James Ronald Chalmers

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James Ronald Chalmers
Nickname(s) Little 'Un
Born (1831-01-11)January 11, 1831
Halifax County, Virginia
Died April 9, 1898(1898-04-09) (aged 67)
Memphis, Tennessee
Place of burial Elmwood Cemetery,
Memphis, Tennessee
Allegiance Confederate States of America Confederate States
Service/branch Confederate States Army
Years of service 1861-1865
Rank Confederate States of America General.png Brigadier-General
Commands held 9th Mississippi Infantry Regiment;
2d Brigade, Withers' Division;
5th Military District, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana;
1st Division, Forrest's Cavalry Corps

American Civil War

Other work Politician, lawyer

James Ronald Chalmers (January 11, 1831 – April 9, 1898) was an attorney in Mississippi and a military officer in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States, serving as Brigadier-General.[1] Later he entered politics as a Democrat; he was elected in 1874 to the Mississippi State Senate.

In 1876 Chalmers was elected from Mississippi's 6th congressional district to the US House of Representatives, where he served from 1877 from until 1881. He was elected in 1880 but his victory was contested; the Congressional committee decided in favor of his opponent, and he was replaced in April 1882 by Republican John R. Lynch.

In 1882 Chalmers was elected to the US House as an Independent in a year of fusion tickets in Mississippi; his victory was contested by Democrat Van H. Manning. Chalmers won the contest and was seated in June 1884, serving to the end of the term in March 1885. He was defeated by Democrat Henry Van Eaton in the 1884 election.

Early life and education[edit]

James Chalmers was born on January 11, 1831, in Halifax County, Virginia, to Joseph and Fannie Chalmers (née Henderson). His father moved the family to Tennessee in 1835 and to Mississippi in 1839. The elder Chalmers was later elected by the state legislature to represent the state in the United States Senate. The younger Chalmers attended private school at St. Thomas Hall in Holly Springs, Holly Springs. After graduating second in the Class of 1851 from South Carolina College, he was admitted to the bar in 1853.

Law career[edit]

Chalmers began his practice in Holly Springs. In 1858, he was appointed as district attorney for the Seventh Judicial District of Mississippi. Chalmers, a states' rights Democrat and staunch secessionist, was a delegate to the Mississippi secession convention of 1861, where he was chairman of the Military Affairs Committee.[2]

American Civil War[edit]

Chalmers entered the Provisional Army of the Confederate States commissioned as a Colonel in the 9th Mississippi Infantry Regiment and was sent to Pensacola, Florida. Promoted to Brigadier-General on February 13, 1862, he was a brigade commander whose splendid performance during the battle of Shiloh was widely recognized in the spring of 1862. Chalmers, who was considered a brilliant general of cavalry and who responded well under great pressure, served in the Kentucky campaign with General Braxton Bragg in 1862 and distinguished himself at the battle of Murfreesboro. In April 1863 he was given command of the military district of Mississippi and East Louisiana under Lieutenant-General Nathan B. Forrest. During 1864 as a cavalry brigade commander under Forrest and later General John B. Hood, he participated in all military operations in northern Mississippi, Kentucky, and west Tennessee. By February 1865, he commanded all Mississippi cavalry. He surrendered in May 1865 and was soon paroled.[3]

Later years[edit]

After the war, Chalmers returned to his law practice. In 1874 he was elected as a Democrat to the Mississippi State Senate, serving from 1875 to 1877. In 1876, he was elected to the US Congress from Mississippi's 6th congressional district, serving from 1877 to 1881.[4] His election in 1880 was contested by John R. Lynch, who was seated on April 29, 1882 and completed the term.[4] In this period, elections were accompanied by considerable violence as the paramilitary Red Shirts, supporting the Democrats, worked to disrupt Republican gatherings and suppress black voting.

In 1882, Chalmers was elected to a final term in the United States House of Representatives as an Independent but was challenged by Democrat Van H. Manning. Chalmers won the contest, being seated in June 1884 and serving into 1885. He was defeated in the 1884 election by Democrat Henry Van Eaton.[4]

Although Chalmers maintained a home in Vicksburg, Mississippi, for the rest of his life, he spent his final years practicing law in Memphis, Tennessee. He died there on April 1898.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Warner, p. 46.
  2. ^ Wakelyn, p. 127.
  3. ^ Wakelyn, p. 127.
  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^ Wakelyn, p. 127.


  • Wakelyn, Jon L. Biographical Dictionary of the Confederacy. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1977, ISBN 0-8371-6124-X.
  • Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Louisiana State University Press, 1959, ISBN 0-8071-0823-5.

Further reading[edit]

  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J. Civil War High Commands. Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Halsell, Willie D. James R. Chalmers and 'Mahoneism' in Mississippi. Journal of Southern History 10 (February 1944): 37-58
  • 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.

External links[edit]