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Richard L. Zuber, North Carolina During Reconstruction (1969)


Richard L. Zuber, North Carolina During Reconstruction (1969)


Richard L. Zuber’s work, North Carolina During Reconstruction, gives a very brief history of North Carolina following the end of the Civil War. Zuber studies various archives from the period to offer a portrayal of Reconstruction in the Old North State to the average reader. Although Zuber’s work is not as in depth as other historians, his book does an excellent job of providing a basic background for the decade following the Civil War in North Carolina.

Zuber analyzes the Kirk-Holden War offering a brief background to the origins of it with the passing of the Shoffner Act, legislation which allowed the Governor to put any county of the state under martial law, and the murders of Councilman Wyatt Outlaw and Senator John W. Stephens. Zuber then explains that Holden’s biggest downfall in the war was the arrest of eighty-two men in Alamance and Caswell Counties and his suspension of their writ of habeas corpus.

Zuber highlights the importance of the 1870 general election in which the Conservatives had won enough seats in Congress to impeach the Governor, and soon did. The House of Representatives came up with eight different charges to try the Governor on and from February 2nd until March 22nd, 1871, the impeachment ensued. Being acquitted of the first two charges for declaring states of insurrection, Holden was subsequently convicted of the other six charges and per a Senate ruling, William Holden was barred from ever holding another state office again.


Richard L. Zuber


Richard L. Zuber, North Carolina During Reconstruction (North Carolina State Department of Archives and History: Raleigh, 1969).






Raleigh, North Carolina

Original Format



Just before Christmas, 1870, the House of Representatives drew up eight charges against the governor. The first two charges were that he had acted unlawfully by raising troops and sending them into Caswell and Alamance counties when there was no rebellion there and the civil authorities were in control. The next two articles concerned the arrest of Josiah Turner and John Kerr, saying that their arrest and imprisonment had been illegal. Articles five and six denounced Holden for refusing to obey writs of habeas corpus. The seventh article said that the state laws had not been followed in raising Colonel Kirk's regiment, and recited some of the actions of the troops, such as throwing Josiah Turner into a "loathsome dungeon." Finally, the House charged that it had been illegal for the governor to pay the soldiers who had served in Colonel Kirk's force. The House appointed seven men to serve as a board of managers; after the charges had been made, the managers hired three powerful Conservative lawyers--former Governor William A. Graham, former Governor Thomas Bragg, and the future United States Senator Augustus S. Merrimon. They apparently wanted to be sure that the governor did not escape conviction. Holden also had an unusually able group of five lawyers. One of them, William N. H. Smith, later became the state's chief justice, and another, Nathaniel Boyden, was an associate justice of the Supreme Court. For some reason, he asked Zeb Vance to be one of his lawyers, but Vance of course refused. It would have been strange indeed if the war governor had used his powerful influence to help Holden.

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Richard L. Zuber, Richard L. Zuber, North Carolina During Reconstruction (1969), Civil War Era NC, accessed July 12, 2024,