Early Rangers History/Pre-American Revolution
The use of the term Ranger dates back to the 13th century in England, where Rangers protected the border of England from Scottish attack. They acted merely as scouts sent out to warn of coming attack.
The first Rangers in the “New World” arose during the on and off conflicts from 1675-1715 between the colonists and the natives. The first of these conflicts is referred to as King Phillip’s War, which raged on in New England for several years. These Rangers were just colonists and frontiersmen that employed new small unit style tactics by gathering in small groups and patrolling the forests and mountains between settlements and forts. Captain Benjamin Church is considered by many to be the first true Ranger. He gathered a troop of men attracted to the danger and hardship, which also included friendly natives for tracking and scouting, bringing this conflict to a successful conclusion in 1657.
The Rangers’ effectiveness in unorthodox combat leads the British to recruit these units during the French and Indian war, which lasted from 1755 to 1763. Their effectiveness in the beginning of the war leads to the formation of Robert Rogers’ Rangers. A soldier from boy hood, Rogers had a magnetic personality which consisted of being articulate and persuasive. He published a list of 28 common sense rules, and set 19 standing orders stressing operational readiness, security, and tactics. Formed as the Ranger Company of the Hampshire Provincial Regiment, it originally started out with about 50 men. Their reputation quickly grew and on September 14, 1757 Rogers “Ranger school” was officially opened and his students were all British cadet volunteers. Rogers organized nine companies of Rangers and was the first to capitalize on the ways of the frontiersmen before him.
Revolutionary War Rangers
With war on its way, ten companies of expert riflemen were formed immediately, six in Pennsylvania, two in Maryland, and two in Virginia, as ordered by the Continental Congress June 14th, 1775. These frontiersmen, some even Ranger veterans from the French and Indian War, formed “The Corps of Rangers” under Dan Morgan. British General John Burgoyne states that Morgan’s men were “…the most famous Corps of the Continental Army, all of them crack shots”.
In the late summer of 1776, a provisional three company unit of volunteers from Massachusetts and Connecticut were formed into Knowlton’s Rangers, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Knowlton. Knowlton’s Rangers, a group of less than 150 handpicked men, were used primarily for reconnaissance, and also as a list infantry force. September 16, 1776, Lieutenant Colonel Knowlton and his Rangers performed excellent in the battle of Harlem Heights, but Knowlton suffered a mortal wound.
A small unit formed on the Lake Champlain front, known as Whitcomb’s Rangers. October 15th, 1776, Whitcomb’s Rangers gained permanent status as a two company force. Until January 1st 1781 when the companies were disbanded in Coos, New Hampshire, Whitcomb’s Rangers provided reconnaissance to the Northern Department.
The war was won in the South after crushing defeats of the regular forces consisting of the Patriots. What was left were the guerrillas. They were all conducting Ranger missions that decimated the British ranks, destroyed their supply lines and led to major tactical changes in how they fought the war. The most famous of these partisan guerrillas was Francis Marion, otherwise known as the “Swamp Fox”. Though his units never had the name "Ranger" in them, they were using Ranger tactics and are included in Ranger lineage.
Other Ranger units:
The 3rd South Carolina Ranger Regiment
This was not a company or a small unit, this was an entire regiment made up of mounted Rangers. These ten companies were paid more than the line soldier and they had to furnish their own rifles and horses. They were formed in 1775 and their first actions were to seize former British forts in the frontier and gather the arms and ammunition there. They were used in the early war to monitor any Indian movements and to gather intelligence on what their intentions were. The battle lineage of the 3rd Rangers include:
-Siege of Ninety Six, SC 18-21 November 1775
-Snow Campaign 8-30 December 1775
-Tracking down Loyalist “insurgents” in the mountains of South Carolina
-Battle of Great Cane Break 22 December 1775
-Battle of Fort Sullivan, SC 28-29 June 1776
The 3rd Rangers held back a British landing force of hundreds trying to cross the Breach Inlet and land on Sullivan’s Island, while the British Navy attacked Fort Sullivan. The British Army was unable to land due to the intense firepower from the 3rd Rangers. Charles Lee wrote afterwards to George Washington, “Col. Thompson of the South Carolina Rangers acquitted himself most nobly in repulsing the troops who attempted to land at the other end of the Island. The manifest intention of the enemy was to land, at the same time the ships began to fire, their whole regulars on the east end of the Island. Twice they attempted it, and twice they were repulsed by a Colonel Thompson of the South Carolina Rangers, in conjunction with a body of North Carolina Regulars.”
-Seneca, SC 1 August 1776
The Rangers were ambushed by Cherokee Indians, but were able to drive them back with a mounted bayonet charge.
-Siege of Fort McIntosh, GA 12 February – 15 March 1777
Less than 80 Rangers held back a force of 700 British and 500 Indians, along with five cannon, for over a month. This slowed the British advance down and allowed the Patriot forces in South Carolina and Georgia enough time to raise the militia.
