About Brevet Brig. Gen. Frederick W. Swift (USA)
Federal (USV) Captain Frederick William Swift (1831 - 1916) Home State: Michigan Command Billet: Company Officer Branch of Service: Infantry Unit: 17th Michigan Infantry
Before the Antietam Campaign:
From Connecticut he moved to Detroit, Michigan, in 1847 at age 16, and began in the shoe business. He later started a drug business with his brother.1 In June 1862 he joined the 17th Michigan Infantry, and was appointed Captain, Company F.2,3
The remainder of the War:
He was at Fredericksburg (December 1862), then went west with the IX Corps, seeing service at Vicksburg (to July 1863).1 He was in action at Lenoire Station, Tennessee, 16 November 1863, for which he was later awarded the Medal of Honor, and was promoted Colonel of the Regiment shortly after.
Lieutenant Colonel Frederic Swift was one of two men awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic defense of the regimental colors of his unit in action against Confederate forces at Lenoire Station, Tennessee, on November 16, 1863. Lieutenant Colonel Swift had been ordered to hold the line of the creek under an intense fire that soon demoralized his men, sending many into a panicky retreat across the creek. "Fearing a stampede," he recalled, "I assumed the responsibility of moving the regiment across the creek and up to the top of the hill on the other side. One of the color guard was killed, another had his eye shot out, and a third was seriously wounded. Seeing the colors fall, I snatched them up and call to the men: 'We have fallen back just far enough; we will form here.' Someone asked: 'Who shall we form on?' and I replied: 'Form on me!' Personally bearing the flag, Lieutenant Colonel Swift then valiantly led his men in a daring charge that sent the rebel forces retreating in panic. The color bearer referred to in his account, whose eye had been shot out, was Private Joseph Brandle, who was the other man who earned the Medal of Honor in this battle.
He was captured in action at at Spottsylvania, Virginia on 12 May 1864, but was exchanged on 3 August 1864 from Charleston, South Carolina.
He was honored by brevet to Brigadier General of Volunteers on 13 Mar 1865, and honorably mustered out of service on 3 June 1865.2
After the War:
He returned to Detroit where he was in business and the Postmaster (1866-74).1 He wrote reminiscences of his time as a Prisoner of War in My Experiences as a Prisoner of War (in the War Papers, MOLLUS, Michigan, Vol. 1, Paper 3 - index), published in 1893.
Medal of Honor
Awarded for actions during the Civil War
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Colonel Frederic William Swift, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 16 November 1863, while serving with 17th Michigan Infantry, in action at Lenoire Station, Tennessee. Lieutenant Colonel Swift gallantly seized the colors and rallied the regiment after three Color Bearers had been shot and the regiment, having become demoralized, was in imminent danger of capture.
General Orders: Date of Issue: February 15, 1897
Action Date: November 16, 1863
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Division: 17th Michigan Infantry
Birth Date: 01/30/1831 Place of Birth: Mansfield, CT
Death Date: 01/30/1916 Burial Place: Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit, MI