BG James Holt Clanton


Although opposed to secession, Clanton enlisted as Captain of an Alabama cavalry company, the Montgomery Mounted Rifles, in 1861. After service in Florida, Clanton became the Colonel of the 1st Alabama Cavalry organized in November 1861. Just before Shiloh, Clanton’s regiment was sent to scout in front of Gen, James Chalmer’s Brigade at Monterey. On the morning of April 3, 1862, several of Clanton’s pickets were captured by the 5th Ohio Cavalry, and Clanton wanted revenge. Braxton Bragg had already warned that Clanton was “gallant to rashness”.

On April 4th, Clanton’s 1st Alabama captured some Union pickets from Col. Ralph Buckland’s Brigade, part of Sherman’s Division camped at Shiloh Church. Buckland sent two companies to search for the missing pickets. These infantry in turn encountered Clanton’s cavalry. According to a later account in Annals of the Army of Tennessee, Clanton riding ahead of his regiment encountered a Union Major just beyond Mickey’s Farmhouse who rode out of the bushes and demanded his surrender. Col. Clanton drew his sword and pursued the officer back through a line of Union infantry who fired at him. Clanton continued pursuing the officer until he chased him back into the Confederate lines where he surrendered. It was stated that, “It was madness, and fortune alone saved him (Clanton)” The only Major captured was Leroy Crockett of the 72nd Ohio, who stated in amazement when he saw the long lines of Confederates: “This means a battle, they don’t expect anything of this kind back yonder.”

Clanton’s cavalry would continue to screen Chalmers advance as they encountered the Union force on the Confederate right on April 6th and would assist in covering the Confederate withdrawal to Corinth.

His regiment fought at Farmington, Mississippi, during the siege of Corinth and at Booneville, Mississippi on July 1, 1862, where, he "drove the enemy from the field". Clanton resigned from the army later in 1862, possibly as a result of a disagreement with Gen. Bragg. After serving as an aide to the Alabama Governor, and Gen. Polk, Clanton would command a cavalry brigade during the Atlanta Campaign. He had been promoted to Brigadier General in November 1863. Clanton would be surprised by an attack by Gen. Lovell Rousseau’s Union Cavalry at Ten Mile Ford on the Coosa River in Alabama on July 14, 1863, where he would lose his entire staff. On March 25,1865 in fighting at Bluff Spring Florida, Clanton would be severely wounded and captured.

After the war, Clanton would return to the legal business and politics as a Democrat. In September 1872, he would be representing the State of Alabama at Knoxville, Tennessee in a case against the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad. On September 27, he would be taking a tour of Knoxville with Tomlinson Fort when they encountered David Nelson, a former Union Officer outside the Lamar House Hotel on Gay Street. David, the son of a prominent Unionist Judge, had been drinking in the St. Nicholas Saloon. Clanton felt insulted by comments from the drunken Nelson and challenged him to a duel. Clanton drew a pistol and ordered Fort to step off space for the duel, which he declined to do. Meanwhile, Nelson ran back to the saloon and obtained a double-barreled shotgun. When Nelson reemerged, he fired two shots hitting Clanton in the arm and chest. Clanton fired one shot after being hit in the arm first, which missed. Clanton was carried into the Lamar House where he died with fifteen rounds of buck shot in his chest. Clanton left behind a widow and six children in Alabama. Nelson claimed self-defense, and, although witnesses said he fired first, the local jury acquitted him.

He died in 1871 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Montgomery Alabama