Rogers' Rangers: The First Special Ops Forces

I’d originally intended to make Samuel Hartley, the hero of To Taste Temptation a ranger. Unfortunately, this part of his back story proved rather difficult to include—and dare I say it—boring. But you may read here all the lovely unused research I did into Roger’s Rangers.

In Colonial America rangers were forces that were skilled at fighting in the woods and backcountry. Companies of rangers were usually recruited from frontiersmen—men who already knew how to trap and hunt and move through a forest without detection. Rangers wore uniforms irregularly and when they did, they didn’t wear the bright scarlet coats of the British army. Instead they wore forest colors—green or brown coats, waistcoats, and breeches. Their hats were berets or a round billed cap instead of the tall métier caps worn by most British infantry at this time.

Not surprisingly, the regular British army commanders were a bit resentful of these undisciplined American forces, but they soon realized that in woodland fighting they needed the rangers. Rangers could make swift raids, scout, move through marshes thought to be impenetrable, spy on enemy positions, and generally harass the enemy. In 1758, Captain Robert Rogers, himself a frontiersman, was charged with commanding the ranger companies. Rogers laid out rules and instructions on such things as training new rangers, making camp, conducting raids, etc. By the end of the French and Indian War he’d published his ideas in a book, Roger’s Rules of Ranging.

Unfortunately, Robert Rogers later fell out with the American forces and fought on the British side during the Revolutionary War, but that’s a topic for a different article. And on the bright side, ranger is still the term used by the U.S. army for their special operations force.


Empires Collide edited by Ruth Sheppard, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, 2006