Some thoughts on “Galvanized Yankees” and Unionist sentiment

Originally posted on 3/25/09 in Cenantua’s Blog:

How many folks actually realize how many “galvanized Yankees” there really were? They’re a fascinating bunch of people, really. Up until a few years ago, I didn’t really think a great deal about them. I might see one here or there while combing through Confederate service records, but I never got up the energy to really investigate until about four years ago. It’s a tough bunch of guys to figure out in terms of loyalties. How many, for example, signed-on to the United States Volunteers simply because they felt their odds far better than stuck in a prisoner-of-war camp and how many signed-on because their loyalties were really with the U.S. to begin with? Then, on top of this, when we realize that a “galvanized Yankee” received a pension, does it mean that he REALLY was a Unionist? Think about it. On one hand, you have someone who has to go through a lot of hoops to get a pension for his service in the Union army. To satisfy a very discriminating pension board, the former Confederate soldier had to prove to the board that his service was really involuntary. If one could not show that they did not “bear arms against the United States voluntarily,” the pension application was going to be rejected. On the other hand, if someone was hard-up for some money, “swallowing the dog” one more time to get some cash to help make ends meet wasn’t all that bad. Like I said, they are a hard group to get your thoughts around when trying to get a grip on wartime sentiments/loyalties, but a fascinating group nonetheless. (Incidentally, this is a good online piece by Michèle T. Butts about how “Galvanized Yankees” came to be).

On that note… looking for a quick distraction from thesis work late Monday night, I slipped over into my account and started doing a few searches. Looking back through my wife’s family tree, I remembered that she had an ancestor who “joined the U.S. service” after just over two years of service in gray… and quite honestly… surprise, surprise… he was from an area in Alabama that just happened to have some differences in sentiment.

Hiram Fikes was born February 15, 1827 in Lexington, South Carolina, a son of John Fikes. A farmer by occupation, he didn’t enlist for the first time until April 10, 1862 (this was, by the way, around the time the first Confederate conscription act was being enforced; although there is nothing to show one way or the other how/if this impacted Fikes’ enlistment/enrollment), and when he did enlist it was only in a 90-day unit; the 4th Alabama Volunteer Militia (Byrd’s Regiment), Captain John Moore’s Company. He was sick-in-quarters 6/25/62 and had no further record with the unit. Nonetheless, he pops up again on the rolls of Co. H, 40th Alabama having enlisted (or having been “enrolled”) in Perry Co., Alabama (that is where he resided at the opening of the war) in March 1863. There is some confusion as to how the regiment was employed around the time of his service; one part detailed for service in Georgia, while the other part was in Vicksburg. It looks like Hiram was in the Vicksburg detachment for it is there that he was captured by the 15th Corps and was paroled on 7/9/63. Returning to service, once again, he was with the 40th Alabama again when he was captured at Big Shanty, Ga. on 6/15/64. This time the Federals didn’t mess around, and he was sent to Rock Island, Illinois by way of Louisville, Ky. In four months, he was released on oath, having signed-on with Co. I, 3rd United States Volunteers.

A card from Fikes' service record with the 3rd USVLooking at his service cards for this unit, it appears that Hiram was an average looking fellow, with blue eyes, dark hair, light complexion, and 5’6″. He was mustered-in on October 31, 1864, and… this part always interests me (former Confederates being credited to areas to satisfy enrollment numbers)… he was credited as a recruit to Elk, Clarion County, Pennsylvania. The 3rd USV more or less hung out at Rock Island for sometime before being sent out to the Dakota Territory in 1865. While there, it appears, at least from his service records, that his service went without incident. In May 1865, he was listed as on daily duty as the company cook (hard-pressed, I’m sure, as a Southerner on duty in the Dakota Territory finding foodstuff that would be satisfying to a Southerner!). He was detached at the Sweet Water detachment on June 4. Soon after this (July 1865), fourteen men from Co. I got into a scrape with the Sioux and Cheyenne heading east to Fort Laramie, but I have no idea if Fikes was among the fourteen men (my guess is that he wasn’t). Other than the detached service at the Sweet Water detachment, there really isn’t a great deal to note from his service records until he was mustered-out at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas on November 29, 1865 (although he did have a stoppage of pay for damaging the property of another member of the unit… don’t ask, I have no idea what that was all about). He headed back to Mississippi and there, rejoined his wife Polly and their children. He applied for a pension (oh now, hold on a second… a pension for his service in the Union, not the Confederate army) on August 18, 1892 (application #1126.495) under “Law J” and received one (certificate #1069.626). He died on October 20, 1903 in Fulton, Itawamba County, Mississippi and was buried in the Harden Chapel Cemetery. His wife applied for a widow’s pension (app. #797.144) on December 31, 1903, and received one (cert. #744.318). She died on February 20, 1925.

