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No other military force is so rooted in American history as the Ranger. It was in America in the early 1600’s that small bands of colonists began to defend their homes against a dangerous enemy. A few men among the colonists began to learn the tactics of their Indian foes. These men began to range outward to provide early warnings to the settlements and to carry the war to the enemy. They became known as “Rangers.”
Beginning with the first Indian attacks in 1622 near Jamestown, Virginia, Ranger leaders would take the battle to the Indians. Rangers led by John Endicott and John Mason crushed the Pequot tribe and in 1675-1676 Ranger Benjamin Church destroyed King Phillip and the Wampanoags. These early Rangers laid the foundation of warriors that would master the raid and ambush.
Throughout the 1700’s war raged in the colonies from Maine to Georgia. Power struggles between England, France, and Spain led to four major and seven minor wars. In these wars, the prowess of the American Ranger became legendary. As early as 1703, Ranger John Gorham began to launch amphibious attacks against the Indians. Ranger leaders frequently enlisted Indians as Rangers. Church offered captured Indians a choice of death, slavery, or enlistment.
In 1750, the first Ranger unit assigned to the regular establishment of the British Army was formed by the younger John Gorham. It was called “His Majesty’s First Independent Company of American Rangers,” demonstrating that though serving the crown, these were Americans. During the French and Indian War (1754-1763), two Rangers would become heroes of the American frontier, Robert Rogers and John Stark. Rogers would become famous as the leader of Rogers Rangers. Stark eventually became his second in command and on several occasions saved Rogers life. In 1757, Rogers penned a list of 28 rules that were well known on the frontier. Though known and used by all Rangers, Rogers was the first to put a satisfactory list on paper. Roger’s Orders have lived through history and have been practiced by American forces ever since.
Thousands of men served faithfully as Rangers during the Colonial period. The Colonial Ranger was a new breed of fighting man. He laid the foundation on which American Ranger traditions and practices were built and fought a dozen wars before the United States was founded. It was the Colonial-era Ranger who first led the way.
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