Brookline War Memorial
Joseph P. Caldwell

Private Joseph P. Caldwell
Grand Army of the Republic (1863-1864)

Joseph P. Caldwell

United States Army (1775-present)

Joseph P. Caldwell was born November 13, 1847, in Allegheny City (presently the North Side). When he passed away in 1946, at age 98, Caldwell was the final surviving member of the last Pittsburgh-area post, McPherson Post 117, of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Caldwell was just a boy when he went to war in 1863, replacing a soldier who had come home, under a practice permitted at that time. He re-enlisted on June 6, 1984 and was assigned as a private in the third version of Captain Joseph M. Knap's Independent Pennsylvania Light Artillery Battery, organized in Pittsburgh. Members of the battery were on a 100-day emergency enlistment.

He was part of D Company when the battery was ordered to Washington, D.C. and attached to 3rd Brigade, Hardin's Division, 22nd Corps, Dept. of Washington. He was then transfered to 1st Brigade, Hardin's Division, 22nd Corps for garrison duty in the defenses of Washington, north of the Potomac River. Private Joseph Caldwell served in the Grand Army of the Republic from May 19, 1863 until September 12, 1864.

Captain Joseph Knap's Independent
Pennsylvania Light Artillery Battery
Joseph M. Knap's Independent Pennsylvania Light Artillery

A month after his re-enlistment the Pennsylvania Artillery of Hardin's Division was involved in the Battle of Fort Stevens on July 11-12, 1864. The skirmishes were part of the Confederacy's final invasion of the north, led by General Jubal Early of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Just ten miles from the outskirts of Washington D.C., President Abraham Lincoln himself rode out from the Capital to observe the artillery duels between the opposing forces. Caldwell witnessed the Commander-in-Chief standing tall on the parapets at Fort Stevens, in the line of fire of the Confederate guns.

The Grand Army of the Republic was a Union veteran's society, with membership limited to Civil War veterans only. Posts continued until the last surviving member died. McPherson Post 117 became a bygone part of Pittsburgh's military tradition on August 30, 1946.

GAR Ribbon McPherson Post

After the war ended in 1865, Caldwell worked as a contractor in Butler County, where he owned a farm. He married Clara Young and the couple had seven children. Joseph retired in 1928 and moved to Pittsburgh, settling in the community of Brookline, where he spent the next seventeen years. A member of the Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterian Church, his final year was spent living in the home of his son, Paul, at 246 Pinecastle Avenue, in Overbrook.

For eighty years, Civil War veteran Joseph Caldwell never missed a Memorial Day Parade. He was in attendance at every South Hills Memorial Association parade in Brookline until failing health kept him at home in 1946. That year, Major General Manton S. Eddy came to visit Caldwell and made a short speech at his bedside.

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Dedication of Honor Roll - September, 1943

Joseph P. Caldwell, 96-year
old Civil War Veteran.

Echoes of Three Wars punctuated the ceremony yesterday when an honor roll was dedicated in Brookline. The tablet bearing the names of 1500 men and women in military service, sponsored by Post #540 of the American Legion, was unveiled on ground adjoining the Post home on Brookline Boulevard. Joseph P. Caldwell, 96-year old Civil War veteran, watched the ceremony with Colonel John H. Shenkel, post commander, beside him.

* Reprinted from the Pittsburgh Press - September 27, 1943 *

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Joseph P. Caldwell was the last man surviving out of a total of 25,930 residents of Allegheny County who served with the Union Army during the Civil War. Of those soldiers, approximately 3,000 were killed or wounded during the conflict. Funeral services for Private Caldwell were held at Beinhauer Mortuary and he was buried in Summit Cemetery, Butler County.

Joseph P. Caldwell

* Written by Clint Burton - April 29, 2011 *

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Brookline Veteran's Park - April 26, 2014.

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