John Sullivan actually fired the first shot in the American Revolution, and not the “shot heard round the world” at Lexington and Concord.
All American school children are familiar with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn”:
“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.”
It describes the events of April 19, 1775 when the colonial militia of Massachusetts started shooting at the British army on Lexington Green. The skirmish quickly spread to North Bridge in Concord where it exploded into a full-fledged battle that resulted in the British retreat to Charlestown. It implies that the American War of Independence started at Lexington and Concord.
The truth is that the colonial militia of New Hampshire, under the fearless leadership of John Sullivan (1740-1795), attacked the British army four months earlier at Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth Harbor. On December 14, 1774, the British defended the fort with cannon fire but were overwhelmed by the Americans. The cannons, powder, and other arms were confiscated by Sullivan to be used later in the war.
Although there were minor, unorganized, scuffles between the colonials and the British in the summer of 1774, the taking of Fort William and Mary was the very first time that American and British military units deliberately confronted each other with “deadly force to seize territory and ordnance.” It was the first overt act of war and was most definitely heard by the British Empire ‘round the world’.
Sullivan was born in Somersworth, New Hampshire, on February 17, 1740, the third son of a school master. He was an apprentice attorney under Samuel Livermore of Portsmouth, N.H., and later opened his own practice in Durham when he was 24 years old. He was an aggressive attorney who earned the fear and respect of his neighbors. He hired an associate, Alexander Scammel, in 1773, allowing him to enter politics. He was elected by the Durham community to represent them in the New Hampshire general assembly during which time he befriended John Wentworth, the royal governor.
By 1774 he was very disillusioned with the king’s government and he resigned from the general assembly to serve as a delegate to the rebel Continental Congress. Filled with patriotic fervor after attending the Congress, Sullivan returned to New Hampshire and organized a local militia. In December he led the attack against Fort William and Mary, essentially kicking off the American War of Independence. In June, 1775, the fledgling American government appointed him brigadier general and he left New Hampshire to participate in the siege of Boston.
Once the British were successfully expelled from Boston, Sullivan was appointed as the commander of the colonial army in Canada, replacing John Thomas. He re-organized the previously defeated invasion force and again attacked the British in the north. His counterattack was repelled at Trios-Rivieres and he was forced to retreat to Crown Point. Although his mission was unsuccessful, his courage and competence was officially recognized by the Congress and he was promoted to major general on August 9, 1776.
Sullivan was given command of the Long Island troops in anticipation of an assault on New York City by the British. During the subsequent battle General Sullivan personally led his men against the Hessians with a pistol in each hand. Despite his unquestioned bravery, his division was overrun and Sullivan was captured. Washington arranged for Sullivan’s release in a prisoner exchange so that he could join him in the Battle of Trenton. In this decisive engagement the troops under Sullivan secured the bridge over the Assunpink Creek trapping the Hessians and ensuring a resounding victory for the Americans. In 1777 Sullivan again played a pivotal role in the Battle of Princeton.
In 1778 he assumed command of the troops on Rhode Island. In 1779 Washington asked him to eliminate the Iroquois threat in western New York. This successful campaign is referred to in history as the “Sullivan Expedition”. He was later criticized by Congress for pushing his troops too hard and he resigned his commission in disgust in 1779.
Upon his return to New Hampshire he was given a hero’s welcome. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1780 but after borrowing money from his close friend, the French minister, he was accused by his political enemies of being a foreign agent. He resigned from Congress but did not abandon politics. He was appointed the New Hampshire attorney general and was elected to the state assembly where he became the speaker of the house. He campaigned aggressively to have the United States Constitution ratified by his state on June 21, 1788. He was then elected governor from 1786 to 1789. President Washington never forgot his old friend and ally and in 1789 he named him federal judge of the District of New Hampshire, a post he held until his death on January 23, 1795. He was buried in the Sullivan family cemetery in Durham.
The people of New Hampshire demonstrated their gratitude for this great American patriot by naming Sullivan County in his honor. John Sullivan descended from the O’Sullivans of Ardea Castle.
The term “Manifest Destiny” was coined by a journalist named O’Sullivan, who supported the expansion of the United States into the western territories.
