Memorial Day – Michael Sullivan in the Civil War

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Folks are enjoying the 3 day weekend, time by the pool or off to the beach. I’m enjoying it all too, but having started this family research quest a few years ago, I have a new appreciation for those who serve or served this country. Several men in the family have served in different war times but the story of my great great grandfather’s brother Michael Sullivan is of the utmost significance to me.

He enlisted in the Corcoran’s Irish Brigade in 1862 in Binghamton NY. He was a mere 19 years old, the same age as many of today’s soldiers who are serving in the middle east. This was a particular group of Irishman who had recently emigrated and were led by Michael Corcoran who was set free from court martial to join federal forces against the confederacy. Why he was being court martialed had a bit to do with his disrespect toward the Crown of England, but I will leave it to you to secure your own history lesson.

I sent away for Michael Sullivan’s enlistment record and discovered he was already married and had a child while he was serving in the Union army. Long story short, Michael did not make it home from the war and his widow Mary remarried another Civil War soldier Orville Benton who raised Michael’s son William as his own (including a name change to Benton). I am researching the son William and hope that when the 1940 New York census is complete and available online I will learn more.

Michael served is the 155th infantry Company F. They saw several battles and Michael survived most but was wounded at the Siege of Petersburg in Virginia. He was taken as a prisoner of war at Ream’s Station. His final days were spent in the Salisbury NC confederate prison. He eventually died from his wounds and the horrible conditions of the over populated prison. His resting place is a mass grave for Union soldiers in Salisbury and the prison was burned to the ground. He never made it back to Binghamton to be buried in the Sullivan plot along with his mother and brothers Dennis and my great great grandfather Thomas.

Being a transplant in North Carolina from New York and being truly oblivious (until my time here) about the Civil War, I did not fully recognize or appreciate the toll of these battles and the true importance they played in shaping our history and what is now the future state.  Our modern issue over acceptance of gay marriage is reminiscent of the emancipation of slaves, a tortured minority. This war elevated an issue to all consciousness and conscience and the result was a true awakening of what civil rights was about. It seems to me that if this country can move past slavery, then gay marriage too shall come to pass. I just hope it’s in my lifetime not in my children’s.

More about the 155th:

https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/155th_Regiment,_New_York_Infantry

More about the battle at Petersburg:

http://www.nps.gov/pete/index.htm

More about Ream’s Station:

http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/ream-s-station.html

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