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John Seashoal Witcher
Gen. John S. Witcher - NARA - 527399.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from West Virginia's 3rd district
In office
March 4, 1869 – March 3, 1871
Preceded byDaniel Polsley
Succeeded byFrank Hereford
3rd Secretary of State of West Virginia
In office
GovernorWilliam E. Stevenson
Preceded byGranville D. Hall
Succeeded byJames M. Pipes
Personal details
Born(1839-07-15)July 15, 1839
Cabell County, Virginia, United States
(now West Virginia)
DiedJuly 8, 1906(1906-07-08) (aged 66)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Mahaley Witcher
ProfessionPolitician, Soldier
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceUnion Army
United States Army
Years of service1861–1865
RankLieutenant Colonel
Brevet Brigadier General
Unit3rd West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry Regiment
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

John Seashoal Witcher (July 15, 1839 – July 8, 1906) was an American farmer, politician and soldier from Cabell County, West Virginia (then in Virginia), who helped found the new Union state during the American Civil War and served one term in Congress representing West Virginia's 3rd congressional district as a Republican. After losing his re-election, however, he resumed his federal and U.S. Army career. In addition to serving as lieutenant colonel and brevet colonel of the 3rd West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry, Witcher also served a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates and as the 3rd Secretary of State of West Virginia. On March 18, 1867, President Andrew Johnson nominated Witcher for appointment to the brevet grade of brigadier general, to rank from March 13, 1865; and the United States Senate confirmed the appointment on March 28, 1867.[1]

This distinguished U.S. officer is sometimes confused with Confederate Col. Vincent A. "Clawhammer" Witcher of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, a lawyer who commanded the 34th Virginia Cavalry Battalion and became especially known for his ruthlessness. Vincent Witcher's grandfather of the same name served in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly but the younger lawyer Vincent Witcher twice lost elections for the Virginia House of Delegates after the war.[2] Another similar Confederate bushwhacker was James Witcher of the Zollicoffer Mounted Rifles (a/k/a the Sullivan County, Tennessee Reserves).[3] A Confederate bushwhacker stationed near Mud River (a tributary of the Guyandotte River along which this Union John Witcher grew up) and taking the name "John Witcher" also attacked (unsuccessfully) Union forces under Capt. John Reynolds at the Putnam County courthouse on the night of October 26, 1864.[4]

Early and family life

Born in Cabell County, Virginia (now West Virginia) to farmer Jeremiah Witcher and his wife Polly, John Witcher was his family's only son, having an elder sister Emily (b. 1838) and younger sisters America (b. 1844) and Valeria (b. 1846). The family also included his paternal grandmother Sarah until some time before 1860.[5][6] John attended the local private schools as a child, as well as helped on the family farm.

He married Mahaley F. Witcher, four years his junior, and they had a daughter Valera in 1862 and sons William V Witcher (b. 1863), P. Sheridan Witcher (b. 1865) and John T. Witcher (b. 1867).[7]


John Witcher, who listed himself as a farmer on the 1860 census (when the household also included a 25 year old day laborer), was elected clerk of the circuit court of Cabell County in 1861.

On December 13, 1862, Witcher enlisted in the Union Army as a first lieutenant in the 3rd West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry Regiment.[1] He was promoted to captain on September 8, 1863, major on May 23, 1864 and lieutenant colonel on May 6, 1865 before being honorably mustered out on June 30, 1865.[1]

After the war's end, Cabell County voters elected Witcher to represent them in the West Virginia House of Delegates. He also served as West Virginia's 3rd Secretary of State. On March 18, 1867, President Andrew Johnson nominated Witcher for appointment to the grade of brevet brigadier general, to rank from March 13, 1865, and the United States Senate confirmed the appointment on March 28, 1867.[8]

Witcher was a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1865, was Secretary of State of West Virginia from 1867 to 1869 and was elected a Republican to the United States House of Representatives in 1868, serving from 1869 to 1871. After being unsuccessful for reelection in 1870, he was appointed collector of internal revenue for the third district of West Virginia by President Ulysses S. Grant, serving from 1871 to 1876. Witcher served as United States pension agent in Washington, D.C. from 1878 to 1880 and was major and paymaster of the United States Army from 1880 until his retirement in 1899.[9] He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on the retired list on April 23, 1904.[10]

Death and legacy

He moved to Salt Lake City, Utah in 1891 where he died on July 8, 1906.[11] He is interred in Arlington National Cemetery.[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-8047-3641-1. pp. 577, 767.
  2. ^ Scott C. Cole, 34th Battalion Virginia Cavalry (Lynchburg, H.E. Howard Inc. Virginia Regimental History Series, 1st edition 1993) p. 6
  3. ^
  4. ^ Stan Cohen, The Civil War in West Virginia: a pictorial history (Charleston, WV, Pictorial Histories Publishing Company 1976, 1999) p.107
  5. ^ 1850 U.S. Federal Census for District 10, Cabell County, Virginia family 461, p. 64 of 142
  6. ^ 1860 U.S. Federal Census for Cabell County, Virginia family 951, p. 125 of 175
  7. ^ 1870 U.S. Federal census for Guyandotte, Cabell County, West Virginia), family no. 228 p. 32 of 53
  8. ^ Eicher, p. 767
  9. ^ Eicher 577
  10. ^ Eicher 577
  11. ^ Eicher 577
  12. ^ Arlington National Cemetery find-a-grave Retrieved August 8, 2019.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Granville D. Hall
Secretary of State of West Virginia
1867 – 1869
Succeeded by
James M. Pipes
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Daniel Polsley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from West Virginia's 3rd congressional district

March 4, 1869 – March 3, 1871
Succeeded by
Frank Hereford
This page was last edited on 14 October 2020, at 21:08
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