Origin and History
In the summer of 1755, Robert Rogers raised a company of rangers that originally belonged to the Blanchard’s New Hampshire Regiment. Recruits were in fact experienced woodsmen coming from the New Hampshire border. This company then became independent from Blanchard's regiment and became known as “His Majesty’s Independent Companies of American Rangers”.
In March 1756, the unit was increased to two companies. In July of the same year, it was further reinforced to three companies.
By the spring of 1757, the unit counted seven companies and Robert Rogers had the rank of major.
In 1758, the unit counted about 750 men.
In 1759, the standing orders of the unit were:
- Don't forget nothing.
- Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute's warning.
- When you're on the march, act the way you would if you was sneaking up on a deer. See the enemy first.
- Tell the truth about what you see and what you do. There is an army depending on us for correct information. You can lie all you please when you tell other folks about the Rangers, but don't never lie to a Ranger or officer.
- Don't never take a chance you don't have to.
- When we're on the march we march single file, far enough apart so one shot can't go through two men.
- If we strike swamps, or soft ground, we spread out abreast, so it's hard to track us.
- When we march, we keep moving till dark, so as to give the enemy the least possible chance at us.
- When we camp, half the party stays awake while the other half sleeps.
- If we take prisoners, we keep 'em separate till we have had time to examine them, so they can't cook up a story between 'em.
- Don't ever march home the same way. Take a different route so you won't be ambushed.
- No matter whether we travel in big parties or little ones, each party has to keep a scout 20 yards ahead, twenty yards on each flank and twenty yards in the rear, so the main body can't be surprised and wiped out.
- Every night you'll be told where to meet if surrounded by a superior force.
- Don't sit down to eat without posting sentries.
- Don't sleep beyond dawn. Dawn's when the French and Indians attack.
- Don't cross a river by a regular ford.
- If somebody's trailing you, make a circle, come back onto your own tracks, and ambush the folks that aim to ambush you.
- Don't stand up when the enemy's coming against you. Kneel down. Hide behind a tree.
- Let the enemy come till he's almost close enough to touch. Then let him have it and jump out and finish him up with your hatchet.
- Never use your gun when you can finish him with your hatchet.
Service during the War
In May 1756, Rogers and his Rangers took part to the expedition against the French outposts on Lake Champlain.
On June 17, Rogers and his band lay hidden in the bushes within the outposts of Fort Carillon (present-day Ticonderoga) and made a close survey of the fort and surrounding camps. He reported an important concentration of French troops around the fort.
At the end of June, Robert Rogers with 50 of his rangers embarked in five whale-boats on Lake George. They carried their boats over a gorge of the mountains, launched them again in South Bay and reached Lake Champlain. They managed to pass unnoticed in front of Fort Carillon and Fort Saint-Frédéric (prsent-day Crown Point). On July 8, Rogers' party captured and sunk two French sloops, making 8 prisoners. They then hid their boats on the western shore and returned on foot with their prisoners.
A party of 45 Mahican warriors of Stockbridge joined Major Robert Roger's Rangers and covered British settlements along the Housatonic River.
In the middle of January 1757, a detachment of the unit was sent out on a scouting party from Fort Edward towards Fort Saint-Frédéric. They spent two days at Fort William Henry in preparation for their raid. On January 17, they set out, marching on the frozen Lake George. They encamped at the Narrows. Some men were sent back, thus reducing the party to 74 men. On January 18, the party continued to advance towards Lake Champlain. On January 19, Rogers' party reached the west shore of Lake Champlain, about 6 km south of Rogers Rock, they marched a further 13 km north-west and bivouacked among the mountains. On January 20, the party marched north-east, passed Fort Carillon undiscovered and stopped at night some 8 km beyond it. On January 21, they marched 5 km eastward under a drizzling rain and reached the banks of Lake Champlain near Five Mile Point. They tried to ambush ten sledges going from Fort Carillon to Fort Saint-Frédéric, capturing three of them but letting the rest escaped to Carillon. Alarm being now given in Carillon, Rogers immediately ordered his men to return to their previous encampment and dry their guns. They then retreated but were ambushed by a party of 89 French regulars and 90 Canadians and Native American warriors. The rangers managed to retrace to the hill they had just descended. A firefight then lasted several hours. Towards evening, Rogers was shot through the wrist but the remnants of his war-party (48 effective and 6 wounded men) were able to withdraw under cover of night. In the morning of January 22, Rogers and his rangers finally reached Lake George. The wounded were sent to Fort William Henry on a sledge while the rest encamped at the Narrows. On January 23, Rogers' party reached Fort William Henry.
