Rebels in Blue: The Story of Keith and Malinda Blalock

Peter F. Stevens, Author Taylor Trade Publishing $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-87833-166-6
Mountaineers and avowed Unionists from western North Carolina, the Blalocks were married on the eve of the Civil War and hoped to avoid the coming trouble. Keith was nevertheless coerced into joining the Confederate army, and Malinda disguised herself and went along; both entered the 26th North Carolina regiment. In March 1862, Malinda was wounded in a skirmish, unmasked and quickly discharged, whereupon her husband deliberately rolled in some poison oak, feigned ""swamp fever"" and was allowed to join her. Veteran features journalist Stevens (The Mayflower Murderer) tracks the Blalocks back to their mountain, where they apprehensively looked on as Southern conscription officers combed the region for ""cannon fodder."" As local men joined both sides, Keith's family pressured him to reenlist. Deserters and Unionists took to hiding in the hills, and when a rebel group came to grab Keith, the Blalocks joined the outlaws, sniping at rebel soldiers, raiding their enemies' farms and houses and generally raising a ruckus. Keith eventually joined the 10th Michigan Cavalry, and both Blalocks led daring raids and scouting missions into North Carolina. While Stevens has not focused on the emotional vicissitudes or gender-identity implications of the Blalock marriage, he has mined a wealth of sources, including interviews with descendants, to construct a carefully detailed and often absorbing account of how the Civil War affected an often forgotten region. He continues the Blalocks' tale into the postwar years, highlighting Keith's struggle to keep his monthly pension from the government for his wartime service. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 05/01/1999
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