-British capture of Savannah, GA 19 December 1778
The Rangers were part of the defeat at Savannah. Bad intelligence and attached to poorly trained troops led to the loss of Savannah.
-Siege of Fort Morris, GA 6-10 January 1779
A few hundred Rangers held out against 2,000 British, but after a massive bombardment, and learning of the loss of Savannah, the Fort surrendered.
-Battle of Stono Ferry, SC 20 June 1779
-Siege of Savannah, GA 24 September – 19 October 1779
This combined French and American siege lasted for almost a month and ended with a single charge against the Spring Hill Redoubt. This attack is known as the Pickett’s Charge of the Revolutionary War and decimated the three Regiments of the South Carolina line.
-Siege of Charleston, SC 7 March – 12 May 1780
The Rangers started the siege with 300 men. This was all that was left after the failed attack upon the Spring Hill Redoubt in Savannah. This included the remnants of the 6th South Carolina Regiment (riflemen) who could only muster a company after Savannah. By April of 1780, after a month of the siege, the Rangers were down to 132 men and only three officers. Half of the Rangers were attached to a light corps, who conducted trench raids, leaving only 60 men left to man their portion of the trench works. The Rangers surrendered when Charleston fell on 12 May 1780.
Volunteer Independent Rangers
This militia unit came from New Hanover County, North Carolina and were in the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge. They were also known as the Ranger Jagers. Like all Ranger units in the South, they were mounted.
St. John’s Rangers
This Georgia militia unit conducted a Naval raid in the Savannah River and burned the four ships containing rice that would supply the British army. This is also known as the Battle of the Rice boats, March 2-6, 1776.
Charles Town Rangers
This militia unit was from Charleston and also conducted a raid against ships in the Savannah River containing rice for the British army on March 11, 1776. They were able to destroy two thousand pounds of rice. In June 1776 they manned defensive works in Charleston as the British navy was defeated at Fort Sullivan.
Fincastle County Rangers
This Ranger unit from Virginia marched to the relief of Fort Watauga, Tennessee on August 2nd, 1776. They engaged the Cherokee Indians led by Old Abraham and Great Warrior and drove them away from the fort.
Georgia Regiment of Horse Rangers
These were handpicked men from the Georgia Continentals. Their job was to track down the bands of Loyalist militia and suppress them along the Savannah River. They were also known as Colonel Marbury’s Rangers. At the disastrous defeat at Briar’s Creek the Rangers had been doing a mounted patrol for two days and had just returned to camp when they were attacked by the British. This company also led a charge at the Siege of Savannah on 19 October 1779, which proved valiant but a failure. The Rangers were down to only 41 men when they surrendered at the capture of Charleston on 12 May 1780.
North Carolina Rangers
This was a company attached to the 4th North Carolina Regiment at the Battle of Stono Ferry on June 20, 1779. The company also fought at the Siege of Savannah in October 1779.
Cracker’s Neck Rangers
This militia unit attacked a unit of Loyalist and Indians at Midway, GA on March 29, 1780. They also raided Royal Governor Wrights plantation, killing 60 armed slaves and destroyed 100 barrels of rice destined for the British army laying siege to Charleston. When the British sent out patrols to find them, they ambushed one enemy unit at Dawson’s Farm, GA on 5 April 1780, and killing three to include the British officers.
North Carolina Partisan Rangers
This backwoods militia unit was formed to counter the growing Loyalist threat after the British had captured Georgia and South Carolina. They were instrumental in defeating the Loyalists at the Battle of Ramseur’s Mill, NC on 20 June 1780. This unit was led by William Richardson Davie, quite possibly one of the most aggressive officers of the war. He was said to have killed more British soldiers than any other officer. He was normally a quite, well mannered lawyer but something about working behind lines scared the British. The mounted Partisan Rangers were also in the Battle of Hanging Rock, SC on August 6th, 1780. Davie and Sumter teamed up to take on a large British force and surround them. Cornwallis wrote “no battle fell heavier on the British, considering the numbers engaged, the battle of Bunker Hill excepted.” Due to this battle the negotiations for an end to the war stopped. They followed up this victory with another British defeat at Wofford’s Iron Works on 8 August 1780. The British, concerned with a rise in the partisan warfare (insurgency) marched forward with a major army under Cornwallis. Cornwallis defeated General Gates at the Battle of Camden on 16 August 1780, leaving no regular forces in South Carolina at all. The war was left up to the partisans, the guerrillas, the “Rangers”. This is the time that Francis Marion grew to fame. Davie’s Partisan Rangers next raided a British highlander camp at Wahab’s Plantation when the British dared to invade North Carolina. Davie’s 150 Rangers took on almost 400 Highlanders, killing 20 and wounding 47, without losing a single man. When the British marched into Charlotte, Davie and 200 Rangers held off the entire British army for four hours, allowing the main American army to withdraw to Salisbury, North Carolina. The Partisan Rangers took part in the disastrous British defeat at King’s Mountain in October of 1780. This battle is known as the turning point of the war in the South. When Loyalists tried to link up with the British army in Charlotte they were stopped at Shallow Ford by the Partisan Rangers. The Rangers killed 15 of the Loyalists, while only losing one of their own officers. The Partisan Rangers’ next fight happened when they were with Light Horse Harry Lee, harassing the British main army as they marched after Greene’s main force. They encountered a large Loyalist force marching to join Cornwallis. They first attempted to confuse the Loyalists into thinking they were also Loyalists, but after being discovered they had to strike back quickly. This was known as Pyle’s Massacre, and in 90 seconds the Loyalists lost 99 killed and 150 wounded, out of 400. The Rangers and Lee didn’t lose a single man.