In 1845, John L. O’Sullivan, an influential journalist, published an article in the Democratic Review urging the United States to annex the Republic of Texas because it was America’s “manifest destiny to overspread the continent.” Later in the same year, O’Sullivan advocated the taking of the Oregon Territory from Great Britain. He argued, “…and that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.” O’Sullivan believed that any legal claims that the monarchy of Britain may have on Oregon were trumped by America’s moral claims to spread democracy and freedom throughout the continent.
The father of the skyscraper was a Sullivan who also originated the famous architectural axiom, “form follows function.”
Louis Henri Sullivan (1856 – 1924) was born in Boston to an Irish immigrant father and a Swiss-born mother. He was accepted into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a junior in high school and was awarded two years of college credit through advanced placement testing. He finished his studies in one year and immediately was hired by an architectural firm in Philadelphia. Sullivan moved to Chicago in 1873 to take advantage of the building boom there following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Within one year he moved to Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he was inspired by Renaissance art. He adopted Michelangelo’s “spirit of creation” and decided to break away from previously developed architectural styles. He returned to Chicago and was hired by Dankmar Adler in 1879, a partnership that would result in some of the most revolutionary building designs in the world. The modern skyscraper was pioneered by Sullivan, made possible by the development of steel girders.
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was started by a Sullivan.
Legend maintains that the Great Chicago Fire was started in the night of October 8, 1871 by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over a kerosene lantern in a hay strewn barn. However, an article published in the Illinois Historical Society Journal reveals that the fire was actually started by Mrs. O’Leary’s neighbor, Daniel ‘Peg Leg’ Sullivan.
The first tank ever acquired by the state of Israel was a gift from an O’Sullivan.
Toward the end of the Second World War, Thomas O’Sullivan of Bantry, County Cork, decided to join the British army. He was assigned to the Coldstream Guards which was the first unit to liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. After the war he was transferred to the Sixth Airborne Division and was posted in Egypt along the Suez Canal. In 1947 his unit was moved to Palestine where his anti-British sentiments led him to befriend some members of the local Hagana Jewish underground. One night, fortified with a few belts of whiskey, O’Sullivan roared out of his base in Haifa with a “liberated” Cromwell tank. It was the Jewish state’s first tank.
O’Sullivan stayed in Israel to fight in its war of independence and married a Jewish girl who had been raised in the Cayman Islands. Eventually they moved to Louisiana, U.S.A. where they raised a family together. Their son, Ephraim O’Sullivan, was a policeman in New Orleans when the Yom Kippur War broke out in 1973. He decided to enlist in the Israeli army and serve the fledgling Jewish nation. After the war he worked briefly as a policeman in Israel before deciding to return to the United States. Ephraim pursued a career in law enforcement and went on to become the police chief of Ocean Springs, the first Jewish chief in the history of Mississippi.
In 1981, Ephraim’s son, Arieh (Hebrew for lion), dropped out of Louisiana State University to join the paratroopers in Israel. He fought bravely in Lebanon in the summer of 1982 after which he became a war correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. He covered conflicts in the Congo, Ethiopia, the Balkans, as well as the Middle East. He and his wife are presently raising their three O’Sullivan children in the Holy land.
The death of a Sullivan buried the truth about the Kennedy assassination forever.
On November 9, 1977, William C. Sullivan was shot dead near his home in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire. It was determined by an official inquest that he had been shot accidentally by a fellow hunter, Robert Daniels, who was fined $500 and lost his hunting license for 10 years. It was a deadly time for anyone in the FBI who didn’t believe that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Sullivan was the highest ranking of six top FBI officials who mysteriously died during the six month period prior to their scheduled appearance to testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The other five were Louis Nicholas, special assistant to J. Edgar Hoover and Hoover's liaison with the Warren Commission; Alan H. Belmont, special assistant to Hoover; James Cadigan, document expert with access to documents that related to death of John F. Kennedy; J. M. English, former head of FBI Forensic Sciences Laboratory where Oswald's rifle and pistol were tested; Donald Kaylor, FBI fingerprint chemist who examined prints found at the assassination scene.
