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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 12, No. 1
March, 1934


Page 103


While many citizens of Oklahoma remember Judge James M. Shackelford who established the first United States Court in Indian Territory few recall his distinguished military career. Muskogee men who had served in the Civil War spoke of Judge Shackelford with a touch of awe in their voices when they recounted that he captured "Morgan the Raider." The white-haired jurist, like many soldiers, was so gentle and modest in manner it was difficult to realize that he had signally distinguished himself in the army.

A handsome sword presented to him by the loyal citizens of Kentucky in recognition of his gallant service, hung on the wall of General Shackelford's home in Muskogee as a reminder of those turbulent days when he was a soldier in the service of his country.

James M. Shackelford was born in Lincoln County, Kentucky, July 7, 1827. He was the twelfth child of Edmund and Susan Thompson Shackelford. When twelve years of age his parents sent him to Stamford University in Kentucky where he was tutored by James F. Barber a noted educator of that period.

Young Shackelford was only nineteen when he was chosen first lieutenant of a company of United States volunteers. On the last call for troops in the Mexican War he tendered this company to his government and was commissioned first lieutenant of Company I, Fourth Kentucky Infantry. To his great regret he saw no active service in that war.

On his return home from the army he studied law and after being admitted to the bar he became a partner of J. P. Cook with whom he was associated until the outbreak of the Civil War. He then on January 11, 1862 organized the Twenty-fifth Kentucky Infantry regiment at Calhoun, Kentucky of which he was elected colonel. Colonel Shackelford distinguished himself in several fights including the terrible battle of Fort Donelson in Tennessee in February, 1862. He was later obliged to retire for a time be-

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cause of ill health but as soon as he regained his strength he organized a force of cavalry in answer to the call of President Lincoln.1 This regiment, the Eighth Kentucky Cavalry, was recruited at Russellville, Kentucky, September, 1862 for one year's service.2

That Colonel Shackelford had made a popular and efficient commander is shown by the letter written in "Camp near Hopkinsville Ky. Decbr 6th 1862 Brig Genl J. T. Boyle Comdg Genl.

"The undersigned officers of the 8th Ky. Cavalry respectfully and earnestly ask your co-operation with us in recommending to the Maj. Genl. Commanding this Deptmt. and through him to the President the promotion of our worthy Col. James M. Shackelford to the office of Brig. Genl.

"This request is prompted by a desire to give more efficient protection to the loyal citizens of that part of Ky. lying between Green & Cumberland Rivers as well as to do justice to the distinguished services of one of the most gallant & efficient officers in Service—With sentiments of high regard We have the honor to be Yr. Obdt. Svts. Ben H. Bristow Lt. Col . . ." This signature is followed by the names of thirty officers of the regiment.

General Boyle approved the recommendation at his headquarters in Louisville, December 19, 1862 and forwarded the papers to Hon. Garrett Davis, United States Senator from Kentucky, to be presented to the War Department. Senator Davis and Representative George H. Yeaman of Kentucky added their endorsement to the petition as follows: "We regard Colo. James M. Shackelford as one of the most capable, gallant & active officers in the Kentucky troops, and we cordially recommend him for the promotion asked in the within paper."3

The petition was approved, the appointment subsequently made was accepted by General Shackelford April 23, 1863 at Elkton, Kentucky.4 He commanded the First Brigade, Second Division, Twenty-third Corps in Russellville, Kentucky and vicinity until some time in June, 1863.5

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Two months after his promotion, General Shackelford had an opportunity to justify his advancement in his spectacular campaign against Gen. John Hunt Morgan, usually called "Morgan the Raider." Morgan was born at Huntsville, Alabama, June 1, 1826. His parents moved to Kentucky in 1830 and settled near Lexington. He served under General Taylor during the war with Mexico and at the outbreak of the Civil War, as commander of the Lexington Rifles, he joined Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner of the Kentucky State Guard.

Soon after the battle of Shiloh, in which he commanded a squadron of Confederate cavalry, Morgan started on his career as a raider. He first invaded Kentucky from eastern Tennessee in July, 1861. At the head of 1200 men, he roamed over the state plundering the people and destroying property. His progress was very rapid and caused intense alarm. He destroyed a railway bridge between Cynthiana and Paris and his fondest hope was to plunder Cincinnati. The inhabitants were terror stricken until a cavalry force obliged him to withdraw towards Richmond. "On his retreat his raiders stole horses and robbed stores without inquiring whether the property belonged to friend or foe."6

On June 27, 1863 Morgan crossed the Cumberland River with 3500 well-mounted men and six guns and had a battle of three hours with loyal cavalry near Columbia, Kentucky on July 3. He partly destroyed the town and tried to wreck a bridge over the Green River. He dashed into Lebanon and set fire to the town and in the fight with the Union force his brother was killed. After capturing two steam boats on July 7 he crossed the Ohio River, forty miles below Louisville with 4000 men and ten guns. "He plundered Corydon, Indiana, murdered citizens, and stole 300 horses. On he went, robbing mill and factory owners by demanding $1000 as a condition for the safety of their property."7

Gov. Oliver Perry Morton of Indiana called on the people to drive out the invaders and within forty-eight hours after his proclamation 65,000 citizens had volunteered to defend their state. Morgan realized that the people were thoroughly aroused against

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him and he led his foree north of Cincinnati and across the southern counties of Ohio until he regained the river above Pomeroy.

