Friday, February 09, 2018

George Schworm, an almost-vanished "100-day man"

Pvt. George Schworm, age 23 when he enlisted at Chariton on May 18, 1864, in Company K, 46th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, was a "100-day man" --- so called because the entire 46th regiment of almost 900 men was expected to serve only 100 days.

The idea of these short-term units originated during 1863 with Ohio Gov. John Brough as one way to deal with the fact the Union was finding it increasingly difficult as the war ground on to recruit troops (Iowa's adjutant general declined to use his draft authority until the summer of 1864 when some 1,860 men --- the Iowa total for the entire war --- were conscripted; it had been a point of pride to rely entirely on volunteers).

Iowa was one of five other states that promptly bought into the 100-day plan. The 100-day men were  lightly trained and not expected to see major action. Instead, they would be deployed to free veteran troops from routine duties so that experienced combatants could be sent to the front lines.

During late May and early June, the men of the new regiment converged on Camp McClellan at Davenport and were mustered into federal service on June 10. On June 11, the men were armed and issued clothing and on June 14, dispatched by train to Cairo, Illinois. On the 17th, the men left Cairo on the John D. Perry, bound for Memphis.

Ten days later, the regiment was deployed to Collierville, Tennessse, and assigned to guard railroads in the region against attacks from Confederate guerrillas, duty that continued until September with only one relatively minor incident.

George, however, had the misfortune to become ill and, on August 29, three days before the unit was ordered back to Memphis --- the first step toward home and formal mustering out in Davenport on Sept 23 --- he died at Collierville of "congestion of the brain."

After that, George for all practical purposes vanishes. Most likely his remains were gathered from the Collierville area after the war and reinterred in what now is Memphis National Cemetery, but there is no marked grave there for him.

He seems not to have lived in Lucas County long enough to become memorable and none of the hundreds of hardened veterans who returned home after the war would have served with him --- other than fellow soldiers of Company K.

We know that George was a native of Germany who arrived in the United States most likely with other family members some time during the 1850s. He probably was the George Schworm naturalized at Burlington on Jan. 31, 1862. And it seems likely that he came to Chariton not long thereafter --- John H. and Martin Schworm, probably his brothers, stopped in Ottumwa and were owner and clerk, respectively, of a grocery store there during 1860.

When George registered for the draft at Chariton during July of 1863 he identified himself as 21 years old, a grocer by trade, unmarried and native of Germany. 

The earliest surviving issues of Chariton newspapers date from late 1867 and by that time Martin Schworm was operating a grocery store in Chariton, perhaps having taken over the business established by his brother. He soon moved back to Ottumwa, however.

George was single and left no descendants to tell his story. As a result, although descendants of other Schworm brothers have tracked their lineage and in a couple of instances identify vaguely a  brother, George, none have established a firm link to "our" George, of Lucas County.

So it's beginning to look like it's our responsibility, as Lucas Countyans, to carry George's memory --- as imprecise as it is --- forward.

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