Friday, January 15, 2010


 January is Confederate Heroes Month because two of our greatest Confederate generals were born in this month, Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. It also happens to be my own birth month so I want to pay special tribute to the only Confederate general with whom I share an actual birth date. He is Major General Lafayette McLaws of Georgia. We were both born on January 15.
    McLaws was born on that day in the year 1821 in Augusta, Georgia to James and Elizabeth Huguenin McLaws. He attended the University of Virginia for one year in 1837 before entering the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1838. He graduated in 1842, with a class standing of 46th out of 56 cadets. He was first assigned to the 6th Inantry Regiment at Fort Gibson in the Indian Territories. He then was assigned to Company D, 7th Infantry, which in 1846 became part of  General Zachary Taylor's Army of Occupation at Corpus Christi, Texas just prior to the outbreak of the Mexican War. During that war, 1846-48, he fought in engagements at Fort Texas (Brown), in Texas, the Battle of Monterey and the Siege of Vera Cruz in Mexico. When his health began to fail, he was sent back to the United States where he served on recruiting duty.
    McLaws was married 9 August 1849 in Missouri to Emily Allison Taylor who was the niece of  general and president Zachary Taylor. Their children included William McLaws, born in 1851, James Taylor "Johnnie" McLaws, born 20 September 1853 in Fort Gibson, Indian Territory; Uldrick Huegenin McLaws, born 30 November 1861 in Augusta, Georgia; Annie Lee McLalws, Elizabeth Violet McLaws, born 1870 in Augusta, Georgia and Virginia Randall McLaws, born 1872  in Augusta, Georgia.
    McLaws was promoted to the rank of captain of infantry on 24 August 1851. During the remainder of that decade, he took part in the Mormon Expedition of 1858 and then in 18599-60, operations against the Navajo Indians. When his native state of Georgia seceded from the Union, McLaws resigned his commission in the U.S. Army. The Georgian offered his services to the Confederacy and was commissioned a major, then promoted to full colonel to command the 10th Georgia Infantry. With the Confederate Army rapidly expanding, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier-genera on 25 September 1861. He was promoted to major general and placed in command of a division on 23 May 1862, before he experienced his first combat in the Seven Days Battles in late June early July 1862 around Richmond, Virginia. McLaws' division took part in the battles of Savage Station and Malvern Hill.
    McLaws Division was designated the 1st Division of Maj. Gen. James Longstreet's Corps. Longstreet and McLaws were classmates at West Point. However during the Maryland Campaign of 1862, McLaws division was sent to reinforce Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and captured the Maryland Heights at Harpers Ferry. McLaws then marched his division to Sharpsburg, Maryland where they defended the West Woods part of the Confederate line against onslaughts by the Federals. Gen. Robert E. Lee was reportedly disappointed in McLaws' slowness in reaching the battlefield. But he redeemed himself in Lee's eyes during the Battle of Fredericksburg 11-13 December 1862 when his division provided a solid defense on Marye's Heights.
    At the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, McLaws Division formed the right-wing of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. There, it repulsed a Federal army striking the Confederate rear at Salem Church. As part of Longstreet's Corps at the Battle of Gettysburg, McLaws Division was instrumental in driving back Federal Gen. Daniel E. Sickles Corps in the center of the line at the Peach Orchard and Wheatfield on July 2. McLaws Division accompanied Longstreet's Corps to Georgia in September 1863 but arrived too late to take part in the Battle of Chickamauga on the 19th and 20th. However his division did fight in the Chattanooga and Knoxville campaigns, where McLaws had a major falling out with Longstreet.
    Longstreet relieved McLaws when his division attacked but failed to take Fort Sanders at Knoxville. The attack was made reluctantly against McLaws own good judgment. He was courtmartialed and found guilty of one charge, not doing what was necessary to make the attack successful. However Adjutant General Samuel Cooper over-turned the verdict because of improper procedure and Longstreet was censured. McLaws was returned to duty and assigned to the defense of Savannah, Georgia in 1864 with a division under Gen. William Hardee. When Sherman approached, the Confederates battle line, the Southerners repulsed one attack, but eventually withdrew and the city fell to the Northern invaders. He fought in one more battle, the Battle of Averasboro, N.C. on 16 March 1865 as part of Hardees Corps. The Confederates were out-numbered four to one by the Federals but still managed to hold them back for two days before withdrawing.
    Following the battle, McLaws returned with his command to Augusta,Georgia where he remained until the end of the war. His command was included in the surrender of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee in North Carolina. McLaws then entered the insurance business in Augusta to support his family. In 1875 he was appointed collector of internal revenue in Savannah, and then postmaster of that city in 1876. He began a series of lectures on the war in 1886. McLaws became active in Confederate veterans organizations and, while he defended Longstreet against some criticisms, he was critical of his old commander's actions at Gettysburg. Lafayatte McLaws Camp 596 in Savannah, Ga. of the United Confederate Veterans was named in his honor, as well as the current Lafayette McLaws Camp 79 Sons of Confederate Veterans in Fayetteville, Ga. McLaws was also active in the Masonic Lodge in Savannah and died in that city 24 July 1897. He was buried at Laurel Grove Cemetery there.

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