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The galvanized…

The Legal Genealogist had a ball yesterday talking about a wide variety of records that exist today because of an unusual set of laws.

In Lincoln’s Laws and the Records of War, a webinar for Legacy Family Tree Webinars that you can now see free online through April 25, we looked at a whole bunch of things that we might not have — or not in the form we have them — if it hadn’t been for the formalization of the laws of war during the Civil War.

Among the neat records we looked at were those involving deserters and spies, the huge volume of records of courts martial, and the records of interactions between the military and civilians.

But — as is always the case in any time-limited presentation — we didn’t look at everything.

M2156One record set came up only afterwards, in a question from my friend and colleague Jill Morelli, about the records of “Union soldiers who were in a Confederate prison and who were successfully recruited by the Confederates in order to get out of prison.”

Now this is a neat question, because the people we’re talking about here — and these folks were on both sides — are the galvanized. Galvanized Yankees were those Confederates who renounced their allegiance to the Confederacy as part of the price of release from capture. It was “an insulting term Confederates applied to individuals who took the oath of allegiance to cover themselves with Union blue.”1 And, it appears, “The term ‘galvanized’ has also been applied to former Union soldiers enlisting in the Confederate Army.”2

There’s a fair amount that’s been written about galvanized Yankees — those ex-Confederates who served in the Union forces — but not nearly as much as about the folks Jill is interested in: Union troops who became Confederates. So, she wondered, what records might there be? Would their names be recorded, for example, in the registers of deserters that are part of Record Group 110 at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. that we talked about in the webinar?3

That record group is one possibility for sure and should always be checked. But there’s another source that needs to be checked as well.

From records collected in Record Group 249, the Records of the Commissary General of Prisoners, there’s a single roll of microfilm produced by the National Archives as Microfilm Publication M2156, Lists of Federal Prisoners of War Who Enlisted in the Confederate Army. According to the Descriptive Pamhlet for this item:

The records include several rolls (lists) created during and after the Civil War that name former Union soldiers in rough alphabetical order. Most lists identify each man’s rank, former Union regiment, date and place where captured, date of release, and remarks. There is also memoranda and correspondence created or copied within the Adjutant General’s Office (AGO) from 1882 to 1905, some of which discusses copying information in these records for inclusion in the Union and Confederate Compiled Military Service Records (CMSRs) created by the AGO. In addition, there are several oaths of allegiance to the Confederate Government, 1862-3. ….4

The records may not be not a complete list — as the Descriptive Pamphlet makes clear, there were ultimately three units comprised mostly of foreign nationals who’d been drafted to serve in the Union Army and one that also included native-born Americans, and not all of their records survived, and there may have been individual cases outside of those units.

And no, this microfilm hasn’t been digitized, at least not yet. The NARA website says the only copy is available for review at Archives I, the main Archives building in downtown Washington D.C.

So it’s not perfect, but then what is, in genealogy? And it’s a great place to start if you’re looking for Union soldiers who ended up as Confederates.

Check out the webinar for more ideas about researching records of deserters, spies, courts martial and civilians during wartime. And while this one’s free for now, note again, for the record — truth in “advertising” here — as a Legacy presenter, I do benefit financially if you buy one of my recordings or the whole webinar series.


  1. Michèle T. Butts, “Trading Gray for Blue: Ex-Confederates Hold the Upper Missouri for the Union,” Prologue (Winter 2005), National Archives, ( : accessed 19 Apr 2018).
  2. Wikipedia (, “Galvanized Yankees,” rev. 23 Feb 2018, citing U.S. National Park Service, “The Galvanized Yankees,” The Museum Gazette, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, PDF now available via Wayback Machine ( : accessed 19 Apr 2018) (“During the Civil War, in both Northern and Southern prison camps, soldiers sometimes decided to ‘galvanize,’ or change sides, to save themselves from the horrors of prison life”).
  3. See “Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War),” Record Group 110, in Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, HTML version, ( : accessed 19 Apr 2018).
  4. National Archives and Records Administration, Descriptive Pamphlet, M2156, Lists of Federal Prisoners of War Who Enlisted in the Confederate Army, 1862-1865, PDF (Washington DC: NARA, 2012).
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