James Postell Douglas

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 neighbour 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 married twice. He married his first wife, Sallie Susan White, on March 24, 1864; she died August 22, 1872. They had four children together. He married his second wife Alice Earle Smith on July 7, 1874, and they had six children. She survived him by many years, dying June 28,1955. In 1952 she was presented with a special 75 year service pin by the president of the Cotton Belt Route, in memory of her husband's part in the founding of the line.

The Tyler branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is named in his honour, as is the Douglas Elementary School in Tyler.

Father: Alexander Douglas
Mother: Margaret Tirzah Cowsar

Marriage 2 Sallie Susan White
  • married: 24 March 1864
    died: 22 August 1872
Children: 4

Marriage 2 Alice Earle Smith

  • married: 7 July 1874
    died: 28 June 1955
Children: 6



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