Henry Thompson Douglas

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.Henry Thompson Dou.Henry Thompson Douglas, civil engineer, colonel of engineers. Confederate States army, and brigadier-general. United States army, was born at "Cherry Hall," James City county, Virginia, September 15, 1838. His father was William Robert Christian Douglas, of Kaimes, New Kent county, who was graduated with the degree of M. A. from William and Mary College, Virginia. His mother was Lucy Ann (Hankins) Douglas, who was born at "Cherry Hall," James City county, Virginia, the daughter of William Hankins of "Cherry Hall." The grand-father of General Henry Thompson Douglas was William Douglas of Kaimes, and his great-grandfather, Robert Christian, of Providence Forge and Cedar Grove in New Kent county, Virginia. Beverly Brown Douglas, an uncle of General Douglas, was graduated from William and Mary College and attended Harvard College, and with his brothers William and John were students at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. The Virginia Douglases spring from the Scottish family of Douglas, which is described by its historians as the most powerful and widely celebrated clan that Scotland ever produced. The name of the family was assumed from lands on the small river Douglas, in Lanarkshire, where William of Douglas was established as early as 1175. As in the case of several other Scottish families, an attempt has been made to ascribe the family a Norman-French origin, but there is no question that the name, like the family, is Gaelic, being derived from the words "duf-glas" or "du-glas," meaning "dark grey" from the color of the waters. The race of Douglas, greatly celebrated for its romantic career, may well be accounted an historic family, for as Hume, the annalist of the house, has it:

So many, so good, as of the Douglases have been,
Of one surname was ne'er in Scotland seen.

The family rose into power under King Robert Bruce, of whom "the good lord James of Douglas" was the most distinguished adherent, but suffered a partial eclipse when the ninth earl, James, rebelled against King James II. The earls of Angus however partly restored the ancestral prominence of the house, which has always continued to be one of the most important in Scotland. William Douglas, the first of the family who appears on record, was so called, doubtless, from the wild pastoral dale with its river of the name which he possessed. He is found witnessing charters by the king and bishop of Glasgow between 1175 and 1213. He was either the brother or brother-in-law of Sir Freskin of Murray, and had six sons, of whom Archibald or Erkenbald was the heir, and Brice. a monk of Kelso, rose to be prior of Lesmahago (a dependency of Kelso on the outskirts of Douglasdale), and in 1203 was preferred to the bishopric of Murray. He owed this promotion, no doubt, to the influence of his kinsmen, the Murrays, and it contributed not a little to the rising fortunes of his house. He was followed beyond the Spey by four brothers, of whom one became sheriff of Elgin ; another became a canon of Murray; and a third, who had been a monk of Kelso, seems to have became archbishop of Murray. A fourth brother, who had been a Parson of Douglas, appears to have become Dean of Murray.

The armorial bearings of one branch of the Douglas family are thus heraldically described : "Arms — Argent a man's heart gules ensigned with an imperial crown proper ; on a chief azure three stars of the first,"which translated means upon a field of silver a man's heart red, beneath an imperial crown in its proper colors ; upon a dividing line upon a blue ground three stars of silver. The original arms of the Douglas family were simply three silver stars on a blue field. The origin of this is unknown. The origin and significance of the crowned heart is better known ; it was assumed by the family as a memorial of the fate of the Good Sir James of Douglas, who perished in Spain in 1330, while on a journey to the Holy Land, with the heart of his sovereign, Robert Bruce. The dying king had bequeathed his heart to the Good Sir James, who had been his greatest captain, with the request that he would carry it to Jerusalem and there bury it before the High Altar. It had been stated that Sir James died on his way to the Holy Land and that he had the heart with him at that time encased in a silver box, but Hume the historian of the family distinctly states that the errand had been accomplished and that the knight was on his return to Scotland. "He carried with him to Jerusalem the king's heart, embalmed and put in a box of gold which he solemnly buried before the High Altar there, and this is the reason that the Douglas bear the crowned heart in their arms ever since." The name, formerly Douglas, is now spelled in many branches with an additional "s," as Douglass. The family and the name, assuming that all the Douglases belong to the Scotch family, is well known in America, and distinct families have attained prominence in Virginia, in New England and in Pennsylvania.