I don’t see him as a disaffected Confederate, but perhaps a disillusioned Confederate. Likewise, he probably wasn’t a Southern Unionist in the extreme sense, but maybe he was a conditional Unionist who opted for the Confederacy initially. Yet, as he saw the writing on the wall, especially as a POW, maybe, at heart, he was just a realistic self-preservationist, looking at things in terms of his own best interests and that of his wife and children who were back in Alabama when all of these decisions were made. It’s clear that I need to look into the pension record and see what the testimonials have to say about his “loyalties” and how he got around the “not having borne arms voluntarily against the United States” thing.

52 Responses to “Some thoughts on “Galvanized Yankees” and Unionist sentiment”

  1. jim Power Says:

    My research for the book, “A Respectable Minority in the South During the Civil War” led me to many records of N. AL. members in Union service, even an attempt to secede from the state and set up a free state. N/E MS. had many loyalists and I believe it was in Ittawamba County where there were 4 hills: on two of them if fires were lit, it meant come to a meeting; on the other two fires meant hide out. After the conflict, this county was given permission to run its govt. before MS. was readmitted. Many planters from Natchez went to NY City and bouight Union bonds. My great grandfather, a veteran of the 1812 War is quoted in court papers as saying, “They ought to hang that Jefferson Davis.” I included material from the Southern Claims Commission and I realize there were some who misrepresented their loyalty in order to collect, but my ancestor who lived in MS. was loyal from the original vote for secesssion. For the record: such was not taught in schools when I was young. In researching a later book, I fopund a long letter in an old Memphis paper from another member of the “Respectable minority”, and a reply to his concern over secession.

    • Richard Sisson Says:

      Do you still have access to the records pertaining to NE AL residents with Unionist sympathies or that fought on the Union side? If so, do you see a listing for John Hamilton? He fought initially on the Confederate side, and then on the Union side later on.

      • Regretfully, I need to renew my subscription to Still, there might be something in the Soldiers and sailors database (National Park Service) online. Is there a middle initial?

      • The late Bob Denney created a 12,000 man database of Galvanized Southerners. He asked me to make it available. Interested?

        • Rob Robbins Says:

          I’m interested. My great grandfather ( James C. Robins)was in the 6th US Volunteers.

        • John Prince Says:

          I remember reading your information, especially changing last name spelling. Did he relocate to Texas or Oklahoma after going to the St. Charles area? I have read about the 5th regiment duty north of here in Kansas and suspect deserters/those mustered out might have headed south to Indian Territory or Texas. This link is what I am trying to run down.

        • John Prince Says:

          I am trying to locate former Galvanized Yankees that might have settled in Oklahoma prior to statehood. I do historical reenactment and want to develop a character modeled after one or several of these men.

        • David Meinert Says:

          >>>he late Bob Denney created a 12,000 man database of Galvanized Southerners. He asked me to make it available. Interested?

          I’d be interested. my great, great grandfather was a “galvanized yankee”. he was in the 6th US Volunteers, Company I.

        • Rich Abel Says:

          Yes I am interested.

        • John Prince Says:

          You ain’t a kiddin’ I am interested. Have been looking at NPS’s soldiers and sailors list and what a mess that is.

        • shirley Key Says:

          How can I get a list? Interested in J. w. Keen [ James William Keen] my He first enlisted on the south; after he was taken prisoner, to Louisville he signed oath ,later enlisted in Union. let me know if you can help. I have been told he had TB and died in some hospital. I would just like to have proof.

