Operation Ranger Up

An Original BAMF

By
Updated: March 15, 2013
Tomahawk

 

By Mr. Twisted

Rogers Rangers1The cliffs at Pointe du Hoc during the Normandy invasion in 1944.

A low-level Airborne raid into Grenada in 1983.

Operation: Just Cause.

The Battle of Mogadishu.

Takur Ghar.

These events hold places of reverence for all units in the United States Military who bear the name “Ranger.”

But these units all owe more than a little something to a man who has been referred to by some historians as America’s first celebrity—America’s first hero.

He was America’s first BAMF.

His name was Robert Rogers.

Born in 1731, Rogers started his training early. During the time in life when modern kids are figuring out how to manipulate the controller for an Xbox 360, Rogers was wandering through the woods to find local Indian tribes that would teach him wilderness craft. Tracking, stalking, killing, and skinning animals was an average day at “school” for Rogers by the ripe old age of 10.

By the close of his teenage years, Rogers was already a seasoned veteran of a militia fighting in the King George’s War.

Rogers was 23 years old when the French & Indian War kicked off—a war that Winston Churchill later famously called “the first world war”—in his back yard.

A year later, Rogers had been charged with recruiting for the British Army what would come to eventually be known as Rogers’ Rangers—a group of forest-savvy fighters who would take on the most dangerous and unpleasant missions the British Army could come up with.

Which, to be honest, were quite a few because the commanders Rogers and his men fought under were pretty far from stellar.

rangerRogers’ Rangers were intended to act primarily as a reconnaissance unit. However, due to the unwillingness of his British superiors to grab their balls and take action, Rogers and his men often encountered some heavy fighting. Being heavily outnumbered by Frenchmen became a normal way of life for Rogers and his men.

In the famed “Battle on Snowshoes,” Rogers’ Rangers had to pull back from a group of 250-plus enemy fighters when their 60-man unit could no longer hold them off.

But don’t kid yourself—while retreating from the French may sound rather less than heroic, Rogers turned it into a 6 hour battle that finished only because it got too dark to see the enemy. And, after pulling off a retreat that still has historians scratching their heads—sliding down huge hills in the middle of the night in deep snow after being shot in the head and hand—Rogers collected his men together and jumped back into patrolling just a couple days later.

That was just the beginning.

After the Battle on Snowshoes, Rogers got his own island for his men to train and live on so that they could have more freedom from the British government.

Yes, you read that correctly—his own island.

While the British soldiers were drilling on how to march into gunfire, Rogers was training his men how to sneak through the woods and kill the shit out of Frenchmen using Indian tactics.

See, before Rogers, marching onto a pre-determined field to engage an opposing force at an agreed upon date and time was a typical form of battle. Armies would square off with officers firmly in charge and stand in front of one another until one side broke ranks and retreated.

And the retreat was exactly that—nothing more than turning away from the battle and leaving.

In his famed Rules of Ranging, Rogers wrote down plans for changing that into an actual tactic:

RR2“If you are obliged to retreat, let the front of your whole party fire and fall back, till the rear hath done the same, making for the best ground you can; by this means you will oblige the enemy to pursue you, if they do it at all, in the face of a constant fire.”

Though it may seem strange today, a fighting retreat was a novel concept at that time.

Rogers had some truly innovative ideas on how to conduct war. Ideas such as, get this, becoming a smaller target for the enemy to shoot at:

“If you are obliged to receive the enemy’s fire, fall, or squat down, till it is over; then rise and discharge at them.”

Holy shit. That means not standing in a human wall with a red coat on…?

Ambushes, raids, fighting retreats… Rogers introduced a new model of warfare that frustrated both his superiors and his enemies, often simultaneously—much like the modern special operations soldiers that owe so much to the tactics he developed.

Rogers’ awesomeness didn’t stop there.

After the famous raid he conducted far behind enemy lines into the town of Saint-Francis—a raid that showed he could beat the Indians at their own style of warfare—many of his men were near the point of starvation on the return journey.

Rogers, being the total badass leader that he was, gave them what food he had and went back to their fort via a wild canoe ride, an extremely long walk (probably fighting Bigfoot along the way), resupplied, and came back to get his men.

Keep in mind, Rogers himself was nearly dead from exhaustion during this whole ordeal, as well.

Yet his dedication to his men drove him to complete the mission.

Interestingly enough, at the war’s end, Rogers was just getting warmed up.

