The Swinton Brothers
Contemporaries of James Gordon Bennett


John Swinton (1829-1901)

The managing editor of the New York Times during the Civil War, John Swinton later became a crusading journalist in the movement for social and labor reform. Scottish-born, he learned typesetting in Canada before moving to the United States. During the trouble in Kansas he was active in the freesoil movement and headed the Lawrence Republican. Moving back to New York he wrote an occasional article for the Times and was hired on a regular basis in 1860 as head of the editorial staff. Afterward holding this position throughout the Civil War, he left the paper in 1870 and became active in the labor struggles of the day. He later served eight years in the same position on the New York Sun and published a weekly labor sheet, John Swinton's Paper.

William Swinton (1833-1892)

Unlike his brother John, William Swinton worked for the New York Times in the field as a war correspondent, until expelled from the army's lines in 1864. A Scottish-born former student for the ministry and a teacher, he joined the Times in 1858, four years later covering the Army of the Potomac. Knowledgeable on military matters, he was often highly critical of military leaders an often gained his information, by what military authorities considered by questional means. On the first night of the battle of the Wilderness, he was caught overhearing a conversation between Grant and Meade. A few weeks afterward, he angered Burnside with an unfavorable report. As a result, on 1 July 1864, the War Department stripped him of his credentials and ordered him expelled from the lines of the Army of the Potomac. He then wrote The Times Review of McClellan; "His Military Career Reviewed and Exposed," and, after the war, "Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac" and also a regimental history of the "7th New York" and an account of 12 important battles. He subsequently was a professor and textbook writer.

Correspondence re William Swinton


June 11, 1864--6·30 p.m.

Major-General MEADE, Comdg. Army of the Potomac

My attention has just been called to a letter written by Mr. Swinton, correspondent of the New York Times, and now a follower of this army. The paragraph marked with pencil in the inclosed paper(*) is plainly a libel upon the Ninth Corps, as well as upon myself. He speaks of some dispatches which had been received from me during the morning, which would indicate that he had learned their contents from the telegraph operator or otherwise. The official reports show a loss from two small divisions of this corps of over 1,000 men during the assault, and the divisions established themselves close upon the main line of the enemy, ready for another assault. I beg that this man immediately receive the justice which was so justly meted out to another libeller of the press a day or two since, or that I be allowed to arrest and punish him myself· This is not his first offense·

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,



CITY POINT, July 1, 1864. Major-General MEADE: Please direct your provost-marshal to ascertain if the correspondent, Swinton, is within our lines, and, if so, to expel him. U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, OFFICE OF PROVOST-MARSHAL-GENERAL, July 1, 1864. Respectfully returned. Mr. Swinton cannot be found in the army, but is believed to be in Washington, where a notice has been sent him not to return to this army. M. R. PATRICK, Provost-Marshal- General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT: I have nothing new to report this morning. Your order in regard to Mr. Swinton,(*) registered correspondent of the New York Times, was sent to the provost-marshal-general, who returned for answer that Mr. Swinton was not now with this army, it being understood he was in Washington, to which place a notice has been sent him that his pass is annulled, and that he will not be permitted to return. GEO. G. MEADE, Major-General, Commanding.

CIRCULAR.] HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, July 6, 1864. Mr. William Swinton, a duly registered correspondent with this army for the New York Times, and Mr. Kent, a correspondent for the New York Tribune, have, by direction of the lieutenant-general commanding the armies in the field, been ordered to leave the lines for having abused the privileges conferred upon them by forwarding for publication incorrect statements respecting the operations of the troops, and they have been warned not to return. This information is published for the guidance of corps commanders, and should the parties named be hereafter found within the limits of this army they will be sent under guard to the provost-marshal-general at these headquarters. By command of Major-General Meade: S. WILLIAMS, Assistant Adjutant-General.

Extracted from Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

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