On March 20, 1862, Malinda Blalock disguised herself as a young man and enlisted in the Confederate army. Malinda and her husband Keith were Unionists from Watauga County. Keith was pressured by recruiters to join the Confederate army, which he did with the intention of deserting into federal lines at the first opportunity.
Stories differ as to whether Keith was aware of Malinda’s intentions, but the more romantic version is that Keith looked over at the private walking next to him and did a double-take when he recognized his wife, who had cut her waist-length hair and donned baggy men’s clothing to become “Sam” Blalock. Sam Blalock, purportedly Keith’s brother, was described as “a good looking boy aged 16.”
Keith and Malinda served in Company F of the 26th Regiment, and shared a tent in Kinston during training. Malinda performed all of the duties of a soldier and did not raise suspicions. When Keith realized that they would not easily be able to desert, he obtained a medical discharge by creating a severe rash, rubbing poison oak or sumac all over his body. At that point “Sam” revealed his secret and was discharged. Keith was soon pursued as a deserter.
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