James Harris McReynolds, major in the Ninth Texas Infantry Regiment, was born on March 22, 1829, in Hardeman, Tennessee, to Ann (Minter) McReynolds and James Harris McReynolds, Sr. The family lived in Alabama before James, Jr. was born; in Tennessee in 1830; in Marshall County, Mississippi, in 1840; and finally settled in Cass County, Texas, by 1850. The relocation proved profitable for the family as their number of slaves increased each decennial—from thirteen in Tennessee to thirty-three in Texas in 1850—when James McReynolds, Sr., boasted a real estate value of $11,980.
Once settled in the Lone Star State, the family used their wealth to help establish Chappell Hill College in Titus County, which was chartered on February 7, 1850. James McReynolds, Sr., was a member of the first thirteen-man board of trustees. Although James, Jr., and two of his siblings are listed as students in the census of 1850, whether they went to Chapel Hill College when it officially opened in 1852 is uncertain. Unfortunately, the school did not survive more than twenty years and closed in 1869 due to lack of students and funds.
Soon after Texas voted for secession, James H. McReynolds, Jr., enlisted for military service in Titus County in Company D, which joined with nine other companies from North and Northeast Texas to form the Ninth Texas Infantry under Samuel Bell Maxey. When these units organized at Camp Rusk in Lamar County in late October 1861, William E. Beeson, captain of Company D, was promoted to lieutenant colonel, and James H. McReynolds was elected captain to replace him. The 1,120 men that made up the Ninth Texas Infantry were officially mustered into the Confederate Army on December 1, 1861, and one month later on January 1, 1862, left for combat.
Although the first combat the Ninth saw was at Shiloh, due to sickness and two companies being detached, only 225 officers and men of the regiment fought. After the battle, the Ninth was reorganized, and every position of leadership, from the field officers to the company captains, changed, excluding James H. McReynolds. The Ninth was present for battle at Corinth, Richmond, Perryville, Murfreesboro, Vicksburg, Jackson, and Chickamauga, suffering especially heavy losses at Murfreesboro and Chickamauga. Consequently, the regiment was forced to reorganize on April 5, 1864, at which time James McReynolds was promoted to major.
Following the reorganization, the Ninth participated in every major battle of the Atlanta campaign, including Jonesboro and Lovejoy's Station, and lost one-third of the men left in the regiment. Once again, losses necessitated restructuring, and because regiment commander William Hugh Young was promoted to lead the brigade, McReynolds was put in command of the Ninth. In the very next engagement, at the battle of Allatoona in Georgia on October 5, 1864, of the 101 men who participated from the regiment, forty-three were either killed or wounded, with Major McReynolds falling in the latter category. After this, the Ninth took part at the battle of Nashville in December 1864 and the defense at Spanish Fort, Mobile, in April 1865 before surrendering at Meridian, Mississippi, on May 4. When the regiment was paroled on May 11, 1865, it was again under the command of Maj. James McReynolds, one of the 8 officers and 79 enlisted men remaining of the original 1,120.
After the war, James McReynolds moved to Jefferson, Texas, in Marion County. During the 1850s his father had purchased more than 4,000 acres throughout Cass and Marion counties, which he had left to his wife Ann when he died in 1859, and she then bequeathed the land to their children when she died in 1865. James, Jr., continued his father's acquisition of land in the same counties, and he purchased property in Harrison County and present-day Cass County. He also purchased several town lots in the city of Jefferson. By 1891 he owned more than $10,000 in property alone, though his occupation was listed as merchant.
Possibly because of his business ventures, James H. McReynolds did not marry until January 20, 1869, when he and Mary Thomas Dysart were wed in Red River County. Their first two children, a daughter born in 1870 and a son in 1873, died eleven and two months after birth, respectively. However, the next three children, two sons named Oliver and Harris and a daughter named Halley, lived to adulthood. James H. McReynolds lived in Jefferson until his death on January 31, 1891, when he was described as one of the city's "oldest and wealthiest citizens." He is now buried at Daingerfield City Cemetery, Morris County, along with both of his parents, three brothers and their wives, several nieces and nephews, and a son and daughter.