James Caldwell was born in April 1734, in Cub Creek in
, Charlotte County . He graduated from Virginia Princeton in 1759, and was ordained the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethtown in 1762. served as Third Battalion of Company No. 1, New Jersey Volunteers during the Revolutionary War, and was also Commissary to the troops in Caldwell . He was known as the “fighting parson.” New Jersey
25 January 1780, Reverend Caldwell’s church was burned down by the enemy. He moved his family to the parsonage at Connecticut Farms (now Union), so that they might enjoy a safer life. Unfortunately, this was not to pass. New Jersey
6 June 1780, General Knyphausen crossed over from Staten Island into with six to seven thousand German soldiers. (1) The goal was to reach New Jersey , where the Rebels had their quarters and supplies. On the seventh, Knyphausen’s command marched to Morristown where he drove the Rebel soldiers back. Stephan Popp, a Hessian soldier present at this time, wrote that they “marched close to Elizabethtown , burned down many houses on the way and destroyed very much. On our side many were also killed and wounded.” (2) They retreated by way of Connecticut Farms. They set fire first to the house of Deacon Caleb Wade, and then the Presbyterian Church. They also set fire to other buildings. The New-Jersey Journal of 14 June reported that Hannah Caldwell, the Reverend’s wife, “with a babe of eight months, and one of three years old, with the housekeeper [Catherine Benward] and a little maid [Abigail Lennington], were left. Mrs. Caldwell having dressed herself, and put her house in order, retired into a back room[….]One of the barbarians advancing around the house, took the advantage of a small space, through which the room was accessable [sic], and fired two balls into that amiable lady, so well directed that they ended her life in a moment.” (3) Hannah was then stripped of part of her clothing and the house pilfered before it was set ablaze. Eleven more houses were also set on fire. (4) The Hessian, Popp, recorded in his diary that three boats of wounded were brought back to New York the following day, while another Hessian soldier, Johann Conrad Döhla, reported over 300 killed and wounded, including the English General Stern and Lieutenant Friedrich Ebenauer of the Jäger corps, both killed. (5) Springfield
The British did not take kindly to this defeat, and at the end of the month, they would appear at
Farms and Elizabethtown, Connecticut again. The combined British-Hessian force under Knyphausen, with artillery, was able to push the Americans back to Springfield , but not without losses. It was at Springfield that the Americans ran out of paper wadding to load the bullets into their weapons. Reverend James Caldwell went into the Presbyterian Church and came out with as many Isaac Watts hymnals as he could carry. He ran amongst the troops, handing out the hymnals to them yelling, “Give ‘em Springfield Watts, boys!” ’s heroism and resourcefulness could only last so long; the English and Hessians charged with bayonets and chased the Americans out of Caldwell . Springfield was plundered on the orders of the commanding general and was set afire (there were no longer any inhabitants). The Hessian soldier Döhla recorded in his diary, “The first fire was set by the English in the beautiful Reformed Church, which, with its steeple, soon was destroyed by the flames, because it was built mostly of wood. Springfield , of sixty or seventy buildings mostly of wood, in a period of half an hour was laid entirely in ashes. Six American men, whose legs had been shot off, unfortunately were burned to death in a house.” (6) Stephan Popp claimed that about one hundred men perished in the burning of the church, as they were not allowed out of the building. (7) If the fire was set to cover the retreat of the British and Hessians, it was not successful. They were pursued by the Americans to Springfield , and suffered heavy losses. The combined British-Hessian forces lost 400-500 men, mostly on the retreat. The loss of the Americans, in killed and wounded, were 600-700 men. Elizabethtown
The Reverend James Caldwell and his wife were buried in the churchyard of the First Presbyterian Church in
Sixty-four years after his death, on
24 November 1845, James Caldwell became the first person in to have a monument dedicated to him, done so by the Sons of Cincinnati. (9) Hannah was also honored, in a different manner. The seal of union County, Elizabethtown , features the murder of Hannah Caldwell. New Jersey
(1) A Hessian Soldier in the American Revolution: The Diary of Stephan Popp. Trans. Reinhart J. Pope, private printing, 1953, page 16.
(2) Popp, 16.
in the American Revolution, 1763-1783: A Documentary History edited by Larry R. Gerlach, page 312. New Jersey
(4) Gerlach, 313.
(5) Popp, 16 and A Hessian Diary of the American Revolution by Johann Conrad Döhla, Translated, edited by Bruce E. Burgoyne.
, Norman 1990, page 128. University of Oklahoma Press
(6) Döhla, 131.
(7) Popp, 16.
(8) The Romance of the Revolution: being true stories of the adventures, romantic incidents, hairbreadth escapes, and heroic exploits of the Days of ’76. by Oliver Bell Bunce. Porter & Coates,
, 1870, page 258. Philadelphia
: The First Capital of Elizabeth . by Jean-Rae Turner & Richard T. Koler. Arcadia Publishing, 2003, page 51. New Jersey