Rogers' Rangers

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Rogers' Rangers
Rogers Rangers U.S. Army Center of Military History.jpg
Rogers' Rangers in their green, wool uniforms, during the French and Indian War, from the U.S. Army painting, "To Range the Woods, New York, 1760"
Active 1755–1763
Country  Great Britain
Allegiance  British Army
Branch British provincial unit
Type army rangers, (auxiliary troops)
Role special operations, maneuver warfare, guerrilla warfare, light infantry
Size nine companies (regiment)
Garrison/HQ Fort William Henry (1755–1757)
Rogers Island (1757–1763)
Engagements

French and Indian War

Commanders
Notable
commanders
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rogers
Lieutenant Colonel James Rogers
Captain William Stark
Lieutenant John Stark

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 deployed light infantry force tasked mainly with reconnaissance as well as conducting special operations against distant targets. Their tactics were built on earlier colonial precedents and were codified for the first time by Rogers. The tactics 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 participated as patriot militiamen at the Battle of Concord Bridge.

The Queen's York Rangers (1st American Regiment) of the Canadian Army, formed by Rogers and Loyalist veterans of Rogers' Rangers, claims descent from Rogers' Rangers.

Regimental history[edit]

French and Indian War[edit]

Rogers' Rangers began in 1755 as a company in the provincial forces of the colony of New Hampshire in British North America. It was the latest in a long line of New England ranger companies dating back to the 1670s. The immediate precursor and model for the unit was Gorham's Rangers, formed in 1744. Both were initially organized by William Shirley. Gorham's Rangers are always depicted as precursors of Rogers' Rangers; however, they were also active throughout the French and Indian War, which makes them contemporaries of Rogers' Rangers. In fact, the Nova Scotia ranger corps that Gorham's company belonged to operated in cooperation with units of Rogers' corps on several occasions occasions, most notably when Moses Hazen's company joined Roger's Rangers at the Siege of Louisburg in 1758 and the Siege of Quebec in 1759.[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. They were commanded by Captain (later Major) Robert Rogers and 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 on foot, in whaleboats, and on even on snowshoes during winter.

Robert Rogers, the founding leader and namesake of Rogers' Rangers, in a 1776 painting, the only known portrait from life of Rogers and from artist interpretation.

The usefulness of Rogers' company during 1756 and 1757 prompted the British to form a second ranger company, which was soon followed by more. By early 1758, the rangers had been expanded to a corps of fourteen companies composed of between 1,200 and 1,400 men. This included three all-Indian units, two of Stockbridge Mahicans and one of Indians from Connecticut (mainly Mohegan and Pequot). Rogers was then promoted to major and served as commandant of the Ranger Corps.

On January 21, 1757, during the First Battle on Snowshoes, Rogers led 74 rangers to ambush the French, capturing seven prisoners near Fort Carillon at the south end of Lake Champlain. They then were attacked by about 100 French and Canadien (French Canadian) militia and their Ottawa allies from the Ohio Country. Rogers' men suffered casualties and retreated without further losses, since the French 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 wounded returning with 48 men who were unharmed. The French consisted of 89 Regulars and 90 Canadians and Indians; they had 37 killed and wounded.[3] The French and Indian casualties may have included one of the captured prisoners. One wounded and captured Ranger who was later exchanged claimed to have 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 in August. After this, the Rangers were stationed on Rogers Island near Fort Edward. This allowed them 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 were ambushed in turn 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 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. There is no conclusive proof of this event, but the rock face became known as "Rogers' Slide" or "Rogers Rock".[6]

Four companies of Rogers Rangers (500 rangers) arrived on the provincial vessel King George and were at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia from 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. 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. Historian Burt Loescher describes this as “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 that 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 wounded, including an officer and a cadet.

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. They reached a safe location along the Connecticut River at the abandoned Fort Wentworth, where 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 that 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 only about 100 returned of about 204 Rangers, allies, and observers.[13]

Pontiac's Rebellion[edit]

Main article: Pontiac's War

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 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.

American War of Independence[edit]

When the American Revolution began in 1775, Robert Rogers offered his services to General George Washington. However, Washington turned him down, fearing he might be a spy, since Rogers had just returned from a long stay in England. Infuriated by the rejection, Rogers offered his services to the British, who accepted. He formed the Queen's Rangers (1776) and later the King's Rangers. Several of his former rangers served under General Benedict Arnold in the revolutionary forces around Lake Champlain.[14]

Rogers' Rules of Ranging[edit]

Legacy[edit]

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]

  • The historical novel Northwest Passage (1937) by American author Kenneth Roberts portrays the events of Rogers' Rangers' raid on the Abenaki town of St. Francis. The first half of the novel was adapted as the film Northwest Passage (1940).
  • 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 Methuen High School in Massachusetts uses the nickname "Rangers".[15] The town was the birthplace of Robert Rogers.
  • AMC's 2014 series Turn: Washington's Spies 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 rangers[edit]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ 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
  15. ^ "Methuen High School Athletics". 

External links[edit]