The Black Confederate Experience

from “Forgotten Confederates:
An Anthology about Black Southerners”
Compiled and Edited
Charles Kelly Barrow
J.H. Segars and R.B. Rosenburg
Journal of Confederate History Series Vol. XIV
Copyright 1995 Southern Heritage Press Post Office Box 347163
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Teen Blackburn
38th North Carolina

The last actual personality known to have performed as a body servant, in the usual sense of the term, for the C.S.A. was Hamptonville, Yadkin County, North Carolina’s “Uncle Teen” Blackburn. His place in American and Confederate history is solid, for he was for over nine months the Old North State’s lone surviving Confederate veteran following the demise of Samuel N. Bennett of Relief, who had served as a youthful private in Company K, 25th North Carolina infantry, and died March 8, 1951, at age 100 years, 10 months, and 4 days.

Born April 26, 1842, Blackburn was one of some 250 slaves employed on the estates of the Hampton and Cowles Families. With nineteen antebellum years, Teen held vivid memories of those early yuletide holidays, when the two families would each place a huge oak log in their spacious fireplaces and festively celebrate as long as the logs lasted, usually three full days. Having always been dealt with fairly, young Teen was glad enough to go along to the war with his assigned soldier. The timing of that assignment came early in January 1862, when Col. W.H.H. Cowles had Teen accompany his son-in-law, 2nd Lt. Augustus W. Blackburn. Then he shortly repaired directly to Camp Mangum near Raleigh to train with Company B, 38th North Carolina Infantry, commanded by Major J.J. Iredell.

Teen was just nineteen and already legendary for his ox-like strength. He became Lieutenant Blackburn’s personal bodyguard, cook, and helper. It is also believed that at times Teen helped a number of other soldiers of the 38th North Carolina through much of their service in Virginia for upwards of two years, until Captain Blackburn, wounded and weakened, reluctantly gave in and allowed himself to be furloughed back to Hamptonville either to recuperate or to die early. Thus, toward the close of hostilities, Teen was already back where he had grown up. The families there were ever after highly appreciative of Teen’s own contributions. Perhaps Uncle Teen’s favorite story of all was of the time he took up a sword, drew it against an oncoming Yankee, and thus surely saved the life of Captain Blackburn at Second Manassas.

With peace restored, Teen found work on farms. Soon, however, he began carrying the mails by foot, from Hamptonville to Statesville, way south into Iredell County, and he walked this route for forty years. Then for another twenty years he carried the mail from Yadkinville to Jonesville, off to the northwest; but in this route, most of the time, he regaled in the luxury of a mule (or horse) and buggy. It is evident that walking great distances on a frequent basis was a decided factor in keeping his circulatory system in top condition; this very thing one of the “secrets” of his longevity and of so many of his fellow body servants. In the meantime, while still a young man, he had married Lucy Carson of Hamptonville. They raised four sons and three daughters and shared some seventy matrimonial years. Their home was on the north-south Statesville-Elkin highway near Hamptonville. He lived in Haptonville for over a century.

It is said that Teen Blackburn walsed daily to Mr. G.C. Wallace’s Store, which Teen called “town,” to pick up his newspaper, The Yadkin Ripple, and sometimes to buy a plug of tobacco. He also enjoyed reading The Progressive Farmer magazine. It is also said that his children repaid their father’s labors by becoming upstanding citizens: schoolteachers, principals, mail carriers, one becoming a policeman in Washington (Beaufort County). One of the great centers of their lives was Flat Rock Baptist Church in Yadkin County.

Something of a local sage, he was known widely for his wisdom and humility and for the ability to look into the future. Whenever somebody was sick, he was one of the first in the community to stay up nights with the afflicted. There was, too, about Uncle Teen a buoyant charm that “came through” in a disarming number of ways. This truth is reflected in what Lewis S. Brumfield, a genealogical researcher of Yadkinville, came across recently: Teen’s 1941 income tax return, whereon he listed his occupation as “Confederate Soldier (Retired).”

Having been a body servant, Uncle Teen qualified for a Class B Confederate (state) pension of $26.26 monthly. At least North Carolina recognized and rewarded her body servants. The Federal government gave them nothing until it was too late, 1953! However, these veterans were awarded by their respective state governments a final recognition: $100 for burial expenses, the same as for Class-A Confederate veterans. A devote Christian and of jolly disposition, Uncle Teen was one of the Old North State’s last known citizens who had been a slave. He was a Class-A American. Like so many Old Rebs and Old Reb body servants befroe him, Uncle Teen Blackburn, Yadkin County’s eldest citizen at the time, went down in the grand manner. He died in his own house in his own bed, the ultimate poem.

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