ASHEVILLE, N. C., February 24, 1863.
[Honorable ZEBULON B. VANCE:]
GOVERNOR: In obedience to your directions so to do, I have made inquiries and gathered facts such as I could in reference to the shooting of certain prisoners in Laurel Creek, in Madison County. I have to report to you that I learned that the militia troops had nothing to do with what was done in Laurel. Thirteen prisoners, at least, were killed by order of Lieutenant Colonel J. A. Keith. Most of them were taken at their homes, and none of them made resistance when taken; perhaps some of them ran. After they were taken prisoners the soldiers took them off to a secluded place, made them kneel down, and shot them. They were buried in a trench dug to the purpose. Some two weeks since their bodies were removed to a grave-yard. I learned that probably 8 of the 13 killed were not in the company that robbed Marshall and other places. I suppose they were shot on suspicion. I cannot learn the names of the soldiers who shot them. Some of them shank from the barbarous and brutal transaction at first, but were compelled to act. This is a list of the names of those killed: Elison King (desperate man); Jo Woods (desperate man); Will Shelton, twenty years of(of Pifus); Aronnata Shelton, fourteen years old (was not at Marshall); James Shelton (old Jim), about fifty-six years old; James Shelton, jr., seventeen years old; David Shelton, thirteen years old (was not in the raid); James Madcap, forty years old; Rod Shelton (Stob Rod); David Shelton (brother of Stob Rod); Joseph Cleandon, fifteen or sixteen years old; Helen Moore, twenty-five or thirty years old; Wade Moore, twenty or twenty-five years old. It is said that those whose names I have so marked did not go to Marshall. The prisoners were captured on one Friday and killed the next Monday. Several women were severely whipped and troops were tied around their necks. It is said Colonel L. M. Allen was not in command and that Keith commanded. Four prisoners are now in jail, sent here, as I learned, by order of General Davis. These are Sipus Shelton, Isaac Shelton, William Morton, and David Shelton, son of Sipus. I think the facts stated are about true. One think is certain, 13 prisoners were shot without trial or any hearing whatever and in the most cruel manner. I have no means of compelling witnesses to disclose facts to me, and I do not know that I shall be able to make a fuller report to Your Excellency at any early day. I hope these facts will enable you to take such steps as will result in a more satisfactory development of the true state of the matter.
I am, &c., yours, truly,
A. S. MERRIMON.
GOLDSBOROUGH, N. C., February 25, 1863.
GENERAL: I have written to the Secretary of War in reference to heavier armament at Wilmington. A letter from you to me on the same subject, to be forwarded to him, might be of service. In the mean time it seems to me that your channel front at Caswell ought to be strengthened by the columbiads near town. The exterior works should first be cared for. Ransom's men ought to be employed in thickening the curtains and completing the circle around town. Evans, too, should be at work at Sudberry in making that position impregnable. I do not feel satisfied that the Yankees will not return to Wilmington. They seem to be demoralized at Charleston, and may try the smaller job by way of