Friday, May 3, 2013


As you enter Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, Illinois through the main gate off of Chicago Avenue, you can't help but notice an imposing monument topped by a Celtic cross off to your right.

Who is it that is buried by that monument in Section A, Block 1, Lot 1? An Irishman named James Adalbert Mulligan.  A man who led an interesting life prior to the Civil War, but whose war experiences were even more exemplary.  I have to admit that in all my times at Calvary I hadn't paid much attention to that monument, but I am making up for it now by telling you the story of a man born to Irish immigrants who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country - but even more, earned the title of "A Christian Soldier."

James Adalbert Mulligan was born in Utica, New York on June 25, 1820 to Irish immigrant parents.  In the autumn of 1836 Mulligan and his mother moved to Chicago, his father having died when he was just a boy.  After James' elementary and secondary education he was enrolled in the University of St. Mary of the Lake.  He graduated from St. Mary's in 1850, being among the new university's first graduates and then began his study of the law.  In 1851 he accompanied John Lloyd Stephens on his famous expedition to the Isthmus of Panama. Stephens had been appointed president of the Panama  Railroad Company and oversaw the construction of the railway across the isthmus.  Mulligan stayed in Panama about one year, then returned to Chicago and resumed his study of the law in the office of Judge I.N. Arnold.  At the same time Mulligan acted as editor of the Western Tablet, a weekly Roman Catholic publication.  In 1855 he was admitted to the bar, and immediately set up a practice.  Those who knew him at this point in his life spoke of his clearness of perception and remarkable oratorical powers.

In the winter of 1857 he was appointed to a clerkship in the Office of the Secretary of the Interior in Washington.  On a more personal front, on October 26, 1859, James Adelbert Mulligan he was married to Miss Marian Nugent by The Most Rev. James Duggan, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Chicago.

While working in Washington he was at the forefront of events leading to the war, and therefore was among the first to enlist after the attack on Fort Sumter in April of 1861.

In June of 1861, the 23rd Illinois Voluntary Infantry Regiment was raised in Chicago, and young James Mulligan was offered the colonelcy.  The Illinois 23rd was known as "First Irish" or  "Mulligan's Brigade".  He gladly accepted and in July 1861 left Chicago for the front.  During the first month or two, the Brigade was actively engaged in Virginia and Missouri, until September, when it was ordered to the defense of Lexington, Missouri.  At that point in the war, Lexington was threatened by a vastly superior force of the enemy under General Sterling Price.  For nine days, Mulligan and his men held the town against heavy odds, praying for reinforcements.  But no reinforcements were forthcoming, so after nine days of valiant fighting, Lexington fell.   On September 20, 1861 at 2:00 in the afternoon Mulligan surrendered. Combined casualties were 64 dead, and 192 wounded.  General 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.  Colonel Mulligan returned to Chicago and was lauded as the "Hero of Lexington."

Upon Mulligan's returned to Chicago, he reorganized his regiment. Then he embarked on a short lecture tour through the Eastern United States.

Colonel Mulligan's next assignment was commander of Camp Douglas, a prisoner of war camp at Chicago  between February 25, 1862 and June 14, 1862.

Camp Douglas at Chicago

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 had become infamous for its inhumane condition and large death toll.  Upon taking command of Camp Douglas, Mulligan made efforts to improve conditions at the camp while trying to deal with 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, Missouri.

After his stint as commander of Camp Douglas, Mulligan was ordered with his regiment to New Creek, Virginia.  During the remainder of 1862 and 1863, Mulligan and his brigade fought in the battles of Harper's Ferry, Moorfield, Greenland Gap, Gettysburg, Williamsport, Hedgeville, Petersburg Gap, and many other engagements.

Between 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.

On July 3, 1864, only three weeks before his death, Colonel Mulligan distinguished himself in the Battle of Leetown, fought in and around Leestown, 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.

Colonel Mulligan led his minuscule force out of their trenches, 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.

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.

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 stream bed 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. 

