January 22

This Day in History

Civil War

Jan 22, 1927:

Rebel General John McCausland dies

On this day in 1927, Confederate General John A. McCausland dies at age 90 in West Virginia. He lived for over 50 years after the war and remained an unreconstructed Rebel at the time of his death.

Nicknamed "Tiger John," McCausland was born to Irish immigrants in 1836 in St. Louis, Missouri, and moved to Virginia as an adolescent. He attended the Virginia Military Institute and graduated in 1857. When the Civil War began, he organized an artillery regiment and formed the 36th Virginia from the western part of the state. McCausland spent most of the war in the mountainous region of western Virginia. On May 9, 1864, he distinguished himself at the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain. For the victory, he was promoted to brigadier general.

Two bold actions defined McCausland's career. First, in June 1864, he drove a larger Union force commanded by General David Hunter from Lynchburg, Virginia, earning him the city's gratitude. He then joined General Jubal Early's invasion of Maryland in July. Early dispatched McCausland and his cavalry to Hagerstown to exact a $200,000 ransom from city officials. McCausland rode into Hagerstown and delivered his hand-written note to authorities. However, due to a mathematical error, only $20,000 was secured. McCausland then moved on to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and pulled his second notorious feat--he tried to extort more than $500,000 from Chambersburg officials, and burned the city when he did not receive the money.

McCausland joined General Robert E. Lee for the Confederates' last desperate attempt to escape in early 1865. He broke through the Union lines near Appomattox, Virginia, and surrendered later at Charleston, West Virginia, after many Rebels had laid down their arms. After the war, McCausland, facing an indictment for the burning of Chambersburg, fled to Canada, Britain, and then Mexico. He returned to the U.S. in the late 1860s after being told he would not be prosecuted for his war crimes. He settled on a farm in West Virginia and lived as a recluse for the rest of his life, stubbornly defending the Confederate cause. McCausland died 13 months before Felix Robertson, the last surviving Confederate general.

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