Cavanaugh was born in Pennsylavania in 1845 to Matthew and Elizabeth
Cavanaugh. The Cavanaughs had started their family in Canada, where
older brother Benjamin
Cavanaugh was born in March of 1843. The 1850 Census indicates that the Cavanaughs had relocated
to Pennsylvania, where sister Sarah was born, before coming
over to New Jersey. Sister Mary Cavanaugh was born in 1849. The 1850
shows the family living in Camden's South Ward. Two
more children had been born, sons Joseph and Matthew Jr., were born in
the early 1850s. The
1860 Census shows the family still living in Camden's South Ward.
the Civil War came, older brother Benjamin Cavanaugh
enlisted in the Union Army in April of 1861, serving with Company G, Fourth Infantry Regiment New
Jersey Militia, a three-months service unit. Several
men who served with the Fourth Infantry became members of the Camden Fire
Department after it was founded in 1869, including William
W. Mines, J.
Kelly Brown, Henry F.
Surault, Edward Mead, William
M. Lane, William Gleason,
A. Zimmerman, Charles
G. Zimmerman, William
C. Lee, George B.
H.H. Clark, Cornelius
M. Brown, John
J. Brown, Benjamin
Connelly, and G.
Rudolph Tenner. Several other Fourth Infantry veterans played
significant roles in Camden in the ensuing years.
Cavanaugh went to war in 1864. He enlisted as a Private on February 23,
1864 in Company H, 4th New Jersey Infantry Regiment. He served alongside
Jr. who would marry John
Cavanaugh's sister Mary after the war.
Fourth New Jersey had gone into service in the summer of 1861 and had
seen considerable service prior to John Cavanaugh's enlistment. When
spring came, the regiment left winter quarters to confront the enemy
once again. At the Bbttle of the Wilderness the First, Fourth and
Tenth New Jersey regiments, lying on the left, were several times
attacked with great ferocity by the Confederates, but at nightfall
still held substantially the ground occupied by them in the
morning- a heavy assault by the Confederate General Gordon just at
dusk being repulsed with heroic gallantry. Among the wounded in
that engagement was Lieutenant Colonel Van Syckel of the 4th. At the
battle of Spottsylvania the regiment participated in the charge
upon the "bloody angle," winning its share of the glory
and sustaining its share of casualties. During the first eleven
days of Grant's campaign against Richmond the regiment lost 26
killed, 126 wounded and 42 missing. The 4th fought at the North
Anna river, Hanover Court House, Totopotomoy Creek, Cold Harbor,
Weldon Railroad, Snicker's Gap, Strasburg, Winchester and Charlestown.
At the battle of the Opequan the Fourth was with the troops that
pressed forward, swept up the opposite hill and forced back the Confederate
line, obtaining permanent possession of the hill and holding it,
though constantly exposed to a fire which inflicted severe loss,
the 4th having 2 killed, 18 wounded and 1 missing. At Fisher's Hill
a private of the Fourth named Beach compelled a Confederate
lieutenant colonel to surrender his sword, and there were other
instances of daring no less noteworthy.
regiment fought at Petersburg on January 9, 1865. John Cavanaugh and
Christopher Mines Jr. were both promoted to Full Corporal on March 6,
1865. They took part in one last engagement at Petersburg on April 2.
After Lee's surrender the regiment was assigned to what was known
as the provisional corps, Army of the Potomac, until mustered out on
July 9, 1865. The total strength of the regiment was 2,036, and it
lost during service 29 by resignation, 319 by discharge, 83 by
promotion, 81 by transfer, 257 by death, 372 by desertion, 3 by
dismissal, 109 not accounted for, mustered out 783.
Cavanaugh was among those who mustered out of Company H, 4th New
Jersey Infantry on July 9, 1865 at Hall's Hill.
they hadn't already been involved before going into the Army, brother Benjamin Cavanaugh
and several of his
companions became involved in volunteer firefighting in Camden after
their return, and it is possible that John Cavanaugh also took part.
the census was taken in 1870, Matthew Cavanaugh Sr. had passed away.
Mary Cavanaugh had married Christopher Mines
Jr., who would go on to a
long and distinguished career in Camden politics and government. Mines'
Mines, was an Assistant Fire Marshal with the Camden Fire
Department, and had served with Benjamin Cavanaugh
during the Civil War.
He may well have been instrumental in securing Benjamin Cavanaugh's appointment
to the Fire Department. Cavanaugh's widowed mother, Mary Cavanaugh, with
her sons John and Matthew, lived with Christopher and Mary Mines Jr., and
their 10-month old son, Marcus
K. Mines, according to the census sheet, which was taken by J.
Kelly Brown, another Civil War comrade AND member of the Camden Fire
Department. (Note: As of March 1, 2011, Joseph and Benjamin
census records have not been located- PMC).
Directories show that John Cavanaugh lived at 265
Pine Street, the home of
his brother-in-law Christopher Mines
Jr., in 1878. When
the 1880 Census was taken, John Cavanaugh had moved out of the Mines'
home at 265
and brother Benjamin Cavanaugh
had moved in. The Census shows that Elizabeth Cavanaugh and Joseph
Cavanaugh were still living there, and that Joseph
Cavanaugh was at that time laid up with a broken leg. The
1882-1883 Directory states that John Cavanuagh was boarding at 709 South
3rd Street. He moved back to his brother-in-law's home at 265 Pine Street
in 1883 and was still at that address in 1888. The 1890 Veterans census
shows him still residing at 265 Pine Street.
He was still at that address when the 1892-1893 Camden City Directory
Cavanaugh was appointed to the Fire Department in July of 1890 as an
extra man. He did not serve for very long, however. John Cavanaugh
passed away on March 6, 1893 and was buried at Harleigh Cemetery.