A closer look at Galvanized Yankees formerly of the 34th Mississippi

Posted on April 2, 2013 by


Picking-up from where I left off, a few days back

I figured since someone took the time to compile a list of men of the 34th Mississippi Infantry who became Galvanized Yankees, I’d see if there might be something more to be said about these fifteen men. For starters, based on what I’ve seen in a few other sites dealing with Galvanized Yankees, I’m afraid there are some who believe the following…  

1) There weren’t that many members of the USV who received pensions from the U.S. Government.

2) The USV veterans didn’t have a tendency to return to their home county’s because they would not be welcome.

Honestly, I’m not convinced that either is true.

Why do I disagree? I think I’ve been influenced by what I’ve found in my own research, through several examples that suggest otherwise, including that shown with one of my wife’s lineal ancestors, Hiram Fikes (originally a soldier with the 40th Alabama Infantry who, like these fellows in the 34th MS., also enlisted with the 3rd USV, while a POW at Rock Island). Fikes 1) received a pension for US service (beginning in 1892), and 2) returned home, living there until his death in 1903. I do, however, keep an open mind… and think that the answers might be dependent on where these men were from. That’s something that’s going to take additional work on my part. So, for now, that’s my hypothesis.

Let’s just use the fifteen men of the 34th MS. to see how their story weighs against points 1 & 2, listed above. I should probably list the men before I get started…

John W. Adams, Private, Co. F, 3rd USV
William D. Adams, Private, Co. C, 3rd USV
John G. Bills, Private, Co. H, 3rd USV
Samuel Robert Boggs, Corporal, Co. B, 3rd USV
George W. Byrd, Private, Co. B, 3rd USV
John A. Cantrell, Private, Co. F, 3rd USV
John S.R. Cowan, Sgt., Co. C, 3rd USV
William E. Dyer, Private, Co. A, 3rd USV
John N. Farmer, Private, Co. E, 3rd USV
Wilber F. Harris, Private, Co. I, 3rd USV
James F. Hill, Private, Co. A, 3rd USV
Calvin Lee Orman, Private, Co. I, 3rd USV
John W. Roberson, Corporal, Co. G, 3rd USV
James D. Rowland, Private, Co. G, 3rd USV
Alexander P. Sanders, Private, Co. I, 3rd USV

First, dealing with point #1…

With this grouping, that assumption doesn’t hold water. Out of the fifteen men, nine received pensions (actually, ten veterans are represented considering there is one instance in which a veteran did not apply, but his widow did) from the U.S. Government for services rendered as soldiers in the 3rd USV. That’s not a bad percentage.  Let me throw in something else… five widows also received pensions). Not only are two-thirds of the veterans represented in pensions received, several applied for and received pensions when it was not so easy for the “gray-to-blue” fellows (from among these fifteen, the earliest pension dates to 1890). Proving that you didn’t take-up arms voluntarily against the United States from the get-go was no easy thing.  Bottom line, it didn’t matter if you finally opted to wear blue… you were guilty (disloyal) until proven “innocent”. The whole matter of legislation regarding former Confederates receiving pensions for service with the U.S. military probably merits a post all its own! As a matter of fact, it may be a post that will come sooner rather than later.

As for point #2…

It gets more complicated with this one. For starters, only one of the fifteen was actually Mississippi-born! Places of birth are as follows: Tennessee (8), Georgia (4), Kentucky (1), Mississippi (1), and South Carolina (1). So, before someone says… “they can never feel comfortable at home again”, they also need to know exactly the place considered home, by each respective veteran. In tallying these numbers it did raise another question that needs to be considered throughout surveys of Galvanized Yankees, that being… “were those who joined the USV, at time of enlisting in the Confederate army, deep- or shallow-rooted in the place they enlisted? I’m thinking I might find that most didn’t have deep roots in the locality of the unit (though I think a review of those from North Carolina would prove that theory wrong). The thing with the 34th MS. that challenges me on this are those eight men born in Tennessee. Most of them were born just across the state line/county line, from Tippah County, Mississippi. I meant, last night, to check the 1870 and 1880 census for those born in TN. Did THEY return to the places from which they started? I’ll see if I can get to that tonight (hopefully) and post an update here, regarding my findings. (Of course, I’m breaking one of my own blogging rules here… “no post before it’s time”, but it’s because I’m getting further away, in days, from the post that started this.)

