William Maxwell was born on February 28, 1809 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point from 1827-1828, but was found deficient in his studies at the end of his second year and did not return for his third year.

He nevertheless went on to become a lawyer and judge in Mercer and Greenville, Pennsylvania. On August 24, 1861 he helped raise and became Colonel of the¬†57th Pennsylvania Infantry. But he resigned on February 28, 1862, “owing to difficulties which have arisen in the regiment, owing in part to the inefficiency of officers, and that from my efforts at discipline acquired a faction against me in the regiment.”

Maxwell returned to his legal career. He died on December 13, 1890, and is buried in Shenango Valley Cemetery in Greenville, Pennsylvania.