Sullivan’s death was a major blow to the investigation since he was the Operational Director of all of the Bureau’s criminal, intelligence, and espionage investigations, reporting directly to Hoover.
At the time of his death Sullivan was also cooperating with journalist Bill Brown to write a book exposing J. Edgar Hoover’s nefarious dealings as the long term director of the organization and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s illegal use of the FBI for personal political gain. He accused Hoover of having done more “damage not only to national security intelligence operations, but to law enforcement in general than was ever done in the history of the country. It is nothing less than disastrous when you have unlimited power married to gross incompetence, ignorance, and abnormality.”
The most gifted and prolific British composer of the nineteenth century was a Sullivan.
Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900), who was knighted in 1883, was a musical genius who composed masterpieces of church music, operas, symphonies, cantatas, overtures, oratorios, and popular music. He was universally appreciated by all classes of society and is considered to be the ‘Paul McCartney’ of the nineteenth century.
The first heavy weight boxing champion of the world was a Sullivan.
John Lawrence Sullivan (1858 – 1918) was born in the Roxbury section of Boston, the son of a County Kerry immigrant. His nickname was “The Boston Strongboy” because of his mighty punch and legendary stamina. The last bare-knuckled heavy weight boxing championship bout was held in 1889 between Sullivan and Jake Kilrain. The fight started at 10:30 in the morning and lasted for 75 rounds, when Sullivan finally knocked out his worthy opponent. Sullivan died at the age of 59 and is buried in Boston.
In Jules Vernes’ Around the World in Eighty Days, the first character to agree with Phileas Fogg’s contention that he could successfully circumnavigate the globe in less than three months was a Sullivan.
“But the incredulous Stuart was not convinced, and when the hand was finished, said eagerly, “You have a strange way, Ralph, of proving that the world has grown smaller. So because you can go round it in three months…”
“In eighty days”, interrupted Phileas Fogg.
“That is true, gentlemen”, added John Sullivan, “Only eighty days, now that the section between Rothal and Allahabad, on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, has been opened.”
Patrick Sullivan (1887-1933), who was originally from Australia, is best known for creating and producing Felix the Cat, the most popular cartoon character of the silent film era.
Felix the Cat, the famous American cartoon character, was created by a Sullivan. Felix was later adopted as their mascot by the VF-31 Tomcatters F-14 Fighter Squadron of the United States Navy. Lieutenant Commander Daniel Joseph O’Sullivan [122D-1] led the final fly-in of the F-14 from the USS Theodore Roosevelt into the Oceana Naval Base in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on March 10, 2006. LCDR O’Sullivan’s F-14 was the craft chosen to be displayed in the National Aeronautics Museum, Washington, D.C.
The radical Islamic revolution in Iran that put Khomeini in power on February 11, 1979 could have been prevented if the advice of a Sullivan had been heeded.
William Healy Sullivan (born 1922, Rhode Island) was the United States ambassador to Iran from 1977 to 1979. He was very aware of the growing unrest that would ultimately result in the toppling of Mohammad Reza Shah, the last Pahlavi king. He forwarded his intelligence to the CIA and the White House but they ignored his recommendations.
The highly praised movie ‘Anne of Green Gables’ was produced by a Sullivan.
Kevin Sullivan (born 1955, Canada) is a producer, director and screenwriter responsible for the production of the movie and subsequent television series, Anne of Green Gables.
The first non-fictional cyborg ever to be created was a Sullivan.
When Jesse Sullivan, an electrician, accidentally contacted a 7500 volt cable both of his arms were severely burned and later amputated. In July, 2001 Jesse was fitted with bilateral bionic prostheses by Dr. Todd Kuiken of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago that enabled his own nerves to operate his artificial limbs.
The winner of the 1985 Indianapolis 500 was a Sullivan.
Daniel John Sullivan III (born 1950) beat Mario Andretti in this famous race even though his car spun out of control in the 120th lap.
The man who was hit by the most lightning strikes was a Sullivan.
Roy Cleveland Sullivan (1912-1983) was struck by lightning seven times between 1942 and 1977 while serving as a U.S. forest ranger in the Shenandoah National park in Virginia. He survived each time. His nickname became “the human lightning rod”.
