Minonk native feted at book signing party

Saturday, August 01, 2009 - Posted 9:10:17 PM
James Swan signs a copy of his new book
A surprise party was held at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield on August 1 to honor Minonk native James Swan who just published his new book on the Civil War.   The inspiration for the book, entitled "Chicago's Irish Legion:  The 90th Illinois Volunteers in the Civil War", was Swan's grandfather, Simon Swan, who served in the 90th Illinois Volunteers from 1862 to 1865 and was a resident of rural Minonk. 

The book tells how the volunteer unit was formed to refute criticism that Irish Catholics were not supportive of the Union's effort in the Civil War.  Mr. Swan's extensive research resulted in a detailed description of life as an immigrant soldier during the unit's 2600 mile march through the South culminating with the march with Sherman from Atlanta to the sea.

The party was hosted by Swan's cousins, brothers John, James, Barth, and Jerry Weistart.   John Weistart was MC and introduced the 48 people who attended the reception.  Among those in attendance were descendants of the 90th Illinois Volunteer regiment.

After a buffet dinner various speakers made their presentations.  James Weistart, who organized the party along with Jim Swan's wife Pat, explained how the surprise party was organized and efforts taken to keep it a secret from Mr. Swan.  Barth Weistart discussed the role of Minonk and its soldiers in the CIvil War.  Chuck Real, a native of Grafton, Nebraska gave a talk on how one of the returning soldiers from the 90th went west and founded the city of Grafton, Nebraska which became home to many of the Irish returning from the war.

Denise Thorpe gave a historical background of the Swan family stating that Simon Swan emigrated from Ireland landing in New York before coming to Illinois.  He eventually saved enough money to buy a farm west of Minonk which is still an active farm.  He left the farm to join the 90th Volunteers and returned after the war to live the rest of his life on his farm.

Swan's daughters Kathryn Swan and Deborah Swan revealed life with their father as he threw himself into the rigors of research to write the book.

James Swan completed the program with a discussion of his book mentioning that the book would not have been possible without the support of his wife Patricia who aided in the research.

After the program, Mr. Swan signed copies of his book for the attendees at the party.  In addition, caps with the 90th Illinois Volunteer emblem were given to the guests.

Mr. Swan is a graduate of Minonk-Dana High School and is an independent historian and retired professor of agronomy at Iowa State University.  He and his wife Patricia live in Nashville, TN.

James Swan's book can be bought at Barnes & Noble book stores or can be ordered on the internet at the following link at Amazon.com

Jim Swan signs book for Dave Uphoff

John Weistart relaxes after hosting the program.

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