James H. Bridgewater was born in 1835 in Virginia. He moved to Lincoln County, Kentucky in the 1850s. Bridgewater enrolled as a Second Lieutenant in Company F of the Third Kentucky Volunteer Infantry on July 20, 1861. He formed Bridgewater Scouts Kentucky State Guard Company with the rank of Captain on November 10, 1863. This Company was raised as an Independent Company of Scouts attached to the Secret Service. Beginning June 1, 1864, this Company became Company A of the Hall’s Gap Battalion. Bridgewater was promoted Major and commanded the Battalion from March 1, 1865 until its muster out on July 27, 1865.
Bridgewater joined the Lincoln Masonic Lodge Number 60 in September 1861. Also, a letter to Federal authorities dated in January 1863 was signed by Bridgewater as "Chief of Police, Stanford, Kentucky."
Although reports and correspondences found in The Official Records speak glowingly of Bridgewater’s prowess as a guerilla hunter and source of intelligence, he became a controversial figure among some local citizens. Numerous citizens complained of the Scouts taking horses, guns and food while in pursuit of confederate guerrillas. Citizens also complained that he encouraged their slaves to run away.
After the war, Bridgewater ran unsuccessfully for the state House of Representatives and went to work for the Freedman's Bureau. Bridgewater went to Louisville in May 1867 to turn in a list of "regulators" in the area who were allegedly terrorizing the former slaves and Union men. On July 17, 1867, while in a saloon in downtown Stanford, a group of men murdered Bridgewater. The men were acquitted the following week in a trial in which no witnesses for the prosecution showed up to testify.
Bridgewater was buried with full Masonic Rites in the Logan's Creek Cemetery in Lincoln County. Among those who took part in the service was Thomas W. Napier, who had served as a lieutenant colonel in the confederate 6th Kentucky Cavalry and was a Lodge brother of Bridgewater.