Sunday, August 18, 2013

Wrong, wrong, wrong....


My readers might be tired of the ongoing mentions of the Blalocks, but there just appears to be so much bad information out there. Their life story seems as blown out of proportion as say, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's. I found the below article in a book edited by Lisa Tendrich Frank entitled Women in the American Civil War, Volume 1 (2008). So, I'm going to pick the article apart. I promise I will leave this subject alone for a while after this.

Blalock, Malinda [Sam Blalock]
(ca.1840-1901)

   Malina Blalock is thought to be the only woman to fight on both sides of the Civil War, and she is the only woman known to have fought as a man from North Carolina. [I know of two others from North Carolina who fought as men. One was from Yancey County and the other from the eastern part of the state.]

   Born Sarah Malinda Pritchard in about 1840 [her birth date, per tombstone, was March 10, 1839] in Caldwell County, North Carolina, to Alfred and Elizabeth Pritchard, Malinda married William McKesson "Keith" Blalock in April 1861, at a small church near Grandfather Mountain in Watauga County. [They were already married in 1860 when the census taker came around.] The two were Unionists. [Probably not technically- they were dissidents who used the Union army to continue a family feud.]

   Keith decided to join the Confederate army, desert as soon as possible, and join the Union army. Malinda cut her hair short and enlisted with Keith on March 20, 1862 as Sam Blalock in Company F, Twenty-sixth Regiment, North Carolina Troops. Malinda had assumed the name of Keith's half- brother, and she was his brother. [I don't recall Keith ever having any brothers.] The Blalocks shared the same tent and drilled side by side until April 20, 1862, when Keith deceitfully obtained a discharge. Having realized that deserting to join the Union would not be easy, Keith rubbed himself with poison sumac and was subsequently discharged. [This statement always puzzles me - the Union army was what, twenty miles down the road in New Bern? And while the poison was listed on his discharge papers, so was the hernia he also had, probably the real reason he was discharged.] Malinda then disclosed her identity as a woman and she was discharged as well. Keith's deception was soon discovered and he was charged with desertion. [Um, he was discharged, so he could not be charged with desertion. But, once he got better, he was liable for conscription, hence his problems with local authorities.] He lived on Grandfather Mountain with several other deserters before fleeing for a short time to Tennessee, where he became a recruiter for a Michigan regiment.

   Unionists at heart, [if true, why did he wait until mid-1864 to enlist in the Union army?] Malinda and Keith went back to the North Carolina mountains and played an active role in the guerrilla raids and personal vendettas that characterized the war in that part of the state in 1864. The Blalocks joined George W. Krik's partisan unit in North Carolina. [There is no historical documentation that the Blalocks and Kirk ever met.] Keith also served as a guide for Confederate deserters and for Unionists who were trying to make their way through the mountains to Federal lines in Tennessee.

   In 1864, Malinda was wounded in a skirmish, and in another engagement Keith was blinded in one eye. In 1865 Keith shot and killed a man whom he believed had killed his stepfather Austin Coffey. Keith was apprehended, but, before he was brought to trial, he was pardoned by Governor William W. Holden. [I believe that Keith actually surrendered.]

   After the war, the Blalocks became farmers in Mitchell County, North Carolina, and had at least four  children: Columbus, John, Willie, and Samuel. [Columbus was actually born in 1863.] Malinda died on March 9, 1901. She and her husband, who died August 11, 1913, are buried in the Montezuma Cemetery in Avery County, North Carolina.

So perhaps the Blalock story is even more embellished than Chamberlain's. I'm starting to think that only Davy Crockett and Pocahontas have been more distorted, and Disney hasn't even gone after Keith and Malinda....yet.

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