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William Jean Schwalbach was born in 1844 in Geneva, Switzerland. An unfortunate immigrant that understood no English at his time of induction was apparently seduced by unscrupulous recruitment and line officers into joining the military and his name appears on company muster rolls in a variety of different spellings, including Swallback, Snaltback and Schwaberg. The Union, desperately needing men by 1864, enlisted William at age 20, straight off the immigrant ship that brought him to America in New York as they did so many others, and mustered him into Company D, 25th New York Cavalry on February 26, 1864; for a period of three years. The 25th was also known as Sickles Cavalry. The initial Paymaster Muster Rolls of the 25th New York Cavalry Regiment for March and April 1864, indicates that he was “improperly mustered in by “P.M.” and received no bounty or advance pay”; as was normally required.

William was diligent and was reported on all muster rolls between May 1864 and April 1865, always present for duty. Apparently having lost some of his equipment, or being unable to understand spoken English and having been liberated of it, William was charged for the replacement of “1 Burnside Carbine, 1 box plate and belt and 1 cartridge and cap box”; and his pay was stopped until the amount charged had been paid. In a period of war and fighting it is inconceivable that a soldier could “lose” his rifle and ammunition belt from around his waist.

In any case, when William mustered out, having fought bloody battles for the United States and having survived his forced induction period, he still owed the U.S. Government a total of $8. So much for the educated and fair minded Union north.

On September 4th, 1863 Colonel Henry F. Liebenau received authority from the governor of New York to recruit a regiment of cavalry, which on January 15, 1864, was given the numerical designation of 25. It was organized at Saratoga Springs and Hart's Island, under Colonel Liebenau, and his successor Colonel Gurdon Chapin, for a service period of three years.   Two Companies, I and M however, had a few men who were allowed to enlist for only one year. The companies were mustered in at Saratoga; A and B on February 20th; C and D being William’s company on March 19th; E and F on April 14th and the 23rd, respectively, at Hart's Island, Company on G April 20th, H on July 29th; I on September 18th; K on May 16th; and L and M on October 15th and 20th, 1864.

Company A was recruited at Hancock, Saratoga Springs, Fremont and Greene County, B at Hancock, Root, Fremont and Stillwater, C at New York City, Neversink, Goshen, Saratoga, Halfmoon and Montgomery; D which was William’s company at Saratoga, Montgomery, New York City, Schenectady and Root, E at Saratoga, Goshen, Kingston and New York City, F at Saratoga and New York City, G and K at New York City, H at New York City, Brooklyn, Williamsburgh, Goshen and Watertown, I at New York City, Brooklyn, Alberg, Goshen, Jamaica, Poughkeepsie, Tarrytown and Troy and L and M at New York City, Brooklyn, Jamaica, Goshen, Kingston, Plattsburgh, Tarrytown, Troy and Schenectady.

The regiment left New York state in 1864 by detachments, and served in the Defenses of Washington, D. C.,with the 22d Corps from April 1864, in the Provost Guard, Army of the Potomac from June 1864, at Washington, D. C.and the 22d Corps from July 7th 1864, in the Fourth Brigade, First Division, Cavalry, A. P. from August, 1864, in the First Brigade, First Division, Cavalry from September 1864, in the Army of the Shenandoah from October 1864 and in the Cavalry Division, Army of West Virginia, from April 1865. Commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Aaron Seeley, the regiment was honorably discharged, and mustered out June 27th, 1865, at Hart's Island, New York Harbor.

During its three year period the regiment lost 1 officer and 10 enlisted men killed in action,, 6 enlisted men from wounds received in action and 49 enlisted men of disease and other causes; of which 7 enlisted men died in the hands of the enemy.

