Burns, James Randolph (1822–1892)

By: Matthew K. Hamilton

Type: Biography

Published: March 24, 2011

Updated: July 7, 2011

James Randolph Burns, Confederate officer and assistant United States district attorney, was born on April 9, 1822, in South Carolina to James and Mary Burns. James’s father was a judge, and the younger Burns followed his father in that profession. By 1860 Burns resided in La Grange, Fayette County, Texas.

Following the secession of Texas from the United States, Burns was charged with forming a cavalry battalion, which on October 23, 1863, was consolidated with James B. Likens cavalry battalion and designated the Thirty-fifth Texas Cavalry (Likens's) Regiment. Burns was elected and appointed lieutenant colonel of the regiment on the same day it was organized.

The Thirty-fifth Texas Cavalry served in the lower Rio Grande Valley until March 1864, when it was dispatched to Louisiana under the command of the Trans-Mississippi Department. The Thirty-fifth participated in a number of engagements and skirmishes during its existence, including the battle of Sabine Pass in 1863 and operations against Nathaniel Banks's Red River campaign in January 1864. The regiment served in reserve at the battle of Mansfield and took part in actions near Pleasant Hill. In February of 1865 the regiment was pulled back to Beaumont, Texas, and remained there until the end of the war. In March 1865 the regiment was dismounted and was included in the surrender of Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi Department at Galveston on June 2, 1865.

After the war, Burns returned to La Grange and took up a vocation of law. Between 1870 and 1880, he moved his family to Galveston and by 1880 had been elected as a United States assistant district attorney. By 1890 Burns was a partner in a Houston law firm, Burns & Burns, with his second eldest son Eldon. He died in Galveston April 10, 1892, and is buried in La Grange’s Old City Cemetery.

James R. Burns married Adeline Thomas of Missouri. James and Adeline had five children: Edmond Pemperton, Eldon, Uvalde, Waller T., and Sam Houston. Waller T. Burns would go on to be appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to the federal bench as a federal district judge of the Southern District. Although one unofficial family history contends that James R. Burns died in 1893, the exact date is unknown.

Texas Bar Association, Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Annual Session held at Wichita Falls, July 3, 4 and 5, 1918, and Constitution and By-Laws of the Association, List of Members, Officers and Committees (S. I.: 1918).

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges
  • Lawyers
  • Criminal Law and District Attorneys
  • Military
  • Confederate Military
  • Regimental and Staff Officers
  • Soldiers
Time Periods:
  • Civil War
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Galveston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Matthew K. Hamilton, “Burns, James Randolph,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/burns-james-randolph.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 24, 2011
July 7, 2011

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