25 February 2006

Local author pens historical biography

Rolla Daily News

**Please see also The Wild Geese

J Lynn Haslag
Friday, February 24, 2006 8:09 AM CST

Author Jack Morgan will be signing copies of his new book entitled “Through American and Irish Wars: The Life and Times of General Thomas W. Sweeny” at 11 a.m. tomorrow, Feb. 25, at the Reader’s Corner, located at 819 N. Pine Street.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us As the title suggests, the book is an historical biography about Thomas Sweeny, an Irish immigrant who played a major part in the opening of the Civil War in St. Louis and Missouri in 1861, and who led an Irish Republican army in an attempt to capture British territory in Canada after the war began.

“He attempted an invasion of Canada as a way of striking British territory where it was closest at hand,” Morgan said, “because to go in ships all the way to Ireland and take on British ships would have been impossible.”

Morgan’s book explains the plan, the attempt, and the reasons why it failed. It also covers Sweeny’s life and his adventures before and during the Civil War, including the journey of his command through Rolla to Springfield, Mo., before the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.

“A lot of the book has to do with the Battle of Wilson’s Creek,” Morgan said.

Though Sweeny was an important figure in Civil War Missouri, before Morgan’s book he was probably best known through the personal memorabilia of physician Tom Sweeney, who owned the General Sweeny Museum in Republic, Mo. until it was purchased last summer by the National Park Service. Located just north of the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield visitor center, the General Sweeny Museum features an extensive collection of rare artifacts and exhibits of civil wars fought west of the Mississippi River.

Morgan has brought the stories of those artifacts together in Sweeny’s biography, the first to be written about the Irish General. Critics have praised Morgan for his contribution to Missouri history and Irish-American Civil War studies, and for putting the Fenian invasion in proper historical context.

Morgan said his interest in American history and Irish immigration provided much of the inspiration for his book.

“My parents were Irish immigrants,” Morgan said. “I was interested in American studies generally, and as an angle of that, immigration, particularly the history of Irish immigration.”

Originally from Hartford, Ct., Morgan has taught American Literature at the University of Missouri-Rolla for more than 30 years. He has previously written two other books, “The Irish Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett” which he co-edited, and “The Biology of Horror: Gothic Literature and Film,” which was published in 2003.

He has also written extensively for scholarly journals over the years, on subjects such as Irish Fenianism, the antagonism between the Catholic Church and Irish Nationalism, and the relationship of these topics to St. Louis.

Morgan plans to continue his work in the area of Irish immigration studies, and is currently working on his next book, entitled “The Fair in Irish Literature and Culture.”

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