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Rebel Barbarities in East-Tennessee.

The editor of the Memphis Bulletin communicated the following to his paper in reference to rebel rule in East-Tennessee. Col. Crawford, the gentleman from whom the facts were obtained, had a personal knowledge of some of the circumstances, and vouched for the truth of all of them:

In the month of January, 1863, at Laurel, N. C., near the Tennessee border, all the salt was seized for distribution by confederate commissioners. Salt was selling at seventy-five dollars to one hundred dollars per sack. The commissioners declared that the “tories should have none,” and positively refused to give Union men their portion of the quantity to be distributed in that vicinity. This palpable injustice roused the Union men; they assembled together and determined to seize their proportion of the salt by force. They did so, taking at Marshall, N. C., what they declared to be their just share. Immediately afterward, the Sixtyfifth North-Carolina regiment, under command of Lieut.-Colonel James Keith, was ordered to Laurel to arrest the offenders.

Among those arrested were Joseph Wood, about sixty years of age; David Shelton, sixty; Jas. Shelton, fifty; Roddy Shelton, forty-five; Elison King, forty; Halen Moore, forty; Wade Moore, thirty-five; Isaiah Shelton, fifteen; Wm. Shelton, twelve; James Metcalf, ten; Jasper Channel, fourteen; Samuel Shelton, nineteen, and his brother, aged seventeen, sons of Lifus Shelton — in all thirteen men and boys. Nearly all of them declared they were innocent, and had taken no part in appropriating the salt. They begged for a trial, asserting that they could prove their innocence.

Col. Alien, who was with his troops, told them they should have a trial, but they would be taken to Tennessee for that purpose. They bid farewell to their wives, daughters, and sisters, directing them to procure the witnesses and bring them to the court in Tennessee, where they supposed their trial would take place. Alas! how little they dreamed what a fate awaited them!

The poor fellows had proceeded but a few miles, when they were turned from the road into a gorge in the mountain, and halted. Without any warning of what was to be done with them, five of them were ordered to kneel down. Ten paces in front of these five, a file of soldiers were placed with loaded muskets. The terrible reality flashed upon the minds of the doomed patriots. Wood (sixty years of age) cried out: “For God's sake, men, you are not going to shoot us! If you are going to murder us, give us, at least, time to pray.” Col. Allen was reminded of his promise to give them a trial. They were informed that Allen had no authority, that Keith was in command, and that there was no time for praying. The order was given to fire; the old men and boys put their hands to their faces and rent the air with agonizing [23] cries of despair; the soldiers wavered and hesitated to obey the command.

Keith said, if they did not fire instantly, he would make them change places with the prisoners. The soldiers raised their guns, the victims shuddered convulsively, the word was given to fire, and the five men fell pierced with rebel bullets. Wood and Shelton were shot in the head, their brains scattered upon the ground, and they died without a struggle. The other three lived only a few minutes.

Five others were ordered to kneel, among them little Billy Shelton, a mere child, only twelve years old. He implored the men not to shoot him in the face. “You have killed my father and brothers,” said he, “you have shot my father in the face; do not shoot me in the face.” He covered his face with his hands. The soldiers received the order to fire, and five more fell. Poor little Billy was wounded in both arms. He ran to an officer, clasped him around the legs, and besought him to spare his life. “You have killed my old father and my three brothers; you have shot me in both arms — I forgive you for all this — I can get well. Let me go home to my mother and sisters.” What a heart of adamant the man must have who could disregard such an appeal! The little boy was dragged back to the place of execution; again the terrible word “fire!” was given, and he fell dead, eight balls having entered his body. The remaining three were murdered in the same manner. Those in whom life was not entirely extinct, the heartless officers despatched with their pistols.

A hole was then dug, and the thirteen bodies were pitched into it. The grave was scarcely large enough; some of the bodies lay above the ground. A wretch jumped upon the bleeding bodies, and said to some of the men: “Pat Juba for me, while I dance the d — d scoundrels down to and through hell.” The grave was covered lightly with earth, and the next day, when the wives and families of the murdered men heard of their fate, searched for and found their grave, the hogs had rooted up one man's body, and eaten his head off.

Upon the return of Keith and his men to Laurel, they began systematically to torture the women of loyal men, to force them to tell where their fathers and husbands were, and what part each had taken in the said raid. The women refused to divulge any thing. They were then whipped with hickory switches; many of them till the blood coursed in streams down their persons to the ground — and the men who did this were called soldiers! Mrs. Sarah Shelton, wife of Esau Shelton, who escaped from the town, and Mrs. Mary Shelton, wife of Lifus Shelton, were whipped and hung by the neck till they were almost dead, but would give no information. Martha White, an idiotic girl, was beaten and tied by the neck all day to a tree. Mrs. Unus Riddle, aged eighty-five years, was whipped, hung, and robbed of a considerable amount of money. Many others were treated with the same barbarity. Mrs. Sallie Moore, seventy years of age, was whipped with hickory rods till the blood ran in streams down her back to the ground; and the perpetrators of this were clothed in the habiliments of rebellion, and bore the name of soldiers!

One woman, who had an infant five or six weeks old, was tied in the snow to a tree, her child placed in the door-way in her sight, and she was informed that if she did not tell all she knew about the seizure of the salt, both herself and the child would be allowed to perish.

All the women and children of the Union men who were shot, and of those who escaped, were ordered by Gen. Alfred E. Jackson to be sent through the lines by way of Knoxville. When the first of them arrived, the officer in charge applied to Gen. Donelson (formerly Speaker of the House of Representatives at Nashville) to know by which route they had been sent from there, whether by Cumberland Gap or Nashville. Gen. Donelson immediately directed them to be released and sent home, saying that such a thing was unknown in civilized countries. They were then sent home, and all the refugees met on the road were also turned back.

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January, 1863 AD (1)
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