Rogers Rangers were the original, old school Green Berets. The success of the guerilla tactics employed by Rogers Rangers led to the eventual formation of Merrils Marauders, the OSS, Special Forces and MACV-SOG.
Widely recognized as one of the most successful military units ever formed and a key player in the defeat of the French during the French and Indian War, the unit was founded and commanded by Robert Rogers. In true colonial legend style Rogers was a Scotch-Irish Farmer and woodsman on the run from the law for counterfeiting. He started out in the scouting company of Blanchards New Hampshire Provincial Regiment. Although it was common for Provincial units to have their own scout companies, Rogers band of misfits gained recognition for the skill and daring with which they accomplished their missions.
Sir William Johnson and the British high command soon realized the effectiveness for Rogers warfare methods against the irregular French and Indian troops that would often refuse to engage in classic European combat. In march of 1756, Rogers was ordered to form a second company to augment his existing company. The new unit was established by a special order from the Crown and was to operate independently of any other regiment. In order to take command of his new unit, Rogers received a commission of Captain-Commandant.
As stories of the units success grew, the number of hopeful rangers grew. Eventually the unit swelled to ten full companies, including two companies of Stockbridge Indians, commanded by their own Indian commanders. Particularly skilled members of other regiments would often cadet with the rangers and return to their units and instruct them in Rogers methodology.
The key to Ranger success was engaging in small, swift battles and strategic deployment of smaller, more mobile troops around a larger force. Traditional warfare of the time still depended heavily on firing lines of infantry and the cavalry charge upon the open plains of war. Rogers innovative use of raiding tactics in compliment of these traditional battles did not meet with universal approval, as many believed it an affront to the honor of warfare. His success was undeniable though and quite likely changed the methods of modern warfare.
Rogers downfall began during his greatest, but largely forgotten success. He was instrumental in ending a centuries old conflict between the Chippewa and Sioux. Their new peace opened up vast new areas of the continent for safe British trade. In forging the treaty between the two hostile nations, Rogers had rendered generous gifts to both sides that were a technical violation of his orders. It is rumored that political figures, unhappy and jealous of his success with the Indians had issued orders so restrictive as to be impossible to comply and succeed.
Rogers was eventually arrested for treason stemming from alleged dealings with the French in Louisiana. He was escorted to Montreal in chains and disgrace to face charges that he was eventually proven innocent of. Despite his innocence, his rank was not returned and he sailed to England to lobby for government assistance with his finances. Unable to rectify his debt, he spent some time in Debtors Prison and succumbed to the sweet escape of alcohol.
When the Revolutionary War broke out, Rogers first offered his assistance to the Colonies. When they refused he volunteered to assist the Crown and first formed Rogers Queens Rangers and later Rogers Kings Rangers. By the 1770s Rogers personal problems were beginning to affect his military performance. He no longer commanded the same respect and motivation from his troops and his new ranger companies were inferior to his previous units. The Queens Rangers had trouble maintaining force, many of their troops were captured before rallying with their unit and the Kings Rangers was primarily a garrison force. Their most notable contribution to the Revolutionary war was the capture of the spy, Nathan Hale.
Rogers Rangers was the prototypical basis for practically every elite fighting force of the United States Military. Army recruits are told of his exploits during basic training and Ranger Candidates hear all about his success in battle. Ironically, he never served the United States.
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