Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fiddler's Green: Michael Cooney

As I was working on the Williamsburg skirmish post, the name of one of the participants caught my eye. It took me a few days to remember where I’d seen it, but here is a bit more information on the first sergeant cited for bravery in that engagement.

Michael Cooney was born in Muroe, County Limerick, Ireland on May 1, 1837. He immigrated to the United States in 1856, and enlisted in the 1st U.S. Dragoons on December 4th of that year. He was assigned to Company A and promoted to corporal and sergeant before his enlistment expired in 1861.

Cooney enlisted as a private in Company M, 6th U.S. Cavalry on December 18, 1861, and quickly rose to the rank of first sergeant. Cited numerous times for gallantry in action, he was serving as the regimental quartermaster sergeant by 1864. On January 1, 1865, Cooney was commissioned as a captain in the 5th U.S. Colored Cavalry. He served with the regiment until it mustered out on March 16, 1866.

Michael was appointed a first lieutenant in the 9th U.S. Cavalry when it formed on July 28, 1866. He found several familiar faces among the officers there. Lieutenant Colonel Wesley Merritt, his brigade commander during the Civil War, was the regiment’s executive officer. Major James F. Wade and Captain James S. Brisbin from the 6th U.S. Cavalry were also among the regiment’s initial complement of officers. He moved west from New Orleans with the regiment into Texas, the beginning of long and arduous service in the southwest.

Lieutenant Cooney was promoted to captain on January 1, 1868 and assigned to command of Company A, 9th U.S. Cavalry. He and his company fought against Kiowa and Comanche Indians in Texas for the next several years, most notably on April 20, 1872 near Howard’s Well. During the late 1870s and early 1880s, he was very active campaigning in New Mexico against Mimbres and Mescelero Apache Indians.

Captain Cooney was promoted to major on December 10, 1888 and assigned to the 4th U.S. Cavalry, where he spent the majority of the rest of his career. He left briefly when promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 7th U.S. Cavalry June 2, 1897. In two years, however, he returned as the regiment’s commander, promoted to colonel on June 9, 1899.

Colonel Michael Cooney retired on September 4, 1899 after more than 42 years of service. He and his family moved to Washington, D.C. following his retirement. He was advanced to brigadier general on the retired list on April 23, 1904. He died on September 10, 1928.


Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), page 677.

Leckie, William H., The Buffalo Soldiers (Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1967).

Thrapp, Dan L., Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography: In Three Volumes (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991)

6th U.S. Cavalry Regimental Muster Rolls, M744, NARA

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