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 neighbor 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 was married twice, first on March 24, 1864, to Sallie Susan White, who died on August 22, 1872, and subsequently to Alice Earle Smith, on July 7, 1874. Four children were born to the first marriage and six to the second. Douglas died on November 27, 1901, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery at Tyler. His wife died on June 28, 1955, and is buried beside him.