Have you ever heard of Lewis & Clarke? Here’s a cool fact: Rogers’ true desire was to be the explorer who would find the Northwest Passage. Rogers actually covered more ground in less time during his own exploratory expeditions throughout the American continent than Lewis & Clarke did several years later on their famed journey.

All of this requires a special breed of man, to be sure.

In his book Leadership and Training for the Fight: A Few Thoughts on Leadership and Training From a Former Special Operations Soldier, MSG Paul Howe states plainly that “Machines don’t fight wars, terrain doesn’t fight wars. You must get into the minds of humans. That’s where the battles are won.”

Rogers understood this and it was clearly reflected in his tactics and rules. A quick glance at his Rules for Ranging shows a reliance on tactics, awareness, leadership, and courage rather than a specific technology. It is in that regard that he truly molded the American way of waging war and became the father of the American Rangers.

Robert Rogers—America’s first BAMF.

Follow Mr. Twisted on Twitter @RU_Twisted and The Rhino Den @TheRhinoDen

Comments

comments

6 Comments

  1. D. Taylor

    March 15, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Appreciate the history lesson RU!!!

  2. Robert Benedict

    March 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    All good points about Robert Rogers, some of my favorites would be when he made the french think they had killed him, see the french/indians had ambushed the Rangers (Snowshoe battle maybe?) taking causalities the Rangers broke contact and moved up hill as this happened RR put his recent promotion orders in the pocket of a deceased solider, making the french think they got the elusive RR, for a short time, I think in the same battle he was being pursued and came to a cliff-untied his snowshoes, turned around and tied them on backwards, retraced his steps and jumped down a manageable slope, when the French approached they just saw his tracks and looked over the cliff where he was before he changed his shoe orientation several hundred feet straight down was RR ice skating away. His raid/picnic out side Fort Ticonderoga were awesome, he knew exactly how far the cannons of the fort could fire, he would pace it off, mark in the snow a line, and then have his men come from the tree line and they would slaughter all the livestock; eat, drink and taught the folks in the fort, then he would leave-only after leaving a thank you letter on a cow hide.
    The man was awesome, using whale boats to raid on the river, using ice skates as a movement means across the great lakes and other water ways, and lastly- he had so many health issues that in the time period he should have died at least 5 different times from illness alone. Death FEARED him.

  3. Doug Meyer

    March 15, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Hey guys, loved the write up and I’ve always been a RR fan. A lot of great books out there on him. And Robert Benedict’s comments above are great too. But let’s not fail to tell the WHOLE story. This American BAMF actually fought FOR the British AGAINST the Americans in the Revolution.

  4. Mr. Twisted

    March 15, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Doug,

    Indeed, if we were to tell the whole story, we would have to include the reason he ended up fighting for the British–namely, that George Washington, our first President, hated Rogers and wouldn’t let him fight in his army. Rogers, ever the soldier, really had no other way to make a living and kinda-sorta-maybe helped the British, but not in any significant way.

    The reality is, though he was employed by the British, by that time Rogers had developed a pretty solid alcohol problem and didn’t care about helping them all that much. By most accounts, he had wanted to fight on the American side but couldn’t, and so became employed by the Brits but only enough to pay the rent, so to speak.

    Interestingly, there are a number of historians who have argued–rightly so, in my opinion–that in terms of what we consider “American” and “British,” Rogers more perfectly fit the former while Washington was closer to the latter in terms of personality, thoughts on freedom, and general attitude toward royalty. If we were to see Washington today, we would think him an Englishman; whereas Rogers was the quintessential woodsman/freeman that we associate with the American frontier.

  5. Uncle Buster

    March 15, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Excellent article, Rob! I learned some things I didn’t know! I also appreciate you mentioning URGENT FURY, as this op seems to be largely absent from the memory of America.

    I remember telling my ex-wife one time as we were walking around DC, that MAYBE one day UF would get a memorial and quipping “It’ll probably be a brick on a sidewalk or something.”

    Rogers was indeed a BAMF!

    Rangers Lead the Way!

  6. Leif

    March 19, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    I hate to be a buzz-kill, but irregular warfare was quite familiar to European armies of the time. Such units were always employed, and became essential after the War of Austrian Succession (1740-48). The extraordinary success of the Austrian grenzers, pandours and hussars effectively saved the Austrian Hapsburgs by blinding the armies of Frederick the Great. By the Seven Years’ War, most major European armies had well-trained light troops. Indeed, Frederick’s Prussians turned the tables on the Austrians with their own jaegers, hussars and “free battalions”. Not surprisingly, a veteran of the most famous of these units, the Frei-Infanterie von Mayr, was none other than Baron von Steuben.

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