Butler's Rangers

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Butler's Rangers

BUTLER'S RANGERS. John Butler's success in leading a mixed force of Native American warriors and Loyalists at the Battle of Oriskany on 6 August 1777 so impressed Major General Sir Guy Carleton, the British commander in Canada, that on 15 September he authorized Butler to raise a corps of rangers. Initially only a single company, the corps had grown in strength to ten companies by 1781. Butler's Rangers launched many significant raids from their principal headquarters at Fort Niagara and kept a large part of the frontier in turmoil. Butler led two hundred rangers and three hundred Indians that devastated the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania on 3 July 1778. His son, Captain Walter Butler, led a similar raid that on 11 November dealt a heavy blow to Cherry Valley, New York. Responding to the calls for help from the frontier, Washington sent Major General John Sullivan in the summer of 1779 to destroy Fort Niagara, but his supply line became overextended before he could reach his objective. The rangers participated in retaliatory raids across the New York and Pennsylvania frontiers in 1780 and 1781; both years culminated in a major raid through the Mohawk Valley. In 1782 companies stationed at Detroit raided Sandusky in Ohio; Blue Licks in Kentucky (defeating Daniel Boone); and Wheeling, later in West Virginia. The corps was reduced to one company at Detroit on 24 June 1784, and that company was disbanded when it reached Fort Niagara on 16 July. Veteran rangers and their descendants served in the Canadian militia during the War of 1812.

SEE ALSO Border Warfare in New York; Butler, John; Cherry Valley Massacre, New York; Sullivan's Expedition against the Iroquois; Wyoming Valley Massacre, Pennsylvania.


Cruikshank, Ernest A. The Story of Butler's Rangers and the Settlement of Niagara. 1893. Reprint, Niagara Falls, Canada: Renown Printing, 1988.

Fryer, Mary B. The King's Men: The Soldier Founders of Ontario. Toronto, Canada: Dundurn Press, 1980.

Swiggett, Howard. War Out of Niagara: Walter Butler and the Tory Rangers. New York: Columbia University Press, 1933.

Watt, Gavin K. The Burning of the Valleys: Daring Raids from Canada against the New York Frontier in the Fall of 1780. Toronto, Canada: Dundurn Press, 1997.

                          revised by Harold E. Selesky

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