Shrouded Veterans: Brevet Brigadier General Samuel K. Schwenk

A veteran headstone was recently placed for Brevet Brigadier General Samuel K. Schwenk.

In August 1861, Schwenk left Dickinson Seminary his senior year and was appointed a first lieutenant in the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry.

Officers of 50th Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry (Library of Congress)

On September 14, 1862, at the Battle of South Mountain, Schwenk was wounded in the ankle. Despite being scarcely able to walk, he fought at the Battle of Antietam three days later and was commended by Generals Orlando B. Willcox and Ambrose B. Burnside.

“At Campbell’s Station,” Schwenk’s brigade commander, Colonel Byron M. Cutcheon, wrote, “he behaved most bravely,” and during the siege of Knoxville was “especially distinguished for his coolness, prudent judgment, and determined gallantry, as well as professional skill in the construction of defences.”

Colonel Cutcheon said that at the Battle of the Wilderness, Schwenk’s “gallantry was conspicuous and remarked by all who witnessed it,” and at the Battle of Spotsylvania, “he greatly distinguished himself, so as to draw the attention and admiration of the whole brigade.”

Schwenk was severely wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor when a ball entered his side, split a rib bone, and carried away a portion of a vertebra. An examining board pronounced him permanently disabled and issued an order that he be discharged. He fought, and succeeded, to have the order revoked and returned to active service.

He eventually rose to the rank of colonel and was breveted brigadier general “for skilled and meritorious services during the war.”

Samuel K. Schwenk

In 1866, Schwenk was appointed a first lieutenant in the 41st U.S. infantry and stationed at forts along the Texas frontier. In 1876, he retired when an examining board found that he was incapacitated for active service.

On April 10, 1915, Schwenk died at his home from complications brought on by an old wound. About six months prior, he suffered from pains in the left side, which gradually grew worse with time. He eventually succumbed. Schwenk was buried at Forest Hills Cemetery in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania.

The new headstone for General Samuel K. Schwenk


5 Responses to Shrouded Veterans: Brevet Brigadier General Samuel K. Schwenk

  1. Heck of a fighter to keep going after losing part of his spine. Question: what are the letters appearing after “Lt Col” on his headstone?

    1. “F&S.” They stand “Field and Staff” which means the regiment’s upper commands (major, lieutenant colonel, or colonel)

  2. Frank, Schwenk’s willingness to endure several disabling wounds to continue his career provides an inspiring story. Thanks.

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