Monday, March 21, 2016

The sad, cruel fate of war, or, the war-time life of Tod R. Caldwell.

   On May 11, 1865, Tod R. Caldwell wrote this letter to J. P. H Russ, W. R. Richardson "and others":

   Gentlemen: Your polite and kind invitation to attend and address a public meeting of the citizens of Wake County, proposed to be held this day in the City of Raleigh for the purpose of giving expression to our feelings on the occasion of our restoration to the Union and to the protection of the flag of our common county, has been received, and I must cordially thank you for the compliment. I deeply regret, however, my inability to be present, as I am compelled to hasten to my home in the west on important business which cannot be postponed. I shall nevertheless be present with you in sentiment and in sympathy and no one of the many spectators who will attend the meeting will hail with more delight that I do, the advent of peace and the deliverance of our people from the iron rule of tyranny and oppression. Let us all, then, with one accord, as good and loyal citizens, respect, and reverence, the glorious stars and stripes which are emblazoned upon our country's banner.
   Let us cherish it as our benefactor and deliverer from a worse than Egyptian bondage, and as a protector from insult and injury, both at home and abroad; let us return to our peaceful avocations determined to cultivate feelings of amity and brother's love toward the people of all sections of our country-to stand to and faithfully abide by the Union, the Constitution and the laws; and to stamp forever with the seal of our disapprobation, the miserable hearsay of secession, which has been the prolific source of so much distress and suffering to a once happy and prosperous people. 

While Caldwell might have kept a low profile in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains during the war years, the war came to his home as well. Caldwell had a son, John, who pleaded with his father for permission to join the army. Tod Caldwell finally consented, and John Caldwell enlisted in Company E, 33rd North Carolina Troops, on May 3, 1863. The younger Caldwell was just eighteen years old. He would serve a little less than two months in the Confederate army.
North Carolina Monument, Gettysburg. 

There are two stories regarding his death at Gettysburg. One takes place on the afternoon of July 2 on a picket line near Long Lane, or out in front of it. The other account has Caldwell dying on July 3 as Lane's brigade neared the Emmittsburg Road. There were several newspaper accounts of the death of John Caldwell published after the war. In one of those accounts, when the Governor was told of the events of the death of his son, "the Governor locked himself in his room and was all day in tears. He never told his wife" of the details "and told it only to his private secretary."

So as Caldwell sat in Raleigh, getting ready to head back to Burke County for "important business," he too well understood the "distress and suffering" of the war. His own family had been split, and his son, just 18 years old, was killed in the heat of battle in distant Pennsylvania.

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