The original regiment known as the King's Rangers was raised on
May 1, 1779, and functioned until 1784. The leader was Robert Rogers, famous
for his service during the Seven Years War (French and Indian War). The corps
was authorized an establishment of two battalions, each of 10 companies, for a
total strength 1,267 officers and other ranks.
Rogers' brother James was gazetted Major Commandant of the
regiment's 2nd Battalion on the 2nd of June, 1779, and immediately began steps
to raise recruits for the corps in Nova Scotia. Typical of the period,
sub-units were "raised for rank", with captains required to recruit
32 men, 16 lieutenants, and 12 ensigns. Each company had an establishment of 60
rank and file.
On July 6th, Robert Rogers
submitted a return indicating that 130 officers and men had been recruited, and
two days later his brother was dispatched with a party of 13 on the brigantine
Hawke to receive recruits coming in overland from the south. By September the
regiment was concentrated at Fort St. Johns on the Richelieu River–now known as
St. Jean, Quebec.
James Rogers' battalion was also very active in scouting and
recruiting along the frontiers of New York, Lake Champlain and what was later
to be known as Vermont. They participated in the capture of the American forts
of Fort Anne and Fort George and were instrumental in a raid on Ballstown, New York, that
netted a number of rebel prisoners. Another very important role played by the
officers and men of the second battalion were that of secret service agents (or
spies) for the Crown forces in rebel territory. Disguised as civilians, their
fate, if captured, was to be hanged.
After a year of generally unsuccessful recruiting, General
Haldimand approved extension of the corps' recruiting area. The association
with the Central Department was dropped. On the 8th of September, 1780, James
Rogers submitted a muster roll indicating a strength of some 49 officers and
men. Due to the small size of the corps (two companies), Haldimand delineated
the primary tasks of the King's Rangers as: 1) Scouting and reconnaissance for
other corps, to include carrying dispatches. 2) Construction of fortifications
and general garrison duties. 3) Assisting refugees in Quebec and aiding the
escape of Loyalist families. 4) Guarding prisoners of war. 5) Employment in the
During October of 1780 a detachment of Rangers accompanied Major
Christopher Carlton on his raid of New York outposts along Lake Champlain. The
next month a third company was formed under the command of Captain Henry Ruiter.
By December the corps was mustered and given an official inspection by Major
It was not until 25 August
1781 that the King's Rangers were placed on full pay. The next month saw James
Rogers confirmed in the rank of Major. The corps comprised three complete
companies, organized as follows:
1st Company (Breakenridge's) Captain-Lieutenant James
Breakenridge, Lieutenant Israel Ferguson, Ensign William Buell.
2nd Company (Pritchard's) Captain-Lieutenant Asariah Pritchard,
Lieutenant Solomon Jones, Ensign Joseph Bettys.
3rd Company (Ruiter's) Captain-Lieutenant Henry Ruiter, Lieutenant
William Tyler, Ensign David Breakenridge.
In October of 1781, a detachment of the King's Rangers saw action
as part of an expedition under the leadership of Brigadier-General Barry St.
Legar. The corps was officially taken into the Northern Department in January
of 1783, and subsequently disbanded later that year in Canada.
After the war, over 200 members of this second battalion of the
Rangers, including their commander James Rogers, stayed in Canada. The majority
settled around Cataraqui (now Kingston) and the Bay of Quinte. A few remained
in Quebec and some made their way to the Upper St. Lawrence.
The King's Rangers today are members of the British Brigade (an
umbrella organization for reenactors), and consist of three companies under the
command of Major Neil Sorenson, Commander, Breakenridge's Company (New
Hampshire). The other companies are Ruiter's Company (Canada), and Pritchard's