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Monroe Blue and his Adventures as a Confederate Soldier

May 15, 2012

The last blog told about Abner Blue and his work with the Underground Railroad, helping escaping slaves pass from northern Indiana into southern Michigan on their way to Canada. Today’s post is about one of Abner’s distant cousins, Monroe Blue, and his experience as a Confederate soldier.

At the start of the Civil War, the people of Virginia were split about whether or not to secede from the Union. The state was also split geographically by the Allegheny Mountains. Generally speaking, the people west of the Allegheny range wanted to stay with the North and the people east of the mountains voted to secede. This led the counties in the west to vote to create their own state named West Virginia. The state was admitted into the Union in 1863. Hampshire County, even though it was right on the eastern boundary of the Alleghenies, voted to go with West Virginia.

In the eBook, “History of Hampshire County, West Virginia, from its earliest settlement to the present” by Hu Maxwell and Howard Llewellyn Swisher, 1897; found on Google eBooks, the authors wrote, “It should not be understood, however, that there was no sympathy with the south in this state [the newly formed state of West Virginia]. As nearly as can be estimated, the number who took sides with the south, in proportion to those who upheld the union, was as one to six. The people generally were left to choose. Efforts were made at the same time to raise soldiers for the south and for the north, and those who did not want to go one way were at liberty to go the other. In the eastern part of the state [of West Virginia, where Hampshire County is] considerable success was met in enlisting volunteers for the confederacy; but in the western counties there were hardly any who went south.” (p. 159)

John Lawson Blue and Eliza Blue Monroe were born in Hampshire County, Virginia and lived there throughout their lives. When West Virginia split off from Virginia during the Civil War some of the Blue family living in Hampshire County fought for the South. Their son, Monroe, fought for the Confederacy. Monroe was born in 1841 and died in 1864 as a result of the war.

He originally served in Company A of the 33rd Virginia Infantry and later was part of the 18th Virginia Cavalry. In History of Hampshire County, there is quite a detailed report of Monroe’s experiences as a soldier:

Death of Monroe Blue

The escape from prison and the subsequent death in battle of Lieutenant Monroe Blue have been already spoke of in the history of the company to which he belonged; but the subject demands a more extended notice, as he was one of the bravest soldiers Hampshire sent into the field. Lieutenant Blue was one of a party of confederate prisoners who were confined at Johnson’s Island, in the state of New York. After being in prison ten months, the order came to remove them to Fort Delaware, a prison near Philadelphia. For a long time Lieutenant Blue had meditated escape, but the opportunity did not come while at Johnson’s Island. When placed on the train for the trip to Fort Delaware he undertook to cut a hole through the bottom of the car. He had hacked the edge of his pocket knife and had converted it into a saw. He was making good progress toward cutting through when the guard discovered him, and his plan was frustrated. He then resorted to the more desperate expedient of knocking down the sentinel on the platform and jumping off. The bell rope was cut by some one at the same time, and the signal to stop the train could not be given. The leap from the cars somewhat injured his side and hip, falling as he did upon the rails of the double track at that point. But in the excitement of the moment, and in his eagerness to see his native hills, he forgot his injuries. He fortunately escaped being shot, although the sentinel on the next platform fired at him at close range. The Yankee whom he had knocked down could not regain his feet in time to fire; and the train could not be stopped. He, therefore, made his escape for the present. This occurred at a point in Pennsylvania about seventy miles west of Harrisburg. After getting free from the train guard, he still had dangers innumerable and hardships appalling ahead of him. The stoutest heart might have yielded to despair. He was in the enemy’s country, and every man’s hand was against him. He was without money. It was in the dead of winter. If he remained in the woods he was in danger of starving and freezing. If he ventured to houses for food he was liable to arrest. He set forward in a southerly direction, and traveled days and nights, by field, wood, road, path, and wilderness. Four times in the four days hunger drove him to houses for food. He passed himself as a railroad hand and was kindly received. When he slept an hour or two occasionally from sheer exhaustion, he wrapped himself in his overcoat and lay upon the frozen ground. When he was obliged to pass a town he usually did so at night; but he walked through Bedford in the day time. In four days and nights he walked one hundred and fifty miles, and finally reached his home in Hampshire county. His relatives were taken by surprise. They had supposed him dead.

 Detachments of federal troops at that time were overrunning Hampshire. Among them was Averell, with his cavalry, passing through on one of that general’s accustomed dashing movements. Although Lieutenant Blue was weary and footsore, he did not hesitate to do all he could to retard the progress of the Yankee general. He succeeded in blockading a point on Averell’s line of march so securely that rocks had to be blasted before the union troops got through. Lieutenant Blue soon joined his regiment, and on June 5, 1864, took part in the battle of New Hope, in Augusta county. At the commencement of the fight some of the dismounted officers of the brigade were ordered to take command of the dismounted men and deploy them as skirmishers, but they all seemed slow in obeying the command. Lieutenant Blue sprang from his horse and said he would lead the dismounted men. He thus entered the battle, but never returned. As he was leading his men he was shot through the neck and fell dead. On that day died as brave a soldier as ever gave up his life on the field of battle.  

More about this battle, the Battle of Piedmont, can be found here.

From → Aderman/Bates

  1. shenandoah1864 permalink

    The Staunton Vindicator reported in late 1866 that Lt. Blue was among a large number of Confederate dead moved from Piedmont to Thornrose Cemetery. All but six were unknown. Blue’s identity was known because Col. Jake Campbell of the 54th PA knew the family and had it marked after the battle ended.

    • Thank you for this information. I was recently in a conversation with someone about Monroe’s burial place and I did not know the answer. I appreciate this!

    • I just finished writing a post to be published on June 5 about my distant cousin, Monroe Blue and the Battle of Piedmont. Your books, especially “The Battle of Piedmont and Hunter’s Raid on Staunton” were great reading as I explored the battle. Thank you for sharing your research with the rest of us. I quoted your work regarding Monroe Blue’s death in my post, adding an image of your book cover and a link to buy it on Amazon.

      Thank you again for sharing his burial information. I do not know how I would have ever discovered it without your research and willingness to share it.

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