Colonel James A. Mulligan was buried with full military honors on August 2, 1864.  The New York Times carried a full account of Colonel Mulligan's funeral in their editions of August 7, 1864:

From Our Own Correspondent

CHICAGO, Tuesday, Aug. 2. - The funeral of Col. Mulligan took place to-day, and was one of the largest and meet imposing spectacles of the kind ever witnessed in Chicago, second only to that on the occasion of the burial of Mr. Douglas. The day was beautiful, and our citizens generally, together with all branches of the city Government, a large number of civic societies, and a strong array of military, participated. It was a heartfelt tribute to one who was really loved for what he was in private life, as well as for what he had done in the field for our country.

The religious ceremonies took place in the Church of St.Mary, Catholic. An eloquent sermon was delivered by Dr. McMullen, a classmate and lifelong friend of the deceased. The procession, which took nearly an hour in passing a given point, was they formed and escorted the body, which was borne in a magnificent funeral car, to its resting-place in Calvary Cemetery.

During the services in the church Mrs. Mulligan fainted and remained a long time unconscious. The whole scene was affecting in the last degree. And thus we have "buried out of our sight" another of those gallant men who have gone forth from among us to battle and die for the flag we love so well.

At first, Col. Mulligan was buried under a simple government-issue headstone,

but almost immediately there was a call for a more elaborate monument from Illinois' martyred soldier.  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. Although now officially a general, he would always be "Colonel Mulligan" to those who knew and loved him.

The Chicago Daily Tribune from May 24, 1885 announced the good news about the monument to Col. Mulligan:

His Monument To Be Dedicated Decoration Day.

This year's commemoration of Decoration Day - which occurs next Saturday - will be marked by an event of unusual interest - the unveiling and formal dedication of the Mulligan monument at Calvary Cemetery. This tribute to the memory of the distinguished Col. James A. Mulligan has long been in contemplation.  A fund of $2,500 was contributed some years ago by the State and a like amount has been raised among the friends and admirers of the dead officer.  The whole $5,000 has been expensed upon a marble shaft which now stands finished at the head of the Colonel's grave.

The dedicatory exercises will be brief, but impressive.  A delegation of Grand Army veterans, Hibernian Rides, and the remnant of the Colonel's regiment, the Twenty-third Illinois, numbering forty men, will form a guard of honor.  At the grave, Vicar-General Conway will offer prayer, William T.   will deliver an oration on "The Life, Character, and Services of Col. Mulligan, and Miss Elza A. Starr will read an ode composed for the occasion.  This program will be interspersed with vocal music.  The committee in charge has issued invitations to a large number of distinguished persons, many of whom will be present.  A special train for the accommodation of those desiring to attend the ceremonies will leave the Northwestern Depot at 10:30 Saturday morning.

The Chicago Daily Tribune from Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) of May 31, 1885 recounted the ceremonies surrounding the dedication of the monument to Col. Mulligan at Calvary Cemetery:

Dedication of the Mulligan Monument at Calvary

The memorial services at Calvary Cemetery were of a particularly interesting nature because of the dedication of the granit (sic) monument erected over the grave of Col. Mulligan who fell mortally wounded in the engagement at Kernstown, Va., July 21, 1864.  A train of twelve coaches, bearing Company D of the Hibernian Rifles, Major Mulhearn, Mulligan Post G.A.R., about twenty-five survivors of Mulligan's regiment, a delegation of the Sons of Veterans, and about 600 passengers to the cemetery left the Northwestern depot at 11 o'clock and reached the cemetery in about twenty minutes.  When the train left the cemetery the sky was clouded  and a heavy shower of rain seemed imminent, but just as the long train reached Calvary Station, the sun came out.  The procession to the cemetery was headed by Nevins' band, followed by the Hibernian Rifles and Mulligan Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, and the survivors of Col. Mulligan's regiment.  The band struck up a dirge, and the procession moved slowly through the entrance to the cemetery and took up a position surrounding the monument, which stands just inside the main entrance to the cemetery, on the right-hand side.  It is about twenty-five feet high, in the form of a shaft surmounted by a Celtic cross.  The pedestal to the shaft is reached by two broad stone steps.  On the front face of the pedestal is the following inscription:

