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The Iredell Blues

Iredell Blues 1890

The Iredell County Public Library Local History Department recently received a donation of a rare invitation to a banquet meeting of the Iredell Blues in 1883. The document was donated by Iredell County Civil War and Iredell Blues expert Ken Byers. Byers received the article from a man named William F. Taylor, a resident of the Boston Massachusetts historical district called Jamaica Plain. How it ended up in Massachusetts we have no idea. The invitation reads, “1840 – 1883, Annual Banquet of the Iredell Blues, May 10th, 7.30 O’Clock P.M., St. Charles Hotel, Statesville, N.C. You are Cordially Invited to Attend.” The envelope it was mailed in is missing, but it must have been sent sometime prior to May 10, 1883. The invitation was scanned for preservation, then framed and hung in the Local History Room for viewing.

Iredell Blues Invitation 1883The Iredell Blues served as Statesville’s militia company for eighty years beginning in 1840. It was formally organized by the North Carolina General Assembly on December 12, 1842 under the command of Captain John A. Young. It was one of two volunteer militia companies (the other was the “Saltillo Boys”) in Iredell County. The militias were a made up of local volunteers and were a forerunner of today’s National Guard units. The Iredell Blues served in the Civil War, Spanish-American War, the border war with Mexico in 1916, and World War I.

Civil War Action began for the Iredell Blues on April 20, 1861, when the “Blues” enlisted for twelve months service in the Confederate army and were designated “Captain Absalom K. Simonton Company, 52nd Regiment, N.C. Volunteer Militia.” The Company was moved to Fort Caswell, near Wilmington for training. On May 29 the men reenlisted for the duration of the war. In June they joined the 4th Regiment N.C. State Troops as Company A along with the Saltillo Boys and another company started in north Iredell by John H. Dalton. Absalom Knox Simonton represented Iredell County in the North Carolina House of Commons in 1858 and 1860. Simonton was killed at the age of 27 at the Battle of Seven Pines, Virginia on May 31, 1862 when General Joseph E. Johnston attacked part of the Federal army that had crossed the Chickahominy River. Nine other members of the Iredell Blues were killed in the same battle.

After the Civil War the Iredell Blues continued to train and serve when needed. The men in their gallant uniforms were the pride of Iredell County, marching in parades and taking part in other civic activities. The Iredell Blues returned to wartime duty when the Spanish-American War broke out. The Blues left Statesville on May 2, 1898 under Captain R.L. Flanigan and were organized into Company E of the First North Carolina Regiment of Volunteers and later sent to Havana, Cuba as part of the army of occupation. The following April they were mustered out after less than a year of service with the only casualties having been due to typhoid and malaria.

 In 1914 the Blues were called to duty in the Mexican War. Once again the Iredell Blues were taken over by the Federal government while they were in camp at Camp Glenn near Morehead City in response to trouble at Tampico, Mexico. Tensions soon eased and the Blues were never sent into action. In 1916 the Francisco Villa raids into northern Mexico and New Mexico again resulted in the Federal government calling the Iredell Blues into service. They were under Captain William Westmoreland at the time, and after receiving three months of training at Camp Glenn they were sent to El Paso, Texas under General Fredrick Funston. They returned in February 1917 having lost only one man due to a drowning accident.

Iredell Blues World War IWorld War I brought the Iredell Blues back into wartime action and would lead to the unit’s final demise. The Blues answered the call to duty in World War I in April 1917. The men left Camp Sevier near Greenville, S.C. in September with 150 men and were absorbed into the 30th Division, known as Old Hickory in honor of President Andrew Jackson. The men were divided into different companies with 40 going to a machine gun battalion, 78 to an ammunition train, and the rest dispersed among other units. The 30th Old Hickory Division entered into battle in France on July 9, 1918. The 30th Division advanced 20 miles, captured 98 enemy officers, 3,750 enlisted men, 72 artillery pieces, 26 French mortars and 426 machine guns while suffering 8,415 casualties. The Iredell Blues ceased to exist after they were absorbed into the 30th Division during World War I, thus ending their long years of service. When the war ended the unit was not reorganized and in years to come National Guard Units would serve to take their place.