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John William Caldwell (January 15, 1837 – July 4, 1903) was a U.S. Representative from Kentucky.

John W. Caldwell
A man with short, dark hair and a mustache wearing a dark jacket and vest, patterned tie, and white shirt
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 3rd district
In office
March 4, 1877 – March 3, 1883
Preceded byCharles W. Milliken
Succeeded byJohn Edward Halsell
Personal details
Born(1837-01-15)January 15, 1837
Russellville, Kentucky
DiedJuly 4, 1903(1903-07-04) (aged 66)
Russellville, Kentucky
Resting placeMaple Grove Cemetery, Russellville, Kentucky
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Sallie J. Barclay
Alma materBethel College
University of Louisville
Military service
AllegianceConfederate States of America
Branch/serviceConfederate States Army
RankConfederate States of America Colonel.png Colonel
Unit9th Kentucky Infantry
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

Early life and familyEdit

John W. Caldwell was born in Russellville, Kentucky on January 15, 1837.[1] He was the son of Austin and Louisa (Harrison) Caldwell.[2] Austin Caldwell died in 1843, leaving John Caldwell as his only living child.[3] With the duties of caring for his father's estate, Caldwell was only able to attend the common schools of Logan and Christian Counties until age fourteen.[3] In 1850, he moved with his uncle, Dr. Robert Peyton Harrison, to Texas, where he worked on a farm, as a clerk, and as a surveyor.[1][3]

At age nineteen, Caldwell returned to Kentucky.[3] He studied law with William Morton, a well-known lawyer in his family.[3] In 1856, he matriculated to the University of Louisville School of Law, completing a junior year course of study with honors.[3] He graduated from the university in 1857, was admitted to the bar in 1858, and commenced practice in Russellville, Kentucky.[1][3]

Caldwell married Sallie J. Barclay, and the couple had one son and two daughters.[3]

Civil War serviceEdit

Although he opposed secession, Caldwell volunteered as a private in the Confederate States Army in 1861.[3] He was immediately elected captain of the "Logan Grays", a Confederate company being recruited in Logan County.[3] When Confederate forces under Simon Bolivar Buckner entered Kentucky, Caldwell led the Grays to Bowling Green, where they became Company A of the 9th Kentucky Infantry under John C. Breckinridge.[3] After Albert Sidney Johnson's retreat from Bowling Green, Caldwell commanded the 9th Kentucky until relieved by Colonel Thomas H. Hunt on his return from New Orleans, Louisiana.[3]

At the Battle of Shiloh, Caldwell received several wounds, including a badly broken left arm.[3] Sixty-five percent of his company was killed or wounded in the battle.[3] Following the battle, he was promoted to major, and when the 9th Kentucky was reorganized six weeks later, he was elected its lieutenant colonel.[3] Thomas H. Hunt resigned his commission in 1863, and Caldwell was promoted to colonel and given command.[3] He sometimes also commanded the Orphan Brigade.[4]

Caldwell again broke his left arm at the Battle of Chickamauga.[3] Because of this, the Board of Army Surgeons offered him a medical retirement, but he declined, rejoining his regiment in Dalton, Georgia two weeks later.[3] At the end of the war, he surrendered his forces at Washington, Georgia and was paroled as a prisoner of war on May 6, 1865.[3]

Political careerEdit

Caldwell resumed the practice of law in Russellville.[1] He was elected judge of the Logan County Court in August 1866 and reelected in 1870, serving eight years.[1][3] Two years after his retirement from the bench, he was elected as a Democrat to represent the Third District in the U.S. House of Representatives.[3] He served in the Forty-fifth, Forty-sixth, and Forty-seventh Congresses (March 4, 1877 – March 3, 1883).[1] He was known as an advocate of home rule, tariff reform, hard money, and conservatism in public expenditures.[4] Due to ill health, he declined to be a candidate for reelection although he faced no Republican opposition for the seat.[4]

Later life and deathEdit

After his time in Congress, Caldwell did not return to his legal practice, but became president of the Logan County Bank.[4] He died in Russellville on July 4, 1903 and was interred in Maple Grove Cemetery.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Caldwell, John William". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  2. ^ Biographical Cyclopedia, p. 81
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Biographical Cyclopedia, p. 82
  4. ^ a b c d Biographical Cyclopedia, p. 83


  • Biographical Cyclopedia of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Chicago, Illinois: J.M. Gresham Company. 1896.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Charles W. Milliken
United States Representative, Kentucky 3rd District
Succeeded by
John E. Halsell