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Book by history professor called both classroom and movie material

April 29, 2003

Written by Dr. Michele Butts, associate professor of history, "Galvanized Yankees on the Upper Missouri: The Face of Loyalty" began as a scholarly publication. Now that it has been fully fleshed out, some professors say they may use it in upper-division history classes that deal with the Civil War or the Trans-Mississippi West.
April 29, 2003

Written by Dr. Michele Butts, associate professor of history, "Galvanized Yankees on the Upper Missouri: The Face of Loyalty" began as a scholarly publication. Now that it has been fully fleshed out, some professors say they may use it in upper-division history classes that deal with the Civil War or the Trans-Mississippi West.

Butts' colleague and professor of history, Dr. Richard Gildrie views the recently released book more broadly, saying, “Professor Butts' book is a fascinating account of the use of Confederate POWs serving under New England officers against the Indians of the Northern Plains during the Civil War.

“The book, which is a rich story of American pluralism under the pressures of war and disunion, would make a fine movie.”

“Galvanized Yankees on the Upper Missouri: The Face of Loyalty,” a history of the First United States Volunteer Infantry Regiment, was released by the University Press of Colorado in conjunction with the University of Oklahoma Press.

The project began as Butts' doctoral dissertation. However, her vision was to produce a comprehensive socio-cultural history of the U.S. Volunteers' role in western expansion and post-Civil War reconstruction. In early 1992, she began extensive research that included reviews of military documents, accounts of the daily activities of men in the regiment and even some poetry published by enlisted men and a regimental officer.

During the last 12 years, the project has cost Butts an estimated $20,000 in travel expenses, document copying, photograph reproduction and permissions. But seeing the book in its published format is gratifying and worth the effort and cost, according to Butts.

In its final form, “Galvanized Yankees” explores post-Civil War nation building, the complexities of western expansion and the changing nature of mid-19th-century manhood.

“Former Confederate prisoners of war, the First U.S. Volunteers were recruited into the Union Army in early 1864 to meet the critical need for men to fill the Union ranks,” said Butts.

After brief service in the East, the prisoners of war were transferred to the Department of the Northwest to occupy forts and defend emigrant routes against raids by the Sioux.

According to Butts, they braved disease, raids by native Indians and wicked Dakota weather to construct Fort Rice, assist emigrants, supervise Indian trade, foster “Native-Euro-American relations” and pioneer the assimilation of the South and the West into the Union.

Butts said, “Their experiences provide a telescopic view of the challenges confronting the United States for the remainder of the century and offer the first indication of what sort of citizens former Confederates would become.”

In his critique of the book, Gildrie said, “I was particularly impressed with her sensitive use of memoirs and correspondence of the officers to convey their aspirations, fears and attempts to understand the people they were encountering, both southerners and native Americans.”

For more information, telephone Butts at 7947.