The first American woman to ever walk in space was a Sullivan.
Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan, PhD (born 1951) became the first American woman to walk in space on October 11, 1984 during the Space Shuttle Challenger Mission STS-41-G. She eventually logged 532 hours in space.
The Beatles were introduced to America by a Sullivan.
Edward Vincent Sullivan (1901-1974) was the emcee of the most popular variety show on television in the fifties and sixties. On February 9, 1964, he hosted the first live performance of the Beatles, the most watched television program in history up to that time. Ed Sullivan also defied network pressure to exclude black performers from his show, introducing such artists as the Jackson Five. Sullivan was also responsible for popularizing country/western music, featuring singers like Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell.
Helen Keller owes her fame to a Sullivan.
Anne Sullivan (1866 – 1936) was born in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, the daughter of a poor Irish immigrant. When Anne was five years old she contracted trachoma and her vision began to deteriorate. Her mother, Alice Clohessy, died of tuberculosis when Anne was only eight years old. Her father, a hopeless alcoholic, deserted her and her crippled little brother, Jimmie, two years after their mother passed away. Both children were placed in the Massachusetts State Infirmary in Tewksbury where Anne desperately tried to nurse Jimmie back to health. She lived in constant fear that his tuberculosis would cause them to be separated. Sadly, Jimmie died soon after his father abandoned them.
In 1880 Anne was accepted into the Perkins School for the Blind. While there she underwent surgery that restored much of her eye sight. She graduated from the school in 1886 as the class valedictorian. The director of the school helped to find her a job as the tutor of Helen Keller, a pitiful child who was deaf, dumb, and blind.
Through patience, love, and strength of character, Anne taught Helen how to communicate by tracing letters with her fingers on the hapless child’s palm. Keller grew up to be a graduate of Radcliff and a gifted motivational speaker. Anne died on October 20, 1936 in Forest Hills, New York.
The greatest snooker player in the world is an O’Sullivan.
Ronnie O’Sullivan (born 1975) is widely considered to be the most naturally talented player in the history of the sport. He is completely ambidextrous adding to his competitiveness. He was ten years old when he first achieved a break score of 100 and was only fifteen when he first scored the maximum of 147. He joined the professional ranks when he turned sixteen. He has repeatedly dominated the World Championship, UK championship, the Irish Masters, the British Masters, the German Open, the Scottish Open, the Scottish Masters, the China Open, the Welsh Open, and the European Open.
The rubber heel was invented by an O’Sullivan.
On January 24, 1899, the rubber shoe heel was patented by Humphrey O’Sullivan. It was a major advance over the wooden heels that preceded it. Humphrey founded the O’Sullivan Rubber Company with a $25,000 investment that is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars. O’Sullivan has plants in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Nevada producing rubber and vinyl products for the automotive, medical, and industrial markets.
One of Britain’s wealthiest men was a controversial media tycoon named David Sullivan.
Birch Hall, the opulent Georgian home of David Sullivan, belied the humble beginnings of this controversial English businessman. Born in 1949, the son of a Royal Air Force officer, Sullivan gradually built a media empire that included newspapers, magazines, and film companies. Sullivan was an avid sportsman and at one time was the largest resident owner of brood mares in Britain. He also owned a football franchise, the Birmingham City Football club. Like Hugh Hefner of the United States, Sullivan was criticized for his liberal use of nudity to promote his various media outlets.
The most popular book illustrator of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century was a Sullivan.
The work of Edmund J. Sullivan brought the Persian culture to life in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. His illustrations for Thomas Carlye’s The French Revolution captured the terror of this historical debacle. An imaginative peek into the futuristic world of H.G. Well’s A Modern Utopia was artfully provided by Sullivan.
He also wrote The Art of the Illustrator in 1921 and Line in 1922, both still considered to be classics in the world of illustration. Jennifer Rileigh O’Sullivan MacCragh [122G-2] of Dunderry Castle continued this family tradition by pursuing a Masters Degree in authorial illustration at the prestigious University of Falmouth, Cornwall, England in 2007.