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by Holly Timm
[originally published 4 February 1987
Harlan Daily Enterprise Penny Pincher]
Benjamin F. Blankenship began the Civil War as a Major, commanding officer of the Harlan County Battalion, a state guard unit active from October of 1863 to January of 1864. From there he went to Captain of Company H of the 47th Kentucky Infantry, afterwards appearing as Captain of Company F of the Three Forks Battalion. Most Civil War military units, both state and federal, were composed of companies each raised from specific areas. The Harlan County Battalion companies were raised from various sections of Harlan County and neighboring creeks and hollows. Capt. Blankenship's companies in both the 47th and the Three Forks Battalion consisted primarily of men from the Poor Fork, stretching from mid-Harlan County into Letcher County.

Many men served under Blankenship more than once. Among these were William Blair; Thomas H. Clarkston; Clark, Samuel and Silas Cornett; Calvin and John Creech; William G. Dixon; James B. Franklin; Jesse, John and James Monroe Halcom; Garrard and Goodson Ingram; George W. Morgan and Allen Sergent. Albert Gilliam served under Blankenship in all three units, rising to the rank of corporal in Three Forks Company.

The Harlan County Battalion was active early in the war mostly in the mountains of Harlan and Letcher Counties. The 47th Kentucky saw service throughout the eastern half of the state, their primary duty being the protection of the citizens from raiding bands of rebels and outlaws. When the 47th was disbanded, several citizens wrote protesting it. They demanded protection from the roving bands of rebels and outlaws threatening their lives and property.

This may have been the reason for the activation of the Three Forks Battalion, a state unit. July 14, 1865, Major E. B. Treadway, commander of the Three Forks Battalion wrote Kentucky Governor Bramlett suggesting that three of his eight companies be retained for an additional two or three months. Treadway wrote that, "We have not yet established civil courts or even yet put down all the guerrillas in the counties of Harlan, Perry, Breathitt, Letcher, etc. There are reported to be three bands of guerrillas in those counties under the command of `Smith', `Osbern' and Dan `Jones.'

The suggested companies were Capt. James Eversole's Owsley County Company, Capt. William D. Cardwell's Perry County Company and Capt. Blankenship's Harlan county Company. His suggestion was apparently not followed as all but one of the companies mustered out on July 17th. The one exception was Capt. Blankenship's company. The Kentucky Adjutant General's Report added a notation to the roster for this company: "The captain of this company, with a detachment of his command, being in charge of certain prisoners of war, with orders to deliver them at Department Headquarters at Lexington, whilst en route from Irvine, murdered them; for which crime he was ordered to be arrested for trial.

"In order to evade the law and penalties for disobedience of orders, the captain marched his company to the extreme border of the state, preventing it from being present at Irvine at the time designated for rendezvous; it was therefore disbanded by order dated 17 July 1865."

Benjamin F. Blankenship was born Sep. 26, 1831, in Lee County, Va., son of Arthur and Lavina Muncy Blankenship. In 1852, he married in Harlan County to Elizabeth, daughter of John J. and Elizabeth Morgan Lewis. After the war, they lived for a while in Owsley County and later moved to Kansas where he died in Republic County on June 8, 1912.

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last edited 05 Jun 2008