Thomas William Sweeny

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Thomas William Sweeny


Thomas W. Sweeny
Nickname(s) Fighting Tom
Born(1820-12-25)December 25, 1820
Cork, Ireland
Died April 10, 1892(1892-04-10) (aged 71)
Long Island, New York
Place of burial Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Allegiance United States of America
Fenian Brotherhood
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 18461865, 18661870
Rank Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brigadier General

Mexican-American War

Yuma War

American Civil War

Fenian raids
Other work Secretary of War [1]

Thomas William Sweeny (December 25, 1820  April 10, 1892) was an Irish-American soldier who served in the Mexican-American War and then was a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Ireland Island in north-west Europe, 20th largest in world, politically divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK)

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.

United States Army Land warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.

Union Army Land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War

During the American Civil War, the Union Army referred to the United States Army, the land force that fought to preserve the Union of the collective states. Also known as the Federal Army, it proved essential to the preservation of the United States of America as a working, viable republic.


Birth and early years

Sweeny was born in Cork, Ireland, on Christmas Day, 1820. He immigrated to the United States in 1833. In 1846, he enlisted as a second lieutenant in the 2nd New York Volunteers, and fought under General Winfield Scott in Mexico. Sweeny was wounded in the groin at the Battle of Cerro Gordo, and his right arm was so badly injured at the Battle of Churubusco that it had to be amputated. For his heroics, his fellow servicemen nicknamed him "Fighting Tom". Despite this possibly career-ending injury, he continued serving with the 2nd US Infantry until the outbreak of the Civil War. Sweeny was active in the Yuma War (1850–1853), fighting in several engagements against native Americans.

Cork (city) City in Munster, Ireland

Cork is a city in south-west Ireland, in the province of Munster, which had a population of 125,657 in 2016.

Winfield Scott Union United States Army general

Winfield Scott was an American military commander and political candidate. He served as a general in the United States Army from 1814 to 1861, taking part in the War of 1812, the Mexican–American War, the early stages of the American Civil War, and various conflicts with Native Americans. Scott was the Whig Party's presidential nominee in the 1852 presidential election, but was defeated by Democrat Franklin Pierce. He was known as "Old Fuss and Feathers" for his insistence on proper military etiquette, and as the "Grand Old Man of the Army" for his many years of service.

Mexico country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Civil War

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Sweeny was in command of the arsenal at St. Louis, Missouri In reply to efforts of Confederate sympathizers to induce him to surrender that important post, he declared that before he would do so, he would blow it up. As second in command, he participated in the capture of Camp Jackson in May 1861 and later assisted in organizing the Home Guards. He was chosen as the brigadier general of that organization.

St. Louis Arsenal

The St. Louis Arsenal is a large complex of military weapons and ammunition storage buildings owned by the United States Air Force in St. Louis, Missouri. During the American Civil War, the St. Louis arsenal's contents were transferred to Illinois by Union Captain Nathaniel Lyon, an act that helped fuel tension between secessionists and those citizens loyal to the Federal government.

Confederate States of America (de facto) federal republic in North America from 1861 to 1865

The Confederate States of America, commonly referred to as the Confederacy and the South, was an unrecognized country in North America that existed from 1861 to 1865. The Confederacy was originally formed by seven secessionist slave-holding states—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas—in the Lower South region of the United States, whose economy was heavily dependent upon agriculture, particularly cotton, and a plantation system that relied upon the labor of African-American slaves.

The Indian Home Guard were volunteer infantry regiments recruited from the Five Civilized Tribes of Indian Territory to support the Union during the American Civil War. The list of Confederate units of Indian Territory is shown separately.

Sweeny commanded the Fifty-second Illinois at Fort Donelson. At Shiloh, in command of a brigade, he successfully defended a gap in the Union line. He was wounded in the battle having received two shots in his only remaining arm and a shot in one of his legs. [2] Sweeny kept the field until the close of the fight, exciting the admiration of the whole army. He returned to command his regiment but returned to brigade command when General Pleasant A. Hackleman was killed at Corinth. He commanded the Second Division of the Sixteenth Army Corps in the Atlanta campaign. At the Battle of Atlanta Sweeny's division intercepted John B. Hood's flank attack. Sweeny got into a fistfight with his corps commander, General Grenville M. Dodge, when Dodge broke protocol and personally directed one of Sweeny's brigades during the fight. Sweeny received a court-martial for these actions but was acquitted. He mustered out of the volunteers in August 1865, and was dismissed for going AWOL by the end of the year.

