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 Rivernow 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 secret service.
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 John Nairne.
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 Company (Connecticut).
Copy courtesy of Ruiter's Co., King's Rangers.
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