Thomas William Sweeny

Thomas William Sweeny was born in County Cork, Ireland, on Christmas Day, 1820. At the age of twelve he followed his widowed mother to America; she had already come to survey the prospects of the new country. Sweeny secured employment in a law-publishing firm and interested himself in the militia, joining the "Independent Tompkins Blues," later called the "Baxter Blues," which served in the Mexican War as Company A of the 1st New York Volunteers. He lost his right arm at the battle of Churubusco and in 1848 was commissioned a lieutenant of the 2nd U. S. Infantry, with which he served until 1861. He was promoted to captain in January of the latter year. After serving under Nathaniel Lyon in St. Louis, Sweeny was with Franz Sigel at Carthage in command of the ninety-day Missouri militia, and at Wilson's Creek he was wounded and carried from the field. In January, 1862, he became colonel of the 52nd Illinois Infantry. He served at Fort Donelson, and at Shiloh he commanded a brigade of W. H. L. Wallace's division, which sustained 1,247 casualties in its six regimentsówith Sweeny numbered among the wounded. At the battle of Corinth in October, 1862, he succeeded to brigade command after the death of General Pleasant A. Hackleman, and was advanced to brigadier general on March 16, 1863, to rank from November 29, 1862- The year 1863 he spent mainly in garrison duty in Tennessee and Mississippi, during which time he was advanced to the command of a division of the XVI Corps, which he led in the Atlanta campaign. After the battle of Atlanta he was arrested and court-martialed on charges preferred by Grenville M. Dodge, commander of the XVI Corps, but was acquitted after a lengthy trial. Significantly, he was not restored to command, and Oliver O. Howard, commander of the Army of the Tennessee, commented to W. T. Sherman in January, 1865, that "Sweeny has been cleared, but I don't want him. . . . [He] might be mustered out, with a view to the interest of the service . . . ." In December, 1865, Sweeny was dismissed from the Regular Army for being absent without leave, but political considerations apparently dictated his restoration on November 8, 1866. In the meantime he became involved in the Fenian movement of that year which contemplated conquering Canada as a first step in freeing Ireland from the British. Their "invasion" of Canadian soil was a fiasco and Sweeny was arrested by the United States but released. Despite all these incidents he was placed on the retired list of the army with the rank of brigadier general on May 11, 1870. Thereafter he made his home in Astoria, on Long Island, where he died on April 10, 1892. He was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.