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MATHEWS, JAMES F. (1840–1881). James F. (Doc) Mathews, Confederate army officer, was born on October 20, 1840. He enlisted in the Eighth Texas Cavalry, more popularly known as Terry's Texas Rangers, in Washington, Texas. On October 7, 1864, he was promoted to captain of Company K, according to fellow ranger Leonidas B. Giles, "by the bullets of the enemy which brought down his superiors." At the battle of Bentonville, North Carolina, on March 21, 1865, Mathews, as the senior regimental officer on the field, commanded the remnant of the Terry Rangers. According to ranger Henry W. Graber, Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee, fearful that Maj. Gen. Joseph A. Mower's Union corps would capture the bridge that was the only Confederate route of retreat, ordered the Eighth Texas Cavalry to hold the federal advance until the bridge could be secured. "Lieutenant," demanded Hardee, "can you hold those people in check until I can bring up the infantry and artillery?" Mathews responded, "General, we are the boys that can try! Come on!" The rangers' charge not only checked but repulsed Mower's attack and saved the Army of Tennessee from being surrounded. This was the last charge delivered by a Confederate unit east of the Mississippi River. After the battle of Bentonville, Hardee informed Mathews that the Army of Tennessee would probably be surrendered soon. Hoping the Confederacy might still be saved, he urged Mathews to withdraw with his regiment and join Gen. Richard Taylor's army at Mobile, Alabama. Mathews relayed Hardee's words to his unit, then asked each company to decide its own course of action, saying that he was too young to assume such a responsibility. Mathews married Martha W. Browning on July 4, 1867. He died on December 7, 1881, and was buried in Atkinson Cemetery, a mile southwest of Chappell Hill, Texas.


James Knox Polk Blackburn, "Reminiscences of the Terry Rangers," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 22 (July, October 1918). Thomas W. Cutrer, ed., "`We Are Stern and Resolved': The Civil War Letters of John Wesley Rabb, Terry's Texas Rangers," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 91 (October 1987). Leonidas B. Giles, Terry's Texas Rangers (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1911). H. W. Graber, The Life Record of H. W. Graber, A Terry Texas Ranger, 1861–1865 (1916; facsimile, A Terry Texas Ranger, Austin: State House, 1987). Terry's Texas Rangers Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Thomas W. Cutrer


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

Thomas W. Cutrer, "MATHEWS, JAMES F.," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed March 28, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 3, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.