Hercules Mulligan: The Spy Who Saved George Washington—Twice
Hercules Mulligan not only had one of the Revolutionary War’s greatest names, this cunning haberdasher was also one of its best spies.
A year ago, even most American history professors probably had never heard of Hercules Mulligan, the American patriot whose name sounds like a punchline.
Thanks to the musical blockbuster Hamilton, Mulligan finally is famous, 190 years after his death. Of course, the real Mulligan was not quite what Lin Manuel Miranda’s casting director sought: “Ethnically Ambiguous / Mixed Race, African Descent… able to sing and rap well … the life of the party, dripping with swagger, streetwise and hilarious…. Joins the revolution to get out of being a tailor’s apprentice.”
Hercules Mulligan was a discrete but silver-tongued Irish immigrant in New York City, who prospered as a haberdasher, tailoring garments for colonial aristocrats and British officers. He was also a member of the Sons of Liberty, and his passion helped recruit Alexander Hamilton to the Revolutionary cause. His work also happened to make him a great, meaning oft-overlooked, spy.