Tag Archives: Civil War

Galvanized Yankees



One of the true pleasures of longtime membership in the Columbine Genealogical and Historical Society in Littleton, or a group like it, is that we learn so much from attending programs and sharing information with other members of the group. This was especially true recently during a presentation about Galvanized Yankees in the Civil War, presented by Karen Hancock. Her message for our group related to genealogy research. If we had such a person in our family tree, it might be a benefit in our search for Civil War records to find information about a Confederate solider in Union Army rosters. Since I had some difficulty understanding the larger questions, and the context of the subject, some additional research led me to some basic information.

What is a Galvanized Yankee? The term emerged when Confederate soldiers joined the Union Army for a variety of reasons, mostly relating to basic survival. Webster’s definition of “galvanlize” is to coat iron or steel with a zinc process to render it rust-resistant. The metaphor meant that although a Confederate soldier might switch from a grey to a blue uniform, the color change is a thin symbolic coating affecting outer appearance, but which does not define the heart-felt loyalties of the individual. A “white-washed reb”, or Galvanized Yankee, might change sides in exchange for release from prison, or might reenlist in Union troops if their home region was taken over by regulation or renegade troops in an effort to avoid execution or to protect property and family.

According to Wikipedia, 5,600 former Confederate soldiers enlisted in the “United States Volunteers”, organized into six regiments between January 1864 and November 1866. 1,600 Union army soldiers enlisted in the Confederate army, and were also referred to as Galvanized Yankees. Confederate Civil War records are often elusive due to their loss and destruction during the conflict. A genealogist may have better luck and find new information by checking Union Army rosters and indices.

Joyce B. Lohse


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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Uncategorized


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OMG Road

OMG Road 2

In 1880, former Union Army General and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant visited Colorado. One of his hosts was Governor John L. Routt, a pal from Civil War days. As Grant’s host, Routt wished to show his friend the sights of Colorado’s mining districts, while attempting to recapture the excitement of their glory days.

After a tour of the mining camp of Central City in the mountains west of Denver, Routt decided to play a little joke on Grant. For the return trip down the mountains, Routt paid the veteran wagon driver to give Grant an exciting ride down Virginia Canyon Stage Road. That he did. For the 1,000 foot descent down eight-plus miles of gravel road, the driver urged his horses as fast as they would go down the narrow route. As they thundered along at a hair-raising pace around blind curves with sheer drops on one side, the wagon careened and leaned, sliding on the loose rock surface. Once they were safely in Idaho Springs at the bottom of the descent, a jittery Grant shook hands with the driver and presented him with a wad of money for a tip, in payment for his excellent driving skills and for the exciting ride down the mountain.

OMG Road 1

Last week, 130 years later, we found ourselves in Central City on a research jaunt. It was an easy drive up the recently built and lightly traveled Central City Parkway. When it was time to leave, my hubby asked which way I wished to go. Without hesitation, I responded that I wished to go down the Virginia Canyon Stage Road, CR 279, aka “Oh My Gawd Road”.  With a name like that, I wondered if it would thrill or disappoint us. After thirty-six years of mountain driving we’ve seen our share of dicey roads. There was only one way to find out.

The OMG Road had more thrills than an amusement park roller coaster, and as many breathtaking views. Although my driver proceeded cautiously in his Subaru, I experienced more than one white-knuckle breath-sucking moment. I could only imagine the heart-stopping excitement of careening down the mountainside and around blind curves behind a thundering team of horses.

AAA recommends that people driving trailers or unaccustomed to driving on gravel mountain roads avoid this one. Central City Visitor’s Center suggests that the passenger might prefer to sit behind the driver to avoid experiencing the illusion of sailing off the roadbed into thin air at each turn. Personally, I recommend reliance on a cautiously driven Subaru, and avoidance of a horse-driven spring wagon with a driver arranged by a jolly prankster.

Grant’s wild ride is described in Joyce Lohse’s book:
First Governor, First Lady: John and Eliza Routt of Colorado
Filter Press, 2002

Joyce B. Lohse, 5/23/2010


Posted by on May 23, 2010 in Western history


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Historic Postcards

One of my favorite tools for research and touching the past is the postcard. Antique stores and postcard shows are a great place to view and purchase images from the past. This past weekend, I attended the Denver Postcard and Paper Show with my research friend, Christie. We did not buy much, but we had a wonderful time looking at images from the past. I purchased 2 post cards to give for a birthday present. Christie bought an old mine document.

When I was a docent for the William Henry Jackson view photo display at the Colorado Historical Society, I learned that Jackson created the first postcards sent through the mail. As a boy, Jackson earned a few coins by painting decorative landscapes on his neighbors’ screen doors. When he was a soldier in the Civil War, Jackson spent his leisure time creating small sketches of scenes around the campfire. The soldiers were so impressed with his sketches that they asked to write messages on them to send in the mail. As the story goes, Jackson’s sketches were the first picture post cards.

I became interested in postcards as a youngster. During the 50’s, my family took long car trips from Chicago to Florida and back. I picked up postcards along the way and kept them in an album. I have continued sending postcards when I travel, and I enjoy receiving them from others.

More recently, at a meeting of the Columbine Genealogical and Historical Society, I renewed my interest after a presentation by a woman who deals in historic postcards. Images on these cards show how places looked back in the day, with buildings and landmarks which might no longer exist. Fashions, trends and modes of transportation are documented as well as locations. Postcards provide a rare glimpse into the historic past.

— Joyce Lohse, 1/19/09

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Posted by on January 19, 2009 in Western history


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The General is coming!


A few days ago, I received the edits for my latest manuscript, General William Palmer: Railroad Pioneer. Looks like my work is cut out for me as we hope to have the book published by early February, in time for a reading conference in Denver. This book has been a long time coming. It began almost two years ago and has gone through a couple of incarnations since its inception. I am excited that we are getting close to finalizing it for the “Now You Know Bio” series from Filter Press. To read more about the offerings from Filter Press, go to

General Palmer’s story is an exciting one of western pioneering spirit at its finest. Born in 1836, Palmer grew up with a fascination for railroad transportation and wide open spaces. As an officer of the Union Army during the Civil War, he was taken a prisoner of war for spying. After the war, he went to work for the railroads, eventually starting his own company, the Denver & Rio Grande. His narrow gauge “baby railroad” opened frontiers by connecting eastern and western routes through the rugged Colorado high country. He settled areas including the beautiful resort city of Colorado Springs where he settled with his wife Queen and built a castle in the foothills. Life threw many challenges at him which he overcame with dignity and perseverance.

Watch for publication of Palmer’s story early in 2009. This will be my fifth book for Filter Press in Palmer Lake, Colorado. With much pleasure and excitement, I have learned a great deal about the history of the railroads during the years of Western expansion, and I am anxious to share those stories with my readers and at upcoming presentations.

With best regards — Joyce Lohse


Posted by on January 3, 2009 in Western history


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