At the outbreak of the war, Colonel Blacknall organized the ‘Granville Riflemen’ (Company G), 23d North Carolina, and was elected captain of the company. He rose rapidly to the colonelcy of the regiment. On the 19th of September, 1864, the 23d occupied, as a picket, the extreme outpost of Johnston's North Carolina brigade, and upon it fell the full force of the Federal onslaught. While the handful of ‘Tarheels’ were slowly retreating before the enemy's cavalry, Colonel Blacknall was mortally wounded. He was removed to Winchester, and when the Confederates retired up the Valley that night, he fell into the enemy's hands. To quote from his biographer:
Dying in the home of a Washington, and on the site of Washington's ancient fort, built in the French and Indian war, his death was in keeping with his picturesque career. Courage and command of faculty under fire distinguished Colonel Blacknall, even among Confederate officers, where the standard of manhood was as high as the world has seen. It is to be doubted if any officer of like rank in Lee's army had in greater measure the love and confidence of the private soldier. Handsome, eloquent, intellectual, gifted with singular charm of manner, and beloved by all men because his heart was as big as humanity, he has been termed by a comrade who knew him well in all the trying vicissitudes of a soldier's life, as the ideal Confederate officer, and by another, as one of the most chivalrous men he ever knew.And to this we may add, in the words of the great English poet:
His life was gentle; and the elements so mix'd in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, “ This was a man.”The story of the ‘Tarheels' thin gray line’ should be published in pamphlet form and placed in the hands of each and every North Carolina schoolboy.
R. D. Stewart. November 300th.