John Shivers was born in 1830 in Canada, and later immigrated to the United States. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on September 17, 1864, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and served aboard the steam frigate USS Minnesota during the U.S. Civil War. Private Shivers was awarded the Medal of Honor on June 22, 1865, for his actions aboard the USS Minnesota during the 2nd Battle of Fort Fisher on January 15, 1865. The Marine Corps records show that he deserted on October 27, 1865, but his whereabouts after that date are unknown, as is his date of death or place of burial.
His Medal of Honor Citation reads:
On board the U.S.S. MINNESOTA, in the assault on Fort Fisher, 15 January 1865. Landing on the beach with the assaulting party from his ship, Private Shivers advanced to the top of the sand-hill and partly through the breach in the palisades despite enemy fire which killed or wounded many officers and men. When more than two-thirds of the men became seized with panic and retreated on the run, he remained with the party until dark when it came safely away, bringing its wounded, its arms and its colors.