The Blue, The Gray, and The Galvanized…

Although I don’t consider Gone with the Wind a romance (no happy ending) but indeed a love story, it’s still been a great influence in my literary life.  After I read GWTW for the first time when I was fifteen, the book opened the door to a life-long interest in the most deadly conflict in U.S. history.

I’ve learned that the War Between the States, aka the War of Northern Aggression, had a great impact not only on the North and the South but also on the Western regions where we filliess set our historicals. My home state of California, but a youngster then, struggled with secession issues. Rebels fought Yankees in the territories of Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

In addition, a little-recognized group of rebel soldiers called “galvanized Yankees” protected the vital lifelines into the west during the closing months of the war. During and after the war, some became Indian hunters.

The term “galvanized Yanks” comes from metal when coated with zinc to protect it from corrosion. The surface color of the metal is altered, but underneath the coating, the steel is unchanged. The metaphor referred to prisoners of war of both sides who took advantage of personnel shortages to escape the horror of prison life by joining the opposite army. Deep down, however, the new recruits usually remained loyal to their own side and would often desert at the first opportunity. Many of the transplanted Reb soldiers proudly remained “Billy Yanks or “good old rebels” underneath their adopted blue uniforms.

Prison camps of both sides –the most infamous being the Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia, and the Union camp at Alton, Illinois, were horrific places of filth, starvation and disease. For many of those captured, enlistment in enemy forces was the only escape.

As a result, loyalties often came into question. In December 1864, in Egypt Station Mississippi, a Confederate regiment of 250 “galvanized” soldiers threw down their arms and surrendered as Union troops charged them. The former Yanks were sent to the Union prison in Alton as deserters. Fortunately, General Grenville Dodge recruited them into the 5th and 6th U.S.

Volunteers before they could come to trial for treason.

The U.S. War Department continually revised this practice of exchanging prisoners and enlisting them for the other side. When Colonel James Mulligan in 1862 realized that many Confederate prisoners actually wished to join the Union Army with honor not deceit, he enlisted these former Confederates to be used on the front lines, an unethical practice soon to become illegal.


In 1862, an uprising by captive Sioux on their forced encampment on a Minnesota reservation led to 1,500 settlers being killed. In a knee-jerk response to protect the western frontier hundreds of miles away, Colonel John Chivington and his 700 volunteers attacked the peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho living at San Creek Colorado. The “take-no- prisoners” order led to the death of many innocent men, women and children and caused deep resentment among the tribes. They retaliated by terrorizing the Oregon trail and U.S. mail routes.

This prompted General Ulysses S. Grant to order a contingent of Galvanized soldiers to the frontier to protect the trails, telegraph lines, and mail routes. Called “U.S. Volunteers,” the regiment was commanded by Northern officers. Doubts about the loyalty and reliability of these ex-Confederates were alleviated, since the frontier duty of “Indian fighting” would prevent them from fighting old comrades at arms.

Seems I learn something new every day!

(Coming soon,   Book Four, Hearts Crossing Ranch series

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24 thoughts on “The Blue, The Gray, and The Galvanized…”

  1. Fascinating. I have an old photo of an ancestor in his uniform…need to go dig it out.

    I will never for get this Southern girl going up to Maine a couple of years ago and seeing a monument to the stand against “The Southern Rebellion.” Hadn’t heard that one before.

    Thanks for the trivia to grow my brain cells this morning.

    Peace, Julie

  2. Thank you for the interesting information. I love learning something new to start my day. A history teacher love the Civil War History. I shall have to ask about this today as I’m sure he will also add to my knowledge.

  3. And I learned something new today, thanks to you, Tanya. I never thought about this aspect of the Civil War, even though it makes perfect sense.
    The Sand Creek massacre, of course, was horrible. I’ve read about it and seen it depicted in movies many times. Thanks for an informative post.

  4. I had never heard of the “galvanized” soldiers. Fascinating. I could certainly see how loyalty would be questioned, and how sending them out west would be a seemingly safe solution. Interesting stuff, Tanya!

  5. Good morning, Julie. I’ve got an ancestor who marched with Sherman. I found his discharge papers cleaning out my mom’s old house. Southern Rebellion? That’s a new one for me, too. Thanks for posting today!

  6. Elizabeth, yeah, Chivington was a beaut, wasn’t he? I didn’t learn Sand Creek in school…only when I read Bury My Heart in college. Oh, the tragedies of those times. Thanks for stopping by today oxoxox.

