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Major James W. Thomson was born October 28th, 1843, in Jefferson county, Va. He was the son of John A. and Mary E. Thomson. His father was a man of bright intellect, polished by assiduous culture, of intense individuality in his opinions, and with a noble and chivalric spirit. His mother was a daughter of Beverley R. Scott, of Bedford county, Va., who was an officer with the rank of lieutenant, during the war of 1812. During the battle of New Orleans, the ship to which Lieutenant Scott was attached was blown up, and he escaped by swimming ashore. To him belonged the honor of capturing the celebrated pirate, La Fitte. From such stock Major Thomson came, and in him a noble ancestry warranted the expectation of a noble life.

His martial spirit was perhaps first displayed at Harper's Ferry, during the John Brown raid in 1859. In company with his father, he took part in the fight that occurred there between the citizens and the insurrectionists. As they came near the engine house which Brown was holding, Dr. Thomson, his father, directed him to shoot from under cover. ‘No sir,’ replied the boy, ‘No dodging for me; I go right along with the rest.’ Early manifesting a taste for military life, James Thomson was entered as a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute the year before the breaking out of the war, and here the reports of the impending conflict first reached him. He was of course eager for the fray, and soon left school and entered the army, being assigned to duty at first as drill master in the army of the Shenandoah. His first lesson in war was learned under that matchless captain of the art, Stonewall Jackson. For it was on the classic field of Manassas, while acting as aid to Jackson, that he received his baptism of fire, and caught the soldier's inspiration from the example of his great commander.

In the fall of 1861, at the organization of Chew's Battery, he was elected a lieutenant, and I need hardly add that for the next three years he bore no small part in all the daring achievements of that historic command. There is not space to mention even the times and places of their numerous actions. Almost from the beginning of the war to its close, it was constantly in the field. No true history of Jackson's Valley Campaign can be written without giving much space to the effective work done by this battery under its boy captain, Roger Preston Chew. It was always at the breach, making the common shot do bloody work upon the foe.

The fiery dash of Thomson was tempered by the audacious coolness

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