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The Regiment of Riflemen 1808-1821

In the beginning:

The achievements and legacy of the "Riflemen of the Revolution," were not lost on the likes of Washington's former chief of artillery of the Continental Army and later the first United States Secretary of War, Henry Knox; especially as he wrestled with the establishment of the United States Army which succeeded the Continental Army in 1784.

Four rifle formations of note bear importantly on the eventual formation of a later regular army Rifle Regiment. Taken in sequence, by formation, although somewhat confusing, their legacy is apparent.

"The Congressional resolution of June 14, 1775 authorized ten companies of expert riflemen to be raised for one-year enlistments as Continental troops. Maryland and Virginia were to raise two companies each, and Pennsylvania six. Pennsylvania, however, mustered nine companies and organized as a regiment, the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment. All thirteen companies were sent to Washington's army at Boston for use as light infantry and later as special reserve forces." -
aka "Continental Independent Rifle Companies or Corps"

"The 1st Pennsylvania Regiment, also known as the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment and 1st Continental Regiment, was raised under the command of Col. William Thompson for service in the Continental Army...In 1776, when a new army was raised following the expiration of enlistments at the end of 1775, the rifle regiment, whose term of enlistment did not expire until July 1, as the first troops to enlist as Continentals, received the honor of being named 1st Continental Regiment [a "line regiment" - organized and supported under the direct authority of individual state governments]...The regiment was furloughed June 11, 1783 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and disbanded on November 15, 1783." The Pennsylvania National Guard, "Company C of the 337th Engineer Battalion, claims lineage from Captain Michael Doudeis Company of York, Pennsylvania of the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment."-

The Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, "most commonly known as Rawlings' Regiment in period documents, was organized in June 1776," as one of six Extra Continental regiments because of its unique two-state composition, "not managed through a single state government, and ..therefore directly responsible to national authority..." Three companies of this nine company regiment, were among the first of the colonial units to join the newly constituted Continental Army as part of the "Continental Independent Rifle Companies or Corps." "Because most of the newly formed regiment surrendered to British and German forces at the Battle of Fort Washington on November 16, 1776, the service history of the unit's surviving element is complex. Although modern and contemporaneous accounts of the battle convey the impression that it marked the end of the regiment as a combat entity, a significant portion of the unit continued to serve actively in the Continental Army throughout most of the remainder of the war. Elements of the regiment served with George Washington's Main Army and participated in the army's major engagements of late 1776 through 1778. Select members of the regiment were also attached to Col. Daniel Morgan's elite Provisional Rifle Corps at its inception in mid-1777...[it was] reorganized in January 1779 and was initially stationed at Fort Pitt, headquarters of the Continental Army's Western Department, in present-day western Pennsylvania primarily to help in the defense of frontier settlements from Indian raids. The unit was disbanded with all other Additional and Extra Continental regiments during the reorganization of the Continental Army in January 1781. It was the longest serving Continental Army rifle unit of the war." -

"Provisional Rifle Corps," "Continental Army Rifle Corps," "Continental Rifle Corps," "Partisan Corps," "Morgan's Rifle Corps," "Morgan's Corps," "Morgan's Rifles," "Morgan's Riflemen," "Morgan's Sharpshooters" - [names found in searches of documents, etc. on the web]
Captured at Quebec on 31 December 1775, while leading a contingent of riflemen as part of the American Invasion of Canada in 1775, Captain Daniel Morgan remained a prisoner of war until exchanged in January 1777. "When he rejoined Washington early in 1777, Morgan was surprised to learn that he had been promoted to colonel for his efforts at Quebec. He was assigned to raise and command a new infantry regiment, the 11th Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line. On June 13, 1777 Morgan was also placed in command of the Provisional Rifle Corps, a light infantry unit of 500 riflemen selected primarily from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia units of the Main Army. Many were drawn from his own permanent unit, the 11th Virginia Regiment."-

While specifically referred to by Washington as "The Corps of Rangers," in a June 13, 1777 letter to Morgan, this unit was contemporaneously and afterward has been called by a variety of titles - confusing to all: "Provisional Rifle Corps," "Continental Army Rifle Corps," "Continental Rifle Corps," "Partisan Corps," "Morgan's Rifle Corps," "Morgan's Corps," "Morgan's Rifles," "Morgan's Riflemen," and  even"Morgan's Sharpshooters."  By whatever its name, its organizational life-span was brief,  as most units formed for and in wartime are, but blazingly eventful.

