Civil War Wiki
Michael Kelly Lawler
Personal Information
Born: November 16, 1814(1814-11-16)
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Died: July 22, 1882 (aged 67)
Place of Death: {{{place of death}}}
Birth Name: {{{birth name}}}
Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
Participation(s): {{{participations}}}
Branch: United States Army (Mexican War)
Union Army (Civil War)
Service Years: {{{service years}}}
Rank: Brevet Major General
Service number :
Unit: 18th Illinois Infantry
Commands: Lawler's Brigade, XIII Corps, Army of the Tennessee
Battles: Mexican War
American Civil War
Other work: {{{otherwork}}}

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 County Kildare, Ireland, 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. 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.[1]

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 Tennesseewas 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.[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 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 Old Hickory Hill Cemetery near Broughton, 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.


  • 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.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Pitkin, 357.
  2. wayside marker, Gallatin Historical Society and The Illinois State Historical Society

External links[]

Further reading[]

  • 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).
  • 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