Brig. Gen. (CSA), John Echols

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Brig. Gen. (CSA), John Echols

Birthplace: Lynchburg, Virginia, United States
Death: May 24, 1896 (73)
Staunton, Augusta, Virginia, United States
Place of Burial: Staunton, Augusta, Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Joseph Echols and Eliza Echols
Husband of Mary Jane Echols and Mary Helen Echols
Father of Lt. Gov. Edward Echols and Harriet Miller
Brother of Harriett Caperton and Capt. Edward Echols

Managed by: David Howerton
Last Updated:

About Brig. Gen. (CSA), John Echols


VMI's Civil War Generals. John Echols, Class of 1843

Biographical Information

Early Life

John Echols, born March 20, 1823, Lynchburg, Virginia; son of Joseph Echols and Eliza Frances Lambeth.

VMI record

attended VMI from August 15, 1840 until August 14, 1841, when he resigned; Honorary graduate, VMI Class of 1843.

Pre-Civil War

graduate Washington College (now Washington and Lee University); studied law at Harvard; practiced law briefly in Shenandoah Valley, then moved to Union, Monroe County [West] Virginia where he was a county prosecutor; in 1860, helped to organize and was leader of the Monroe Guards, a local militia unit. This unit subsequently became part of the 27th Virginia Infantry (Co. D).


1st- Mary Jane Caperton

2nd- Mrs. Mary C. Reid

Civil War

Commanded 27th Virginia Infantry Regiment; severely wounded at Kernstown; promoted April 1862 to Brigadier General; brigade commander in Division of General John C. Breckinridge; at Battle of New Market (May 15, 1864) commanded infantry brigade


Returned to law practice in Staunton; was President of National Valley Bank, and of Chesapeake, Ohio and Southwestern Railroad Company; died in Staunton, Virginia on May 24, 1896; buried Thornrose Cemetery in Staunton.


John Echols (March 20, 1823 – May 24, 1896) was a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.


Echols was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, and was educated at the Virginia Military Institute, Washington College and Harvard College. A tall imposing man, standing 6 feet 4 inches tall, Echols quickly became a leader among his peers. On becoming a lawyer in 1843 he settled in Union, Monroe County (now West Virginia), and represented Monroe County in the Virginia Secession Convention of 1861. He offered his service to the state's army and was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel. On May 8, 1861, he was ordered by General Robert E. Lee to call out and muster in volunteer forces, not to exceed two regiments, to rendezvous at Staunton for Joseph E. Johnston's fledgling army.

Echols was then assigned command of the 27th Virginia Infantry, leading the regiment in the fighting at the First Battle of Manassas under Stonewall Jackson. He was soon promoted to colonel, serving in the Valley Campaign. He was severely wounded on March 23, disabling him for several weeks. Echols was promoted to brigadier general on April 16, 1862 during his convalescence. Later in the year, he was assigned to command a brigade of the army of Western Virginia. He participated as a brigade commander in William W. Loring's occupation of the Kanawha Valley in September. After Loring withdrew to the mountains, Echols replaced him in command of the Department of Western Virginia. He promptly reoccupied Charleston, but was forced to retreat by a superior enemy force.

He resigned his departmental command in the spring of 1863, and, during the following summer, served upon the three-man court of inquiry held in Richmond to investigate the cause of the fall of Vicksburg. Later in the year, he commanded the Confederate forces in the Battle of Droop Mountain, stubbornly resisting a series of Federal attacks. In May 1864, he commanded John C. Breckinridge's right wing at the Battle of New Market in the Shenandoah Valley.

Echols' Brigade was recalled by Robert E. Lee to rejoin the Army of Northern Virginia near Cold Harbor during the Siege of Petersburg. On August 22, 1864, he was given charge of the District of Southwestern Virginia, and on March 29, 1865, Echols was assigned command of the western department of Virginia, relieving General Breckinridge, who had joined the staff of President Jefferson Davis. On April 2, Echols, with nearly 7,000 men, began a hasty march to unite with Lee. He reached Christiansburg, Virginia, on April 10, where he received a telegram announcing Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. At a solemn council of war, Echols decided to march to unite with Johnston's army, and Echols led two brigades southward towards North Carolina. Subsequently, he accompanied President Davis to Augusta, Georgia.

After the war, Echols resumed the practice of law in Staunton and was a member of the Virginia General Assembly. He helped select the members of the Committee of Nine, a group of state leaders who worked to ensure that the state be readmitted into the Union. He became President of the Staunton National Valley Bank, and Receiver and General Manager of the Chesapeake, Ohio & Southwestern Railroad, living in Kentucky the last ten years of his life as he managed the railroad's affairs.

Echols was twice married, first to a sister of Senator Allen T. Caperton of West Virginia, and, after her death, to Mrs. Mary Cochrane Reid of New York. He died at the residence of his son, Edward Echols (later lieutenant governor of Virginia), at Staunton, where he is buried in Thornrose Cemetery.

John Echols, son of Joseph (1789-1824) and Eliza F. (Lambeth) Echols of Halifax County, Virginia, was born at Lynchburg, Virginia on March 20, 1823. In 1843, he graduated from Virginia Military Institute and in 1844, he married Mary Jane Caperton, the daughter of Hugh and Jane Erskine Caperton. Hugh was the builder of “Elmwood” at Union, now in the National Register of Historical Places. Mary Jane was a sister of Allen T. Caperton, who was born at “Elmwood” on November 21, 1810 and served in the West Virginia State Senate and the United States Senate. Allen T. Caperton married Harriet Echols, a sister to John.

Echols was a large man, six feet four inches tall, weighed 260 pounds, very commanding in appearance and an avid public speaker. By 1860 he had won distinction as a lawyer, orator and statesman. He was President and Director of the Bank of Virginia Branch Bank in Union, and an elder in the Presbyterian Church. He was public spirited and a firm believer in higher education and was interested in good schools for both sexes. In Monroe County he was active in the establishment of a female seminary and tried to secure for it the best teachers. In 1851-53, he was a Delegate to the Virginia Assembly, and in 1861, he was a member of the convention that passed the ordinance of succession.

Before the war began he organized the Monroe Guards, of which he was the first captain. He entered the Confederate Army as Lieutenant Colonel of the 27th Virginia Infantry of the famous Stonewall Brigade. The Monroe Guard was the first company from Monroe County to enter the service of the Confederacy.

In the fall of 1865, General Echols made his home at Staunton, Virginia and lived there until his death May 24, 1896. Echols’ son, Edward, attained a great prominence in business and political life and served a term as Lieutenant governor of Virginia. He had a cordial feeling for Monroe County where he spent his boyhood, and was by far the heaviest subscriber to the fund for the Confederate monument at Union, which was a pledge of his father.

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Brig. Gen. (CSA), John Echols's Timeline

March 20, 1823
Lynchburg, Virginia, United States
January 21, 1847
May 24, 1896
Age 73
Staunton, Augusta, Virginia, United States
Thornrose Cemetery, Staunton, Augusta, Virginia, United States