William Swift

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William Swift
Born (1848-03-17)March 17, 1848
Windham, Connecticut
Died June 30, 1919(1919-06-30) (aged 71)
Newport, Rhode Island
Place of burial Richfield Springs, New York
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Department of the Navy Seal.svg United States Navy
Years of service 1867–1910
Rank Rear Admiral
Commands held Prairie
Concord
Princeton
Yorktown
Connecticut
Battles/wars Spanish–American War

William Swift (March 17, 1848—June 30, 1919) was a rear admiral in the United States Navy, and briefly the Naval Governor of Guam in 1901. He was court-martialed in 1907 for the grounding of the battleship Connecticut (BB-18), and briefly suspended from duty. In 1910, he headed the aptly named Swift Board which reorganized the Department of the Navy prior to World War I.

Early life and career[edit]

Swift was born in Windham, Connecticut,[1] and entered the Navy with the rank of midshipman on 25 September 1863, graduating from the United States Naval Academy in June 1867. He was promoted to ensign on 18 December 1868, then to master on 21 March 1870, lieutenant on 21 March 1871, lieutenant commander on 24 October 1889, and commander on 6 April 1897.[2]

Swift served as Executive Officer aboard the battleship Indiana (BB-1) in 1896 under Robley "Fighting Bob" Evans.[3]

During the Spanish-American War, he was the Inspector of Ordnance in the New York Naval Yard, with a rank of commander.[1] On May 28, 1900, he was given command of the auxiliary cruiser Prairie. On April 6, he was transferred to command of the gunboat Concord.[4] In May 1901, he was transferred again, this time to the gunboat Princeton,[5] then transferred to command of Yorktown in June.[6] While commanding Yorktown in the Pacific, he was briefly appointed as Governor of Guam to allow then-Governor Seaton Schroeder to return to Washington, D.C. to testify in the Schley Inquiry.[7] Swift served in this capacity from early August to early October 1901, before resuming command of Yorktown.[8]

On June 25, 1902, Swift was promoted to captain and subsequently assigned to the General Board of the Navy. In that role, he was responsible for inspecting naval yards and shipbuilding efforts on the Atlantic coast. He was also chairman of the Board's Committee on the Fleet. He subsequently was appointed to the Joint Board of the Army and Navy.

Grounding of USS Connecticut[edit]

On September 30, 1906, Swift was given command of the battleship Connecticut (BB-18), then the largest warship in the fleet, on her maiden voyage.[9] The ship sailed on its first mission to Cuba in January 1907, but was immediately recalled to New York after an outbreak of typhoid fever among the crew. Immediately after setting out again, the Connecticut ran aground at Culebra, Puerto Rico.

According to the Washington Post, Swift acted against the advice of his navigator and ordered the ship to pass on the wrong side of a navigational buoy and caused it to strike a shoal. (Also according to the Post, he claimed that the "sun was in his eyes".) He was court martialed on March 26, 1907,[10][11] and found guilty of dereliction of duty. He was suspended from duty for a year, later remitted to nine months, but was allowed to return to shore duty after six months.[12] He was subsequently appointed as Commandant of the Charlestown Navy Yard near Boston, Massachusetts on November 8, 1907.[1]

Later career[edit]

Despite his court martial, Swift was promoted to rear admiral on January 30, 1908. Swift retired on March 17, 1908,[13] but acted as an adviser to the Secretary on navy yard and industrial affairs.[1] In December 1909, he was assigned to the Naval Bureau of Materials[14] and was appointed by Secretary of the Navy George von Lengerke Meyer to head the so-called "Swift Board" to reorganize the Department of the Navy.

Admiral Swift died at the Naval Hospital in Newport, Rhode Island on June 30, 1919, and was buried in his home town of Richfield Springs, New York.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "ADMIRAL SWIFT DEAD - Headed Board Which Recommended Present Navy Systems". The New York Times. 1 July 1919. p. 11. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  2. ^ "US Navy Officers: 1778-1900 (S)". history.navy.mil. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  3. ^ "NEW BATTLE SHIP IN PORT - THE INDIANA PAYS HER FIRST VISIT TO NEW-YORK.". The New York Times. 20 April 1896. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  4. ^ "THE UNITED SERVICE". The New York Times. 19 April 1901. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  5. ^ "THE UNITED SERVICE". The New York Times. 23 May 1901. p. 6. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  6. ^ "THE UNITED SERVICE". The New York Times. 1 June 1901. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  7. ^ "NEW GOVERNOR OF GUAM. - Commander Schroeder Coming Home to Testify in Schley Inquiry". The New York Times. 7 August 1901. p. 5. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  8. ^ "THE UNITED SERVICE". The New York Times. 28 September 1901. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  9. ^ "OUR LARGEST WARSHIP PUT IN COMMISSION - Capt. Swift Takes Command of Connecticut in Brooklyn Yard". The New York Times. 30 September 1906. p. 22. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  10. ^ "SWIFT'S TRIAL ORDERED.". The Washington Post. 21 March 1907. p. 12. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  11. ^ "CAPT. SWIFT ON TRIAL. - Must Answer for the Grounding of the Battleship Connecticut". The New York Times. 27 March 1907. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  12. ^ "CAPT. SWIFT IS REPRIEVED. - But Suspended Commander of the Connecticut Gets No Ship.". The New York Times. 25 October 1907. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  13. ^ "THE UNITED SERVICE". The New York Times. 11 March 1910. p. 14. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  14. ^ "ADMIRAL SWIFT ARRIVES". The Washington Post. 21 December 1909. p. 12. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  • "The United Service." New York Times. New York, N.Y.: Apr 14, 1900. pg. 5, 1 pgs
  • "The United Service." New York Times. New York, N.Y.: May 16, 1900. pg. 5, 1 pgs
  • "The United Service." New York Times. New York, N.Y.: Feb 19, 1901. pg. 5, 1 pgs
  • "Army and Navy Notes." The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: May 29, 1901.. pg. 9, 1 pgs
  • "The United Service." New York Times. New York, N.Y.: Jun 25, 1902. pg. 12, 1 pgs
  • "Naval Militia Work." The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Jul 20, 1902. pg. 5, 1 pgs
  • "Navy Yard Investigation." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif.: Sep 8, 1903. pg. 6, 1 pgs
  • "Naval Board Conference." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif.: Dec 22, 1903. pg. 1, 1 pgs
  • "Swift to Succeed Pillsbury." The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Mar 21, 1905. pg. 13, 1 pgs
  • "Typhoid on Warship Mild." The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Mar 1, 1907. pg. 5, 1 pgs
  • "Court-marital for Swift." The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Mar 12, 1907. pg. 2, 1 pgs
  • "Assigned to Battleships." The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Oct 25, 1907. pg. 11, 1 pgs
  • "Orders to Naval Officers." The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Jan 30, 1908. pg. 5, 1 pgs
Military offices
Preceded by
Seaton Schroeder
Naval Governor of Guam
1901
Succeeded by
Seaton Schroeder