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Origin and History
James Oglethorpe raised the first troops of mounted rangers in Georgia during the 1740’s. Some of them were present at the battle of Bloody Marsh in 1742. They were disbanded when the war with the Spanish ended, and Oglethorpe’s (42nd) regiment disbanded.
The Rangers were reborn after an attack by Choctaws (?) on a settlement near present day Louisville, Georgia. After the attack, the inhabitants petitioned governor John Reynolds to raise troops. The Common’s asked that a troop of some 70 privates, be raised under the command of 6 officers. By December 1756, the troop consisted of some 40 privates under the command of captain John Barnard. Barnard had been a ranger commander under Oglethorpe. In January of 1757, the Common’s asked that the troop be filled and two more added. But the colony had no money to pay for the men, which were already on foot. They could afford no more. Henry Ellis inherited Reynolds’ problem when he took over administration of the colony as lieutenant-governor.
- “ Before the late Governor’s departure he had begun (upon an alarm) to raise some Rangers. -- The Officers for three Troops were commissioned, but only about forty Men of the first Troop were levied. These for some time were subsisted by means of negotiable Certificates, which acquired Credit from a prevailing notion that the Crown would discharge them as it had done those issued in the last War by Mr Oglethorpe. That expedient soon failing I have since been enabled to maintain them by a Credit the Earl of Loudoun gave me upon the Deputy Pay Master at New York until his Lordship should hear from home.” (Kimball, Vol. I, 131; Ellis to Pitt; December 10, 1757)
Ellis hoped aid from the home government would allow him at least one or two troops of rangers in service during the war. The troops would be useful for backcountry warfare. Ellis explained : “ they are well calculated for this Company, being trained to charge both on foot, and on horseback and to ride full speed thro’ the Woods.” (Kimball, Vol. I, 131)
Furthermore except for these few men and some 60 men of the South Carolina Independent Companies, Georgia was practically undefended.
The defenceless state of Georgia, in 1757, led colonel Henry Bouquet, of the 60th Royal Americans, to send a company of Virginia Provincials to Savannah over the remainder of the winter. The troops had originally been sent to Charlestown, South Carolina to defend that colony against a suspected French naval attack. These troops were recalled to Virginia in the spring of 1758 to join the Forbes’ Campaign to Fort Duquesne. By the end of the year 1758, Ellis was once again unable to pay the rangers, although it was universally acknowledged that they were necessary for the defence of the province. The lieutenant-governor had kept them up for some time with his own credit but feared if nothing was done to fund them, the rangers would have to be disbanded. (Kimball, Vol. I, 376-377; Ellis to Pitt October, 31, 1758; (Abstract).
By March of 1759, it was decided in England that general Amherst would decide about the usefulness of these rangers to the province of Georgia. If the general felt they were necessary for the security of the province, he would see to it that they were firmly established and paid for by the crown. Pitt informed Amherst of this decision in a letter of March 15, 1759:
- “And, should it appear to you, that the Establishment of the above Rangers may be of use and materially conducive to the Security of His Majesty’s Province of Georgia; You are, without Loss of Time, to give proper Directions to Governor Ellis, for establishing and keeping the same on foot; and you will also acquaint Govr. Ellis, in what Manner He is to draw for the Expences attending this Service, which you will place to Account in the same Manner as you do with regard to the Rangers ordered to be raised in my Letter of the 29th Decr. last.” (Kimball, Vol.II, 67).
Amherst not only kept up the ranger establishment in Georgia but appears to have raised a second troop by late 1759 or early 1760. (Kimball, Vol. II; 256; Ellis to Pitt; February 16, 1760) The Georgia Rangers patrolled the backcountry along with Muscogee (Creek) and Chickasaw scouts during the Cherokee war.
John Barnard commanded the first troop of Georgia Rangers from its creation until his death in 1757. John Milledge commanded the first troop after Barnard’s death. James E. Powell commanded the second troop of rangers.
After the end of the French and Indian War, the Ranger establishment was increased. The Georgia Rangers continued to serve the colony of Georgia until 1767. The Rangers were re-established again in 1773 and continued until the time of the American Revolution. They often served not only in a military capacity, but as a police force as well.
Service during the War
Most of the service of the Georgia Rangers was performed on horseback between the various forts and settlements of colonial Georgia. They ranged from Savannah to the Augusta forts (Augusta & Moore) and along the western frontier. An entrenched camp for the rangers was also constructed near the Indian Pass (ford?) of the Ogeechee River. This entrenchment was likely near the site of Fort Argyle, which was built under Oglethorpe‘s direction in 1733. The Rangers also served as escorts for diplomatic parties in the colony.
In 1757, the Rangers under Milledge escorted a Creek (?) peace party to Savannah, for negotiations.
In 1758, a group of Georgia Rangers accompanied major Henry Herne of the South Carolina Provincials to deliver a summons to some Englishmen who had illegally settled South of the Altamaha River. Later the same year, another group of some 14 Rangers accompanied Edmund Atkin to Indian country. Atkin, His Majesty’s Superintendent for Indian Affairs in the Southern District, went to shore up the British alliance with the Creeks and Chickasaws. Atkin also hoped to win over the Choctaws and other French Allied Indians in this region as well.
- “ There are some Rangers in Georgia paid I think with the King’s Money; possibly Lt. Gov. Ellis may spare some of them to attend me on this occasion.” (Mays, 67; Atkin to Abercromby, Charlestown, May 20, 1758)
This embassy appears to have taken over a year to complete.
By the time the Cherokee War erupted the Rangers were heavily patrolling the frontier between Georgia and the Cherokee nation.
- “ As a further Security, I have stationed the Rangers, lately augmented, still more backward, so that the Enemy cannot easily approach undiscovered.” (Kimball, 256; Ellis to Pitt; Georgia, February 16, 1760.)
Patrols along the Creek frontier became even more frequent, in late 1760, after the Creeks killed many of the English traders living in their towns.
There is no detailed description of the uniform of the Georgia Rangers. Since the Rangers were in fact outfitted and paid by the crown, it is likely that the uniform was similar to most other provincial units: blue breeches, red waistcoat, and a regimental coat, blue with red facings.
The Georgia Rangers most likely received “Dutch” muskets. These were ordered shipped from England in November of 1756 along with bayonets, and cartridge boxes with eighteen holes. The arms and accoutrements arrived in mid 1757. (Mullins 103-104)
The Rangers were likely also issued sabres, given their mounted duties.
No information found on any colors carried by the Rangers.
Clark, Murtie June; Colonial Soldiers of the South, 1732-1774, Genealogical Publishing; (Baltimore, 1983).
Davis, Robert S.' Georgia's Colonial Rangers
DeVorsey, Louis Jr., edtr; DeBrahm’s Report of the General Survey in the Southern District of North America; (Columbia, 1971).
Gale, Ryan R.; A Soldier Like Way: The Material Culture of the British Army, Track of the Wolf (Elk River, 2007).
Kimball, G.S.; The Correspondence of William Pitt; (New York,1969).
Mays, Edith; Amherst Papers, the Southern Sector, 1756-1763; Heritage Books, Inc.; (Bowie,1999)
Mullins, Jim; Of Sorts for Provincials, Track of the Wolf; (Elk River, 2008).
Acknowledgements William Jack for the initial version of this article