The Queen’s American Rangers
Donald J Gara
Westholme Publishing 2015
Reviewed by Dom Sore
The American War of Independence was a tale of British mismanagement and misjudgement in the face of stiff colonial resistance. In amongst the chaos of war, many regiments built famous reputations. One of those was The Queen’s American Rangers, a Loyalist regiment raised by Robert Rogers who is perhaps best known from the French and Indian War that preceded the American War of Independence. This book covers the Queen’s American Rangers from their formation in 1776 until their disbanding in 1783 (they would reform briefly as a Canadian Militia Unit 1791-1802). Donald J Gara covers their lifespan in 405 pages, which includes 41 pages devoted to notes, and a comprehensive bibliography. The text is split into 32 chapters and there are 15 maps reproduced throughout the book. The maps are a mix between reproduced period maps from Simcoe’s Military Journal (Simcoe would command the Rangers after Rogers departs) and modern maps.
Gara includes considerable detail regarding the actions the Rangers fought in, but not at the loss of the overall picture. The account of the Rangers experience at the Battle of Brandywine, where they came to prominence, is particularly good. In the same manner, the Siege of Yorktown is handled well. These are mainly about the experience the Rangers had rather than in depth critiques of the battles, and in a book about a regiment it is what you want. Gara also has an unfussy writing style which leads to the book being easy to read without losing the complexity. That this regiment was an American Loyalist unit in the American War of Independence and has been given sympathetic treatment is a credit to the author.
Not all the maps are as useful as they could be, especially the reproduced period maps. These would have benefitted from being updated with modern eyes in mind, old maps are wonderful to view but can be cluttered and difficult to decipher. Similarly, some of the more modern ones do not seem to convey any relevant information. Other than the maps there are no pictures in the book, again this is something that is slightly lacking, though I may be spoiled by reading about more recent conflicts where pictures abound.
This is a book favouring the Rangers, and the author states that the primary source is Simcoe’s Military Journal. I think a little extra critical analysis would have been a benefit to the overall feel, yet the author does not treat the Rangers as supermen or as paragons of virtue. This well-written book provides a lot of specifics about a single regiment, an unusual topic for the American War of Independence, and the minor flaws do not detract from the overall positive experience. A little extra critique and some adjustment to the maps would therefore make this an excellent book. As for wargaming ideas, this book is full of them. There are the big battles of Brandywine and Monmouth Courthouse you can recreate in Black Powder. Then there are the smaller engagements like Phillips’ Raid up the James River that would make an excellent small campaign for Sharpe Practice. Indeed, there are so many scenario ideas within the book, especially for smaller games, that I would highly recommend you buy it.
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