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The following story is a chapter from Michael Corrigan’s novel, Mulligan, in part about the Irish in the American Civil War. It is available as a softcover, Kindle eBook, and an audiobook read by Alex Hyde White.

Bull Run
NEAR Manassas, two men on horseback viewed the battlefield.  In the distance, the red and blue uniforms of the dead Zouave soldiers resembled wild flowers growing on a hill. On the field, Zouave troops picked up the dead and wounded and carried them to ambulances. Dead and dying horses littered the ground. Rain began falling.

“By God,” General Thomas Meagher said. “This is terrible. We will need your services more than ever, Mulligan. Jackson and Stuart’s cavalries decimated our troops. We need to build a strong Union cavalry.”

Michael Mulligan could see it, Washington D.C. citizens having picnic lunches and drinking wine, ready to watch the first and last battle at Bull Run, and then the panic as the Union Army retreated in the July heat, soldiers and citizens alike caught in a crush beneath falling shells, one of which took out a bridge. The Rebels, too exhausted to pursue, had fallen back and Washington D.C. was spared an invasion.

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“This is going to be a long war,” Mulligan said.

He stopped and dismounted. A young Reb soldier lay on the muddy ground shot through the abdomen, his wounded mare lying by him. Mulligan saw the horse had been hit in the chest by shrapnel. He plastered some mud on the horse’s gaping wound. The boy cried for water; General Meagher dismounted and gave the fallen young soldier a drink from his canteen.

“What happened to you young man? What were you doing here, for the love of Christ?”

“Just protecting my capital, Richmond,” the boy said.

“And here I thought the capital was Washington.”

“Not in Virginia. How’s my horse doing?”

Meagher looked at Mulligan who shook his head.

“Not so good,” Meagher said.

“If I had her back at the stable, I have a compound I could feed her that might work,” Mulligan said. “She’s lost a lot of blood.” Mulligan examined the boy’s wound. “And so have you, lad. Let me get an ambulance over here.”

“I’m gone. Save my horse.”

“I’ll try,” Mulligan said.

“Who led your cavalry unit?” General Meagher said.

The boy smiled, blood suddenly running from his mouth.

“Why old Stonewall Jackson himself. You Yanks ain’t gonna budge him. And Jeb Stuart’s gonna follow you Yankees into hell.”

The boy stared at them, his face relaxing, his eyes suddenly reflecting light like a flat jelly. The mare began to groan. Other workers had appeared to clear the dead and wounded, including the Confederate dead. Meagher closed the boy’s eyes.

“He’s right. We don’t have the cavalry yet to stop them,” General Meagher said.

“We rounded up some fresh horses,” Mulligan told him. “But they need to be broken and trained.”

“We don’t have much time, Mulligan.” The mare lay on her side, groaning deeply. “What about the boy’s horse?”

Michael Mulligan observed the churned battlefield, his face set in a grim mask. Dead or dying horses disturbed him the most.
 “I’ll take care of her.”

“Don’t use a gun,” Meagher said. “It might spook the recovery team.”

He took a drink from a pocket flask. Another officer with a round face and a mustache passed on horseback. A flock of black birds circled in the hot moist air. Somewhere in the distance, they heard an English accented voice crying out: “Appalling. This slaughter is appalling.”

Michael Mulligan softly touched the mare’s head, and while he spoke to her quietly in his native Irish, he opened a vein in her neck.