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Sweeney, James


Age: 24, credited to South Hero, VT
Unit(s): 17th VT INF
Service: enl 1/25/64, m/i 3/1/64, Pvt, Co. B, 17th VT INF, d/accident, 4/17/64, killed by guard, Burlington

See Legend for expansion of abbreviations


Birth: abt 1840, Canada
Death: 04/17/1864


Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Unknown
Portrait?: Unknown
College?: Not Found
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)

Remarks: None


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James Sweeny

KILLED: James Sweeny of this village, a private in Co. B, 17th Regiment, attempted to run the guard between 8 and 9 o'clock last night and was bayonetted five times, and so dangerously wounded that he died within about five minutes. Sweeny was quite intoxicated at the time, and had forced one guard before he was tackled by the one that killed him. The guard was a private in Co. E. A court of inquiry was immediately ordered by Lt. Col. Cummings, but its result has not transpired as a late hour last night. The affair is a very unfortunate one, but as near as we can ascertain, no blame can be attached to the guard, as he was simply obeying orders. BURLINGTON TIMES 18th

(Source: Lamoille Newsdealer, 20 April 1864)


The following abstract of the proceedings of the military court of inquiry, held Sunday night, to investigate the death of Sweeny, killed while running the guard, is from the Burlington Times.

The prisoner, Henry A. Luce, states that on the 17th day of April he was on the police guard of the 17th Regiment of Vermont Volunteers, and stationed at door of the guard house of post No.8, that the deceased, James Sweeny, being then a prisoner in the guard house, escaped from the Corporal in charge, and being remanded into custody, soon after made an attempt to escape, but was pushed back by the prisoner.. Soon after --- about 15 minutes past 9 --- the deceased, Sweeny, attempted again to pass m, and on being pushed back, held my gun and tried to push me away, and then struck me in the face and succeeded in passing me. I repeatedly ordered him to return, but he paid no attention, whereupon I struck him several times with my bayonet; I cannot tell how many. The last time I struck him he fell. I think someone assisted him to arise; he went into the guard house, but whether alone or with assistance I cannot tell. I think he was about one rod from the guard house when I first struck him. He kept on running till he fell, eight or ten rods from where I first struck him, near the east end of the barracks. My instructions were to keep the prisoners in the guard house, and if they attempted to run away, run them through. I did not shoot at him for fear I should wound someone else, as several persons were standing in the vicinity.

Lucien H. Bingham, Corporal of the Guard, being sworn, corroborated the statement of Luce, saying, "the second time the deceased tried to escape, I saw him getting nearly by Luce, I had just relieved Private Gokey of Co.C, who was on the same relief. Gokey said he would like to assist Luce, and I told him he might. I could see both Gokey and Luce doing something with their guns, but it was too dark for me to see distinctly".

"Capt. A. J. Davis, officer of the day testified that his general instruction to the guard in the morning were to hold the prisoners in the guard house. After that he found Sweeny outside the Guard House without any guard, and took him back himself. After that he told the sentry "to keep those prisoners in there if he had to kill every devil of them" Considers he was justified in the course he took. He considered Sweeny to be one of the worst men, quarrelsome, and in general giving much trouble.

Surgeon testified that he examined the body, and found nine wounds, evidently made with a bayonet, and all upon the posterior aspect of the body. Opening the thoracic, found the plural cavity filled with blood; removing the contents found in the lower lobe of the left lung a punctured wound corresponding with the external wound. The external wound was between the eighth and ninth ribs on the left side. Upon the right side of the cavity a punctured wound of the "vena cava ascendens"- the wound in the vein corresponding with the external wound upon the right side between the eighth and ninth ribs, two and one half inches from his spine. Judging this to be a sufficient cause of death he made no further examination.

The following is the finding of the Court:

"The Court, after mature deliberation from the evidence adduced, declare that the grounds of accusation are not sufficient to bring the matter before a General Court Martial"

They are of opinion that this is a case of justifiable homicide, in this; that the accused acted in obedience to orders and in the line of duties.


1st Lieut, and Adjutant, 17th Vt. Vols.

     Judge Advocate


Capt. Co A., 17th Vt. Vt. Vols.

     President of Court


Submitted by Deanna French.

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