Brigadier-General James Edward Rains, one of the many civilians who rose to high military command during the great war between the States, was born in Nashville, Tenn., in April, 1833. He was graduated at Yale in 1854, and then studied law. He became city attorney at Nashville in 1858, and attorney-general for his judicial district in 1860. In politics he was a Whig, and was for some time editor of the Daily Republican Banner. When the summons to war came, he enlisted in the Confederate army as a private, but was elected colonel of the Eleventh Tennessee infantry and commissioned May 10, 1861. The greater part of his service was in east Tennessee. During the winter of 1861-62 he commanded the garrison at Cumberland Gap. This position he held as long as it was possible to do so, repulsing several attempts of the enemy upon his lines. It was not until the 18th of June, 1862, that the Federals turned his position and rendered it untenable. Had this occurred earlier, east Tennessee would have been completely lost to the Confederates in 1862. But the forces which Kirby Smith was now gathering about Knoxville, in addition to those in the neighborhood of Cumberland Gap, made the Union occupation of that post almost a barren victory. When, in August, Smith advanced into Kentucky, he left Gen. Carter L. Stevenson with a strong division to operate against the Union general, Morgan, who was holding the gap with about 9,000 men. Colonel Rains commanded a brigade in Stevenson's division, and so efficient was his work that his name frequently appeared in both the Confederate and Union reports. Kirby Smith's success in Kentucky, and the steady pressure brought to bear upon Morgan by the Confederates, at last forced the Union commander to abandon Cumberland Gap and retreat through eastern Kentucky to the Ohio river. The efficient service rendered by Colonel Rains in all these movements was rewarded by a brigadier-general's commission, November 4, 1862. When Bragg was concentrating his army at Murfreesboro (November, 1862), after the return from the Kentucky campaign, the brigade of General Rains, composed of Stovall's and J. T. Smith's Georgia battalions, R. B. Vance's North Carolina regiment and the Eleventh Tennessee under Colonel Gordon, was ordered to that point and assigned to the division of General McCown, serving in Hardee's corps. In the brilliant charges made by this corps in the battle of December 31, 1862, by which the whole Federal right was routed and tent back upon the center, with immense loss in killed, wounded, prisoners and guns, McCown's division bore an illustrious part. But, as in all great battles is to be expected, the division lost many brave men and gallant officers. Among the killed was Brigadier-General Rains, who fell shot through the heart as he was advancing with His men against a Federal battery. He left to his family, to his native State and to the South the precious legacy of a noble name.
SOURCE: James D. Porter, Confederate Military History, Volume VIII. Tennessee, p. 329-31