The War of 1812
During the War of 1812, companies of United States Rangers were raised from among the frontier settlers as part of the regular army. Throughout the war, they patrolled the frontier from Ohio to Western Ill. on horseback and by boat. They participated in many skirmishes and battles with the British and their Indian allies. Many famous men belonged to Ranger units during the 18th and 19th centuries to include Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln.
During the Civil War, officially and unofficially there were 428 units designated as Rangers. Besides a few exceptions, most of these units were Confederate. Mosby’s Rangers, led by Confederate Colonel John Singleton Mosby, played a huge role in the fight for the south. Mosby believed that his Rangers could keep the enemy on guard while leaving their other resources vulnerable. During the twenty eight month period from 1869 to 1865, Mosby’s Rangers conducted missions mostly in Maryland and Virginia. His raids on Union camps and bases were so effective, part of North-Central Va. soon became known as Mosby’s Confederacy.
Six regiments, nine battalions, and a number of independent companies had been formed in eight states by September in 1862. The War Department in 1863, reluctantly ordered these partisan Ranger units to be combined into battalions or regiments, and had to operate within the same regulations that the other soldiers had to follow. February 17th, 1864, the bill to reorganize the partisans was enacted to law, although giving an exception to the groups under the command of John McNeill and John Mosby.
Mosby never intended to organize as an independent partisan command, but under his command, Mosby’s Rangers conducted raids, attacks, and ambushes for 28 months, behind Union lines. Mosby conducted his most audacious and notable raid, March 8th, 1863 at Dover Mill, west of Adie in Loudoun County. His troops moved in to position in groups of 2 and 3 and were assembled by dusk. Not knowing that Mosby’s objective was to perpetrate Union lines and capture Colonel Percy Wyndham, his men followed gallantly. The men performed excellently, capturing sentinels, securing horse stables and other buildings, along with cutting the telegraph wires quickly, but came to find the Colonel Wyndham had stayed in Washington, D.C that night instead of with his troops.
After interrogating some captured Union soldiers, he learned the locations of Union Brigadier General Edwin H. Stoughton, and he immediately took his troops to Stoughton with intent to capture. The general was rudely awakened by a group of strangers gathered around his bed. Confused and demanding to know who was present, the general was asked by the twenty-nine-year-old Confederate lieutenant… who was wearing a captain’s uniform during this raid, “General, did you ever hear of Mosby?” “Yes, have you caught him?” queried the Union officer. “No but he has caught you,” came the response. As Mosby and his Rangers were withdrawing from this raid, the success was clear. Mosby had netted a general, two captains, thirty enlisted men, fifty-eight horses, and not a shot was fired nor a man wounded. Mosby‘s Rangers were disbanded in April 21st, 1865.
Mean’s Rangers, although not as well-known as Mosby’s Rangers, played an important part in the war for the Union. Lead by Samuel Mean, Mean’s Rangers comprised a total force of 200 men. They defended territory along the Potomac, helping to smuggle in supplies to pro-Union groups, and defended the pro-Union residents of the area. Mean’s Rangers also captured Confederate General Longstreet’s ammunition train, and encountered Mosby’s Rangers at some point and even captured part of Mosby’s force.
Rangers under the command of Colonel Turner Ashby, known as the Ashby’s Rangers, were an equally skilled group that didn’t receive as much recognition. Fighting for the Confederates, Ashby’s Rangers applied the first battery of horses artillery used in the war. In May 23, 1862 Ashby was promoted to Brigadier General. Later in a skirmish on Chestnut Ridge near Harrisburg Virginia, Ashby lead his men to fight and to buy time while General Richard Ewell set his defenses. Ashby’s horse was shot out from under him, but he continued on, drawing his pistol and yelling, “Charge men. For God’s sake, charge!” as he lead the cavalry charge on foot. He soon after took a musket ball to the chest, killing him instantly on June 6th, 1862 at thirty-three years old.
Last edited by goon175
on November 11th, 2011, 11:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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