& Malinda Blaylock
(Blalock) --- Two Accounts --- First Account,
This is a photograph of "Sam" Blalock of
Co. F (The Hibriten Guards) of the 26th NC Troops. She is holding a photograph
of her husband, William McKesson (Keth) Blalock, who also served in Co. F.
"Sam" was born in 1842 and, at age 20, she and her husband would
embark on a remarkable adventure.
"Sam" and Keith were from that part of Caldwell County which is now
incorporated into Avery County. They both had strong Union leanings, and it is
speculated that they determined to join the 26th N.C., then in Eastern N.C., in
order to have the opportunity of deserting to the Federal army. At any rate,
they both enlisted on March 20, 1862, with Mrs. Blalock disguising herself as a
man. Asst. Surgeon Underwood of the 26th N.C. wrote, "Her disguise was
never penetrated. She drilled and did the duties of a soldier as any other
member of the Company, and was very adept at learning the manual and
By the time they had reached the 26th Regiment, the
battle of New Bern had been fought, and now the Confederate and Union forces
were separated by a considerable distance. Finding their plans of easy desertion
frustrated, Keith determined he could not serve in the Confederate Army and
designed a scheme by which to secure his discharge. He rolled around in a patch
of poison sumac (ivy) which produced running boils all over his body. Presenting
himself to the Surgeon with this unsavory affliction, along with the added
complaint of a hernia, Keith secured his discharge.
Naturally, "Sam" desired to depart with
her husband. Therefore she approached Col. Zebulon Vance and informed him that
she was in fact a woman. Vance, naturally being skeptical, is reported to have
responded by calling the Surgeon with the comment, "Oh Surgeon, have I a
case for you!" Much to everyone's surprise the dumbfounded Surgeon
confirmed "Sam's" assertion, and she was promptly discharged and sent
home along with Keith on April 10, 1862.
For the balance of the war, the Blalocks satisfied
their Unionist leanings by becoming the terror of the Northwest N.C. mountains.
Raising a band of marauders, they raided the farms of loyal Confederate families
in the area. In one wild melee late in 1863 at the Moore family farm in the
Globe section of Caldwell County, the Blalocks and their band got into a shoot
out with the Moores, a member of which, ironically, was James Daniel Moore of
Co. F of the 26th N.C. who was home at the time recuperating from a wound
received at Gettysburg. With additional irony, Moore had been the person
responsible for originally recruiting the Blalocks into the 26th N.C. The upshot
was that Malinda was wounded twice in this affair. In a later second raid on the
Moore farm, Keith had an eye shot out by the Moore boys. Afterwards, the
Blalocks took their revenge out on easier pickings and participated with Union
forces led by Col. Kirk, and later by Gen. George Stoneman in their various
incursions into western N.C. during the last year and a half of the war.
Amazingly, considering all the bad blood the
Blalocks had stirred up, they returned to their former home after the war. They
both dabbled in Republican politics, with Keith running unsuccessfully for
Congress on the Republican ticket in the 1870's. "Sam" died in 1901.
Keith died on August 11, 1913 at the age of 77, and was in good health.
Interestingly, he did not die by an enemy's hand. He was pumping a handcar on a
stretch of mountain railroad when he overshot a steep curve and plunged to his
death off the side of the mountain.
"Sam" and Keith are buried side by side
in the Montezuma community cemetery in Avery County.
joined Union Forces in TN after medical discharge from CSA Army. Keith and
his men were infamous in Watauga County, NC. His band of men reportedly
raided and murdered and drove fear into the citizens of this area during the
Civil War. His wife Malinda was by his side just as she was in the CSA
Army. Keith's own stepfather Austin Coffey was murdered, along with
Austin's brother William Coffey. Austin's other brothers were marked men
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Women Who Served
- Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, Alias Pvt. Lyons Wakeman, 153d
- Jennie Hodgers, Alias Pvt. Albert D.J. Cashier, 92nd
- Malinda Blaylock, Alias PVt. Sam. Blaylock, 26th NC, co
- Laura J. Williams, Alias Lt. Henry Benford, raised and
lead a company of Texans
- Mary Owen, Alias Pvt. John Evans, Regiment?
- Anny Lillibridge, Alias? 21st U.S.
- Mary Ellen Wise, Alias?, 34th Indiana
- Elizabeth A. Niles, Alias?, 4th New Jersey
- Mary Scaberry, Alias Pvt. Charles Freeman, 52nd Ohio
- Mary Dennis, Alias?, 1st MN, Stillwater Company
- Catherine E. Davidson, Alias?, 28th Ohio
- Frances Hook, Alias Pvt. Frank Miller, From Illinois
- Name? Alias PVt. Charles D. Fuller, 46th PA. Co. D*
- Frances Day, Alias Sgt. Frank Mayne, 126th PA, Co F.*
- Frances Clailin, Alias? Served in USA Missouri
artillery and infantry militia
- Sarah Edwards, Alias?, 90th Ill
- Mary Bell, Alias Pvt Tom Parker, CSA Regiment? WITH
Molly Bell, Alias Pvt.Richard Anderson, Regiment?
