Joseph B. Kershaw

Joseph Brevard Kershaw
Born (1822-01-05)January 5, 1822
Camden, South Carolina
Died April 13, 1894(1894-04-13) (aged 72)
Camden, South Carolina
Buried Old Quaker Cemetery
Camden, South Carolina
Allegiance  Confederate States of America
Service/branch  Confederate States Army
Years of service 1861–65 (CSA)
Rank Major General

American Civil War

Joseph Brevard Kershaw (January 5, 1822 April 13, 1894) was a lawyer, judge, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War.

Early life

Kershaw, the scion of plantation aristocracy, was born in Camden, South Carolina in 1822, admitted to the bar in 1843, and was a member of the South Carolina Senate in 1852-56. Kershaw saw battle during the Mexican-American War, but fell dangerously sick and was permitted to return home.

Civil War

At the start of the Civil War Kershaw commanded the 2nd South Carolina Infantry Regiment and was present at Morris Island during the Battle of Fort Sumter, and then at the First Battle of Bull Run as part of Brig. Gen Milledge Bonham's brigade. During the battle, Kershaw's regiment along with the 8th South Carolina was detached from Bonham and sent to help drive back the Union assault on Henry House Hill. Afterwards, Kershaw gained the ire of Confederate general Pierre G.T. Beauregard by failing to file a proper report of the battle and instead writing a lengthy article in a Charleston newspaper which gave the impression that he and the 2nd South Carolina singlehandedly defeated the Union army. Beauregard called him "that militia idiot", but he was transferred to the West in the fall and in December, Milledge Bonham resigned his commission to take a seat in the Confederate Congress. Kershaw took command of Bonham's former brigade.

He was commissioned brigadier general on February 13, 1862, and commanded a brigade in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during the Peninsula Campaign, at the close of which he continued with Lee and took part in the Northern Virginia Campaign and Maryland Campaign. Towards the end of the Battle of Fredericksburg, he succeeded Brig. Gen. T. R. R. Cobb upon the latter's death, and repulsed the last two attacks made by the Federals on Marye's Heights.

The next year he was engaged in the Battle of Gettysburg and then was transferred with Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's corps to the West, where he took part in the charge that destroyed the Federal right wing at Chickamauga. After the relief of McLaws following the battle of Knoxville Kershaw was given the command of the division and promoted to major general on June 2, 1864. When Longstreet returned to Virginia, he commanded a division in the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, and Cold Harbor, and was engaged in the Shenandoah campaign of 1864 against Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan. After the evacuation of Richmond, his troops formed part of Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell's corps, which was captured at the Battle of Sayler's Creek, April 6, 1865.

Postbellum career

At the close of the war he returned to South Carolina and in 1865 was chosen president of the State Senate. He was judge of the Circuit Court from 1877 to 1893, when he stepped down for health reasons. In 1894, he was appointed postmaster of Camden, an office that he held until his death in the same year. Joseph B. Kershaw was also Grand Master of the Freemasons of South Carolina. He died in Camden and is buried there in the Quaker Cemetery.[1]

  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Moore, F., eds. (1905). Kershaw, Joseph Brevard (1822–1894), Volume 11, p. 462. New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.

See also


  1. Eicher, p. 331.


  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-8047-3641-1.
  • Sifakis, Stewart. Who Was Who in the Civil War. New York: Facts On File, 1988. ISBN 978-0-8160-1055-4.
  • Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959. ISBN 978-0-8071-0823-9.
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