The Civil War

From early school years, we are taught that the Civil War was a battle between the North and the South. Yet stories from the rural South are quite different. Those who lived in Madison County did not own slaves and so, their loyalties to the Union or the Confederacy would create divisions. And, those divisions created stories that were quite different from those in the textbooks of our school years.

Even if you are not a Civil War historian, the three markers (one in each of the three towns) have fascinating stories that show Madison County’s part in the Civil War. They often involve divided families and loyalties because of our geographical location. The story on the town of Mars Hill marker is about the burning of college buildings by Union troops. The marker for the town of Marshall highlights the sad story of the Shelton Laurel Massacre. The story for the town of Hot Springs is about the Skirmish at Warm Springs. There is an annual reenactment of that skirmish in that town. These markers on the North Carolina Civil War Trails route mirror those installed along the multi-state program Civil War trail systems in the rest of North Carolina as well as Virginia and Maryland and are part of a heritage tourism program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Click here to learn more about the Mars Hill Marker

One of the grisliest mass murders of Southern Unionists occurred in 1863 in Madison County, North Carolina. Divided loyalties boiled over early here when a local election (at the ballot boxes, the Madison County sheriff intimidated voters he considered Unionist) in May 1861 resulted in gunfire and death. In January 1863 a band of Union soldiers and citizen sympathizers from the Shelton Laurel community raided Marshall, burning and looting buildings. One group ransacked the house of Col. Lawrence Allen, where his children lay sick with scarlet fever. Allen and the 64th N.C. Regiment retaliated, resulting in the Shelton Laurel Massacre where Confederate troops executed 13 prisoners ranging in age from 13 to 70. Click here to learn more

If you want to truly understand the Civil War era, there is no better way than to watch a Civil War reenactment. The reenactment is not just the “skirmish” but there are tents set up with people in character for the weekend of the event. In October of 1863 a skirmish was fought on the hotel grounds at Warm Springs (the former name of the town of Hot Springs). Each year since 2008, the Hot Springs Resort & Spa hosts a Civil War re-enactment of that skirmish. The skirmish occurred when two Union Infantry groups–the 2nd and 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry regiments–were stationed at Warm Springs as a recruiting camp.  This is where there is a Civil War Trails marker—”Brother vs Brother.” Click here to learn more