Columbus Caldwell

This biography appears on pages 509-510 in "Soldiers' and Citizens' Album of Biographical Record containing personal sketches of Army Men and Citizens Prominent in loyalty to the Union" Published in 1888

Columbus Caldwell, Waupaca, Wis., belonging to G. A. R. Post No. 21, was born September 25, 1830, in Charlotte, Chautauqua Co., New York. He came to Wisconsin with his parents, Tyler and Mary (Warner) Caldwell in the spring of 1836, and they located in Kenosha County. A little later his father removed to the western part of Racine County, where he was a prominent farmer and the local post office at Caldwell's Prairie received its name from him. When he was 19 years old, Mr. Caldwell removed to Waupaca and in 1852, he crossed the plains to California where he remained until 1859, and returned to Waupaca. He was interested in the course of the Civil War and determined soon after it commenced to unite his fortunes with those of his country and he enlisted December 6, 1861, at Waupaca in Company M, 1st Wisconsin Cavalry for three years. On the formation of his company, Mr. Caldwell was made Sergeant and he passed the various grades of non-commissioned offices and was made 2nd Lieenant Nov. 20, 1862. In December, 1962, he was appointed acting Regimental Quartermaster and Commissary, which was the hardest part of his whole service. He was afterwards promoted to 1st Lieutenant and Captain, but did not muster under the last as his commission did not reach the regiment until the day following that on which he was made prisoner of war. Up to the date of his capture he had acted most of the time in command of his company and in one instance was at the head of a detachment including details from several companies. He was in the actions at Cape Girardeau, three in number, and in the scouting and skirmishing in Missouri and Arkansas, and he was in the action at Chalk Bluff in the early days of his service and his roster includes several expeditions of guerrilla warfare, in that locality, until the regiment was attached to the Army of the Cumberland and was afterwards in much of the same service. The scouting, skirmishing and raiding after crossing the Cumberland River was of very active character and Lieutenant Caldwell was in the movement which resulted in the capture of Shelbyvlle and afterwards chased Bragg and fought at Chickamauga Creek, going on the next day to fight in the battle of Chickamauga. He was at Chattanooga during the stay there and fought Wheeler's cavalry at Anderson's Gap, about the 1st of October. Later he was in pursuit of the rebel cavalry and was in the actions at Maysville, Strawberry Plains, and Mossy Creek. He was sick and sent to hospital at Nashville, and joined his regiment afterwards. In one of the scouting expeditions in the vicinity of Cleveland he was captured April 13, 1864. He was in command of a detachment of 25 men, 19 of whom were taken prisoners by three brigades of cavalry under Wheeler, and only three survived Andersonville. They were 12 miles in advance of the union lines and had not the slightest chance against such a force. Lieutenant Caldwell and his squad had just received 150 men of the regiment under Col. Brownlow, son of Parson Brownlow, and General Wheeler afterwards told him that he had received information that Brownlow's regiment was stationed at that place and he came thither with three brigades to capture the command of the fiery Tennessee parson. Lieutenant Caldwell rode five miles by the side of Wheeler, who asked many questions. At the first point of encampment, Wheeler and his three brigades started for Tunnel Hill, leaving a detail of 25 men to conduct the men to Dalton. Soon after, Wheeler's adjutant rode back and demanded the surrender of Lietenant Caldwell's rubber coat and enforced the order at the muzzle of a revolver. Caldwell was obliged to surrender the article, but assured the rebel that he would remember him. He was a prisoner nearly 11 months and was confined one night at Andersonville and went thence to Macon, where he passed four weeks in jail and went thence to the stockade prison at that place whence he was removed in July, to Savannah. He went next to Charleston where the federal officers were taken and placed immediately under the fire of the batteries which were shelling Charleston at intervals. Lieutenant Caldwell was in Charleston three weeks and went afterwards successively to Columbia, Charlotte, Raleigh and Goldsboro and was exchanged March 1, 1865. He received a furlough and returned to Wisconsin and he was mustered out, May 15th following at Camp Chase, Ohio.

Lieutenant Caldwell has been a resident in Waupaca County since the war. In 1867, he was elected Register of Deeds and in 1872 and 1873, was elected member of the Legislature of Wisconsin and served in the sessions of 1873-4, and was a member of the Assembly at the time of the passage of the Potter Railroad Bill. In 1882, he assumed charge of the Waupaca County poorhouse and farm which he managed until 1887, and on the 1st day of December of that year he was made Superintendent of the Wisconsin Veteran's Home at Waupaca and he is still (1888), the incumbent of that position.

He was married just before he enlisted Nov. 21, 1861, to Mary L. Taggart, who died in January, 1866, leaving two daughters. Their names are Minnie L. and Ida S. Mr. Caldwell was married May 11, 1868, to Ida J. Taggart, sister of his first wife and their three sons and two daughters are named Geo. T., Warner F., Otis L., Beatrice and Eunice; these are at home. Minnie L. teaches in Appleton and Ida S. is a telegraph operator at Chicago.