An engraving of Confederate general John A. McCausland portrays him in uniform, the three stars on his collar indicating his rank. The son of an Irish immigrant and a Virginia-born mother, McCausland graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1857, standing first in a class of twenty-two. After attending the University of Virginia in Charlottesville for a year, he returned to VMI to teach mathematics and tactics. As an assistant to fellow professor Thomas J. Jackson, he accompanied VMI cadets sent to stand guard at abolitionist John Brown's execution on December 2, 1859, in Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia).
Known as "Tiger John," McCausland was hailed as a hero by the citizens of Lynchburg, Virginia, for repulsing an attack by Union general David Hunter in June 1864. A month later, however, McCausland was condemned as a villain by the citizens of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, for acting on the orders of Jubal A. Early and burning their Cumberland Valley town in retaliation for Union actions in the Shenandoah Valley. The incident followed McCausland through the rest of his long life, forcing him to leave the country for a time after the surrender at Appomattox. He eventually returned to the United States and settled on a large farm in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia. When he died there in 1927, only one other Confederate brigadier general still survived.