I’ve also come up with a few other things that merit our attention. I think we can see from Lt. Rogan’s diary entries, not all “swallowed the dog” at the same time. I wondered… just how many took the oath and enlisted at the same time. The answer is as follows:

William E. Dyer, James F. Hill (October 13)

William D. Adams, Samuel R. Boggs, George W. Byrd, John S.R. Cowan (October 14)

John W. Adams, John A. Cantrell, John N. Farmer (October 17)

John W. Roberson, James D. Rowland (October 18)

John G. Bills, Wilber F. Harris, Calvin Lee Orman, Alexander P. Sanders (October 31)

What’s impressive about this is that we see… not one of them took the plunge alone. On the other hand, there was only one occurence in which men from the same company of the 34th Mississippi took the oath and enlisted on the same day… the instance being when William Adams and John S.R. Cowan enlisted, on October 14. Both were formerly members of Co. F (The “Goodman Guards”).

Now, here’s a bigger find of interest… you will note that I’ve linked to the Find-a-Grave pages for four of these men (I can’t find the rest in Find-a-Grave). Through these pages, we are fortunate that, of the four, there are obituaries for… William Adams, Samuel R. Boggs, and John S.R. Cowan. Of the three, only Adams and Boggs received pensions for service with the 3rd USV. Still let’s take this analysis a little further, and see what is said, regarding Civil War service in all three…

First, the non-pensioner, Cowan (who, by the way, was the one out of the fifteen to attain the highest rank in the USV… sergeant):

He served in the Confederate army during the Civil war.

That’s it… nothing more. No mention of service with the USV. Judge Cowan is also the only one of the three who died in the state of birth.

Second, we have Adams:

Mr. Adams, who was a veteran of the Civil war, was a native of Mississippi and moved to Arkansas in 1879.

O.K., well no short-changing there… it’s all true, but just a “veteran of the Civil war”, without indication of one side or the other… or both. Adams was actually born in Hardin Co. Tennessee, made his home for a while in Mississippi, and then ended-up in Arkansas.

In Boggs’ obituary, I think I’ve saved the best for last. Keep in mind… he was a US pensioner.

… where he lived until the breaking out of the civil war, when he entered the ranks of the Southern army and did valiant service for the lost cause. After the war he returned to the South and was married in 1868 to Miss Mattie P. Lamb, near Grand Junction, Tennessee.

Well, again, no fibbing, but, in putting together that obituary, did someone forget he was getting that pension for US and not CS military service? Of course, his place of birth appears to be off, for military records show that he was born in York District, South Carolina. Like Adams, Boggs made Mississippi home… for a while; and like Adams, Boggs ended-up in Arkansas. Incidentally, Boggs’ widow applied for and received a pension… based on her husband’s service in the 3rd USV.

Out of all three, as residents of the South, was it simply a matter of it not being in the best interest of the families to mention service in the USV? I get that feeling.

Lastly, is there any evidence that those with deeper roots in the area, to include those from Tennessee, were from areas where heavy Unionism was evident? In search of an answer to this (though certainly not a definitive answer, but perhaps more suggestive of a possibility) I turned to the Southern Claims Commission records. I centered on Tippah County, Mississippi, and looked at all the surrounding counties.  Essentially, the number of approved/barred & disallowed claims wasn’t great until I looked to the east and northeast. Alcorn Co., MS. and McNairy Co., TN. are the two heaviest within close range of Tippah. Moving further east than that, Unionist claims increase. So, it appears, just on this cursory review, that decision for these fellows to take the oath and enlist in the Union army does not seem to be rooted in Unionist sentiment. As with my wife’s ancestor, I’m more inclined to think on more simple terms… that the inspiration was more likely an effort to to sustain self… and improve the odds at getting home.