On the night of the 30th of August, 1861, as the Irish Brigade (23d Illinois Volunteers) lay encamped just outside of Jefferson City, Mo.
, I received orders to report to General Jefferson C. Davis
, commanding in the town.
On doing so, I was informed by General Davis
that the cavalry regiment of Colonel Thomas A. Marshall
, which had left for the South-west some days before, had reached Tipton
, where it was hemmed in by the enemy, and could neither advance nor return, and that he wished me to go to Tipton
, join Colonel Marshall
, take command of the combined forces, cut my way through the enemy, go to Lexington
, and hold it at all hazards.
The next morning the Irish Brigade started with forty rounds of ammunition and three days rations for each man. We marched for nine days without meeting an enemy, foraging upon the country for support.
We reached Tipton
, but found neither Colonel Marshall
nor the enemy, and we passed on to a pleasant spot near Lexington
where we prepared for our entry into the city.
The trouble was not so much the getting into Lexington
as the getting out. At Lexington
we found Colonel Marshall
's cavalry regiment and about 350 of a regiment of Home Guards.
On the 10th of September we received a letter from Colonel Everett Peabody
, of the 13th Missouri Regiment, saying that he was retreating from Warrensburg
, 34 miles distant, and that the rebel General Price
was in full pursuit with an army of 10,000 men. A few hours later Colonel Peabody
There were then at this post the “Irish Brigade,” Colonel Marshall
's Illinois cavalry regiment (full), Colonel Peabody
's regiment, and a part of the 14th Missouri--in all about 2780 men, with one six-pounder, 2
forty rounds of
ammunition, and but few rations.
We then dispatched a courier to Jefferson City
to inform General Davis
of our condition, and to pray for reinforcements or even rations, whereupon we would hold out to the last.
At noon of the 11th we commenced throwing up intrenchments on College Hill
, an eminence overlooking Lexington
and the broad Missouri
All day long the men worked untiringly with the shovel.
That evening, but six or eight hours after we had commenced, our pickets were driven in and intimation was given that the enemy were upon us. Colonel Peabody
was ordered out to meet them, and two six-pounders were planted in a position to command a covered bridge by which the enemy were obliged to enter the town.
It was a night of fearful anxiety; none knew at what moment the enemy would be upon our devoted little band, and the hours passed in silence.
We waited until the morning of the 12th, vigilantly and without sleep, when a messenger rushed in, saying, “Colonel
, the enemy are pushing across the bridge in overwhelming force.”
With a glass we could see them as they came, General Price
riding up and down the lines, urging his men on. Two companies of the Missouri
13th were ordered out, and, with Company K of the Irish Brigade, quickly checked the enemy, drove him back, burned the bridge, and gallantly ended their work before breakfast.
The enemy now made a detour, and approached the town once more, by the Independence
Six companies of the Missouri
13th and the Illinois Cavalry were ordered out, and met them in the Lexington Cemetery
, just outside the town, where the fight raged furiously over the dead.
We succeeded in keeping the enemy in check, and in the mean time the work with the shovel went bravely on until we had thrown up breastworks three or four feet high.
At 3 o'clock in the afternoon the engagement opened with artillery.
A volley of grape from the enemy was directed at a group of our officers who were outside the breastworks.
Our men returned the volley.
The contest raged about an hour and a half, when we had the satisfaction, by a lucky shot, of knocking over the enemy's big gun, exploding a powder caisson, and otherwise doing much damage.
The fight was continued until dusk, and, as the moon rose, the enemy retired to camp in the Fair Ground
, two miles away, and Lexington
was our own again.
On Friday, the 13th, though a drenching rain had set in, the work of throwing up intrenchments went on, and the men stood almost knee-deep in mud and water, at their work.
We had taken the basement of the Masonic College, a building from which the eminence took its name; powder was obtained, and the men commenced making cartridges.
A foundry was fitted up, and 150 rounds of shot — grape and canister — were cast for each of our six-pounders.
Siege of Lexington, Mo.
Captain Joseph A. Wilson, of Lexington, thus describes the Union position: “The college is on a bluff about 200 feet above low-water mark, and from 15 to 30 feet higher than North or Main street. Third street runs along the top of the bluff.
Close to and surrounding the college building was a rectangular fort of sods and earth about 12 feet thick and 12 feet high; with bastions at the angles and embrasures for guns.
At a distance of 200 to 800 feet was an irregular line of earthworks protected by numerous traverses, occasional redoubts, a good ditch, trous-de-loup, wires, etc., etc. Still farther on the west and north were rifle-pits.
The works would have required 10,000 or 15,000 men to occupy them fully.
All the ground from the fortifications to the river was then covered with scattering timber.
The spring just north and outside of fortifications, was in a deep wooded ravine, and was the scene of some sharp skirmishing at night, owing to the attempts of the garrison to get water there when their cisterns gave out.”
Diagram of the hospital position.
