The name William Caldwell first caught my attention while researching the August 12, 1781, raid in Wawarsing, in Ulster County, NY. His name was mentioned again in Governor George Clinton’s public papers. It was also in connection to the August raid which, it was believed, was lead by Caldwell (then a Captain). During this raid he led other Tories and Native American allies.
William Caldwell was born around 1750 in Northern Ireland. Prior to the American Revolution, Caldwell came to England’s North American Colonies first settling in Pennsylvania.
The same year of Lexington and Concord, Caldwell was offered an officer’s commission in the British Indian Department. Caldwell fought with Lord Dunmore’s forces, taking part in the storming of Norfolk, Virginia, early in 1776. According to Canadian Biography, with Dunmore’s defeat a wounded Caldwell had to be evacuated by sea to New York.
The United Empire Loyalists of Canada states, that Butler’s Rangers were formed, in 1777, and he was commissioned a captain. The following year he participate in the Wyoming Valley Massacre in Pennsylvania. “In September 1778 he led an attack on German Flats (Herkimer) in the Mohawk Valley of central New York, where he destroyed all of the buildings and grain in the area.”
Caldwell became well known in Western Ulster County when he attacked Wawarsing on August 12, 1781. A force of 300 Iroquois and, according to the Brigade of the American Revolution’s April 2006 newsletter, 90 of Butler’s Rangers raided Wawarsing. This raiding party from Fort Niagara was led, it is believed, by Captain William Caldwell.
According to An Annotated Nominal Roll Of Butler’s Rangers 1777-1784 With Documentary Sources Caldwell “commanded a force that destroyed mills, farms and forts at Warwarsink, Nipenack and Monbackers in Ulster County. In 1781 [sic, probably 1780] he attacked Curry’s Bush.”
His partisan attacks lasted well into 1782, when he defeated Colonel Crawford at Upper Sandusky in Ohio. During this battle he was shot through both legs. The war came to an end for Caldwell with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. After the war he was granted lands in Upper Canada along with other Loyalists. Eventually he became a merchant in Amherstburg. He would once again serve England in the War of 1812. After the War of 1812, Caldwell continued his life as a merchant. He spent the rest of his life in Amerherstburg, where he died February 20, 1822.
Illustration: A private in Butler’s Rangers during the American Revolutionary War, from a 1910 painting by Charles M. Lefferts.