Wright Augustus Stanley, frontier physician and soldier, was born in 1835 in Jefferson, Tennessee. His parents were probably the elder Wright Stanley and Mary C. McBride of Davidson, Tennessee. The future colonel migrated to Fannin County, Texas, after 1850 and established a medical practice and surgery. Stanley acquired a respectable personal estate and in 1860 married Emma Campbell in Dallas, Texas.
In June 1861 Wright Stanley raised a company from Bonham in Fannin County and served as its captain. Originally members of the eponymous Stanley Light Horse Independent Mounted Volunteers, Fourteenth Brigade, Stanley's men were mustered into Confederate service as Company H of the Ninth Texas Infantry Regiment on December 1, 1861. Stanley was promoted to major and served as one of the original field officers of the Ninth Infantry under Col. Samuel B. Maxey. During the winter of 1862 the Ninth Texas was plagued by pneumonia and measles and lost many soldiers to illness and exposure, necessitating its reorganization. Maxey was promoted to brigadier general on March 4, 1862, and Major Stanley was elected to replace him as colonel of the regiment on March 29. Stanley's transition to command does not seem to have been a smooth one, however, with one of his men recalling that "Major Stanley was elected Col. of the regiment, but the boys so nearly plaged him out his life, that he would not have them."
Although Stanley commanded the regiment for only two months, it was during his tenure that the Ninth Texas fought at the battle of Shiloh. Shiloh was Stanley's last action with the unit, and while the regiment was either forced to "withdraw for a short time" or "[flee] from the enemy," depending on the account, Stanley appears to have regrouped and, in his words, "immediately charged, routing the enemy." It was at this point, however, that Colonel Stanley's horse was shot from beneath him; Stanley sustained serious injuries and twenty-four-year-old William Hugh Young took up the charge. Although Stanley is memorialized as the Ninth Texas's commander on the Texas State Memorial at the Shiloh battlefield, Young is more often associated with the unit's charge on the first day of the battle. Young was officially elected to replace Stanley as colonel of the regiment on May 8, 1862.
Stanley presumably returned to Fannin County to recuperate. He was a member of the Constantine Masonic Lodge of Bonham for some time between 1860 and 1870. His son, Wright Augustus Stanley, Jr., was born in Bonham on July 31, 1865. Following this event, however, the family likely moved on and perhaps returned to the Dallas area, which was home to Stanley's wife Emma. Wright Stanley, Jr., eventually became a notable figure in the Dallas business community and raised five daughters with his wife Mattie Huguley. The precise date and place of the death of Wright A. Stanley, Sr., is unknown.