Issue 6-22-14 Website - page 13

TheDeathOf A Soldier 150Years Ago
Martin Swift was two days
from his 27th birthday when he
died on June 11, 1864. He had
been wounded on June 3 in the
Battle of Cold Harbor. He was
removed from thebattlefieldand
taken toahospital inWashington
where he died of hiswounds.
On the 16th of June his father
wrotea letter toMartin’sbrother
William: “It is with a heavy
heart and hand that I undertake
to inform you of the death of
your Brother Martin. He died
in Washington of wounds he
got on the battlefield near the
Chickahominy on the 3rd of
June. He was coming back to
Washington and lived until the
12th. The poor fellow lost one
leg&waswounded in one arm.
On the 14th I got a dispatch
from Augustus Frank, M.C. at
Washington dated on the 13th
saying to me your son Martin
died here yesterday. I have got
his body embalmed* and what
shall I do more. I telegraphed
back to send his body home. I
would pay the charges and we
are now looking for it every
ExpressTrain from theEast.We
hada letter lastnight fromJames
Cowling of the same Reg. He
came out without an injury but
he says you may Judge that we
hadhotworkwhenyou learn that
673ofourownReg. fellandwere
killed andwounded. ...”
Martin Swift’s name does
not appear on the Civil War
monument on Trigon Park. He
was fromLockport,buthis father
lived in LeRoy. When Martin
died, his bodywas brought back
hereandwasburied in the family
plot in Machpelah Cemetery.
Twoweeks ago, hisdescendants,
and Samuel Coppedge, met at
the familyplot todedicate anew
plaqueon the150thAnniversary
ofMartin’s death.
Martin Swift was a member
of the 8th New York Heavy
Artillery. The Regiment was
Porterwhohad receivedauthority
to recruit a regiment from
Genesee, Orleans and Niagara
Counties. On August 28, 1862,
the Regiment was designated
as the 129th Infantry. It was
organized in Lockport, but on
December19,1862 theRegiment
became the8thNewYorkHeavy
Artillery. OnDecember 3, 1863,
MartinSwiftenlisted inLockport
for threeyears.PrivateSwiftwas
assigned toCompanyB.
the massive fortifications which
surrounded Washington, D.C.
There were twelve companies of
150men each. The soldiers slept
in barracks and had a relatively
easy time of it. Theywere called
“band box regiments” since they
often turned out as if they had
stepped out of a band box.
In two years, the 8th Heavy
Artillery had not been engaged
in anybattle.Not a shot hadbeen
fired. But all that changed in the
spring of 1864 when General
Grant decided towage an all-out
campaign against Richmond, the
capital of the Confederate states.
Heorderedallof the“heavies”out
ofWashington and into the field.
The 8th performed well in
their first encounter, but on June
3rd, alongwith the Army of the
Potomac, theywerepittedagainst
abattlehardenedRebelArmy. In
the span of twenty minutes, the
8th lostover200men.Onlyyards
from the Rebel fortifications,
Col. Porter was struck by four
shots and was immediately
killed.TheRegiment fell back to
their earthworks. The dead and
dying were caught between the
Union earthworks and theRebel
fortifications. Men risked their
lives to drag the living and the
dead back behindUnion lines.
TheUnion forces lost nearly
7,000 men, either wounded
or killed. The 8th Heavy
Artillery took the brunt of
the attack. Although severely
depletedofmen, the8thHeavy
Artillerycontinued through the
campaign and were mustered
out on June 5, 1865.
During its service, the
Regiment lost by death 24
officers and 646 enlisted men,
including a young man, Martin
Swift, who lies in a grave in
* “it was during the civil war
that the practice of embalming
became a necessity in order to
preserve soldiers’ bodies to be
returned home for burial.
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