Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Col. James A. Mulligan - A Heroic Figure from Chicago's Buried History

I re-read a 1921 edition of Catholic Church in Chicago 1675 - 1871 by Gilbert J. Garraghan, S. J. no doubt one of Father Damen's later disciples.

This history chronicles the growth of Catholic Chicago from Father Marquette's original Mass for the voyagers on the sand dunes near the mouth of the Chicago River to the Great Chicago Fire.

The first Catholic Church built in Chicago was Father St. Cyr's St. Mary's located on the south side of Lake Street near State in 1833 with a mere 200 ( mostly French) worshipers.

By 1857 and flood of thousands of Irish immigrants, the still magnificent Holy Family Church towered above 12th Street ( Roosevelt Road; a Catholic College was in place at St. Mary of the Lake and Catholic Institute (later the Chicago Lyceum) -Literary and Debating society flourished.

One of the chief members of the Catholic Institute was recent graduate of St. Mary of the Lake College - James Adelbert Mulligan.

Col. Mulligan organized the three Catholic Military societies ( the Shields, the Emmett and the Montgomery Guards) into the Chicago Irish Brigade, which was the 1st militia from Illinois recognized for the Federal Army in the American Civil War. This body became the Illinois 23rd Regiment.

Col. Mulligan led the Illinois 23rd ( 3,500 tough Micks) to Missouri where it faced Confederate General Sterling Price's force of 12,500 Rebs in what must have been the wildest battle of the Civil War - The Battle of Lexington also known as the battle of the Hemp Bales.

Hemp is dope. Mulligan's force was outnumbered and surrounded on the campus of Masonic College. Sterling Price bombarded Mulligans troops from September 18th through the 20th. On the 20th of September, Price soaked hundreds hemp bales in the Mississippi River and used them as breastworks - constantly closing a grip around the throats of the 23rd Illinois.

General Price probably should have lit them bales on fire and smoked the Micks into submission. Too stoned to fight?

Nevertheless, the soaked bales did the job and Mulligan and the 23rd were captured and later paroled in a prisoner exchange - not uncommon in the old rules of war.

Mulligan became the commandant of Camp Douglas but was removed for treating the Confederate Prisoners with dignity and food. Progressive minded radical Republicans wanted the Camp to be a punitive exercise - starve and freeze the Rebs.

Col. Mulligan returned to combat leading the Chicago Irish Brigade in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley against Confederate General Jubal Early at Leestown and later Second Kernstown ( n.b. Illinois Irishman James J. Shields defeated Stonewall Jackson at the 1st Battle of Kernstown in 1862 and was the only Union General to best Jackson) where Rearguard Action expert Col. Mulligan fought a fighting retreat and was killed by a Confederate sniper.

We read way too much mythology about Jane Addams and Lyman Trumbull types and most of it is inflated nonsense.

James A.Mulligan was quite a historic figure. We only read about great Americans like Beaubien, Brownson, Shields and Mulligan in books that were close to history and not re-invented redactions of history.

James A. Mulligan (1830-1864)
James Adelbert Mulligan was a brevet brigadier general of volunteers in the Union Army. An Irish politician in Chicago, he raised the "Irish Brigade" (23rd Illinois). He was wounded at Winchester and as his men were carrying him from the field he ordered them to save the flag rather than to save him. He was captured and died three days later.

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