Shelton Laurel Massacre
by David L. Cockrell, 2006
The Shelton Laurel Massacre, which occurred in January 1863, serves as a graphic illustration of the divided loyalties of North Carolinians during the Civil War as well as the tenuous relationship between state and Confederate military authorities. Throughout the war North Carolina's western counties suffered considerable violence and disorder. Strong Unionist sentiment ran through the Mountains, and there was intermittent fighting between residents loyal to the United States and their pro-Confederate neighbors. This situation was reminiscent of the bitter social divisions during the American Revolution. In fact, at times Unionists were referred to as "Tories" by their enemies. Further adding to the chaotic atmosphere were marauding gangs of both Confederate and Union deserters, who took advantage of undermanned local enforcement and a weak Confederate presence to practice rampant banditry and lawlessness.