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RG1187.AM:  James Alexander Polk Fancher, 1841-1912

Diary (transcript):  1864-1865

White County, Tennessee: Confederate soldier; galvanized Yankee

Size:  One item


Born on February 26, 1841 in Overton County, Tennessee, James Alexander Polk Fancher was the son of Thomas H. and Susan Ann (Officer) Fancher. James A.P. Fancher served in Company K, 16th Tennessee Infantry of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Union troops captured Fancher and sent him to Rock Island, Illinois where numerous other prisoners of war were being held. As a way to reduce the pressure on drafting men to serve in the Union Army, a number of Confederate prisoners were recruited to serve in what officially became known as the United States Volunteers.

These “volunteers” or “Galvanized Yankees” went into service on the condition that they would not be required to fight against their Confederate brethren. Instead, they were relocated to the western frontier where they helped to keep roads and mail routes open and travelers safe from Indian attacks. Some 6,000 former Confederate soldiers enlisted from Union prisoner-of-war camps and were sent west to maintain peace on the frontier. Between 1864 and 1866, six regiments of these former Confederates were stationed throughout the west seeing action in Nebraska, Minnesota, Dakota Territory, Kansas, Colorado, and Utah.

James A. P. Fancher was one of these “Galvanized Yankees,” serving as company clerk of Co. F, 3rd Regiment, U.S. Volunteer Infantry. He served from October 17, 1864, when he enrolled at the Rock Island, Illinois prisoner camp, to November 29, 1865, when he was discharged at Fort Leavenworth. After his service, Fancher returned to White County, Tennessee where he farmed and owned/operated a grist mill. He married Jane Landsden (Lausden?) in 1867. After her death in 1884, Fancher married his sister-in-law, Lavina Trigg Landsden (Lausden?).

James Alexander Polk Fancher died at Fanchers Mills, Tennessee on June 13, 1912.


This collection consists of one item, a typed transcript of a diary dating from 1864-1865. This diary kept by “galvanized Yankee” James Fancher, details his experiences while serving on the plains with the 3rd Regiment, United States Volunteers. The diary begins in January of 1864 when Fancher was taken prisoner in Tennessee. After tracing his route from Tennessee through Indiana to the Rock Island, Illinois prisoner camp, the diary continues in March of 1865 when Fancher was stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The rest of the diary details Fancher’s march from Fort Leavenworth to Camp Ramkin, Julesburg, Colorado, where he spent most of 1865. Fancher describes the landscape and developing towns he saw during the trek from Kansas through Nebraska to Colorado, including notes on the terrain, water and timber sources, road ranches and trail sites, and wildlife. He also mentions desertions, drunkenness of some soldiers, and names and hometowns of the men in Company F. Of particular interest are Fancher’s estimates of the numbers of wagons and men heading west in comparison to those returning east.

Note:  This diary is a typewritten copy of the original as transcribed by Fancher’s granddaughter. The Tennessee State Archives has a copy of the original diary on microfilm. See Mf. 6 — James A.P. Fancher diary.


Diary (typed transcript), 1864-1865



See also the Galvanized Yankees collection [RG0779]. The Library contains various publications about Galvanized Yankees.


Subject headings:

Camp Ramkin (Julesburg, Colorado) — History

Fancher, James Alexander Polk, 1841-1912

Kansas — History

Military life

Military camps — Colorado

Nebraska — History

United States — History — Civil War, 1861-1865

United States. Army — Infantry — 3rd Volunteers


Revised TMM          04-03-2009