Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw
2nd South Carolina
3rd South Carolina
7th South Carolina
8th South Carolina
15th South Carolina
3rd South Carolina Battalion
Strength - 2183
Losses - 649 (179-419-51) - 29.7%
Brigadier General William Barksdale
Strength - 1620
Losses - 804 (156-470-178) - 49.6%
Brigadier General Paul Semmes
Strength - 1334
Losses - 432 (80-261-91) - 32.4%
Brigadier General William Wofford
3rd Georgia Sharpshooters Battalion
Strength - 1627
Losses - 370 (48-184-138) - 22.7%
Major General Lafayette McLaws had much in common with his corps commander, James Longstreet. Both were large, stout men who sported heavy beards, were poor students at West Point, and excelled on battlefields where a rugged defense was required. Although he began the war at the head of a regiment, McLaws was quickly promoted and assumed command of a division during the seige of Yorktown. Promotion to the rank of major general occurred on May 23, 1862.
McLaws's Division was one of the finest in the army. Composed of brigades from Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, it was a stable fighting force that had won accolades on many battlefields. The division's high point was at the battle of Fredericksburg, where it occupied rifle pits at the base of Marye's Hill and beat back charge after Federal charge. It also had the potential for clory at the battle of Chancellorsville, where it helped blunt the Federal drive against Lee's rear. McLaws was reluctant to seize the offensive, but if he had, he could have potentially destroyed a Federal army corps. McLaws had also received criticism during the Sharpsburg campaign for not pushing his troops hard enough as they came to the aid of Lee's beleaguered army.
McLaws's Division marched with Longstreet's column from its camps around Fredericksburg to the Gettysburg battlefield, arriving near Marsh Creek after midnight on July 2. The march continued later that morning, when McLaws approached Herr Ridge. General Lee summoned McLaws and told him, "General, I wish you to place your division across this road [Millerstown Road]...and I wish you to get there is possible without being seen by the enemy," while pointing to a map at the same time. When asked if he could do it, McLaws told Lee that he saw no reason why he couldn't, but requested permission to reconnoiter. Lee rejected this request, telling McLaws that Captain Samuel Johnston of his staff was about to venture forward. McLaws immediately asked permission to accompany him. General Longstreet, who had been pacing back and forth a short distance away, enterd the conversation at this point and blurted out, "No, sir, I do not wish you to leave your division." Then approaching the map, he contradicted Lee's placement of the division. Lee immediately replied, "No, General, I wish it placed just perpendicular to that." McLaws's second request to accompany Johnston was rejected, and instead, the bulky commander sent an aide in his place.
After completing the circutous march to his position in the late afternoon. McLaws positioned his division on the southern end of Seminary Ridge, with Kershaw's Brigade on the right and Barksdale's on the left. Semmes's Brigade was behind Kershaw's and Wofford's was behind Barksdale's. The men were almost immediately exposed to Federal artillery fire. Told that no enemy troops were in front of him, McLaws was shocked to actually see the enemy "massed in my front, and extended to my right and left as far as I could see." Matters only got worse when Longstreet insisted that McLaws post a battery along his front. McLaws protested that it would draw Federal cannon fire, but Longstreet was not to be denied, and soon shells were falling among the infantry.
Kershaw's Brigade did not attack until shortly after 5:00 PM, and Barksdale, Semmes, and Wofford followed in succession, but with gaps of time in between. As a result, the attacks were disjointed. McLaws's men captured the Peach Orchard, and with Anderson's Brigade (Hood's Division), took the Wheatfield. Although several of McLaws's units approached Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top, they were not successful in forcing the enemy off these strategic points. One Federal soldier watching this approach wrote that the "rebel line was badly broken...it was a crowd without any tangible line." McLaws's men were not engaged on July 3. Shortly after the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble charge, McLaws received orders from Longstreet to pull his men back to Seminary Ridge. McLaws was clearly unhappy with these orders-his men had fought hard to capture these advanced positions. Longstreet permitted no discussion, so McLaws reluctantly withdrew his troops.