Monday, August 05, 2013

A cheerful and happy view of history.

   What's wrong with this sentence? "The Blalocks moved into a cabin on Grandfather Mountain and lived happily ever after, cheerfully skirmishing with pro-South neighbors and helping Union soldiers to safety until war's end." This quotation came from a book entitled North Carolina by Sheila Turnage, a guide book published in 2009.

   First of all, the Blalocks weren't living in a cabin. As the story goes, after Keith and Malinda Blalock got back from their very brief stint in the 26th North Carolina Troops, they were forced to leave their home when confront by Confederate sympathizers and forced "still further up Grandfather and lived in a rail pen.  But they were followed even there, and on one occasion, Keith was so hotly pursued that he was shot in the left arm, and had to take refuge with some hogs which had 'bedded up' under the rocks." (Arthur, A History of Watauga County, 161) That certainly does not sound like living "happily ever after..."  Even if Turnage was making an attempt at humor or satire, it falls flat and misleads.

   And hence the problem with these glimpses of history. For three years, the Blalocks lived on the run, never knowing what the breaking of a twig on the forest floor might be. It could be one of those escaped prisoners, looking for a friend and guide over the mountains and into Union lines, or it could be members of the home guard, diligently trying to stem the tide of men passing through the area. Turnage's account, with words like "happily ever after" and "cheerfully skirmishing" make it sound, for lack of a better phrase, that the couple were simply out on holiday. For the Blalocks, the men they guided, the family they skirmished with, and the men who hunted them, it was anything but happy and cheerful.

   As my friend Sharyn McCrumb puts it so eloquently in The Ballad of Frankie Silver: "Happy stories mostly ain't true."


Glenn Land said...

Hi Michael,
For those wanting to read about the Blalocks, I highly recommend, " Rebels in Blue " by Peter F. Stephens. I became interested in the Blalocks when in the process of genealogy research, I found a deed showing where my 2 x great-grandfather, David Land sold a piece of land in April,1863 right before he was conscripted into the Confederate Army. It bordered on Land owned by Austin Coffey,the step-father of Kieth Blalock. Coffey raised Blalock from a small boy. He was killed by Confederate home-guard late in the war. This helped make Blalock worse then he already was ! He was a BAD MAN !

Glenn Land

Michael C. Hardy said...

Thanks for the post Glenn - but you do know that large portions of "Rebels in Blue" was fictionalized, right?

Glenn Land said...

Hadn't really considered it. I'm sure a good deal of it was.


Kevin Ellis said...

Somewhat apocryphal, but in those days the fighting between the Home Guard, Unionists, and Outliers, often became pretty personal. Grudges were then, and to a lesser extent still held today.
Down in my neck of the woods, you still hear;
" Those D@*n Mitchell County Republicans " or
" Those D@*n Yancey County Democrats "
Mostly tongue in cheek, but a little animosity is definitely there.
Willing to bet that due to their fame or notoriety, the McKessons lived out their lives armed and constantly looking over their shoulders.

Recently ran across a source, (Cannot put my hand to it at the moment ), that says "Keith" was nicknamed after a Keith Boone?, supposedly the "Toughest Man in the Mountains", a few years older than McKesson.
Any ideas on that?


Michael C. Hardy said...

Kevin - thanks for the note. According to Arthur's History of Watauga County, William McKesson Blalock was nicknamed "Keith" in honor of Alfred Keith, "a great fighter during Blalock's youth, and as he was something of a fighter himself, his boy companions called him 'Keith'". (page 160)

Kevin Ellis said...

That was the reference.
I had things mixed up with a Boone that murdered a " Colonel Keith ", ( actually a 2 Lt. in the Mexican War. Co. A, 1rst NC Volunteers ) in 1859 in Yancey.

THAT Keith might have, had he lived, been with the 64th instead of the other Keith. A great big what if !!!
The Captain of Co. A. was a Blaylock.