The First American Special Operations Force: Rogers Rangers

Robert Rogers was a colonial farmer from New Hampshire who was recruited by the British in 1755 to serve in the French and Indian War. Over the course of the following years he formed a unit of colonials called Rogers’ Rangers, the first Ranger unit. Unlike the Redcoat British, they wore green uniforms and utilized unconventional tactics, many of which were written down as Rogers’ Ranging Rules, some of which are still used in the current US Army Ranger Handbook, called Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs). I

The most significant engagement the Rangers fought was with the Abenaki Indians in Canada. This tribe had been raiding the colonies and was credited with over five hundred kills, mostly of civilians, during the war. A Ranger force of two hundred marched into Canada and destroyed the Abenaki village, a feat shown in the 1940 movie Northwest Passage starring Spencer Tracy. This was a case of thinking outside of the normal parameters on Rogers’ part. Conventional wisdom at the time dictated being on the defensive along the frontier. Rogers realized that would be futile and leave the initiative in the hands of his enemies. The frontier was simply too large to be adequately defended with the scant forces he had.

One of my Ranger Handbooks, somewhat used:

He decided that the only way to stop this scourge was to go to the source, which others told him was impossible as it was too far inside enemy territory. He turned that thinking around, figuring that if the other side thought that too, it would increase his odds of success as no one would consider the raid a real possibility and be prepared to defend against it. This open-mindedness is something is one of the seven character traits of the elite. An elite individual is someone who finds new ways to tackle problems. I discuss this in detail in Who Dares Wins Special Operations Strategies for Success.

The Rangers also fought in General Wolfe’s campaign against Quebec and the subsequent one against Montreal in 1760. After the war, Rogers repeatedly petitioned the King to fund expeditions for the Rangers to explore from the Mississippi to the Pacific, almost fifty years before Lewis & Clark. Think how history might have changed if he had done this (which gets my brain working on a possible mission for a future Time Patrol book). Unfortunately, the King turned Rogers down and his persistence in trying to launch his own expeditions caused him to be arrested on charges of treason. So much for loyalty from top to bottom, a key to effective leadership. There are some who say the seeds of the Revolution were planted among the ranks of the Rangers because of this. Despite their excellent service, the Rangers were treated with contempt by the British and in 1775 some of the men who fired upon the British at Lexington and Concord were former Rangers.

Tomorrow I’ll post about Rogers Rules of Rangering, which we still use today!

Originally published at on March 27, 2016.

West Point grad; Special Ops Vet; NY Times bestseller of over 80 books; for free books and over 200 free downloadable slideshows go to

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