James A. Mulligan
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Personal Information
Born: 1829
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Died: 1864 (aged 34–35)
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Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
Union
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Branch: Union Army
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Rank: Brevet Brigadier General
Service number : {{{servicenumber}}}
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Battles: American Civil War
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James A. Mulligan (1829–1864) was a brevet brigadier general of volunteers in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He commanded the Federal forces at the First Battle of Lexington in Missouri, and later distinguished himself in other engagements in the Eastern theater prior to his death in battle.

Early life[edit | edit source]

James Mulligan was born in 1829 in Ithaca, New York.[1] His parents had immigrated from Ireland, and his father died when he was a child. His mother remarried a Michael Lantry of Chicago, Illinois, and moved there with her son, who later attended the Catholic College of North Chicago. From 1852–54 Mulligan read law in the offices of Isaac N. Arnold, U.S. Representative from the city. He was admitted to the bar in 1856, and commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the "Chicago Shield Guards".[1]

Raising the Irish Brigade[edit | edit source]

At the onset of the Civil War, Mulligan raised the 23rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1861, which was locally known as the "Irish Brigade" (not to be confused with a New York unit by the same name).[1] This unit included the "Chicago Shield Guards". In September 1861, he led his troops toward Lexington, Missouri, as word had been received that this vital river town would be attacked by the pro-Confederate Missouri State Guard under Major General Sterling Price.[1]

Battle of Lexington[edit | edit source]

The Battle of Lexington, often referred to as the "Battle of the Hemp Bales", commenced on September 13, 1861, when 12,500 soldiers of the Missouri State Guard began a siege of Mulligan's diminutive command (only 3,500 in all), entrenched around the town's old Masonic College.[2] On September 18, Price's army mounted an all-out assault on Mulligan's works, which failed. Cannon fire continued throughout the 19th. On the 20th, units of Price's army used hemp bales soaked in the Missouri River as a moving breastworks to work their way up the river bluffs toward Mulligan's headquarters. By 2:00 p.m., Mulligan had surrendered. Combined casualties were 64 dead, and 192 wounded. Price was reportedly so impressed by Mulligan's demeanor and conduct during and after the battle that he offered him his own horse and buggy, and ordered him safely escorted to Union lines.[3]

Fort Mulligan[edit | edit source]

Between August and December 1863, Mulligan oversaw the construction of Fort Mulligan, an earthworks fortification located in Grant County, West Virginia.[4] Confederate Major General Jubal Early would later pay tribute to Mulligan's engineering skill after occupying the fort during his Valley Campaigns of 1864. This fort remains one of the best-preserved Civil War fortifications in West Virginia, and has become a local tourist attraction.[5]

Battle of Leetown[edit | edit source]

On July 3, 1864, only three weeks before his death, Colonel Mulligan distinguished himself in the Battle of Leetown, fought in and around Leetown, Virginia between Union Major General Franz Sigel and Confederate Major General Jubal Early. Federal troops were retreating in the face of Early's relentless advance up the Shenandoah Valley during his Second Valley Campaign. Hoping to buy time to concentrate Union forces and supplies, Sigel ordered Mulligan to hold Leestown for as long as humanly possible. The colonel was only allotted two regiments of infantry (including his old 23rd Illinois), five pieces of artillery, and 1,000 dismounted cavalrymen; he would face six Confederate infantry divisions, five brigades of cavalry and three battalions of artillery. Mulligan was told to expect no help whatsoever; he was to hold as long as possible, then conduct a fighting retreat as slowly as possible to cover the other withdrawing Union units.[6]

The battle began at 6:00 a.m. on the morning of July 3 when Major General Robert Ransom, in command of Early's cavalry, ordered Brigadier General Bradley T. Johnson to attack at Leetown. At the same time another cavalry unit charged 600 Union cavalry stationed at Darkesville, while 1,100 Confederate cavalry under Brig. Gen. John McCausland swung around the Union force at North Mountain and Williamsport Road, capturing the North Mountain Depot.[6]

Colonel Mulligan led his minuscule force out of their trenches after Johnson's initial charge, driving the attackers back upon the divisions of Generals Robert Rodes and Stephen D. Ramseur. Although the outcome of the battle was a foregone conclusion, Mulligan managed to hold Early's main force at Leestown for the entire day before being compelled to give way—albeit very slowly. Mulligan continued to battle Early all the way from Leestown to Martinsburg, Virginia, buying valuable time for Union commanders to concentrate their forces in the Valley.[6]

Death[edit | edit source]

On July 24, 1864, Mulligan led his troops into the Second Battle of Kernstown, near Winchester, Virginia. Late in the afternoon, Major General John B. Gordon’s Confederate force attacked Mulligan's 1,800 soldiers from ground beyond Opequon Church. Mulligan briefly held off Gordon's units, but Confederate Major General John C. Breckinridge, a former U.S. Vice President, led a devastating flank attack against the Irishmen from the east side of the Valley Pike. Sharpshooters under Confederate Major General Stephen D. Ramseur then attacked Mulligan’s right flank from the west. Now encompassed on three sides, the Union battle line fell apart.[7]

With Confederates closing from all around, Mulligan ordered his troops to withdraw. As he stood up in his saddle to spur his men on, Southern sharpshooters concealed in a nearby streambed managed to hit the Union commander. Mulligan’s soldiers endeavored to carry him to safety, but the unyielding Confederate fire made this an impossible task. Mulligan was well aware of his situation, and the danger his men were in, and so he famously ordered: "Lay me down and save the flag."[8] Mulligan’s men reluctantly complied. Confederate soldiers captured Mulligan, and carried the mortally-wounded Colonel into a nearby home, where he died two days later.[9]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Levy's pg. 53
  2. Gifford's pg 8
  3. Moore's pp. 73–75
  4. Eddy's pp. 571–572
  5. Smith's pg. 107
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Schairer's pp. 99–101
  7. Farrar pp. 298–299
  8. Paulist Fathers's pg. 106
  9. Hicken's pg. 333

References[edit | edit source]

  • Paulist Fathers; "Catholic world, Volume 95", Paulist Fathers, (1912)
  • Moore, Frank; "The Rebellion record: a diary of American events, with documents, narratives illustrative incidents, poetry, etc, Volume 3", Putnam, (1862)
  • Eddy, Thomas Mears; "The patriotism of Illinois: A record of the civil and military history of the state in the war for the Union, with a history of the campaigns in which Illinois soldiers have been conspicuous, sketches of distinguished officers, the roll of the illustrious dead, movements of the ..., Volume 1", Clark & Co., (1865)
  • Smith, Jeffrey C.; "Home Range", iUniverse, (2006)
  • Schairer, Jack E.; "Lee's bold plan for Point Lookout: the rescue of Confederate prisoners that never happened", McFarland, (2008)
  • Farrar, Samuel Clarke; "The Twenty-second Pennsylvania cavalry and the Ringgold battalion, 1861-1865", New Werner company, (1911)
  • Gifford, Douglas L.; "Lexington Battlefield Guide", Instantpublisher (self-published), (2004)
  • Hicken, Victor; "Illinois in the Civil War", University of Illinois Press, (1991)
  • The Battle of Lexington, Fought in and About the City of Lexington, Missouri on September 18, 19th and 20th, 1861. Lexington Historical Society. 1903.
  • Excerpt From Major General Thomas Maley Harris, by H.E. Matheny Publication data unknown. Retrieved on July 29, 2008.
  • "Colonel James A. Mulligan" Retrieved on July 31, 2008.

External links[edit | edit source]

pl:James A. Mulligan

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