The Queen’s American Rangers was one of the best Loyalist units to fight during the American War of Independence. It was founded by Robert Rogers, who had made his name as the commander of Roger’s Rangers during the French and Indian Wars, but his wilderness skills weren’t suited to the new conflict, and he was soon removed from command. Under his successors the unit cast off its early poor reputation, and eventually became one of the most respected units on the British side, and only one of four Loyalist units to be incorporated into the British Army (meaning that its officers remained on the Army List after the end of the war).
The Rangers were an unusual unit for the period, combining infantry and cavalry in a single unit, gaining several troops of dragoons and one of hussars. They were thus capable of operating as an independent force, a very useful capability on the main raids they carried out.
One of the main things that stands out here is the wide range of activities that the Rangers carried out during the war. They took part in a small number of sieges (notably at Charleston), fought in several of the main, including British victories such as Brandywine, but was also caught up in the disaster at Yorktown (where they were posted on the opposite bank of the Chesapeake at Gloucester, but were denied the chance to break out of the American and French siege).
Between these major battles they spent long periods of time on picket duty, guarding the outskirts of the small areas held by the British, and taking part in raids into American held territory, sometimes with military targets and sometimes attempting to find supplies. The units unusual structure made it equally useful in all of these duties.
One minor criticism is that the detailed activates of the Rangers can sometimes get a bit lost in the accounts of some of the battles – in some sections Tarleton rather dominates, and although the Rangers were serving under his command, their role isn’t always clear.
One does get a sense of the futility of the British war effort. The British armies were never large enough to occupy significant areas of territory. When they did capture an area, such as around Philadelphia or Charleston, they were unable to both hold onto those areas and carry out future operations. As a result the British were often forced to evacuate an area, leaving those Loyalists who had made their views public dangerously exposed to retribution, often forcing them to leave their homes. This was the eventual fate of most of the Rangers as well, who ended up settling in Canada after the end of the fighting.
This is a valuable study of an unusual Loyalist unit, giving us a different view of the American War of Independence, demonstrating both the wide range of activities carried out by the British, and their ineffectiveness.
1 - The Major Returns to America
2 - The Eighteenth Century British Army
3 - Raising the Rangers, 1776
4 - The Capture of Fort Washington and Fort Lee
5 - The Siege of Fort Independence, 1777
6 - Reorganization of the Rangers
7 - Maneuvers in New Jersey
8 - Bloody Day at Brandywine
9 - Outpost Duty at Germantown
10 - Skirmishes with the Rebels
11 - Foraging in New Jersey, 1778
12 - Quinton's Bridge and Hancock's Bridge
13 - Crooked Billet and White Marsh, Pennsylvania
14 - The Road to Monmouth Court House
15 - Forward Post, Kingsbridge, New York
16 - Winter Quarters, Oyster Bay, Long Island
17 - Return to Kingsbridge
18 - The Middlesex and Somerset Counties Raid
19 - The Elizabethtown and Hoppertown Raids, 1780
20 - The Siege of Charleston
21 - Connecticut Farms and Springfield, New Jersey
22 - March and Countermarch
23 - Arnold's Raid Up the James River
24 - Portsmouth Interlude
25 - Phillip's Raid Up the James River
26 - Charlottesville and Point of Fork
27 - Spencer's Ordinary
28 - Williamsburg to Yorktown
29 - Taking Station at Yorktown and Gloucester
30 - The Siege of Yorktown and Gloucester
31 - Ranger Cavalry Operations in South Carolina, 1781
32 - Aftermath
Author: Donald J. Gara