In Memory Of
Colonel 23rd Illinois Volunteer Irish Brigade
Born Utica, N.Y. June 25, 1830
Wounded in Battle
At Kernstown, Va.
July 24, 1864
Died July 26, 1864
“Lay Me Down and Save the Flag”     

On the right side of the pedestal is inscribed: "This monument has been erected by the State and the City of Chicago, July 26, 1884."

Just across the broad walk to the right of the monument and overlooking the soldiers and veterans surrounding it was a commodious platform, upon which were seated guests specially invited by the Monument Committee, among who were the Very Rev. P. J. Conway, (Vicar-General), and Father Agnew, and relatives of Col. Mulligan and members of his family.  Among those were:  Mrs. Col. Mulligan and her daughters, Mrs. Caroll, Miss Adele Mulligan, Miss Alice Mulligan; Col Mulligan's sisters, Mrs. Colby and Mrs. McDonald; Mrs. Nugent, mother of Mrs. Mulligan, Miss Alice Nugent and Messrs. Michael and Charles Nugent, brothers of Mrs. Mulligan.  There were also on the platform State Treasurer Jacob Gross, Judge Tuley. Col. W.P. Head,  John H. Walsh, the Hon. James Taylor, L. Ennis, and John J. Healy.  When the people on the platform were seated, Mr. W.J. Onahan by a wave of his hand signaled the crowd before him to be silent, after which Vicar-General Conway was introduced.  

The Vicar-General, accompanied by Father Agnew, walked slowly around the monument reciting the prescribed prayers from the ritual for a dedication service, and sprinkled the monument with holy water.  After this, the Oriental Quartet, led by Deputy Sheriff Hubbard, sang the martial hymn "Unfurl the Glorious Banner".  As the last notes of the song were dying away Miss Adele Mulligan slowly unveiled the medallion of her father cut in the front of the shaft of the monument which up to this time had been hidden from sight by the silk flag of the regiment.  

Capt. J.J. Healy of the Monument Committee read the report which embodied the history of the formation of the Mulligan Monument Society.  The monument cost $5,000, and thanks to the efforts of the Legislature and the generosity of the citizens of Chicago it has been paid for.

A pathetic ode to Col. James A. Mulligan, written for the occasion by Miss Eliza Ellen Starr, was read with good effect by Miss Molly Prindiville Corse.  Miss Marnie Gross followed with a pretty little recitation entitled: "Scatter Flowers O'er Our Heroes."  

W.J. Onahan then made an eloquent address on Col. Mulligan's life and services.

The Oriental Quartet wound up the program by singing a beautiful selection composed for the occasion entitled "Lay Me Down and Save the Flag", the words uttered by Mulligan when he received his death-wound.  After the singing of this piece the audience around the platform, top the number of about 1,500, dispersed to decorate the graves of their beloved dead.  The graves of the soldiers in the cemetery, of which there are comparatively low, were tastefully decorated under the auspices of the Mulligan Monument Society.

That's the story of James Adalbert Mulligan, a man dedicated to God and Country.  He was a man who lived as he believed.  A Christian gentleman who impressed even his enemies by his fair dealing.  When asked in 1864 how he could reconcile being both a Catholic and a soldier her said: "“I am a soldier, and obey my General; I am Catholic and obey my Bishop.”  

James Mulligan was one of Illinois' finest sons.  We sent him into battle to preserve the Union, and he was returned to us in a pine box. But the people of Illinois wanted to make sure that Col. Mulligan's sacrifice was not forgotten, and so you see his memorial in Section A, Block 1, Lot 1 of Calvary Cemetery.

Colonel James Adalbert Mulligan of the Illinois Irish Brigade - may he rest in peace.

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