        • shirley Key Says:

          looking for gr. gr. grand father who served on both sides first confederate; then union. Can you help me?

        • R.L. Abel Says:

          I’m looking for information about Capt A.S. Lyby who was the commander of the 3rd USVI. My grandfather was in that unit, Company C.

        • Yes. I am interested. I am certain the 1st US Volunteers, a re-enactment group would consider the information valuable. Ken Robison authored a fantastic book, Confederates in Montana Territory.

        • shirley Key Says:

          Do you have this 12,000men list available? What Does it cost?

    • There were at least 12,000 Galvanized men from the Confederacy

      • Connie Barrow Says:

        My g.grandfather, John Thomas Owen from Murfreesboro, Tenn was a galvanized Yankee. He was captured in September 1864 at McDonough, Ga. following the battle of Atlanta. He was sent to Camp Douglas, Illinois. On March 27th 1865 he volunteered for the US army. A sad state since the peace treaty was signed a few days later. Any way he went west to fight the Indians. He was advanced to a corporal in Sept- Oct in 1865 and on May 15, 1865 he and other southern soldiers deserted at South Pass Wyoming. I’m interested in the other men who would have disserted with him and where they were from. Grandpa Owen went into Utah under an assumed name and never went back to Tennesee until his mother died. Howeverf, after her funeral, he returned back to Utah where his wife was from. But I also wondered how galvanized yankees woud have been accepted in the south following the war. Any ideas?

  2. Connie Lindzy Says:

    I just found out my ggg-grandfather was a POW and joined in Rock Island, IL. Fascinating, he ended up in Indiana and died there. He was originally from Carroll County, VA. His name was Asa Sutphin.

    • Connie,

      Do you know when he enlisted in the Confederate army? I’m curious to see if he enlisted, quite possibly, only because it was on the verge of an enforcement of one of the three conscription acts.

    • Mary A. Sutphin Says:

      Asa L. Sutphin enlisted Co. D 56th Virginia Infantry on 10/1/1861 at Jacksonville, (Now the village of Floyd) Taaken prisoner at Cassville, GA. 6/20/1864. He was sent to Rock Island Ill. where held until enlisting in the US Army for Frontier Service on 10/14/64. He died from inflamation of the leg at home on furlough, 21 Sept. 1866.. This is the son of Elizabeth Sutphin married to Levi Keith.
      He is not the Asa Thomas Sutphin married to Vinetta Goad,

  3. Michael Keyes Says:

    I have an ancestor who joined the 6th Volunteer Regiment after the battle of Nashville. According to his service record he was in Nebraska and Kansas on detached service for quite some time. I just joined Footnote, do they have the pension roles so I can see if he got a pension?


    Mike Keyes

    • Hi Mike, I recommend looking in the pension index. Regretfully, that’s about as much as we have access to right now in the way of Union pension records on Footnote.

      • Michael Keyes Says:

        I found a John Shea in the pension records and am getting those records from the NA. At least i can see where he died and his wife’s name which should help.

  4. alabama1812 Says:

    My gg grandfather, John M. Whitmeyer (Whitmire) joined the Third U.S. Volunteers, Company D. Honorably discharged after a year of service.

    • So, was he previously in a Confederate unit? After enlisting with the 3rd U.S., was he sent to the territories?

    • Rich Abel Says:

      Do you have any records about the activity of that unit? My grandfather was in the same, 3rd US Volunteers. His commander was a captain Lyby but I can’t find any records of what they did.

      • John Prince Says:

        I am working my way through the Compiled Correspondence of the Union and Confederate armies and navies, paying particular attention to U.S.Volunteer Infantry regimental actions. As I progress I’d be glad to let you know what I find. Give me a way to contact you by email. John

  5. Glenda Patton Says:

    John was a private in the Nineteenth Alabama Infantry; joined August 1861, taken prisoner Nov. 25, 1863 at Missionary Ridge. At Rock Island prison. Signed on as “Galvanized Yankee” October 1864. Served in Nebraska Indian Territory until Nov. 1865 (detached at various times to Miller Station, Julesburg, Mullayao). Rec’d federal pension but this was discontinued in 1807; federal goverment decided that the Galvanized Yankees had not taken part in putting down the Rebellion. He fought for his pension and in 1912, it was reinstated at a higher amount, taking into account injuries he received in his western service (broken ribs while loading a pontoon boat into the water.) Revealing of the divided loyalties of Civil War soldiers, I have a letter he wrotte in 1861 (age 20) saying “I fought for secession with all my might” and in the early 1900s when he was fighting for his federal pension, he says that he was forced into Confederate service under threat.

