The 13th Regiment lost its longtime division commander on Dec. 18, 1863.
“Friday. Cloudy and very windy and cold,” Spartan Band diarist William H. Hill recorded. “General Longstreet today relieved General McLaws from command of this division.
“The reasons that General Longstreet alleged for relieving him was that General McLaws has, throughout the present campaign, continually exhibited a want of confidence in the plans that General Longstreet had adopted and [publicly] manifested his dissatisfaction and for fear that this feeling would be transmitted to the troops.”
Hill’s wording is almost a direct quote from Longstreet aide Major Goree’s written explanation to General McLaws who had demanded one.
“General Longstreet thought,” Hill continued, “that the interest of the services required that they separate and as he could not himself leave, he relieved General McLaws with instruction for him to report to Augusta, Georgia [for reassignment].”
Instead, McLaws immediately demanded of Longstreet, with a copy to Richmond, a courts martial to prove his innocence. Hill doesn’t mention it in his Dec. 18 entry.
He does add that “Major Gerrold [George Bruce Gerald] of the 18th Mississippi Regiment” promptly challenged McLaws to a duel.
Gerald sent the challenge via the 13th’s new commanding officer Major George Lavelle Donald, formerly captain of The Secessionists.
Major Gerald was “demanding satisfaction for an insult,” Hill wrote in his diary, “that General McLaws had him [sic] last summer by endorsing on his application for a furlough that he was an inefficient officer and did not give satisfaction to his men.
“General McLaws refused to accept [the challenge] for the reason that he didn’t consider himself personally responsible for his official acts. Brig. General Kershaw is commanding the Division.”