Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.
[decorative delimiter]

 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1858

Vol. II

(Born Ala.)

William H. Echols

(Ap'd Ala.)


William Holding Echols: Born Mar. 11, 1834, Huntsville, AL.

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1854, to July 1, 1858, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., Top. Engineers, July 1, 1858.

Served as Asst. Top. Engineer at the headquarters of the Department of Texas, Jan. 4, 1859, to Feb. 18, 1861.

Resigned, Mar. 21, 1861.

Joined in the Rebellion of 1861‑66 against the United States.​a

Civil History. — Civil Engineer on Memphis and Charleston Railroad, 1866. Cotton Manufacturer and Banker, Huntsville, Ala., since 1866.

Vol. IV
[Supplement, Vol. IV: 1890‑1900]

Civil History. — President of First National Bank of Huntsville, Ala. — Post-office address, Huntsville, Ala.

Vol. V
[Supplement, Vol. V: 1890‑1900]

Civil History. — President of First National Bank of Huntsville, Ala. — Post-office address, Huntsville, Ala.

Died Nov. 13, 1909, at Huntsville, Ala.: Aged 71.

Portrait and obituary in Annual Report, Association of Graduates, for 1912.​b

Thayer's Notes:

a As with other Confederate officers, Cullum's Register omits his war record. The following obituary notice, in Confederate Veteran, Vol. 20, No. 1, will be of interest:

 p30  Maj. William Holding Echols

William Holding Echols was born in Huntsville, Ala., March 11, 1834. He received his primary education at Green Academy, in Huntsville; then he engaged in business in Huntsville, and also for one year in Mississippi. Receiving an appointment as cadet, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point July 1, 1854, and was graduated fourth in his class on July 1, 1858, at which date he received his commission in the army and was assigned as brevet second lieutenant to the Corps of Topographical Engineers. He was retained at West Point as instructor in the Military Academy until September, 1858. In October of that year he was ordered to Fort Vancouver, W. T., for duty at Headquarters Department of Oregon. This order was subsequently changed, and Lieutenant Echols was assigned to the Department of Texas with headquarters at San Antonio, where he served until the breaking out of the Civil War.

In the capacity of engineer in charge of the survey Lieutenant Echols for two years made expeditions throughout Northwest Texas with camels, imported by the government for that purpose, in search of available routes through those arid wastes to the California coast. His penciled notes of those experiences, taken in the field and embodied in his field books, are full of vivid interest.​*

Lieutenant Echols resigned from the United States army on March 21, 1861, and joined the Confederate army. He was appointed by President Davis as captain of engineers in the regular Confederate army March 29, 1861, and was assigned to duty as engineer in charge of Fort Jackson and St. Philip, La., whence, after a brief service, he was ordered on April 17, 1861, to Savannah, Ga., where he was employed as chief engineer in charge of defenses, in building fortifications, and also in organizing and drilling troops under Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.A. R. Lawton.

He was commissioned on December 30, 1861, by Gov. Joseph E. Brown, of Georgia, as colonel of the 29th Georgia Volunteers, a position which he greatly desired to accept. But, notwithstanding General Lawton's indorsement of his cause, President Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Davis wrote him: "The number of engineer officers in our service is quite too small to permit them being placed in command of troops." He was then promoted to be major of engineers, and as chief engineer of South Carolina was ordered to the defense of Charleston Harbor, where he served under Generals Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Beauregard, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pemberton, and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hardee until the evacuation of Charleston, in 1865. He was proceeding on his way through North Carolina to join the Army of Virginia when the surrender took place.

Major Echols returned to his native place, Huntsville, where in 1866 he served as civil engineer on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. In 1868 he rehabilitated and reorganized the Bell Factory Cotton Mills, one of the oldest cotton mills in the South. He subsequently became President of the First National Bank of Huntsville, the duties of which position he continued to perform until a few months before his death, on November 13, 1909.

Major Echols was modest, unassuming, and tender-hearted, with high spirit and courage, undying sense of truth, honor, and high ideals that go to make for manhood in all things.

Major Echols's grandfather, William Echols, went from Pittsylvania County, Va. to Alabama in 1816. His father, also William Echols, at that time sixteen years of age, continued a resident of Alabama the remainder of his life.

Major Echols was married in Huntsville January 19, 1859, to Mary Beirne Patton, daughter of Dr. Charles H. Patton and Susan Beirne Patton. He is survived by his wife, two sons, and a daughter, Mrs. Robert E. Spragins, of Huntsville. One son is Col. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Charles P. Echols, of the United States army, now Professor of Mathematics at the Military Academy at West Point; the other son, William H. Echols, Jr., has been for twenty years Professor of Mathematics in the University of Virginia. Major Echols is also survived by two sisters, Mrs. Wm. C. Collier and Mrs. Eliza Richardson, of Nashville, Tenn.

* Quite true: long excerpts from Lt. Echols' diary are given in "Operation Camel: An Experiment in Animal Transportation in Texas, 1857‑1860", SWHistQ XVII.40‑47.

[decorative delimiter]

b The text of the obituary printed in the AOG Report is identical to the text in my previous note; the last line crediting it

— From the Confederate Record of January 2, 1912.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 2 Jul 14