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Campaign to bridge an historical lapse

February 1, 2019

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The bridge that could be named after Hercules Mulligan is pictured (with shadow underneath) just yards from the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel in Lower Manhattan.

 

By Ray O’Hanlon

 

There is a bridge in Lower Manhattan awaiting a name.

There is a name that would be absolutely appropriate awaiting approval.

Hercules Mulligan saved the life of George Washington on two occasions, and now there is a growing effort to have a footbridge just yards from the Manhattan entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel named after the Irish-born American patriot.

The initial plea for the naming of the bridge after Mulligan, a tailor by trade and Revolutionary War spy by calling, has been launched by Arthur Piccolo, chairman of the Bowling Green Association in Lower Manhattan.

Piccolo has been making his argument in print and in private communication to Irish community leaders and historians specializing in America’s war for independence.

He says that the response has been entirely positive.

Mulligan, who is portrayed in the Broadway megahit musical “Hamilton,” and also featured in the AMC drama series “Turn,” was born in Derry.

His family crossed the Atlantic in 1746.

Mulligan’s life might have been that of a contented colonist. He was Protestant by birth and married the niece of a Royal Navy admiral.

But the fires of American patriotism were spreading. And they were burning hot in New York City which, in those days, was clustered at the southern end of Manhattan.

Mulligan would become friends with Alexander Hamilton and be one of early members of the Sons of Liberty. He would find himself at the hostile end of British shot and shell.

Wrote Arthur Piccolo in an op-ed in The Villager/Downtown Express: “Over 100 years ago, at its annual meeting at Fraunces Tavern, the American Irish Historical Society noted the fact that the great Irish American Hercules Mulligan had yet to receive the recognition he deserved for his role in American history. They expressed their hope that day that the fearless patriot spy of the Revolutionary War soon would. A century later, Hercules Mulligan still has not!

“Hercules Mulligan represents a class of heroes who escape the recognition other, better known individuals have received in history and from us today. Mulligan is of particular importance here in Lower Manhattan, because it is where he spent most of his life, did most of his espionage for George Washington, and where he is now buried – in Trinity churchyard, near his friend and far more famous fellow patriot, Alexander Hamilton.

“What I see in this modest, nameless bridge is our opportunity to finally provide Hercules Mulligan the visibility and recognition he deserves.”

Piccolo has written New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urging the necessary action to name the bridge after Mulligan.

Given its setting and utilitarian design, the highway crossover isn’t exactly the Bridge of Sighs but, who knows, if the brave deeds of an Irish American patriot finally get their proper due, the day might come when the feet of free people – as opposed to Venetian prisoners – set foot on a span for the ages named the Hercules Mulligan Bridge.

 

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