Shortly before the Rebs retreated from Knoxville, Longstreet sent an aide, Moxley Sorrel, to notify McLaws that he had been relieved of command for failure “to make arrangements essential to success” in the attack on Fort Sanders. McLaws, who had commanded a division since the spring of ’62, demanded a court martial to determine whether relief was justified.
A seven-officer court convened in February, 1864, in the First Corps’ winter camp near Russellville, TN. The Mississippi Brigade’s Gen. Humphreys was the only member of the on-again, off-again court who had previously reported to McLaws.
McLaws was largely vindicated, especially by testimony from the corps’ artillery commander Col. Edward Porter Alexander, according to the 2002 history A Soldier’s General, by Austinite John C. Oeffinger. But the court nevertheless found McLaws guilty and sentenced him to a sixty-day suspension of rank and pay.
A reviewing officer, however, threw out the verdict, finding that the court had not substantiated its decision and “irregularities…fatal to the record” had occurred when Longstreet tried to manipulate the court. McLaws was ordered reinstated in command of his division.
But Longstreet persevered and finally succeeded in having Gen. Lee order McLaws replaced. McLaws went on to command troops in the defense of Savannah, GA until the war was over.
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