Joseph Brevard Kershaw

Joseph Brevard Kershaw

Lawyer, judge and general of the Confederate army during the American Civil War.
Date of Birth: 05.01.1822
Country: USA

  1. Biography of Joseph Kershaw
  2. Civil War
  3. Cold Harbor

Biography of Joseph Kershaw

Joseph Kershaw was a lawyer, judge, and Confederate Army general during the American Civil War. He was born in Camden, South Carolina. From 1852 to 1856, he served as a member of the state senate. He participated in the Mexican-American War but had to leave the field army due to illness.

Civil War

At the beginning of the Civil War, Kershaw commanded the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment and took part in the first battle of Bull Run as part of General Bonham's brigade. On February 13, 1862, he was promoted to brigadier general and commanded a brigade in General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. His brigade consisted of four South Carolina regiments: the 2nd, 3rd, 7th, and 8th.

Kershaw's brigade participated in the Peninsula Campaign and the Northern Virginia Campaign, although they did not engage in the second battle of Bull Run. During the subsequent Maryland Campaign, his brigade played a role in the siege of Harper's Ferry and made the first shots against the enemy in that battle. They were part of Lafayette McLaws' division. Along with McLaws' division, they were sent to Sharpsburg, where they became the last reserve of General Lee and managed to halt the advance of the XII Federal Corps.

Kershaw gained significant recognition after the Battle of Fredericksburg when his brigade replaced Cobb's brigade at the stone wall at the base of Marye's Heights. His brigade successfully repelled the attacks of Federal divisions led by Griffin and Humphreys. In this battle, his brigade had expanded to six regiments, including the 15th South Carolina Regiment from Drayton's brigade and the 3rd South Carolina Battalion.

In the spring of 1863, Kershaw led his brigade at the Battle of Chancellorsville. They played a crucial role in repelling the flanking maneuver of the Federal army and then successfully stopped the VI Federal Corps under Sedgwick. During the Gettysburg Campaign, Kershaw's brigade consisted of the same six regiments and had a strength of 2,177 men.

At the Battle of Gettysburg, Kershaw's brigade participated in the Peach Orchard fight and the assault on the Wheatfield on July 2. The brigade included the 2nd, 3rd, 8th, 15th South Carolina regiments, and the 3rd South Carolina Battalion. However, due to confusion, the attack on the Peach Orchard went in the wrong direction, resulting in significant losses. Kershaw later wrote, "Hundreds of the bravest and best men of Carolina fell victim to this fatal mistake." The attack distracted the 8th South Carolina Regiment, and the 15th South Carolina Regiment veered to the right and disappeared from Kershaw's view. From then on, Kershaw's brigade continued the attack with only three regiments: the 2nd, 3rd, and 7th. The 50th Georgia Regiment from Paul Semmes' brigade joined them.

Meanwhile, the remnants of Anderson's brigade held on at the Wheatfield. Kershaw's three regiments attacked the Federal brigade led by Tilton and occupied Stony Hill, forcing parts of General Barnes' division (Tilton and Sweitzer brigades) to retreat. Their retreat exposed the flank of the Federal brigade led by Trowbridge, which also began to retreat.

However, at that moment, the Federal division of John Caldwell from Hancock's II Corps arrived at the Wheatfield and attacked Kershaw's South Carolinians. This was essentially the only major attack by the Federal army in that battle. The brigade led by Zook and the Irish brigade led by Kelly attacked the 7th South Carolina Regiment on the right flank, which held on for some time but eventually began to retreat. Paul Semmes' brigade lagged behind and could not cover his right flank.

Kershaw withdrew his brigade to a favorable defensive position, where they held until July 4, when they received orders to retreat to the Monterey Pass. On July 6, the brigade passed through Hagerstown, and on July 14, they crossed the Potomac River. From there, the brigade went to Culpeper, where they arrived on July 24.

Cold Harbor

In May 1864, General McLaws was removed from command of the division, and it was handed over to Joseph Kershaw. By the beginning of the Battle of Cold Harbor, this division was part of Richard Anderson's I Corps. It consisted of four brigades: Kershaw's former brigade (under Lawrence Keitt), Benjamin Humphreys' brigade, William Wofford's brigade, and Goode Bryan's brigade.