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Collection Number: 03027

Collection Title: John Lucas Paul Cantwell Papers, 1830-1925

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the FAQ section for more information.


Funding from the Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc., supported the encoding of this finding aid and microfilming of this collection.

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Size 0.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 140 items)
Abstract John Lucas Paul Cantwell (1828-1909) was born in Charleston, S.C., the son of Patrick Cantwell, an Irish immigrant, and Lydia Lucas Cantwell. In between stints working as a drug clerk in Charleston, S.C., and New Orleans, La., Cantwell served in the Mexican War as a member of the Palmetto Regiment, South Carolina Volunteers. Sometime during the 1850s, he moved to Wilmington, N.C., and began serving in the 30th North Carolina Militia. During the Civil War, he served in several Confederate military units and spent time in federal prison at Fort Delaware, Del., Morris Island, S.C., and Fort Pulaski, Ga., as a member of the "Immortal 600," a group of prisoners taken to Morris Island, Fort Pulaski, and Hilton Head, S.C., by federal forces in an attempt to save those places from Confederate fire. After the war, he became a produce broker in Wilmington and kept up his connection with the Wilmington Light Infantry and with Confederate veterans' organizations. The collection consists of family correspondence and military papers of John Lucas Paul Cantwell and other members of the Cantwell, Lucas, Calder, Blount, and Van Eaton families. Included are family letters, 1848-1849, from Patrick Cantwell to his son in New Orleans giving fatherly advice; papers relating to Mexican War pension claims and service in the 30th North Carolina Militia, in various Confederate army units, and in the Wilmington Light Infantry; Confederate prisoner of war correspondence from Fort Delaware, Fort Pulaski, Morris Island, and Hilton Head; papers relating to Confederate veterans' activities and the Ladies Memorial Association of Wilmington; and other scattered family correspondence, including letters of Henry Smith Van Eaton (1826-1898) of Woodville, Miss., who was related to Cantwell's first or second wife.
Creator Cantwell, John Lucas Paul, 1828-1909.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the John Lucas Paul Cantwell Papers #3027, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
Microfilm copy (filmed 2005-2006) available.
  • Reel 1: Entire collection
Acquisitions Information
Received from William C. Huggins of Charleston, S.C., in April 1954.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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John Lucas Paul Cantwell was born in 1828 in Charleston, S.C. His parents, Patrick Cantwell, apparently an Irish immigrant, and Lydia Lucas Cantwell, had seven other children: Drayton, Henry, Mary, Fanny, Aloysius, Ignatius, and Edward. Lydia Lucas Cantwell had at least two brothers, Benjamin Lucas, and John Lucas of South Carolina.

John Cantwell worked as a drug clerk in Charleston, S.C., until he enlisted in December 1846 in the Palmetto Regiment of the South Carolina Volunteers to fight in the Mexican War. He was mustered out in October 1847. From the summer of 1848 until the following year, and possibly until 1851, he worked as a drug clerk in New Orleans, La. Sometime during the early 1850s Cantwell moved to Wilmington, N.C. In 1855, he was a colonel in the 30th North Carolina Militia, which was stationed in the summer of 1861 at Fort Caswell and was ordered to accompany Colonel Campbell of the 7th North Carolina Regiment to Hatteras Inlet in August 1861. Cantwell's military record between 1861 and 1864 is not clear, but in 1864 he was a prisoner of war at Fort Delaware and was one of the "Immortal 600" prisoners taken to Morris Island, Hilton Head, and Fort Pulaski by federal forces in an attempt to save those places from Confederate fire. After the Civil War, Cantwell was a produce broker in Wilmington. He kept up his connections with the Wilmington Light Infantry and with Confederate veterans' organizations.

Cantwell married Kate Theodosia Calder of Woodville, Miss., in 1858, and with her had a son, Robert Cantwell. Kate Theodosia Calder Cantwell died in 1863. In 1869, Cantwell married a cousin of his first wife, Kate Theodosia Blount, also of Woodville, Miss., and with her had Kate Theodosia Cantwell and Paul Cantwell. John Lucas Paul Cantwell died in 1909.

