After the Civil War, my great-grandfather Edwin L. Lybarger compiled a portrait album of the Union Army commanders and friends he admired. The album has a tooled, hard leather cover and measures 5″ wide, 6″ high and 2″ thick, latched with two elaborate gold hinges. The album contains one carte de visite per page, each in its own gold-edged pocket. A numbered index identifies most of the photographs, although some need no introduction.
Edwin Lybarger was a staunch Lincoln supporter. From his diary:
Nov. 8, 1864: In camp near Marietta, Ga. Election day. Voted for “Ole Abe.”
From Wisconsin soldier Ed Leving’s diary: “A soldier who votes for McClellan, is looked upon by his comrades as an ignoramus or a coward & wants to get out of the service & so votes for McClellan.”
The former Union general of the Army of the Potomac was the Peace Democrats’ candidate, and veteran soldiers wanted nothing to do with him or his party. President Lincoln was re-elected with the vote of 86% of the soldiers, and 55% of the total vote. Within a week, Sherman led his army on the March to the Sea. (from The March to the Sea and Beyond by Joseph Glathaar, 1985)
In his diary, Edwin records the night of March 5, 1865 in Cheraw, South Carolina, when he met Gen. Sherman face to face and was impressed by the general’s “colloquial powers.”
During the Union’s Atlanta campaign in 1864, McPherson took command of the Army of theTennessee, reporting to Gen. Sherman.
From Lt. Edwin Lybarger’s diary:
June 22, 1864: Moved from Roswell Ga.to the front. The Army of the Tenn. attacked by the rebs. Gen. McPherson killed. The enemy repulsed with terrible slaughter. Our Brigade (Sprague’s) driven out of Decaturwith a loss of 254 men. The 43rd came up too late to participate.
June 23: Marched in to Decatur found the enemy had left. Buried our dead and brought off our wounded. Tore up the railroads for twenty miles towards Augusta Ga.
From Aug. 1861, Fuller was colonel of the 27th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a regiment with six month’s experience in the field by March 1862, when Edwin’s 43rd OVI left Ohio for the first time and arrived in Missouri. Gen. Pope, commanding the Army of the Mississippi, banded the 27th Ohio, 39th Ohio, 43rd Ohio and 63rd Ohiointo a brigade. In July 1862, Col. Fuller, formerly a book publisher in Toledo, Ohio, was given command of the Ohio Brigade.
Colonel Smith, a West Point and Pennsylvania man, was the first colonel of the 43rd OVI, greatly admired by the Ohio men in his command. At the second Battle of Corinth, on Oct. 4, 1862 he was shot in the head and fell from his white horse while rallying the regiment. Amid the hard-fought battle, word swept the regiment that Smith had been killed. Lt. Col. Wager Swayne filled the breach to rally the stunned regiment and successfully defend Battery Robinett, helping the Union win the battle. To the regiment’s relief, Col. Smith had not been killed on the field, but sadly succumbed to his moral wounds on Oct. 12, 1862.
A lieutenant colonel in the 43rd OVI during the second Battle of Corinth that mortally wounded Col. Smith, Swayne became its colonel after Col. Smith died. On Feb. 3, 1865, Swayne was severely wounded while crossing the swampy Salkahatchie River in South Carolina. While helped to an ambulance wagon, he kept repeating, “The Lord sustains me.” He was successfully evacuated to New York City, losing his leg but surviving.
My great-grandfather admired Swayne more than any other officer, as evidence that he named his only son Harry Swayne Lybarger. Family documents include a letter from Swayne to Edwin and his first wife Sophronia after the war, assuring him that he’s very much looking forward to meeting “little Wager,” presumably an infant son who was his namesake. But little Wager must have died in infancy; the family has no other evidence or information about him. Edwin and Sophronia had no other children before her death in 1882.
Harry Swayne Lybarger, born in Spring Mountain, Ohio, was Edwin’s only child with his second wife, Nancy Moore, born when she was 44 years old and Edwin was 48. Years later, Harry wrote: “I met the great Colonel Swayne once at Mount Vernon, Ohio, in 1897, when he came from his law office in New York City to attend the Grand Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic of Ohio, the year my father was its commander.”
Park began the war as captain of Company F in the 43rd OVI, from Oct. 1861, an indication that he helped to raise the company (100 volunteers). He was the regiment’s lieutenant colonel when Col. Swayne was wounded in South Carolina, assumed command and was promoted to colonel. He mustered out with the regiment on July 13, 1865.
John Rhodes began the war as a sergeant in Company B of the 43rd regiment, then became captain of Company K in early 1862, after the illness and resignation of the first (and recruiting) captain, William Walker. Rhodes was a lieutenant colonel of the regiment by the end of the war, and mustered out with the regiment on July 13, 1865.
John Rhodes and Edwin Lybarger remained lifelong friends.