Hi James, That is a very interesting event that you bring up, so I had to look up some information on it. This is what I found. Carolyn
Madison County, NC - Most Western North Carolinians were union sympathizers during the civil war. There were many bushwhackers who harassed and raided the Confederate troops. At Shelton Laurel, many of the Shelton family were accused of being union sympathizers aiding union troops and they were executed in what is known as the Shelton Laurel Massacre.
Subject: The Shelton Laurel Massacre, Madison County, NC,Winter of 1863 Prepared by: Col. William R. Shelton, Jr., 1131 Westwood Ave., Columbus, Ohio
During the early winter of 1863 brutality in the mountain struggle probably reached its height. In January of that year a band of men raided Marshall, the County Seat of Madison County, to get salt, supposedly being withheld from them due to Union sympathies. The raiders broke into several stores and took what they wanted.On hearing of the Marshall raid, Governor Vance (who was pro-union) appealed for military aid from General Hoth at Knoxville, Hoth immediately dispatched Davis' provisional force to Madison County. The report submitted by General Davis, dated 20 January 1863, stated that his men killed twelve Tories and captured twenty or more, but that the extent of disloyality had been greatly exaggerated.Subsequent communications to Governor Vance indicated that the General did not know the whole of the Shelton Laurel story. These letters told how Lt.Col. J.A. Keith, a native of Marshall and member of the 64th North Carolina Regiment had cpatured thirteen old men and young boys and had them shot under the most cold-blooded circumstances. The Shelton Laurel Massacre was not become a major incident of the Civil War, although the newspapers and periodicals of that period gave many eye witness accounts of what had taken place. The act was discribed as "Humanity revolts at such a crime"; "Barberous conduct... a scene of horror"; "Cold blooded murder"; "butchery"; "Keith was a disgrase to the service and to North Carolina"; "In the name of outraged humanity demand the punishment of the officer who is guilty of these murders." The military courts took little or no action, continued delays for little or no reason, until in time the incident was forgotten at that level. Keith left the area, and is believed to have gone west, changed his name and was not heard of again.
Ashville Citizens-Times Massacre dramatized Madison's resistance in Civil War By Rob Neufeld On Jan. 19, 1863, a Confederate regiment headed by Lt. Col. James Keith executed 13 Shelton Laurel men, ages 13-56, for suspicion of Union sympathies and the theft of precious salt and meat from a Marshall storehouse. Memorialized as the Shelton Laurel massacre, the event stands out as one of the most notorious in this region's history. Here's the rest of the story.
Nine months before the massacre, the "Official Records of the War between the States" notes that the 43rd Tennessee Regiment had been fired on by small bands of men in Shelton Laurel and that retaliatory firing had killed 15 of them. There seems to be a regular organization among the inhabitants," the report comments. "The whole population is openly hostile to our cause." At the January 1862 N.C. State Convention, William Hicks of Haywood County proposed that a battalion stationed in Buncombe County march into Shelton Laurel to round up disloyal citizens, seize their property, imprison them and treat them "as alien enemies." The ordinance seems to have never been passed.
The 64th had been forcing captured Madison County men into service, and stationed in East Tennessee, it was easy for them to desert. Five of the men executed at Shelton Laurel had been identified as deserters. The Official Record, for instance, notes Halen Moore had taken a long sick furlough in 1862, had exceeded his time and had been declared a deserter on Dec. 17. "People in Shelton Laurel moved there to get away from government," notes Dan Slagle, a genealogist who turned to researching the human side of the Civil War in Madison County when he discovered that three of his great-great-grandfathers had served in the 64th Regiment.