James Caldwell (clergyman)

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James Caldwell
James Caldwell American Revolution.jpg
Artist's depiction of Caldwell at the Battle of Springfield
BornApril 1734
DiedNovember 24, 1781 (aged 47)
Burial placeFirst Presbyterian Church of Elizabeth
SpouseHannah Ogden
Children9 children
Parent(s)John Caldwell and Margaret Caldwell

James Caldwell (April 1734 – November 24, 1781) was a Presbyterian minister who played a prominent part in the American Revolution.


Caldwell was born in Cub Creek in Charlotte County, Province of Virginia, the seventh son of John and Margaret Caldwell, who were Scots-Irish settlers, and traced their ancestry to Huguenots who fled France to Scotland in the 16th century, established Caldwell Castle and later defended the Ulster Plantation and Derry.[1] James Caldwell graduated from the College of New Jersey (later called Princeton University) in 1759 and, although he inherited 500 acres (2.0 km2) in Cub Creek, chose to become pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. He was an active partisan on the side of the Patriots, and was known as the "Fighting Parson".[2] His church and his house were burned by Loyalists in 1780.

While Caldwell was stationed with the army in Morristown, his wife Hannah was killed by British gunfire under disputed circumstances during the Battle of Connecticut Farms in what is now Union Township, an act which Union County immortalizes on their county seal to this day.[3] His wife had been at home with their baby and a 3 year old toddler. As the British moved into Connecticut Farms, Hannah Caldwell was shot through a window or wall as she sat with her children on a bed.

Caldwell, who fought in the Battle of Springfield, was killed on November 24, 1781, by an American sentry in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, when he refused to have a package inspected. The sentry, James Morgan, was hanged for murder on January 29, 1782 in Westfield, New Jersey, amid rumors that he had been bribed to kill the chaplain. Their nine orphaned children were raised by the family's friends.




  1. ^ "West Virginia and its people". New York, Lewis Historical Pub. Co. 1913.
  2. ^ "History of West Caldwell". Township of West Caldwell. Caldwell earned the nickname "the Fighting Parson" because of his aid to Washington's men as they battled in various parts of Horseneck.
  3. ^ Union County officials battle activist over use of controversial county seal July 10, 2011.

For the date of the murder, see New Jersey Supreme Court, case number 37028, New Jersey State Archives, Trenton, NJ

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