American History Told by Contemporaries

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Author: John Graves Simcoe  | Date: 1787

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U.S. History

A Loyalist Corps (1777)

BY LIEUTENANT-COLONEL JOHN GRAVES SIMCOE (1787)

ON the 15th of October, 1777, Sir William Howe was pleased to appoint Captain Simcoe of the Grenadiers, with the Provincial rank of Major, to the command of the Queen’s Rangers; the next day he joined that regiment, which was encamped with the army in the vicinity of German-Town.

On the 19th the army marched to Philadelphia, the Queen’s Rangers formed the rear guard of the left column, and, in the encampment, their post was on the right of the line, in front of the village of Kensington; the army extending from the Delaware to the Schuylkill.

On the 20th the regiment was augmented with nearly an hundred men, who had been enlisted by Captain Smyth during the various marches from the landing of the army in the Chesapeak to this period.

This was a very seasonable recruit to the regiment; it had suffered materially in the action at Brandywine, and was too much reduced in numbers to be of any efficient service; but if the loss of a great number of gallant officers and soldiers had been severely felt, the impression which that action had left upon their minds was of the highest advantage to the regiment; officers and soldiers became known to each other; they had been engaged in a more serious manner, and with greater disadvantages than they were likely again to meet with in the common chance of war; and having extricated themselves most gallantly from such a situation, they felt themselves invincible. This spirit vibrated among them at the time Major Simcoe joined them; and it was obvious, that he had nothing to do but to cherish and preserve it. Sir William Howe, in consequence of their behaviour at Brandywine, had promised that all promotions should go in the regiment, and accordingly they now took place.

The Queen’s Rangers had been originally raised in Connecticut, and the vicinity of New-York, by Colonel Rogers, for the duties which their name implies, and which were detailed in his commission; at one period they mustered above four hundred men, all Americans, and all Loyalists. Hardships and neglect had much reduced their numbers, when the command of them was given to Colonel French, and afterwards to Major Weymess, to whom Major Simcoe succeeded; their officers also had undergone a material change; many gentlemen of the southern colonies who had joined Lord Dunmore, and distinguished themselves under his orders, were appointed to supersede those who were not thought competent to the commissions they had hitherto borne; to these were added some volunteers from the army, the whole consisting of young men, active, full of love of the service, emulous to distinguish themselves in it, mad looking forward to obtain, through their actions, the honor of being enrolled with the British army.

The Provincial corps, now forming, were raised on the supposed influence which their officers had among their loyal countrymen, and were understood to be native American Loyalists; added to an equal chance among these, a greater resource was opened to the Queen’s Rangers, in the exclusive privilege of enlisting old country-men (as Europeans were termed in America), and deserters from the rebel army; so that could the officers to whom the Commander in Chief delegated the inspection of the Provincial corps have executed their orders, the Queen’s Rangers, however dangerously and incessantly employed, would never have been in want of recruits; at the same time, the original Loyalists, and those of this description, who were from time to time enlisted, forming the gross of the corps, were the source from whence it derived its value and its discipline; they were men who had already been exiled for their attachment to the British government, and who now acted upon the firmest principles in its defence; on the contrary, the people they had to oppose, however characterised by the enemies of Great Britain, had never been considered by them as engaged in an honourable cause, or fighting for the freedom of their country; they estimated them not by their words, but by an intimate observance of their actions, and to civil desecration, experience had taught them to add military contempt. . . .

. . . A light corps, augmented as that of the Queen’s Rangers was, and employed on the duties of an outpost, had no opportunity of being instructed in the general discipline of the army, nor indeed was it very necessary: the most important duties, those of vigilance, activity, and patience of fatigue, were best learnt in the field; a few motions of the manual exercise were thought sufficient; they were carefully instructed in those of firing, but above all, attention was paid to inculcate the use of the bayonet, and a total reliance on that weapon. The divisions being fully officered, and weak in numbers, was of the greatest utility, and in many trying situations was the preservation of the corps; two files in the centre, and two on each flank, were directed to be composed of trained soldiers, without regard to their size or appearance. It was explained, that no rotation, except in ordinary duties, should take place among light troops, but that those officers would be selected for any service who appeared to be most capable of executing it: it was also enforced by example, that no service was to be measured by the numbers employed on it, but by its own importance, and that five men, in critical situations or employment, was a more honourable command than an hundred on common duties. Serjeants guards were in a manner abolished, a circumstance to which in a great measure may be attributed, that no centinel or guard of the Queen’s Rangers was ever surprised; the vigilance of a gentleman and an officer being transcendantly superior to that of any non-commissioned officer whatsoever. . . . It was observed, that regularity in messing, and cleanliness in every respect, conduced to the health of the soldier; and from the numbers that each regiment brought into the field, superior officers would in general form the best estimate of the attention of a corps to its interior œconomy; and to enforce the performance of these duties in the strongest manner, it was declared in public orders, "that to such only when in the field, the commanding officer would entrust the duties of it, who should execute with spirit what belongs to the interior œconomy of the regiment when in quarters." . . .

Lieutenant-Colonel [John Graves] Simcoe, A Journal of the Operations of the Queen s Rangers, from the End of the Year 1777, to the Conclusion of the late American War (Exeter, [1787]), 1–5 passim.

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Chicago: John Graves Simcoe, "A Loyalist Corps (1777)," American History Told by Contemporaries in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902), 511–513. Original Sources, accessed July 6, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=W4X4DGQGA2DI3VT.

MLA: Simcoe, John Graves. "A Loyalist Corps (1777)." American History Told by Contemporaries, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 3, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1902, pp. 511–513. Original Sources. 6 Jul. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=W4X4DGQGA2DI3VT.

Harvard: Simcoe, JG, 'A Loyalist Corps (1777)' in American History Told by Contemporaries. cited in 1902, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York, pp.511–513. Original Sources, retrieved 6 July 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=W4X4DGQGA2DI3VT.