In August, after the capitulation of Fort William Henry, the unit was stationed on Rogers Island near Fort Edward.
In March 1758, the unit ambushed a French-Indian column and, in turn, was ambushed by enemy forces during the so-called skirmish of Snow Shoes. The unit lost 125 men in this encounter, as well as eight men wounded. Only 52 survived. Rogers estimated 100 killed and nearly 100 wounded of the French-Indian forces; however, the French listed casualties as total of 10 Indians killed, 17 wounded and 3 Canadiens wounded.
In July, the rangers took part in the expedition against Carillon. On July 5, it formed part of the vanguard with the 80th Gage's Regiment of Foot. On July 6, after the disembarkation of the British army, the regiment along with the provincial regiments of Fitch and Lyman were sent forward to reconnoitre. They drove a French advanced party from the field.
On July 8, the regiment fought in the disastrous battle of Carillon. At daybreak on July 9, the British army re-embarked and retreated to the head of the lake where it reoccupied the camp it had left a few days before.
By November 1, Fort Edward was garrisoned only by one battalion of the 60th Royal American Regiment of Foot and four companies of Rogers' Rangers.
In March 1759, a detachment of 30 Rogers Rangers and some Native American warriors reconnoitred French positions around Carillon and attacked a party of carpenters. D'Hébecourt immediately sent a party of 30 French and some Native American warriors to relieve the carpenters. In this skirmish, five carpenters were killed and six wounded while one Native American warrior and three French soldiers were wounded. The rangers had a few men wounded and one sergeant captured. From this prisoner, the French learned that an engineer was with the British detachment to draw a plan of the fortifications and that the British planned to attack Carillon in the spring.
In September, Amherst ordered the unit to destroy the Abenaki settlement of Saint-François from which attacks on British settlements were frequently being launched. The village was located on the Saint-François River a few km above its junction with the Saint-Laurent. Amherst explicitly instructed Major Robert Rogers not to kill or hurt any women or children. Rogers and 200 rangers set out in whaleboats from Crown Point. On 10 September, eluding the French armed vessels, then in full activity on Lake Champlain, the rangers came to Missisquoi Bay, at the north end of the lake. Here Rogers hid his boats, leaving two friendly Native American warriors to watch them from a distance, and inform him should the enemy discover them. Rogers then pushed straight for Saint-François.
On October 4 at 2:00 a.m., Rogers and his rangers burst in upon the settlement half an hour before sunrise. About 7:00 a.m., the affair was completely over. The Abenakis had lost about 200 men while 20 of their women and children had been taken prisoners. Soon, 15 of the prisoners were freed. Rogers retook five British captives.
- Note: According to Abenaki oral traditions on the attack on Saint-François (see Bruchac, M. (2006) Reading Abenaki Traditions and European Records of Rogers' Raid. Vermont Folklife Center), most of the men were absent from the village. On October 3, some Abenaki women washing in the Saint-François River spotted wood chips floating on the water. In addition a warning had been given to the Abenaki by the Mahican ranger Samadagwis, and most of the village had managed to leave before the attack, going into hiding near the ravine at Sibosek. A few stayed at the Council House loading up muskets to fight back. Others who remained behind perhaps were too late to get away or disbelieved the warnings. The Abenakis themselves state that they lost approximately 40 people who stayed behind, 32 died, 22 of them women and children. The rangers took at least 6 Abenakis captive.