    • Thanks for the additional info. I wonder when, exactly, he lost that spirit of determination for secession. Who vouched for him in his original pension application? I know it was difficult for some to obtain as they had to prove they did not bear arms voluntarily against the US.

      • Glenda Patton Says:

        When he was trying to retrieve his pension, he had a variety of people making sworn statements as to his inability to do much work– his son in law (my great grandfather), friends, neighbors, and ster in law (not identified as such on the papers). Itappears that he got his original $6 a month pension without any difficulty (under the act of June 27, 1890, Certificate No. 1087178) and that some years later, someone decided that these men were not entitled based on their service on the Northwestern frontier. “It is held by the Hon. Secretary of the Interior in the case of George W. Nelson, March 27, 1907, that soldiers serving in the First, Seond, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Regiments, United States Volunteer Infantry, who enlisted ‘for frontier service’ at at time when the civil war was in progress and whose service was in fact confined to frontier service in no way connected with thes suppression of the rebellion of the Southern States, did not actually serve in or during the late dcivil war, or war of the rebellion, within the meaning of the act of June 27, 1890.” (Letter to John Whitmire dated July 22, 1907 from Dept. of Interior Bureau of Pensions).

  6. Glenda Patton Says:

    Correction to the above: I meant pension discontinued 1907.

  7. Rich Abel Says:

    I have an ancestor that served with the 30th Mississippi Inf and was a prisioner at Rock Island. He joined the 3rd USVI and was “posted to the frontier”. Does anyone know how to get more detailed data on who did what when they were in Wyoming? I’d like to find a diary or the log of Captain A.S. Lybe (3rd’s captain) but I’ve not had any luck. Does anyone have suggestions?

  8. Glenda Patton Says:

    Do you know what company your ancestor served in? My gg grandfather servd in the Third, Company D. He was at Cottonwood, Mullayao, and Miller’s Station in Nebraska Territory. There is some info on the Third in Dee Brown’s book, “Galvanized Yankees”. Also recommended is the book, “Rebels at Rock Island” by Benton McAdams. The bibliographies of these books may also be helpful.

    • Rich Abel Says:

      Yes, my grandfather was in Company I of the 3rd USVI. I’ve read both books you refer to and wish I’d read Brown’s book before he died. There just isn’t enough detail to know what the individual soldiers were involved in. A daily log seems to be the answer, but I don’t know where to look for it.

  9. Glenda Patton Says:

    Related to this topic, “Civil War and the Indian Wars”, book by Roy Bird.

  10. I just recently learned of the Galvanzied Yankees when trying to understand why my 3rd great grandfather was talked of as being a confederate soldier, but drew a pension from the US Army.

    James Hamilton Cummons enlisted in the Company C of the 54th NC Infantry in July of 1863. From what I can piece together, he was taken POW at Rappahannock Station on November 7, 1863 and sent to the prison camp at Point Lookout, MD.

    From there, he joined the 1st US Volunteer Infantry, which was what I found listed on one of his wife’s pension applications.

    I’ve been trying to read as much as I can about the Galvanized Yankees since this discovery.

  11. I have been looking for Henry Smith from N.Alabama that possibly served in the US Volunteers at Camp Douglas, Utah.. I found him living in Salt Lake City in 1900 remarried and with a new family. He was my Greatgrandfather who disappeared from Alabama after the civil war. Where can I find rosters of the galvanized yankees?

  12. Was your Henry Smith born around 1832 and was his middle initial H? Do you know the name of his Confederate regiment?

    I have some information about a Henry H. Smith in my ggg grandfather’s Southern Claims Commission papers (Dekalb County, Alabama) who, in the mid 1870s lists his age as 44.

