The Indiana Rangers were a mounted militia formed in 1807 and operated in the early part of the 19th century to defend settlers in Indiana Territory from attacks by Native Americans. The rangers were present at the Battle of Tippecanoe, and served as auxiliaries to the army during the War of 1812. At the peak of their activities they numbered over 400 men.
In 1807, the Larkins family was travelling along the Buffalo Trace when they were attacked by a band of Native Americans. The father was killed, and Mrs. Larkins and her five children were taken into captivity. The incident sparked outcries for better protection along the route, and Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison organized the Rangers to provide a fast response to attacks, primarily as a deterrent to random American Indian raids. The Rangers were modeled on the mounted troops used by General Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The primary objective of the Rangers was to safeguard the Buffalo Trace, the main transportation route between Louisville, Kentucky and the Indiana Territory's capital of Vincennes, Indiana (and Illinois Territory), starting on April 20, 1807.
The first Indiana Rangers who patrolled the road in 1807 did so on foot. The Rangers had three divisions: Captain William Hargrove's 1st Division patrolled from the Wabash River to French Lick. The 2nd Division patrolled from French Lick to the Falls of the Ohio. One of their bases was at Cuzco, Indiana. The 3rd Division secured an area East along the Ohio River to Lawrenceburg, Indiana, on the Ohio border. All Rangers were paid $1 per day, and were required to supply their own horse, ammunition, tomahawk, a large and small knife, and a leather belt.
Although the mounted militia units lacked uniformity, the men–and sometimes women–were well trained. In keeping with their mission, the Indiana Rangers were involved in numerous incidents involving Native Americans. Native Americans and white settlers were considered to be at peace during this time, and the early Rangers were so effective that clashes between Native Americans and white settlers effectively ended. Harrison disbanded the Indiana Rangers in 1809.
As tensions between settlers and Native Americans increased, the Indiana Rangers were reactivated. Two Rangers companies were based out of Vincennes, Indiana. Prior to the War of 1812, Rangers under Captain William Hargrove found a British spy believed to be instigating Indian attacks upon Indiana settlers. Attacks by American Indians became frequent in Indiana Territory. Some, such as the Pigeon Roost Massacre, are still remembered. During the war, the Rangers were used to augment larger armies. Colonel William Russell used the Rangers to supplement his infantry in the 1812 Peoria War, and General Samuel Hopkins utilized the Rangers in his Second Tippecanoe Campaign (1812), where several were killed at the Battle of Wild Cat Creek.
In 1813, the federal government authorized an additional four Ranger companies to secure Indiana Territory. The new companies consisted of 100 men each, and as before, they armed and equipped themselves. The officers of the rangers were paid the same as those regular army officers of the same rank. Those with horses were paid a dollar a day, and those without horses were paid 75 cents a day.
One of the new ranger companies authorized in 1813 was commanded by Captain James Bigger, a veteran of the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe, although he later had to go to court for recognition of his services with the Rangers. Another of the new rangers was John Ketcham, who built Ketcham's Fort and would later become a judge.
John Tipton served as a major in command of two companies of rangers at Fort Vallonia during the War of 1812. He would later become a United States senator, and is the namesake of Tipton and Tipton County, Indiana.
The 151st Infantry Regiment traces its heritage to the pre-statehood Indiana Rangers. The motto of the regiment, "Wide Awake - Wide Awake!" was earned at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Delta Company (Ranger) was the only National Guard Infantry unit to serve intact in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, and called itself the Indiana Rangers.
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