hybrid biographical / genealogical / meditative essay. General Law began his military career as the captain of a volunteer unit, but would advance in rank until he would serve as a Brigadier-General of a number of brigades in the famous General Hood division, of General Longstreet’s Corps. He was promoted to Major-General right before the Confederate surrender at Richmond, at the request of 2 superior officers. Essentially what this means is that General Law was only a few pegs down from General Lee. General Law, however, was not a military man for career, but a teacher. He was a teacher before the war and was engaged in a number of schools founding throughout the course of his life, and played an instrumental role in the foundation of the Florida Public School system. Among the many occupations he upheld after the Civil War, teaching was his primary profession.
In my research I have found a sort of dichotomy with regards to his career in the military. The simple history, which may be presented by any Civil War historical record, will cite him as being one of the youngest Confederate generals, who had a very successful military career, in all the major engagements of the Civil War and went on to play key roles in the Florida education system; a similar history can be found on the plaque that dawns the Law Barracks at the Citadel. This history, though true, fails to mention anything of his key involvement in the devastating Confederate loss at Gettysburg, or his well-known feud with his superior officer, General Longstreet, and fellow Brigadier-General, the Charleston born Micah Jenkins. For these stories of history one must dig a little bit deeper.
The fact is that in certain historical circles, namely ones that are attempting to defend General James “Lee’s War Horse” Longstreet, General Law is used as a kind of alternate scapegoat for Longstreet’s notorious involvement in the loss of Gettysburg. Furthermore, Longstreet’s inability to maintain his officers later in the course of the war is often attributed to Law’s overambitious nature. The feud between him his superior and another fellow officer is often made out to be the result of Law’s jealousy, which I find not to be the case.
What my paper has become is a defense of General Law’s career, namely his Gettysburg experience and the truth about the Jenkins and Longstreet feud. The paper is my attempt to understand why I regard the confederate General with such high esteem, in that the confederacy is often villanized. As I address in my paper, General Law has always been a strong source of familial pride, something I find to be very significant in terms of what I deem valuable in terms of family history, as it is for my father. In terms of autobiographical genre, my paper is essentially a hybrid of genealogical stories and meditation. It is primarily genealogical in that it deals with an important part of my family history, more than 100 years ago, in the same state I have grown up in. I call it a hybrid because part of my focus is why I find General Law so important a figure to remember in the Slagsvol family tree. In a overly politically correct conscious world, the Civil War is frequently understood to be a war to end slavery, which it was in large part. To this extent the Confederacy is, like I said, frequently villainized, making me some sort of neo-confederate, which is certainly not the case. My focus is not to determine whether the Confederacy, and by extension General Law, was fighting for slavery or states rights, but instead to address who General Law was, not just as a military general.
- The Law Brigade
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