James Cantey

James Cantey        James Cantey was born in Kershaw district, South Carolina, December 30, 1818. He graduated at the South Carolina college, was admitted to the bar in 1840, and practiced law in Camden for several years. At the commencement of the Mexican War he responded to the call of his country, and was an officer in the celebrated Palmetto regiment of South Carolina. He won distinction in the battles of that regiment in Mexico, and was wounded in one of them. He was left among the dead but was rescued by his body servant whose plans were to bear him home for burial. The slave's detection of a faint sign of life caused heroic action that revived his master. For this deed the servant was offered his freedom which was refused. The year after the return of peace (1849) Cantey settled in Russell county, Alabama, and became a planter. He was married in 1858 at Fort Mitchell to Mary Elizabeth Benton, niece of John Crowell, Alabama's first Congressman. As a state politician in the years preceding 1861, Cantey had advocated secession, and so once again he eagerly enlisted, this time in the Confederate army to defend the South's separation from the Union.

        In 1861 he was elected colonel of the Fifteenth Alabama, and went with it to Virginia. He served in the Shenandoah valley, under Stonewall Jackson, and his superiors credited him for the Confederate victory at Cross Keys on June 8, 1862. Then, he was engaged in the battles around Richmond, shortly after which he was transferred to the West and stationed at Mobile. There he organized a brigade, consisting of the 17th, 21st and 29th Alabama regiments, and the 37th Mississippi. He received his commission as brigadier-general January 8, 1863. He was next placed in command of his own, Sears' Mississippi and Reynolds' Arkansas brigades. When the army of Tennessee was being reorganized and reinforced at Dalton in the winter of 1863 and 1864, the 1st and 26th Alabama were added to his brigade, and the 21st taken from it. As then organized, it entered the campaign of 1864, one calculated to test the endurance and courage of the best of troops. 

        During the last years of the war, poor health forced him to spend long periods away from his command. Part of the time General Cantey led the division of which he had held the command at Pollard; but on account of his health he could not be present all the time. Therefore Major General E. C. Walthall was put in command of the division. His brigade passed through the fiery ordeal of the "Hundred Days" from Dalton to Atlanta, was in the battle of Jonesboro, in Hood's Tennessee campaign, then in the campaign through the Carolinas, which, soon after the battle of Bentonville, ended in the surrender of the army under Joseph E. Johnston, at Durham's Station, on the 6th of April, 1865. 

        After the war Cantey returned to his plantation in Alabama, where he remained until his death, having never requested a pardon from the Union. General Cantey died June 30, 1874. He is interred in a family cemetery at Fort Mitchell. The first chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Russell County organized at Seale, was named in his honor. 

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