A History of the Georgia Rangers
One of the little known corps leading up to the American Revolution was the Georgia Rangers. In the confusing and contradictory feelings of the times, this corps stood apart from the fray and attempted to perform the essential service of protecting the frontiers of Georgia.
The Georgia Rangers were raised by order of Governor Sir James WRIGHT on 6 September 1773.1 Their purpose was "to keep good order amongst, and for the protection of the Inhabitants in the new ceded Lands above Settlo River."2
The strength of the corps was to be one captain, three lieutenants, one quarter master, 1 surgeon, three sergeants, one drummer, and sixty five privates. This strength was reached by 4 March 1773, when it not only mustered its authorized numbers, but one cadet and four privates over.3
The initial officers of the Rangers were commissioned on 6 September 1773. They were Captain Edward BARNARD, 1st Lieutenant Thomas WATERS, and 2nd Lieutenant Edward KEATING.4
In November following, the remaining officers were commissioned. These gentlemen included 3rd Lieutenant Timothy BARNARD, Quarter Master John STUART, Senr., and Surgeon Francis BEGBIE.5
All officers were commissioned by the governor. The men of the corps were "to be all Healthy strong able Bodied Men fit for actual Duty and service."6
The pay was to be issued four times yearly, at the rate of three pounds per month for a sergeant, two pounds, five shillings per month for the drummer, and two pounds per month for each private. This pay was to be without any stoppages or deductions. In addition, they were occasionally to be provided with powder and ball.
From this pay, however, each soldier was expected to victual himself and furnish his own uniform, arms and accoutrements. The uniform chosen was quite distinctive. It was to be
"a Blue Coat faced with Red and a Red Jacket and Blue Cloth Boots on spatterdashes made to fit the Leg edged with Red and Gartered with a Black strap and Buckle to wear occasionally and Breeches either Blue Cloth or Buckskin also a good Fussee [sic- fusil], a Putteau, a Black Leather shot Pouch and Belt of the same Edged with Red also a good Powder horn."7
All men were also to be provided with a good horse, as the Rangers were to be always mounted. They were to "keep themselves sober and clean, and behave orderly and discreetly, and to suffer no swearing or Drunkeness amongst them."8
The duty of the Rangers was basically to be that of a police force. The Troop was to be divided into three divisions, each under the command of an officer and a sergeant. Each division was to be on constant duty, patrolling the frontiers (then called the "ceded lands") and keep the Indians and settlers from stealing each others' horses, cattle, etc.
Likewise, they were to prevent any new white settlers from infringing upon Indian land for any reason and to keep close tabs on any Indians entering from the West. Finally, they were to apprehend "all Horse Thieves, Vagrants and other Disorderly persons" and deal with them according to Georgia law.9
The beginning of 1774 saw an insurrection among a group of the Lower Creek Indians. Starting with the murder of a settler by the name of White on Christmas Day, 1773, the renegades attacked a stockade fort on Shirrols' Farm in Ogeechee about three weeks later.
After killing or wounding eleven of the settlers, they were held at bay by the remaining three until relieved by a party of Georgia Rangers under the command of Sergeant John STUART, Junr. Captain BARNARD arrived later, dispatching a further force of Rangers under Lieutenant KEATING to secure Williams Creek.10
Fearing a general uprising was about to take place, the militia of the district was called out and placed under the command of Colonel GRIERSON (the same Loyalist officer who would later be murdered after his surrender at Augusta in 1781). GRIERSON detached a party of militia on 21 January 1774 under Captain GOODGION, joined by Lieutenant KEATING, Quarter Master STUART, one sergeant and one private of the Georgia Rangers.
Upon approaching Shirrol's farm to attempt to bring off their cattle, they were ambushed by about 100 of the Lower Creeks, who "were all naked and painted black, with a little red around their Eyes, the Signs of War."11 Fleeing almost without resistance, 7 of the militia were killed and another was wounded.
In consequence of the ineffectiveness of the Rangers and militia in dealing with the Indian problem, almost all settlements in the Ogeechee area were abandoned until stockade forts could be built to protect the inhabitants. Likewise, agents of the Indian Department were sent in among the tribes to find out who was responsible for the actions.12
The influence of these agents, along with a cut-off in trade with the settlers, finally lead to the chiefs of the Lower Creeks putting to death the leader of the renegades, thus ending the hostilities. The insurrection had lasted less than six months.13
With hostilities at an end, the Georgia Rangers continued in the service of Governor WRIGHT and the Province of Georgia, carefully keeping clear of the political turmoil that was sweeping through the other colonies. Typical of their duties was that which they performed in October of 1774, when they escorted "the Handsome Fellow, the Mortar's brother, and a few....Creek Indians" from Augusta to Savannah to meet with the governor.14
The troop had an excellent record for discipline throughout its tenure, if not a distinguished battle record. Enlisting over ninety men throughout its history, only one ever deserted, while two died, and sixteen others were discharged.15
Little is known about what became of the officers and men of the Rangers during the Revolution. Lieutenant Thomas WATERS was commissioined a colonel of militia in 1780 by Governor WRIGHT, after the restoration of his government by the Crown.
He was taken prisoner at Augusta in June of 1781 with his friend Colonel GRIERSON, and later appointed Deputy Superintendent to the Cherokee Nation. In 1786, he was in London trying to recover some of his lost fortune.16.
In the end, the Rangers fell a victim to the times. Captain Edward BARNARD died in June of 1775 at Fort Dartmouth, in St. Paul's Parish, Georgia.17
Without their captain and with the diminishing powers of their Royal Governor, the Rangers ceased their existance in March, 1776. The officers and men who had served together in a common cause for 2 1/2 hears were then left to engage each other in the war that followed.
1 Great Britain, Public Record Office, Audit Office, 13/37/448-449. Instructions to Captain Edward Barnard by Sir James Wright, 1773.
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