John McCausland

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John McCausland, Jr.
Born(1836-09-13)September 13, 1836
St Louis, Missouri, U.S.
DiedJanuary 22, 1927(1927-01-22) (aged 90)
Point Pleasant, West Virginia, U.S.
Allegiance Confederate States of America
Service/branch Confederate States Army
Years of service1861–1865
RankBrigadier general
Commands held 36th Virginia Infantry
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War
SignatureSignature of Gen. John McCausland.png

John McCausland, Jr. (September 13, 1836 – January 22, 1927) was a brigadier general in the Confederate army, famous for the ransom of Hagerstown, Maryland, and the razing of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, during the American Civil War.

Early life and education[edit]

McCausland was born in St. Louis, Missouri on September 13, 1836, the son of an immigrant from Ireland.[1][2] Orphaned in 1843, he lived first with his grandmother until her death, then he and his brother went to live with his aunt Jane Smith near Point Pleasant, Virginia, now in Mason County, West Virginia.[3][4][5] McCausland attended the Buffalo Academy in Putnam County,[6] Then he traveled to Harrisonburg, Virginia, studied engineering at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and graduated with first honors in the class of 1857.[1] In 1858, after a year of further studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, McCausland became an assistant professor of mathematics at VMI until 1861.[1][2] In 1859 he and VMI professor Stonewall Jackson commanded a group of VMI cadets at the execution of John Brown at Charles Town for the uprising at Harpers Ferry.[7]


American Civil War[edit]

Immediately after Virginia seceded, McCausland recruited an artillery company from Rockbridge County (the 1st Rockbridge Artillery) but refused a command, instead recruiting in the Kanawha Valley at General Robert E. Lee's request.[8] On July 16, 1861, McCausland was commissioned as a colonel and placed in command of the 36th Virginia Infantry Regiment.[2][7] The regiment had been formed from the 2nd Kanawha Regiment and part of the 3rd Kanawha Regiment, which had been recruited heavily from the south-western counties of what became West Virginia during the war.[9] McCausland's regiment fought in the brigade of Brigadier General John B. Floyd in western Virginia and was transferred to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to serve in General Albert Sidney Johnston's army.[7] McCauland and his men fought at the Battle of Fort Donelson and escaped before the Confederates surrendered the fort in February 1862.[7] For the remainder of 1862 and 1863, McCausland's troops fought in the Department of Southwest Virginia.[7] There, McCausland gained the nickname "Tiger John" for his fearless partisan raids.[10]

After Confederate Brigadier General Albert Gallatin Jenkins was mortally wounded during the Union Army victory at the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain on May 9, 1864, McCausland took command of the Confederate forces in western Virginia (including the new state of West Virginia).[7] McCausland was promoted to brigadier general on May 18, 1864; Soon citizens credited him with saving Lynchburg from a raid by Union Army Major General David Hunter, who had invaded the Shenandoah Valley and burned the Virginia Military Institute as well as the house of former Virginia governor John Letcher.[11] McCausland sent units to harass the Union supply trains, as well as burned bridges and fired upon the crews sent to rebuild them, buying time for Generals Grumble Jones and John Imboden to join forces at Staunton (although Jones would die at the Battle of Piedmont on June 5) and then reinforce Lynchburg, where a train ruse about other reinforcements led Hunter to turn back.[12]

McCausland fought as a cavalry brigade commander during the Valley Campaigns of 1864, under Lieutenant General Jubal A. Early, using his 2,800 men in various configurations to raid into Maryland (often extorting large sums of money from towns by threatening to burn them) and Pennsylvania.[7] Under Early's orders, on July 30, 1864, McCausland burned the town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, after it failed to pay a $100,000 extortion demand,[13][14][15] justifying it as retaliation for the private property destroyed during Hunter's Shenandoah Valley campaign.[7] In fact, Early's orders left little room for compromise or negotiation, and bankers had removed most of the money from Chambersburg days earlier. Plus despite Union General Darius Couch's early morning telegrams about the oncoming raiders, General William Averell's cavalry did not arrive from nearby Greencastle until after 2p.m., only to find still-burning ruins, displaced civilians and a trail of miscellaneous merchandise looted, then dropped by McCausland's departing raiders.[16] The Union army relentlessly pursued McCausland's cavalry, ambushing and routing them at the Battle of Moorefield on August 8.

After Early's campaign failed, McCausland rejoined the Army of Northern Virginia in the Siege of Petersburg, the Battle of Five Forks, and the Appomattox Campaign. As at Fort Donelson, McCausland refused to surrender but escaped with his cavalry from Appomattox Court House before Robert E. Lee's surrender, but withdrew to Lynchburg and disbanded his unit soon after.[2][7] He was paroled in Charleston, West Virginia, on May 22, 1865.[2][7]

Later life[edit]

After the war, McCausland spent two years in Europe and Mexico before returning to the United States.[2][7] In Mexico he was in Maximilian's military service.[17] He faced arson charges for the burning of Chambersburg, but was pardoned by President Ulysses S. Grant.[7] With part of his inheritance from his father, he purchased a tract of 6,000 acres (24 km²) 17 miles from Point Pleasant in Mason County, West Virginia. He also married Emmett Charlotte Hannah on October 3, 1878, and they would have four children: 3 sons and a daughter. During the next six decades, McCausland became known as a progressive farmer, draining his land using tiles from a relative's factory, and increasing his acreage. In his final years, he lived with his daughter Charlotte, his sons operating farms nearby.[18]

