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..
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.
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.
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:-
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