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Sheeran, James B.


Confederate chaplain; b. Temple Mehill, County Longford, Ireland, 1819; d. Morristown, N.J., April 3,1881. He immigrated to Canada at the age of 12 and went to New York City in 1833. From there he moved to McConnellsville, Pennsylvania, then to Monroe, Michigan, where he worked as a tailor and taught at a boys' school conducted by the Redemptorists. He married (c. 1842), but became a widower in 1849 and resumed his teaching until 1855, when he entered the Redemptorist Congregation. He was ordained on Sept. 18, 1858, and was sent that year to the Redemptorist church in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he adopted Southern views in the secessionist crisis and volunteered as a chaplain with the Confederate Army. Assigned to the Army of Northern Virginia on Sept. 2, 1861, Sheeran kept a journal of his wartime experiences and observations from August 1862 until his return to New Orleans in 1865. The journal affords insight into the duties of a Civil War chaplain, the attitudes of a Southern patriot, and the life of the Confederate soldier, and contains eyewitness accounts of such major engagements as Antietam and Gettysburg. Sheeran was often critical of Confederate troop commanders and Congressmen. Seized by Gen. P. H. Sheridan's forces in the Shenandoah Valley in September 1864, Sheeran was imprisoned at Winchester, Virginia, and then transferred to Ft. McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland, where he was released on December 5. He returned to New Orleans as the war ended and helped care for the victims of the yellow-fever epidemic in 1867. Soon thereafter, he was released from his vows as a Redemptorist and joined the Diocese of Newark, New Jersey, where he was made pastor of the Church of the Assumption, Morristown. There he built a new church and school, and labored on behalf of Catholic education until his death from a stroke.

Bibliography: j. b. sheeran, Confederate Chaplain: A War Journal, ed. j. t. durkin (Milwaukee 1960).

[j. l. morrison]

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