How many folks actually realize how many “galvanized Yankees” there really were? They’re a fascinating bunch of people, really. Up until a few years ago, I didn’t really think a great deal about them. I might see one here or there while combing through Confederate service records, but I never got up the energy to really investigate until about four years ago. It’s a tough bunch of guys to figure out in terms of loyalties. How many, for example, signed-on to the United States Volunteers simply because they felt their odds far better than stuck in a prisoner-of-war camp and how many signed-on because their loyalties were really with the U.S. to begin with? Then, on top of this, when we realize that a “galvanized Yankee” received a pension, does it mean that he REALLY was a Unionist? Think about it. On one hand, you have someone who has to go through a lot of hoops to get a pension for his service in the Union army. To satisfy a very discriminating pension board, the former Confederate soldier had to prove to the board that his service was really involuntary. If one could not show that they did not “bear arms against the United States voluntarily,” the pension application was going to be rejected. On the other hand, if someone was hard-up for some money, “swallowing the dog” one more time to get some cash to help make ends meet wasn’t all that bad. Like I said, they are a hard group to get your thoughts around when trying to get a grip on wartime sentiments/loyalties, but a fascinating group nonetheless. (Incidentally, this is a good online piece by Michèle T. Butts about how “Galvanized Yankees” came to be).
On that note… looking for a quick distraction from thesis work late Monday night, I slipped over into my Footnote.com account and started doing a few searches. Looking back through my wife’s family tree, I remembered that she had an ancestor who “joined the U.S. service” after just over two years of service in gray… and quite honestly… surprise, surprise… he was from an area in Alabama that just happened to have some differences in sentiment.
Hiram Fikes was born February 15, 1827 in Lexington, South Carolina, a son of John Fikes. A farmer by occupation, he didn’t enlist for the first time until April 10, 1862 (this was, by the way, around the time the first Confederate conscription act was being enforced; although there is nothing to show one way or the other how/if this impacted Fikes’ enlistment/enrollment), and when he did enlist it was only in a 90-day unit; the 4th Alabama Volunteer Militia (Byrd’s Regiment), Captain John Moore’s Company. He was sick-in-quarters 6/25/62 and had no further record with the unit. Nonetheless, he pops up again on the rolls of Co. H, 40th Alabama having enlisted (or having been “enrolled”) in Perry Co., Alabama (that is where he resided at the opening of the war) in March 1863. There is some confusion as to how the regiment was employed around the time of his service; one part detailed for service in Georgia, while the other part was in Vicksburg. It looks like Hiram was in the Vicksburg detachment for it is there that he was captured by the 15th Corps and was paroled on 7/9/63. Returning to service, once again, he was with the 40th Alabama again when he was captured at Big Shanty, Ga. on 6/15/64. This time the Federals didn’t mess around, and he was sent to Rock Island, Illinois by way of Louisville, Ky. In four months, he was released on oath, having signed-on with Co. I, 3rd United States Volunteers.
Looking at his service cards for this unit, it appears that Hiram was an average looking fellow, with blue eyes, dark hair, light complexion, and 5’6″. He was mustered-in on October 31, 1864, and… this part always interests me (former Confederates being credited to areas to satisfy enrollment numbers)… he was credited as a recruit to Elk, Clarion County, Pennsylvania. The 3rd USV more or less hung out at Rock Island for sometime before being sent out to the Dakota Territory in 1865. While there, it appears, at least from his service records, that his service went without incident. In May 1865, he was listed as on daily duty as the company cook (hard-pressed, I’m sure, as a Southerner on duty in the Dakota Territory finding foodstuff that would be satisfying to a Southerner!). He was detached at the Sweet Water detachment on June 4. Soon after this (July 1865), fourteen men from Co. I got into a scrape with the Sioux and Cheyenne heading east to Fort Laramie, but I have no idea if Fikes was among the fourteen men (my guess is that he wasn’t). Other than the detached service at the Sweet Water detachment, there really isn’t a great deal to note from his service records until he was mustered-out at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas on November 29, 1865 (although he did have a stoppage of pay for damaging the property of another member of the unit… don’t ask, I have no idea what that was all about). He headed back to Mississippi and there, rejoined his wife Polly and their children. He applied for a pension (oh now, hold on a second… a pension for his service in the Union, not the Confederate army) on August 18, 1892 (application #1126.495) under “Law J” and received one (certificate #1069.626). He died on October 20, 1903 in Fulton, Itawamba County, Mississippi and was buried in the Harden Chapel Cemetery. His wife applied for a widow’s pension (app. #797.144) on December 31, 1903, and received one (cert. #744.318). She died on February 20, 1925.
I don’t see him as a disaffected Confederate, but perhaps a disillusioned Confederate. Likewise, he probably wasn’t a Southern Unionist in the extreme sense, but maybe he was a conditional Unionist who opted for the Confederacy initially. Yet, as he saw the writing on the wall, especially as a POW, maybe, at heart, he was just a realistic self-preservationist, looking at things in terms of his own best interests and that of his wife and children who were back in Alabama when all of these decisions were made. It’s clear that I need to look into the pension record and see what the testimonials have to say about his “loyalties” and how he got around the “not having borne arms voluntarily against the United States” thing.
For food for thought in future posts in Southern Unionists Chronicles, I’m going to file a duplicate of this post over there.