Henry Thompson Douglas received his preliminary education in private schools in New Kent county, and at Williamsburg, Virginia. After leaving school he entered on field work as a civil engineer, continuing till 1861, when he entered the Confederate States army in the Engineer Corps. In 1S83 he became connected with the Baltimore and C~)hio Railroad as chief engineer and continued as such until 1896. He was engineer commissioner of the city of Baltimore, making a topographical survey of that city. In 1898 he was commissioned brigadier-general of the United States army, going to Cuba with the Seventh Army Corps, commanded by Major General Fitzhugh Lee. In 1900 he came to New York City and entered the service of the New York Rajiid Transit Railroad as engineer, which position he has held ever since.

General Douglas has seen much military service. He entered the service of the Confederate army as lieutenant of engineers in 1S61 on the staff of General John Bankhead Magruder, commanding the Army of the Peninsula. He was chief engineer of A. P. Hill's division of the Army of Northern Virginia during the seven days battles ? round Richmond, and was promoted captain and major of engineers. He was appointed by General Robert E. Lee a member of a board of engineers, with Lieutenant-Colonels Collins and William Proctor Smith of the Corps of Engineers, his rank being that of a major, assigned to locate the "intermediate" line for the defence of Richmond. Virginia. \\'hen the plans were completed and approved by General Lee, the line of defence was ordered to be constructed and Major Douglas was placed in charge of this work where he remained for about a year. Later he was promoted lieutenant-colonel of engineers, and assigned as chief engineer of the Trans-Mississippi Department under General E. Kirby Smith. He was then promoted colonel of engineers and remained with General Smith until the close of the war. After the return of peace Colonel Douglas went with Colonel Andrew Talcott to Mexico, and was engaged in constructing the railroad from Vera Cruz to the city of Mexico, remaining there about two years. Returning to the United States, he assisted in the construction of a railroad from Louisville, Kentucky, to Cincinnati, Ohio. After its completion General Douglas was made its chief engineer. Afterwards he accepted a position on the Texas Pacific Railroad, later called the Transcontinental Railroad. Subsequently he was a member of the Corps of Engineers with Major Henry D. Whitcomb, which constructed the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, from Huntingdon to Kanawha Falls. He then joined Colonel T. M. R. Talcott on the Richmond & Danville Railroad, and was afterward chief engineer and superintendent of the road from Richmond to West Point, Virginia, and chief engineer of the Richmond & Danville Railroad until 1883. General Douglas has written various papers on engineering. He wrote a sketch of the life of General Magruder, and one also of General John B. Hood of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The brothers and sisters of General Douglas were:
i. Dr. William Walter Douglas, of Warsaw. Richmond county, Virginia, who was a graduate of William and Mary College and of the Richmond Medical College. He served in the Confederate army as a surgeon in General Jackson's and General Stuart's corps.
2. John Beverly, who died when young.
3. James Malcolm, of Baltimore, Maryland, an engineer.
4. Robert Bruce, lawyer, deceased.
5. Elizabeth }., deceased, married Walter Weir, of Manassas, Virginia.
6. Mary, deceased, maried Edward Spotswood Pollard, of Zoar, King William county, Virginia.
7. Lucy, deceased, who married Colonel James Johnson, of King William county, Virginia.

General Douglas found among his papers an interesting bit of paper, evidently torn from a note book, on which was written in the handwriting of General Robert E. Lee, an order to General Joseph E. Johnston, then commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, directing Captain Henry Thompson Douglas of the Corps of Engineers then on the staff of General Magruder, to report to General Lee at Richmond, Virginia, and endorsed in their own handwriting by Generals Joseph E. Johnston and J. B. Magruder. This paper has been filed in the Confederate Museum at Richmond, Virginia. On reporting to General Lee he was ordered to locate and construct the defences of Chafin's Blufif, on the north side of the James river about half a mile below Drury's BluiT. He constructed these defences, mounting eight guns of the largest calibre, bearing upon the river, and forming a part of the defences of Richmond, Virginia.

Henry T. Douglas married. June 9, 1868, Anne Matilda, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1852, daughter of Edward Robbins, of Philadelphia. r>

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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024