The 25th Regiment saw duty in the Defenses of Washington, D.C. in 1864, ordered to the field and Provost duty with Army of the Potomac to July, 1864, at Fort Stevens where they repulsed of Early's attack on Washington on July 11-12. pulled duty in the Defenses of Washington until August, participated in Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley Campaign from August 7 through November 28, was at Toll Gate, near White Post, Cedarville, Front Royal, Winchester, Opequon Creek, Va., Opequon, Va., Fisher's Hill, Va., Front Royal, Va., Luray, Va., Port Republic, Va, Woodstock, Va., near Conrad's Ferry, Va., Newtown, Va., White Plains, Va., Upperville, Va., Snicker's Gap, Va., Flint Hill, Va., Madison Court House, Va., Jack's Shop, Va., Columbia Furnace, Va., Mount Jackson, Va., Harrisonburg, Va., Rood's Hill, Va. And Staunton, Va..

After leaving the U.S. Army William remained in New York until 1867; reportedly spending time at sea, including some say, a short time in the Italian Navy. Later, in 1882, he met and married Francis Emily Nichols in Stepney, Middlesex, England; afterwards, in 1884, William and Francis decided to migrate and start a new life in Australia.

Upon arriving in New South Wales, Australia, William and Francis established their home near Armidale, where he worked as a miner, though his profession before entering the military was that of a clerk. William and Francis during their marriage raised a family of seven children; two boys and four girls. Annie was born in 1884, Laura was born in 1888, Alice in 1890, Edith in 1892, Louis in 1894, Edgar in 1897 and Maude being born in 1898.

William became a naturalized Australian citizen in 1904, the same year he was applied for a military pension. In one declaration attested to by William in his quest for a pension in 1904, he referred to an event that took place after the Battle of Waynesboro, Virginia, which he called the “battle of Winesboro”. The battle actually occurred in Augusta County, Virginia between Sheridan’s Union force of 2,500 and Jubal Early’s force of 1,600 men. On February 27, 1865 Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan with two cavalry divisions rode from Winchester, Virginia up the Shenandoah Valley to Staunton, Virginia. Turning east, the Union encountered the last remnans of Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s Valley Army at Waynesboro, Virginia on March 2, 1865. After a brief stand-off, a Union attack rolled up Early’s right flank and scattered his small force, with more than 1,500 Confederates having no choice but surrendering. Early and a few of his staff however, evaded capture. Sheridan crossed the Blue Ridge to Charlottesville and then raided south, destroying the James River Canal locks near Goochland Court House. Waynesboro was the site of the last major battle of the Civil War in central Virginia.

In his declaration Schwalbach stated:-

After the battle of Winesboro we escorted back to Winchester 1500 prisoners. Before we arrived at Mount Jackson about the middle of March 1865, one morning at daybreak we were attacked by some of General Ross’ cavalry and whilst repulsing them, I was shot in the left leg. Arriving at Winchester I was with others sent ro Harper’s Ferry, but I did not go to the hospital and stayed instead in the Remount Camp. I went to the hospital at that Camp twice each day to get my leg dressed. I rejoined the Regiment a few weeks afterwards, remaining with them unti July 7th 1865 when we were disbanded at Hart’s Island, New York”.

Unfortunately, he died of bronchial asthma five years later at Plumpton, Australia, near Armidale, on March 27, 1909. William Jean Schwalbach was buried in the Armidale Cemetery. Francis received an American Widows Pension of $12 (US) a month, in addition to an extra $2 a month for each of her children under sixteen years of age. She also died, on March 14, 1923, and was also buried in the Armidale Cemetery.

 

"Alphabetical List of the Battles of the War of the Rebellion", compiled by the Adjutant-General and the Surgeon-General

“Compendium of the War of the Rebellion”, Frederick H. Dyer

“Index to Compiled Military Service Records”, Broadfoot Publishing Company

Index Pertaining to New Yorkers Who Served in the Civil War”, National Archives

National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC

National Archives of Switzerland, Le Chateau, Neuchatel, Switzerland

“New York in the War of the Rebellion”, Frederick Phisterer, 1912

New York State Archives, Albany, New York Official Records

Schenectady County, New York: Its History to the Close of the Nineteenth Century”,

Austin A. Yates, 1902 - U.S. Pension Records

William King, Sons of Union Veterans - David McMahon, Columbus SUV

 

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