Caldwell As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 24,594 black Americans with Caldwell as their last name. That represented 26% of the total of 93,944 entries.

This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Caldwell.

We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.

After The Civil War

The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1850 and 1860, only free African Americans were recorded in the census. The many enslaved were omitted.

From 1870 onward, all black Americans were included.

2,674 people named Caldwell were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 438 as mixed.

There was a total of 15,399 people with the name.

Caldwell In The 1900 And 1940 Census

The mixed category was dropped from the census in 1900, so we just need to look at the black numbers this time.

The 1900 census recorded 5,382 people with the last name Caldwell as black within a total of 27,737 that year.

By the way, the mixed category returned in the 1910 and 1920 censuses. It was dropped again in 1930, but replaced with extra categories for colored and non-white in a way that seems confusing now.

This changed again in 1940 and we can simply focus on one black category.

The 1940 census recorded 9,472 people named Caldwell as black within a total of 49,832.

Historic Black Figures With The Caldwell Surname

Here is a notable African American in history with Caldwell as their last name.

Wilson Caldwell

  • Born: 1841
  • From: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Died: 1898

Wilson Caldwell was born enslaved in North Carolina. His father was owned by a president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Wilson was owned by a succeeding president, David Swain.

Wilson likely received some education as a child, which was unusual for the era. As an adult, he became head janitor at the university.

During the Civil War, Union forces had burnt several Southern towns. As troops approached the university at Chapel Hill, Wilson joined president Swain and other local white dignitaries to meet with them and agree terms of surrender.

Impressed by Wilson’s presence, the Union troops spared the university and town from damage.

After emancipation, Wilson founded a school for the black community. He became a justice of the peace and was head of the University campus workforce until he died.

Edwin Caldwell

  • Born: 1867
  • From: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Died: 1932

Edwin Caldwell was a son of Wilson Caldwell. As a child, he helped his father around the college and got private lessons from some of the students.

He went on to get a degree in medicine in 1891 from Shaw’s Leonard Medical School in Raleigh. He practiced as a doctor for many years in Osceola, Arkansas before moving to Durham, North Carolina.

Edwin became an expert in treating pellagra, a disease more prevalent amongst the malnourished poor. The civil rights activist, Pauli Murray, describe in her memoirs how Caldwell cured her grandmother of the condition.

Caldwell In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Caldwell surname from military service.

Buffalo Soldiers

Five regiments for black soldiers were formed during the Civil War. They were known as the Buffalo Soldiers.

Their records are part of the national archive of military monthly returns. The information includes the year and place of birth, where they enlisted, their occupation, and their height.

One of the earliest military entries for Caldwell was in September 1867. Lewis A. Caldwell was a Recruit in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in September 1867 at Fort Riley, Kansas and Wilmington, Maryland.

Another entry was in January 1914. Arthur Caldwell was a Quartermaster Sergeant in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry.

If you are researching military ancestors, there is a free index of these records on and

You have to create an account on either website, but you do not need to pay for the Buffalo Soldiers archive.

Black Civil War Sailors

The National Parks Service has a free archive of African American sailors during the Civil War.

The information includes their age, height, rank, occupation, and where and when they enlisted. It also includes every ship that they served on.

You can search the database on the National Parks website.

Zachariah Caldwell

One of the earliest entries for Caldwell was for Zachariah Caldwell from Baltimore, Maryland. He enlisted in December 1861 at New Bedford when he was aged 26.

The record shows that Zachariah was assigned on June 1863 to the ship Paul Jones.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Mariner. His naval rank was Ordinary Seaman.

An ordinary seaman in the Navy is an apprentice who serves on the deck.

George Caldwell

One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Philadelphia in October 1864. George was aged 24 and was from Baltimore, Maryland.

He was assigned to the ship St Lawrence on April 1865.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Barber. His naval rank was Landsman.

“Landsman” was the lowest rank at the time and was given to recruits with little sea experience.