Women’s Roles in the Shelton Laurel Massacre

Written by James Reinemann, Senior Honors student at Western Carolina University

The following is an abstract of a longer research paper written for Robert Ferguson’s History class. If you would like more information please email him at rhferguson@email.wcu.edu.


During the American Civil War, one of the most heinous and controversial events happened in Western North Carolina. In 1863, thirteen Union sympathizers were murdered in Madison County, North Carolina, including a thirteen-year-old boy. Although it can be difficult to find the roles women played during the Shelton Laurel Massacre it does not diminish their impact on the event. Women on both sides of the conflict had considerable influence and insight into how life happened in not just the Shelton Laurel Valley but the whole of Madison County during the Civil War. Some of these women would have encouraged the initial raid on Marshall that caused the 64th North Carolina Infantry to return to the region, while others may have simply pleaded with the Confederate authorities to do something about the growing threat of Unionist guerillas in the region. Regardless of sides, the women of Madison County were trying to survive and protect their families during very turbulent times for not only the region, but the entire country. These women saw their men be conscripted, some saw their men desert and return home only to go into hiding, while others still saw their men return to Madison County as the perpetrators of a massacre. The women of Madison County showed considerable endurance in the face of this hardship and their unique experiences deserve to be remembered.

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