Rogers' Rangers

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Rogers' Rangers
Active 1755–1763
Country  Great Britain
Allegiance  British Army
Branch Provincial Irregulars
Type Special Operations Light Infantry
Role Conducting unconventional or special light infantry operations
Size Nine companies
Garrison/HQ Fort William Henry (1755–1757)
Rogers Island (1757–1763)
Engagements

French and Indian War

Pontiac's Rebellion

Commanders
Notable
commanders
Major Robert Rogers
Lieutenant John Stark
Moses Hazen
James Rogers
William Stark (loyalist)

Rogers' Rangers was initially a provincial company from the colony of New Hampshire, attached to the British Army during the Seven Years War (called the French and Indian War in the United States). The unit was quickly adopted into the British army as an independent ranger company. It was trained by Major Robert Rogers as a rapidly deployable light infantry force tasked mainly with reconnaissance as well as conducting special operations against distant targets. Their tactics, built on earlier colonial precedents, but codified for the first time by Rogers, proved remarkably effective, so much so that the initial company was expanded into a ranging corps of more than a dozen companies (containing as many as 1,200-1,400 men at its peak). The ranger corps became the chief scouting arm of British Crown forces by the late 1750s. The British valued them highly for gathering intelligence about the enemy.

Later, the company was revived as a Loyalist force during the American Revolutionary War. Nonetheless, a number of former ranger officers became Patriot commanders. Some ex-rangers also participated as patriot militiamen at the Battle of Concord Bridge.

Three military formations now claim descent from Rogers' Rangers:

History[edit]

French and Indian War[edit]

Rogers' Rangers began as a company in the provincial forces of the colony of New Hampshire in British North America in 1755. The unit was the latest in a long-line of New England ranger companies dating back to the 1670s. The immediate precursor to and model for the unit was Gorham's Rangers, formed in 1744 and still active in 1755.[1] Rogers' company was formed to fight in the French and Indian War (the Seven Years War in Canada, Britain and Europe), in the borderlands of the colonial Northeast. Commanded by first Captain, then later Major Robert Rogers, they operated primarily in the Lake George and Lake Champlain regions of New York. The unit was formed during the winter of 1755 from forces stationed at Fort William Henry. The Rangers sometimes undertook raids against French towns and military emplacements, traveling sometimes on foot, sometimes in whaleboats and, during winter, on snowshoes.

Over the course of 1756 and 1757 the usefulness of Rogers' company prompted British officials to form a second ranger company, and eventually four more. By early 1758 the rangers had been expanded to a corps of fourteen companies, containing 1,200 to 1,400 men. This included three all-Indian units: two of Stockbridge Mahicans, and a third of Natives from Connecticut (mainly Mohegan and Pequot). Eventually Rogers was promoted to Major and served as commandante of the ranger corps.

On January 21, 1757, at the First Battle on Snowshoes, Rogers' force of 74 rangers ambushed and captured seven Frenchmen near Fort Carillon at the south end of Lake Champlain. They ran into about 100 French and Canadien (French Canadian) militia and Ottawa from the Ohio Country. After taking casualties, Rogers' force retreated. In reports, the French noted the tactical disadvantage which they suffered, as they lacked snowshoes and were "floundering in snow up to their knees."[2] Rogers' Rangers had maintained positions on the high ground and behind large trees.[2] According to Francis Parkman, Ranger casualties were 14 killed, 6 captured, and 6 wounded (the latter returned with 48 men who were unharmed). The French—consisting of 89 Regulars and 90 Canadians and Indians—had 37 killed and wounded.[3] The French/Indians casualties may have included one of the captured prisoners (one wounded and captured Ranger, who was later exchanged, claimed to have killed-or believed he had killed-one of the captured Frenchmen by striking him on the head with a tomahawk after the Rangers were ambushed). It is unclear if this was the fate of the other captured French as well.

A company of the rangers led by Noah Johnson was stationed at Fort William Henry in 1757 during the siege. The siege ended with the surrender of the British forces and a massacre. After British forces surrendered Fort William Henry in August 1757, the Rangers were stationed on Rogers Island near Fort Edward. This allowed the Rangers to train and operate with more freedom than the regular forces.

