Alexander R. Lawton was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1818. His father, Colonel Alexander J. Lawton was one of South Carolina’s most prominent citizens. Lawton would receive an outstanding local education, provided mostly by private tutors, and then go on to graduate from West Point in 1839 and Harvard Law School in 1842. Lawton would marry Sarah Gilbert Alexander of Washington County, Georgia, in 1845, and they would settle in Savannah, Georgia. The couple had 4 children.
Lawton would be awarded the rank of second lieutenant after graduating from West Point but would later resign his position to practice law in Savannah. He was a very determined, hardworking, and skilled attorney. He won many cases and gained famed and prominence in the local community as a dedicated, loyal, and honest man with admirable qualities and characteristics. Lawton also served as the President of the Augusta-Savannah Railroad Company and helped turn it into one of the most successful businesses in the South. Lawton was an important political figure in Georgia, and he was a staunch supporter of states rights and secession. He was a leading advocate for Georgia to leave the Union after the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency in 1860.
Lawton would lead the troops that attacked and captured Fort Pulaski from Union forces early in 1861. The battle for Fort Pulaski was the first of many Civil War battles to take place in Georgia. Lawton would serve with distinction and courage under General Thomas J. “Stonewall ” Jackson in the Valley Campaign, The Seven Days Battles, The Second Battle of Bull Run, and Antietam. Lawton would eventually rise to the rank of brigadier general as a result of his leadership and strength. Unfortunately, he was severely wounded at the Battle of Antietam. His recovery took nearly four months and would prevent him from serving in the field again. Due to his injury and inability to serve in the field, Lawton was appointed to the position of quarter-master general by Jefferson Davis. He would remain in this position until the end of the war.
After the Civil War, General Lawton would serve in the state legislature as minister to Austria-Hungary and as the president of the American Bar Association. His advice was sought from local, state, and national leaders, including President Grover Cleveland. He promoted the arts and music in Savannah along with his daughter Corrine. He was also a very active member of St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church. He died of a stroke in Clifton Springs, New York, in 1896. His final resting place is in the family plot in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah just steps from the banks of the Wilmington River. His personal letters included correspondence with Robert E. Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson, Jefferson Davis, and Jubal Early. He was indeed a man of influence and a true hero to Savannah!