If you live in the southern part of the United States, you know they are still not over the war. Which war? The one where the south lost!  So thought I would stir the pot a little.

A large part of the 34th Mississippi Infantry was captured on the 24th of November, 1863 at the Battle of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. Most, if not all, of the enlisted men were taken to Rock Island, Illinois prison.  Some of these men were recruited into the Union Army to fight Indians in the west. They became known as "Galvanized Yankees." They were the 3rd regiment U.S. volunteers.

The following is an excerpt from the James D. Rowland biography:

"President Lincoln, under great political pressure to lighten the draft quotas on the states, sent a trusted young Army aide, Captain Henry R. Rathbone, to Rock Island Barracks to form three regiments of "Volunteer Infantry" from among the Confederate prisoners. This was all done behind general Grant’s back, as the general absolutely did not approve of the plan to enlist the Confederate prisoners. Captain Rathbone enlisted James D. Rowland as a Private in the 3rd U.S. Volunteer Infantry Regiment on 18 October 1864 for a one year term James was subsequently assigned to Company G. Incidentally, the aforementioned Captain Rathbone was President Lincoln’s bodyguard at Ford Theater on the night of his assassination."

The 'Galvanized Yankees,' as they came to be known, went into Federal service on the condition that they would not be required to fight against the Confederacy. Instead, they were sent west to keep the mail routes and roads open and safe from raiding Indians. Still, many Confederates considered these men to be traitors. In addition to their freedom, the volunteers received a $100 bounty along with food, clothing and medical care."

An excellent use of military resources, another little known way that your male ancestors from the South ended up in the West. 

Views: 1095

Tags: American Civil War, Ancestry, Genealogy, United States


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Comment by Joe Gannon on March 19, 2015 at 3:25pm

Of the 12,000 Confederate prisoners who spent time in Rock Island prison, 2,000 died there. That's a death toll of about 17%, which is better than the 27% that died at Andersonville, but still certainly not good. It had to be a pretty miserable place to be. So one could certainly imagine that the prospect of being a soldier out in the west was preferable to sitting around some hell hole of a prison watching your friends die and hoping you wouldn't be next.

Comment by Annie Vercimak on March 20, 2015 at 9:13am

I have an ancestor, John Henry, from County Mayo who came here in the early to mid 1800s.  According to the family he was in the military.....possibly the Civil War. No indication as to whether he was Union of Confederate.   I have a picture of him in uniform.  3 Veteran's Museum curators say he is an officer.  One said his uniform is   during the time of the Indian Wars.  How a poor Irishman got to go through officer training is a puzzle to me.  But MAYBE your article is a lead for me.  I must research it today!  Thank you for the info.

Comment by Dee Notaro on March 20, 2015 at 9:29am

Wars he may have fought in by birth date: b1762-1799-War of 1812; b1796-1831-Mexican War 1846-1848; b1811-1848 -Civil War 1861-1865

Comment by William J. Donohue on March 22, 2015 at 6:27pm

When Pat Donohue, my great grandfather, was in Salisbury Confederate Prison, the Irish prisoners were asked by a Catholic priest if they were interested in joining the Confederate Army and offered benefits like money and food to do so. A couple hundred desperate prisoners did join and were called Galvanized Yankees. 

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