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Friday, 8 October 2010

Butler's Rangers (Loyalist Militia of American Revolution)

Butler’s Rangers were Loyalist soldiers who fought on the side of the British during the American Revolution and achieved a formidable reputation. They were formed in 1777 during the early stages of the war by a man called John Butler.

John Butler was born in New London, Connecticut, which is part of today’s the United States of America. In 1728 it was part of the British American colonies. His family moved to New York State when he was young and it was here that he grew up.

At the age of 24, he got married to a lady called Catherine Brandt and together they had 5 children. The eldest was called Walter and he would serve in his Butler’s rangers during the American Revolution.

John Butler could speak several Indian languages and was employed as an interpreter by the Indian agencies of the region.

When the French Indian War broke out, he was made a Captain in the British Army. He saw action in a number of battles and won respect among the Indian allies he commanded. When this war ended he acquired a large estate and became a judge.

Several years later he became opposed to fellow American’s who wanted to break away from British rule and set up an independent country. He remained loyal to the British when the American Revolution began and went to Canada with several prominent loyalists of the time, including his eldest son Walter Butler. His wife and other children in New York State were held captive by American rebels.

In Canada, John Butler raised a force of Indian fighters and went to Montreal to force the rebels from Quebec. This was in 1777 and in the same year he organised the Six Nations to attack New York. The Six Nations consisted of Native American Indian tribes and John Butler led them in other battles during this early campaign of the American Revolution.


One of the most successful battles was an ambush against the American rebels at a place called Oriskany. The battle was fought on both sides by North Americans and native North Americans. There was an absence of British-born soldiers during this battle. The American rebel leader was General Nicholas Herkimer and he was trying to lead his relief columns to Fort Stanwix, which was besieged by British forces. The rebels were from Tryon County, which was where John Butler had been a judge. He would have likely known some of the rebel soldiers he opposed. During the furious battle, General Herkimer was mortally wounded and the American rebels suffered heavy losses.



As a result of the Battle of Oriskany, John Butler was made a lieutenant colonel and given authority to raise a new loyalist militia. They would become Butler’s Rangers and become infamous during the American Revolution. He would lead them with the Iroquois allies during the rest of the war and they would become much feared by the rebel enemy.

He led them during the battle of Wyoming against a rebel leader called Zebulon Butler – a man of the same name but no relation. The British loyalist Butler won the battle with his green-coated rangers and Iroquois allies.


Later in the year, John Butler’s eldest son, Walter, led the rangers to another victory at Cherry valley. It was surrounded by controversy and is known as The Cherry Valley Massacre. The Butlers and their green jacket rangers was becoming a scourge to the American rebels and their hard fought war effort. The impressive loyalists continued to put up a hard fight all through the war.


Eventually, the American rebels were successful and the United States was born out of Britain’s defeat. The men of Butler’s Rangers, who survived the conflict, were resettled in Canada. John Butler settled in Upper Canada (today’s Ontario) and is a national hero in that country today.

Although John Butler survived the war, his elder son Walter Butler did not. He was retreating back to Canada with some of the rangers when he was caught up in a skirmish with American rebels in 1781. He was killed during the firefight.

Butler’s Rangers were disbanded in 1784, but they echo in history as a formidable fighting force of the time.

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