Brigadier General James Deshler…
was a hero in his father, David Deshler’s, eyes. David Deshler set out to protect his son’s memory and service as noted in the article that Remembering the Shoals posted on the Winston Home. Someone please explain to me why we never learned about local heroes in school?
James Deshler was born February 18, 1833, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, the middle child of David and Eleanor Taylor Deshler. James’s father was a member of a prominent Pennsylvania family and traveled with his English born wife to Alabama in 1825 to work on the construction of Alabama’s first railroad, the Tuscumbia Railway. David became a very wealthy merchant and was able to rear his children in comfort and ease, yet tragedy would seem to haunt them. In 1844, James’s sister, Charlotte Ann, died at the age of thirteen. The eldest son, David Jr., was appointed to attend West Point but sadly this honor ended in tragedy as well. David Jr. drowned swimming in the Hudson River in 1845, leaving James as the only child. James now became the focus of his father’s attention, and he soon had James following in his brother’s footsteps, entering West Point in 1850. James did very well in his studies, being described by fellow cadet Edward P. Alexander as “a first class man…fine looking fellow with very attractive manners & qualities.” James graduated seventh in the Class of 1854, which included ranking higher than future Confederate generals James Ewell Brown Stuart, George Washington Custis Lee, Archibald Gracie Jr., and Stephen D. Lee.
In September 1861 he was an assistant to Brig. Gen. Henry R. Jackson during the Battle of Cheat Mountain. Deshler was wounded at the Battle of Allegheny Mountain when he was shot through the thighs. After his recovery from his wounds he was promoted to colonel and assigned to the staff of Maj. Gen. Theophilus H. Holmes.In 1862 he was given his first command, which consisted of four regiments of Texas infantry and cavalry, the Tenth Texas Infantry regiment, Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Eighteenth Texas Dismounted Cavalry regiments. On January 11, 1863, Deshler was captured when the Confederates surrendered at the Battle of Fort Hindman. After being exchanged he was promoted to brigadier general on July 28, 1863.
On the second day of the Battle of Chickamauga on September 20, 1863, while inspecting his brigade before an attack, Deshler was killed instantly by a Union artillery shell when it exploded in front of him, tearing his heart from his body.Command of his brigade was taken over by the future Senator Roger Mills, and the Confederacy won the battle. After the fighting ended, a family friend buried Deshler’s body on the battlefield. Later the friend brought Deshler’s father to the gravesite. They disinterred Deshler and subsequently reburied him in Oakwood Cemetery in his hometown of Tuscumbia, Alabama.
Mills remarked after Deshler’s death:
I may pause here and pay a passing tribute to the memory of our fallen chief. He was brave, generous and kind, even to a fault. Ever watchful and careful for the safety of any member of his command, he was ever ready to peril his own…He poured out his own blood upon the spot watered by the best blood of the brigade. Amongst the host of brave hearts that were offered the altar of sacrifice for their country on that beautiful Sabath, there perished not one, noble, braver, or better than his. He lived beloved, and fell lamented and mourned by every officer and man of his command.
- Smith, Derek The Gallant Dead: Union and Confederate Generals Killed in the Civil War (2005) pg. 193
- Heart Of Dixie Publishing and William Lindsey McDonalds’ Civil War Tales of the Tennessee Valley (2003) pp. 169–170
- United States War Dept, Robert Nicholson Scott, George Breckenridge Davis, Leslie J. Perry, United States War Records Office, Joseph William Kirkley, United States Record and Pension Office, and John Sheldon Moodeys’ The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (1890) pg. 188
- Evans, Clement Anselm Confederate Military History: A Library of Confederate States History (1899) pp. 403–405
- The Landrum Collection of Historical Photographs… (rememberingtheshoals.wordpress.com)