Hercules Mulligan (1740 - 1825):
Hercules Mulligan was ostensibly a New York City tailor and cloth merchant, who established a high reputation for his products. But he was also George Washington's "chief confidential agent" during the War of Independence.
He and his family were from Derry, and emigrated to New York when Mulligan was six. He was an early supporter of American independence, and came to be friendly with Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, when Hamilton was studying at Columbia University and lodged with the Mulligans. Mulligan involved himself with several patriotic groups, some semi-secret, such as the Committee of Correspondence, the Committee of Observation and the Committee of Secrecy. He was also on the executive committee of the Sons of Liberty of New York, which was the first group to take military action against the British, at the Battle of Golden Hill in 1869, and during the War, he served as an important member of the Culper Spy Ring, a secret group that transmitted important military intelligence to George Washington, using such techniques as invisible ink, pseudonyms, and other methods of secret correspondence. Mulligan, whose tailor shop in New York - a vital centre of British operations - was frequently patronised by British officers, was able glean information as he kept his patriotism secret or at least private, and British officers trusted him as his father-in-law was himself one.
It was Hamilton who convinced Washington to take Mulligan on as his "chief confidential agent", and Mulligan is thought to have saved Washington from an attempted kidnapping and an attempted assassination; for the latter, Mulligan was disturbed late one night by a British officer who wanted some clothes, and bragged that they were on their way to take Washington and hang him. Mulligan was able to warn Washington. This did not prevent some from suspecting him of collaboration or even treachery, though one of those to so accuse him was Benedict Arnold, whose defection from the Americans to the British is still a byword for treachery in American history. However, on Evacuation Day, 25 November 1783, when the British forces departed and Washington's army moved into New York. Washington chose to visit Mulligan, publicly embraced him, and later patronised his high-class tailor's business.
Bibliographical archive, Mellon Centre for Emigration Studies; http://thefoundationforum.com/2007/05/who-was-hercules-mulligan-anyway.html
© 2020 Ulster History Circle