Sylvanus Cadwallader

Part of the Cool Civil War Names series.

Probably my favorite name thus far. A true journalist during a time when mainstream journalism consisted of BRASH, HYSTERICAL HEADLINES!!! and Limbaughesque vituperation, Cadwallader began his newspaper career in Milwaukee before joining the Chicago Times and later the New York Herald as a war correspondent embedded with General Ulysses S. Grant. (He wrote about this time in Three Years With Grant, an acclaimed postwar memoir.) He followed Grant for three years through critical campaigns in Mississippi and Tennessee, during the advance on Richmond, and was present at Appomattox for the peace treaty signing.

He’s also the source of the hotly debated claim that Grant was drunk during the Vicksburg campaign in 1863. Embellishment or fact? Who knows. What we do know is Grant sent Cadwallader a letter in September 1864 commending him for his reporting. Clearly “Unconditional Surrender” Grant wasn’t too upset with him.

After the war, Cadwallader served as a public official in Wisconsin before retiring to California to write his memoir. I haven’t read it yet, but the scant information about him that’s available tells us his journalism was exemplary simply because he wasn’t a fire-breathing partisan like many of his colleagues. A low bar, it seems, but he passed it.

Up next in CCWN, the churlish CLEMENT L. VALLANDIGHAM.

2 responses to “Sylvanus Cadwallader”


    I read the book Three Years With Grant as part of my study of war correspondents sent to follow troops during the US civil war. The passage on the campaign at Vicksburg is amazing how Cadwallader saved Grants life, and after that incident was allowed to set up his camp in areas reserved for staff officers. This was unprecedented given the low regard for newspaper reporters often arrested and treated as spies by federal officers during that conflict. Cadwallader even carried orders from Grant to field commanders at times when his staff were busy. These and other facts offer convincing evidence if not proof that this humble civilian did enable the course of the war by saving the general from certain death.
    This is a great story that is never told but certainly should be.
    Doug Overton

  2. A reporter carrying a general’s orders wouldn’t happen today, that’s for sure. Clearly Cadwallader earned Grant’s famed loyalty.