Attorney and author Walter Gaston Shotwell was born in 1856 in Cadiz, Harrison County, Ohio. He received his bachelor of arts from Yale University in 1878. He returned to Cadiz to study law with his father and Chauncey Dewey. In 1880, Shotwell was admitted to the bar and received his master of arts degree from Franklin College.
Shotwell privately practiced law from 1880 to 1887. In 1887, he was elected prosecuting attorney for Harrison County, Ohio. He served two terms in this office before returning to private practice in 1893. Shotwell sought elected office again when he ran for Common Pleas judge for the Eighth District of Ohio in 1899. He served three terms and retired from the bench in 1913 to pursue his writing career.
Shotwell was exposed to abolitionist sentiments by his parents and professors at Franklin College. As an attorney, he willingly served African-American clients and became known as a "friend to colored people." This background inspired his first book, The Life and times of Charles Sumner (1910). His second book, The Civil War in America (1923), was notably pro-Union. Shotwell's third published work, Driftwood: Being Papers on Old-Time American Towns and Some Old People (1927), is a collection of essays. A fourth work, a biography of writer Washington Irving, was pending publication when Shotwell was killed in a car accident on March 11, 1938.