Josephus Somerville Irvine, son of Josephus and Jane (Patton) Irvine, was born in Lawrence County, Tennessee, on August 25, 1819. He was one of four brothers who served in the Texas army in 1835–36, another of whom was Robert Boyd Irvine. The Irvines moved from Tennessee to Texas in 1830, settled first near Milam, and moved four years later to a farm four miles south of San Augustine. In the fall of 1835 Irvine enlisted in Capt. Henry W. Augustine's company and participated in the siege of Bexar. He again volunteered for the Texas army in March 1836 and served in a company from Sabine County under Capt. Benjamin Franklin Bryant. With Col. Sidney Sherman's Second Regiment he fought in the battle of San Jacinto; it is possible that he was the youngest Texas soldier in that battle. Irvine was discharged about May 1 but enlisted a third time on July 4, 1836, and served for three months in Capt. William Scurlock's company from San Augustine.
He served as tax assessor and collector of Newton County from 1856 to 1860, when the census evaluated his property at $5,000; the 1861 tax roll shows that he owned one slave. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Irvine raised and was captain of a company that became Company C of James B. Likens's battalion of Texas Volunteers. After a reorganization of the battalion, it was designated the Eleventh or Spaight's (see SPAIGHT, ASHLEY W.) Battalion of Texas Volunteers, and Irvine was elected major. He led his troops in the battle of Fordoche or Stirling's Plantation in southern Louisiana on September 29, 1863, where his son, James Patton Irvine, was killed. Ill with yellow fever, Irvine resigned his commission in December 1864.
He married Nancy McMahon in 1838; they had eleven children. Irvine was a Mason and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He died on May 17, 1876, and was buried at Wilson's Chapel, Newton County. A state marker was erected on his grave in 1963.