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.
Early in 1758 the Rangers were increased by five more companies, four recruited from New England and one of Mohegans of Connecticut and Mahicans of Stockbridge. 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 on 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 (present-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. The alarm now being 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 Canadiens commanded by Sieur Charles de Langlade of the Compagnie Franches de la Marine and Native American warriors, nearly all Odawas. 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.
During the summer a great number of rangers were carried off by smallpox.
In August, after the capitulation of Fort William Henry, the unit was stationed on Rogers Island near Fort Edward.
In June, five companies of Rogers’ Rangers hadmarched south and embarked at New York, and joined by a newly raised company from New Hampshire set sail with the fleet for Halifax for the planned expedition against Louisbourg. In Halifax, they were employed in various services including rounding up deserters. They returned with the army when it was discovered a French fleet had arrived at Louisburg and arrived back at Fort Edward on September 21.
A Cadet Company was formed for a campaign season in September from 55 volunteers from the 22nd, 27th, 42nd, 44th, 46th, 55th and 60th Regiments of Foot and 6 from Ranger ranks, with the aim of obtaining the rank of ensign as vacancies occurred. 12 volunteers would eventually obtain the rank in the rangers before the end of 1758.
At the end of September, a scout was made of Carillon and Saint-Frédéric with object of taking prisoners. This mission was accompanied by Lord Howe of the 55th Regiment of Foot and influenced his thinking with regard to Light Infantry.
On December 17, Rogers and 150 rangers went out to reconnoitre Fort Carillon. The scout reached Carillon on December 23, capturing a sergeant of the Compagnie Franches de la Marine and another Frenchman later in the day. The rangers then killed 15 cattle and set afire some wood collected firewood, and departing under artillery fire from the fort arrived back at Fort Edward on December 27.
On March 10, 1758 Roger left Fort Edward for Carillon with 183 rangers and 8 volunteers from the 27th Regiment of Foot. On March 12, 200 Khanawake Iroquois and Nippising warriors and 40 Canadiens arrived at Carillon for refreshments. Two Abenaki reported in fresh tracks in the snow and the newly arrived Native Americans joined the Canadiens and volunteers from the French regulars to encounter the intruders. However, the advance guard of the French-Indian column was ambushed by the rangers, who either followed up or were scalping the dead were in turn, 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 claimed that 100 were 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.
On July 29, about 700 men from Roger Rangers and 80th Gage's Regiment of Foot including 50 volunteers from the 44th Regiment of Foot set out from Fort Edward for South Bay to intercept a French raiding party of 300 Compagnie Franches de la Marine and Canadiens under Captain Joseph Marin, and Abenaki and Mi’kmaq allies. On August 8, Rogers’ advance guard was ambushed by Marin east of Lake George near Fort Anne. A bush fight developed in which the rangers were reinforced by the main body. The French withdrew, ‘as the British were so many’. As a result, the British force lost at least 33 men killed, 40 to 60 wounded and 5 prisoners including Major Israel Putnam. According to British reports French losses were thought to be about 50 men; Rogers stated 199. The French themselves reported the loss of 3 soldiers, 3 Canadiens and 4 Native Americans with 2 cadets, 1 soldier, 5 Canadiens and 4 Native Americans wounded. A French officer, Captain Malartic, wrote in his journal that 13 were left in the field and that the wounded were carried away.
Throughout September, there were a number of scouts toward Carillon.
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 40 Rogers Rangers and 46 allied Mohawk warriors reconnoitred French positions around Carillon and attacked a party of woodcutters. D'Hébecourt immediately sent a party of 30 Canadiens and some Native American warriors to relieve the woodcutters, later backed by about 150 French regularscarpenters. In this skirmish, five woodcutters were killed and six wounded while one Mohawk 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.
Om May 11, Captain Burbank, leading a party of 30 rangers, was killed and at least 26 were captured near the ruins of Fort William Henry.
