Biography of Judge James M. Shackelford

This eminent soldier and judge was born July 7, 1827, in Lincoln County, Ky., the seventh son of Edmond Shackelford and Susan Thompson, both of Virginia. At the age of twelve years he was placed at Stanford University, Kentucky, for two years, after which he became a pupil of the celebrated teacher, James F. Barber. In 1848, under the last requisition of the government, he was elected by a company in Washington County, Kentucky, as lieutenant, and received a first lieutenant’s commission from the government, in Company I, of the Fourth Kentucky regiment of infantry, which was commanded by John S. Williams, of Kentucky, in 1847. Going out as he did, under the last requisition, he saw no fighting during the campaign, which was a grievous disappointment to a young man of his ardent and ambitious disposition. On his return he studied law under Judge J. P. Cook and was admitted to the bar, becoming a partner of Cook’s in a few years. They practiced together until the outbreak of the Civil War, when James Shackelford raised the Twenty-fifth Kentucky Regiment of Infantry, and was made colonel of the same. He was in the engagement at Fort Donaldson with that regiment, but, through exposure, lost his health and was obliged to resign his office in 1862. Some time afterward President Lincoln issued him special orders to raise a regiment of cavalry for the Union service, which he accomplished in four weeks, choosing from sixteen hundred twelve hundred first class men, who embodied what was known as the Eighth Kentucky Cavalry. About this time, William Davenport, of Kentucky, went to visit President Lincoln, and, on gaining an audience, stated his business: “I have come to know if you would like to have General Morgan captured?” said Davenport. “I know of nothing,” said Lincoln “that would suit me better.” “Then,” replied Davenport, “we have a boy in our neighborhood, Colonel James Shackelford, of the Eighth Kentucky Cavalry, and if you will make him brigadier-general I guarantee that he will capture Morgan inside of six months.” The President not only heard, but heeded, and on the 17th day of March, 1863, Shackelford was promoted to the position of brigadier-general. In June 1863, General G. H. Morgan started upon his memorable raid through Kentucky, Indiana and Iowa, and General Shackelford started his pursuit. After a chase of thirty days and nights he came up with him near Lisbon, Columbiana County, Ohio, Sunday morning, July 26th, and captured him, with the remnant of his command. Morgan and Shackelford had been fellow-officers in the Mexican war, and on this occasion, when Shackelford addressed him in the following words, “General Morgan, I am glad to see you!” the latter replied: “I have no doubt of it; but, damn it, I’m sorry I can’t return the compliment.” General Shackelford’s war experience has been one of rare activity, and contains sufficient interesting matter to justify him in publishing a volume of adventure. We regret that our space is too limited to dwell upon more of the many stirring incidents of his career. The General’s wife dying in 1864, and being left with four small children, he felt it his duty, at the termination of the war, to resign although offered by the President the rank of Major General. Consequently he resumed the practice of law, taking an active part in politics in the meantime. In 1880 he was elector of the State of Indiana at large, and by the Electoral College selected and carried the vote of Indiana for Garfield. In 1888 he was elected president of the Electoral College, and discharged the duties incumbent upon him with becoming dignity. On the 26th of March 1889, he was nominated by President Harrison as United States Judge for the Indiana Territory, and the appointment was confirmed by the Senate. His headquarters are situated at Muskogee, in the Creek Nation, where a branch of the United States Courts is established. The respect expressed by all classes of people for Judge Shackelford, despite his vigorous enforcement of the law, is perhaps the highest compliment that can be paid to a public official; while the esteem in which he is held by those who are personally acquainted with him indicates a kind disposition, and a character upright and exemplary.


Indian Territory,

O'Beirne, Harry F. and Edward S. The Indian Territory: Its Chiefs, Legislators, and Leading Men. St. Louis. 1898.

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