James P. Simms was born on January 16, 1837 in Covington Georgia. Before the war he was an attorney in Covington.
On October 21, 1861 Simms became a second lieutenant in the 6th Georgia Militia. By April of 1862 he was in the 42nd Georgia Infantry Regiment. He was promoted to captain in August of 1862 and on September 23 became major in the 53rd Georgia Infantry.
When Colonel Leonard Doyal resigned on October 8 Simms was promoted to colonel and given command of the regiment. He was in command during the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862 and the Battle of Salem Church (part of the Chancellorsville Campaign) in May of 1863. At Gettysburg he and his regiment fought on July 2nd around the Rose Hill and the Wheatfield.
In the fall Simms and his Georgians went west with Longstreet and the First Corps, fighting in the Chattanooga Campaign. Simms was wounded on November 29, 1863 in the Confederate attack on Fort Sanders at Knoxville.
One account has Simms returning from his convalescence to command his regiment through the Overland Campaign in May of 1864, while another does not have him returning until September. By either source, he took command of his old brigade after Brigadier General Goode Bryan resigned on September 20 due to medical reasons and commanded it at the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19.
On December 8, 1864 Simms was promoted to brigadier general and given permanent command of his brigade. He would command the brigade throught the remainder of the fighting around Petersburg. During the retreat of Lee’s army to Appomattox Simms was captured with a large portion of the army on April 6, 1865 at the Battle of Sayler’s Creek. Unlike the rest of the army who surrendered at Appomattox and were parolled a few days later, Simms and many of the officers from Sayler’s Creek were imprisoned at Fort Warren in Massachusetts. Simms was finally paroled and released on July 24, 1865.
He returned to Covington, Georgia and resumed his legal career. He was twice elected to the Georgia State Legislature, serving for th term of 1865-66 and from 1877 until his death.
James P. Simms died on May 30, 1887, and is buried at Covington in Southview Cemetery.