This history was transcribed exactly as written from
LEXINGTON, MISSOURI; 1822 - 1972; Official Commemorative Book
The Higginsville Advance, Inc., Higginsville, Missouri." Pages 10 - 14.

Transcriber: Carmen F. Bein: I have placed all names of genealogical or historical significance in a bold font for easier research.

THE BATTLE OF LEXINGTON SEPT. 18, 19, 20, 1861
THE STRANGE STORY OF MULLIGAN'S SWORD
By Paul Russell
-CONTINUED-

{page 14}


Col. L. B. Wikoff of Wentworth and
 William Aull III examine Mulligan's sword. 
 Mr. Aull is the 1972 president of the State 
 Historical Society of Missouri.

them to sell him foodstuffs, although no one in town would admit it afterward. This Yankee colonel was as far removed as possible from the "horned-and-hoofed damyankee" of popular conception in the little Missouri towns along the river.

   In the meantime, Confederate General Sterling Price turned his attention to dislodging this Yankee regiment from control of the Missouri River. He knew he would have to work out some uncommon strategy in order to take Masonic Hill, as troops advancing in an ordinary charge would be cut down before they could reach the top. He found the answer in a hemp factory nearby, filled with bales of hemp which Mulligan had not confiscated. He does not seem to have been the looting kind of soldier.

Battle of Hemp Bales Begins

   General Price issued the bales to his soldiers who drifted them on skiffs down the river. At daybreak the next morning, the troops on top of the hill saw bales of hemp advancing toward them. It took some three days of fighting, but Col. Mulligan finally surrendered when his water supply was cut off and his men parched with thirst.

   The Colonel unbuckled his sword and handed it to General Price in surrender, but Price, being a gentleman, told him, "No keep your sword, Colonel."

   The weapon was laid inside his tent while terms of surrender were arranged. Colonel Mulligan declined parole and was to be sent with his men to one of the Southern prison camps. He asked for safe conduct back to Chicago for his wife and baby. This had been agreed upon when Mrs. Mulligan rushed in and demanded to be sent to prison with her husband because he suffered from dyspepsia and she must prepare special food for him. He would not survive prison fare, she felt sure.

   "We are not monsters, Ma'am, who send women and their babies to prison," Price replied. "If I send you with your husband for any reason, the rumors about it would damage our cause".

   But Mrs. Mulligan wept and pleaded with him, and finally the general, touched by her devotion said, "Ma'am, even if I were willing for you to go along with him, I could not agree to your taking your little one; but if some good woman can be found in Lexington who will care for your babe while you accompany your husband, I will agree."

   The news ran through the town, and before the day was over, one mother's heart was so touched that she drove up the hill and took the year-old Mulligan baby home to stay for the duration of the war with her own children. She was Mrs. Sara Hunter.

Mulligan's Sword Disappears

   But the sword? Where was the sword? It simply could not be found when Colonel Mulligan looked around for it, and he probably thought that General Price had changed his mind about accepting it.

   Later General James Shields marched in with his Federals, and, the story goes, announced his intention of putting the torch to the town, which he declared to be a nest of rebels ... as undoubtedly it was. Then someone had the bright idea of sending Mrs. Sara Hunter with the Mulligan baby in arms to plead for a town which had sheltered the child of its enemy, and the general was touched enough to order the torches put out.

   Why General Shields felt impelled to deny this charming story later, no one knows or understands. Perhaps he was one of those literal souls who do what they can to blot out the romance of history.

   Twenty five years swiftly sped by, and someone sponsored a Blue and Gray Reunion of the Battle of Lexington. Then some kindly citiizen, or an astute press agent of the celebration, had an invitation sent to Mrs. Mulligan to come as a guest of honor and bring her daughter, Marian. Mrs. Mulligan wrote that she would come provided Mrs. Hunter would ride beside her in the parade. The daughter, according to Mr. Little, was unable to attend, but the mother and Mrs. Hunter rode in the same carriage and were honored that day together.

   But the sword of Colonel Mulligan. Where was the sword all of this time? One man watched the parade and wished that he might get something off his conscience, but did not quite have the courage then. As a young Confederate soldier about to desert, he had picked up Colonel Mulligan's sword and made off with it. He had "joined up" with Price's army as the column passed his parents' home, which was a few miles south of Lexington.

Sword Is Buried

   When he reached home, he did not dare show his loot to his God-fearing family and buried it in a hollow tree. Later he buried it in the hay mow and promptly forgot about it. Many years later after his parents had passed away and he had inherited the farm, a hired man discovered it while throwing down hay to the stock and took it to the house to the the owner.

   The man had married and had a family by this time. When his wife, curious about the sword, asked about it, he told a rather tall tale as to how he come into possession of it. Time passed and the man took the sword into the orchard and buried it under a tree, thinking this would get it off his mind completely. The tree finally died and had to be cut down. The ground was plowed for grain; and another hired man dug up the Mulligan sword, much to his surprise, and again, it was carried to the house. This time the man told his wife another story as to how he had come into possession of it. She promptly reminded him that the stories did not agree, so he forced himself to tell her the truth about it.

   Fifty years after the battle of Lexington, a county official on business in a remote part of the county met a bent old man of about 85 years of age, who told him the story and asked him to restore the sword to the family of Colonel Mulligan. He wanted to clear his conscience before he died.

Weapon Returned to Mrs. Mulligan

   The sword was sent to Colonel Mulligan's widow in the 1912. She positively identified it. She lent it to the G.A.R. Post in Chicago named for her husband. After the last member of the post died, the Mulligan "baby", now a widow with a son setting out for the first World War, sent the sword to Lexington to Mr. Little in 1917. Here it remains to this day in the vault of the Commercial Bank, the property of Lexington Historical Society.

Page 10     


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