Over a core of grey
They had worn Confederate grey — and many were still solidly loyal to the Confederacy in their hearts.
But in what so many saw as a last chance to save themselves from the horrors of the Union prison camps, by the thousands they agreed to be galvanized — to have a layer of blue added over their grey cores.
And among these Galvanized Yankees, recruited from the ranks of Confederate prisoners into the United States Army to serve in the west… one Jasper N. Baird of Alabama.
The Legal Genealogist‘s second great grandfather.
Yep. I finally have a Yankee in my direct line. Well… one with at least a thin layer of blue.
He was born, a family history says, on 18 January 1843.1 So he was just 18 when his name appeared on a muster roll of Captain Millsaps’ newly-recruited Cherokee Mountaineers — later Company G of the 19th Regiment, Alabama Infantry.2
He was present on that regiment’s muster rolls in 1861 and 1862 and into 1863.3 And then on a different kind of roll altogether. A prisoner roll. Captured 25 November 1863, at Missionary Ridge, Tennessee,4 when “Union forces in the Military Division of the Mississippi under Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant assaulted Missionary Ridge and defeated the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by Gen. Braxton Bragg, forcing it to retreat to Georgia.”5
Sent to Louisville, Kentucky, on 5 December 1863, ostensibly “for exchange.”6
But, by the end of 1863, the exchange system had irretrievably broken down, in particular over Southern treatment of black Union troops.7 There would be no exchanges of the men captured at Missionary Ridge.
By the end of the very next day — 6 December 1863 — 20-year-old Jasper N. Baird of Alabama found himself on a train with hundreds of others heading north. To the Union prison camp at Rock Island, Illinois. He arrived there, his record says, on 9 December.8
And for the next 10 months, this 5’6″ farmboy did what he had to, to survive.
In December 1863, the prison was as yet unfinished; temperatures were below zero when the prisoners arrived and reportedly were often well below zero that entire winter. Smallpox and other diseases were rampant, and in early summer 1864 the prisoners’ rations were cut, adding starvation and scurvy to the list of ills the men faced. Overall, one of every six men sent to Rock Island died there — most by the fall of 1864.9
And it was then — in early October 1864 — that a Union officer named Rathbone presented the prisoners with an option: they could get out of that prison camp if they joined the Union Army. And they’d be sent west, to face the Indians, and never south to face their former comrades.10
For many — enough to fill two regiments at Rock Island, two at Point Lookout, Maryland, and two more at Camp Douglas, Illinois, and other prison camps11 — that was inducement enough. And so it was for Jasper Baird as well.
The last item in his compiled Confederate service record — compiled after the war by the Union — is his enumeration on a roll of prisoners “enlisted in the U.S. Army for frontier service, Oct. 6, 1864.”12
The rest of his military story is told in his compiled Union service record: his enlistment for a one-year term starting 6 October 1864,13 his presence on the muster rolls and in descriptive registers from October 1864 through November 1865,14 his mustering out in November 1865.15
And, it appears, through it all, this leopard never changed his spots.
Unlike many galvanized Yankees, he didn’t stay out west; he went home to Alabama and then on to Arkansas with his parents and siblings. Considering the timing of the family’s move, and our inability to prove he ever married my second great grandmother, he may never have known he left a child behind in Alabama.
And all the rest of his life, he held himself out — simply and exclusively — as a Confederate veteran. That’s the way his obituary reads: “Mr. Baird was an ex-Confederate soldier and for the past six years had been an inmate of the Confederate Home at Little Rock.”16
Just 18 months earlier, he’d applied for an Arkansas Confederate pension — swearing in his application that he was “honorably discharged (paroled or released) from (Confederate) service on or about the 1st day of May 1865 and did not desert the same.” And, he said, he had been “wounded at the Battle of Missionary Ridge and there captured and remained in prison until the Close of the Civil War.”17
A galvanized layer of blue perhaps.
But only a layer. And one he never spoke of. Not in public. Maybe not even to his own family.
In his heart, his records show, he was Confederate grey to the end.
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “A layer of blue,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 13 Mar 2021).
- Anna Page Fields, “The Baird Family,” Pope County Historical Association Quarterly 40 (March 2006): 30. ↩
- Jasper Baird, Pvt., Co. G, 19th Alabama Infantry; Compiled Service Records Of Confederate Soldiers Who Served In Organizations From The State Of Alabama, microfilm publication M311, roll 272 of 508 rolls (Washington, D.C. : National Archives and Records Service, 1961); digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.Fold3.com : accessed 12 Mar 2021), file of Jasper Baird, p. 2. ↩
- Ibid., pp. 3-4 ↩
- Ibid., p. 6. ↩
- Wikipedia (https://www.wikipedia.com), “Battle of Missionary Ridge,” rev. 9 Mar 2021. ↩
- Fold3.com, file of Jasper Baird, p. 5. ↩
- See “Myth: Grant Stopped the Prisoner Exchange,” Andersonville, NPS.gov (https://www.nps.gov/ande/ : accessed 12 Mar 2021). ↩
- Fold3.com, file of Jasper Baird, pp. 9-11. ↩
- See Martin Kelly, “Rock Island Prison: Union Prison During the American Civil War,” updated 13 May 2019, ThoughtCo.com (https://www.thoughtco.com/ : accessed 12 Mar 2021). ↩
- See generally “The Galvanized Yankees,” Museum Gazette, PDF file, NPS.gov (https://www.nps.gov/ : accessed 12 Mar 2021). ↩
- See Frederick H. Dyer, A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion (Des Moines : Dyer Publ. Co., 1908), 3: 1717, for brief histories of the 1st-6th Regiments, United States Volunteers. ↩
- Fold3.com, file of Jasper Baird, p. 12. ↩
- Jasper Beard, Pvt., Co. F, 2nd U.S. Infantry Volunteers; Compiled Service Records of Former Confederate Soldiers who Served in the 1st Through 6th U.S. Volunteer Infantry Regiments, 1864-1866, microfilm publication M1017, roll 15 of 65 rolls (Washington, D.C. : National Archives and Records Service, 1978); digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.Fold3.com : accessed 12 Mar 2021), file of Jasper Beard, pp. 13-15. ↩
- Ibid., pp. 2-10 ↩
- Ibid., p. 11. ↩
- “J. N. Baird Dies Suddenly,” Russellville (Ark.) Courier-Democrat, 19 Aug 1909, p. 2. ↩
- Application by J.N. Baird for a Confederate Pension, No. 5014, Scott County, Arkansas, affidavit of applicant, 3 March 1908; digital images, “Arkansas Confederate Pensions, 1901-1929,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 12 Mar 2021). ↩