Deshler, James (1833–1863)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: December 1, 1994

James Deshler, Confederate general, was born on February 18, 1833, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, of Pennsylvania parents. He was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point from Alabama on July 1, 1850, and graduated seventh of forty-six cadets in the class of 1854. Among his classmates was the famed Confederate cavalry officer James Ewell Brown (Jeb) Stuart. Deshler was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Third Artillery on July 1, 1854, transferred to the Tenth Infantry on March 3, 1855, and promoted to first lieutenant on September 17, 1858. During this time he saw service in California; at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania; against the Sioux; and in the Utah expedition. In 1861 he was stationed at Fort Wise, Colorado Territory. He appears not to have resigned from the United States Army but to have been dropped on July 15, 1861, after overstaying a leave.

After appointment as a captain of artillery in the Confederate Army, Deshler reported to Gen. Henry R. Jackson in what is now West Virginia and served as brigade adjutant during the Cheat Mountain campaign. He was shot through both thighs at the battle of Allegheny Summit on December 13, 1861, and upon his recovery was promoted to colonel and assigned to North Carolina to serve on the staff of Gen. Theophilus H. Holmes. Deshler was Holmes's chief of artillery during the Seven Days' battles around Richmond in 1862 and later accompanied Holmes to the Trans-Mississippi Department. In October 1862 he was given command of a brigade of Texas infantry in the division of Brig. Gen. Henry E. McCulloch, then being organized at Camp Nelson, near Austin, Arkansas. His regiments were Col. Allison Nelson's Tenth Texas Infantry and Col. George H. Sweet's Fifteenth, Col. George Fleming Moore's Seventeenth, and Col. Nicholas H. Darnell's Eighteenth Texas Cavalry regiments, dismounted. The first three brigades of this division were to become known as Walker's Texas Division, but Deshler's brigade was detached to Arkansas Post soon after its organization.

Deshler was captured at the surrender of Arkansas Post in January 1863, then exchanged and promoted to brigadier general on July 28 of that year. His new brigade included the Tenth Texas Infantry regiment, a consolidation of the Fifth, Sixth, and Tenth Texas Infantry regiments; and the Seventeenth Texas Cavalry regiment (dismounted), a consolidation of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-fifth Texas Cavalry regiments, all dismounted. In Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne's division of the Army of Tennessee, Deshler was killed instantly by a federal artillery shell while inspecting his brigade before an attack during the battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, on September 20, 1863. His command was assumed by Roger Q. Mills. Deshler is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Tuscumbia, Alabama.

Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1903; rpt., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965). Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Gray (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959). Marcus J. Wright, comp., and Harold B. Simpson, ed., Texas in the War, 1861–1865 (Hillsboro, Texas: Hill Junior College Press, 1965).
Time Periods:
  • Civil War

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Deshler, James,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994

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