Sunday, August 30, 2020

Book News: Changing Sides

A short while ago, I read an 1865 Mobile Campaign chapter from a recently published book (the title of which escapes me at the moment) that referred to as many as 500 ex-Union POWs serving in the ranks of the Confederate defenders. These men were understandably worried about how they would be treated after the forts surrendered, but the author left me hanging with no further mention of what happened to them. However, in one of those many moments of odd coincidence, news of an upcoming title that might enlighten us regarding their ultimate fate, Pat Garrow's Changing Sides: Union Prisoners of War Who Joined the Confederate Army (UT Press, Nov 2020), popped up around the same time. Most of the literature studying those Civil War soldiers who sought to escape the many hells of military prisons by joining the other side focuses on the over 5,000 Confederate prisoners who agreed to wear blue and serve on the western frontier—the "Galvanized Yankees." Though other books have followed in its wake (most prominently 2003's Galvanized Yankees on the Upper Missouri: The Face of Loyalty), Dee Brown's The Galvanized Yankees (1963, Univ. of Ill. Press) has long served as the standard general history of the subject.

Though the numbers of Galvanized Rebels were much smaller, they are significant enough to merit book-length study. The implications of their service were much different, too. While Galvanized Yankees would serve on the distant frontier against hostile Indian tribes, Galvanized Rebels could readily expect to find themselves fighting their ex-comrades in the Union Army.

Galvanizing into the Confederate Army was a late-war (1864-65) phenomenon. According to NPS research (see here), 6% of the Union soldiers at the Florence prison and 4% of Camp Lawton POWs agreed to enlist in the Confederate Army. Garrow's book Changing Sides "investigates the experience of imprisoned Union soldiers during the final years of the American Civil War, including their captivity and their repatriation into Confederate ranks. Patrick Garrow's research stems from the archaeological excavation of Florence Prison in 2006 and subsequent archival research in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion and other primary records. Garrow's deeply researched portrait will fill a significant gap in our understanding of Union POWs."

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