was born in West Cambridge, Mass. At the age of seven years he was left fatherless, and soon after sent to live with a distant relative. In Boston he learned the trade of machinist and locksmith, and the manufacture of philosophical and chemical apparatus and models. At the age of twenty-one he removed to Utica and engaged in a silversmith and jewelry establishment. In 1840 he removed to Cherry Valley, where he has since resided. In 1842 he married the daughter of J. K. Forrester. Since that time he has become extensively known as a manufacturer of melodeons, in which business he is still engaged at Cherry Valley.
When the rebellion broke out, Colonel Swan was in command of the Union Guards, and as such volunteered to join the army. At the consolidation he was the tenth in rank, as regarded the date of his commission, so that all the other Captains stood above him in the line of promotion. He remained in the Regiment, until from the tenth he became first in rank among the line officers of the Regiment. He was often in command of the Regiment, and ever ready for duty. It was generally remarked in the Regiment, that Captain Swan was always in a fight, and always wounded. He received five different wounds in the service. At the battle of Gainesville, August twenty-eighth, 1862, he received a severe wound in the hip. At Fredericksburg he was wounded by the bursting of a rebel shell so near him that the powder is still to be seen in his face. At second Fredericksburg, he was wounded by a fragment of a shell in the thigh, and at Gettysburg, in July, 1863, he was wounded twice, in the breast and right arm, by Minie balls. Notwithstanding all these wounds, he was only absent from his Regiment four months during nearly three years' service.
After the campaign of 1863, while the Regiment was in winter quarters, Captain Swan tendered his resignation on account of the wound in his hip, which made it impossible to keep with the Regiment on long marches. He could not endure the thought of being under pay and a nominal soldier, while he was unable to participate in the fighting. His life had been earnest, and with him, shirking was a crime. His resignation was reluctantly accepted. He has since been honored with a commission as Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, for "faithful and meritorious services," and no brevet could be more worthily bestowed.
- From the Regimental History of the 76th New York, A. P. Smith, 1867
Photo courtesy of Jeff Kowalis
- signature from John Newkirk's discharge papers, in Mike Brown collection.
We publish below a letter from Captain Swan, which was kindly furnished us to relieve the anxiety of those who have friends in the 76th.
Washington, Sept. 3
Once more I am placed so I can communicate with you. I wrote a line
from Manassas and sent by an officer who was going forward when I could not. he
could walk and went on foot. I had to be carried, and was four days
reaching here. I hope you got that letter as it must have relieved your
anxiety. i am very comfortable this morning. My wound to be sure, is
painful, but I think will soon heal. The ball entered the back part of my
thigh near the hip and struck the bone so hard that it battered the ball up as
if it had struck a rock. It must come very near indeed to shattering the
bone. I has turned around at the moment to speak to the Colonel and Major,
who were right behind me at the time. This saved my life; an instant
sooner I was faced the other way, and if the ball had come then it would have
struck in the groin or just below and severed the great artery, and all would
soon been over.
I must tell all I know about the others of our company. It was a terrible fight for a short one. in less than one hour over half of two brigades were killed and wounded on our side. We were in about three-fourths of an hour and lost over one third of the Regiment in killed and wounded. Four Captains, the other three all worse than myself - one or two will die. Nine of Co. H were wounded that I know of, viz: Sergt. Jas. George, leg, slightly; Geo. Snow, leg, slightly; B.A. Campbell, right hand, badly; J.J. Reese, right fore finger C.R. Dingman, right thumb, amputated; Jay C. Stanton, legs; Byron Green, badly wounded but refused to be taken from the field. I fear he died. Wm. Miller, in foot, badly. This brave fellow lay on the ground in front of the company and continued to fire till all was over. Corporal Perry Oaks was killed instantly, at almost the first fire, by a ball through the head. There may be others, but I think not as I saw the Lieuts. the next day, and they knew of no more. None are dangerous except Green. Irving Baker, Albert Gross, Alf. Folen, and all the other village boys I know are safe and have seen them.
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- Last Updated Nov. 12, 2012