Cadwallader, John


Military Magazine and record of the Volunteers of the United States, Vol I, Philadelphia June 1839

Brigadier-General John Cadwallader, of the US Army.

This zealous and inflexible friend of America, was born in Philadelphia, 1742. He was distinguished for his intrepidity as a soldier, in upholding the cause of freedom during the most discouraging periods of danger that America ever beheld. As the dawn of the revolution, he commanded a corps of volunteers, designated as “the silk stocking company,” of which nearly all the members were appointed to commissions in the line of the army. He afterwards was appointed Colonel of one of the City Battalions, and being thence promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General, was entrusted with the command of the Pennsylvania Troops, in the important operations of the winter campaign of 1776 and 1777. He acted with this command, as a volunteer, in the actions of Princeton, Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth, and on other occasions, and received the thanks of General Washington, who confidence and regard he uniformly enjoyed.

The merits and services of General Cadwallader, induced Congress, early in 1778, to compliment him by a unanimous vote, with the appointment of General of Cavalry; which appointment he declined, under an impression that he could be more useful to his country in the sphere in which he had been acting. He was strongly and ardently attached to General Washington, and his celebrated duel with General Conway, arose from his spirited opposition to the intrigues of that officer, to undermine the standing of the commander-in-chief. The folling anecdote of the encounter, is related in the “Anecdotes of the Revolutionary War.”

“The particulars of this duel, (originating in the honorable feelings of General Cadwallader, indignant at the attempt of his adversary to injur the reputation of the commander-in-chief, by representing him as unqualified for the exalted station which he held,) appears worthy of record. Nor ought the coolnesss observed on twithou the smallest deviation from the rigid rules of politeness. When arrived at the appointed rendezvous, General Cadwallader, accompanied by General Dickson, of Pennsylvania, and General Conway by Colonel Morgan, of Princeton, it was agreed upon by the seconds, that on the word being given, the principals might fire in their own time, and at discretion, either by an off-hand shot, or by taking a deliberate aim. The parties having declared themselves ready, the word was given to proceed. General Conway immediately raised his pistol, and fired with great composure, but without effect. General Cadwallader was about to do so, when a sudden gust of wind occurring, he kept his pistol down, and remained tranquil. ‘Why do you not fire, General Cadwallader?’he occasion by the exclaimed Conway. “Because,” replied General Cadwallader, ‘we came not here to trifle. Let the gale pass, and I shall act may part.’ “you shall have a fair chance of performing it well,’ rejoined Conway, and General Cadwallader fired, and the ball entering the mouth of his antagonist, he fell directly forward on his face. Colonel Morgan running to his assistance, found the blood spouting from behind his neck, and lifting up the club of his hair, saw the ball drop from it. It had passed through his head greatly to the derangement of his tongue and teeth, but did not inflict a mortal wound. As soon as the blood was sufficiently washed away to allow him to speak, Gen Conway, turning to his opponent, said, good humourdly—‘You fire, General, with much deliberation, and certainly with a great deal of effect.’ The parties then parted, free from all resentment.”

This patriotic and exemplary man died, February 10th, 1786. In his private life he exemplified all the virtues that ennoble the character of man. His conduct was not marked with the least degree of malevolence or party spirit. Those who honestly differed from him in opinion, he always treated with singular tenderness. In sociabililty and cheerfulness of temper, honesty and goodness of heart, independence of spirit, and warmth of friendship, he had no superior. Never did any man die more lamented by his friends and neighbors; to his family and relations, his death was a stroke still more severe.

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This product was added to our catalog on Sunday 08 July, 2012.