General Morgan attempted to lead his cavalry across the river at Buffington Ford but he was surrounded. General Shackelford at the head of Hobson's column struck his rear and General Henry M. Judah attacked his flank while two armed vessels fired upon his front. After 800 of his men had surrendered, Morgan with the remainder of his force, abandoned their plunder, dashed up the river to Belleville and tried to cross by swimming their horses.

About three hundred men gained the other side but the remainder were repulsed by a gun boat. "Morgan fled inland to McArthur, fighting militia, burning bridges and plundering. At last he was obliged to surrender to General Shackelford, July 26, 1863 at New Lisbon . . . Columbiana county."8

On July 20 General Shackelford sent the following message to Department Headquarters: "We chased John Morgan and his command over 50 miles to-day. After heavy skirmishing for six or seven miles, between the Forty-fifth Ohio, of Col. Wolford's brigade, which was in the advance, and the enemy, we succeeded in bringing the enemy to a stand about three o'clock this afternoon, when a fight ensued, which lasted an hour, when the rebels fled, taking refuge upon a very high bluff. I sent a flag of truce demanding an immediate and unconditional surrender of Morgan and his command. The flag was received by Col. Coleman and other officers, who came down and asked a personal interview. They asked an hour for consultation among their officers. I granted forty minutes, in which time the command (excepting Morgan, who deserted his command, taking with him a very small squad) surrendered. It was my understanding that Morgan himself had surrendered, and I learned it was the understanding of Morgan's officers and men. The number of killed and wounded is inconsiderable. The number of prisoners is from one thousand to fifteen hundred, including a large number of Colonel Morgan's line officers. I captured between six and seven hundred prisoners yesterday. I think I shall capture Morgan himself to-morrow. I had Colonel Wolford's and Jacob's Brigades. The conduct and

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bearing of officers and men, without exception, evinced the greatest gallantry and a high degree of skill and discipline. (Signed) Shackelford, Brig. Gen.

"All of the prisoners, numbering twenty-five hundred, with Basil Duke, are at and near Pomeroy, and are expected here tomorrow. About two hundred of Morgan's men were killed and drowned in their effort to cross the Ohio at Buffington."9

The Union forces opposed to Morgan's Cavalry Corps were detachments of Rosecran's Army of the Cumberland, Holson's and Shackelford's cavalry, Home Guard and Militia. The Union losses were 33 killed, 97 wounded and 805 missing; the Confederates had 2500 killed, wounded and captured in this engagement.10

A few days later Shackelford had the satisfaction of telegraphing the Department Headquarters at Cincinnati: "Headquarters in the field, three miles south of New Lisbon, O., July 26. To Col. Lewis Richmond, A. A. G.: By the blessing of Almight God, I have succeeded in capturing John H. Morgan and Col. Duke and the balance of the command, amounting to about four hundred prisoners. I will start with Morgan and staff on the first train for Cincinnati and await the General's orders for transportation for the balance. (Signed) J. M. Shackelford, Colonel Commanding."11

That the North was happy over General Shackelford's victory is shown by the newspaper account, taken from his file in the War Department: "Capture of Morgan. — Shout! Illuminate! Raise the banners! Fire the big guns! There's good news! John Morgan, with what was left of his command, has surrendered to Gen. Shackelford. The career of the dashing bandit is ended.

"This event will fall like an ice-bolt upon the hearts of the rebels and rebel-sympathizers. The rebel Confederacy would sooner have lost an ordinary army of 25,000 men than Morgan and his troops. It must feel paralyzed in a limb that has been its chief reliance. But the spirits of the loyal men of Kentucky and of

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the loyal men of the neighboring States will bound upward like a twig from which a bird of evil omen has just flown.

"We undertake not to say how John Morgan will be disposed of. He is in the right hands. Let him have justice. Of course he has already been made to surrender up the money which he lately compelled men to pay to him as the condition of his not burning their property."

Shackelford and his troopers must have been disgusted when they learned that Morgan and some of his officers who had been confined in the Ohio penitentiary at Columbus had dug their way out in November and escaped to the Confederate forces in northern Georgia.

The following letter shows the high esteem in which General Shackelford was held in his native state: "U. S. Sanitary Commission, Kentucky Branch, Louisville, July 27, 1863. His Excellency A. Lincoln Washington D. C. Respected Sir, Genl. Shackelford who has captured John Morgan and his command and has ridden Kentucky of its worst enemy, is one of the ablest and most skilful commanders in the field.

"I beg that you reward him with a Majr. General's rank. He deserves it, and the country needs a man of his nerve and patriotism. On no one more deserving, can you place this mark of confidence.