On March 13, 1758, at the Second Battle on Snowshoes, Rogers' Rangers ambushed a French-Indian column and, in turn, were ambushed by enemy forces. The Rangers lost 125 men in this encounter, as well as eight men wounded, with 52 surviving. One reference reports casualties of the Regulars, who had volunteered to accompany the Rangers, as 2 captured and 5 killed. Of Rogers' Rangers, 78 were captured and 47 killed and missing (of whom 19 were captured).[4] Rogers estimated 100 killed and nearly 100 wounded of the French-Indian forces. The French, however, reported their casualties as 10 Indians killed and 17 wounded, and three Canadians wounded.[5]

The French originally reported killing Rogers in the second battle. This was based on their finding some of his belongings, including his regimental coat containing his military commission, but he escaped. This episode also gave rise to the legend about Rogers’ sliding 400 feet (120 m) down the side of a mountain to the frozen surface of Lake George. While there is no proof of this event, the rockface became known as "Rogers' Slide" or "Rogers Rock".[6]

Arriving on the provincial vessel King George, four companies of Rogers Rangers (500 rangers) were at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia April 8 until May 28 awaiting the Siege of Louisbourg (1758). While there they scoured the woods to stop raids on the capital. In the Siege, the rangers were the first to go ashore at Freshwater Cover and faced 100 Mi’kmaq and French soldiers. The Regiments of Ensign Carruthers was killed. James Wolfe and Scott followed up the rangers. The Rangers killed and scalped the Chief Mi’kmaq. In their retreat, the rangers captured 70 defenders and killed more than 50. This achievement was reported to be “one of the most admirable feats ever performed by a detachment of the Corps.” [7]


On July 7–8, 1758 Rogers' Rangers took part in the Battle of Carillon. On July 27, 1758, between Fort Edwards and Half-Way Brook, 300 Indians and 200 French/Canadians under Captain St. Luc ambushed a British convoy. The British lost 116 killed (including 16 Rangers) and 60 captured.[8]

On August 8, 1758, near Crown Point, New York, a British force of Rangers, light infantry and provincials was ambushed by a French-Canadian-Indian force of 450 under Captain Marin. In this action, Major Israel Putnam was captured. He was reportedly saved from ritual burning by the Iroquois by intervention of a French officer and a providential thunderstorm. Francis Parkman reports 49 English fatalities and "..more than a hundred.." killed of the enemy. Rogers claimed English losses were 33 and that the enemy had losses of 199. Another source[9] reports that the French casualties were four Indians and six Canadians killed, and four Indians and six Canadians {including an officer and a cadet} wounded.

During 1759, the Rangers were involved in one of their most famous operations, the St. Francis Raid: they were ordered to destroy the Abenaki settlement of Saint-Francis in Quebec. It had been the base for raids and attacks of British settlements. Rogers led a force of 200 rangers from Crown Point deep into French territory. Following the October 3, 1759 attack and successful destruction of Saint-Francis, Rogers' force ran out of food during their retreat through the wilderness of northern New England. Once the Rangers reached a safe location along the Connecticut River at the abandoned Fort Wentworth, Rogers left them encamped. He returned a few days later with food and relief forces from Fort at Number 4 (now Charlestown, New Hampshire), the nearest British outpost.

In the raid on Saint-Francis, Rogers claimed 200 enemies were killed, leaving 20 women and children to be taken prisoner, of whom he took five children prisoner and let the rest go.[10] The French recorded 30 deaths, including 20 women and children.[11] According to Francis Parkman, Ranger casualties in the attack were one killed and six wounded; in the retreat, five were captured from one band of Rangers, and nearly all in another party of about 20 Rangers were killed or captured.[12] One source alleges that of about 204 Rangers, allies and observers, about 100 returned.[13]

Pontiac's Rebellion and American War of Independence[edit]

At the end of the war, the Rangers were given the task of taking command of Fort Detroit from the French forces. After the war, most of the Rangers returned to civilian life. In 1763 Rogers recruited several volunteers for the reinforcement of Detroit commanded by James Dalyell of the 1st Royal Regiment and formerly of the 80th Regiment of Light Armed Foot (Gage's Light Infantry). Upon arrival at Detroit, Dalyell talked the post Commandant Henry Gladwin into allowing Dalyell to take his reinforcements to attack an Indian village near Parent's Creek. The force of 250-300 soldiers of the 55th and 60th regiments, Rogers' volunteers, and the Queen's Royal American Rangers under the command of Captain Joseph Hopkins was ambushed as the advanced guard made up of men from the 55th regiment crossed the bridge at Parent's Creek. Rogers' men were responsible for effectively covering the retreat of the force back to Fort Detroit. Pontiac's Rebellion.

