About Thomas William Sweeny
Thomas William Sweeny (December 25, 1820 – April 10, 1892) was an Irish soldier who served in the Mexican-American War and then was a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
Birth and early years
Sweeny was born at Cork, Ireland, on Christmas Day, 1820. He immigrated to the United States in 1833. In 1846, he enlisted as a second lieutenant in Burnett's New York Volunteers, and fought under General Winfield Scott in Mexico. At the Battle of Cerro Gordo, Sweeny was wounded in the groin. During the Battle of Churubusco, he was seriously wounded to his right arm, causing it to be amputated. For his heroics, his fellow servicemen nicknamed him "Fighting Tom". Despite this possible career-ending injury, he continued serving with the 2nd US Infantry until the outbreak of the Civil War. From 1850 to 1853, Sweeny played prominent role in the Yuma War, where he fought in several small engagements against native Americans.
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.
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 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.
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 retired from the Regular Army in 1870 as a brigadier general.
Sweeny retired to Astoria on Long Island. He died there on April 10, 1892, and is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
Capt. Thomas W. Sweeny, Second Infantry, acting inspector-general, for gallant and highly meritorious services, especially distinguished for his zeal in rallying broken fragments of varions regiments and in leading them into the hottest of the light.
From Gen. J. C. Fremont report after the Battle of Wilson's Creek. http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/text/waro0003.txt, page 56.