A Civil War Biography

Peter John Sullivan

Sullivan was born 15 March 1821 in Cork, Ireland. His parents emigrated to the United States when he was two years old and settled in Philadelphia. Sullivan was educated at the University of Pennsylvania.

He got his first military experience during the war with Mexico rising to the rank of major. Following his military service he was appointed one of the official stenographers of the US Senate. In 1848 he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he studied law, set up a practice, and was a draughtsman for the United States topographical corps.

In 1855 Sullivan was elected colonel of a regiment in the Ohio militia. The regiment, comprised mostly of German-born volunteers, helped suppress the Know-Nothing riots that took place in Cincinnati's predominately German 11th ward in April 1855. There were often clashes between foreign born citizens and American or Know Nothing party members.

When the Civil War broke out Sullivan expected a commission in the Union Army. William Dennison, the Republican governor of Ohio, suspected Sullivan, a Democrat, of harboring Confederate sympathies, and prevented Sullivan from getting a commission. Sullivan raised four regiments at his own expense to dispel the suspicion. Sullivan was named lieutenant colonel of the 48th Ohio Volunteer Infantry on 23 November 1861, some sources claim at the insistence of President Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln having heard of Sullivan's ardent support of the Union.

On 23 January 1862 Sullivan was promoted to colonel and given command of the 48th which was attached to the 4th brigade in William T. Sherman's 5th division of Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Tennessee. Sullivan commanded the regiment at Shiloh during which he had four horses shot out from under him, was wounded three times, and captured a Confederate flag. His wounds prevented him from taking active field command again although he was with the 48th during the siege of Vicksburg. He served for a time as post commander at Memphis, Tennessee, and Fort Pickering while they were in Union hands. He resigned from active duty on 7 August 1863 and spent the remainder of the war as a judge on a military court of claims. Sullivan was brevetted brigadier general of volunteers on 13 March 1865.

President Andrew Johnson appointed Sullivan Minister to Colombia shortly after the end of the war. He was reappointed to the same post after Grant became president in 1869. Sullivan resigned soon after however due to his frail health. He had never fully recovered from his wounds. He returned to Cincinnati and his law practice. He died 2 March 1883.

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