Michael Kelly Lawler (November 16, 1814 – July 26, 1882) was an officer in the United States Army in both the Mexican War and the 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:
Born in Monabiern, County Kildare, in 1814, Lawler and his parents, John and Elizabeth Kelly Lawler, moved to the United States 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 was asked by Governor Thomas Ford to organize a company of riflemen. He served in the campaign to take Matamoros, Tamaulipas.
and 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.
Civil War service:
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.” He was suffered a wound during the Battle of Fort Donelson. In November 1862 he was commissioned as a brigadier general, and commanded a bri-gade 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.
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 in Louisiana in the Department of the Gulf.
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:
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.
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.