Confederate General John Echols (March 20, 1823-May 24, 1896) was born at Lynchburg, Virginia. A graduate of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) and Harvard, he became a lawyer in 1843 and was later commonwealth’s attorney and a Virginia state legislator. He moved to Union, Monroe County, in 1843 to practice law and remained there until the outbreak of the Civil War.
Echols represented Monroe County at the Virginia Secession Convention and voted for secession. He organized a military company of which he was captain and was commissioned lieutenant-colonel in the Confederate Army in 1861. Later brigadier general, Echols participated in the battles of First Manassas and Kernstown, where he was wounded. He served in the Kanawha Valley in 1862 and commanded Confederate forces at their defeat at the Battle of Droop Mountain in November 1863. In May 1864, he commanded the Confederate right wing at the battle of New Market, and he was with Lee at Cold Harbor. He was assigned to command of the District of Southwest Virginia in August 1864 and later replaced Jubal Early as commander of the Department of Western Virginia. Reluctant to surrender after Appomattox, Echols decided to join with the forces of General Johnston in North Carolina. He accompanied Confederate President Jefferson Davis in his flight to Georgia and was briefly in command there.
After the war, Echols became a founding director of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. He was vice president and general manager of the railroad when the line was completed through the New River Gorge and on to Huntington. He left West Virginia and moved to Staunton to practice law following the war. He was twice married, first to the sister of Sen. Allen T. Caperton, of West Virginia. Echols died at Staunton, Virginia.
This Article was written by Tim McKinney
Last Revised on October 18, 2012
McKinney, Tim. Civil War in Fayette County. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1988.
Warner, Ezra. Generals in Gray. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959.