Butler's Rangers

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Butler's Rangers
Butler's Rangers Lefferts.jpg
A soldier in Butler's Rangers during the American Revolutionary War, wearing a green wool coat, buff trousers, and a brass regimental plate on a round wool hat, from a 1910 painting by American artist Charles M. Lefferts.
Country Great Britain
BranchBritish provincial unit
TypeLight infantry
RoleManeuver warfare
Unconventional warfare
SizeTwelve companies, regiment (800)
EngagementsAmerican Revolutionary War
Lieutenant Colonel John Butler
Captain Walter Butler
Captain William Caldwell
Captain Peter Hare
Captain John McDonell

Butler's Rangers (1777–1784) was a Loyalist provincial military unit of the American Revolutionary War, raised by American loyalist John Butler. Most members of the regiment were Loyalists from upstate New York. Their winter quarters were constructed on the west bank of the Niagara River, in what is now Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The Rangers fought principally in Western New York and Pennsylvania, but ranged as far west as Ohio and Michigan and as far south as Virginia.

The Rangers were engaged in numerous violent raids that characterised the northern frontier of the American Revolutionary War, such as Wyoming Valley massacre of July 1778 and the Cherry Valley massacre of November 1778. These actions earned the Rangers a reputation for ruthlessness.


Similar to other Loyalist regiments that fought for the British Crown during the American Revolution, for example the King's Royal Regiment of New York, or Jessup's Loyal Rangers, Butler's Rangers were made up of American Loyalist refugees who had fled to Canada, following the outbreak of the American Revolution. John Butler was a French and Indian War veteran-turned landowner with a 26,000 acre estate near Caughnawaga in the Mohawk Valley. On the outbreak of American Revolutionary War, Butler abandoned these landholdings and fled to Canada in the company of other Loyalist leaders, such as the Iroquois chief, Joseph Brant. During the war, John Butler also served as a deputy agent in the British Indian Department under Guy Johnson, another prominent loyalist from the Mohawk Valley.[1]

A number of Black Loyalists also served in Butler's Rangers. Most prominent among these was Richard Pierpoint, formerly a slave in the northern Thirteen Colonies. After the war, Pierpoint settled with the disbanded Rangers in Canada.[2]


During the Saratoga Campaign Major Butler distinguished himself at the Battle of Oriskany on August 6, 1777.[3] As a result, he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel and allowed to raise his own British provincial regiment. This military group would come to be known as Butler's Rangers.


A likeness of Sgt. Jacob Dittrick, in Butler's Rangers uniform, by Canadian artist, Garth Dittrick

The regimental company commanders of Butler's Rangers, 1777–1784, were:

Uniforms and Weapons[edit]

There is an historical debate as to what the Butler's Ranger uniform actually looked like.

  • Variation A – Their uniforms consisted of a green woolen coat faced white and a white woolen waistcoat. Their pant garment was gaitered trousers made from Russia sheeting, a hemp product. Their hats were round hats, useful in shielding their faces from the sun. When in garrison or on parade, they could bring up the leaves of that hat to form a cocked hat. Their belting was black.[4]
  • Variation B – Dark green coats faced with scarlet and lined with the same, a waistcoat of green cloth, and Buckskin Indian leggings reaching from the ankle to the waist...their caps were almost skull caps of black jacket leather or turned up felt with a black cockade on the left side. Their belts were of buff leather and crossed at the breast where they were held in place by a brass plate marked in the same manner and with the same words as the cap plate. This version is based on supposition rather than primary source materials.

Butler's Rangers primarily used both the Long-Land and Short-Land forms of the Brown Bess musket. A mix of other firearms may have been used but would have created a supply issue due to calibre variations.[5]

Resettlement in Canada[edit]

Butler's Rangers were disbanded in June 1784, and its veterans were given land grants in the Nassau District, now the Niagara region of Ontario, as a reward for their services to the British Crown. In 1788 the Nassau Militia was formed with John Butler as its Commander, filling its ranks with the demobilized officers and men of Butler's Rangers. In 1792 the county of Lincoln was formed and the name of the militia was changed to Lincoln Militia by 1793. The Lincoln Militia saw extensive fighting during who the War of 1812 (1812–1815).

The Lincoln Militia still exists today as The Lincoln and Welland Regiment, a primary reserve regiment of the Canadian Forces, based in St. Catharines, Ontario. Although the building that houses The Lincoln and Welland Regiment Museum in Niagara-on-the-Lake is known as "Butler's Barracks", it is not the original barracks and never housed Butler's Rangers. It was built in the years following the War of 1812 to house the Indian Department, and received the name because Butler had been a Deputy Superintendent in that department.[6]


  1. ^ "Butler's Rangers". CBC News. 2001. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  2. ^ "Richard Pierpoint; The Dictionary of Canadian Biography". Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  3. ^ "Oriskany Battle State Historic Site". 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  4. ^ Calvin Arnt (August 10, 2007). "The Butler Ranger Uniform. Fact vs. Opinion" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 6, 2011. Retrieved 2008-07-13.
  5. ^ Alan D. Woolley. "Uniforms, Accoutrements and Weapons". Butler's Rangers. Archived from the original on 2008-06-06. Retrieved 2008-07-13.
  6. ^ "Lincoln and Welland Regiment Museum: Butler's Barracks. Retrieved on Aug 7, 2016". Archived from the original on March 27, 2017. Retrieved August 6, 2016.
  • Butler's Rangers, The Revolutionary Period by E.A. Cruikshank, published by the Lundy's Lane Historical Society, 1893, fourth reprint edition includes:
  • A Nominal Roll of Butler's Rangers compiled by Lieutenant Colonel William A. Smy, OMM, CD, UE
  • An account of the most significant actions of Butler's Rangers during the American Revolution can be found in: Williams, Glenn F. Year of the Hangman: George Washington's Campaign Against the Iroquois. Yardley: Westholme Publishing, 2005 and in;
  • E. Cruikshank, The Story of Butler's Rangers.


  • Brick, John, The King's Rangers, 1954
  • References to this war are described in the novel "Zach" by William Bell
  • Miller, Orlo, "Raiders of the Mohawk," 1966. The Story of Butler's Rangers. A romanticized account based on the true life experiences of Daniel Springer, who served in the Rangers along with his older brother, Richard.

External links[edit]