Stagecoach Station: A Galvanized Yankee Story
The stagecoach lost a wheel before getting to the swing station. I was one of the soldiers whose job it was to escort the stage safely between the main station and one of the swing stations. That’s mainly a place for the stage to change horses and where the passengers could rest and maybe get a bite to eat and a cup of coffee. Just a livestock tender manned it. Maybe if we are lucky we could get a spare wheel there. Anyhow, I went ahead to the station to let them know the stage was delayed.
I suppose me and the other soldiers still had a bit of Southern accent and Sam asked me about it. I told him about our being Confederate soldiers who were Prisoners of War and how we were allowed to sign on in the Union Army for frontier duty. We came to be referred to as Galvanized Yankees. Galvanizing is a process of covering metal with a thin coat of zinc. In our case they cover a Southerner with a thin layer of Yankee and hope it works.
My name is Jacob Brown and I don’t think being a bluecoat is all that bad. I didn’t have anything to go back to in the south. I was called poor white back there and had no real stake in the war. I don’t have anything against the Indians either. Fact is, we kind of understand each other. The Comanche and the Kiowa are warriors and so are we, as I see it. Anything was better than the prison camp in Rock Island, Illinois. It was cold, full of smallpox and I was grateful to leave. Just as long as I don’t have to fight against other southerners. So far we have not even fought that much against the Indians but only doing patrol duty.
I found the station keeper pretty badly wounded and unconscious. The horses were gone. It looked like the Kiowa had made a raid. That’s one of the reasons us soldiers were out there with the coaches, to protect the horses. The stage horses are prize livestock because they are strong and have endurance. It looked like we’d have to stay over. The coach horses need rest. The Kiowa were not really on the warpath and they didn’t kill the station man. Now I was worried about the stage and its horses.
The swing station wasn’t much more than an old sod building that had been a tavern. where travelers stopped to rest. Behind it was another Soddy used as a stable where the horses had been kept. That’s where I went to find another wheel. In that I was lucky. There was one there. I made a travois so I could pull it behind the horse.
Once we got the coach back to the station we got the passengers settled in best we could. Since the tavern had once rented out rooms to travelers there were rooms with beds. Mary Hutchins, the woman passenger, volunteered to make some food for everyone. I showed her the kitchen area and left it up to her to make do with whatever was there. Sam Darkens looked like a gunfighter to me but he was pleasant enough about helping out. Mary was a pretty woman in her early twenties who came from out east and went to Dodge City as a mail order bride She said her man had been killed and she was going back home. She didn’t elaborate and I didn’t push it.
The Soldiers guarded the horses. I was afraid the Indians would try to make off with them as well as the ones they already had. Not only are the horses valuable but also to the Kiowa it is like a sport to steal them. I don’t know if they take bets on who can steal the best horse, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Whatever the case we had to guard the horses because the Indians might be back.
Sam Dirkens, an apparent gunfighter, Mary Hutching the disappointed bride, another male passenger Carl Smith, a drummer, and myself would have to guard the station and the horses. The driver, Joseph Jones was also with us. I stayed with the group at the station but the other soldiers continued their patrol duty.
There was something about the Indian raid that left me uneasy. I’d dealt with the Kiowa before and it was a favorite technique of theirs to disguise themselves as bluecoats so as to get close to an encampment and stealing horses. So it wasn’t unreasonable that it could be them. But something didn’t set right with me. I knew the Kiowa and it didn’t seem to quite fit. But, if not them, than who?
In the morning the horses should be rested and the stage can move on, a little late but hopefully safe.Maybe there wont be another raid, but we had to be prepared.
Mary kept us supplied with coffee and sandwiches. It helped keep us going. Sam was on watch when a commotion outside woke me up. There was some gunfire and men in war paint and feather headdresses rushed the barn. Again, something was a bit off key. Whoever the men were, they were not Kiowa. I don’t think Indians would be wearing war paint to make a horse raid. I grabbed my rifle and took a bead on the one in front. He fell. Sam was firing effectively at the rustlers. I checked and the driver was still asleep next to where I had been. Where was the drummer, Carl Smith?
I slipped out to the coach and there he was. We were so distracted by the horse rustling and worry about Indians we didn’t think about what the stagecoach might be hauling. Anyhow our driver had been a step ahead and secured the valuables inside the station. He hadn’t even told me where they were hidden.
The stagecoach brought the station keeper to the next town for medical treatment.
We had a few prisoners to hold for the marshal when we got there. We can retrieve the rest of the horses after that.
- A Galvanized(Southern) Yankee during Civil War-an Old West fictional short story
A fictional short story about a Southern prisoner during the civil war being allowed to go free if he will serve in the United States Army on the frontier. Such soldiers were called Galvanized Yankees.
- Washington Matthews U.S. Army Surgeon and Ethnographic research of Navaho and other Native American
Matthews (1843-1905) graduated from the University of Iowa in 1864 with a degree in Medicine, enlisted in the Union army as a surgeon at Rock Island barracks in Illinois. There he tended to confederate prisoners, many of whom would become the...
© 2011 Don A. Hoglund
More by this Author
Rendezvous was a gathering of trappers, Indians, traders and anyone else involved in trapping and selling furs. The gathering was developed to save having to go to the big cities to sell furs.
John Cassidy, not yet a priest, has taken a trip to the frontier where his sister has a trading post. It is a reunion with family and a man searching his faith and the new land he is observing.
Rock Island is a Ghost town situated in Door County, Wisconsin in Lake Michigan. It has a history of very early European exploration and Native American inhabitants.