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Captain Thomas Hickey

By: Jan Wojcik

Thomas Hickey was born in Vanleek Hill, Canada in 1839. An only son of Irish parents, he came to Potsdam early in his life and made his home here. The "Descriptive List", filled out on his enlistment, has his profession as "mechanic" a title that covered diverse professions at that time. From the words he used in the Valentine poem (see below for the poem) he composed for his future wife, it is easy to speculate that he might have been employed in the metal working field. The postmark on the Valentine is 1856, which means he must have courted Joanna Joy for about three years before they married in Potsdam in 1859. 

Thomas was known as honest, industrious and possessed of a keen sense of humor. One of the humorous stories told about him has to do with a sign he placed above the door to the recruiting office: "COME OUT OF THE DRAFT". As you read his letters, you will find he was a caring husband and father, and believed firmly that he was fighting for the right cause. He gave up a comfortable, prosperous life to help recruit others, and enlisted himself, to defend that cause. 

Approximately 1000 young men from Potsdam, Stockholm, Canton and other nearby villages trained to be soldiers at Camp Union, on the corner of May Road, Market Street and Leroy Street.  They were members of the 92nd New York State Volunteers. (For more information on Camp Union, click on the link under "Associated Pins" for Camp Union, Civil War Training Camp, Potsdam, NY)

In August 26, 1862 he enrolled as first Lieutenant of Company A, 164th Infantry, New York Volunteers. The following is a list of major engagements in which he fought:

The Siege of Suffolk, VA

Blackwater, VA

Franklin, VA 

Sangster Station, VA 

Spottsylvania, VA

North Anna, VA

Totopotomy, VA

Cold Harbor, VA

It was the battle of Cold Harbor that men were seen writing their names on pieces of paper and pinning them to their uniforms so their bodies could be identified and their families notified. It was at Cold Harbor that Captain Hickey received five wounds, one of which shattered his right arm. While he was in Armory Square Hospital, his wife Joanna joined him and it was hoped that he would recover. Infection set in, requiring a second amputation from which he did not recover. He died on the 7th of July, 1864.

Both of his daughters, Mary, born December 1861, and Anna, born November 1864, graduated from Potsdam Normal School and became teachers. It was Mary Hickey who presented the Hickey Collection to the Potsdam Normal School Museum in 1933. 

Valentine poem: 

Valentine from Thomas Hickey to Johanna (Joanna) Joy, (later Mrs. Thomas Hickey) Potsdam, New York, dated 1856

 

"VALENTINE

Since I'm in love with you I find

my bellows they have lost their wind 

your heart is like my anvil hard

and I can hammer no reward 

you are so very proud and nice

that loving you is all my vice

as hot as fire I sometimes glow

and then cold as iron grow

your eyes are sharp as any file 

which does my every sense beguile 

to sooth my hopes say you'll be mine 

upon the day of Valentine

If love so constant as is mine 

should be refused dear Valentine

what could I say what could I do

my life indeed depends on you

I'm lost indeed if you decline

to take me for your Valentine

it is when you peruse these lines 

that they may not exackley suit your mind

but say to your self there from a boy

that once did love Johanna Joy."

*** To see Thomas Hickey's letters you can click here to view them on the Potsdam Public Museum's website: http://www.potsdampublicmuseum.org/pages/146/32/capt-hickey-letters

 

 

Sources

Text from Civil War Exhibit, Potsdam Public Museum, 2009.

Valentine poem, Potsdam Public Museum Collection, 1956.13.9.27