Friday, January 29, 2016

A History of the Queen's Rangers (and The Reenactors Who Portray Them)

Robert Rogers
The Queen's Rangers
(alias Queen's American Rangers) were a British provincial unit that fought on the Loyalist side during the American Revolutionary War.   
They started off under the command of Robert Rogers who was the founder and commander of the first Ranger Regiment (Rogers Rangers) during the French and Indian War (1756–1763), during which France and Great Britain fought for territories in the New World. At first, French-Canadians and their Indian allies were very effective by using guerrilla tactics against the British Regulars. To counter the French tactics, Robert Rogers raised companies of New England frontiersmen for the British and trained them in woodcraft, scouting, and, without a fixed method of warfare, sending them on raids along the frontiers of French Canada as Roger’s Rangers. The Rangers soon gained a considerable reputation, particularly in the campaigning in upstate New York around Fort Ticonderoga and Lake Champlain. They also launched a long-range raid to destroy Indian allies in the St. Lawrence valley, gained the first lodgement in the amphibious landings on Cape Breton to capture Louisburg, and took the surrender of the French outposts in the Upper Great Lakes at the conclusion of the war.
Fort Detroit had been captured by the British during 
the French and Indian War following 
the Fall of Montreal in 1760.
An interesting piece of little known American history (even to the locals in my neck of the Michigan woods) occurred on May 7, 1763, when Pontiac’s Rebellion erupted in Michigan. Ottawa war-leader Pontiac— with a force of 300 warriors — attempted to capture Fort Detroit by surprise. However, the British commander was aware of Pontiac's plan and his garrison was armed and ready. Undaunted, Pontiac went ahead and laid siege to the fort. Eventually more than 900 Indian warriors from a half-dozen tribes joined the siege of Fort Detroit.
Upon hearing this news, Rogers offered his services to General Amherst. Rogers then accompanied Captain Dalyell with a relief force to Fort Detroit. Their ill-fated mission was terminated at the Battle of Bloody Run (current site of Elmwood cemetery now a part of Downtown Detroit) on July 21, 1763 when, in an attempt to break Pontiac’s siege of Fort Detroit, about 250 British troops, led by Dalyell and Rogers, attempted a surprise attack on Pontiac's encampment. However, Pontiac was ready — supposedly alerted by French settlers — and defeated the British at Parent's Creek two miles north of the fort. The creek was said to have run red with the blood of the 20 dead and 34 wounded British soldiers and was henceforth known as Bloody Run. Captain James Dalyell was one of those killed.
However, the situation at the fort itself remained a stalemate, and Pontiac’s influence among his followers began to wane. Groups of Indians began to abandon the siege, some of them making peace with the British before departing. On October 31, 1763, finally convinced that the French in Illinois would not come to his aid, Pontiac lifted the siege and traveled south to the Maumee River, where he continued his efforts to rally resistance against the British.
Soon after these events, Pontiac's rebellion collapsed and Chief Pontiac himself faded away into obscurity and death.
When the American Revolutionary War broke out in earnest in 1775, about fifty Loyalist regiments were raised, including the one that Robert Rogers raised in New York (mostly from Loyalists living in Westchester and Long Island), from western Connecticut, and with men from the Queen’s Loyal Virginia Regiment. 
The new unit, Queen's Rangers, was named in honor of Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III.
It first assembled in August 1776 and grew to 937 officers and men, organized into eleven companies of about thirty men each, and an additional five troops of cavalry. Rogers did not prove successful in this command and, due to his condition during the War from his alcohol abuse, was deemed unfit for duty and was relieved of command. He left the unit on January 29, 1777. The regiment had suffered serious losses in a surprise attack on their outpost position at Mamaroneck, New York, on October 22, 1776. Eleven months later, on September 11, 1777, they distinguished themselves at the Battle of Brandywine, suffering many casualties while attacking entrenched American positions.
The Queen's Rangers were placed under the command of several unsuccessful commanders before John Graves Simcoe took charge. Simcoe reorganized the Regiment into more of a legion rather than an average group of backwoods men. Under Simcoe's command the Queen's Rangers were organized into 9 companies of riflemen, 1 company of light infantry, 1 company of highlanders (represented by reenactors in above photo), 1 company of grenadiers, and a company of cavalry with a company of dismounted dragoons attached to them.
They were then commanded by Major James Wemyss. On October 15, 1777, John Graves Simcoe was given command and the unit became known informally as "Simcoe's Rangers."
Simcoe turned the Queen's Rangers into one of the most successful British regiments in the war.

With the numbers and organizations of a legion and Ranger tactics the Queen's Rangers were a true force to be reckoned with.

They provided escort and patrol duty around Philadelphia (1777–8); fought in the Pennsylvania campaign; served as rearguard during the British retreat to New York (1778); fought the Stockbridge Militia in the Bronx (1778); fought at Perth Amboy, New Jersey, where Simcoe was captured but freed in a prisoner exchange three months later (1779–80); at Charlestown, South Carolina (1780); in the raid on Richmond, Virginia with Benedict Arnold, and in other raids in Virginia (1780–1).
The unit surrendered at Yorktown and its rank and file were imprisoned at Winchester, Virginia. The unit was undefeated throughout the war with the exception of Yorktown, which was obviously the end of the war. In 1783, when the war was ended by the Treaty of Paris, the Queen's Rangers left New York for Nova Scotia, where it was disbanded. Many of the men from the unit formed Queensbury, New Brunswick on land grants.

But history and the Queens Rangers live on... 
Because there is such a strong local connection to the Queen's Rangers, I felt a need to present the history of this group as well as to help a friend of mine promote his new unit (seen in the pictures throughout this posting) and maybe garner some interest and increase this group's membership. Many reenactors are diving into WWII, which is cool, but to do 18th century, to be honest, is even cooler. And to show this early American history in such a manner is so very important.
There are a group of guys here in the metro-Detroit area who, because of their love of history, respect for the Regiment and their sacrifice, and their pride in their Scottish heritage ("Highland Company"), keeps the history of the Queens Rangers alive by portraying them at reenactments.
This reenacting unit was founded in 2014 by Scott Mann who had been in the hobby for many years. He formed the unit for the same reason all have joined - for the love of teaching history. 
In order to join, the new member must be willing and able to learn and execute the tactics used by the original 18th century Regiment. They would have to purchase a uniform (or make it themselves). The gun this group uses is the British Brown Bess. In addition to the uniform and gun, recruits will need a wedge tent to sleep in. And most importantly, recruits must be prepared to be serious and operate as though they truly are a Queen's Ranger, though there will also be times for relaxation and simple enjoyment
Of course, the current members will be there to help any newbie along, guiding them every step of the way on their journey to the past. 
"We're all doing this to enjoy ourselves, and we want recruits who will enjoy themselves in a Ranger unit as well." 
Caleb Church
There is nothing like bringing history to life in an authentic manner, and with the 240th anniversary of the American Revolution at hand - 240 years ago this year the Declaration of Independence was signed - now is perhaps the best time to join in the historical fun and show early American history as it was forging to become a nation. Just as Civil War reenacting has the Confederates to fight (or the Union, depending on your perspective), and WWII reenactors have Nazis to fight, the Revolution reenactors also needs to show both sides.
Here's your chance.

For further information about the Queens Rangers Highland Company, please click HERE
I lifted most of the information found here directly from Wikipedia, so please forgive me for not writing this in my own words. 


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