vance is North Carolina's most honored politician, with a state historic site, several monuments, and a host of biographies.

In the US Senate were Thomas L. Clingman and Thomas Bragg. Surprisingly, both had only served a couple of years prior to the start of the war.

Thomas Lanier Clingman, the "Prince of Politicians," was born in 1812 in Yadkin County, North Carolina. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1832, and began practicing law in Huntsville in 1834. Clingman was elected to the NC House in 1835, and then a year later, moved to Asheville. In 1840, he represented the area in the NC Senate. He was elected as a Whig in 1843 to the US House, but was defeated for re-election in 1845 (possibly having something to do with his duel with William Lowndes Yancey of Alabama.) Clingman again served in the US House from 1847 to 1858, and in 1858 to 1861, in the US Senate. At the start of the War, Clingman was elected colonel of the 25th North Carolina and later commanded a brigade composed of the 8th, 31st, 52st, and 61st Infantry regiments. His brigade bounced around between the defenses in eastern North Carolina and those in Virginia. Clingman never regained public office after the war, although he was frequently in Washington D.C, sitting in the visitors' gallery in the Senate. He worked as a tireless promoter of western North Carolina, and mined in the area, looking for silver in present-day Avery County. Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is named in his honor. Clingman died in Morganton North Carolina in 1897, and is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, not far from the grave of Zebulon Vance.

Thomas Bragg was the older brother of Confederate General Braxton Bragg. Thomas was born in November 1810 in Warrenton, and studied at a military academy in Middleton, Connecticut, now known as Norwich University. He was admitted to the bar in 1833 and commenced practice in Jackson, North Carolina. He served a term in the NC House (1842-1843) and was elected governor for two terms (1855 to 1859), before being appointed to the US Senate, serving from 1859 to 1861. Jefferson Davis appointed Bragg as Confederate attorney general in 1861, and he served until 1862. Bragg continued to practice law until his death in 1872. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. 

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