Mitchell County Families


Malinda Pritchard Blalock
(1842?-1901)
a.k.a. Sam Blalock
Female Veteran of the Civil War.

Sarah Malinda "Linda" Pritchard was born about 1839-42, daughter of Alfred Pritchard and Elizabeth Gragg. Malinda's grandfather, William Gragg, had been a solider in the American Revolution.

On 21 June 1856, in Watauga County, North Carolina, Linda married William McKesson Blalock, son of Mary Blalock. Blalock -- like Linda, the grandson of a Revolutionary War veteran -- was nicknamed "Keith" after Alfred Keith, "a well-known fighting man in the area." It is said that Blalock could "whip his weight in wildcats," and his boyfriend friends tagged him with the name "Keith" after the older fighter. The photo at left shows Linda holding a photo of her husband.

Keith and Linda were Union sympathizers, but Keith was in imminent danger of being drafted into the Confederate forces. They conceived a plan to enlist in the Confederate Army and bide their time until they could desert to the Union side. Accordingly, they joined the Company F of the 26th North Carolina Regiment on 20 March 1862 at Lenoir, Caldwell County. Linda disguised herself as a man, and enlisted under the name "Sam." During her time in the service, she shared a tent and mess with Keith, and "watched the men 'when they went in swimming' near Kinston, but never went in herself." The Blalocks soon found that their plan of desertion would not be easy to carry out, and rather than serve in the Confederate forces, Keith contrived a new plan to obtain a discharge: he rolled in poison oak (some say poison sumac), which produced running sores all over his body. He then presented himself to the company doctor with this affliction, along with the complaint of a hernia, and was promptly discharged.

Linda's discharge was less painful. She presented herself to Colonel Zebulon Vance and confessed that she was a woman. The company physician examined "Sam" and verified her confession, and she was discharged in time to return home with Keith. They had been in the army less than a month.

Life at home in the mountains was not free from danger and hardship, though. The brutal fighting of the war extended to homes and farms, as Confederates and "Federals" attacked each other. Soon enough, Confederate agents found that Keith was healthy, and ordered him to re-enlist. Keith and Malinda fled up Grandfather Mountain and hid out with other draft dodgers, but they were eventually found. Keith was wounded in the left arm and had to take refuge with some hogs that had "bedded up" in the rocks. He believed (nobody knows for sure) that Robert Green of Globe, Caldwell County, was the man who shot him, and later took the opportunity to shoot Green, who also survived.

The Blalocks then became roaming marauders in the mountains, and eventually joined up with Colonel George W. Kirk. (Col. Kirk was either a guerilla or a terrorist, depending on which side you sympathize with. Kirk's forces raided Confederate homes and farms in the mountains, terrorizing Confederate families. A similar role was performed on the other side by the Confederate Home Guard.) The Blalocks had particularly bad luck with the Moore family of Caldwell County. Malinda was wounded twice in one raid on the Moore farm, and Keith had his eye shot out in another.

The Blalocks gave as good as they got, however, and Keith is said to have been especially ruthless. He and Linda survived the war and returned to the area of the Grandfather, then in Mitchell County. In the 1890s they moved to Texas, but returned to Montezuma, in Linville Township, where they were living at the time of the 1900 Census.

Keith and Linda were the parents of five children, four of whom lived to adulthood, and lived to see some of their grandchildren. John Preston Arthur records that Linda died 29 March 1901, but her tombstone at Montezuma gives the date 9 May 1903. Keith survived in good health till 1913, and married his second wife, Martha Jane Hollifield, in 1908. In 1913, at the age of 77, he was pumping a handcar on a mountain railroad when it overshot a curve and plunged down the mountain. He was taken to his home, where he died of his injuries several days later.

See also: Blalock Family.
               John Blalock Family.



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This page last changed on 18 May 2004.



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