At first "Washington assigned them to harass General William Howe's rear guard, and Morgan followed and attacked them during their entire withdrawal across New Jersey...Morgan's regiment was reassigned to the army's Northern Department and on August 30 [1777] he joined General Horatio Gates to aid in resisting Burgoyne's offense." In the two key battles leading to the pivotal victory at Saratoga, Freeman's Farm [19 September 1777] and Bemis Heights [7 October 1777], Morgan and his riflemen played a decisive role in the defeat of the main British army, delivering devastating targeted fire on the enemy and its officer corps, in particular. "During the next week, as Burgoyne dug in, Morgan and his men moved to his north. Their ability to cut up any patrols sent in their direction convinced the British that retreat was not possible...After Saratoga, Morgan's unit rejoined Washington's main army, near Philadelphia. Throughout 1778 he hit British columns and supply lines in New Jersey, but was not involved in any major battles. He was not involved in the Battle of Monmouth but actively pursued the withdrawing British forces and captured many prisoners and supplies. When the Virginia Line was reorganized on September 14, 1778 Morgan became the Colonel of the 7th Virginia Regiment [The "Provisional Rifle Corps seemingly disbanded at this time]. -

His acumen and leadership throughout the war, at Quebec, Saratoga, and later Cowpens, "...widely considered to be the tactical masterpiece of the war and one of the most successfully executed double envelopments of all of modern military history.," would place Morgan as one, if not the, most successful battlefield tacticians of the American Revolution - but he is definitely the least remembered and his Ranger/Rifle Corps, due to lineage issues affecting nearly all post-Revolution US Army units, for its worth to the patriot cause, the least honored.

"It is said that when Burgoyne was introduced to Morgan, after the surrender at Saratoga, he seized him by the hand and exclaimed,
"My dear sir, you command the finest regiment in the world."
- Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889
fn1 - An interesting footnote to the Ranger and Rifle unit connection comes in the person of Morgan's illegitimate son, Willoughby Morgan, born about 1780-81 (while Morgan campaigned in the Carolinas),who served as an officer in the post War of 1812 Rifle Regiment. - see Donald Higginbotham's "Daniel Morgan - Revolutionary Rifleman" and website CANTONMENT MISSOURI, 1819-1820 by Sally A. Johnson. Footnote for Lt. Col. Willoughby Morgan - "Morgan, Willoughby, Va. Capt. 12 Inf., 25 Apr, 1812. Maj. 26 June, 1813. Retained 17 May 1815 as Capt. Rifle Reg. with bvt of Maj. from 26 June 1813. Maj 8 Mar 1817. Lt. Col. 10 Nov. 1818. Trans. to 6 Inf. I June 1821. Trans. to 5 Inf. 1 Oct. 1821. Trans. to 3 Inf. 31 Jan. 1829. Col. 1 Inf. 23 Apr 1830. Bvt Col 10 Nov. 1828 for 10 yrs. fai serv. in one grade. Died Apr. 4, 1832." (Hamersley, op. cit., p. 648)." see also - + + More on Daniel Morgan and his contributions to the Ranger-Riflemen legacy base data
fn 2 - First Lieutenant  Charles Porterfield (VA) - original US Regiment of Riflemen, First Lt 1 rifle 3 May 08 died 16 Jan 10 - likely son of Robert Porterfield and nephew of  Charles Porterfield, both of Morgan's Riflemen

Robert was born in Frederick county, Virginia, 22 February, 1752; died in Augusta county, Virginia, 13 February, 1843, was appointed a lieutenant in Captain Peter B. Bruin's company of Continental troops in Winchester, Virginia, in 1776, served in Colonel Daniel Morgan's regiment through the campaigns of 1777-'9, the last year was aide to General William Woodford, and was in the battles of the Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. He accompanied General Woodford to the south in December, 1779, and participated in the siege of Charleston, South Carolina, where he was surrendered a prisoner of war in May, 1780. He was appointed a brigadier-general of Virginia militia during the war of 1812, and commanded at Camp Holly, Virginia General Porterfield was a county magistrate for more than fifty years, and was twice high-sheriff.
Charles Porterfield was born in Frederick county, Virginia, in 1750; died on Santee river, South Carolina, in October, 1780. He became a member of the first company that was raised in Frederick county in 1775 for service in the Revolutionary war, of which Daniel Morgan was elected captain, marched to Cambridge, near Boston, and soon afterward joined in the expedition against Quebec, and was made prisoner in the attempt on that fortress. The assailing column, to which he belonged, was under the command of Colonel Arnold. When that officer was wounded and carried from the ground, Porter-field, with Morgan, rushing forward, passed the first and second barriers. After being exchanged he re-entered the service as captain in the rifle-corps of Colonel Morgan and participated in all the battles in which it was engaged during the campaigns of 1777-'8. In 1779 he was appointed by Governor Jefferson lieutenant-colonel of a Virginia regiment that had been equipped mainly at his own expense, with which, in the spring of 1780, he marched to the relief of Charleston, South Carolina He remained in South Carolina and joined the army of General Gates a few days before the battle of Camden. His command formed part of the advanced guard of Gates's army, and unexpectedly met that of the enemy about one o'clock A. M. on 16 August, a moonlight night. While making a gallant resistance and holding the enemy in check, he received a mortal wound, his left leg being shattered just below the knee. He was carried from the field, remained ten days without surgical attention, and was then taken in a cart twelve miles to Camden where the required amputation was performed. While a prisoner in Camden he was treated with great kindness and attention by both Lord Cornwallis and Lord Rawdon, who supplied all his wants, He was paroled, but died from the effects of his wound.-

