In this image from the 1896 book Famous Leaders and Battle Scenes of the Civil War, Confederate prisoners of war take an oath of allegiance to the United States during the Civil War. Jeremiah Minard -- one of two known cousins to have joined the Confederate Army, from a family that otherwise produced more than 115 Union soldiers -- swore such an oath. Research is underway to try to determine whether in fact Jeremiah switched sides and was wounded in action fighting against Confederate forces.
His story is remarkable. Growing up in Preston County, in northern West Virginia, a region divided in its loyalties, Jeremiah enlisted in the Confederate army in May 1861, just a month after the war commenced. After taking part in the Second Battle of Manassas, he deserted and made his way back to West Virginia. He was arrested as a spy, and was sent to prisoner of war camps in Columbus and Sandusky, Ohio. He spent a year as a POW at Johnson's Island, Ohio, but in a strange twist of fate was discharged after swearing an oath of allegiance to the Union cause.
In another odd turn of events, another "Jeremiah Minard," of the same age and place of origin, joined the Union Army just two days later, as a member of the 48th New York Infantry. Were they the same man? This "other" Jeremiah was wounded in action at the Battle of Chester Heights (Strawberry Plains), Virginia, and eventually drew a federal pension as compensation for his disability. The New York Times reported some years later that "It is a fact not generally known that a large number of ex-Confederate soldiers and sailors who deserted, or who, while prisoners of war, took the oath of allegiance to the United States, enlisted in the Union Army, and, receiving disabilities while in the line of duty as Federal soldiers, are now drawing pensions." More >>>.