James Campbell Bates, doctor and Confederate army officer, was born on May 14, 1837, in Overton County, Tennessee, the son of Nancy (McDonald) Bates. His father died when he was three years old, prompting Bates, his mother, and an older sister to move to Henderson, Rusk County, Texas, to be closer to his mother’s family and siblings. In 1856 they moved to Paris, Texas, where Bates attended local schools. Determined to continue his education, Bates returned to Tennessee to attend Bethel College and then later graduated from the University of Virginia.
In 1860 Bates resided in Paris with his mother, his sister Adela and her husband William Bramlette, their children, three slaves, and two boarders. Bates’s intelligent bearing and responsible demeanor encouraged the United States government to name him a census marshal for Lamar County. As Bates recorded the census for 1860, the secessionist movement in Texas gained momentum, and by February 1861, secessionists successfully convinced Texans to leave the United States and join the Confederacy. When the war started, volunteer companies of soldiers organized and scores of men joined. In North Texas, the Ninth Texas Cavalry was officially mustered into service on October 14, 1861. The Ninth’s organizer and first commander was Clarksville merchant William B. Sims, and some of the first action they saw was in Indian Territory.
When James Bates joined the Ninth Cavalry, he was elected third lieutenant of Company H. He earned the respect of his fellow cavalrymen and quickly rose in the ranks. He continued to earn high accolades from the other soldiers, especially after he rescued a wounded man while the company was still under fire at the battle of Chusto-Talasah in December 1861. In spite of the setback at the battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas, Bates was elected first lieutenant on March 26, 1862. On May 10, 1862, he accepted the rank of captain.
By 1864 Bates and his company had made their way from Texas to Georgia. On May 21, the Ninth Cavalry was protecting bridge crossings north of Allatoona, Georgia, on the Etowah River when they came under heavy fire. Although the Ninth repelled the attack, Bates was severely wounded and his men feared for his life. A minié ball hit him in his mouth knocking out some teeth, splitting his tongue, and breaking his jaw. His recuperation took months, but he was determined to return to the fight, and on April 2, 1865, he returned to his camp with his men. He was now a lieutenant colonel, having been elected during his recuperation on September 2, 1864.
The war officially ended seven days later. Bates went home to Paris in late 1865. He farmed, and then in 1866 decided to go back to school to become a doctor. He graduated from the University of Virginia and then studied in New York’s Bellevue Hospital. In 1867 he married longtime sweetheart Thirmuthis “Mootie” Johnson, and they had seven children.
The war took its toll on Bates’s health. He was never a well man after his return home, and even after moving to Palo Pinto County for a change of climate, his health continued to deteriorate. He and his family moved back to Paris in 1887, and Bates died on August 11, 1891. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Paris.