Will Rogers is credited with the idea that we all can’t be heroes.
“Because somebody has to sit on the curb and applaud when they go by.”
Several times over the last few years, I have written about a character from the early days of organized athletics that I have found fascinating, not only because of who he was, but because of who he came into contact with, who he influenced, and the public perception of this fellow.
World Champion Greco–Roman Wrestler William Muldoon influenced great men and befriended the likes of Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Teddy Roosevelt, Jack Dempsey and Ralph Pulitzer.
Apparently others share my fascination.
“We had read Muldoon - The Solid Man of Sport, while researching William, a few years ago. I and other members of St. Patrick's Church, in Belfast, N.Y., at the time were attempting to gain state recognition of the Sullivan Training Barns, at the time still located on our church property. This effort fell thru due to our bishop's unfounded fear that such a move might have an adverse effect on the church property the barns stood on,” wrote John Nangle, in an email to me recently.
After completing research on William Muldoon and reading his biography, (with a forward by Jack Dempsey,) Nangle noted that Bill Muldoon devoted an entire chapter to his "combat" experiences while serving with the 6th N.Y. Cavalry Regiment.
“We pursued this by finding a book of the history of said regiment and found that, while there is no record of William serving in any capacity in that regiment during the Civil War, his brother, John, did and valiantly. He was singled out as having captured an enemy flag and two prisoners while seriously wounded at the Battle of Royal Front, Virginia. John subsequently died of his wound in 1873. Wm. did not make his first claim to Civil War service claim until at least 10 years after John died and followed this up in 1928 in his biography.
“John's name is prominently displayed on our Belfast Civil War Monument along with other area residents who also served in that conflict. William Muldoon's name is only conspicuous by its absence and is no longer a matter of a curiosity as it has been for years.”
According to Nangle, there is no record of our William ever having served in any other regiment in any capacity during the Civil War in the Adjutant General Civil War records.
“The few living relatives of Wm. we were able to contact all agreed that he would have been at home on Muldoon homestead during that conflict and never served in said conflict in any capacity.”
Nangle says the 1865 N.Y. State census contained the question as to whether the listed had or was in the military service. Of the Muldoon family, William, age 12, at home, and only his older brother, John, was listed in the affirmative.
“Our Bishop sold the Sullivan Training Barns to the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame, who in turn had the barns move locally in Belfast where they stand today. We believe that the spokesman for the B.K.B. Hall of Fame has maintained a deafening silence about Muldoon's claim to Civil War service only because we posted a photograph of Muldoon at his brother's grave in a local newspaper and made note of Wm. not being a veteran of that conflict. This was in Dec. 2008, and our findings have not been challenged or rebuffed by the Belfast B.K.B. Hall of Fame spokesman. Our original intent was never to damage William Muldoon's credibility or integrity, but I guess that anything might be expected once Pandora's box has been opened.
Muldoon military Civil War service was modified in most of his obituaries to that of having been only a drummer boy, in his obituaries, though up to a year before his death he still doggedly maintained he served as a soldier in that conflict, says Nangle.
“William had been inducted into quite a few other halls of fame in recent years, all espousing his Civil War feats, some as a drummer boy and others as being a combat soldier in the 6th Cavalry Regiment. They surely must read each other's websites and it is difficult to understand, under the circumstances, why they have not done at least some very basic research to verify or disclaim Wm.'s alleged military service.”
Nangle says William Muldoon in his biography falsely gave his birth as being May 25, 1845, when it was, according to the Muldoon family Bible, May 25, 1852, which is verified in the 1860, 1865, and 1870 censuses.
“Wm. made a monumental blunder in choosing the year 1845, because his sister, Mary, is listed as born May 16, 1845, in said family bible, also verified by the above censuses,” writes Nangle.
I guess information such as this is important to consider when you are sitting on the curb and applauding your heroes as they go by.