North Carolina Patriots of ’61 – Private James W. Blanks, “Ashpole True Boys” of Robeson County
James W. Blanks was born in Robeson County and by occupation was a farmer when he enlisted on 10 March, 1862 at eighteen years of age. His unit, the “Ashpole True Boys” was mustered into State service at Wilmington on April 21, 1862 and assigned as Company F, Fifty-first North Carolina Regiment. The unit was comprised of men from Cumberland, Duplin, Sampson, Robeson, Columbus and New Hanover Counties. Private Blanks received a shoulder wound at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia on 16 May, 1864 and was hospitalized at Richmond – returning to duty on 23 June 1864. At the time of mustering, Captain Alfred B. Walter, a South Carolina-born resident of Robeson County commanded the company.
The Fifty-first North Carolina Regiment was commanded by Colonel John Lucas Cantwell of Wilmington (after 1 October 1864 by Lt-Col. William A. Allen), and Col. Hector McKethan of Fayetteville. Col. Cantwell led the 30th North Carolina Militia on April 16, 1861, ordered by Governor John W. Ellis to “seize Forts Caswell and Johnston without delay and hold them until further orders against all comers,” at the mouth of the Cape Fear River.
This Fifty-first Regiment saw extensive action in South Carolina at Battery Wagner, and in Virginia at Petersburg, Second Cold Harbor, Fort Harrison – ending the war with Gen. Thomas Clingman’s Brigade (under Gen. Robert F. Hoke) at Forks Road near Wilmington, Southwest Creek, Bentonville, and finally with Gen. Joe Johnston’s forces.
Severely decimated in the Virginia campaign from 15 May to 1 October 1864, the regiment went from 1,100 officers and men to 145 effectives with many companies without commissioned officers and in many cases commanded by corporals. Private Blanks survived the war.
(Sources: Fifty-first Regiment, by A.A. McKethan, Clark’s Regimental Histories; North Carolina Company F, 51st Regiment History, Joan Oxendine, RootsWeb.Ancestry.com)
Submitted by Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director, Cape Fear Historical Institute