Henry Smith Van Eaton (1826-1898), whose letters appear among the correspondence, was a native of Ohio who moved to Woodville, Miss., in 1848. Van Eaton served in the Confederate States of America Army and in Congress from 1883 to 1887. His wife Anna apparently was related to the Blount or Calder families of Woodville, and her sister Carrie lived in Wilmington.

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The collection contains family correspondence and military papers of John Lucas Paul Cantwell and other members of the Cantwell, Lucas, Calder, Blount, and Van Eaton families. Papers, 1830-1851, document Cantwell's service in the Palmetto Regiment of the South Carolina Volunteers during the Mexican War, and the years in which he worked in a drug store in New Orleans, La., from 1848 to about 1851. Letters from Patrick Cantwell to his son in New Orleans contain fatherly advice concerning diligence in work, good personal habits, Roman Catholic religious practice, and include personal inquiries and news of family and friends in South Carolina. There is some discussion of matters relating to the trouble in which Cantwell had been involved with Mr. H. B. Roach in Charleston, S.C. Other papers concern arrangements for pay due Mexican war veterans, an account by Cantwell of the Battle of Contreras (19 August 1847) published in the New Orleans Delta, and an 1851 recommendation of Cantwell signed by eleven Charleston firms and individuals.

Papers, 1856-1865, chiefly concern John Lucas Paul Cantwell's military service as a colonel in the 30th North Carolina Militia and in various Confederate army units. Civil War materials include an August 1861 order to Colonel Cantwell of the 30th North Carolina Militia to accompany Colonel Campbell of the 7th Regiment North Carolina State Troops to Hatteras Inlet; a January 1863 certificate of exemption for Private J. L. Cantwell of the 22nd North Carolina Militia on grounds that he is a justice of the peace; and prisoner of war correspondence of Captain J. L. Cantwell of Company F of the 3rd North Carolina Infantry when he was imprisoned at Fort Delaware, Del., and later at Morris Island, S.C., and Fort Pulaski, Ga., as part of the "Immortal 600," a group of prisoners taken to Morris Island, Fort Pulaski, and Hilton Head, S.C., by federal forces in an attempt to save those places from Confederate fire. Cantwell's wartime correspondents included family, friends, and northern businesses. The correspondence concerns family news; clothes ordered and funds to be sent to Cantwell in prison by various family members, friends, and businesses; and conditions at Fort Delaware, Hilton Head, and Fort Pulaski. An unofficial sick report of January 1865 by Cantwell shows about half of the 311 prisoners ill at Fort Pulaski and a letter the following month to Attorney General George Davis in Richmond, Va., describes the diet of the prisoners of war. There are three letters from later in 1865 from J. L. Hempstead of Dubuque, Ia., asking for certain data, especially concerning the "Immortal 600," for use in a book detailing cruel treatment of Confederate prisoners of war by Federal forces.

Papers, 1877-1925, also largely concern Cantwell's military service. Topics include the Wilmington Light Infantry Company of the National Guard, which was commanded by Cantwell; pensions for Mexican War veterans; Confederate veterans' activities; and Lamar Fontaine's purportedly false claims regarding the "Immortal 600." In addition, there are recollections of the earliest displays of the Confederate flag in 1861; materials documenting speechmaking, rallies, and ceremonies by the Ladies Memorial Association in Wilmington; personal letters, many from Henry Smith Van Eaton to his sister-in-law Carrie in Wilmington, with news of family, property, investments, and estate settlement in Woodville, Miss.; and a 1925 map of the Wilmington, N.C., area showing the location of blockade runners.

Note: John Lucas Paul Cantwell wrote his name John P. Cantwell in early life and John L. Cantwell in later years.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Papers, 1830-1925.

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Processing Information

Processed by: Brooke Allan, December 1962

Encoded by: Nancy Kaiser, July 2005

Funding from the Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc., supported the encoding of this finding aid and microfilming of this collection.

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