Col. Wager Swayne, 43rd OVI

From the journal of Harry Swayne Lybarger, son of Edwin L. Lybarger, 43rd OVI:

“[My father’s] first Colonel Smith, a Westpointer, was killed in action. His next colonel, Wager Swayne, he probably thought more of than any man living, so much so that he named his only son Harry Swayne Lybarger.

Col. Swayne lost a leg from a cannon ball shot, crossing a bridge, on a charge ordered by General Mower, which my father always said was unnecessary. I met the great colonel once at Mt. Vernon, Ohio, in 1897, when he came from his law office in New York City to attend the Grand Encampment of the GAR while my father was Grand Commander of Ohio.”

Oct. 4, 1862

(2nd) Battle of Corinth, Mississippi, Oct. 4, 1862

After days of hard marching, on Oct. 3, 1862 the Ohio (Fuller’s) Brigade arrived in Corinth, Mississippi late in the day on Oct. 3 after the Army of the Mississippi’s fight with the enemy had come to a stop for the night. One of four regiments in the brigade, the 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry was commanded by a West Pointer, Col. J. L. Kirby Smith, and Lt. Col. Wager Swayne, an Ohio man.

In 1887, John W. Fuller recounted the battle in “Our Kirby Smith,” an address to Ohio Commandery of the GAR (Union veterans):

“The Ohio Brigade was ordered to the crest crowned by Battery Robinet, to resist any further advance of the enemy. Col. Smith’s regiment was formed on the left of Battery Robinet, facing on the west; the other regiments of the Brigade (63rd, 27th, 39th Ohio) were to the right of the Battery facing to the north…As soon as it was light enough to see, our own batteries drove the Rebels back…As the Ohio Brigade occupied the crest of a ridge near the center of Rosecrans’ line of battle, we had a magnificent view of the enemy as he came out of the woods, in fine style, and marched over and through the obstructions with such noticeable gallantry. Our guns were all turned in that direction…[Col. Smith was executing the order to ‘change front forward’ to face the advancing enemy.] An enemy column which advanced along the west side of the road got close to the battery, and our men sheltered themselves behind stumps and logs and fired sharply.

‘Those fellows are firing at you Colonel,’ said one of the 43rd’s men. ‘Well, give it to them,’ answered the Colonel and immediately thereafter fell from his horse…I saw some men picking up a wounded officers whose face was stained with blood. I did not then know it was Col. Smith…[Amid shouts that their colonel was shot], the regiment seemed dazed and liable to confusion; but Lt. Col. Wager Swayne immediately began to steady the ranks…”

Fighting was fierce. In his official report, Fuller described the brigade’s impassioned defense of the battery: “…and every rebel who showed his head above the parapet of the fort, or attempted to enter it by the embrasures, got his head shot off.”

Stunned by the loss of Col. Smith, the 43rd rallied behind Lt. Col. Swayne. The Ohio Brigade held Battery Robinet, and Gen. Rosecrans’ Army of the Mississippi won the battle. The 43rd had 25% casualties, the 63rd had 50% casualties. Swayne gained command of the 43rd OVI and the rank of colonel.

Nov. 25, 1863

An invitation to the first national Thanksgiving dinner

Col. Swayne wrote a letter to Lt. Edwin Lybarger, on Nov. 25, 1863, inviting him to dine the following day, Nov. 26. My great-grandfather kept that dinner invitation for the rest of his life, and it took nearly 150 years to find out why. See Lookout Mountain or dinner with the colonel

Feb. 3, 1865

The Bridges, on the Salkahatchie in South Carolina

From Edwin Lybarger’s journal:

Feb. 1, 1865: The Army of Sherman being now in readiness to move started for some point, Sherman and God, only know.

Feb. 2, 1865: The enemy found in our front, harasses us all he can and seems determined to dispute every inch of ground. We lose several in killed and wounded during the day. Notwithstanding the resistance we made about ten miles.

Feb. 3, 1865: The enemy more stubborn than yesterday. Col. Swayne has his right leg carried away by a cannon ball. The first division ordered to cross the Salkahatchie river and drive the enemy from his strong position. Sprague’s Brigade, the 43rd, in advance took the main road, with a deep swamp on either side. Two rebel batteries were in front completely commanding the road for a distance of half a mile. There were eleven bridges to cross with plank torn off. The last one about 60 yards long over the river and not more than 150 yards from the enemy’s main line. The 1st and 3rd brigades were to effect a crossing higher up stream. Two companies of the 43rd were armed with boards to plank the bridges. Ten men were to carry axes, to cut away the Arbutis, whilst the remainder of the regiment with fixed bayonets were to charge over the bridges, and river, and if possible take the forts. At the same time, the 1st and 3rd Brigade were to charge the enemy in front and rear. The 43rd behaved exceedingly well under most trying circumstances, marched up the only road that was passable under a heavy fire of shot and shell, under which some 20 of our brave soldiers fell. The 63rdOhio following lost equally severely but the enemy’s works were taken.

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