Battle of Fort Donelson 1862 battle of the American Civil War

The Battle of Fort Donelson was fought from February 11–16, 1862, in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. The Union capture of the Confederate fort near the Tennessee–Kentucky border opened the Cumberland River, an important avenue for the invasion of the South. The Union's success also elevated Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant from an obscure and largely unproven leader to the rank of major general, and earned him the nickname of "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.

Battle of Shiloh major battle of the American Civil War, fought in southwestern Tennessee

The Battle of Shiloh was a battle in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, fought April 6–7, 1862, in southwestern Tennessee. A Union force known as the Army of the Tennessee had moved via the Tennessee River deep into Tennessee and was encamped principally at Pittsburg Landing on the west bank of the Tennessee River, where the Confederate Army of Mississippi launched a surprise attack on Grant's army from its base in Corinth, Mississippi. Johnston was mortally wounded during the fighting; Beauregard took command of the army and decided against pressing the attack late in the evening. Overnight, Grant was reinforced by one of his divisions stationed further north and was joined by three divisions from the Army of the Ohio. The Union forces began an unexpected counterattack the next morning which reversed the Confederate gains of the previous day.

Pleasant A. Hackleman Union Army general

Pleasant Adams Hackleman was a lawyer, politician and Union general who was killed during the American Civil War.

Fenian raids

In 1866, he commanded the ill-fated Fenian invasion of Canada, after which he was arrested for breaking neutrality laws between the United States and Britain, but was soon released. He was reinstated with his former rank of major later that year, and retired from the Regular Army in May 1870 as a brigadier general.

Fenian raids

Between 1866 and 1871, the Fenian raids of the Fenian Brotherhood, an Irish Republican organization based in the United States, on British army forts, customs posts and other targets in Canada, were fought to bring pressure on Britain to withdraw from Ireland. They divided Catholic Irish-Canadians, many of whom were torn between loyalty to their new home and sympathy for the aims of the Fenians. The Protestant Irish were generally loyal to Britain and fought with the Orange Order against the Fenians. While the U.S. authorities arrested the men and confiscated their arms, there is speculation that some in the U.S. government had turned a blind eye to the preparations for the invasion, angered at actions that could have been construed as British assistance to the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. There were five Fenian raids of note and all of them ended in failure.

Major (United States) rank in the United States uniformed services, O-4

In the United States Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force, major is a field grade military officer rank above the rank of captain and below the rank of lieutenant colonel. It is equivalent to the naval rank of lieutenant commander in the other uniformed services. Although lieutenant commanders are considered junior officers by their respective services, the rank of major is considered field grade in the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps.


Sweeny retired to Astoria on Long Island. He died there on April 10, 1892, and is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Long Island island in New York, United States of America

Long Island is a densely populated island off the East Coast of the United States, beginning at New York Harbor approximately 0.35 miles (0.56 km) from Manhattan Island and extending eastward into the Atlantic Ocean. The island comprises four counties in the U.S. state of New York. Kings and Queens Counties and Nassau County share the western third of the island, while Suffolk County occupies the eastern two-thirds. More than half of New York City's residents now live on Long Island, in Brooklyn and Queens. However, many people in the New York metropolitan area colloquially use the term Long Island to refer exclusively to Nassau and Suffolk Counties, which are mainly suburban in character, conversely employing the term the City to mean Manhattan alone.

Green-Wood Cemetery cemetery in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York; National Historic Landmark

Green-Wood Cemetery is a cemetery in Brooklyn, New York City, founded in 1838 as a rural cemetery. Like other early rural cemeteries, Green-Wood was founded in a time of rapid urbanization when churchyards in New York City were becoming overcrowded.

Brooklyn Borough in New York City and county in New York state, United States

Brooklyn is the most populous borough of New York City, with an estimated 2,648,771 residents in 2017. Named after the Dutch village of Breukelen, it borders the borough of Queens at the western end of Long Island. Brooklyn has several bridge and tunnel connections to the borough of Manhattan across the East River, and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connects Staten Island. Since 1896, Brooklyn has been coterminous with Kings County, the most populous county in the U.S. state of New York and the second-most densely populated county in the United States, after New York County.

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  1. "The Fenian Raids -- 1866" (PDF). Human Resources Development SCP Grant / 1997. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.