In June, four companies under James Rogers, William Stark, Moses Hazen and Jonah Brewer were sent to serve under General Wolfe for his expedition against Québec, joining the independent Ranger companies of Joseph Goreham and Benoni Danks under the command of Major John Scott. These participated in destructive raids on settlements around Québec to spread fear in the population. Danks’s ranger company was mauled by Native Americans and the survivors incorporated into Hazen’s company. The rangers did not take part in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.
In late June. the rest of Rogers Rangers with the 80th Gage's Regiment of Foot were the advance guard up to Lake George for Amherst. By the end of July Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga) was in British hands and on August 12 the rangers arrived at Saint-Frédéric (Crown Point).
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, Rogers and his rangers launched their raid on the settlement Saint-François half an hour before sunrise. About 7:00 a.m., the affair was completely over. The town was looted and burnt to the ground bar three houses
Abenaki oral traditions on the attack on Saint-François relate that most of the men were absent from the village. A warning had been given to the Abenaki by the Mahican ranger Samadagwis, and most of the village had managed to sneak away 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.
Rogers claimed that 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. However, the journal of French officer records that there were few casualties. 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 Abenaki settlement till, near the eastern borders of Lake Memphremagog, the supply failed – many of the rangers having taken loot rather than corn. They separated into small parties, the better to sustain life by hunting. However, they found the wilderness unusually barren of wildlife. Along the way one Abenaki boy was killed and cannibalised as was one captive woman, Marie-Jeanne Gill. The Abenakis and French 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 Abenaki 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 Abenakis.
Whilst Rogers was on the raid, General Amherst reduced the number of ranger companies from six to two.
On March 8, 1760, enroute between Ticonderoga and Crown Point, Rogers with 13 unarmed ranger recruits and 14 sutlers sleighs were attacked by about 60 or 70 Native Americans but managed to push on and reach Crown Point. Two Native American men and one woman with Rogers were killed, 4 rangers and sleigh men captured and one sleigh lost.
On March 31, Captain Tute, two officers and six rangers went out on a scout and were all captured.
In June, Rogers with 303 rangers and 25 light infantry moved down Lake Champlain to attack Forts Saint-Jean and Chambly. At the time there was a major concentration of Abenaki warriors from Missisquoi, Saint-François and Bécancour around Ile-aux-Noix with Bourlamarque’s army. This gathering was known to the British as Wigwam Martinique, located probably near the present-day town of Sorel in Québec. 50 rangers were sent to locate and destroy Wigwam Martinique but failed to find their objective. However, Abenaki oral tradition recalls a raid on Missisquoi at about this time.
On June 6, Rogers’ command was intercepted by over 300 Native Americans, largely Abenakis, and French. The skirmish resulted in 16 rangers being killed and ten wounded. Rogers’ claimed that 40 of the Native Americans and French were killed but again this figure is likely to be highly exaggerated. Three dead Native Americans were found on the battlefield, whilst the remainder were reported to have retreated and been pursued for half a mile. The rangers then withdraw to Isle La Motte where they were joined by the Stockbridge Mahican company. The rangers then travelled with all haste to Saint-Jean and by June 15 were 3 km from Montréal where they surprised the occupants of the stockaded fort of Saint-Thérèse and 24 soldiers and captured 70 to 80 inhabitants, including women and children, the latter Rogers freed and sent to Montréal.
The rangers then retired back along the east shore of Lake Champlain only to clash again with an advanced detachment of French passing Missisquoi Bay, opposite Isle-aux-Noix, who fell back towards their main body. The rangers proceeded south and on June 20 reached their embarkation point just ahead of the French main body.
In mid-August, Roger’s and 600 rangers and 70 [[Mahican People|Mahicansçç in whale boats formed the advance guard of the whole army under General Amherst for its move down Lake Champlain.
