John Curtis Caldwell was born on April 17, 1833 in the small town of Lowell, Vermont. Like many officers in the Civil War, he did not have a military background. Instead he was a teacher at the Washington Academy in Maine, but he qualified for a commission as colonel when he entered Federal service in 1861 because of his education. By the time of the Peninsular Campaign, he was promoted to brigadier general, but he suffered a loss of reputation at Fredericksburg where one of his regiments broke and ran, while Caldwell himself was wounded twice. He recovered and fought again at both Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. While Winfield Scott Hancock was wounded, Caldwell commanded the entire II Corps throughout the winter of 1863-64. He was relieved of duty at the start of the Overland Campaign, but served as part of President Lincoln’s honor guard as his body was transported to Springfield. From there, Caldwell served in a number of state and federal positions, including as a diplomat to Chile, Uruguay and Costa Rica. He died in his daughter’s home in Maine in 1912.
In the summer of 1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee launched his second invasion of the Northern states. Forces collided at the crossroads town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania from July 1-3, 1863. It resulted in an estimated 51,000 casualties on both sides, the bloodiest single battle of the entire war.