"Major Andrews threw the battalion into line to receive the cavalry which was coming down on us at the charge.  The men stood well, and had there been troops enough on the field to contend with the enemy [they] would have distinguished themselves..."

"The men were all foreigners and mercenaries...They will serve any government for food and clothing."

When Yankees Fought Yankees

Galvanized Troops in Battle During the War Between the States

by Brian Chastain

 

Part 1

 

Galvanized Yankees

This is a study of galvanized troops being raised from Union and Confederate military prisons, and in at least in least two instances, being used in battle against their former friends.  It is not exhaustive, but is intended to make this unknown or little know fact of a complicated war more available, with the hope that it can be more thoroughly researched and understood.

 

Most students of the War are familiar with the six regiments of "galvanized yankees" raised from military prisons in the north by the US government.  Six is not an entirely accurate number, since the 5th US Volunteers (and possibly the 6th) included hundreds of enlistments other than from among Confederate soldiers (see O'Neill's Regiment below).  Conventional wisdom has these units going west "to fight Indians."  Gen. G. M. Dodge's description (below) shoots a proverbial hole in that theory.  These units were organized near the end of the War, and sent west to guard roads and garrison posts along the frontier, in order to free up cavalry to fight Indians.  By the time the units were organized and equipped, most of their actual service took place after the war.

 

There is one claim that the 1st United States Volunteers was used in combat against the Confederate States, firing a few shots during an expedition near Elizabeth City NC in the summer of 1864.  The 1st US Volunteers, under Lt. Col. Charles A. R. Dimon, is listed in the Official Records among the troops in the brigade in question, and on the expedition from Norfolk, Virginia into North Carolina, July 27 to August 4, 1864.  The stated purpose of the expedition was the capture horses, cotton, and other contraband property (ie., stealing from the local community).  The official report of the expedition, and correspondence related to it, contain no reference to any shots fired, any Confederate troops in the area, or any casualties on either side.1  The regiment was, a few weeks later in August, transferred to Dakota Territory, far from the war raging through the Confederacy.

 

Galvanized Rebels

Many have heard of Confederate efforts to recruit from among federal prisoners of war in military prisons in the South, but the scope of that activity has not been recognized.  Military prisons including those in Richmond VA, Salisbury NC, Camp Lawton at Millen GA, and Camp Sumter at Andersonville GA became recruiting stations.  Examples of Confederate units raised from among prisoners of war, which saw active service in the field, were Tucker's Regiment (under Col. Julius G. Tucker, formerly known as the 1st Foreign Battalion), the 8th Battalion Confederate Infantry (formerly known as the 2nd Foreign Battalion, under Lt. Col. Garnett Andrews), and O'Neill's or O'Neal's Regiment (Col. John G. O'Neill).

A report from Maj. John H. Gee, commanding the military prison at Salisbury NC, dated Feb. 1, 1865, shows 1,737 Federal prisoners of war recruited into 3 battalions:

First Foreign Battalion [Tucker's Regt.] 653;

Major Andrews' battalion [2nd Foreign Battalion or 8th Confederate Battalion] 677;

General York's battalion 407;

Total recruited 1,737.2

In order to grasp the significance of the results of this effort, the numbers can be better understood when compared to the total number of prisoners housed at the facility.  The total prisoners on January 31, 1865 (the day prior) was 5,870.  The highest number of prisoners of war on hand at one time between October 5, 1864 and Feb. 1, 1865 was 8,740 on November 6, 1864.3  Using that as a basis, since recruiting of prisoners happened around the same time, it could be estimated that as many as 20% of the prisoners there chose to change sides.  The present study focuses on two galvanized units that were engaged in battle.

 

A closer look at the Second Foreign Battalion, or 8th Battalion Confederate Infantry brings several interesting things to light.  The Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) of Lt. Col. Garnett Andrews, commanding, provides some details.  In a letter to Gen. Samuel Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector-General, dated March 17, 1865, Andrews referred to the order of February 18, 1865 that organized the command.  Andrews stated that "I have raised a Battalion of six companies of Infantry from among foreigners, prisoners of war.  The muster rolls are on file in your office.  The Battn now numbers nearly five hundred effective men."4  The Soldiers and Sailors System of the National Park Service includes a list of 709 men enlisted in the unit.  (As with all rosters there, some allowance must be made for duplicated names listed with various spellings.)

