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In this strong statement and tribute to the just fame of Mr. Douglas another surviving intimate and trusted friend of Mr. Lincoln fully concurs. I refer to our distinguished, widely known, most estimable and higbly respected fellow citizen John W. Bunn, Esq., Vice President Lincoln Centennial Association.*
As further proof of the most resolute and unhesitating patriotism of my native section, I appeal to the fact of record, that General Michael Kelly Lawler's splendid regiment, the 18th Illinois, was raised, wholly in Egypt, was enlisted and mustered in May, 1861, before Turchin's 19th, the first Chicago regiment.
Lawler was a Catholic Irishman, a Mexican war veteran, and a Democrat to the backbone, but he never hesitated a minute after Sumpter. Nor did any other of the thousand noble men of southern blood, that were mustered in with him. And no regiment fought harder or rendered prompter or better service. At Donpelşon, where he was wounded, it held fast and firm the gate through which the rebels sought to escape. For his gallant service, Lawler was made Brigadier General and afterwards highly distinguished himself and won the lasting good will of General Grant and his country by his smashing victory over the rebels at Big Black and by his fine behaviour in pressing the siege and capture of Vicksburg. He was born in County Kildare, Ireland, Nov. 16, 1814, and died at his home in Gallatin County July 27, 1882. He came to Gallatin, with his parents, when about five years old.
It was of this quaint, but fine old soldier that General Grant, during the Chattanooga Campaign, said to those sitting with him around the camp fire discussing, among other matters, the several Illinois generals, of whom he was one and all of whom he knew :
“When it comes to just plain hard fighting, I would rather trust Old Mike Lawler than any of them.”
Lawler, although a very heavy man, almost Falstaffian in girth, was a strictly temperate man, a devout Catholic, and as imperturbable under fire as any Paladin. When asked to take a drink—not at all an unusual occurrence in the army, his invariable reply as: “No! Thank you, I have a brother, I am sorry to say, who drinks enough for both of us." Which was unhappily true.
To a profane member of his staff, during one of the fighting days at Vicksburg, who was loudly violating the Third Commandment, the general said: "I am astonished to hear you praying at this time. I always say my prayers before going into battle.” Which was also true.
To his adjutant general, then a youth, undergoing his baptism of fire, in his first battle at Champion Hills, and who knew no better than to dodge the singing minnies, he said, quietly but firmly: "You dam little fool! Don't dodge! Don't you know when you hear the bullets they have already passed.” It cured the captain of the habit, for Lawler himself always stood four square" to all the breezes that blew. The stiffer the gale the straighter he stood.
* See also “Life of Stephen A. Douglas” by Hon. Clark E. Carr, formerly Minister to Denmark and now President of the Illinois State Historical Society.
In passing to the front one morning riding by a column of another command on the march a soldier was overheard to say to another: Bill! who is that old tub of guts? I'd hate to be in his place. He won't last a minute under fire." Lawler instantly said to the member of his staff riding next to him: "Huh! dam fool! I could lose two or three beefsteaks off my anatomy and not be hurt!”—A fact, which he had demonstrated at Donnelson, when he was badly wounded but did not leave the field till there was no longer need for his presence.
It is due to Lawler's memory that it should be said, as it can now confidently be said on the authority of the Confederate General, Stephen D. Lee, who commanded in Lawler's front at Vicksburg, that there was only one point on the whole defensive line where our forces, in the general assault of May 22, 1863, succeeded in breaking through. This was entirely due to Lawler's soldierly provision in ordering his colonels to quietly arouse their men before daylight, which was done, and to move them up stealthily, under cover of darkness and to lodge them in the brush, on the side of the hill, under the salient or bastion and within fifty yards of it where they lay, unobserved, until the hour of the general assault, 10:00 a. m. arrived. To that end the ground, a deep valley separating, by about four hundred yards, the ridge, which his brigade occupied, from that on which the enemy's works were planted was carefully examined the evening before by himself and one or two of his regimental commanders and members of his staff.
May not Egypt fairly claim that the names of Logan and Wilson and Lawler shall be written with Grants whose trusted lieutenants they were, high among the highest on the immortal roll of Civil War heroes. Its history I dare say does not disclose the names of any three men who, according to their opportunities, did more or harder or better fighting.
Far more than all I have here said might be fairly said alone of that glorious fighter John Alexander Logan. Others have already said it and said it better and time forbids. His fame is secure and written large. He was never accused but once of being slow and that was in stripping himself of the trammel of party affiliation and due doubtless to his official obligations as Member of Congress and to his southern blood and heritage. The 7th, 8th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 18th, 21st, 22d, 29th, 30th and 40th regiments may have beaten him to arms and some of them to the field, but he was up and coming with the noble 31st and being in, he easily took the lead and ever afterwards with all his tremendous energy led the way to victory and undying fame--the most striking, the most successful general from civil life. But he was a born soldier and it was in the blood.
Of the first six regiments called in April, 1861, for three months' service, four of them, the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th were from Southern Illinois, while of the 11th, Wallace, seven companies, A. B. D. F. H. I and K were from northern counties, and three, C, E and G from Central and Southern Illinois counties. Of the 12th, McArthur, six companies were from the north and four C, E, G and H were from the heart of Egypt.
Of the ten regiments called in May, the 14th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 21st and 22nd were from central and southern counties, while four, the 13th, 15th, 19th and 20th were from the northern counties.
Of all the three year regiments of which there were 124, there were 63 from Southern Illinois, 18 from the State at large, 43 from Northern Illinois.
Of the fourteen major generals from Illinois, Grant, Schofield, Palmer, Pope, McClernand, Logan, Rawlins, Wilson, Merritt, Oglesby, Hurlbut, Prentice, Grierson and Giles A. Smith, all but three of them, Grant, Schofield and Hurlbut were from Central and Southern Illinois and everyone of them except Grant, Schofield and Merritt were of southern blood and lineage.
Wallace, who died so gallantly, at Shiloh, was the son of a Virginia father and mother.
Prentice, who so indomitably held the rebels until late on Shiloh’s first great day, killing their great leader Albert Sydney Johnston and giving time for the arrival of Buell, was born in Virginia. McClernand, who at Shiloh fought his division to a frazzle, was a Kentuckian. As · were those well beloved, stalwart heroes Oglesby and Palmer.
The fighting Logan was of full Virginia-Kentucky blood.
Wilson's father was born in Virginia and his grandparents on both sides were Virginians to the manor born. He alone of his great contemporaries is alive today. But he was the youngest of them all.
And Rawlins—Grant's great chief of staff, one of the mighty names everyone of them except Grant, Schofield and Merritt were of southern that cannot die, though born in Northern Illinois, was Virginian on both sides, coming into Illinois through Kentucky and Missouri.
Even Grant had to turn to Southern Illinois to the very borders of Egypt to find his first command, and Grant, Schofield and Merritt were alone of the illustrious fourteen-men of northern lineage.
Merritt, one of the greatest cavalry leaders, of the war, although born in New York, was by adoption, from his youth, one of Egypt's noblest sons whence he was appointed in the same class with Wilson to West Point.
Hurlbut was a native of South Carolina.
Such is the golden record, the most glorious and remarkable immortal record, which Egypt and Southern Illinois out of her rich southern strain and heritage tenders to the ignorant, careless or partisan critic. Match it! Match it if you can!