Sergeant James (“Mickey”) Sullivan

Sergeant James (“Mickey”) Sullivan

He was born June 21st 1843 in Ireland. In 1845, his parents Dennis and Catherine had moved the family ( which included 3 other siblings) to Wisconsin where they settled in Greenwood Township, Bad Ax (later Vernon) County.

By 1860, young Sullivan was on his own and working as a farm hand. On May 4 1861, he went to a patriotic rally  where a company (the “Lemonweir Minute Men”) was being raised by Rufus R. Dawes.   Some of the men objected to his enlistment because he was short, but he soon earned their praise by showing that a short man can make just as good a soldier as a tall one. Dawes’ men were mustered in as Company K of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment and traveled east to join the Army of the Potomac.

They were assigned to a brigade that included the 2nd and 7th Wisconsin and the 19th Indiana, and came under the command of Brigadier General John Gibbon, who had been an artilleryman in the pre-war Army.  Sullivan took part in the engagements at Brawner Farm and 2nd Bull Run in August 1862. He was shot in the foot at South Mountain, a wound that put him into the hospital for 3 months, after which he was medically discharged and sent home. Six weeks later he was back at the Recruiting Office asking if he could enlist. “Anything owning a name could enlist” was the answer, so he signed up again and was quickly reunited with his old friends of Company K where he soon was engaged in the Chancellorsville campaign.

At Gettysburg on July 1 1863, he participated in the 6th’s charge on Confederate Brigadier General Joseph R. Davis’s brigade, which was using an unfinished railroad cut for cover. The attack was successful and many prisoners were taken, but Sullivan was badly wounded in the left shoulder. He went to the courthouse in town which had been converted to a hospital. When the Federal lines broke later that day and the town was overrun by the Confederates, Sullivan and the others at the hospital found themselves behind Rebel lines and became prisoners.  Fortunately, when Lee retreated, many of the Federal wounded, including Sullivan, were left behind and free again. Sullivan ended up in Cuyler Hospital in Philadelphia, where he met and fell in love with Angeline Shaeffer. They were married in February 1864. Determined to see the war through to the end, Sullivan re-enlisted yet again in January,  1864 and rejoined  his regiment.  On August 1st , he was promoted to Sergeant.  During the Siege of Petersburg, he was struck in the head by shell fragments at the battle to secure the Weldon Railroad.  Most of the metal was removed except for a piece lodged near the base of his skull. At the Battle of Hatcher’s Run in October,, he was wounded again, this time in the thigh.  But he recovered and was back with his regiment by winter and still with the army when Lee surrendered.

On May 23rd, 1865, with newly acquired white gloves to go with their battered black hats, his regiment marched in the Grand Review in Washington, City, then were sent to Louisville, Kentucky where they were mustered out in July 1865.

After the war, Sullivan and his wife returned to farming in South Central Wisconsin, and Mickey  became very involved in veteran activities in the Grand Army of the Republic  and the Iron Brigade Association. He was the first enlisted man to speak before the Iron Brigade Association.  In the mid 1890’s, Sullivan gave up farming and turned to a study of the law, being subsequently admitted to the bar in September,1897.  However, his health started to fail as old age, old wounds, and the hardships of his time in the service started to catch up to him. By 1900, he was unable to attend a reunion of the Iron Brigade and could only compose and send a poem to speak for him. He died on October 22, 1906 and was buried in Ontario Cemetery with his GAR comrades in attendance. His son, John Fitz, by his second wife Bessie, was still alive in 1992 and wrote the forward to a book, “An Irishman in the Iron Brigade”, which is a memoir of his father’s experience in the 6th Wisconsin.  Mickey Sullivan was the only man in his regiment to enlist three times during the Civil War; a hero, by any measure, dedicated to his country and comrades.

Joseph R. McShane

My wife, Cindy, has always been a Civil War buff and she spurred my interest a little over thirty years ago when we went to Gettysburg for our honeymoon.  Two years ago, Cindy and I met another Living Historian, Robert (Slim) Bowser, who encouraged us to join the John T. Crawford Camp #43 of the Sons of Union Veterans and the 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.  Through those attachments our interest in the Civil War era intensified and we made additional friends in the hobby. Then we met fellow Living Historians and current COUGers, Ray Lizarraga ( aka Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants) and Linda Lizarraga ( aka Harriet Beecher Stowe), who suggested we apply for membership with the Confederation of Union Generals. We had already met many of the Generals while serving as their HQ Guard and Color Guard at COUG events with the 62nd PVI. Subsequently, after researching the life of  Sergeant James “Mickey” Sullivan, I became captivated by his story. Being Irish myself, I decided he was the ideal persona for me.  Cindy, about the same time, found her Civil War “soulmate” in the persona of Marie Tepe (French Mary) of the 114th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry who was a Vivandiere during the Civil War.

I have spent 37 years in the forging industry starting off as a laborer in Woodings-Verona Tool Works, advancing in assignments from foreman; Materials Control Manager; Corporate Purchasing Manager;  and Plant Manager and Vice President of Operations for the Rail Anchor Division. After an acquisition of the company by Ames Lawn and Garden Tools, I represented Ames as the Government, Railroad, and OEM National Sales Manager. Currently, I’m working as the Regional Sales Manager for the Council Tool Company of North Carolina, one of the last domestic manufacturers of USA Made Hand Tools.

Joe McShane can be contacted through this website at james.sullivan@uniongenerals.org

Joseph R. McShane

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