Philip Henry Sheridan and My Irish Ancestors

History is full of ironic interactions with individuals.  The collective familial military past is no exception.  I learned this on a recent trip to Ireland to visit cousins and property once owned by my paternal ancestors.  The best I can tell, my grandmother’s side resided near Killenkere Parish, County Cavan at least from the early to mid-19th century.  Interestingly, Philip Henry Sheridan, one of the Old Army’s most famous and controversial leaders also has ancestral ties to the Killenkere area. 

Photo of General Philip Henry Sheridan may have been born in County Cavan, Ireland
Philip Henry Sheridan, shown here during the Civil War, had familial ties to County Cavan, Ireland.
Philip Henry Sheridan, Born in America?

Sheridan, in his memoirs published in 1888, stated that he was born in Albany, New York, a year after his parents arrival in the U.S.  Obviously, the author of an autobiography would know their nativity.  Yet, many biographies of Sheridan fail to agree on his birthplace.  For example, an 1865 biographer listed Massachusetts as his birthplace.  Another biographer stated that Sheridan “was born in Albany, New York, March 6, 1831, but a few weeks after arrival of the his Irish parents in the New World.”  If that is true then the future general was conceived in Ireland.  Other documents list Ohio, Massachusetts, and New York as Sheridan’s place of birth.  Complicating the issue further is a marker erected in 1969 by the Department of Irish Veterans of World War One near Killenkere identifying that parish as Sheridan’s birthplace. 

Modern photo of the monument near Killenkere, County Cavan claims Ireland as the birthplace of Philip Henry Sheridan.
In 1969, the Department of Irish Veterans of World War One erected this monument, near Killenkere, County Cavan, proclaiming Ireland as Philip Henry Sheridan’s birthplace. Photo by author.
Distancing Himself From His Irish Heritage

Modern researcher and writer Damian Shiels speculates that Sheridan intentionally downplayed his foreign heritage opting, instead, to embrace the country that made him famous.  Shiels’ contention is not without merit.  In his memoirs, Sheridan acknowledged that his parents, John and Mary, immigrated from County Cavan, Ireland to the U.S. around 1830, Sheridan does not delve into his Irish ancestry.

County Cavan Connection

Sheridan’s parents lived a short distance from some of my ancestors, the Cusacks (also spelled Cusick, Cussick, or Cussack).  Portions of both the Sheridan and Cusack families immigrated to the U.S., albeit a generation apart.  Some of the Cusack clan, including my paternal grandmother eventually settling down in the Wyoming city named for Philip Henry Sheridan.  Incidentally, Old Army Records is headquartered in the same city. 

Did Your Ancestor’s Have A Brush With Old Army Fame?

We will likely never know the true birthplace of the general.  Personally, the prospect that my ancestors interacted with Philip H. Sheridan’s family, and maybe the general himself, albeit briefly, is intriguing.  It’s these interactions and coincidences that fuels my desire to research the Old Army.  What connections do your ancestors have with the 19th century U.S. Army?  Let Old Army Records help uncover those historic relationships.  Contact us for more information. 

Sources

Fighting Phil:  The Life and Military Career of Philip Henry Sheridan, General of the Army of the United States by Reverend P.C. Headley.  Lee and Shepard Publishers, Boston (1889)

Illustrated Life, Campaigns and Public Services of Philip H. Sheridan (Major-General Sheridan) the Hero of the “Shenandoah Valley,” “Battle of Five Forks,” etc. by C. W. Denison.  T.B. Peterson & Brothers, Philadelphia (1865)

The Life of Philip Henry Sheridan by Joseph Faulkner.   Hurst & Co., New York (1888)

Philip Henry Sheridan by James Grant Wilson.   J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia (1892)

Personal Memoirs of P. H. Sheridan.  Jenkins & McCowan, New York (1888)

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