Posted By:Kevin
Subject:Re: Shelton Laurel Massacre
Post Date:October 07, 2003 at 23:11:30
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Forum:Southern Unionist Forum
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Details are exceedingly sparse. In investigating other matters I came across a petition, from the "farmers of Sandy Mush" (an area in northwest Buncombe County) to the Confederate War Department, requesting that "Captain Teague's Company" be kept in the Buncombe County area at least "until the farmers can get their crops made" in 1864. (This Captain Teague and his company are the "bad guys" in Charles Frazier's recent book "Cold Mountain". Mr. Frazier took them to be Home Guards, but they were actually Company E of the 29th NC Infantry, enlisted from Haywood County NC). The Confederate War Department was mystified by this petition, but this was just the sort of thing with which the Confederacy's highest-ranking general officer kept himself occupied, so the Adjutant and Inspector General, Samuel Cooper, had his office look into the matter. Paper was in such short supply in the Confederacy that the actual farmers' petition, which had itself been folded so it could be sent without an envelope, was forwarded to the Army of Tennessee, where it worked its way all the way down, and then back up the chain of command, with each headquarters writing its comments on the same sheet of paper, so that eventually the petition was covered with endorsements from the War Department, Headquarters of the Army of Tennessee, Polk's Corp's, French's Division, Ector's Brigade and the 29th NC Infantry. The officer commanding the 29th NC wrote that, after the Battle of Chickamauga, the regiment was furloughed for forty days. When the furloughs expired, around the first of November 1863, the commanding officer of the 29th NC had ordered Company E (Captain Teague's Company) of the regiment to remain in western NC to combat the "tories", as the Home Guard was generally very far from effective. Apparently Captain Teague was much more industrious. Nevertheless the result was, when the "petition" finally arrived back in Richmond, that Captain Teague and his company were ordered to rejoin their unit in the field. The farmers would probably have been better off to keep quiet, but since all this correspondence took until September of 1864 the farmers must have had their crops just about made before their petition was denied. Whether Teague and his men did in fact depart western NC and rejoin the Army in September of 1864 is not known.

The officer who replied to the petition for the 29th NC also mentions that the Colonel of the 29th NC, William B. Creasman, had been in Asheville conducting two courts-martial, the first of which had lasted from Janary to mid-April, and the second from April to September 1864. He had been assigned to this duty by the commander of the Department of western NC, Brigadier General Robert B. Vance, who was the elder brother of NC Governor Zebulon Vance. General Vance had been Colonel of the 29th NC before his promotion, and Colonel Creasman was promoted to the command when General Vance was promoted to General.

I can discover nothing of any records from the courts martial. There are no extant Asheville newspapers anywhere for the entire year of 1864. The inference that these courts-martial had to do with the Shelton Laurel massacre is drawn from oblique references in other correspondence, which I do not have readily to hand. One sign that the defendant must have been a highranking officer is that a full Colonel was assigned as president of the court - the president had to be of at least equal rank to the defendant.

Several memoirs of Confederate Asheville mention that the Confederate military courts did their business in the Asheville Military Academy, a facility that was built only a few years before the war. When Asheville started its public schools in 1888 this building became one of the first three public schools in town. By then the name of the street in front was changed from Academy Street to Montford Avenue, and the building itself became known as William Randolph School. This original school building was torn down in 1946 and the current school built on the grounds but just south of the actual spot where the old building stood. The rock walls in front of, and behind the school parking lot are all that remains of the old Asheville Military Academy. My grandmother worked at the school, in both the old and new buildings, and she told me that when they tore down the old building, they found "dungeons" in the basement. At the time I of course knew nothing of the building's history and took that to be a sign of the vigor with which education had been imparted in the old days.

This is a project I have researched for a number of years, and what Ive set forth here is the sum of all I have been able to learn. The petition, which is in the National Archives, is NOT in the Official Records, so there is some hope that eventually other documents not in the Official Records may also come to light.