Joseph Caldwell: The last member of McPherson Post 117

Allegheny County's last Civil War veteran


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When Joseph Caldwell died on Aug. 30, 1946, he was the last surviving member of the last Pittsburgh-area post of the Grand Army of the Republic. He was 98.

Born in Allegheny City -- now the North Side -- on Nov. 13, 1847, Caldwell was 16 when he enlisted as a private in the third version of Capt. Joseph M. Knap's independent artillery battery. Caldwell's was a 100-day emergency enlistment, and he served from May 19 until Sept. 15, 1864, according to Michael Kraus, curator at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland.

The Grand Army of the Republic, known as the GAR, was a Union veterans society, organized first into local posts and then into state or regional departments. Since membership was limited to Civil War service members, posts lasted only until their last member-veteran died. He was the last member of McPherson Post 117.

Caldwell's obituary in the Aug. 31 edition of the Post-Gazette said that he had attended every local Memorial Day parade for 80 years. Blind, almost deaf and suffering from a heart ailment, he had been unable to attend 1946 Memorial Day commemoration, so "the South Hills Memorial Association went to him. Major General Manton S. Eddy ... made a brief speech at his bedside."

After the war, he had worked as a contractor in Allegheny County and Butler County, where he had a farm, retiring about 1926. He lived in Pittsburgh's Brookline neighborhood for most of that time, but was residing with his son, Paul, in Overbrook when he died.

He was buried near his Butler Township farm in Summit United Presbyterian Cemetery in Jefferson.

Caldwell was the last man surviving out of a total of 25,930 residents of Allegheny County who served with Union forces during the Civil War. About 3,000 were killed or wounded during the conflict, Mr. Kraus said.


Len Barcousky: lbarcousky@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.


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