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

The twentieth century biographical dictionary of notable Americans, by Rossiter Johnson, John Howard Brown, The Biographical Society, 1904

mother was Margaret Heth Porterfield, "sister of William Heth (1850-1808), Colonel in the Revolutionary
The Porterfields, Frank Burke Porterfield, Southeastern Press, 1948, see page 78.

JOURNAL OF CHARLES PORTERFIELD...while a prisoner of war in Quebec  - Publications of the Southern History Association, Volume 6, by Southern History Association, 1902, pp. 113-131

An officer of very extraordinary merit: Charles Porterfield and the American, by Michael Cecere, Heritage Books, 2004

They Are Indeed a Very Useful Corps: American Riflemen in the Revolutionary War, by Michael Cecere, Heritage Books, 2006  


Why then would the "finest regiment in the world" not be emulated; or re-formed when the army was required to expand; or even a new-model army formed from the ashes of defeat?  

To Knox the answer was likely simple - such a regiment should, could and would be. 


First, however, circumstances and events on the frontier with old foes and erstwhile allies would have to prove the folly of the early American military policy.

"Copy of a letter from Major General St. Clair to the Secretary for the Department of War.
Fort Washington, November 9th, 1791
"...but for want of a sufficient number of riflemen to pursue this advantage, they (Indians) soon returned, and the troops were obliged to give back in their turn."p. 137  
- American State Papers: Indian Affairs Volume Four Part One,

"Statement relative to the Frontiers Northwest of the Ohio
...The Plan
That the military establishment of the United States shall, during the pleasure of Congress, consist squadron of cavalry...It should be a stipulation in the engagements of these men, that they should serve on foot whenever the service requires the measure...Five regiments of infantry, one of which to be riflemen entirely, each of three battalions; each battalion of four companies;...accounting for each regiment, to addition to the foregoing arrangement, it would be proper that the President of the United States should be authorized, besides the employment of the militia, to take such measures, for the defensive protection of the exposed parts of the frontiers, by calling into service expert woodsmen, as patrols or scouts, upon such terms as he may judge proper...That he may further be employ a body of Indians belonging to tribes in alliance with the United States, to act against hostile seems necessary to raise the pay...The rifle corps will require more....- H. Knox, Secretary of War. War Department, December 26, 1791." p. 199
American State Papers: Indian Affairs Volume Four Part One

Although Knox's 1791-1792 plan was never executed, a bolder plan was forced on the Army - The Legion of the United States .

"The impetus for the Legion came from General Arthur St. Clair's disastrous defeat at the Battle of the Wabash by Blue Jacket and Little Turtle's tribal confederacy in November 1791. The Legion [begun in June of 1792] was composed of four sub-legions, each commanded by a brigadier general. These sub-legions were self-contained units with two battalions of infantry, a rifle battalion (light infantry skirmishers armed with Pennsylvania longrifles to screen the infantry), a troop of dragoons and a battery of artillery...The Legion by its very concept was formed and trained from its early days in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to fight in a woodland environment...Officers, sergeants and enlisted personnel were trained to fight in small units and were used to being geographically separated and fighting on their own. General Anthony Wayne's tactics were to fire and move quick with the light infantry being his front line forces supported by heavy infantry. The Legion was taught to move quickly on the enemy thus not allowing him to re-load and to then attack with bayonets...By August 20, 1794, the Legion of the United States had trained for over 25 months for this battle and was a finely honed machine...The success of the Legion is owed mostly to Major General Anthony Wayne but also to George Washington and Henry Knox. On August 3, 1795, as a direct result of the Battle of Fallen Timbers, the Native Americans signed the Treaty of Greenville, creating peace with the United States..It is a common misbelief that the Legion was abandoned in 1796. After the death of General Anthony Wayne in Erie, Pennsylvania on December 15, 1796, his second-in-command, Brigadier General James Wilkinson (later found to be a spy for the Spanish government) tried to rid the army of everything Wayne had created including the Legionary structure of the army. Thus the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Sub-Legion became the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Regiments of the United States Army."