Explanation of the Diagram of the Hospital Position: “a is the Anderson house or hospital; b a smaller brick house back of it; c an outlying low earthwork, projecting down nearly into the ravine, represented by the dotted line, while the inclosed earthwork was built up around the head of the ravine, as shown by the plain line; d the sally-port in the earthworks, about one hundred yards from the hospital; e a canal-like carriageway leading up to the house, and in which the sharp-shooters lay secure, only about eighty feet from the front door of the hospital; the brackets represent Federal picket-guard stations with a little dirt thrown up for protection; the dotted line sss shows deep gorge or ravine which was full of Confederate sharp-shooters.”
Sunday had now arrived.
We had found no provisions at Lexington
, and our 2700 men were getting short of rations.
Father Thaddeus J. Butler
, our chaplain, celebrated mass on the hillside, and all were considerably strengthened and encouraged by his words, and after services were over we went back to work, actively casting shot and stealing provisions from the inhabitants round about.
Our pickets were all the time skirmishing with the enemy, while we were making preparations for defense against the enemy's attack, which was expected on the morrow.
At 9 o'clock on the morning of the 18th the enemy were seen approaching.
The Confederate force had been increased to 18,000 men with 16 pieces of cannon.
They came as one dark moving mass, their guns beaming in the sun, their banners waving, and their drums beating-everywhere, as far as we could see, were men, men, men, approaching grandly.
Our earthworks covered an area of about eighteen acres, surrounded by a ditch, and protected in front by what were called “confusion pits,” and by mines.
Our men stood firm behind the breastworks, none trembled or paled, and a solemn
The College, fronting South.
The Battle of Lexington, Mo., as seen from General Parsons' Position.
After a contemporary drawing.|
As Father Butler
went round among them, they asked his blessing, received it with uncovered heads, then turned and sternly cocked their muskets.
The enemy opened a terrible fire with their cannon on all sides, which we answered with determination and spirit.
Our spies had brought intelligence, and had all agreed that it was the intention of the enemy to make a grand rush, overwhelm us, and bury us in the trenches of Lexington
At noon, word was brought that the enemy had taken the hospital.
We had not fortified that; it was situated outside the intrenchments, and I had supposed that the little white flag was sufficient protection for the wounded and dying soldiers who had finished their service and were powerless for harm.
The hospital contained our chaplain, our surgeon, and a number of wounded.
The enemy took it without opposition, filled it with their sharp-shooters, and from every window, every door, from the scuttles in the roof, poured right into our intrenchments a deadly drift of lead.
A company of the Home Guards, then a company of the Missouri 14th, were ordered to retake the hospital, but refused.
The Montgomery Guards, a company of the Irish Brigade, was then ordered out. Their captain admonished them to uphold the gallant name they bore, and the order was given to charge.
The distance across the plain from the intrenchments to the hospital was about eighty yards. They started; at first quick, then double-quick, then on a run, then
Still the deadly fire poured into their ranks.
But on they went; a wild line of steel, and, what is better than steel, irresistible human will.
They reached the hospital, burst open the door, without shot or shout, until they encountered the enemy within, whom they hurled out and sent flying down the hill.3
Our surgeon was held by the enemy, although we had released the Confederate
surgeon on his mere pledge that he was such.
It was a horrible thing to see those brave fellows, mangled and wounded, without skillful hands to bind their ghastly wounds; and Captain David P. Moriarty
, who had been a physician in civil life, was ordered to lay aside his sword and go into the hospital.
He went, and through all the siege worked among the wounded with no other instrument than a razor.
Our supply of water had given out and the scenes in the hospital were fearful to witness, wounded men suffering agonies from thirst and in their frenzy wrestling for the water in which the wounded had been bathed.4
On the morning of the 19th the firing was resumed, and continued all day. Our officers had told the men that if they could hold out until the 19th we should certainly be reinforced, and all through that day the men watched anxiously for the appearance of the friendly flag under which aid was to reach them, and listened eagerly for the sound of friendly cannon.
But they looked and listened in vain, and all day long they fought without water, their parched lips cracking, their tongues swollen, and the blood running down their chins when they bit their cartridges and the saltpeter entered their blistered lips.
But not a word of murmuring.
The morning of the 20th broke, but no reinforcements had come, and still the men fought on.5
The enemy appeared that day with an artifice which
was destined to overreach us and secure to them the possession of our intrenchments.
They had constructed a movable breastwork of hemp bales, rolled them before their lines up the hill, and advanced under this cover.
All our efforts could not retard the advance of these bales.
Round-shot and bullets were poured against them, but they would only rock a little and then settle back.
Heated shot were fired with the hope of setting them on fire, but they had been soaked and would not burn.
Thus for hours the fight continued.6
Our cartridges were now nearly used up, many of our brave fellows had fallen, and it was evident that the fight must soon cease, when at 3 o'clock an orderly came, saying that the enemy had sent a flag of truce.
With the flag came a note from General Price
, asking “why the firing had ceased.”
