James Francis Cantwell
Believed taken September 8, 1862 at Indianapolis, Indiana
According to his military service records, James F. Cantwell was a 33 year old "Farmer" residing at Vincennes in Knox County, Indiana when he enlisted on August 11, 1862 into what became Company G of the 80th Indiana. James was mustered into the Union Army at the rank of 1st Sergeant (also known as Orderly Sergeant) for a 3 year term of service on September 3, 1862 at Camp Gibson near Princeton, Indiana. At that time he was the married father of several small children and was recorded by teh Army as being "5 feet 5 inches" tall with "blue" eyes "light" hair and a "fair" complexion.
1st Sergt. Cantwell was fourth in command of Co. G after 2nd Lieutenant Porter Clarkson, 1st Lieutenant Samuel E. Smith, and Captain Willis H. Watson (the company's commanding officer). In addition to the 3 officers, there were over 90 soldiers in G when it first formed.
According to his service records, Sergt. Cantwell was listed as "Present" with the 80th from September 1862 through June 1865, the entire duration of the regiment's existence.
In October 1862 Sergt. Cantwell was listed as having "Lost in battle of Perryville sword, sash, canteen & haversack Oct. 8, 1862" (the sword and sash are visible in the image above). According to a newspaper report, Sergt. Cantwell's hand was injured during the battle, which took place just 30 days after the regiment had first drawn its uniforms and weapons. During 2 hours of heavy fighting the 80th lost twenty-five men killed, one hundred sixteen wounded, and sixteen captured out of the 738 men it took into the battle. This was a 27% casualty rate, and amounted to 45% of all casualties the regiment would suffer during its entire service.
Starting in early 1863 Co. G experienced a great deal of turnover amongst its officers. In January 1st Lieut. Smith resigned his commission and left the Army; this vacancy was filled when Sergt. Jeremiah C. Gladish of Co. G was promoted to be its new 1st Lieut. In March 2nd Lieut. Clarkson resigned; his position was filled in early April 1863 when an outsider, William T. Dunn, was appointed as the company's new 2nd Lieut. That same month the company's commanding officer, Capt. Watson, resigned and Lieut. Gladish was promoted to take his place. In May 2nd Lieut. Dunn was promoted to be Co. G's new 1st Lieut. and Corporal William H. Clements of Co. G was commissioned as its new 2nd Lieut. In each of these cases Sergt. Cantwell was passed over for promotion. This continued when 1st Lieut. Dunn resigned due to poor health in February 1864 and was replaced by 2nd Lieut. Clements (the vacancy created by his promotion was never filled).
The war ended in April 1865 with the surrender of most of the remaining Confederate forces. On June 1, 1865 Sergt. Cantwell was commissioned by Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton to be the new Captain of Co. G, to fill the vacancy created when Capt. Gladish was promoted to be the 80th's Major. Unfortunately, James had not yet been mustered in at the rank of Captain before he and the rest of his company were honorably discharged from the Army on June 22, 1865 at Salisbury, North Carolina when the regiment was disbanded. There were 2 officers and just over 30 soldiers still with Co. G at this point.
The surviving veterans of the 80th Indiana reached Indianapolis on July 3, 1865. There on the 5th they were addressed by Governor Morton at a gala reception dinner, and on the 8th were paid off and released to their homes as civilians.
After the war James returned to his family at Vincennes, resumed farming, and had several more children with his wife. Starting in 1870 he owned a brick making firm at Worthington in Greene County, Indiana until his retirement in 1890. James was a long-time member of the Presbyterian Church. He also belonged to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the Union Civil War veterans' organization, and to the Fraternal Order of Masons (AF&AM). James passed away due to cancer of the liver at age 80, just a few months after the death of his wife of 58 years.
For more about Capt. Cantwell's experiences during the war, click the 80th History link below to read what happened during for the months he was present with the unit. If you have additional details about him that you would be willing to share, then please contact Scott C. Meeker using the link below.
Sources: Genealogical information courtesy of James' Great, Great Grandson Scott Cantwell Meeker; Civil War Compiled Military Service Records by Office of Adjutant General of the United States (Washington, DC) and Regimental Descriptive Rolls, 1861-1865, Volumes III, IV, and VIII, Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana (Indianapolis, Indiana, 1866).