The Galvanized Yankees Paperback – Aug 28 2003
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About the Author
Dee Brown is a leading authority on western American history and the author of many highly acclaimed books on this subject. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.
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To bring order to the Union controlled portion of the Great Plains the US Army began experimenting with recruiting Confederate prisoners of war for service in the West. Surprisingly, 6,000 Confederates were enlisted from POW camps in Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Maryland. These six infantry regiments were dispatched to garrison 10 states: New Mexico, Utah, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska. They fortified way stations and escorted stagecoaches and wagon trains while refurbishing or building new fortifications from St. Paul to Santa Fe and from Omaha to Denver.
The results of this military experiment were decidedly mixed. Some regiments performed exceptionally well while others were lackluster at best. But their impact on the West's transportation and communications systems were significant and the stories of those who served were really quite amazing. Along the way author Dee Brown provides an in-depth understanding of military administration, the intricacy with which the Union command managed and responded to emergencies, troop dispositions and transfers and the necessary logistical support required during the day of horses and oxen drawn vehicles.
But Brown really shines when he focuses on the individuals who were engaged in this effort. You meet John Pattee who organizes the defense of Ft. Rice and fights off an attack by an overwhelmingly superior Sioux force. Then there is Henry Stanley, a scamp really, who is probably the only person to have served in the Confederate Army, the Union Army and the Union Navy. He would go on to a career in journalism finding Dr. Livingstone in deepest, darkest Africa. And there is Elizabeth Cardwell, the only woman allowed to accompany her husband on the trek to Ft. Rice. She became the regiment's sweetheart. When she gave birth she and her husband had 1,000 proud as punch Uncles. When she and her child subsequently died the deepest anguish would linger for days among the enlisted men and officers alike.
Dee Brown does an admirable job of resurrecting the history of this US Army unit that gave so much toward the settling of the American West. This is a very good, interesting story well told by an accomplished author.
General Butler of Massachusetts persuaded President Lincoln to recruit prisoners at Point Lookout, Maryland, in Jan 1864. Lincoln directed the War Department to recruit Confederates despite General Grant's opposition. By March, Butler had about 1,000 recruits, which became the 1st U. S. Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Six Companies of this Regiment boarded a riverboat on the Missouri River at St. Louis on August 27 and disembarked on Upper Missouri river, 272 miles south of Fort Rice, Dakota Territory, on Sept 27, as the boat could not continue. The men marched through rough country, with poor water and poor supplies (no tents), arrived at Fort Rice 17 October. On the march, a number of men died of dysentery.
Fort Rice was only four months old when the 1st USVI arrived. The men spent months completing construction of the Fort. Fort Rice was a center of Indian fights, largely revenge campaigns for the massacre of Cheyenne at Sand Creek in Nov 1864 by Col. Chivington. The fresh Union soldiers, southerners who had never seen Indians, were quickly inducted into Indian warfare. In January 1865 Fanny Kelley, a captive of Indians, was rescued by men at Fort Rice. In June 1865 Sarah Morris, captive of Indians, was delivered to the 1st USVI at Fort Rice. In July 1865 Sitting Bull led 1,000 Sioux warriors in an attack on hated Fort Rice. Large numbers of men died at Fort Rice of disease and battle. Temperature fell to 40 below zero during a Feb 1865 blizzard.
When Butler was authorized to recruit another regiment at Point Lookout, which became the 4th USVI, he could not raise a full regiment and ten percent of them deserted "partly because of the stories they were hearing of the 1st Regiment's ordeal at Fort Rice." In Feb 1865 the House of Representatives demanded Secretary of War Stanton explain enrollment of Confederates in the Union army. Stanton gave incomplete answers, but with the end of the war Congress forgot about it. The Galvanized Yankees continued their valorous service on the frontier.
I have summarized some details about the 1st USVI because my g-grandfather William Henry Hayes of Wilkes County North Carolina, a 19-year-old Confederate soldier, was captured a few days after participating in the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863, and sent to Union prison at Point Lookout, Maryland. He enlisted Feb 1864 in the 1st U. S. Volunteer Infantry Regiment; forty percent of this Regiment were North Carolina men. He spent the rest of his enlistment at Fort Rice.
Dee Brown offers equally interesting details of the other five Regiments of Galvanized Yankees who served all over the frontier. There were also "Galvanized Confederates" -- Union prisoners who volunteered to join the Confederate army. Many of these deserted or were captured and rejoined the Union army.
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