While our physical offices are closed until at least April 13 due Austin's COVID-19 "shelter-in-place" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Thomas W. Cutrer

DOUGLAS, JAMES POSTELL (1836–1901). James Postell Douglas, Confederate artillery officer, the oldest son of Alexander and Margaret Tirzah (Cowsar) Douglas, was born near Lancaster, South Carolina, on January 7, 1836. He moved with his family to Talladega, Alabama, in 1838 and to Texas in 1847. In January 1848 the Douglas and Cowsar families settled at Tyler, where Douglas attended such public schools as were available. Generally, however, he was self-educated; he learned Latin with the aid of a neighbor in Talladega. Among his earliest jobs was delivery of the mail from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Nacogdoches, Texas. When his father died in 1854, the seventeen-year-old became head of the Douglas household, served as principal of the Tyler Male Academy by day, and read law at night. Although licensed to practice law, he purchased a half interest in and edited the Tyler Reporter, now the Tyler Courier Times, in 1859.

With the outbreak of the Civil War Douglas was commissioned by Col. Elkanah Greer to raise a fifty-man company in Smith County to man half a field artillery battery to be attached to Greer's Third Texas Cavalry. The other company was raised in Dallas County by John J. Good. Douglas was commissioned first lieutenant and named second in command of the battery on June 13, 1861. He was promoted to captain and commander in July 1862. The battery, first commanded by Captain Good, was variously known as the First Texas Battery, the Dallas Light Artillery, the Good-Douglas Battery, and Douglas's Battery, and became the only unit of Texas artillery to serve east of the Mississippi River. It is said to have been the first Confederate unit to volunteer "for the duration of the war." After receiving its baptism of fire with Benjamin McCulloch's Army of the West at the battle of Elkhorn Tavern in March 1862, the battery was transferred to Mississippi, where it saw action at the battle of Corinth. Thereafter it took part in all of the major battles of the Army of Tennessee-Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, the battles for Atlanta, and John Bell Hood's disastrous Tennessee campaign of 1864. Covering Hood's retreat from Nashville, the battery lost its guns when they bogged in the mud and were overrun by Union cavalry. Douglas barely escaped capture by riding away on the horse behind his younger brother. On February 16, 1864, the Confederate Congress offered a formal vote of thanks to the battery. Douglas's battery was paroled at Mobile, Alabama, on May 12, 1865, and Douglas returned to Tyler.

He resumed his work with the Tyler Reporter and in 1870 was elected to the Senate of the Twelfth Texas Legislature, where he was noted for his anti-Reconstruction attitude and activities. He was the organizer and first president of the Texas branch of the Cotton Belt Railroad, the so-called Tyler Tap, which was later sold to Jay Gould. Douglas was also instrumental in the establishment of the Texas and St. Louis and the Kansas and Gulf Short Line railroads. He owned a chain of canning factories, the first in Tyler, to market produce from his farms. As a planter, he was greatly interested in agricultural experimentation and owned a large peach orchard, said to be the first in East Texas.

Douglas was married twice, first on March 24, 1864, to Sallie Susan White, who died on August 22, 1872, and subsequently to Alice Earle Smith, on July 7, 1874. Four children were born to the first marriage and six to the second. Douglas died on November 27, 1901, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery at Tyler. His wife died on June 28, 1955, and is buried beside him.

Alice Douglas, ed., "Recollections of a Centenarian," Chronicles of Smith County, Spring 1966. Lucia Rutherford Douglas, comp. and ed., Douglas' Texas Battery, C.S.A. (Tyler, Texas: Smith County Historical Society, 1966). Lester Newton Fitzhugh, ed., Cannon Smoke: The Letters of Captain John J. Good (Hillsboro: Hill Junior College Press, 1971). June P. Trop, ed., "An Update: The Douglas Letters," Chronicles of Smith County, Summer 1983. Marcus J. Wright, comp., and Harold B. Simpson, ed., Texas in the War, 1861–1865 (Hillsboro, Texas: Hill Junior College Press, 1965).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Thomas W. Cutrer, "DOUGLAS, JAMES POSTELL," accessed April 09, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fdo24.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...