"We shall give him a reception, such as only loyal Kentuckians, can give to a Christian Hero, when he returns to our city. I know him well, know that he is entitled to your fullest confidence . . . Your obt. Servt. D. P. Henderson."12

Henderson again wrote the President August 18, 1863 urging General Shackelford's promotion. ". . . Genl. Shackelford is one of the best men in the nation. He is a Gentleman, a Christian, a good Lawyer, a modest, brave man, beloved by all his command, and in his Command like Ulysses, he only could bend the Bow to bring down Morgan and his horde. He rode longer, ate less, did without sleep, and in a word when all his command were exhausted he was ready to move. . . Your old friend, D. P. Henderson."13

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On September 9, 1863 General Shackelford and his cavalry captured 2000 of Gen. J. W. Frazer's brigade, at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee; October 7, the Ninth Corps, Army of the Ohio and Shackelford's Cavalry had a fight at Blue Springs, Tennessee with the command of Gen. J. S. Williams in which the Union forces lost 100 killed, wounded and missing while the Confederates had 66 killed and wounded and 150 missing.

Shackelford's Cavalry had other encounters at Bean's Station and Morristown, Tennessee from December 10 to 14, 1863 where they fought Longstreet's Corps and Martin's Cavalry. There were 700 of the Union forces killed and wounded while the Confederates lost 932 killed and wounded and 150 were captured.14

On November 3, 1863 Shackelford was assigned to command of the cavalry of the 23rd Corps, which he commanded until November 5, 1863 when he was granted thirty days leave.15 His letter of January 12, 1864 from Hopkinsville, Kentucky explains why he had been granted leave, "S. Thomas Adjutant General Washington City D. C. Sir—I hereby tender my resignation as Brig. Genl. U. S. Vols. I am not indebted to the Government in any sum whatever. My reasons for pursuing this course are strictly of a domestic character. I have had the misfortune to lose my wife—and I have four very small children and a widowed helpless mother—in such condition that makes it imperative upon me to quit the army. My whole heart is in the great cause of my Country. The crushing of the rebellion and the maintenance of the Government at all cost and all hazards. I am Sir . . . Your Obt. Servt. James M. Shackelford, Brig. Gen. Vols."

This letter was endorsed by the President as follows: "Let this resignation be accepted immediately, unless there be some reason to the contrary, known to the Department. A. Lincoln. Jan. 18, 1864." Below the President's note is written "Accepted. Edwin M. Stanton Sec. of War Jan. 18, 1864."

General Shackelford was offered a major's commission in the regular army but declined the honor. After the close of the war

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he moved to Evansville, Indiana and resumed the practice of the law until March 26, 1889 when President Benjamin Harrison appointed him judge of the United States Court in Indian Territory.

The United States Court had just been provided for by Congress and Judge Shackelford took up the heavy burden hitherto borne by Judge Isaac C. Parker of Fort Smith, Arkansas whose jurisdiction had extended over the Indian Territory.

The old court system had worked a great hardship on Indian Territory citizens as litigants and witnesses were compelled to make many trips to Fort Smith to attend the sessions of the court so it was with a feeling of relief that Muskogee saw the Stars and Stripes afloat over the Phoenix Building in April, 1889 announcing the opening of the United States Court and a judiciary system independent of surrounding states.

The court as first organized was composed of James M. Shackelford, Judge; William Nelson, Clerk; Thomas B. Needles, Marshal and Z. T. Walrond, United States Attorney. The first foreman of the jury was Capt. G. B. Hester and the first juror sworn was Pleasant Porter who had done much to secure the establishment of the court. Judge Shackelford presided over the court for four years after which he engaged in the practice of the law in Muskogee.

An achievement in which Judge Shackelford felt pride was the organization of a Sunday school class of fifty men in the Presbyterian Church in Muskogee when the town had only 2000 inhabitants.

Early in life Judge Shackelford married Marion Ross of Morganfield, Kentucky and she bore him four children; Emma who married James S. Phelps of Louisville, Kentucky; Addison; William Ross who married Cora Archer of Indian Territory; Nora who became the wife of George S. Ingle of Evansville, Indiana. After the death of his wife the young general married Henrietta Marie Ross to whom two daughters were born; Lee Phelps who married Irving J. Morris of Albany, New York and Margaret who became the wife of Marshall L. Bragdon of Muskogee, Oklahoma. Mrs. Bragdon is the only surviving child. Judge Shackelford has

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five living grand children: Marion Phelps Macpherson of Louisville, Kentucky; May Phelps Morris of Albany, New York; Lawrence Shackelford Morris, Long Island, New York; James M. Shackelford and William Shackelford of Oklahoma. William Ross Shackelford served as Deputy Clerk of the United States Court for the Indian Territory during his father's term. He was born at Madisonville, Kentucky, in April, 1858 and died at Muskogee in May, 1907. He was survived by his widow and one daughter, Charlotta Archer Shackelford, who was born in 1891 and died in January, 1909.

General Shackelford died September 7, 1909 at his summer home at Port Huron, Michigan. His body was taken to his native state and he lies at rest in Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky. Mrs. Shackelford survived her husband until December, 17, 1924 and she sleeps beside him in Louisville.16

General Shackelford won many laurels in his civil career in Indian Territory and Oklahoma and he was as much admired and loved in his new home as he had been in his native Kentucky.

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