John McCausland was born at St. Louis, Missouri, the son of a native of Ireland, on September 13, 1836. He received his early education at Point Pleasant, (West) Virginia, and was graduated first in his class at the Virginia Military Institute in 1857. He also became an assistant professor of mathematics at the Institute after his graduation from the University of Virginia in 1858. In 1859 he was present with a cadet detachment at the execution of John Brown at Charles Town. Recruiting the 36th Virginia in 1861, he was commissioned its colonel, and after service in the brigade of John B. Floyd in Western Virginia, was transferred with his regiment to Albert Sidney Johnston's army at Bowling Green, Kentucky. He escaped with his command from Fort Donelson, and in 1862 and 1863, he fought in Virginia under Generals Loring, Echols, and Sam Jones. After the death of General A. G. Jenkins at Cloyd's Mountain, McCausland assumed command of the shattered Confederate forces, and was promoted brigadier general from May 18, 1864. From then until the end of the war he was conspicuous for his operations in the Shenandoah Valley, and for his raids into Maryland and Pennsylvania. On July 30, 1864, under orders from General Early, he burned the town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in retaliation for the wanton destruction of private property by the Federal General Hunter in the Shenandoah. Subsequently attached to Rosser's division, he fought at Petersburg, Five Forks, and on the retreat to Appomattox, cutting his way through the Federal lines before the surrender. Ultimately paroled at Charleston, West Virginia, General McCausland spent two years in Europe and Mexico before returning home. He then acquired a tract of 6,000 acres in Mason County, West Virginia, where he resided for more than sixty years. When he died on his farm, "McCausland," January 22, 1927, in his ninety-first year, there remained but one other survivor of the generals of the Confederacy. He is buried at Henderson, West Virginia.
Ref: Generals in Gray, Lives of the Confederate Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Printed by Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge and London.