It was good to see the old veteran of the Sixth Wisconsin and listen as he talked about attending the 1883 reunion of the Iron Brigade Association at La Crosse.
Mickey was to give a talk, he explained, and was trying to catch a few words on paper. He is the first enlisted man asked to formally address the annual gathering, and he admitted looking back to his soldier days triggered a flood of memories.
Sullivan laughed in telling how his new company—the Lemonweir Minute Men—drilled at the Mauston Park in Juneau County before the call to go to Camp Randall at Madison in 1861. School children, fathers, mothers sisters, friends and girls that had not yet been left behind stood watching, he recalled with a smile, and “if they judge by the loudness of the tones of command and our ability to charge the school house or church, they must have felt the rebellion would soon be a thing of the past.”
A couple of darker memories gave Mickey pause. It was at Gettysburg, in the bloody railroad cut, that he was shot in the shoulder and taken to the town on the back of a cavalry horse ordered up by Gen. James Wadsworth himself. At the Court House, he said, he found doctors “busy cutting up and patching up the biggest part of the Sixth Regiment, A good number of the Company K boys were in the same fix I was, and some a great deal worse.”
And there were other memories as well—of “Old Boo” the famous pet jackass of Company K, and a drill session with two new recruits, one German and one Irish, and, of course, Sullivan had to pull from an old chest his faded blue coat and the misshapen famous Black Hat of the Iron Brigade. The old coat was a little tight around the middle and the hat had seen better days, he admitted as he put them on, and then pulled himself up erect soldier fashion to begin his poem:
There are hats in the closest, old, ugly to view,
Of very slight value they may be to you.But the wreath of the Astors should not buy them to-day,
With letters of honor, old Company K.
At the end, Sullivan saluted the way the old boys,did in 1861, and then he was gone.
His return was a funded by a grant given to the Civil War Museum from the Wisconsin Humanities Council. The 40-minute performance featured actor T. Stacy Hicks as Mickey Sullivan. The script was written by Playwright Jim Farris from Sullivan’s Civil War writings as found in An Irishman in the Iron Brigade: The Civil War Memoirs of James P. Sullivan, Sergt, Company K, 6th Wisconsin Volunteers, by William J.K. Beaudot and Lance J. Herdegen.