Michael Kelly Lawler

Michael Kelly Lawler was born in County Kildare, Ireland, on November 16, 1814; his parents brought him to the United States in March 1816. After residing in New York City and Frederick County, Maryland, the family came to Gallatin County, Illinois, where they settled. Michael married the daughter of a large landowner in the vicinity and by 1840 was farming on a large scale for the day and time. For some years he commanded a company of militia and during the Mexican War distinguished himself as a captain of the 3rd Illinois in the engagements which marked Winfield Scott's advance from Vera Cruz to Mexico City. Until the beginning of the Civil War he farmed and kept a general store in Shawneetown, the county seat. Early in 1861 he and his regiment, the 18th Illinois, were mustered into service by U. S. Grant, then a captain on the staff of the adjutant general of Illinois. Lawler enforced discipline in his regiment by knocking down recalcitrants with his fists, by feeding emetics to drunks in the guardhouse, and by threats of violence to officers and men alike. Brought before a court-martial for these alleged "offenses," he was handsomely acquitted by Henry W. Halleck, then the department commander. In the assault on Fort Donelson, Lawler was wounded; in May, 1863, after being promoted to brigadier general (ranking from November 29, 1862), he commanded a brigade at Port Gibson, during the Vicksburg campaign. At the siege of Vicksburg proper he delivered one of the most audacious assaults made during the war, capturing more than eleven hundred Confederates. During the balance of the war he was employed in brigade and divisional command at various points in Louisiana and Texas and at the end of hostilities was in charge of the District of East Louisiana at Baton Rouge. He was brevetted major general as of March 13, 1865. After being mustered out of service General Lawler spent several years buying and selling horses in the area where he had been stationed. He lived uneventfully on his farm near Equality, Illinois, during his remaining years, where he died on July 26, 1882, and is buried in a nearby country churchyard.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.