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Thread: John Graves Simcoe & The Queen's Rangers

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    John Graves Simcoe & The Queen's Rangers


    John Graves Simcoe, 1791, Founder of York (Toronto, Ontario) In Uniform of The Queen's Rangers

    Military life was in the blood of John Graves Simcoe. His father was a naval officer who died when John was still a child. John had the sort of education that was typical of boys of his class, attending Eton College and Oxford University, although John left Oxford after only one year.
    At the age of 18, John was given a commission in the army as an ensign, and five years later he went to war, shipping over to America to fight the revolutionaries.
    His regiment arrived in Boston in 1775 only two days after the Battle of Bunker Hill. While taking part in the siege of Boston, Simcoe purchased a captaincy (purchasing a commission was common in those days—it was how wealthy people made sure they rose through the ranks). During 1776-1777 Simcoe received three wounds as he fought in the Long Island campaign, the capture of New York and the New Jersey campaign.
    Earning a reputation during the war both as a commander and as a military theorist, Simcoe was promoted to lieutenant, then to lieutenant-colonel.


    Simcoe Leads the Queen's Rangers

    O n October 15, 1777 Simcoe was promoted to major and made regimental commander of the Queen's Rangers. Wallace Brown gives the following background to the unit in The Loyal Americans: The Military Rôle of the Loyalist Provincial Corps and Their Settlement in British North America, 1775-1784:

    No Loyalist corps was more celebrated than the Queen's Rangers. Colonel Robert Rogers, who commanded the famous Rogers' Rangers during the Seven Years' War, recruited the regiment in 1776 mainly in New York and Connecticut. Later the Queen's Own Loyal Virginia Regiment joined the unit. Consisting of ten companies of loyalists, the Queen's Rangers fought alongside the British Army throughout the American Revolution (1775-1781). In 1777, despite many casualties, the Queen's Rangers helped defeat Washington at Brandywine Creek. After Brandywine, Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe assumed command, and the regiment distinguished itself throughout the southern campaigns in 1780 and 1781. Under the command of Simco the regiment never lost a battle.

    The origins of the Queen's Rangers lay in the Seven Years War (1756-1763), during which France and England fought for territories in the New World. At first, French-Canadian habitants and their Indian allies were quite effective by employing guerrilla tactics against the red-coated British regulars. To counter the French tactics, Robert Rogers raised companies for the British and trained them in woodcraft, scouting, and irregular warfare, sending them on raids along the frontiers of French Canada. The regiment was named in honour of Queen Charlotte the wife of King George the Third

    When the American War of Independence broke out in 1775, about 50 Loyalist regiments were raised, including Butler's Rangers, the King's Royal Regiment, and the Maryland and Pennsylvania Loyalists. Robert Rogers again raised the Queen's Rangers, this time in New York, mostly from Loyalists living in Westchester and Long Island. It first assembled on Staten Island in August 1776 and soon numbered some 300-400 hundred officers and men, organized into 11 companies of about 30 men each and including five troops of cavalry. In this war Rogers was not a successful commander and was replaced with a series of other officers. The regiment suffered serious losses at Mamaroneck, Brandywine and Germantown until, on October 15, 1777 Simcoe was given command.

    Simcoe turned the badly mauled Queen's Rangers into one of the most successful British regiments in the war. Fighting as reconnaisance and outpost troops, they were never defeated in battle. One advantage they had was the fact that they were the first British regiment to wear green uniforms, as more suitable for purposes of camouflage than red. They did escort and patrol duty around Philadelphia (1777-8), fought in the Pennsylvania campaign, served as rearguard during the British retreat to New York (1778), fought at Perth Amboy, New Jersey--where Simcoe was captured but freed in a prisoner exchange 3 months later(1779-80)--, at Charlestown, South Carolina (1780), in the raid on Richmond, Virginia with Benedict Arnold and in other raids in Virginia(1780-1), and in the Yorktown campaign (1781). A point of pride for the regiment is that when the British finally surrendered at Yorktown in 1781, the "colours" (banner) of the Queen's Rangers were smuggled away, never to fall into enemy hands. Today those same colours are on display in Toronto in the officers' mess of the Queen's Rangers. As the finest Loyalist unit, they were awarded the title 1st American Regiment and enrolled in the British Army in 1782. In 1783, when the war was concluded by the Treaty of Versailles, the Queen’s Rangers left New York for Nova Scotia, where it was disbanded.

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    He also wanted to organize a regiment of free blacks and later abolished slavery in Upper Canada.

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