Steuben and John W. Mulligan, Jr.
Kapp described Steuben's meeting Mulligan in the biography, writing: In 1791 Steuben made the acquaintance of John W. Mulligan, a young and promising man, whose father had been an active Whig in New York during the revolution. Mr. Mulligan, after having finished his studies in Columbia College, became Steuben's secretary, and served him with a fidelity and love which won him the friendship and confidence of his protector. Steuben concentrated all the tenderness of his heart on his friend, as he had no family relations, and there are few examples to be found in which the feeling of kindness and good fellowship was so sincerely reciprocated as between Steuben and his friend.
Mulligan was with Steuben when he died in late November 1794. The younger man read to his idol and they retired to bed. Mulligan slept in Steuben's old bedroom in the older house and Steuben slept in the room in a new cottage not yet connected to the old. There were also two servants to serve the gentlemen. When a servant told Mulligan that Steuben was ill, Mulligan tried to give aid and comfort and sent for Walker and North. The latter came before Steuben died. Mulligan still cried out, in a letter, for the consolation of Walker. O, Colonel Walker, our friend, my all; I can write no more. Come if you can, I am lonely. Oh, good God, what solitude is in my bosom. Oh, if you were here to mingle your tears with mine, there would be some consolation for the distressed.
Kapp also includes in his appendix, among many others, a letter from Steuben to Mulligan: Philadelphia, January 11, 1793
Despite moral philosophy I weep with you, and glory in the human weakness of mingling my tears with those of a friend I so tenderly love.
My dear Charles ought, ere this, to have received my answer to the touching letter he wrote.
I repeat my
entreaties, to hasten your journey to
Philadelphia as soon as your strength permits. My
heart and my arms are open to receive you. In the
midst of the attention and fetes which they have
the goodness to give me, I enjoy not a moment's
tranquility until I hold you in my arms. Grant me
this favor without delay, but divide your
journey, that you may not be fatigued at the
expense of your health.
I am not certain what crisis this letter refers to, but at the moment suppose it is Steuben's reaction to letters from Mulligan and Charles Adams describing their anguish at an order from Adams' parents, the Vice President and his wife, that they no longer live together.
book, Kapp addresses the question of why Steuben never
took a wife. He writes: Steuben was never married. It seems, however,
that he met with a disappointment in early life. While
preparing to remove to his farm, the accidental fall of a
portrait of a most beautiful young woman, from his
cabinet, which was picked up by his companion and shown
to him, with the request to be told from whom it was
taken, produced a most obvious emotion of strong
tenderness, and the pathetic explanation "O, she was
a matchless woman." He never afterwards alluded to
the subject. Mulligan
is the most likely source for this story and I view it as
Mulligan's gesture to assure the respectability of
Steuben in the eyes of history. It seems that Mulligan
had had a minor career in New York City politics and
doubtless had his own reputation to protect. (I do
recognize that some historians contend that there was no
stigma attached to homosexual relations in 1859 - four
years after the publication of Whitman's Leaves of
Grass, but we are speaking here of the reputations of
a general and a lawyer, not a poet.)
by Bob Arnebeck
Go to Introduction: Swamp1800