I returned it, with the reply written on the back, “General, I hardly know, unless you have surrendered.”
He at once took pains to assure me that this was not the case.
I then discovered that the major of another regiment, in spite of orders, had raised a white flag.
Our ammunition was about gone.
We were out of rations, and had been without water for days, and many of
the men felt like giving up the post, which it seemed impossible to hold longer.
They were ordered back to the breastworks, and told to use up all their powder, then defend themselves as best they could, but to hold their place.
Then a council of war was held in the college, and the question of
surrender was put to the officers, and a ballot was taken, only two out of six votes being east in favor of fighting on. Then the flag of truce was sent out with our surrender.
(see page 262) writes us as follows in regard to the circumstances of the surrender:
The surrender of Lexington was negotiated on the part of Colonel Mulligan by Colonel Marshall of the 1st Illinois Cavalry, and on the part of General Price by me. We met inside of the Union lines.
Of course I demanded the unconditional surrender of the post, with its officers and men and material of war. Colonel Marshall hesitated, and at last said that he would have to submit the matter to Colonel Mulligan.
As we knew that reinforcements were on the way to Mulligan, and as I feared that Mulligan was only practicing a ruse in order to gain time, I said to Colonel Marshall that if the terms which I offered were not accepted within ten minutes I should return to our lines and order fire to be reopened.
He left me, but returned just as the ten minutes were expiring, and said that the surrender would be made as demanded.
I immediately sent one of the officers, whom I had taken with me, to announce the fact to General Price and to ask when he would accept the surrender.
He came over at once, and notified Colonel Mulligan that he would himself accept the surrender of him and his field-officers forthwith, and assign one of his division commanders to accept the surrender of the men and their company officers.
Mulligan and his field-officers came forward immediately, on foot, and offered to surrender their swords.
General Price (next to whom I was sitting) replied instantly, “You gentlemen have fought so bravely that it would be wrong to deprive you of your swords.
Orders to parole you and your men will be issued, Colonel Mulligan, without unnecessary delay.”
The only officer or man that was not paroled, and the only one who was taken South, was Colonel Mulligan.
was held as a prisoner until the 30th of October, being accompanied by his wife, who had been an eye-witness of the siege from the town.
They journeyed in General Price
's private carriage, and (Mrs. Mulligan
says) received “every possible courtesy from the general and his staff.”
They returned to St. Louis
under escort of forty men and a flag of truce.
and elsewhere Colonel Mulligan
was received with enthusiastic honors.
, after his exchange, was placed in command along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, in western Virginia
During this period he engaged in many skirmishes with the enemy.
In the battle of Winchester
, July 24th, 1864, Colonel Mulligan
received three mortal wounds.
Some of the officers, among whom was his brother-in-law, Lieutenant James H. Nugent
, nineteen years of age, attempted to carry him from the field.
Seeing the colors in danger the colonel said: “Lay me down and save the flag.”
rescued the colors and returned to the colonel's side, but in a few moments fell, mortally wounded.
died forty-eight hours after, at the age of thirty-four.
After his death, his widow received from President Lincoln Colonel Mulligan
's commission of Brevet Brigadier-General
, U. S. V., dated July 24th, “for gallant and meritorious services at the battle of Winchester
Note: The seizure of the money of the Lexington Bank
referred to by Colonel Snead
on page 273 is treated in full in the History of Lafayette county,
from which we condense the following statement: Governor Jackson
having appropriated the school fund of the State
to the arming and equipment of the State
troops, and the proposal having been made to force loans from certain banks for the same purpose, General Fremont
, in order to checkmate this action of the Governor
, ordered the funds of certain banks to be sent to St. Louis
, not for the use of the Federal
authorities, but to prevent their employment to aid the enemy.
By his order, Colonel Marshall
secured the funds of the State Bank of Lexington
against the protest of the officers, giving a receipt for the amount, which was $960,159.60, of which $165,659.60 was in gold.
The money was buried in the fort under Colonel Mulligan
's tent, and upon the surrender every dollar of the gold was delivered to General Price
, but $15,000 in notes of the bank was missing.
and General Price
ordered all the money to be restored to the bank, but on the 30th of September made a demand upon the bank for, and under threat of force received, the sum of $37,337.20 in gold, claimed to be due to the State
under an act of the Legislature of Missouri, which permitted of the suspension of certain banks on the condition that they should loan the State
on its bonds a certain portion of their fund.
At the time of the capture of Lexington
the State Convention of Missouri
had deposed Governor Jackson
and elected in his place Hamilton R. Gamble
The Union State Government made demand afterward for the same sum, which was paid and bonds of the State
issued therefor, which were redeemed at their face value when due. The sum given to Governor Jackson
was charged by the bank to “profit and loss.”
See also page 280 for General Fremont
's declaration of policy in this respect.
“The funds of other banks of the State were taken possession of by the Federal
authorities, transported to St. Louis
, and in due time every dollar returned.”--editors.