A Civil War Biography

James Webb Throckmorton

Throckmorton was born 1 February 1825 in Sparta, Tennessee. In 1836 Throckmorton's father moved the family and his medical practice to Fayetteville, Arkansas. Shortly thereafter Throckmorton's mother died. His father remarried in 1840. The following year Dr. Throckmorton visited Texas and purchased land near what is now Melissa, Texas and moved his family there. Dr. Throckmorton died less than a year later. After making sure the family was settled in their new home, Throckmorton went to Princeton, Kentucky to study medicine with his uncle. At the outbreak of the Mexican War, Throckmorton returned to Texas and in February 1847 volunteered as a private. Poor health, probably the first signs of kidney disease, limited his active military career and he served less than 3 months in the field. He was reassigned as a surgeon's assistant but when his health did not improve he was given a medical discharge on 8 June 1847. In 1848, Throckmorton, along with his new bride, built a house near McKinney, Texas and Throckmorton began a medical practice. He invested in real estate, read the law, promoted education, and participated in church affairs becoming a prominent member of the community. Although successful, because he found the practice of medicine distasteful, Throckmorton dissolved his medical practice and became a partner in a law firm. He entered politics in 1851 with his election, as a Whig, to the Texas house of representatives. After serving 3 terms in the house he was elected, as a Democrat, to the state senate and served from 1857 until 1861. He supported Sam Houston and his unionist sentiment against states'-rights Democrat Hardin R. Runnels in the gubernatorial election of 1856. Although Houston lost that election he successfully challenged Runnels in the election of 1858, the same year Throckmorton won reelection. Throckmorton became an advisor to Houston and an ally in attempting to restrain the forces within Texas that favored secession. Throckmorton attempted to organize a state Union party but the effort attracted few supporters. At the 1861 Texas Secession Convention he was one of only 7 delegates that voted against Texas leaving the Union. Advised by Throckmorton, Houston decided to retire instead of organizing a resistance group within the state even though the Lincoln administration had offered military support.

Although he fought against secession, Throckmorton was one of the first to volunteer to defend his adopted state. In May 1861 he helped organize a company of mounted riflemen. The company was assigned to secure forts on the frontier until it was dissolved that August. Throckmorton then joined the 6th Texas cavalry and fought at Chustennallah and Elkhorn and also saw action in Mississippi and Louisiana. Due to his recurring kidney problems he was forced to resign and was formally discharged on 12 September 1863 having obtained the rank of major. He served in the state senate in 1864 then in December 1864 was commissioned brigadier general of Texas's First Frontier District. In early 1865 Edmund Kirby Smith appointed Throckmorton Confederate commissioner of Indian affairs. Throckmorton successfully negotiated several treaties with the tribes along the frontier. The Indians gave Throckmorton the nickname "Old Leathercoat."

Following the war Throckmorton was elected a delegate to the 1866 Texas Constitutional Convention and became its chairman. Following the acceptance by President Andrew Johnson of the new constitution which provided only limited civil rights to African Americans, not including the right to vote or any action on the 13th Amendment, state wide elections were held in June 1866. Throckmorton entered the gubernatorial race, was easily elected, and was inaugurated on 9 August 1866. Following the passage of the Military Reconstruction Act of 1867, which placed Texas under military command, the governor clashed with the commander of the Texas subdistrict, Charles Griffin. General Griffin demanded more protection for African American Texans and that Throckmorton support the Radical Republican policies. Throckmorton refused and Griffin appealed to Philip Sheridan, the commander of the Military District of the Gulf. Sheridan ordered Throckmorton's removal from office on 30 July 1867. Sheridan also prohibited Throckmorton from holding public office. Throckmorton returned to his law practice in McKinney but did not remain quiet. He, along with two other former governors, Andrew J. Hamilton and E. M. Pease, openly attacked the policies of the Radical Republicans. They signed a public document that was circulated throughout the state attacking the policies as dangerous threats to the civil liberties of Texans. Once the General Amnesty Act of 1872 was passed Throckmorton was again eligible to hold public office. He was elected in 1874 to represent Texas's 3rd district in the US House of Representatives. He was re-elected in 1876 serving in Congress from 4 March 1875 until 3 March 1879. He ran for governor in 1878 but failed to gain his party's nomination. He was returned to the US Congress in 1882, this time representing Texas's 5th district. He served two terms from 3 March 1883 until 4 March 1887, having declined to seek reelection in 1886 due to fragile health. He briefly sought support for another run at governor in 1892 but because his health would not support the effort decided against running and retired from politics. Returning to McKinney, Throckmorton became the receiver for the Choctaw Coal and Railroad Company. During a business trip in March 1894 he suffered serious injuries from a fall. He died 12 April 1894, his fragile health unable to recover from the accident.

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