Death and legacy[edit]

McCausland died at his farm, "Grape Hill", in Pliny, near Point Pleasant, West Virginia, on January 22, 1927,[7] the last fully confirmed Confederate general to die.[19] McCausland is buried in the Smith family cemetery in Henderson, West Virginia.[7] Eight years after his death, McCausland's son, Sam McCausland, shot and killed World War I Medal of Honor recipient Chester H. West, who was working for Sam as a farmhand, over what may have been a fight over Gen. John McCausland's gun. Sam was convicted of second-degree murder.[20]

Much of General McCausland's former farm was acquired by the State of West Virginia in 1981, and initially operated as John McCausland Memorial Farm. The living history museum (many of the 32 buildings moved from other areas) is now known as Smithland Farm. McCausland descendants still farm nearby. A documentary was commissioned by the West Virginia Department of Transportation as part of a mitigation to use McCausland Family property for its development of U.S. Route 35.[21] The film, The Legacy of the Land, is part of the PBS library and is told in two parts. Part one, The Legacy, explores General McCausland's Civil War history, along with that of Native Americans, the Battle of Point Pleasant, and other notable figures from the Kanawha Valley and part two, The Land, meets up with the modern day McCauslands and other farmers in the region to discuss the history and its impact upon their agricultural pursuits. It is narrated by actor Chris Sarandon, who is also from West Virginia.[22]

The tiling method used by Gen. McCausland was abandoned in another part of the farm which became the McClintic Wildlife Management Area.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959. ISBN 978-0-8071-0823-9. p. 197.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-8047-3641-1. p. 371.
  3. ^ J. L. Scott, 36th Virginia Infantry (Lynchburg, H.E. Howard Inc. Virginia Regimental History Series, 1st edition 1987) p. 42
  4. ^ Sullivan, Ken, ed. The West Virginia Encyclopedia, Charleston, WV: The West Virginia Humanities Council, 2006. ISBN 978-0-9778498-0-2. p. 463.
  5. ^ According to the 1850 census, John and his 2-year elder brother Robert also lived with Irish born steamboat captain Alexander McCausland (43 years old) in Jane Smith's household. See 1850 U.S. Federal census for District 38, Mason County, Virginia p. 153 of 163. Neither McCausland nor Smith owned slaves in the corresponding slave census
  6. ^ "E-WV | Buffalo Academy".
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Warner, 1959, p. 198.
  8. ^ Scott p. 42
  9. ^ Linger, James Carter, Confederate Military Units of West Virginia, Privately Published, 2002, pps. 30-31
  10. ^ Edward L. Ayers, The Thin Light of Freedom, W.W. Norton, 2017, pps. 204-205
  11. ^ Scott p.42
  12. ^ Ayers pp. 156-157, 168-169
  13. ^ "Chambersburg War Damages". 1866-03-19. Archived from the original on February 10, 2015. Retrieved 2015-05-05.
  14. ^ "Franklin County: "The Burning of Chambersburg,"". 1870-08-27. Archived from the original on 2007-07-13. Retrieved 2007-09-21.
  15. ^ Davis, Jefferson (1990) [1881, published by D. Appleton and Company]. Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Volume II). New York: Da Capo Press. pp. 532–533. ISBN 0-306-80418-2.
  16. ^ Ayers pp. 204-216
  17. ^ "Milestones: Feb. 7, 1927". Time. 1927-02-07. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2023-01-19.
  18. ^ Scott p. 43.
  19. ^ Eicher, 2001, pp. 371, 609. Felix Huston Robertson is often cited as the longest surviving general, dying on April 20, 1928, but his nomination for brigadier general was rejected by the Confederate Senate in February 1865. Warner, 1959, p. 260, lists Robertson as a Confederate general and states that he was the last Confederate general to die, notwithstanding that Warner also states that Robertson's July 26, 1864 appointment as brigadier general was rejected by the Confederate Senate on February 22, 1865.
  20. ^ "E-WV | Chester West".
  21. ^[bare URL PDF]
  22. ^ "The Legacy of the Land | PBS". PBS.


  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-8047-3641-1.
  • Linger, James Carter, Confederate Military Units of West Virginia, Privately Published, 2002.
  • Sifakis, Stewart. Who Was Who in the Civil War. New York: Facts On File, 1988. ISBN 978-0-8160-1055-4.
  • Sullivan, Ken, ed. The West Virginia Encyclopedia, Charleston, WV: The West Virginia Humanities Council, 2006. ISBN 978-0-9778498-0-2.
  • Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959. ISBN 978-0-8071-0823-9.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cooling, Benjamin Franklin. Jubal Early's Raid on Washington, 1864. Baltimore: Nautical & Aviation Publishing Company of America, 1989. ISBN 0-933852-86-X.
  • Gallagher, Gary W., ed. The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864. Military Campaigns of the Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-8078-3005-5.
  • Haselberger, Fritz, Confederate Retaliation, McCausland's 1864 Raid, Burd Street Press, Shippensburg, PA, 2000.
  • Gallagher, Gary W., ed. Struggle for the Shenandoah: Essays on the 1864 Valley Campaign. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-87338-429-6.
  • Phillips, David L., Tiger John, The Rebel Who Burned Chambersburg, Gauley Mount Press, Leesburg, VA, 1993.

External links[edit]