Born in Columbus on November 10, 1834, Swayne followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a lawyer. Noah Haynes Swayne was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and most likely encouraged his son to pursue a legal career.
Ohioan Wager Swayne was a Congressional Medal of Honor during the American Civil War.
Born in Columbus on November 10, 1834, Swayne followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a lawyer. Noah Haynes Swayne was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and most likely encouraged his son to pursue a legal career. Wager Swayne graduated from Yale College in 1856, with persistent illness delaying his graduation. He then attended the Cincinnati Law School. Upon graduating from that institution three years later, he joined his father's law practice in Columbus.
While Swayne loved practicing law, with the Civil War's outbreak, he forsook his career to enlist in the Forty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry. On August 31, 1861, Governor William Dennison appointed Swayne as a major in this regiment. The governor instructed Swayne to assist in organizing the regiment, which primarily consisted of men from Mount Vernon, Ohio and the surrounding vicinity. Officials assigned the Forty-Third Ohio to General John Pope's command, and in early 1862, the regiment fought in the Battles of New Madrid, Island Number Ten, and Iuka and in the Siege of Corinth, Mississippi. Due to his excellent battlefield performance and the death of the Forty-Third Ohio's colonel at the Battle of Corinth, military authorities appointed Swayne to the rank of colonel.
In comparison to 1862, 1863 was a quiet year for the Forty-Third Ohio and for Swayne. For most of 1863, the regiment served as garrison troops in Memphis, Tennessee. Swayne worked in the Provost Marshal's office. Later in that same year, the Forty-Third Ohio received a furlough, allowing the men to return to Ohio. Upon the furlough's conclusion, most of the regiment's men, including Swayne, reenlisted.
During 1864 and 1865, the Forty-Third Ohio returned to the battlefield. The regiment fought in the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea in 1864, and the men also marched in the Carolinas campaign of 1865. The Forty-Third Ohio fought under William T. Sherman's command in all of these campaigns. During the Carolinas Campaign, on February 22, 1865, while the Forty-Third Ohio's men were crossing the Salkehatchie River in South Carolina, shrapnel from a Confederate shell struck Swayne in his right leg. Swayne, who had been promoted to the rank of brigadier-general just two weeks earlier, survived and led his men in a valiant attack against the enemy's position. Following the battle, surgeons had no choice but to amputate Swayne's leg above the knee.For his valorous actions in this battle, Swayne received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Swayne saw no additional combat in the Civil War after the Battle of the Salkehatchie River. The war ended approximately two months after Swayne's wounding, while the brigadier-general was still recuperating from his injury. Swayne remained in the military for an additional five years however, helping to reconstruct the South. Beginning in 1865, Swayne led the Freedman's Bureau's efforts in Alabama. He assisted in the establishment of African American schools, including the Mobile, Montgomery, and Selma, Alabama high schools. Additionally, he also assisted two former slaves in establishing Talladega College, an higher education institution for African Americans in Alabama.
Upon retiring from the military, Swayne returned to Ohio and resumed his legal career. He opened a law office in Toledo, before moving to New York City in 1881. Following his military service, Swayne primarily represented larger corporations. This work made him a wealthy attorney. On December 18, 1902, Swayne died at the age of sixty-eight years.