The Lost Legion(s)

In 1798, James McHenry, the third Secretary of War (1796–1800), who served under presidents George Washington (1796-1797) and John Adams (1797-1800), solicited the enlightened foreign and domestic politico-military council from the former first President,and first and only commander of the Continental Army, resulting in a remarkable opus of received wisdom and foresight, the likes of which no future President, save Jackson, Grant or Eisenhower, could possibly attempt, let alone match. Doubting that the French would invade, nevertheless, in line with the umbrella credo "in times of peace, prepare for war," in two letters he provided such overarching gems as: "pursue a steady system, to organize all our resources and put them in a state of preparation for prompt action...cultivate a spirit of self-dependence, and to endeavour by unremitting vigilance and exertion under the blessing of providence, to hold the scales of our destiny in our own hands...cultivate peace. But in contemplating the possibility of our being driven to unqualified War, it will be wise to anticipate, that frequently the most effectual way to defend is to attack." "I shall now present to your view the additional objects alluded to in my letter of this date. A proper organization for the troops of the U States is a principal one..."

In the case of the Rifles, Washington saw the need for and appreciated a coming revolution in military affairs; portended by their possible arming with a currently available breech loader, leading to the modern rifle.

He opined, "If there shall be occasion for the actual employment of military force, a corps of riflemen will be for several purposes extremely useful. The eligible proportion of riflemen to infantry of the line may be taken at a twentieth. Hence in the apportionment of an army of fifty thousand men, in my letter of this date, two thousand riflemen are included; and in the estimate of arms to be provided two thousand rifles. There is a kind of rifle commonly called  Fergusons* which will deserve particular attention. It is understood that it has in different European  armies supplanted the old rifle, as being more quickly loaded and more easily kept clean. If the shot of it be equally or nearly equally sure those advantages entitle it to a preference. It is very desirable that this point and its comparative merit in other respects be ascertained by careful examination and experiment."
Washington, George, 1732-1799. The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources, Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library
fn - "*the first breech loading rifle to be adopted by any organized military force. It was a .65 (.648 true) caliber rifle used by the British Army in the American Revolutionary War at the end of the 1770s. Its superior firepower was unappreciated at the time because it did not conform to the usual tactics of armed soldiers standing face to face-- a necessity given the requirement to stand when reloading the then-standard muzzleloading muskets or rifles._ - wiki

The Quasi-War with France (1798-1800), an undeclared war fought almost entirely at sea, and the "scare" of inevitable formal war and adjudged French invasion, saw President John Adam's administration take steps"to place our country in a suitable posture of defense"  - new regiments were organized under the Act of July 16, 1798 but soon discharged under the Act of May 14, 1800. As William Ganoe so succinctly depicts this turbulent and often bewildering period: "In these post Revolutionary years the army passed through swift periods of rise and fall. It was the thermometer of the nation's fear. At first, under the constitution, it was barely 1 regiment, then 2 in 1789, 3 in 1791 [As a result of General St. Claire's disastrous defeat in November 1791, the Army decided to raise three additional regiments, which would include companies of riflemen - Meriwether Lewis and William Clark would serve in rifle companies], a legion corresponding to 5 in 1792, 6 in 1796, 9 in 1798, 6 in 1800, and 3 again in 1802...." William A. Ganoe "History of the United States Army" - Publisher: New York, London, D. Appleton-Century Co., 1942, p. 113

 Then came the "...unfortunate affair of the Chesapeake and Leopard, followed by the decrees of the Emperor Napoleon in regard to neutral commerce, and the retaliatory measures adopted by the British government, caused a degree of excitement in the United States in 1807-1808, which bid fair to lead to war and did lead to an increase in the strength of the army."- Historical Sketches,
Ganoe again: "In 1808 it suddenly sprang to 11 regiments each having 8, 10, or 20 companies depending on the law by which the particular organization was born. But the actual number of soldiers recruited, irrespective of laws, seemed to vary little." p. 113.
(In 1809 an additional military force of 44 regiments and 3 Rifle regiments was proposed but rejected - 5 years before the Army reached such size in 1814]


