James Ronald Chalmers
– April 9
) was an American politician and a brigadier general
in the Confederate States Army
during the American Civil War
Born to Mississippi congressman Joseph Williams Chalmers
near Lynchburg, Virginia
, Chalmers later moved with his family to Jackson, Tennessee
, in 1835 and, three years later, to Holly Springs, Mississippi
. He later attended St. Thomas Hall
Studying law at South Carolina College (now present day University of South Carolina
) in Columbia, South Carolina
, Chalmers graduated in 1851 and, at the age of 21, attended as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention
of 1852, before being admitted to the bar the following year.
Chalmers began practicing law upon his return to Holly Springs and, in 1858, later served as district attorney for the seventh judicial district of Mississippi before participating in the secession
convention of Mississippi in January 1861.
In March 1861, Chalmers enlisted in the Confederate Army as a captain
and, despite no prior military experience, was elected Colonel
of the 9th Mississippi Infantry Regiment
the next month.
Stationed at Pensacola, Florida
, during the first few months of the war, Chalmers was promoted to brigadier general on February 13
, and later fought under General Withers at the Battle of Shiloh
on April 6
In July, Chalmers' force of nearly 5,000 infantry engaged in battle with Union Col. Philip Sheridan
at a forward outpost near Booneville, Mississippi
, and, during the subsequent Battle of Booneville
, was defeated by the 31-year-old Union officer both by superior weaponry and by repeatedly moving Union troops off military transport trains, deceiving enemy forces into believing the Sheridan's command (only numbering 827 men) to be much larger then their own.
Despite this embarrassing defeat, Chalmers went on to have a successful military career, taking part in the Kentucky Campaign
under General Braxton Bragg
and as a brigade commander at the Battle of Stones River
, where he was wounded at "Hell's Half-Acre".
In 1863, Chalmers was appointed commander of the District of Mississippi
and East Louisiana
before his transfer to the first division of Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest
's cavalry corps the following year. Earning the nickname "Little 'Un" while under Forrest, Chalmers saw action in Confederate military operations in North Mississippi, Kentucky
, and West Tennessee
, as well service with the Confederate Army of Tennessee
during Lt. Gen. John B. Hood
's 1864 campaign. He was paroled in Gainesville, Alabama
, on May 10
In the years following the war, Chalmers returned to Mississippi where he resumed his law career and, as a prominent Mississippi political figure during Reconstruction
, served as a member of the state senate from 1876 to 1877. After Mississippi's readmission into the Union, Chalmers was elected a U.S. Representative for the state for three terms in 1877, 1878, and 1882 respectively. Although failing in three other bids for election, contested by John R. Lynch
and Van H. Manning
, Chalmers retired from politics and, in 1888, moved to Memphis, Tennessee
, where he continued his law practice until his death in 1898. He was buried at Elmwood Cemetery.
- Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
- Linedecker, Clifford L., ed. Civil War, A-Z: The Complete Handbook of America's Bloodiest Conflict. New York: Ballentine Books, 2002. ISBN 0-89141-878-4.
- Halsell, Willie D. "James R. Chalmers and 'Mahoneism' in Mississippi." Journal of Southern History 10 (February 1944): 37-58
- Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1959, ISBN 0-8071-0823-5.