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Posts tagged “Brig Gen James Deshler

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.[4]

James Deshler
Brig Gen James Deshler



 History of Alabama and dictionary of Alabama biography, Volume 3 By Thomas McAdory Owen, Marie Bankhead Owen, page 488


  • 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

Related Articles

The William Winston home…

James Deshler

Brigadier General James Deshler

that dates back to 1824 continues to be a reminder of the rich heritage of the Shoals that endures. There is a historical marker that also documents the yellow fever epidemic of 1878.

Samuel J Cooper was the namesake for one of our Hurst relatives, Samuel Cooper Hurst, who was born in Franklin, now Colbert County. His mother was Matilda Clementine “Clemmie” Allen Hurst Vandiver. Maud Lindsay is an honored and beloved name throughout the Shoals. Maud has some ties to the Kerby family in Lauderdale County.

Construction on the home which became the center building of Deshler High School was begun in 1824 by Clark T. Barton, William Winston purchased and completed the Georgian-style dwelling in 1833. The largest remaining antebellum house in Tuscumbia, it features a winding staircase, eight fireplaces, and ten original closets along with an inscription on the cellar wall written during the Union occupation saying: “It is a damn shame to destroy this mansion.” Original log kitchen placed at N.W. rear corner to avoid having fire too close to the house. Listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1982.

Well known names associated with the owners of the Winston Home include some renown in American history. Capt. Anthony Winston, a cousin of Dolly Madison and Patrick Henry, commanded Virginia troops in the Revolutionary War. Isaac and Catherine Jones Winston bought Belle Mont Plantation southeast of Tuscumbia, in 1833. William H. and Judith McGraw Winston bought the Winston House (campus of Deshler High School) in 1833. Mary M. Jackson, wife of Edmund C. Winston, was a granddaughter of James Jackson of the Forks of Cypress near Florence. Robert Burns Lindsay, Alabama’s only foreign-born (Scotland) governor, was the father of Maud Lindsay, an esteemed teacher, writer, poet and storyteller. Capt. John Anthony Steele was a lawyer, legislator, probate judge and Confederate soldier. Judge Joseph Nathan was a prominent citizen of early Sheffield.

 The house and property were purchased by the city of Tuscumbia in 1948 for site of new Deshler campus. This was a relocation  from property bequeathed by Major David Deshler (from his Main St. residence, 3 blocks north)to  memorialize his son, Brig. Gen. James Deshler, C.S.A., who was killed leading charge at Battle of Chickamauga, Sept. 20, 1863. Major David Deshler led the 16th Regiment of Alabama Infantry, C.S.A. as Captain until his health became an issue.

William Winston (1789-1857) was the father of Gov. John Anthony Winston. He was the grandfather of Maud Lindsey, famed educator and author of children’s books. He was the  father-in-law of Robert Burns, only foreign-born governor of Alabama. The Winston family cemetery is located approximately one mile N.W. of the house.

A historical marker memorializing the terror that yellow fever reeked on citizens of the Shoals reads on side 1; side 2 gives historical reference to the Winston Family Cemetery:

Yellow Fever Epidemic 1878

  Responsible for taking 31 lives in Tuscumbia. Citizens Relief Committee included: F. H. Aydlett, H. M. Finley, J. L. Davis, James Jackson Chmm., J. W. Rand, Jr., P. A. Ross, F. W. Ross, J. N. Sampson, Sec., and C. A. Womble.
  This committee, together with volunteers, both white and black–assisted by trained nurses brought from Memphis, Tennessee–nursed the sick, carried supplies, prepared the bodies, dug graves, and buried the dead.
  Doctors serving around the clock: Robert T. Abernathy, Samuel J. Cooper, William C. Cross, William Desprez (who gave his life), and E. P. Rand.
  The 31 Victims of Yellow Fever who died in Tuscumbia in 1878 included: Crabtree Belcher, Mrs. Amy Boldman, Anna C. Christian, Mr. Clark, W. A. Clark, DeWitt Cooper, Dr. William Desprez, Samuel Finley, Mrs. W. A. Gilbert, Mrs. Bettie Halpine, Miss Bartie Jones, Mrs. W. H. Jones, L. King, F. Manush and wife, Tom Morton, Alexander Newsome, Sandy Osborne, Edward Prout, Mrs. G. T. Rather, Mrs. F. A. Ross, Helen Smoot, Mrs. T. L. Smoot, Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Stamps, Robert Ventress, Mervyn Warren, Charles Williams, Mrs. Yohnka and child, William Young.

Side 1

Winston Cemetery

The Winston family settled this area in the early 1820s. Andrew Jackson purchased the property at the U.S. government land sale and conveyed it to Col. Anthony Winston (1782-1841) who lived nearby in a two-story brick Federal-style house (razed 1945). It later became a part of William H. Winston’s plantation. Capt. Anthony Winston (1750-1827) and his wife, Kezia Jones (1760-1826), were the first burials. Other early families buried here include Abernathy, Armistead, Burt, Cooper, Figures, Goodloe, Jones, Lindsay, Nathan, Sherrod and Steele. Veterans from the American Revolution through the Vietnam War are interred here. The cemetery is owned and maintained by descendants.


Side 2