James was born on the 16th of November, 1839 in Langhash, Ireland and he enlisted in the Marine Corps in Philadelphia on the 31st of July, 1869. It was his actions on the 11th of June, 1871 that would earn him the Medal of Honor. The citation reads:
On board the USS Benicia, attack on and the capture of the Korean Forts June 11, 1871, for seeking out and killing the commanding officer of the Korean Forces.
James continued to serve in the Marine Corps until his retirement on the 22nd of August, 1893. James Dougherty died on the 25th of November, 1897 at the age of 58 and is buried in the Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY; section 6, grave 12374.