If War Must Come, I Prefer To Be With My Own People
In 1866, war governor of North Carolina Zebulon B. Vance addressed the Andrew Post, No. 15 of the Grand Army of the Republic and described his patriotic actions in April 1861. The actions of the New England revolutionaries in border States made it clear to him and the entire American South what the future held if they remained in a union with them. His country was North Carolina, as Lee’s was Virginia.
Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402
If War Must Come, I Prefer To Be With My Own People:
"….The people of North Carolina, more perhaps than those of any of the eleven seceding States, were devoted to the Union. They had always regarded it with sincerest reverence and affection, and they left it slowly and with sorrow. They were actuated by an honest conviction…that their constitutional rights were endangered, not be the mere election of Mr. Lincoln, as others did, but by the course which subsequent events were compelled to take in consequence of the ideas which were behind him. The Union men of the State, of whom I was one, whatever may have been their doubts of the propriety of secession, were unanimous in the opinion that it was neither right nor safe to permit the general government to coerce a State.
But when Fort Sumter was fired upon, immediately followed by Mr. Lincoln’s call for "volunteers to suppress the insurrection," the whole situation was changed instantly. The Union men had every prop knocked from under them, and by stress of their own position were plunged into a secession movement. I immediately, with altered voice and manner, called upon the assembled multitude to volunteer, not to fight against but for South Carolina. I said, if war must come I prefer to be with my own people. If we had to shed blood, I preferred to shed Northern rather than Southern blood. If we had to slay, I had rather slay strangers than my own kindred and neighbors; and that it was better, whether right or wrong, that communities and States should go together and face the horrors of war in a body—sharing a common fate, rather than endure the unspeakable calamities of internecine strife.
To those at all acquainted with the atrocities which have been inflicted upon the divided communities of Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee, the humanity of my action will be apparent. I went and shared the fate of the people of my native State, having first done all I could to preserve the peace and secure the unanimity of the people to avert, as much as possible, the calamities of war. I do not regret that course. I do not believe there is an honorable man within my hearing to-night who, under the same circumstances, would not have done as I did…"
(Life of Zebulon B. Vance, Clement Dowd, Observer Publishing and Printing House, 1897, pp. 439-442)