James Ronald Chalmers
|Born||January 11, 1831|
|Died||April 9, 1898(aged 67)|
|Place of birth||Lynchburg, Virginia|
|Place of death||Memphis, Tennessee|
|Place of burial||
|Service/branch||Confederate States Army|
|Years of service||1861-1865|
Fifth Dist., Dept. of Miss. and E. La.|
Cavalry in North Mississippi 
First Division, Forrest's Cavalry Corps
|Other work||U.S. Congressman from Mississippi|
Early life and educationEdit
Born to Joseph Williams Chalmers and his wife near Lynchburg, Virginia, Chalmers moved as a child with his family to Jackson, Tennessee, in 1835. Three years later, his parents moved the family to Holly Springs, Mississippi. Chalmers later attended St. Thomas Hall. His father, an attorney, was elected in 1845 to fill out an unexpired term as a United States Senator from Mississippi following the previous senator's resignation.
The younger Chalmers studied law at South Carolina College (present-day University of South Carolina) in Columbia and graduated in 1851. At the age of 21, he served 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. In 1858, he was appointed as district attorney for the seventh judicial district of Mississippi. He participated in the secession convention of Mississippi in January 1861.
In March 1861, Chalmers at the age of 30 enlisted in the Confederate Army as a captain and, despite no prior military experience, was elected as 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, 1862. He fought under General Withers at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6.
On July 1, 1862, 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, was defeated by the 31-year-old Union officer. Sheridan employed superior weaponry and, by repeatedly moving Union troops on and off military transport trains, he deceived Confederate forces into believing his command (numbering 827 men) was much larger than their own.
Despite this embarrassing defeat, Chalmers was considered to have had a successful military career, taking part in the Kentucky Campaign under General Braxton Bragg. He was 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 he was transferred 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. He also served with the Confederate Army of Tennessee during Lt. Gen. John B. Hood's 1864 campaign. At the end of the war, he was paroled in Gainesville, Alabama, on May 10, 1865.
In the years following the war, Chalmers returned to Mississippi where he resumed his law career. As a prominent Mississippi political figure during Reconstruction, he was elected as a member of the state senate from 1876 to 1877.
After Mississippi's readmission into the Union, Chalmers was elected as a U.S. Representative for the state for three terms in 1877, 1878, and 1882. He failed in three other bids for election, contested by Republican John R. Lynch and Democrat Van H. Manning. Beginning in the mid-1870s, the Red Shirts, a paramilitary group supporting the Democratic Party, worked to intimidate and suppress black voting, with considerable violence during elections. In 1877 the federal government withdrew its military from the South, ending Reconstruction.
Chalmers retired from politics and, in 1888, moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi. He continued his law practice for another decade until his death on April 9, 1898. He was buried in Memphis, Tennessee, at Elmwood Cemetery, Evergreen Section, Lot 448.
- 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: Ballantine 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.
- Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1771-Present: James Ronald Chalmers (1831—1898)
- "James Ronald Chalmers". Find a Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/memorial/10844. Retrieved 2008-02-13.
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