James Alexander Ware graduated from the University of Virginia in 1853 and in 1856 married Jane Morton Smith. Shortly thereafter moved to Texas where her family was already established. When the War came, James joined the Confederate Army and served as a Captain in the 1st Texas Cavalry Regiment. He was wounded in the fall of 1863 and returned home to recuperate. When he recovered , he was appointed to command Fort Duncan at Eagle Pass, Texas on the Texas Mexico border.
Captain Ware found the garrison at Fort Duncan to consist of only 34 men most of them poorly armed, To augment his force he had, in Eagle Pass, a small home guard of older men and young boys.
Piedras Negras, Mexico lies across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass. At that time there were some 200 Americans there who were deserters, Union sympathizers or simply avoiding military service. Their leaders hatched a plan to cross the river, wipe out Fort Duncan, rob the citizens of Eagle Pass and capture a store of cotton. They were reinforced by a number of Mexican Bandits. Captain Ware got wind of the plan but didn’t know the specifics.
On the night of June 19th 1864 about 100 of the renegades crossed the river, unfurled a US flag and began their attack. Their first target was the Fort’s hospital which was defended by a small Confederate force. A fierce fight ensued, 5 defenders were wounded and the hospital fell. Ware and 4 of his men had attempted to aid the hospital defenders, but were too late. Captain Ware then sent couriers to town to determine the situation there, but the couriers did not return. Next he attempted to scout the town himself, was briefly surrounded, but fought his way out. He received word that the town had fallen; this later proved to be false. He gathered his men and prepared to defend the Quartermaster building, his strong point. He also gave orders for the home guard to engage the enemy and then fall back to join them. What he faced was a night fire fight with no fixed lines; a very tough situation. The enemy attacked in force, but the Confederates fought back fiercely and the enemy was repulsed. They were weakened in spirit by their failure to achieve an easy victory, stripped their prisoners of their valuables and retreated across the river. After this threat, Ft. Duncan was reinforced and the renegades kept to their side of the river.
At war’s end, James went to Mexico and accepted a commission from Emperor Maximilian. He was joined by his family. After Maximillian’s fall they retuned to Texas and James was appointed Judge of the 24th Judicial District. He lived out his life in Eagle Pass, the town he had defended.