The Regiment of Riflemen 1808-1821

Connected to the past by a heritage and reputation, albeit not by formal unit lineage, and to the future by a solid need, the:
"original Regiment of Riflemen was created in 1808, and three more regiments were raised in 1814. In some ways a forerunner of today's "special operations" units, the Riflemen recruits were often rugged frontiersmen in civilian life. Their elite status was accentuated by distinctive green coats with yellow trim, and they were armed with Model 1803 Harper's Ferry rifles (no bayonets). While sometimes cited for their slower, more methodical rate of fire, they were also renowned for their deadly accuracy." - Mark Parker, Western & Eastern Treasures Magazine

American State Papers, Senate, 13th Congress, 2nd Session
Military Affairs: Volume 1 pp. 432-433, 437




Historical dictionary of the War of 1812, by Robert Malcomson, 2006

Regiment of Riflemen in The United States Army: A Chronology, 1775 to the Present, by John C. Fredriksen, 2010,  p. 63

The Army's Center of Military History provides a stirring print and brief narrative on the Riflemen at The American Soldier, 1814, select Artwork-Prints and Poster Sets-The American Soldier-page 1



"The Regiment of Riflemen had no sooner been raised than it commenced field operations in the deep South. Two companies joined the army of General James Wilkinson at New Orleans, where they suffered under his gross mismanagement." Fredriksen, p. 19  

In fact, the riflemen played a part (albeit small) in what can be considered the first major deployment of the young United States Army. 
On the 2d of December, 1808, the Secretary of War, wrote:
"I am directed by the President of the United States to have the necessary measures taken, without delay, for assembling as large a proportion of our regular troops [2772 of 6964 total regulars] at New Orleans and its vicinity, as circumstances will permit. You will please, therefore, to issue preparatory orders for the transportation to New Orleans of the 3d, 5th, and 7th regiments of infantry, with a battalion consisting of four companies from the 6th regiment, together with the companies of light dragoons, light artillery, and riflemen, raised in the States and territories to the southward of New Jersey.  The troops, generally, in the Atlantic States, should be assembled at Savannah, Charleston, South Carolina, Washigton, North Carolina, Norfolk and Hoods, Fort McHenry and Fort Mifflin, where suitable vessels will be provided for their transportation. The troops raised in the Western States, together with the late Captain Bissell's company, will be provided with suitable boats for descending the Ohio and Mississippi.  Captain Boote's company should march by land...You will please to take measures for being at new Orleans in season to take command of the army, in that department, as early as practicable; and to have such disposition of the troops, in that department, formed, as will most effectually enable you to defend New Orleans, and its depedencies, against any invading force.  In case of emergency, you are authorized; by the President of the United States, to call on the Governors of the Orleans and Mississippi territories, for such detachments of the militia as may be deemed necessary." 
Secretary of War Henry Dearborn  to General James Wilkinson
American State Papers, Military Affairs Vol 1, p. 272

Military Peace Establishment[1st, 2nd Inf Regts] = 2,765
Additional Military Force [3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, Regiment of Riflemen]= 4, 189
"Regular Forces allotted for the defence of New Orleans
Of the peace establishment = 736 
Of the additional military force ordered there Dec 2 1808 = 2,036
Aggregate= 2,772"
"Disposition and effective strength of the additional military force for the defence of New Orleans according to a return dated October 31 1809 
Fit for duty=414
In arrest or confined =9
[Total] 1667 
Of this detachment 523 have died from the 1st of May to the 15th November 1809 as stated in a return of that date"
The American Register, P. 147 - tabular extract taken from ASP

American State Papers, Military Affairs, Vol 1 1789-1819, 92 Report of the Secretary of War, showing the force and disposition of the army of the United States, February 1, 1810, ... 249

American State Papers -  Military Affairs Volume 1 1789-1819 - 100 Report of a committee on the mortality of the troops stationed for the defence of New Orleans, April 27, 1810, beginning on page 268
American State Papers - Miscellaneous - Wilkinson. Report of a committee on an inquiry into the conduct of Brigadier General James, Year 1810, No. 280 ... 79
see page 113 "in relation to the fourth object of inquiry, to wit  "The conduct of  General Wikinson as Brigadier General of the army of the United States;" 6 letters starting on page 113"
Within a year James Wilkinson was replaced by Wade Hampton, who:
"In December 1809...took command of the garrison in New Orleans and reported to Washington its shocking condition and high mortality rate, a revelation that prompted a congressional investigation and provoked the enmity of his predecessor, Brigadier General James Wilkinson."
Hampton, Wade. 

