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William Woods Holden (American National Biography)

Scholarship

William C. Harris, "Holden, William Woods," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-00776.html.

Holden organized the Constitutional Union party in the state that in February 1861 defeated the secessionist effort to call a convention that could take the state out of the Union. In the brief campaign Holden warned that secession "would end in civil war, in military despotism, and in the destruction of slave property. Let us give the Northern people time. . . . The Constitution will be restored, and Mr. Lincoln and his party will be hurled from power in 1864." The fighting at Fort Sumter and Lincoln's call for troops to suppress the rebellion in April, however, caused Holden to reverse his position and call on North Carolinians to resist Lincoln's "gross usurpation" of power. As a delegate to the state convention in May, he voted for the ordinance that took North Carolina out of the Union and into the Confederacy.

Hardly had the war begun when Holden began to criticize state authorities and the Jefferson Davis administration for discriminating against old Union party men in their military appointments and for suppressing North Carolina liberties. The fall of a large area of coastal North Carolina to federal forces and the adoption of conscription by the Richmond government in early 1862 gave Holden additional ammunition to use against Confederate authorities. He soon organized the Conservative party, secured the nomination of young Zebulon B. Vance for governor, and through the columns of the Standard led the new party to victory at the polls.

How to Cite This Page: "William Woods Holden (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/19375.