  7. Karen, I came across the galvanized Yank while researching a wip that’s still ongoing. Amazing. I love research, I always find out something fascinating. Thanks for posting today! oxox

  8. Very interesting, Tanya. I’d always heard the term galvanized soldiers but had no idea what it meant. You’ve enlightened me. I think the Civil War was the darkest time in American history. It was horrible for both sides.

    LOVE the cover for your new book!!! It looks like a book I’m going to have to have. Do you have a release date yet?

  9. Hi Linda, the whole Civil War saga is just too painful to consider. We’re going to Gettysburg soon and I know I’ll be in tears.

    Thanks for the compliment. No date yet, other than sometime this fall. It’s a Christmas setting although not marketed as a Christmas book, but it’ll be in time for that.

  10. Hi Winnie, I thought the same thing after I learned of this. In fact, if I ever get my two series done, I’d like to get back to that wip that has the galvanized yank in it. Unfortunately he’s a bad guy.
    Thanks for the post today. oxox

  11. I love Civil War history. I wish that time period was more popular for romances. Love your new cover. I can’t keep up with all your new releases. Still have to read your suspense. It’s sitting on my Kindle screaming at me! great blog!

  12. Thanks for today’s history lesson, Tanya! I am
    familiar with the “trading” of sides in the
    Civil War, but never heard them called “galva-
    nized soldiers” before. Thanks for teaching me
    something new today!

    Pat Cochran

  13. Hi Charlene, I know! So much conflict, both internal and external in that time period. Yet hope and faith, too, and enduring love. Hope the era comes back into popularity as well. Thanks for the cover compliment. He is a cutie, isn’t he? Thanks for being my friend and fan oxoxox.

  14. Hi Pat, always good to see you here. I can’t believe all the stuff I DIDN’T learn in school! I only found this stuff out in the last few years, and I’ve been on this good earth a whole long time. I do love learning new things, too. Thanks for the post.

  15. Tanya, that is so interesting! I’d never heard the term galvanized soldier before and I’ve done a lot of research on the Civil War, particularly Andersonville Prison. Andersonville is the backstory on a western historical series that hasn’t sold. I spent two days at Andersonville a few years ago, and I’ve blogged on the Sultana. So interesting. Thanks for sharing. And, like you, GWTW is a romance, although not under today’s criteria for a romance … HEA! Great blog! Hugs, P

  16. Hi Cher, thanks for the compliment…I had nothing to do with the cover LOL. But my artist always gets it right. I’m glad you found the subject interesting. I did, too. Come again.

  17. Hi Phyliss! I just stumbled across the term a while back, but I too found it something I didn’t know. I love the metaphor with galvanized metal. I have heard of the horrors of Andersonville. It wasn’t until preparing this post that I came across Alton as a hellhole! I had a college friend from that town. Your stories are so great. That series is gonna be in print soon, I promise. Thanks for stopping by today, filly sister. oxoxox

  18. Thanks for the lesson. I am always interested in the US civil war… I have read loads of books and seen countless movies depicting these times. I have seen that Andersonville prison so many times my heart hurts for all those soldiers who were treated so inhumane…

    I love the cover of your new book.. At first glance I thought it was George Strait on the cover… He is one of my fav Country singers…

  19. Tanya, Great information today. I had not heard of the “galvanizing” program both sides used. I knew about the prisoner exchanges which were stopped towards the end of the war. The whole thing was such a sad waste of lives. I had heard of the Alton prison along with several others. A friend has written a book about Civil War prisons. The soldiers being “galvanized” as a way to escape the hell holes that so many prisons were, surrendering rather than fight their brother troops, and then being charged with treason is too ironic.

    Surprisingly, I had not heard of the Sioux uprising and slaughter of settlers in Minnesota. The Sand Creek Massacre, also known as the Chivington Massacre, I am quite familiar with. A sad example of one indian is the same as any other and the only good indian is a dead indian. Grant was wise in using the galvanized troops to patrol the West and keeping them away from the conflict to the east.
    Phyllis, I hope your books with Andersonville as a back story will sell. I really don’t understand why the Civil War is not considered a marketable topic. Tanya, I hope your WIP finds a home, even if the bad guy is a Yankee.

    Thanks for a most interesting post.

  20. hi Kathleen, thanks for the post. I too can’t even begin to imagine man’s inhumanity to man.

    I love the cover too and as for George Strait…King George, I bawl my eyes out at most of his songs.

  21. HI Patricia, General Chivington is in a lot of Dr. Quinn episodes. Ah, the scourge of Colorado.

    Thanks for posting today, Patricia. It’s always so good to see you here. I too couldn’t believe the “treason” irony. Come on”

    I have a couple of writer-pals at Wild Rose who are contracting Civil War stories, so maybe the trend will spread.

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