After these events, Rogers offered his help to the commander of the Colonial Army, George Washington. Washington refused, fearing that Rogers was a spy because Rogers had just returned from a long stay in England. Infuriated by the rejection, Rogers joined the British, where he formed the Queen's Rangers (1776) and later the King's Rangers. Several former Rangers served under General Benedict Arnold in revolutionary forces around Lake Champlain.[14]

The Queen's York Rangers (1st American Regiment) of the Canadian Army claim to be descended from Rogers' Rangers. Also claiming descent from Rogers' Rangers are the 1st Battalion 119th Field Artillery of Michigan and the U.S. Army Rangers.

In popular culture[edit]

  • During the Second World War, the U.S. Army was interested in the tactics of the British Commando units. Recalling the colonial unit, they took the name "Rangers" as the official title; these units consider Rogers their founding father and distribute copies of Rogers' Rangers Standing Orders to all aspiring Ranger students.
  • The 2004 Warner Brothers motion picture, Spartan (film), directed by David Mamet and starring Val Kilmer, Rogers' Rangers Standing Orders are referred to in at least two scenes, one with Kilmer, 'Scott', and Derek Luke, 'Curtis', discussing Curtis' father having carried them "when he was over there", and another with Kilmer's character, Scott, using a torn part of them to 'produce' a cigarette for Kristen Bell, 'Laura Newton' while in the cargo container at the airport in Dubai. The hard-copy text actually shown on in the film is the fictional bullet-ed list from Kenneth Roberts' novel, Northwest Passage, "1. Don't forget nothing. 2. Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet scoured, ...".
  • AMC's 2014 series Turn portrays Rogers' Rangers as a Loyalist militia that uses intelligence gathered from an unidentified spy inside the Continental Army to ambush its patrols. Robert Rogers remarks early in the first episode that he offered his services first to George Washington, but he was unwilling to pay what Rogers demanded.

Notable members[edit]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Both units were organized by William Shirley initially. Gorham's rangers are always depicted as precursors to Rogers' Rangers but as the unit was active throughout the period of 1755-1762, this also makes them contemporaries of Rogers' Rangers as well. Indeed, the Nova Scotia ranging corps that Gorham's company was part of operated in tandem with units from Rogers' corps on a number of occasions--notably Moses Hazen's company at the Siege of Louisburg in 1758 and the Siege of Quebec in 1759. Brian D. Carroll, "'Savages' in the Service of Empire: Native American Soldiers in Gorham's Rangers," New England Quarterly 85, no. 3 (Sept. 2012): 383-429.
  2. ^ a b Louis Antoine de Bougainville, Adventures in the Wilderness; Edward P. Hamilton, ed. and trans. (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964)
  3. ^ Francis Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, Vol. 1, Little Brown & Co., 1922, pp. 458-459, available on Googlebooks
  4. ^ Mary Cochrane Rogers, "Battle of the Snowshoes"
  5. ^ New York State, "The Battle on Snowshoes", March 1758
  6. ^ Lake George Historical Association - Roger's Slide
  7. ^ Burt Loescher. Rogers Rangers: The First Green Berets. 1969.p. 29-31
  8. ^ Indiana archives
  9. ^ Indiana Archives, p. 122
  10. ^ "Francis Parkman".pp.266
  11. ^ Roger's Raid according to the research of Gordon Day
  12. ^ "Francis Parkman".pp.266-267
  13. ^ Spring Camporee 2005 –
  14. ^ Randall, Willard Sterne (1990). Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor. ISBN 1-55710-034-9

External links[edit]