The rangers then made all haste southward, up the Saint-François River, subsisting on corn from the Native American town till, near the eastern borders of Lake Memphremagog, the supply failed, and they separated into small parties, the better to sustain life by hunting. The enemy followed close, attacked Ensign Avery's party and captured five of them, then fell upon a band of about 20, under Lieutenants Dunbar and Turner, and killed or captured nearly all.
The other bands eluded their pursuers, turned south-eastward, reached the Connecticut River, some here, some there, and, giddy with fatigue and hunger, toiled wearily down the wild and lonely stream to the appointed rendezvous at the abandoned Fort Wentworth at the mouth of the Upper Ammonoosuc. However, the provisions requested by Rogers at this place were nowhere to be found.
Leaving his party behind, Rogers made a raft of dry pine logs, and drifted on it down the stream, with Captain Ogden, a ranger, and one of the captive Native American boys in an attempt to send relief to his men.
Five days after leaving his party, Rogers reached the first British settlement, Charlestown NH, or "Fort Number 4," and immediately sent a canoe with provisions to the relief of the sufferers, following himself with other canoes two days later. Most of the men were saved, though some died miserably of famine and exhaustion. The few rangers who had been captured were killed by the Native Americans.
On March 17, 1761, General Amherst ordered Lieutenant Jacob Farrington to sail on the Greyhound with nine Native American warriors and five white men from Rogers' Rangers. They joined the expedition against the Cherokees. This detachment served under what became Quintin Kennedy’s “Indian Corps,” a light infantry unit consisting of Native American allies and elite British and provincial soldiers, and was disbanded at war's end.
Rogers arrived in South Carolina with another eighteen men in August, after the fighting was over and after treaty negotiations had begun. But now Rogers held a commission as captain in the South Carolina Independent Companies, replacing Captain Paul Demere, who had been killed following the capitulation of Fort Loudoun a year earlier. Captain Rogers would spend the next fourteen months recruiting in North and South Carolina. In October, he lobbied, unsuccessfully, to become the next superintendent of Indian affairs for the southern department.
In the summer of 1762, Rogers wrote Amherst seeking a leave. He was wholly unaccustomed to the sweltering heat of the South. He had “the Fever and ague” and his health was suffering. Amherst agreed, and by December, Rogers was back in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Amherst re-commissioned Rogers a captain in the New York Independent Companies, but these were soon disbanded at war’s end.
Rogers reassembled a new Ranger unit for Pontiac’s Rebellion.
This unit had no formal uniform, especially before 1758. On January 11, 1757, in a letter to Captain Robert Rogers, John Earl Loudoun wrote:
- "...augment the Rangers with five additional Companies...each company to consist of one Captain, two Lts, One Ensign, four Sergeants and one hundred privates... They are likewise to provide themselves with good warm clothing which must be uniform in every company, ...And the Company of Indians to be dressed in all respects in true Indian fashion..."
The “uniform” described in the following table rather represents the most popular variants.
|Coat||short green jacket or green or grey hunting smock
|Breeches||brown or green or buckskin|
|Gaiters||brown or green|
Troopers were armed with a “Brown Bess” musket and a hatchet.
no details available
Ranger units fielded no musicians.
Ranger units did not carry colours.
May, R. and G. A. Embleton: Wolfe's Army, Osprey Publishing, London, 1974
Parkman, Francis: Montcalm and Wolfe, Collier Books, New York, 1884
Rafm Miniatures - Rangers In-20, 21, 25
Ross, John F., War on the Run: The Epic Story of Robert Rogers and the Conquest of America's First Frontier. New York, 2009.
Teixeira, Ed, Standing Orders for Rogers' Rangers - French and Indian War, Citadel, Winter 1999
Todish, Terry, Ranger History, Rogers' Rangers
Larry Burrows for additional information on the raid on the Abenaki settlement of Saint-François, on the uniforms of the unit and on the Native American company