Sergeant William H. Sullivan

We honor you Sergeant 20 William H. Sullivan of Co D 29th Regiment of the United States Colored Infantry, who at age 22 claimed to have been somehow affiliated with the Illinois Regiment in June 1863 in Chicago, Illinois. He had come to Chicago as a butcher and may have been hired by the Government as a teamster to service the army. He enlisted as an infantry soldier in White House Landing, Virginia on June 6, 1864 and was credited to Madison, Wisconsin. He was honorably discharged in November 1865 in Texas.

Born in Philadelphia about 1842-1849, William Sullivan worked as a cabinet maker. He moved to Burlington City and then to Chicago where he worked as a butcher. As a soldier he served in the infantry.

When in the line of battle on the morning of July 30, 1864, he claimed to have been wounded by an enemy missile at the explosion of the mine in Virginia called the Battle of the Crater. The gunshot permanently destroyed the use of his right hand at the third finger, where partial amputation was performed.

Perhaps because he could not read or write, after the war, he was obliged to require the help of a claims agent who deceptively stole his bounty and back pay certificate for money owed. Eventually he did get back that money. However, he was not as successful in securing a pension that he persistently tried to obtain for over 20 years, until his death. Veteran acquaintances claimed to have witnessed his battle wounding. It did not help. Even the deposition revelation from white Burlington City shoemaker, Sylvester Abdill, who was the then the hospital ward master where Sullivan convalesced, and who personally remembered William and the wound and the hospital time when he stayed, did not help. According to veteran William Sullivan’s testimony, there were two soldiers named William Sullivan in his regiment. Both were sergeants with different rankings. The army could only account for one with medical records that listed a different wound date (November 20, 1864). No other William Sullivan could be found in Galena, Illinois where the other Sullivan supposedly resided. Frustrated, William Sullivan could never prove his military identity.

There was no mention of any family. It appears that the names and places of birth of his parents were unknown. After the war he suffered from bronchial asthma and rheumatism. Rheumatism or joint pain may have been associated with a previous episode of rheumatic fever that could have damaged the heart. This was long before antibiotics were discovered that could treat such conditions. The after effects of rheumatic fever could have left him with heart valve damage, neurological problems, swollen joints, and a fibromyalgia syndrome. 21 William Sullivan died March 20, 1895 at age 53 years from heart disease after a five-hour illness. His death certificate states that he was born in Pennsylvania, was a widower, and died at Mount Holly Hospital at age 53, having lived his last 50 years in New Jersey.


Footnote #20

Footnote #21