I’m sure most, if not all, of you have seen this story. A barber in Pembroke, VA, Clate Dolinger, says the three men in the iconic Matthew Brady photograph of three confederate prisoners on Seminary Ridge, were relatives of his.
Mr. Dolinger claims, “The soldier on the right is Andrew Blevins, and he was my granddaddy’s granddaddy.” and “The one on the left is his son, Ephraim Blevins, and the one in the middle is my grandmother’s great-uncle, John Baldwin.”
According to this story, ” ‘The first time I saw that picture, it was 1949,’ Dolinger said. He was only about 9 or 10 years old and his grandmother sat him down and pointed to the three rugged-looking men in the photograph, identifying each by name.
“She told him that on the far right was Dolinger’s great-great-grandfather, Andrew Blevins, who served with the North Carolina 30th Infantry Regiment. Next to him was John Baldwin, a distant relative on Dolinger’s grandmother’s side, who served with the Virginia 50th Infantry, and next to him was Andrew Blevin’s son, Ephraim, who served with North Carolina’s 37th Infantry.”
Mr. Dolinger has a family photo to back up his claim.
” ‘These are my kin,’ Dolinger said.”
More information is given in this story. “Union soldiers during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, captured Dolinger’s great, great grandfather Andrew Blevins, of the North Carolina 30th Infantry Regiment; his son, Ephraim, of North Carolina’s 37th Infantry Regiment; and the Virginia 50th Infantry Regiment’s John Baldwin, a great, great uncle on his grandmother’s side.”
According to this story, “As prisoners of war, the men were ordered to burial detail, and they collected items from the dead to prepare for their inevitable interment. These items can be seen in the photo.
“The three spent the remaining years of the Civil War in a POW camp in Delaware.”
However, there are still questions about the identities of the men in the photo, as we can see here. In his book, Gettysburg: A Journey in Time, on page 71, William A. Frassanito tells us, “The fact that these three prisoners were photographed by Brady on Seminary Ridge approximately two weeks after the battle indicates that they may have been stragglers, captured during Union mop-up operations somewhere along either the Chambersburg Pike or Hagerstown Road, Lee’s main routes of retreat. Certainly it was just by chance that the prisoners happened to be on Seminary Ridge when Brady was working in the same area; as the exposure was made, Union guards undoubtedly stood only feet away.
“Quite conceivably this view was recorded on July 15, the same day Brady is believed to have photographed the nearby headquarters of General Lee. If this is correct, then the soldiers pictured here were very likely among the twenty-five hundred Confederate prisoners transferred the following day, July 16, from Gettysburg toward Washington and thence to prison camps throughout the North.”
What do you think? Is Mr. Dolinger’s family lore correct? There are certainly plenty of facts available in the story that can be checked out.
According to the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database operated by the National Park Service, the records for Andrew Blevins were originally filed under Andrew Blevens. He was a private in Company G, 30th North Carolina Infantry. Ephraim Blevins was a private in Company K, 37th North Carolina Infantry. John Baldwin was a private who served in Companies B and H, 50th Virginia Infantry.
The Roster of North Carolina Troops confirms that Andrew Blevins died of the wounds he received at Chancellorsville.
If we look at the alternative spelling, “Blevens,” then Andrew Blevens is still a private in Company G, 30th North Carolina Infantry. The Roster of North Carolina Troops shows no Andrew Blevens in Company G, so it appears Andrew Blevins is the correct soldier, and he was dead when the Battle of Gettysburg occurred.
The Roster of North Carolina Troops shows Ephraim Blevins enlisted August 15, 1862 from Ashe County. This is different from what was shown for his alleged father, Andrew Blevins, who enlisted September 27, 1862 from Wilkes County.