    D. Brown’s book Galvanized Yankees doesn’t list a source for rosters of Galvanized Yankees. The National Archives may have a commplete list. Because the Galvanized Yankees came from several different prisons, possibly the prison where Henry Smith was recruited, if it is a national landmark today such as Rock Island is, may have a roster.

    Here is a link that may be helpful.

    It lists e mails of persons who may have information about the U.S. Volunteers/Galvanized Yankees.

    • The National Archives does NOT have a complete list of all Galvanized Southerners. the only list anywhere near complete was built by Bob Denney who spent many hundreds of hours in the National Archives.

  13. Rob Robbins Says:

    My great grandfather, James Calvin Robbins was a “galvanized yankee”. James’ saga begins in St. Charles,AR. where he is married and one of the two blacksmith’s in town. On 22 FEB 1862 he enlists as a Private in Company K ,25th Arkansas Infantry Regiment. Later he is sent on detached service on 18 NOV 1862 to the 1st Arkansas Light Artillery Battery (later known as River’s Battery). James stays with this unit until he is captured on 3SEP 1864 at the fall of Atlanta. He is then sent to Camp Douglas, IL. as a prisoner.On 29 MAR 1865 he enlists as a Private in Company H, 6th US Volunteers. He later deserts on 13 AUG 1865 from Camp Rankin, Colorado Territory leaving behind the Union Army and $3 that he owed on a haversack and a shelter. He later makes his way back to the St. Charles area where he changes the last name from Robins to Robbins. Also on the 1870 and 1880 census, both him and his wife never have consistent ages…almost like he was staying low. Does anyone know of where I can find futher info on desertions of this type and what the US Army did to track these people down? Thanks.

  14. W.E. Sharp Says:

    My gggrandfather, William McNeal was a Private in the 28th Alabama Confederate Regiment. William McNeal enlisted in Jasper, Walker County, AL April 1, 1862. He was sent to Rock Island POW Camp, IL December 9, 1863. He took the Oath of Allegiance , April 21, 1864 at the age of 22. How do I find out if/what unit of the Union Army he was assigned to?

    • Sorry to say, but I’m not totally certain he joined the US service. I can see where he was confined at Rock Island, and saw the mention about taking the oath, but no mention about volunteering for US service. Also, he doesn’t appear in the ranks of the United States Volunteer (Galvanized Yankees) regiments

  15. David Yielding Says:

    Thanks for posting this info. Hiram was my great great great grandfather!

  16. shirley Key Says:

    I would like to find the list. My gggrandfather J. W. Keen at camp Zollicoffer as a waggoner, enlisted in the confederate, K28 gave himself up at Chattanooga was taken to Louisville, took the oath fo allegiance. I was told he later showed up in the union service down south somewhere That he later died in a hospital with tuberlois. I have prove found on Fold 3for confederacy and where he was taken prisoner but non after oath of allegiance. Please let me know how I can obtain it.Shirley Key

  17. I portray 1st Lt Henry M Dean, Assistant Surgeon, 1st US Volunteers. I would like to know more about him. Am trying to improve my first person persona for living history events. Thanks for help.

    • shirley Key Says:

      My was 2nd greatgrandfather was James William Keen. I have his Confedrate papers. He had two children.James William Keen Jr. and Alice O. Keen. His sister married my gr- grandfather Morrow his first time. His ,grand pa, Keen’s wife name was Martha ? during the civil war they either lived in Jackson co. or Overton co. Tennessee. I believe it was Overton Clay County was made from Jackson and Overton Coumties in 1870. His wife and children there then. I never heard much about him. I was told he raised horses down on Horse Creek. I was told that men came and took himm and his horses. My cousin found enlistment papers at Camp Zollicoffer for him. A local SCVS found papers on Fold3 and copied them for me. I asked someone else who told me that the next he was heard from he had joined the Union . and that was in hospital somewhere away from here when he died. He never was around here that I know of. Ron Goode told me he had tuberlculois and died while in hospital. If you would like I’ll mail you copies of papers. Any thing else. I need help finding proof. I really would like to find a list of 12,000 men who were called Galvanized Yankees. where I could buy a list

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