Tracing the History of a Civil War Ancestor

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Tracing the History of a Civil War Ancestor

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Journal of Opinions, Ideas & Essays (JOIE)




For Christmas 1952, my grandmother wrote a brief paragraph about her father, George E. Swift. She said he joined the Minnesota 3rd Regiment as a drummer boy at age 13 and ultimately became part of Sherman’s March to the Sea. After the war, he returned to Minnesota and became a druggist. This article documents the research involved in tracing, correcting, and expanding her 1952 story. George joined the Minnesota 3rd at Fort Snelling in 1861, but only informally. After the 3rd was captured in Murfreesboro, Kentucky, he jumped at the opportunity to formally join the Ohio 69th Regiment in Nashville. With that outfit, he was involved in many of the major campaigns of the war, ultimately joining them in the victorious Grand Review of the Armies in Washington, DC, in May 1865. He returned to Minneapolis, supported himself as a musician, then married, passed the pharmacy examination, and owned drugstores in Minneapolis and Robbinsdale. He helped found the all-veteran Morgan Drum Corps that led Minnesota delegations at events in Gettysburg and Washington, DC. He contributed to the community throughout his life, as documented in local newspaper stories. This article follows the flow of George Swift's life, while a wealth of footnotes document sources and provide additional notes about that life.


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Craig, William J. (2022). Tracing the History of a Civil War Ancestor. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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