ASHVILLE, N. C., February 24, 1863.
[Honorable Z. B. VANCE.]
GOVERNOR: In obedience to your direction to do so I have made inquiries and gathered facts such as I could in reference to the shooting of certain prisoners on Laurel Creek, in Madison County. I have to report to you that I learn that the militia troops had nothing to do with what wad done on Laurel. Thirteenth 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 secluded place, made them kneel down and shot them. They were buried in a trench dug for the purpose. Some two weeks since their bodies were removed to a graveyard. I learn that probably eight of the thirteenth 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 shrank 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 old, [son] of Sipus), Aronnata Shelton (fourteen years old [son] of Sipus, not at Marshall), James Shelton (Odl 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, was not in the raid), Rod Shelton (Stob rod, was not in the raid), David Shelton (brother of Stob Rod, was not in the raid), Halen Moore (twenty-five or thirty years old, was not in the raid), Wade Moore, twenty or twenty-five years old, was not in the raid.
It is said that those whose named 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 ropes 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 learn by order of General Davis. These are Sipus Shelton, Isaac Shelton, William Norton and David Shelton, son of Sipus.
I think the facts stated are about true. One thing is certain, thirteen prisoners were killed-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.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DISTRICT, DEPT. OF MISS. AND EAST LA., Numbers 6.
Columbus, Miss., February 25, 1863.
VII. The passing of paroled Federal prisoners through this district northward is positively prohibited without special orders from these headquarters or from higher authority for that purpose.
By order of Brigadier-General Ruggles:
R. M. HOOE,