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History of Watauga County, North Carolina

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Watauga County, North Carolinamap
Surname/tag: Blalock, Blaylock
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Arthur, John Preston. History of Watauga County, North Carolina. Richmond: Everett Waddey Company, 1915. Pg. 160

Excerpt about Keith Blalock:

From A History of Watauga County by John Preston Arthur, Richmond 1915.

“Keith and Malinda probably would have set out the war on their farm under Grandfather Mountain if it had not been for the conscription. Knowing he had to enlist or be arrested, Keith chose to enlist. He was a union sympathizer and hoped to be able to slip over to the Union side when the opportunity presented itself. Not wanting to be left behind, Malinda cut off her hair, put on men’s clothing, and enlisted, too. This was possible as physical exams were not being done in that area and many young boys were enlisting, so she was able to pass as Keith’s brother “Sam.” They had volunteered at Kingston, NC, joining the 26th NC regiment, then commanded by Col. Zebulon B. Vance, soon afterwards to become governor. This was on 12 April 1862. They shared the same tent, and Malinda participated in all the drills, being as good a shot as most men.

“After it became apparent that the regiment Keith was with was not going to be near enough to the Union troops to allow him to cross over, he hit upon the plan of going into the swamp and rubbing himself down with poison oak, coming down with such a horrendous rash that the camp doctor couldn’t diagnose it, and fearful that it might be contagious, gave Keith a medical discharge. Malinda immediately went to Col. Vance and presented proof “strong as proof of holy writ” (that she was a woman) and was sent home.

“Keith’s stepfather, Austin Coffey, was also a union sympathizer. Austin’s brother, McCaleb, was a confederate sympathizer, and his other two brothers, William and Reuben, were strongly pro-Confederate and active in forcing outlyers and others subject to conscription into the ranks of the Confederate army. [My note: Reuben and his wife had four sons, no daughters. Three of their sons were killed in the war and the fourth was severely wounded. Reuben moved out of the area after the war.]

“Meanwhile, Keith’s rash had cleared up, and he was being hounded by the group which William and Reuben were a part of. Keith and Malinda retreated farther up on the Grandfather where others were who were seeking to avoid conscription. On one occasion Keith was so hotly pursued that he was shot in the left arm and had to take refuge in a hog pen to keep from being found. After that he went thru the lines into Tennessee and became a recruiting officer for a Michigan regiment stationed in Tennessee. He guided men across the mountains who wanted to enlist with the Union.

“Keith believed that Robert Green was in the party that wounded him, so one day when he and some of his comrades met Green while he was driving his wagon from the Globe to Blowing Rock, Keith shot Green as he ran down the mountain, breaking his thigh. Green’s friends claimed that Keith left him lying there to die, but Keith’s friends say that after shooting him, he put him back in his wagon and started the team in the direction of Green’s home.

“In 1863 the General Assembly of NC created the Home Guard, a group composed of males from 18 to 50 who weren’t in the army. By the spring of 1864 the Union forces were becoming much more bold in the mountains. Col. Kirk made a raid on Camp Vance in NC and this further emboldened the Unionists in Watauga County. Keith went about in Federal uniform, fully armed. Between August 1864 and February 1865 the people of this section were harassed beyond measure, being raided not only by the deserters and outlyers but also by a body of men calling themselves Vaughan’s Cavalry and claiming to be Confederates. These men stole horses and mules and everything else they fancied. What they did not take, they destroyed. (My note: from other accounts, it would seem as if Keith and his group [which always included Malinda] were as bad as any of the others, showing no mercy and destroying what they could not use on the excuse that these people were Confederate sympathizers and he was under orders to conduct guerrilla warfare against them).

“Keith went in search of Reuben Coffey. Not finding him home, he want to the home of William Coffey and forced him to go to James Gragg’s mill where Keith had one of his men shoot him. Keith didn’t do it himself since William was the brother of Austin. [My note: some accounts claim that the three men who took William Coffey there [one of which was Keith] all shot him in the chest.]

“In 1864 Keith and his group went to Carroll Moore’s farm and had a battle with them in which Jesse Moore was wounded and Keith had an eye shot out and his wrist badly wounded by a bullet. This took place in Globe in Caldwell County. {My note: in The Making of Legends, p. 71, by Mark Dugan, it states the Moore’s were members of the Home Guard and that Keith went there on orders of 1st Lieutenant James Hartley of the 2nd Regiment, NC Mounted Infantry to raid Moore’s home and capture Home Guard members. Keith was shot in the face and wrist by Jesse Moore during this raid.

“After this Austin Coffey was taken prisoner by a group which included John Boyd, who was the one who recognized Austin. Boyd left Austin with the party of Captain James Marlow, that being February 26, 1865. Nothing more was seen of Austin till a search party sent out by his wife found his body. It later came out that a man named John Walker was ordered to shoot Austin as he lay sleeping, but refused. The job fell to Robert Glass (alias Anders), and then the body was taken to a laurel thicket and hidden. A week later a dog was seen with a human hand in his mouth and the body was found.

“When Keith Blalock was told that John Boyd had arrested Austin Coffey and that Coffey was dead, he swore he would kill Boyd if it took forty years after the war to do so. On the evening of February 8, 1866, when Boyd and William T. Blair were going from a house on which they had been at work, they met Blalock and Thomas Wright in a narrow path at the head of the Globe. Blalock asked, “Is that you, Boyd?” and Boyd answered, “Yes,” at the same time striking Blalock with a cane, the blow being aimed at his head. Blalock caught the blow on his left wrist, ran backwards a few steps and shot Boyd dead with a seven-shooting Sharp’s rifle. Keith made Blair turn Boyd’s body over, and finding he was dead, turned and left the scene, stopping at Noah White’s house to tell him what had been done. Blalock was examined before the Provost Marshal at Morgantown, and he sent the case to Judge Mitchell at Statesville, but Governor Holden pardoned him before trial” ….end of article.

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