Isham Chisum, farmer and Confederate officer, was born on August 5, 1818, in Mississippi, the son of Parmellia (Roberts) and Isham Chisum. On January 16, 1841, he married Charlotte Martin of Nacogdoches County. Chisum originally settled in Sabine County in 1844 and then moved to Rusk County in 1846. In 1854 he and his family moved to Kaufman County where he owned eight to fourteen slaves from 1854 to 1860.
As a leader of the community in Kaufman County, Isham Chisum attended the Secession Convention in Austin in 1861 and voted with secessionists in favor of leaving the Union. He chose to enlist on June 3, 1861, in the Confederate Army, and on June 13, 1861, he served as captain of Company F of the Third Texas Cavalry. In March 1863 he joined the Second Texas Partisan Rangers and served as a colonel in the regiment. The Rangers fought mainly in Louisiana, engaging in the June 28, 1863, battle in Donaldsonville and in the November 3, 1863, battle at Bayou Bourbeau. By 1864 the Rangers were back in Texas and were recruited to fight in the Red River campaign. On October 24, 1864, they fought at Hurricane Creek near Benton, Arkansas. On the orders of Gen. John B. Magruder, Isham Chisum was arrested and faced court martial on September 16, 1864. Reports are unclear for the reasons behind the court martial. In any event, the court martial led to his suspension for six months, and Chisum resigned from the regiment in April 1865. After the war, the regiment disbanded in Houston.
Life after the Civil War was difficult for Chisum. His adjustment to life in a post-slavery world created financial and physical problems for him so devastating that he considered moving to Central or South America with other former Confederates. Instead, he moved to Bandera in 1869 to live with his son, Isham, Jr., and he died there in 1884. He is buried in the Vanderpool Cemetery.