The Ghost of Robert Rogers, now taking the Queen’s schilling

One of the key figures in the historically abhorrent but no less entertaining AMC series Turn, portrayed by Angus Macfadyen, was Robert Rogers, the famed irregular whose unit excelled in combat along the frontier during the French and Indian War.

Color mezzotint of a representation by Johann Martin Will of Robert Rogers, published by Thomas Hart Anne S K Brown Military Collection

Known as Wobomagonda (white devil) among the Abenakis, the frontierman gave birth to what was known then as “ranging” warfare, with his men being the Rangers, a scratch unit that had American Indians as well as freedmen in its ranks.

His men were no red-uniformed line infantry, ready for set-piece battle. 

Knötel, Herbert, Rogers Rangers, 1758. Ranger of Rogers’ Company. Summer dress (1949)

Knötel, Herbert, Rogers’ Rangers, 1758. Ranger of Spikeman’s Company, Winter dress (1949)

His most lasting piece of military guidance is, of course, his 28 Rules of Ranging also seen in as a more concise 19 Standing Orders.

A defacto loyalist, as in 1775 he still nominally held a British officer’s commission, Rogers tried to wrangle an appointment from Washington but was spurned, which led him to raise the Queen’s Rangers in 1776– a unit he was cashiered from the next year. The Queen’s Rangers, led at the time by the unremarkable Maj. James Wemyss was decimated at Brandywine when used as traditional infantry, leading the unit to be resurrected by John Graves Simcoe. After the war, the Rangers were sent to Canada and quietly disbanded.

As noted by the British Army today, “After the loss of the North American colonies, the British Army lacked a forested frontier where it could usefully employ a ranger unit and the capability ceased to exist in its pure form,” with later “Ranger” units such as the Central London Rangers, The Connaught Rangers, The Royal Irish Rangers, and The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, holding the name as more of an honorific title than as descriptor for a force designed for a specialist ranger role, or that they used unconventional tactics.

Now, the newly formed Ranger Regiment in the British Army– to be stood up with volunteers drawn from across the infantry as well as from four battalions folded into its organization, 1 SCOTS, 2 PWRR, 2 LANCS, and 4 RIFLES — will officially carry the legacy of the American-born Robert Rogers.

True to form, it will be part of the Army Special Operations Brigade and will be tasked with “unconventional action.

As per the Army:

While the new Rangers might not have to abide by the original 28 Rules of Ranging – including turning up to evening parade with a ‘firelock, sixty rounds of powder and ball, and a hatchet,’ they will be self-sufficient and highly resourceful, just like the Rangers of the past.

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