William Caldwell (ranger)
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2009)|
County Fermanagh, Kingdom of Ireland
|Died||February 20, 1822
Amherstburg, Upper Canada
|Service/branch||British Indian Department|
|Commands held||Campbell's Rangers|
|Battles/wars||War of 1812|
|Spouse(s)||m. 1783 Suzanne Baby, daughter of Jacques Baby, dit Dupéront|
William Caldwell (c. 1750 – 20 February 1822), was a Scots-Irish immigrant to North America who became a soldier with the British Indian Department. He fought against the American rebels in the American Revolutionary War, especially with Butler's Rangers, based near upstate New York. After the war, together with other Loyalists, Caldwell was granted land in Upper Canada (now Ontario). He helped found the town of Amherstburg, near the mouth of the Detroit River. He also served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the War of 1812, and from 1814-1815 as the Superintendent of Indians in the Western Department. He was a merchant and farmer in Amherstburg.
Early life and education
William Caldwell is believed to be the son of William and Rebecka Caldwell of County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. As a young man, he immigrated to Pennsylvania in the British colonies of North America in 1773.
His initiation into combat was in the Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania when Pennsylvanians fought against Connecticut settlers. In 1774, he served in Dunmore's War. In 1775, he was appointed an officer in the British Indian Department.
With the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, Caldwell served with Lord Dunmore's forces in the attack on Norfolk, Virginia (1776), and was injured. Recovered of his wounds, Caldwell went to Fort Niagara, where he was appointed captain in Butler's Rangers on December 24, 1777.
In the ranger campaigns, Caldwell was "a very active Partisan", according to the commandant of Fort Niagara. Leading his troops into battle, he exhibited a ruthlessness that the Americans would never forget. On July 3, 1778, he was present at Battle of Wyoming in Pennsylvania. In September 1778 he led an attack on German Flatts in the Mohawk Valley of central New York, together with the Mohawk chief Joseph Brant's leading his Iroquois forces. They destroyed all of the buildings and grain in the area, and killed and captured much livestock, leaving the settlers' struggling through the winter.
Based out of Detroit, Caldwell led a force of about 50 rangers in many battles and expeditions in Kentucky and the Ohio Country. In 1782, he led his rangers and Shawnee allies in victories over the Crawford expedition and, after failing at Bryan Station, at the Battle of Blue Licks.
After the war, Caldwell settled in the Detroit region that became Upper Canada. Together with other Loyalists, he was granted land in what became Amherstburg on the Detroit River and became a merchant. His partner was another Loyalist, Matthew Elliott.
With the outbreak of the War of 1812, Caldwell was given command of a group of between 40 and 50 volunteers from the Canadian militia, called Caldwell's Rangers (or the Western Rangers). He fought at the Battle of the Thames and the Battle of Longwoods, among many other actions.
Marriage and family
Before his marriage, while in Fort Niagara, Caldwell had a relationship with a Mohawk woman. They named their mixed-race son, born about 1782, Billy Caldwell. The boy was first raised with his mother's people.
In 1789 his father brought the boy Billy Caldwell into his family and gave him an education. Billy Caldwell later lived in the United States after 1818, where he became a prominent representative of the Potowatomi people in Illinois and Iowa. He was sometimes known to them as Sauganash, their term for a British Canadian.
In the War of 1812, Caldwell was commissioned a Lieutenant Colonel. He gained commissions for all his sons by Suzanne in the regular army; Billy Caldwell was given a captain's commission in the Indian Department.
After the war, in 1814, Caldwell was appointed Superintendent of Indians in the Western District, with his son Billy as his second-in-command.
William Caldwell died on February 20, 1822 in Amherstburg, Upper Canada.
In popular culture
- William Caldwell was portrayed in Walter D. Edmonds' popular 1936 historical novel Drums Along the Mohawk.
- In the 1939 movie by the same name, directed by John Ford, John Carradine portrayed Caldwell.
- "William Caldwell", United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada, accessed 11 August 2011
- "Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online". Retrieved 2009-01-31.
- Horsman, Reginald. Matthew Elliott, British Indian Agent. Detroit, 1964.