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Joseph Kershaw, CSA
lots were in the possession of Major General Joseph Brevard Kershaw (1822-1894)
when he was captured at Sailor’s (Saylor’s, Sayler’s) Creek, 6 April 1865.
Kershaw was a native of South Carolina. A Joseph Kershaw who immigrated to
North America from Yorkshire in 1750 served as a Colonel in the Revolution.
Kershaw’s wife, Harriet, was a daughter of one of General Marion’s
aides-de-camp. Thus, both families had a history of military service. Kershaw
began practice as a lawyer in Camden, SC in 1844, but served a year as
lieutenant of Co. C, Palmetto regiment, in the Mexican War. He was later a
state representative and was sent to the convention which decided South
Carolina’s secession, although Kershaw, himself, was reportedly opposed to it.
he was commissioned colonel of the 2nd SC Regiment, serving at
Sullivan’s Island. Barely a week after South Carolina’s secession, Federal troops
under Maj. Robert Anderson evacuated Fort Moultrie on December 26, 1860, moving
to the as-yet-incomplete, but stronger, Fort Sumter. From Fort Moultrie and
other points around Charleston Harbor, shelling of Fort Sumter commenced on 12
April 1861. Fort Moultrie was one of the few points to take return fire from
Sumter. Fort Sumter fell later the next day, and the war had begun. Kershaw was
then sent to Virginia. He was engaged at Blackburn’s Ford and First Manassas.
had a bit of military experience, he was not trained as a military man. Kershaw reportedly threw himself into learning
everything about what is today called “military science.” The 2nd SC
became known as one of the better trained Confederate units, and Kershaw one of
the Army of Northern Virginia’s best officers. He was probably as close as any
of the Generals came to the “gentleman-soldier” of southern myth, although it
took a bit of time to grow into his position. (He appears to have gotten off on
the “wrong foot” with Beauregard, for example. The two went their separate ways
after Charleston Harbor.) Kershaw was
savvy enough to pay attention to those who “knew the ropes.”
February (1862) he was commissioned Brigadier General, and given command of a
brigade is Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. He stayed with Lee’s forces through
the Peninsula, Northern Virginia and Maryland Campaigns, and was engaged with
Lee at Gettysburg the following year. He then transferred to the West with
Longstreet’s Corps where he was part of the charge at Chickamauga that
destroyed the Federal right wing.
to Virginia with Longstreet, was promoted to Major General and took command of
a division in 1864 in the Wilderness, Spotsylvania C.H., Cold Harbor and
Shenandoah Campaign. He was with Ewell after the evacuation of Richmond, during
which he was captured three days before Lee surrendered. Other than those last
few days, he was in the thick of the war from beginning to end.
The papers in
the following lots were in Kershaw’s possession at that time. Most of them are
dated 1864, when he took command of the division. Custis Lee, also captured at
Sayler’s Creek, was immediately paroled. Inexplicably Kershaw was held for
three months, as was Ewell.
G.M. “Moxley” Sorrel
Sorrel (“Moxley”) (1836-1901) was a bank clerk in Savannah when the war began.
He left his job to enlist for the Confederate cause. He was commissioned into
General James Longstreet’s staff, and was present at the first major battle of
the war, Manassas. A few days later, he was appointed acting adjutant general
of Longstreet’s division. October 31, 1864, he was promoted to Brig. Gen. and
given command of a brigade in Mahone’s division, A.P. Hill’s corps. It was
likely at this time that Latrobe took over Sorrel’s position on Longstreet’s
staff. In one incident reported by
Confederate Military History from Antietam/Sharpsburg, Longstreet and his staff
came up on the Confederate center, which had been left with but a small
regiment, the remainder sent to reinforce the left. There were two artillery,
but the gunners were dead or wounded. Longstreet held the horses while his
staff, primarily Sorrel and Latrobe, manned the guns, holding off the advancing
Federals until reinforcements arrived, saving Lee’s army (and at least bringing
the battle to a draw rather than a Confederate loss). Not mere paper-pushers, these guys! And
Sorrel would go on to be a good field commander – for a few months, until the
end of the war.
(1835-1915) was born in Mississippi, but attended Maryland Military Academy,
and returned to Baltimore after the war. His grandfather, Benjamin Henry
Latrobe, was the designer of the U.S. Capitol. His father, John H.B. Latrobe,
was a man of many faces – inventor, lawyer, architect, philanthropist, and
more. He succeeded Henry Clay as president of the American Colonization
Society, helping to expand the colony of “Maryland in Liberia.” Osmun served on
the staff of Gen. D.R. Jones until Jones’ death, when he transferred to
Longstreet’s staff, as AAG and Inspector General, eventually becoming AG and
Chief of Staff of the First Army Corps, replacing Sorrel in that role near the
end of the war.
One of the
“bigger” names here is that of Walter Taylor. From the time he reported for
service in Richmond in May 1861, Walter Herron Taylor (1838-1916) was assigned
to Lee’s staff as ADC and, later, AAG. Taylor was the perfect complement to
Lee, handling administrative duties and correspondence, which Lee hated, with
efficiency. When Lee was assigned the Army of Northern Virginia after Joe
Johnston was wounded, he retained Robert Chilton and A.P. Mason from Johnston’s
staff, and brought several, including Taylor, with him from Richmond. Lee
reportedly kept his staff to a minimum (certainly increasing pressure on
Taylor), to keep as many trained officers in the field as possible. This does
show up on these papers. Lee orders every able-bodied man, including teamsters
and cattle-herders to return to their units by 1864. Apparently one of Lee’s
tactics by the summer and autumn of that year was defensive – stay put, dig in,
and release many of these men for service on the front. If the wagons aren’t
moving, you don’t need wagoners - they can man pickets, dig rifle pits and
achieved such status that he seems to have occasionally signed papers for Lee,
and had clerks signing orders for him (by command of Lee). Most of these are
marked “(Sgd.) W.H. Taylor,” indicating that someone else signed them. The
irony is that Taylor was such a high-ranking aide, that others signed his
signature. Probably the reality is that so many copies of orders and other
documents left Lee’s command, that, had Taylor signed all of them, he would
have been crippled well before the end of the war!
several other aides, especially Charles Marshall) accompanied Lee to Richmond
after the surrender at Appomattox Court House. Taylor’s own wife of just over a
week was also waiting for him in there (Lee had allowed Taylor go to Richmond
to marry Bettie Saunders on 2 April). On Easter Sunday, April 16, 1865, Taylor
and G.W. Custis Lee (Lee’s son) were photographed by Mathew Brady on the back porch
of Lee’s Richmond home, 707 E. Franklin St., in the now-famous series of
photos. A majority of these orders have Taylor’s name on them somewhere, since
Kershaw’s Division was in the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.