In Montreal on September 12, General Amherst sent Rogers and two companies of rangers in whale boats via Fort William-Augustus, on the north shore of Lake Ontario, Niagara and thence to Lake Erie and the Ohio to secure the allegiance of former French forts at Detroit, Michilimackinac and other posts, and reporting the fall of Nouvelle-France to Native Americans along the way. The other ranger companies were disbanded. The expedition reached Detroit on November 29. Rogers returned to New York on February 14, 1761.
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.
Captain John Knox described Rogers’ company of rangers arriving at Halifax in 1757 as having, ‘... no particular uniform, only they wear their cloaths short, and are armed with a firelock, tomahock, or small hatchet, and a scalping knife; a bullock’ horn full of powder hangs under their right arm, by a belt from the left shoulder; a leatheren, or seal’s skin bag, buckled around the waist, which hangs down before, contains bullets, and a small shot, of the size of full-grown peas; six or seven of which, they generally load; and Officers usually carry a small compass fixed in the bottoms of their powederhorns...’
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..."
Loudoun also made a preliminary list of clothes for rangers in November 1757 which included a ‘Match coat Different Colour from those the French get’; woollen waistcoat; britches; shirt and roller; stockings; shoes; and ‘Indian Stockings’.
In a letter dated April 22, 1758 an agent wrote to his New York employers: ‘The Close that Rogers had made for people are chiefly of Green Bath Rug & low priced green Cloths with wt. Mettle buttons, & white Silver lace Hats, some of them Silver laced, cord or looping on the Jackets, all lined with Green Serge... I believe a parcel of Scotch Bonnets would sell well, as the Rangers who can get them wear nothing else when they go out.’ Nonetheless, inconsistencies in dress, except for green waistcoats, subsequently occurred. In 1761 two deserter notices announced breeches of orange and red being worn.
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|
Rangers were armed with a ,75 calibre ‘Long Land Pattern’ (Brown Bess) musket, which was 61¾ inches long but with the muzzle end of the barrel sawn off to a length of 50 3/8 inches, and a hatchet.
In the autumn of 1757, the 50 regular volunteers serving with Rangers were armed with rifle-barrelled fuzees. Furthermore by 1758, according to a captain of the 27th Regiment of Foot, rangers were mostly armed with ‘riffled Barrels’ (perhaps the smooth-bored ‘Light Infantry Carbine’ introduced about 1757). Robert Rogers, John Stark and Israel Putnam were all recorded carrying ‘fuzees’ in action.
no details available
Ranger units fielded no musicians.
Ranger units did not carry colours.
Bearor, Bob: Leading by Example: Partisan Fighters & Leaders of New France 1660-1760, Volume 1, Westminster, Heritage Books, 2009, pp. 54-62.
Bearor, Bob: The Battle on Snowshoes, Westminster, Heritage Books, 2007, pp. 54-62.
Bruchac, Margaret: Reading Abenaki Traditions and European Records of Rogers’ Raid, Vermont Folklife Center, 2006. pp. 1-12. Retrieved from https://repository.upenn.edu/anthro_papers/155
Brumwell, Stephen: White Devil, Orion Books Ltd, 2005, London, pp. 110, 188-237.
Calloway, Colin: The Western Abenakis of Vermont, 1600-1800. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1990, pp. 175-182.
May, R. and G. A. Embleton: Wolfe's Army, Osprey Publishing, London, 1974
Parkman, Francis: Montcalm and Wolfe, Collier Books, New York, 1884
Raffle, William (translated and annotated), Glories to Useless Heroism: The American Journals of Comte Maurès de Malartic, 1755-1760, Helion and Company Ltd, Solihull, 2017, pp. 179.
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
Todish, Timothy, The Annotated and Illustrated Journals of Major Robert Rogers, Purple Mountain Press Ltd, New York, 2002.
Zaboly, Gary: American Colonial Ranger: The Northern Colonies 1724-64, Oxford, Osprey Publishing, 2004, pp. 57-58.
Larry Burrows for a major update of the entire article in March 2023