Saturday, January 18, 2014

When War Wasn't Civil

The Shelton Laurel Massacre an execution of 13 men and boys accused of being Union sympathizers occurred on January 18th 1863 in Madison County, North Carolina.

In early January 1863 an armed group of Madison County, North Carolina Unionists looted the salt stores in the area and ransacked the home of Confederate Colonel Lawrence Allen.  Allen was the commander of the 64th North Carolina Infantry.  In response to the raid Confederate General Henry Heth sent the 64th; temporarily commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James A Keith, to Shelton Laurel Valley to catch the looters.   In the following skirmish 12 of the looters were killed and a number others captured.  North Carolina Governor Zebulon Baird Vance worried about the situation escalating sent orders not to harm the captured looters.

Keith however believed a rumor that there was a Unionist force in the area, and he began looking for them.  Locals weren’t forthcoming with information and so Keith had several women in the Shelton Laurel area rounded and tortured to get information about their male relations.  After rounding up the alleged Unionists, Keith started to march them to Tennessee, but two of the captives escaped.  At this point Keith had the remaining 13 prisoners marched into the woods where on January 18th 1863 he ordered them shot.  The bodies of the thirteen men; three of them boys under the age of 17 were dumped into a trench.


Family of executed men had their bodies move to a cemetery a little east of the massacre site.  Keith was held for his actions spending two years in jail, before escaping just days before his trial.  The state dropped their case against him.

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