Anecdotes and Descriptions

Views of John Mullan in the Primary Sources

"To-day Lieutenant Mullan had quite an adventure. Captain Keyes, with a detachment of dragoons, having gone to the Snake river to select a site for the fort, while there captured two Indians, who were left under the charge of a sergeant and three men. They had not marched, however, a hundred yards, when the Indians broke from them and spring into the river. The party fired at them without effect, as they were concealed by the growth of willows on the banks, which is dense and impenetrable, when Lieutenant Mullan dashed into the river to his waist, to secure one of whom he caught sight. The Indian was an exceedingly athletic savage, the sight of whose proportions would have tempered most persons' valor with discretion. But my gallant friend is not one to calculate odds in beginning a fight. The Indian dived as the lieutenant fired at him, and came up with some heavy stones, which, hurled at his antagonist [Mullan], bruised him severely. He then seized Lieutenant Mullan's pistol, which had got thoroughly wet, and the struggle commenced in good earnest, grappling each other, now under water, now above. It might have fared badly with my spirited companion, but the Indian, stepping into a hole, got beyond his depth and was obliged to relinquish his hold, when he made off and escaped to the other side."

Lawrence Kip, Army Life on the Pacific, 1859

"Lieut. Mullan is the individual who has had the bad taste to parade himself and his services, in a vulgarly ostentatious manner, through the columns of a disreputable newspaper. Aside from the fact that the Lieut. was guilty of a violation of a special order, which expressly forbids officers from blowing the trumpet of their own fame, decency should have restrained him from this painful exhibition of mingled egotism and toadyism. A crown of laurel, even when merited, sits with an ill grace upon his brow, who ostentatiously places it there with his own hands. . . . The indelicacy and impropriety of a soldier celebrating the glory and renown of his own achievements is apparent to everybody. Caesar, it is true, wrote his own Commentaries. . . . He didn’t go into extacies of self-gratulation when, by the aid of his sturdy legions, he had achieved a victory over the fierce barbarians of the north. He stated the facts, and left his need of commendation to be awarded by his countrymen."

Oregon Statesman, November 23, 1858

"Sir – I received by last mail (!) a letter with your signature, bearing date – 'Dalles, Oregon, Nov. 18th, 1858,' in which you announce yourself as the brother and champion of Lieut. John Mullan, U. S. A., and in that character demand “satisfaction” from me for alleged slander of said John Mullan, in the of the Oregon Statesman. – From the windy style of your epistle, I am not permitted to doubt your relationship to the bombastic little lieutenant; and from what I can learn of you, I am convinced you are as great an ass as your redoubtable brother."

Oregon Statesman, November 30, 1858

"Lieut. Mullan, of the Fort Benton military road expedition has been ordered to dismiss his party and join his company, Cause: Mullan had written a letter to a Robt. J. Brent, of Maryland, in favor of Douglas. It is unnecessary to add, we presume, that the order came from Washington. It is worthy of an administration that removes indigent women from petty post-offices because their fathers, brothers, or cousins are Douglas men."

Oregon Statesman, June 19, 1860