John Cadwalader was born in Pennsylvania in 1742, the son of Dr. Thomas Cadwalader.
He was a cousin to the Dickinsons. He was quite active politically and militarily. He was a member of the Philadelphia Committee of Safety, Captain of the city's "silk stocking" militia company, Commanding Officer of a city battalion and Colonel of a Pennsylvania militia regiment, which he took became in 1776.
He was involved in Washington's plan for attack on Trenton in 1776, however, he and his men were unable to cross the Delaware south of Trenton in sufficient strength to be of any real aid. Material contributions were made through military intelligence at Princeton. He was appointed a Continental Brigadier General February 21, 1777 of state militia. He declined. Washington himself admired and even coveted Cadwalader's abilities. By fall of 1777, Washington requested Cadwalader to organize militia on the Maryland eastern shore. He did see action at Brandywine and Germantown as well as volunteering after Valley Forge at Monmouth.
On the Fourth of July, 1778, Cadwalader fought a duel with Thomas Conway. He shot him in the mouth.
Again, he was offered a commission as Continental Brigadier General on September 10, 1778. This position would have entailed commanding the Cavalry. He declined once more.
Following the war, he moved from Philadelphia to Maryland. He became a state legislator. He died at the age of 43 in 1786, leaving behind a large fortune