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General James Mulligan of Illinois

Killed in action at Kernstown

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Item No. CV3324JR Category


3/4 standing pose of James Mulligan in uniform, photographed while serving as colonel of the 23rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry. At the onset of the Civil War, Mulligan raised the 23rd Illinois Infantry in 1861, which was locally known as the “Irish Brigade.” 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. 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 1800 soldiers from ground beyond Opequon Church. Mulligan briefly held off Gordon’s units, but Confederate Major General John C. Breckinridge, 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 was captured and carried to a nearby home where he would succumb to the wound two days later. Back marked by Anthony.


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