Galvanized Yankees Confederate captives who had no taste for prison life could sign an oath to the Union and be sent West to the shorthanded military posts.

galvanized yankees
Fort Laramie.

During the latter days of the Civil War, Confederate captives who had no taste for prison life could sign an oath to the Union and be sent West to the shorthanded military posts like Fort Laramie, on the Overland Trail. These so-called “Galvanized Yankees,” were recruited at prisoner of war camps during the winter of 1864-65 to fill in behind the cavalry and guard the travel routes during the campaign against the Plains Indians under generals John Pope and Grenville Dodge.

They were formed into two infantry regiments under federal officers. The two joined another regiment, the First U.S. Volunteers recruited from prison camps in Virginia the previous summer. Ultimately, there were six regiments of Galvanized Yankees who performed credible work policing the Plains during the last days of the Civil War. 

Most volunteered for duty in the West to escape the horrors of prison camp life and although they became “Billy Yank’s” in their adopted uniform they remained “Johnny Reb’s” in their hearts. Actually, there were Union troops who switched to Confederate gray for the same reasons 

Author Dee Brown wrote a fine book about these volunteers titled, “Galvanized Yankees.”

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