Wager Swayne

From Ohio History Central
Swayne, Wager.jpg
Wager Swayne, Union General

Wager Swayne was a military leader from Ohio during the American Civil War.

Swayne was born on November 10, 1834, in Columbus, Ohio. His father was Noah Haynes Swayne, who later became an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Wager Swayne graduated from Yale College in 1856l He then attended Cincinnati Law School and graduated from that institution in 1859. He returned to Columbus and began practicing law with his father.

On August 31, 1861, in the early days of the American Civil War, Governor William Dennison appointed Swayne as a major in the Forty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Swayne helped organize the regiment at Mount Vernon, Ohio and accompanied his men into battle in February 1862. The Forty-Third Ohio served under General John Pope and fought in the battles for Island Number Ten, New Madrid, and Corinth, Mississippi in 1862. Swayne was promoted to colonel in the Forty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry after the death of his superior officer at the Battle of Corinth.

During 1863, the Forty-Third Ohio served on garrison duty. Assigned first to Memphis, Tennessee, and then Prospect, Tennessee, Swayne served with the Provost Marshal's office. In late 1863, the Forty-Third Ohio received a furlough back to Ohio. Swayne and most of the men reenlisted.

During 1864 and 1865, the Forty-Third Ohio served under William Tecumseh Sherman and participated in the capture of Atlanta, Georgia, the March to the Sea, and Sherman's invasion of South Carolina. While the Forty-Third Ohio was crossing the Salkehatchie River in South Carolina on February 22, 1865, Confederate soldiers shelled the Union troops. Shrapnel from a Confederate shell struck Swayne in his right leg. Surgeons amputated Swayne's leg above the knee. Swayne received the Congressional Medal of Honor for rallying his men and leading them in an attack on the Confederate position. Two weeks before being wounded, Swayne had been promoted to the rank of brigadier-general. Because of his wound, Swayne did not see any additional combat. The Civil War, ended two months later.

Following the Civil War, Swayne remained in the United States Army. In 1865, General Oliver O. Howard, head of the Freedman's Bureau, appointed Swayne to oversee the Bureau's activities in Alabama. Swayne played a major role in establishing schools for African Americans, including high schools in Selma, Montgomery, and Mobile. He also helped organize Talladega College. He eventually was promoted to major general. He retired from the Freedman's Bureau and the army in 1870.

Swayne established a law practice in Toledo, Ohio. He moved to New York City in 1881, where he established a prominent law firm, representing primarily telegraph and railroad companies. He died on December 18, 1902.  

See Also


  1. Dee, Christine, ed. Ohio's War: The Civil War in Documents. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007.  
  2. Dodge, Grenville Mellen. Sketch of the Military Service of Major General Wager Swayne. New York, NY: Unz, 1903.
  3. Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the World War, 1917-1918. Columbus, OH: F.J. Heer Printing Co., 1926.  
  4. Reid, Whitelaw. Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen, Generals and Soldiers. Cincinnati, OH: Clarke, 1895.
  5. Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.  
  6. Woods, Joseph Thatcher. Steedman and His Men at Chickamauga. Toledo, OH: Blade Printing & Paper Co., 1876.