Shining Through The Shadows
For most of his adult life, Abram Huguenin McLaws lived in the shadows of his father and his two older brothers. Although he lead a highly successful and completely respectable life, he was always known as the little brother of General Lafayette McLaws and was never put up on a pedestal with his more illustrious sibling.
Both men were officers in the American Army during the Mexican Wars of the 1840s. Both men were officers in the Confederate Army, Abram, a Major, and Lafayette, a Major General. During the Civil War, Lafayette rose to prominence as a two-star, division commanding general. Hugh, still suffering from debilitating war wounds, served in non-combat roles.
After the war, Lafayette McLaws was granted political appointments as an Internal Revenue Service Collector and Postmaster in Savannah. A.H. McLaws returned to Augusta, where he became equally prominent in local affairs.
Abram Huguenin McLaws was born on April 13, 1823 in the City of Augusta, Georgia as the sixth and youngest child of James McLaws and Elizabeth V. Huguenin.. Known as “Hu” to his friends and family, McLaws attended the prestigious University of Georgetown and William & Mary before standing for admission to the bar.
As the war with Mexico began to break out in 1846, Hu McLaws joined the Richmond Blues, commanded by Capt. D. W. Dill and designated at Company B, 1st Georgia Regiment. John Phinizy served as the company’s first lieutenant. The 22-year- old McLaws was chosen as the second lieutenant.
Old veterans of the Indian War of 1836 joined new recruits brought the total company strength of the company to 105 men. The Blues traveled to Columbus and then to Mobile, where they boarded a ship for the Rio Grande. Massive sickness hampered the regiments efforts in the fighting across the border. Hugh McLaws was apparently one of those soldiers who went off to war and came back not quite the same. The regiment was commanded by Col. Henry R. Jackson, of Savannah, who would become a major general in the Confederate Army
Brother, Lafayette, an 1842 graduate of West Point Military Academy, served as an infantry officer during the war. The elder McLaws remained in the army going to the Far West, where he participated in the suppression of a Mormon uprising. Lafayette even married well, taking the hand in marriage of Emily Taylor, niece of former general and then President of the United States, Zachary Taylor.
Twenty five years after the war, McLaws was elected as a General in the Mexican War Veterans’ Association. In April of 1896, while still a resident of Dublin, McLaws’ military pension was increased to $20.00 a month by a special act of the United States Congress.
Disabled in the Mexican War, McLaws would be one of the last survivors of the Richmond Blues, who so gallant stormed the beaches at Vera Cruz a near lifetime before.
A man of many talents, including agriculture, law, education, business and geology, Deputy Clerk Hu McLaws was appointed in 1850 to finish the remaining two years of the his father’s term as the Clerk of the Superior Court and Inferior Court of Richmond County.
When Lafayette McLaws resigned from the U.S. Army in 1861, one of his first orders of business was to seek out the aid of his brother Hugh as a part of his command. Confederate President Jefferson Davis nominated Hugh McLaws as a Major in the Quartermaster Corps of the Confederate States Army in December 1861.
As the war began in earnest in the spring of 1862, Hugh McLaws was named a brigade quartermaster in his brother Lafayette’s brigade in the Division of Gen. James Longstreet, who was a fellow West Point Classmate and family friend of the McLaws. McLaw’s Brigade fought effectively at Harper’s Ferry and Fredericksburg. At Gettysburg, Lafayette McLaws Division was heavily engaged in the Confederate Push against the Union left at the Peach Orchard and the Wheat Field.
After the Battle of Gettysburg, Hugh McLaws, suffering from a double ruptured hernia, resigned his commission and returned to Georgia, where he was appointed the Confederate government as an Inspecting Officer of the state. In support of his transfer, Col. John S. Preston wrote, “He is understood to be an able, energetic officer in administration, who has served with much gallantry, and to possess not only the talent, but the force of character so essential in dealing with the business of conscription.”
In that capacity, McLaws was in charge of enforcing conscription laws as well as duties supervising recruiting and training of new soldiers in Georgia. Following the Battle of Atlanta, McLaws was transferred to Savannah as that’s city’s Chief Quarter Master.
After the war, Hu McLaws returned to Augusta to lead a somewhat quiet life as a real estate agent. He was appointed as Richmond County’s first School Commissioner in 1875.
When the former tiny village of Dublin began its explosive growth in the early 1890s, McLaws turned his hopes and dreams toward the southwest.
On June 1, 1890, McLaws, in conjunction with James E. Hightower, published the first issue of “The People” newspaper in Dublin. The new paper in town was printed in seven columns on weekly basis with an elegant four cylinder steam press. McLaws left the paper in March 1891, turning his interest over to Lucien Quincy Stubbs.
“He was a great believer of the future of Dublin and never let an opportunity to pass to say a good word for this city. It was he who appropriately christened Dublin, “The Gem of the Oconee” a name which its people were quick to adopt,” wrote the editor of the Dublin Courier.
In 1894. McLaws joined L.B. Lanier as local representatives of the Georgia Immigration and Investment Bureau, an organization designed to prevent good farmers from leaving the state and attracting new and good farmers to the agriculturally rich state.
“Major A.H. McLaws, the veteran newspaper man, quietly enjoys himself in the piazza of his cozy office, daily watching the movements of all that pass by, Maj. McLaws has a cherry word for everybody,” wrote another traveling correspondent in June 1893.
The husband of Sarah Twiggs Porter and the father of 13 children, Hu McLaws retained his ties to Dublin after he returned to his home in Augusta after 1896 to be near his family as he engaged his in last battle against the debilitating effects of rheumatism. Always considered an Augustan, at his death McLaws was still a member of the Laurens County Confederate Veterans Association.
On a Saturday morning, October 12, 1901, Major A.H. McLaws crossed over the river and rested among the trees with his family beside him in his home in the Sand Hills of Augusta. A strong family man, Hu McLaws funeral was appropriately held in the place he loved the most, his family home.