William Mulcaster

Born 1785 in England
Died 3/2/1837 in England


Capt Sir William Howe Mulcaster (1785 – 2 March 1837) was an officer in the British Royal Navy who played a distinguished part in the Anglo-American War of 1812, in particular in the Engagements on Lake Ontario.

He was the son of a senior officer in the Royal Engineers and entered the Royal Navy at the age of 15. In 1809, he was serving as a Lieutenant in HMS "Confiance". One of his fellow officers was his future commander, James Lucas Yeo. "Confiance" played a significant part in the capture of Cayenne, for which Mulcaster received a commemorative sword from the Prince Regent of Portugal and was promoted to Commander.

He was appointed to command the brig-rigged sloop of war Emulous serving at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Shortly after war with America broke out in 1812, Emulous was wrecked on Sable Island (the "Graveyard of the Atlantic"), and Mulcaster was recruited for service on the Great Lakes by Yeo (whose frigate, HMS Southampton had also been wrecked shortly before in the Caribbean).

Mulcaster was initially offered command of the flotilla on Lake Erie but he declined on grounds of the scarcity of resources there. Instead, he acted as second in command to Yeo. In that role, he commanded the sloop Royal George in 1813 in several actions on Lake Ontario against the American squadron led by Isaac Chauncey.

Both combatants on Lake Ontario were building progressively larger ships of war. Yeo laid down a frigate, to be named Prince Regent, and requested the Admiralty to promote Mulcaster to the rank of Post-Captain to command her. This was agreed. Before the ship was launched, in late 1813, Mulcaster commanded a flotilla of gunboats escorting supply convoys up the Saint Lawrence River. He encountered the vessels of American General James Wilkinson's expedition against Montreal at French Creek and harassed the American encampments. When Wilkinson set off down the Saint Lawrence, Mulcaster hastened to Kingston with the news and then, with a detachment of soldiers under Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Wanton Morrison, sailed in pursuit with armed schooners and gunboats. On November 11, Mulcaster's gunboats helped goad Wilkinson into a hasty attack which led to the American defeat at the Battle of Crysler's Farm.

On May 2, 1814, the British fleet and army on Lake Ontario mounted the Raid on Fort Oswego to intercept supplies and armaments for the American fleet. Mulcaster took part in the landing, leading 200 sailors armed with boarding pikes but he was severely wounded by a grapeshot and eventually lost a leg. This ended his active career, for which he received a pension of £300 and was nominated a Companion of the Order of the Bath.

In 1831 he received a knighthood and became aide de camp to King William IV.