1862 Civil War Era Letter From Col. James Mulligan, Irish Brigade For Sale1862 CIVIL WAR era letter from COL. JAMES MULLIGAN, Irish Brigade
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A rare historic letter!
July 27, 1862 signed letter from Colonel James Mulligan of the Irish Brigade to Captain W. Clay Wood. The letter discusses a doctor who was ordered to a medical examination board due to questionable ability, but instead deserted. It is hand written and signed by Col. Mulligan.
The letter reads:"CaptainI have received yours of 22nd (mch - March?) relative to Dr. Silas J. Lee. The Dr. gave his whole time to our regiment (23rd Illinois) prior to the muster. From about the 27th of May 61 to the 15th of June 61. The position of Asst. Surgeon was sought by two others and it was the lucid understanding that the apt. should be the compensation for the services thus rendered. This was peculiarly true of Dr. Lee. whose ability was sincerely doubted by the officers, but who were supposed to regard him favorably for his courtesy and attention. About middle of Aug 61, I ordered him from Jefferson City to Illinois to stand his examination before a medical board. He never after reported in person or by letter - deserted -With Respect,Faithfully,James A. Mulligan, Col.
To Capt. W. Clay Wood, Washington D.C."
Condition: The paper has yellowed and there is wear and losses to the edges. There are a few notations in pencil on the letter.Please see the photos for additional details and the most accurate description of its condition.
Approximate Dimensions: 8-1/8" x 13"
James A. Mulligan (1829–1864) was colonel of the 23rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment (locally known as "The Irish Brigade") in the Union Army during the American Civil War. On February 20, 1865, the United States Senate confirmed the posthumous award to Colonel Mulligan of the rank of brevet brigadier general of U.S. Volunteers to rank from July 23, 1864, the day before he was mortally wounded at the Second Battle of Kernstown, near Winchester, Virginia. 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 lifeJames Mulligan was born in 1829 in Ithaca, New York. 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".
Raising the Irish BrigadeAt 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). 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.
Battle of LexingtonThe 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. 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.
Camp DouglasColonel Mulligan was commander of Camp Douglas, a prisoner of war camp at Chicago, IL, between February 25, 1862 and June 14, 1862. The camp had been constructed as a short term training camp for Union soldiers but was converted to a prisoner of war camp for captured Confederate soldiers after the fall of Fort Donelson, on February 16, 1862. One in eight of the prisoners from Fort Donelson died of pneumonia and various diseases. The camp became infamous for its inhumane condition and large death toll. Colonel Mulligan may have been a poor administrator, but unlike some later commandants, he had made efforts to improve conditions at the camp which were hampered by an inadequate budget and bureaucratic indifference. He may have been influenced in his effort to improve conditions at the camp by his treatment by General Price after he was captured at Lexington, MO.
Middle Department dutyColonel Mulligan and his regiment were assigned to the Railroad Division of the Middle Department between December 17, 1862 and March 27, 1863. Then they were assigned to Brigade 5, Division 1, VIII Corps in the Middle Department between March 27, 1863 and June 26, 1863.
Fort MulliganBetween August and December 1863, Mulligan oversaw the construction of Fort Mulligan, an earthworks fortification located in Grant County, West Virginia. 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.
Battle of LeetownOn 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 down 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.
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.
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.
DeathOn 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.
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." 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.
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