Michael Kelly Lawler

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Michael Kelly Lawler
MKLawler UA ACW.jpg
Michael Kelly Lawler during the American Civil War
Born (1814-11-16)November 16, 1814
County Kildare, Ireland
Died July 22, 1882(1882-07-22) (aged 67)
Shawneetown, Illinois
Buried at Hickory Hill Cemetery, Gallatin County, Illinois
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1846–1848
Rank Union Army major general rank insignia.svg Brevet Major General
Unit 18th Illinois Volunteer Infantry
Commands held Lawler's Brigade, XIII Corps, Army of the Tennessee

Mexican-American War
American Civil War

Other work Farmer, merchant

Michael Kelly Lawler (November 16, 1814 – July 26, 1882) was a volunteer militia soldier in the Black Hawk War, 1831-1832, an officer in the United States Army in both the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War. In the latter conflict, as a brigadier general he commanded a brigade of infantry in the Western Theater and served in several battles.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in County Kildare, Ireland, in November, 1814, Lawler and his parents, John Lawler and Elizabeth Kelly, moved to the United States four years later and settled initially in Frederick County, Maryland. In 1819, they moved to rural Gallatin County, Illinois. On the 20th day of December, 1837 he married Elizabeth Crenshaw. He received an appointment as a captain in the Mexican War and commanded two companies in separate deployments to Mexico. He first led a company from Shawneetown Illinois that guarded the supply route from Vera Cruz to General Winfield Scott's Army. After the fall of Vera Cuz his company was discharged. He made a visit to Washington after which he was asked by Governor Thomas Ford to organize a company of riflemen. He served in the campaign to take Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

He then returned to his farm in Illinois, where he was residing at the outbreak of the Civil War. He established a thriving mercantile business, dealing in hardware, dry goods, and shoes. He studied law, passed his bar exam, and used his legal license to help the claims of Mexican War veterans.[1]

Civil War service[edit]

In May 1861 he recruited the 18th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and was appointed as its first colonel. His time in command of the regiment in Kentucky and Tennessee was controversial and an "ordeal."[1] He was suffered a wound during the Battle of Fort Donelson. In November 1862 he was commissioned as a brigadier general, and commanded a brigade in the Second Division of the XIII Corps. He fought with distinction in the Vicksburg Campaign in 1863. He led his men in the battles of Port Gibson, Champion's Hill, and Big Black River Bridge. and during the general assault of May 22, 1863, where troops under his command were the only Union forces to enter the Confederate works at the Railroad Redoubt where they planted the U.S. flag.[2]

Following the surrender of Jackson, Mississippi, the XIII Corps was split up and divided among other operations in the Western Theater. For the rest of the war, General Lawler served as commander of the 1st Division, XIII Corps in Louisiana in the Department of the Gulf, taking command of the division during the disastrous Red River Campaign and leading it on an expedition in June 1864 to secure a crossing of the Atchafalaya River used by Confederate forces.

In the omnibus promotions at the end of the Civil War, Lawler received a promotion for distinguished service to major general in the Union army backdated from March 13, 1865.

Post-bellum and later career[edit]

After mustering out of the army in 1866, Lawler returned home and resumed his legal practice and farming near Shawneetown, Illinois.

He died in the summer 1882 and is buried in the Lawler Family Cemetery near Equality, Illinois, at the rear of the Old Slave House property.

A memorial to Michael K. Lawler stands in Equality, Illinois. He also was honored with a marble bust in Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Chicago named a street after Gen. Michael Lawler, The Civil War hero. Lawler Ave., location: 5034 West, running from 400 to 5500N and from 4300 to 6500 South


  1. ^ a b Pitkin, 357.
  2. ^ wayside marker, Gallatin Historical Society and The Illinois State Historical Society


  • Gallatin Historical Society and The Illinois State Historical Society, wayside marker erected 1/1/1970, near the Shawneetown Mall in Shawneetown, Illinois.
  • Pitkin, William A., "Michael K. Lawler's Ordeal with the Eighteenth Illinois Infantry," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908–1984), Vol. 58, No. 4 (Winter, 1965), pp. 357–77.

Further reading[edit]

  • Crichton, Jane, "Michael Kelly Lawler: A Southern Illinois Mexican War Captain and Civil War General." Thesis. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University. 1965.
  • Dorris, Jonathan T., "Michael Kelly Lawler: Mexican and Civil War Officer," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. 48, No. 4 (Winter 1955).
  • Heidler, David Stephen, Heidler, Jeanne T., and Coles, David J., Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: a political, social, and military history, W. W. Norton & Company, 2002, p. 1146, ISBN 0-393-04758-X.
  • Hicken, Victor, Illinois in the Civil War, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991.
  • Lawler's personal papers - Collection at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; microfilm copy at Illinois State Historical Library

External links[edit]