Death of General John McCausland

M'Causland Is Taken By Death In His 91st Year
Brigadier General of Confederate Army Dies at Home on Kanawha River
He Had Never Surrendered
Defense of Lynchburg and Burning of Chambersburg High Lights in His Career

Charleston Daily Mail
January 24, 1927

Point Pleasant, Jan. 24
Brigadier General John McCausland, one of the two surviving Confederate army general officers is dead at his home at McCausland, near here. He died Saturday night during sleep.

Funeral services will be held tomorrow morning. Burial will be in Smith's cemetery at Henderson, near here.

The veteran whose pride was that he had never surrendered, even after Appomat[t]ox, surrendered at last to the inevitable conqueror not from any recent illness but from the encroaching weakness that in his 90 years had taken gradual toll of his naturally rugged body although it had never been able to conquer his iron will.

Recent rains had made communication difficult between here and McCausland's farm home about 20 miles up the Kanawha river, and only the meager information that he died during his sleep Saturday night was received here.

Defense of Lynchburg

Although his name is linked with incidents in several of the important conflicts of the war between the states, his share in the defense of Lynchburg and his command of the raid which culminated in the burning of Chambersburg, Pa., probably are the most widely known of the activities of the man who was called from a professorship to command troops of the state to which he gave allegiance. For in his later years General McCausland insisted vigorously that his military service was not given to the Confederate but to the army of Virginia. After the war, so bitter was the feeling over the burning of Chambersburg that he was obliged to flee from the country, and for a few years wandered about Europe and Central America before returning and taking up the rich river bottom lands above here that he developed into some of the finest farms in this region.

Born in St. Louis, in September, 1836, the son of a native of County Tyrone, Ireland, John McCausland, after the death of his parents in 1850 was taken into the family of an uncle who was a river boat captain, and in an academy at Buffalo, W. Va., he prepared for Virginia Military Institute. After four years as a student in V. M. I. he was graduated, at the head of his class, in 1857 and later was assistant professor of math[e]matics there for two years. Among his experiences there he delighted in recalling that he marched the cadet corps of the institute to Charles Town to act as guards around the scaffold when John Brown was hanged for treason.

From his position at Virginia Military Institute where he was assistant under "Stonewall" Jackson, he was called to mobilizing Confederate forces in the Kanawha valley, in what is now West Virginia. He organized a force of riflemen in the vicinity of Charleston and later an artillery battery here. Subsequently, with headquarters at Princeton, he participated in guarding the Virginia-Tennessee railroad.

Escaped On Gunboat

Long before his elevation to the rank of a general officer McCausland's dashing tactics had been in evidence, beleaguered forces defending Fort Donelson became inevitable in February, 1862. Leading a sortie from the fort, McCausland seized a gunboat and with it succeeded in getting more than half of the Virginia troops across the Cumberland river and escaping the necessity of surrender.

Death in battle of General Albert Gallatin Jenkins brought McCausland into command of his brigade and on May 18, 1864, he was given his commission as a brigadier general. It was just one month f rom that date that his brilliant cavalry demonstration deflected the drive of General Hunter's forces toward Lynchburg, Va., turning them back until his superior, General Early could occupy the city. Of General McCausland's cherished memories of the war the place of honor was given to the sword he received as an expression of gratitude for this service, inscribed "The citizens of Lynchburg to Gen. John McCausland, June 18, 1864."

Little more than a month later McCausland himself, as senior officer in command of two cavalry brigades that carried on a raid into Pennsylvania in retaliation for Hunter's incursion in Virginia, gave the order for the burning of Chambersburg. For long after the war he was target for bitter criticism for this act, but General Early, under whose orders he acted, came to his defense in letters accepting full responsibility. Chambersburg as burned after a demand had been made on the city for $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in paper money, to recompense victims of Hunter's raid, in which a portion of McCausland's old school, Virginia Military Institute, had been destroyed. The demand was made with the threat that otherwise the city would be burned, and when the residents after declaring they could not produce that sum, appeared to General McCausland to be making no effort to meet his demand, he ordered the torch applied.

Refused to Surrender

At Appomat[t]ox, McCausland for a second time refused to surrender. With his command next to General Mulford on a hill above the town, McCausland heard from General Fitzhugh Lee the word "Uncle Bobby has surrendered."

"Let's get out of here," McCausland said to Mulford, and making their way to Lynchburg they disbanded their forces there. Returning to this section, General McCausland was warned that officers were awaiting him here with a warrant because of the Chambersburg affair, and leaving the boat on which they expected to meet him he made his way to Canada, thence to England France and to Mexico.

After an exile of two years, General McCausland returned here and a few years latter acquired the farm property above the river bank above here where he has lived since that time. Draining the wet land by putting in many feet of tile, and building a large home from stone and wood on his own property General McCausland developed the property of about 6,000 acres, and in recent years has divided it into three farms, each of from 1,200 to 1,500 acres. With his daughter, Charlotte he lived in the home which he built, while two of his sons occupied newer homes on the other farms. Beside his daughter he is survived by three sons, Sam, John and Alexander McCausland, all engaged in management of the property here and by seven grandsons.

Civil War

West Virginia Archives and History