Not All Yankees Went Home:
The Story of Ferdinand Schwamm
By Tim Harrison
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Thus began the writer in describing the period immediately before the French Revolution. For DeSoto County and other areas of the South, the years during and immediately following the War Between the States may simply be called "the worst of times." On April 9, 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia. Within approximately one month the other Confederate armies had also surrendered. With the cessation of hostilities, the former Confederate soldiers were free to return to their homes and families. Soldiers from DeSoto County returned to an area through which both armies had passed, and skirmished, for three years. Needless to say, there was much hardship.
Union soldiers also began going home, either when their units were mustered out of service or upon the expiration of their enlistment. However, for a variety of reasons a number of these Yankee soldiers chose to resettle amongst their former enemies. Ferdinand Schwamm was one of these. Perhaps they stayed because they grew to like the land and were farmers. Or perhaps Southern Belles had won their hearts. Some even stayed because they believed they could profit from the Souths misfortune. Whatever the case, the reason Ferdinand Schwamm came to Mississippi is lost to history. The reason he stayed, however, is another matter: he stayed for love. For more than 50 years he called Mississippi, and primarily DeSoto County, his home. There must have been some very interesting conversations concerning the war between him and his neighbors!
Ferdinand Schwamm was born in Bavaria, Germany on September 20, 1837. The names of his parents may have been Michael Schwamm and Catharine Gast, though this is not certain. He immigrated to the Unites States in 1861. At some point between then and 1864 he came to live in Bedford Township, Lawrence County, Indiana. He enlisted in the 7th Indiana Light Artillery at Indianapolis on January 29, 1864 for a term of three years, having been recruited by Sergeant George C. Masterson. His occupation at enlistment was that of "butcher," and his description was as follows: blue eyes, brown hair, of light complexion and 5 feet 8 inches tall. Because of his enlistment he was due a bounty of $60.00.
The 7th Indiana Light Artillery was a veteran battery, originally formed in Indianapolis and mustered into service on December 2, 1861. The battery was composed of six guns: two 12-pounder bronze Napoleons and four 10-pounder Parrott rifles. Since it had left Indiana in 1861 the battery had seen battle at Corinth, Mississippi, Murfreesboro, Tennessee (where they fired 406 rounds of ammunition and suffered the loss of 1 lieutenant and 7 men wounded and 4 men killed), Chattanooga, Tennessee, and other places. Ferdinand joined the battery at Ringgold, Georgia near Chattanooga sometime prior to May 1864, just before the beginning of the Atlanta Campaign. In April 1864 he had been appointed the rank of corporal.
The 7th Indiana Light Artillery, and no doubt Corporal Schwamm also, saw much active and dangerous service during the Atlanta Campaign of May to September 1864. During that period the battery was part of the Third Division, 14th Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland, and was commanded by Captain Otho H. Morgan. The battery left Ringgold, Georgia at 8 a.m. on May 6, 1864 with 4 officers, 148 men, 100 horses and six guns. The battery was later reduced to only four guns on June 30, 1864 due to orders from department headquarters, and its Parrott rifles replaced by 3-inch rifles. The 7th Indiana battery was in numerous battles and skirmishes until reaching Jonesborough, GA on September 2, 1864, including the battles of Resaca, Dallas, New Hope Church, Kenesaw Mountain, Peach Tree Creek, and the Siege of Atlanta. During this time at least nine men were wounded. During the campaign the battery fired 6,083 rounds of ammunition, and on September 5, 1864 had four officers and 110 men present for duty, a decrease in number of 38 from the roll of May 6th. The battery spent the remainder of the war stationed at Chattanooga, TN.
Ferdinand Schwamm was present for every muster from May 1864 through July 1865. He was reduced to the rank of private on September 20, 1864, probably as a result of the battery being stationed in reserve at Chattanooga. He was promoted to the rank of bugler on May 12, 1865, and was discharged from the service at Indianapolis, Indiana on July 20, 1865. He then spent time in St. Louis, Missouri and New Mexico before settling in Mississippi in 1866.
On December 26, 1867 Ferdinand Schwamm and Nancy J. (Jennie) Shackleford were married at Victoria, Marshall County by a Dr. Scruggs. Their marriage would last for more than 55 years. Nancy was born May 20, 1848 in Shelby County, Alabama, the tenth of eleven children. Her parents were Henry Shackleford (1805 in GA after 1870) and Martha Lewis (1810 in GA after 1860). Henry and Martha were married May 29, 1828 in Elbert County, Georgia.
Ferdinands marriage to Jennie, and his living in both Marshall and DeSoto Counties, must have made for some interesting conversation. At least two of Jennies brother served in the Confederate Army in the 41st Alabama Infantry. Additionally, a number of men from both counties served in Mississippi Regiments, such as the 9th, 10th, 22nd, and 34th Infantry Regiments, not to mention the cavalry regiments raised in the area, which took an active part in the Atlanta Campaign! It is more than a little likely that the 7th Indiana battery fired shots at men whom later became Ferdinands neighbors.
Ferdinand (known as Fred) and Jennie were the parents of six children, all born in Mississippi: John H. Schwamm (Feb. 1869, Marshall County); Philip E. Schwamm (October 12, 1871 1928); Anna Mary Schwamm (1875 - ?); Bettie E. Schwamm (September 4, 1878 December 12, 1897); Fred A. Schwamm (November 16, 1879 October 3, 1958); and Jennie Schwamm (November 1883 - ?). Philip is the only child about whom much is known. He married Emma Coopwood (November 6, 1871 in TN December 17, 1947). She was the daughter of T. D. Coopwood (March 7, 1837 in TN July 8, 1902) and Martha Flinn (August 3, 1840 in MS March 4, 1893). Philip and Emma had at least two children: Ruth Schwamm (July 4, 1902) and Wallace C. Schwamm (January 17, 1907).
Ferdinand and Jennie made their home for many years in the Miller community of DeSoto County. "Fred" was even listed in the Times Promoter of October 2, 1913 as one of the "old residents" of the northeastern part of the county. At that time he was a young 74 years of age. As a former Union veteran who had served for more than 90 days during the Civil War, Ferdinand applied for a pension, which was granted. He was given Certificate Number 638051. He filed another Declaration for Pension under the Act of May 11, 1912 and answered another questionnaire in 1915. At the time of his death he was receiving a pension of $50 per month.
Ferdinand Schwamm passed away on July 30, 1923 at 10:40 a.m. at Miller, Mississippi. He had been under the care of Dr. J. B. Bailey, M.D. of Byhalia. His age was 85 years, 10 months and 3 days, and the cause of death was listed as malaria. He was buried on July 31st at Center Hill, Mississippi.
Jennie Schwamm survived her husband by a little more than four years. After his death she applied for a widows pension of $30 per month, which was approved. She passed away on December 18, 1927 at 12:45 p.m. in Cordova, Shelby County, Tennessee. She had lived to the ripe age of 79 years, 6 months and 28 days before succumbing to arteriosclerosis. She, too, was buried at Center Hill. Two children of Ferdinand and Jennie were also buried at Center Hill: Philip Schwamm and his wife, Emma, and Bettie Schwamm. Son, Fred, was buried at Blocker Cemetery in Olive Branch at his death in 1958.
Ferdinand Schwamm is an example to us all. He left his native country for a new and better one. Though newly arrived, he was willing to aid in his new countrys war. Afterward, he was willing to live and work amongst those against whom he had been so recently fighting, taking for himself a Southern wife and raising his children in the South. Every indication is that he was a good neighbor and a fine citizen of DeSoto County. How many of us could have done better in the same circumstances?
DeSoto County Coordinator: Tim Harrison
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