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General Thomas William Sweeny

"Fighting Tom!"

Thomas "Fighting Tom" Sweeny was born on December 25, 1820, in County Cork, Ireland. He and his widowed mother moved to the United States when young Sweeny was 12 years old, and they eventually settled in New York City. He worked for a law publisher, and joined the Baxter Blues, a militia company, in 1843. His unit fought in the Mexican War, as Company A/2d New York Volunteers, and Sweeny's right arm was amputated after it was wounded.

After he recuperated, he fought against Native Americans in the Southwest and on the Great Plains. In 1857, Sweeny was present at the Great Treaty with the Sioux Nations.

When the Civil War began, Sweeny was stationed in St. Louis, Missouri, and became a captain of Missouri's short-term volunteers. While fighting under Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon at Wilson's Creek, he was wounded and carried off the field. He carried the musket ball in his leg the rest of his life. He was mustered out of the volunteer service, but reentered in January of 1863.

Sweeny led troops at Fort Donelson, was wounded at Shiloh and fought at Corinth. At Shiloh he was wounded several times and finally was forced to leave the battle as he was wounded in the only arm he had left.

Promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on March 16, 1863, he led a division in the Atlanta Campaign. During the campaign, a long-standing conflict with Maj. Gen. Grenville M. Dodge and Brig. Gen. John W. Fuller came to a head. After an argument and fight, Dodge arrested Sweeny. A military court, however, acquitted Sweeny in January of 1865, and he remained in the army.

In 1886, he led a group of Irishmen in an attempt to capture Canada from the British, but was thwarted by U.S. officials and arrested. He left the army in May of 1870, retiring at the rank of brigadier general of Regulars. Sweeny lived in Astoria, on New York's Long Island, until his death on April 10, 1892. He was buried with full military honors at Greenwood Cemetery.

Today you can visit the General Sweeny's Museum of Civil War History in Republic, Missouri.

Click To Enlarge
This sheet music cover is of "General Sweeny's Grand March" and was composed and cordially inscribed to Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Sweeny by John J. Daly in 1863. The portrait of General Sweeny is pictured with scenes of battles at Wilson's Creek, Corinth, and Shiloh.

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