- Nellie A.K. was in the Army of the Cumberland
- Amy Clarke, Alias Pvt. Richard Anderson, LA Cavalry
- Nelly Graves, Alias? 24th NJ
- Fanny Wilson, Alias? 24th NJ and 3th Ill Cavalry
- Name? Alias Pvt. John Williams, 7th Missouri (USA)
- Ida Remington, Alias? Orderly Sgt, 17th NY
- Mary Ann Murphy, Alias Pvt. Samuel Hill, 53d Mass WITH
Abreu Kamoo, Alias Pvt. Tommy Kamoo, 53d Mass
Blalock served as a Confederate soldier under the name Sam
McKesson (Keith) Blalock and Malinda Pritchard met as children
in a one room school house in Watauga County, N.C. under the
shadow of Grandfather Mountain. In April 1861, the couple were
married. The marriage was a surprise to the whole county as the
two families had been feuding over one thing or the other for
over one hundred and fifty years but theirs was a true love
The entire state of North
Carolina was severely divided over the question of the legality
of secession but never more so than in the small mountain
community the Blalocks called home. When a Confederate
recruiting officer passed through that area, Keith, opposed to
Lincoln but an ardent Unionist, felt compelled to follow some of
his fellow townsmen in signing up with the 26th N.C. Infantry
commanded by future governor Col. Zebulon Vance. All along it
had been his intention to join a unit he figured would soon be
sent north to Virginia to fight the Yankees. Once there he
planned to slip through the lines and join up with the first
Federal unit he came in contact with. Fearing for the safety of
his young wife at the hands of the secessionists should his plan
become known, he made sure the town’s secessionists saw him
march away with the 26th.
Malinda had plans of her own.
Barely had Keith began his march to the depot that would carry
him to the war when he noticed a light young man marching beside
him. It did not take him long to notice the new recruit with
short hair covered by a forage cap was none other than his wife,
Malinda. At the enlistment station in Lenoir, N.C. she signed
her enlistment papers as twenty year old S.M. (Sammy) Blalock,
brother to William McKesson Blalock.
The one thing the Blalocks
hadn’t counted on was where their new outfit was bound.
Instead of being sent to Virginia, the 26th was assigned to
Kinston, N.C. in the eastern part of the state, an area with
very little enemy activity at that time which put a serious kink
in Keith’s plan.
Keith turned out to be a better
soldier than expected being appointed a brevet sergeant almost
immediately. His men were fond of him and quick to obey his
orders. His standing order to “Sammy” was “he” was to
stay as close to him as possible.
In January of 1862, the 26th was
transferred to Camp Carolina in New Bern, N.C., near the Neuse
River. In a night operation Keith’s company received orders to
scout for enemy pickets they hope would lead them to the
location of General Ambrose Burnside’s regiments located
further up the coast.
A firefight soon broke out.
Keith and most of his men managed to make their way to the
safety of their side of the Neuse. However, much to his dismay,
upon reaching the shore, he found a wounded Malinda propped up
against a pine tree, a bullet embedded in her left shoulder.
Carrying her in his arms back to
camp he turned her over to the surgeon, Thomas J. Boykin.
Realizing their “secret” would soon become public knowledge,
Keith began devising a plan that would secure his release from
Confederate service. In the dead of night he slipped past his
own pickets looking for a bed of poison oak, prevalent in that
area. Stripping himself bare he rolled around in the toxic
substance for nearly thirty minutes. The next morning he
appeared for sick call with a high fever and a terrifying rash.
The surgeons, fearing an outbreak of small pox, authorized his
immediate medical discharge. This suited Keith’s purposes
perfectly but left Sammy/Malinda in a bind. Her wound was not
serious enough to garner her a discharge so she decided to
personally plead her case to Col. Vance, saying she wished to
accompany her brother home in order to care for him. Vance’s
first response was an adamant “no” but he did offer to make
Pvt. Blalock his orderly. Malinda knew the only thing left to do
was to reveal her gender to her commanding officer.
Vance had no recourse but to
send her home but not before demanding she return the $50.00
bounty she had received when she enlisted. There is a bit of
irony here. Malinda’s unit had received a unit citation issued
a year later for their bravery during the firefight in which she
was wounded. Her name is listed as “Mrs. L.M. Blaylock [sic]
1863-64…a record that still stands.
However the Blalock story does
not end here. Upon returning to Grandfather Mountain Keith
offered his services to the Union army becoming a recruiting
officer for the 10th Michigan Regiment. Essentially the Blalocks
became the “Bonnie and Clyde” of the western North Carolina
mountains, feared by secessionist and pro-Union alike.
Bushwhacking, thieving, and murder became their hallmark.
Although Malinda had no official standing in the Union army she
was always by her husband’s side as they made foray after
foray into the countryside terrorizing the locals as well as
their Yankee compatriots when the need arose.
In essence one could say Malinda
Pritchard Blalock served in both armies. When the war was
finally over the brazen young couple moved back to the cabin in
Watauga County to resume their lives as farmers. On March 19,
1903, Malinda died in her sleep of natural causes and was buried
in nearby Montezuma Cemetery. A heartbroken Keith moved in with
his son, Columbus, in nearby Hickory, N.C.
On April 11, 1913, Keith Blalock
was killed in a freak accident while pumping a hand car along a
local railroad. Rumors circulated that it was no accident but a
final payback for all the grief he and Malinda had brought to
Watauga County during the war. However nothing ever came of the
On April 14, 1913, William
McKesson (Keith) Blalock was laid to rest beside his beloved
Malinda. His headstone reads simply “Keith Blalock,
26th N.C Inf., CSA”
Submitted by Tonia J. Smith
As Seen at: http://www.ehistory.com/world/PeopleView.cfm?PID=92
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