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Civil War Soldiers - Swayne

Swayne, Wager, major-general, U.S. Army, was born in Columbus, Ohio, Nov. 10, 1834, son of Noah H. Swayne, late associate justice of the U. S. supreme court. He was educated at Yale college, graduating in 1856, and then entered the Cincinnati law school, in which he was graduated in 1859. He formed a law partnership with his father and practiced two years, or until the Civil war broke out, when he offered his services to the government and in July, 1861, was appointed major of the 43d Ohio infantry. He was first stationed at Camp Chase, near Columbus, then took part in the Missouri campaign under Pope in 1861-62, assisted in the capture of New Madrid and Island No. 10, and was engaged in the battles of Corinth and Iuka. During the Corinth engagement the colonel of the 43d Ohio was killed, the command devolving upon Maj. Swayne, who was subsequently commissioned as colonel. He continued with his regiment until the fall of 1863, in Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, and in 1864 accompanied Sherman to Atlanta and on his march to the sea. During the campaign of the Carolinas Col. Swayne lost his right leg by the explosion of a shell in an affair at the crossing of the Salkahatchie river, and "for gallant and distinguished services" in that action was commissioned brevet brigadier-general, and later was promoted to the full rank of brigadier-general of volunteers. Gen. Swayne was invalided until June, 1865, when at the request of Gen. O. O. Howard, chief of the Freedmen's bureau, he was detailed by the war department to duty in Alabama as assistant commissioner of the bureau in that state. He instituted various enterprises for the education of the blacks and to provide them with sustenance and the opportunity to become self-supporting. Through Sec. Stanton he secured from President Johnson an order devoting certain confiscated war materials to the education of the freedmen and subsequently, through Senator, afterward Vice-President Henry Wilson, an act of Congress devoting to the same cause such real property as had been purchased from individuals by the Federal government, becoming by the rules of international law the property of the United States. But his policy was radically different from that which President Johnson eventually adopted, and accordingly Gen. Swayne was recalled from Alabama in 1868. The command of the United States forces in Alabama had meantime, soon after he came into the state, been added to his duties, and to facilitate his work he was made a major-general of volunteers. In 1866 Congress increased the regular army of the United States by the creation of four regiments of infantry composed of disabled volunteer soldiers, known as "the veteran reserve corps." Gens. Daniel E. Sickles, John C. Robinson, Thomas G. Pitcher and Wager Swayne were respectively appointed to the command of these regiments. In Dec, 1868, Gen. Swayne was assigned to duty in the war department at Washington, but in 1870 was placed on the retired list of the army at his own request and resumed the practice of law, locating at Toledo, Ohio. Almost immediately he took rank among the foremost lawyers of Ohio. He fought through the lower courts and finally through the supreme court of the United States, the constitutionality of a state law which was designed to tax national banks out of existence, and secured a final decision in the negative. Gen. Swayne soon had among his clients such concerns as the American Union telegraph company and the Wabash railroad company, and in 1879 the growth of his railroad and telegraph business made it necessary for him to remove to New York city, where his clients were. In May, 1881, he entered into partnership with Judge John F. Dillon and the firm soon became general counsel for the Western Union telegraph company, the Missouri Pacific railroad company, and other great commercial and railway interests. Gen. Swayne was the second president of the Ohio society of New York. He died Dec. 18, 1902.

Source: The Union Army: A History of Military Affairs in the Loyal States 1861-1865, Volume 8 Biographical, 1908

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