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Confederate Volunteering and Enlistment in Ashe County, North Carolina, 1861-1862 Martin Crawford Alfred Blevins was twenty-seven years old when the Civil War began. A tenant farmer, he lived with his young wife, Margary, and their infant daughter in the Southeastern district of Ashe County, North Carolina. The Blevins's economic resources were meagre: aside from their own labor, the 1860 census revealed no land ownership and personal property valued at only fifty dollars. Much of this was in the shape of livestock, including a milk cow, five sheep, and nine pigs. The Blevins owned no slaves, nor did any of their immediate kinfolk.1 After North Carolina's secession in May 1861, Alfred Blevins declined to respond to the governor 's call for military volunteers. Although nothing is known of his political affiliations nor of his views on the disunion crisis, Blevins's decision was probably not based on any principled opposition to the Southern cause. At least two of his unmarried brothers, Felix and Horton, who were still living with their parents, joined the first wave of North Carolina Confederate recruits in the spring of 1861, while his sister Easther's husband, Reuben Sexton, enlisted in August. A third brother, Albert, volunteered in the following spring.2 An earlier version of this essay was delivered to the Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting, St. Louis, 1989. 1 am grateful to session commentators Eric Foner and Lawrence N. Powell, and also to Richard Blackett, John C. lnscoe, and Gordon B. McKinney, for helpful criticism and advice. 1 Information on the Blevins family is derived from the following sources: U.S. Census, Ashe County, North Carolina, 1860, Population, Agricultural, and Slave Schedules; Ruth W. Shepherd, ed., The Heritage ofAshe County, North Carolina . . . (Winston-Salem, N.C: Hunter Publishing Co., 1984), 168; Wade Edward Eller, "Collection of History and Geneology of Ashe County," North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Raleigh. 2 Louis H. Manarin and Weymouth T. Jordan, comps. and eds., North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster, 12 vols. (Raleigh: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1966- ), vol. 7, Infantry: 469-70; vol. 9, Infantry: 482. Two other brothers, Daniel and Calvin, also probably served in North Carolina regiments. Civil War History, Vol. XXXVIl, No. 1, ® 1991 by the Kent State University Press 30CIVIL WAR HISTORY In August 1862, however, well over a year after the commencement of the war, Alfred Blevins, together with several of his relations, journeyed to Iredell County where they enlisted in Company K (the "Alleghany Tigers") of the 37th North Carolina Regiment. As part of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, Blevins participated in many of the major battles of the conflict, including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Spotsylvania Court House. Promoted to a sergeant in November 1862, he was reduced to the ranks the following summer "for disobeying orders." Blevins sustained two incapacitating injuries, both of which necessitated convalescent leave. The first wound, in his right thigh, occurred at Gettysburg, where all three of his brothers were also seriously injured, and the second, in his left hand, at Jericho Mills, Virginia, in 1864. Unlike many of his fellow recruits who used the opportunity of leave to desert, Private Blevins rejoined his regiment on both of these occasions. On April 9, 1865, in company with twentyfive thousand other veterans of Lee's campaigns, he surrendered to Federal forces at Appomattox Court House and returned home.3 Alfred Blevins's military record, which mirrored that of thousands of other Confederate soldiers of similar class and circumstance, provides some evidence of the Civil War's impact on the individual, his family, and their community. In a remarkable letter home from his winter quarters near Petersburg, Virginia, on New Year's Eve, 1864, Blevins offered a tantalizing glimpse of the psychological and material deprivation that the military conflict engendered in its individual participants. The immediate cause of Blevins's reflections was hunger. "Men can't stay here and fight and work and not eat," he told his Uncle James Blevins. "I tell you they can't and won't." But beyond this provocation, Blevins had clearly become disillusioned both with the Confederate...


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