 

Andrews had served as major and assistant adjutant-general on the staff of Gen. Arnold Elzey, and also held a commission of 2nd Lieutenant of infantry in the Confederate regular army.  He was appointed Lt. Col., Provisional Army, Confederate States, assigned to command the 2nd Foreign Battalion, to take rank March 23, 1865.  The unit was redesignated 8th Battalion Confederate Infantry on March 28, 1865.5

 

It should be noted that the designation as "Confederate" does not indicate enlistment in the Confederate States regular army.  It is often and incorrectly assumed that troops with the designation Confederate (eg., 1st Confederate Cavalry, 5th Confederate Infantry, etc.) constituted the regular army.  Nearly all of the units so designated were volunteer units as most other Confederate troops, the difference being that they were composed of companies from different states rather than one state.  The Confederacy did have a regular army, but that is a separate study.

 

Battle of Salisbury NC or Grant's Creek, April 12, 1865

The highlight of the battalion's service came in April 1865 during Maj. Gen. George Stoneman's raid into North Carolina.  Confederate troops were in demand in the principal armies at that stage of the war, so the number and type of troops available to meet Stoneman's raid were limited.  His primary objectives were destruction of railroads and bridges, and liberation of the federal prisoners at Salisbury.  In the latter he was sorely disappointed, since the prisoners had been removed and the post was used as a supply depot.

 

As Stoneman approached Salisbury, Brig. Gen. William M. Gardner prepared the troops on hand for the best defense possible, selecting a good position behind Grant's Creek, some two and a half miles from Salisbury.  Gardner had been wounded at I Manassas, then held district command in Florida prior to his present assignment with the CS military prisons east of the Mississippi River.  The anchor of his line was 14 artillery pieces, without the requisite number of troops to support them.  Lt. Col. (late Lt. Gen.) John C. Pemberton was present with the artillery.  He had done inspection duty and commanded artillery defenses at Richmond following his service at Vicksburg, and was currently serving as inspector of artillery.6  Two infantry units were present.  Part of the 4th Regiment NC Senior Reserves (Col. John F. Hoke) was present.  The regiment had been on duty guarding bridges in western North Carolina, some companies being stationed at Salisbury.7  (Just four men of the 5th NC Senior Reserves were captured at Salisbury April 12, 1865, but they were likely detailed, not necessarily indicating the regiment was present.)8  Freeman's Battalion NC Prison Guards (Salisbury Prison Guards) was also present, and doubtless in the front line.

 

Freeman's Battalion consisted of 3 companies9.  Company A – Capt. C. D. Freeman was an Alabama company enlisted for general service.  Freeman commanded the battalion by seniority.  Company B was Capt. Henry Allen's Company NC Local Defense Troops, assigned to Salisbury.  Company C (Capt. E. D. Snead's Company), under 1st Sgt. W. J. Whitaker during the Carolinas Campaign, was a local defense unit according to inspection reports by Lt. Col. Archer Anderson and Maj. Garnett Andrews on June 23 and August 12, 1864, respectively.  At the time of Anderson's inspection the battalion had numbered about 200.  The companies operated independently and were untrained in battalion drill until Maj. Andrews ordered them organized into a battalion and the senior captain placed in command (thus Freeman's Battalion Prison Guards).10

 

Companies B and C were raised professedly from non-conscripts according to Anderson's inspection report.11  Pvt. Booth of the 22nd Iowa who was confined at Salisbury made reference to very young guards.  His first reference to "Junior Reserves" was Nov. 11, 1864, after the 9th Battalion NC Junior Reserves had left Salisbury for Wilmington at the end of October.  It could have been Capt. Henry B. Allen's Company NC Local Defense Troops who served as guards there.  The unit was or included teens, and was attached to Freeman's Battalion NC Prison Guards.12  Garnett Andrews, however, stated that the men had become of conscript age and should have been sent to the front.13

 

Col. A. G. Brenizer's 1st Regiment NC Detailed Men was assigned to the post of Salisbury during the Carolinas Campaign.  They were mechanics, clerks, and other government employees producing the materials of war, some of them being incapable of field service, but still able to contribute to the war effort in the shops.14  At least a portion of the regiment was present at the battle.  Capt. P. H. Montague's Company H is documented to have been at the former prison/arsenal/work shops area, busy with the removal of stores, and was not engaged.15

 

Two brigades of Brig. Gen. A. C. Gillem's division of veteran Union cavalry were present with Stoneman.  Another brigade was nearby but not engaged.  Since Stoneman's District of East Tennessee numbered 16,756 present in April 1865, and included only one other division besides Gillem,16 it can be conservatively estimated that Stoneman had not less than 4000 men on the raid. 

 

Gillem started his division at 12:30 am April 12.  His men saw several Confederates at the South Yadkin, verifying that Gardner had scouts covering at least 9 miles in front of his position.  At daylight the advance came upon Gardner's pickets, which were pushed back to the bridge over Grant's Creek two miles from Salisbury.  Just before reaching the bridge, Confederate artillery and infantry opened on them.  On Stoneman's order, a detachment forded the creek 2 ½ miles above the bridge, and two other detachments below the bridge, while the main line pressed Gardner's position.  Finally, the flanks being turned, a general charge of the entire line swept away the Confederate line.  Stoneman estimated Confederate forces at 3000, and reported capturing 1364 prisoners, of which he said 200 escaped.17  It is likely the number of prisoners included a fair number of government employees and other non-combatants.

