Probably the most famous of the Loyalist regiments composed of Americans who served with British forces during the American Revolution, the Queen’s Rangers were raised from men living in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and, eventually Virginia and South Carolina. The Regiment participated successfully in various campaigns throughout the war, including Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, Charleston, Springfield and the Virginia Campaigns.
Originally raised by Robert Rogers, the commander of the famed Rogers Rangers during in the previous French and Indian War, the Queen’s Rangers had three successive commanders, the last one being John Graves Simcoe under whose tutelage the Regiment reached its height of efficiency and fame. Simcoe had many advanced ideas regarding military tactics and discipline. He trained his men in the proficient use of the bayonet, marksmanship and the use of ambuscades. He ordered his officers be held responsible for the health and well being of the men in their companies.
The British originally furnished their Provincial troops with green uniforms, which were replaced with red coats in 1778. Simcoe, however, fought to keep his men in green uniforms. “Green”, wrote Simcoe, “is without comparison the best colour for light troops with dark accoutrements and if put on in the spring, by autumn it near fades with the leaves, preserving its characteristic of being scarcely discernable at a distance.” The word did not exist yet, but he meant camouflage.
Besides the standard complement of 8 battalion companies, and companies of Light Infantry and Grenadiers, the Regiment was distinctly unique with the addition of a Rifle section (snipers), Highlanders, an Artillery company and a mounted wing of 3 troops of Light Dragoons and one troop of Hussars. These additions transformed the Rangers into a true Legion, capable of independent action without need for the support of other regiments. By 1780 the British commander in chief, Sir Henry Clinton, proudly reported back to London that the Rangers had killed or captured twice their own numbers, “without a single reverse”.
The Rangers were often used for reconnaissance, gathering intelligence and acting as the flashing spearhead of most of the British campaigns. Using their distinctive green uniforms to deceive the enemy, they often were mistaken as Continental troops, able to dupe civilians, as well as military personnel to gain intelligence before revealing their true identity. Officers of the Queens Rangers knew their commander delighted in these deceptions and would encourage it at every opportunity. For example, on an 80 mile raid into New Jersey, the Rangers assumed the identity of Lee’s Legion, their Continental army counterpart, rode into a Continental forage depot in the middle of the night and woke the commissary. After drawing rations for themselves and their horses, Simcoe calmly signed for them as Colonel Lee and rode off, the Continental sentries snapping to attention. Colonel Lee later wrote that he considered that raid one of the “handsomest exploits of the war.”
Following the surrender at Yorktown, the Regiment eventually took up land grants in New Brunswick and were later reconstituted to help build what is now Toronto. The Regiment survives today as part of the Canadian military as the Queen’s York Rangers, and still practicing their original function as a reconnaissance unit.