First Wednesdays – Election 1862

The summer of 1862 brought another gubernatorial election cycle to North Carolina. The citizens of the state had witnessed much change since the 1860 election cycle. The winner of that contest, John Ellis, was dead and the state held together by the ascendency of the Senate leader, Henry Toole Clark, to the governor’s office. Clark, who efficiently set North Carolina on solid footing during the first months of the war, however, did not wish to stand for election in the 1862 cycle. In fact, the Confederate party argued for calling off the election altogether but their plans were frustrated by the efforts of the Conservatives, lead by newspaperman William Woods Holden.

Holden approached former governor William A. Graham to run on the Conservative ticket but Graham declined. The Conservative party then settled on former Whig congressman and Unionist Zebulon Baird Vance (who was at the time was a popular colonel of the 26th North Carolina Troops). The Confederate party nominated William J. Johnston, a railroad official who was an original secessionist and a supporter of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Neither candidate ran an active campaign by making stump speeches but various newspapers across the state took up the debate for their candidate – eleven supported Johnston and ten weighed in on Vance’s side. The Johnston supporters cast Vance as a puppet of Holden whose election would serve as a sign to all Yankees of the resurgence of Union sentiment in the state. Through his supporters Vance rejoined that the only hope of the South was the continued “prosecution of the war at all hazards and to the utmost extremity so long as the foot of an invader pressed the Southern soil.” Vance handily won the election, capturing all but twelve of the existing 80 counties in the state. His final vote total was more than double Johnston’s: 54,423 to 20, 448. Vance would hold true to his statement and prosecute the war at all hazards; he even turned back a push for a separate peace for the state during the 1864 election cycle. Today’s document is the certified election returns forwarded to Governor Henry Toole Clark from the Secretary of State, the State Treasurer and the State Comptroller.

See previous blog regarding political strife leading up to the 1862 election cycle.

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