Monday, January 08, 2007

More on the Blalocks

Some of you are aware of a book entitled Rebels in Blue: The Story of Keith and Malinda Blalock. Story is a good word, for this book is highly fictionalized. I’ll give two examples. One, the author cites letters written by the Blalocks to John Preston Arthur. He cites these letters as being at the William Eury Collection at Appalachian State University. These papers do not exist. Arthur died (1915, I think), and all of the papers in his hotel room in Boone (where he was living) were burned.

Second example - the author writes: "Keith came face-to-face with [Harvey] Bingham’s company in late August 1862, when early in the morning, the Home Guard finally caught up with Keith. A dozen or more riders burst up to the Blalock’s cabin, the thud of hooves, the jangle of spurs, and shouts pealing across the clearing, Keith and Malinda stepped onto the porch and strait into the leveled barrels of Enfield muskets, cavalry carbines, and rifle-guns."

There is quite a bit wrong with this one paragraph, found on page 53.
1. The home guard did not exist yet - created in the summer of 1863.
2. Harvey Bingham was a lieutenant in the 37th North Carolina Troops, and was wounded in the head on August 27, 1862, at the battle of Second Manassas, so he wasn’t there.
3. It most likely would have been the militia from Caldwell County chasing Blalock.
4. Arms were scarce in the Confederacy in 1862, and most of the militias and home guardsmen were lucky to have shotguns.
5. An Enfield is not a musket. Muskets are always smooth-bore, an Enfield would have been considered a "rifled-musketed," so why use the term "rifled-gun?"-- ignorance of the time period, maybe?

I got to spend considerable time one day last week going over the pension applications of Keith Blalock and I have come up with a few observations.

1. There was no record in the records of the 10 Michigan Cavalry, in which Blalock later served, of his being wounded. (Twice, once in 1864 and the second time in January 1865)
2. He was alone when he was wounded in August 1864. He claimed to be scouting.
3. When he was wounded in January 1865, there was some rumor of his being a deserter.
4. He claimed to have never been properly enrolled as a soldier in the 26th North Carolina. Furthermore, he also claimed that neither he nor Malinda were given discharges. They were given passes back home.
5. In all of the pension application materials, there is no mention of Malinda ever serving with Keith in western North Carolina. Back a couple of years ago when I was helping Sharyn McCrumb with Ghost Riders, it was an idea we batted around about just what Malinda did after her son was born in 1863. Was she physically able to ride with Keith and was she emotionally strong enough to leave her soon with distant family members in east Tennessee, where, the war was worse than it was in western North Carolina?

I hope most of you are familiar with the Blolock story. Keith was an unwilling volunteer in the 26th North Carolina. His wife Malinda, joined with him under the name of Little Sammy Blalock. There was a Samuel Blalock in the 16th North Carolina. They served for several weeks until Keith rolled around in a poison patch and got a medical discharge for the nasty rash. Malinda came clean about being a woman, and she was also discharged. They made their way back to western North Carolina, where they served as guides on an underground railway funneling escaped prisoners and dissidents out of the Piedmont and into east Tennessee. In June 1864, Keith joined the 10th Michigan Cavalry as a private, and spent the rest of the war "scouting." He got into a wee bit of trouble for shooting a man after the war, and went to Texas for a while, but returned to Mitchell (present day Avery) County to spend the rest of his life. He, and Malinda, are interred in the Montezuma Community Cemetery.

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