FIRST COLONEL OF THE 26TH REGIMENT N.C.S.T.
Col. Zebulon Baird Vance
(May 13, 1830 – April 14, 1894)
Zebulon B. Vance was born in Buncombe County, NC, the son of wealthy planter David Vance and Mira Margaret Baird. He graduated from the University of North Carolina with a law degree and began practicing in Asheville, NC in 1852. In 1853 Vance married Miss Harriett Newell Espy. They had four sons.
Vance organized a company of soldiers known as the Rough and Ready Guards (part of the 14th regiment) before the war and was at their helm as Captain when in the fall of 1861 he was elected Colonel of the newly formed 26th Regiment. Shortly after he took command, the 26th was assigned to duty on Bogue Banks, near Fort Macon, on the North Carolina coast. While under the command of Col. Vance, the 26th was engaged in the Battle of Newbern (14 Mar 1862), and the Battle of Malvern Hill (01 Jul 1862).
In August of 1862 Vance was elected Governor of North Carolina. Command of the 26th was passed to Vance’s then Lieutenant Colonel Harry Burgwyn. In the year that Vance had been their Colonel he earned the respect of his men. They knew that he would never carelessly put them at risk and they were more than willing to follow him wherever he wanted.
Vance served as Governor of North Carolina 1862-1865 and again 1877-1879. He earned the title of North Carolina’s “War Governor”. On May 13, 1865, Vance was arrested at his home in Statesville by Union Troops and sent to Old Capital Prison in Washington, DC. No charges were ever officially filed against him and he was released nearly two months later on 07/06/1865. After his parole Vance became a practicing attorney in Charlotte, NC. He was officially pardoned on 11 Mar 1867. In 1877 Vance was again elected Governor of North Carolina.
With nearly two years still remaining in his second term as Governor, Vance was elected and seated as a North Carolina U.S. Senator. He served as a Senator until his death in 1894.
Gov. Zebulon B. Vance holds the distinction of having been buried three times. At the time of his death he was married to his second wife, Florence Steele Martin. She secretly had Vance’s body exhumed and reburied in her family’s Martin plot. His sons soon discovered her deceit and took her to court. They obtained an injunction and had their father again exhumed and reburied at his original site in Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, NC where he still rests today.
“Hang down your head Tom Dooley,
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head Tom Dooley,
Poor boy you're bound to die.”
Thomas C. Dula (pronounced Dooley) was born in Wilkes County, NC 22 Jun 1845. On 15 Mar 1862, three months before his 18th birthday, Tom enlisted in Company K of North Carolina’s 42nd Regiment. He served honorably through the war’s entirety, finally being taken prisoner near Kinston, NC 10 Mar 1865. He was confined at Point Lookout, MD until released on 11 Jul 1865 after taking the Oath of Allegiance.
After the war Tom returned home to Wilkes County. His childhood sweetheart Anne Foster had married James Melton in 1859, but she and Tom apparently still had feelings for one another, to the point of Anne being overly jealous of Tom. With Anne being married, Tom took up with her cousin Laura Foster. Laura became pregnant and supposedly planned to elope with Tom. She was last seen alive on 27 May 1866.
Sometime later Laura’s body was found in a shallow grave and both Tom and Anne were arrested. Anne was later released upon Tom’s statement that she had nothing to do with the murder. Tom also swore that he had no part in Laura‘s death but would never say anything that would implicate anyone else.
Tom Dula’s defense attorney was none other than Zebulon B. Vance. Vance was Governor of North Carolina 1862-1865 and the first Colonel of North Carolina’s distinguished 26th Regiment. He was again elected Governor in 1877 and served until 1879 when he was seated in Washington as a U.S. Senator.
Vance apparently held sympathy for a young Confederate soldier who had given his all during the war, and who now stood accused of a crime of which Vance believed he was innocent. Under Vance’s urging, the trial was moved from Wilkes County to Statesville in Iredell County. All of Vance’s efforts would ultimately be in vain.
The truth of the matter was never revealed at trail. Thomas Dula was found guilty of the murder of Laura Foster and was hanged in Iredell County, NC 01 May 1868, nearly two years after the crime. Many folks believed that Tom was innocent and had said nothing to protect Anne Foster Melton whom he still loved. Regardless of his guilt or innocence, Tom eventually paid the ultimate price for the crime. The Legend of Tom Dooley was born and continues to inspire us in song nearly 150 years later.