 

Stoneman captured the artillery and part of the infantry, while many defenders escaped through the woods.  As the Southern line began to give way, the 8th Battalion Confederate Infantry arrived on the field.  On April 19, 1865, Maj. Robert T. Fouche submitted a report of the engagement, recording for history one of the most unusual occurrances during the war.  He reported that the battalion arrived at Salisbury at 7 o'clock on the morning of the 12th of April.  Andrews, as soon as four of the six companies received arms and twenty rounds of ammunition, hurried to the front.  "Upon getting near the scene of action it was discovered that the enemy had turned the flank and our troops were met going to the rear in great disorder.  Without staff officers or couriers to direct, Major Andrews threw the battalion into line to receive the cavalry which was coming down on us at the charge.  The men stood well, and had there been troops enough on the field to contend with the enemy[,] would have distinguished themselves; but being hemmed in on all sides, the most of the battalion was captured."  Lt. Col. Andrews was wounded by saber and pistol.  Maj. Fouche, succeeded in fighting his way out with a portion of the battalion.  "Captain Napier, with the two remaining companies, met the enemy in the streets, checked them, and then attempted to cover the retreat...but was unsuccessful."  Napier was captured but escaped two days later, rejoining the battalion.  Fouche had 40 muskets remaining, expecting to total 75 when the wounded were back in the ranks.  He made two important observations about the men of the battalion: "The men were all foreigners and mercenaries," and "They will serve any government for food and clothing."18

 

It would be reasonable to expect that the 4th NC Senior Reserves, older men who had seen guard duty and little else, would not stand long against 4000 well equipped federal cavalry.  Twenty-five of the seniors were captured April 12.19  Little more could be expected from the 3 companies of Freeman's Battalion Prison Guards, who were by this time of military age, but inexperienced, and few in number.  Of the infantry present, only the 8th Battalion Confederate Infantry was made up veteran troops.  The point here is not the defeat, but that former federal soldiers fought federal soldiers in battle.

 

His service record shows that Capt. Fouche, originally commanding Company A, had been appointed as Major of the battalion on March 27, 1865, to rank from March 23, but the date of confirmation is blank.  It appears that he was appointed but was not confirmed by the close of the war.  Fouche enlisted in Company A, 8th Georgia Infantry on May 18, 1861.  He was elected 2nd Lieutenant and promoted to 1st Lieutenant in 1863, then served on the staff of Brig. Gen. G. T. Anderson in 1864.20  The portion of the entry in Roster of the Confederate Soldiers of Georgia which states, "Elected Captain of Co. A, 8th Battn. Ga. Inf. in 1864.  Roll for December 27; 1864, shows him present" is incorrect.21  James T. Moore, on the same roster, was Captain from Dec. 1, 1863; wounded Oct. 7, 1864; and on furlough on the Oct. 31, 1864 muster roll (therefore not having vacated his position).  The Dec. 27, 1864 muster roll referred to here is in Fouche's service record with the 8th Battalion Confederate Infantry, and is for that battalion, not the Georgia regiment.

 

A Few of the Men Who Served in the 8th Battalion Confederate Infantry 22

James Brown  Private/Private  Co --.  Residence: Baltimore Co. Md.

William Clarke  Private/Private  Co. --.  Residence: N.Y. N.Y.

Bettis Fanier  Private/Private  Co. --.  Residence: Troy N.Y.

Jacob Freack  Private/Private  Co. --.  Residence: Franklin Co. PA

David Gobin  Private/Private  Co. C.  Formerly of Co. G, 9th NH.

     Accompanied Lt. Col. Andrews home to Georgia May 4, 1865, and remained a couple

     days to dress the wounds he received at the battle of Salisbury.

Charles P. Kibbler  Private/Private  Co. --.  Residence: Baltimore Md.

Louis Leo  Private/Private  Co. E.  Residence: Essex Co. Mass.

     (Probably Cpl. Co. G, 29th Mass. and/or Cpl. Co. G, 35th Mass.)

Chester H. Loomis  Private/Private  Co. D.  Residence: Hartford Conn.

     (Previously served in the 12th Connecticut Infantry)

Daniel Quinn  Private/Private  Co. A.  Residence: Richmond Co. N.Y.

Joseph Schaumbergen  Private/Private  Co. --.  Residence: Erie Co. N.Y.

Albert Wszilaki  Private/Private  Co. --.  Residence: Essex Co. Mass.

 

{Continued in Part 2}