Born in Camden, South Carolina in 1822, Joseph Brevard Kershaw enjoyed a growing law practice in Camden before he volunteered to serve with South Carolina troops during the War with Mexico.
He returned to his law practice and served for a time in the state legislature. In 1860, Kershaw was nominated to serve as a state representative in the secession convention of 1860 and began his Civil War career as colonel of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteers. Though Colonel Kershaw had limited military training when he took command, the middle-aged officer threw himself into his work and with the help of his assistant commanders; the 2nd became one of the better-trained regiments in southern service.
Kershaw also proved to be one of the Army of Northern Virginia’s finest officers. By the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, Kershaw was a brigadier general leading a South Carolina Brigade in McLaw’s Division of Longstreet’s Corps. His regiments fought in the woods and fields of the George Rose farm and were swept up in the “whirlpool” of the wheat field.
Twenty years after the battle, there was an ongoing debate as to why the Confederacy had lost at Gettysburg. Kershaw commanded a division in General James Longstreet’s Corps at the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, and during the Wilderness to Petersburg Campaign in 1864. Promoted to major general on June 2, 1864, he was given permanent command of McLaw’s old division, which he led during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign to the final battle at Cedar Creek, Virginia, in October 1864. The general rallied and withdrew his shattered command from the battlefield, whereupon it returned to the Richmond defenses. During the retreat from Richmond and Petersburg in April 1865, Kershaw was captured along with most of his troops at Saylor’s Creek, Virginia, three days before the end came at Appomattox Court House.
Paroled that July, Kershaw returned to Camden where he remained active in politics and again returned to the state legislature, this time as a senator. He later served as a judge for the Fifth Judicial Circuit os South Carolina. In 1894, Kershaw resigned from the bench due to ill health and accepted an appointment as postmaster in Camden, a position he held for only several weeks until his death on April 13, 1894. General Kershaw is buried in Camden.
General Joseph Kershaw’s Office
Confederate Major General Joseph Kershaw, one of General James Longstreet’s brigade commanders, resided at the plantation home of friends, the Taylor family, while in winter camp at Russellville. The Taylor plantation is about ½ mile (as the crow flies) from Longstreet’s headquarters . Mr. Taylor had an office building beside his home, and General Kershaw used the office as his Civil War headquarters. Longstreet’s corps fought in battles at Mossy Creek (Jefferson City), Dandridge and Fair Garden while in winter camp. General Kershaw and his staff made their battle plans in this office building.
In recent years, an industrial park was developed on the Taylor plantation. All the buildings were demolished except the Civil War office building, which was moved to the residence of the late Jim Burke on West First North Street in Morristown. It was later moved to the residence of the late Susan Whitehead Byars on West Third Street near the Rose Center Museum.
The daughters of Mrs. Susan Whitehead Byars, Barbara Beard and Susan Byars of Atlanta, and Katherine Knight, Florida, donated this historic plantation office in June 2008 to the Lakeway Civil War Preservation Trust in memory of their mother.
The 18×21 foot building was moved to the Longstreet Headquarters and will be restored as the General Kershaw Civil War office. “We are really excited to get this historic building,” said Mike Beck, president of LCWPA. “The family of Mrs. Susan Whitehead Byars was very generous in donating the house. It has great historical significance and will be a great addition to the Longstreet Headquarters Museum. “I am glad to be a part of restoring this piece of history,” said Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnigan, who assisted in moving the office. “We have lost too many historic sites and I am glad to see this one being restored for future generations.”
You, too, can help preserve this historic building and others in the Lakeway area. LCWPA is a 501c3 charitable, non-profit organization that depends on private donations to continue its efforts. Please become a Friend of Longstreet Headquarter Museum and support the preservation and teaching of our heritage.
History of Kershaw’s Brigade By D. Augustus Dickert
The History of Kershaw’s Brigade is one of the best eyewitness accounts of the War Between the States. Beginning with the secession of South Carolina on December 20, 1860, Dickert describes in detail the formation, organization, and myriad military activities of his brigade until it’s surrender at Durham., N.C. on April 28, 1865.
During these four years and four months, as he slowly rose in rank from private to captain, Dickert leaves little untold. In his earthly fashion, he tells of the merging of the Second, Third, Seventh, Eighth, Fifteenth and Twentieth regiments and the Third Battalion of South Carolina Volunteer Infantry into a brigade under the command of
General Joseph Brevard Kershaw,
Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia
First Manassas was the brigade’s baptism of fire. The Seven Days, Second Manassas, Harper’s Ferry, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chandellorsville, and Gettysburg followed. And when the enemy began knocking at the back door of the Confederacy in late 1863, it was Longstreet’s corps that General Lee rushed to the aid of Bragg’s faltering Army of Tennessee.
After the victory at Chickamauga and a winter in East Tennessee, the corps was recalled to Virginia, and to the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and the Shenandoah Valley. Then, once again, as Sherman’s might machine rolled relentlessly over Georgia and into South Carolina in 1865, Kershaw’s Brigade was transferred “Back Home,” as Dickert proudly puts it, “to fight the invader on our own native soil.”
Editor’s note: We begin with Dickert’s report of Longstreet’s corps moving to Chickamauga to aid Bragg and continued with the army during the winter of 1863 and their winter camp in Russellville and the Morristown, TN area. The book has not been edited for spelling or grammar, and appears as Dickert wrote it.
General Kershaw resided with friends, the Taylor family while in winter camp in Russellville. The plantation was about a half mile from the Nenney home, which General Longstreet used as his headquarters. Mr. Taylor had an office building beside the family home, and General Kershaw used this building his headquarters office. In recent years, the Taylor plantation was developed into an industrial park and the family home was demolished. The office building, which Gen. Kershaw used, was moved to another site. LCWPA has obtained this historic building and it has been moved to the Longstreet Headquarters where it will be restored to an 1863 Civil War office.