The encyclopedia of nineteenth-century land warfare: an illustrated world view, by Byron Farwell, W. W. Norton & Company, 2001
Indeed, there developed a hostile rivalry which would bear grave consequences for the U.S. Army in the coming war. 

Nevertheless, foul ups continued under  Hampton; as detailed in the Court Martial transcript of Colonel Thomas H. Cushing. This first two specifications of the charges against him involved the Rifles. 
Rifle Regiment Major John Fuller (VT), was ordered to lead a Rifle detachment of two understrength companies (Captains James McDonald and John Ragan)  on a debilitating 600 mile march from Cantonment Washington to Fort Hampton (the only fort built to remove white settlers from Indian -Chickasaw) lands four miles from the mouth of the Elk River (seven miles east of Rogersville, AL) - the Elk River expedition beginning in June 1810. The movement took 46 days to complete through what Fuller called an "inhospitable wilderness...," Fredriksen, p.20 - but more, it was plagued transportation breakdowns and supply shortages owing to negligent command and staff planning and control, not least of which was movement through the heat of a Mississippi delta summer, and contractor malfeasance.

For the Rifle Regiment, this first march would prove to be the first portent of its future selection as the unit of choice for grueling expeditions to come.

"Green Coats and Glory," by John C. Fredriksen, Old Fort Niagara Assoc., Youngstown, NY. 2000.

for the Elk River expedition - see "The Trial of Thomas H. Cushing:"
Disobedience of Orders.
Specification 1.—In failing to give timely notice to the contractor to be prepared for the supply of the two rifle companies at cantonment, Washington, M. T. though he was required to do so, in my letter of instructions of the 22d of May, 1810, which directed the said two rifle companies to be held in readiness to march at a day's notice.
Specification 2.—In failing to order the brigade quartermaster, lieutenant Hukill, to furnish the necessary and sufficient funds for the march of the said two rifle companies, at cantonment, Washington, under the command of major Fuller, of the rifle corps, though he was required, in my letter of instructions of the 28th of May, 1810, to order every proper detail relating to the march of the said two rifle companies."
Trial of Col. Thomas H. Cushing Before a General Court Martial [1811-1812]..., Thomas Humphrey Cushing, Wade Hampton, Published by Moses Thomas, J. Maxwell, Printer, 1812 [Colonel Alexander Smyth of the Rifle Regiment, Commanding at Baton Rouge, was original President of the Board ]  
John Fuller (1756-1839). John Fuller's record of  service. Transcripts, John Fuller papers, MSS 184, Ohio Historical Society.
A Walk Through the Past - People and Places of Florence and Lauderdale, by William Lindsey McDonald, 1997, Heart of Dixie Publishing, 2003, p. 220
Mississippi Territory in the War of 1812, Volume 4  By Eron Opha Rowland, 1921, reprinted form Mississippi Historical  Society Centenary, Series Volume IV, map on p.16

"Beginning in January of 1811 there was a clandestine attempt by the United States to take control of Florida from Spain. A secret act was passed by Congress "to enable the President of the United States, under certain contingencies, to take possession of the country lying east of the river Perdido, and south of the State of Georgia and the Mississippi territory [East Florida], and for other purposes." U.S. citizens from Georgia were recruited to foment an apparent rebellion in Spanish settlements. This was done to provide a pretext for U.S. troops to come in and restore order. On April 12, 1812, the First Regiment of United States Riflemen under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas A. Smith occupied Fort Moosa [Mose]. The Spanish attacked the fort and Smith was forced to pull back to an encampment further from St. Augustine. On May 16, 1812 the Spanish set fire to Fort Moosa to prevent it form being reoccupied by the Americans. Some of Smith's correspondence from this period has survived."
The Patriot War and Fort Mose: contains the five part series U.S. Troops in Spanish East Florida, 1812-1813, by T. FREDERICK DAVIS, Florida Historical Quarterly, Part I. July, 1930; Part II. October, 1930; Part III. January, 1931; Part IV. April, 1931; Part V. July, 1931

Florida Fiasco: Rampant Rebels on the Georgia-Florida Border, 1810-1815, by Rembert W. Patrick, 1954, University of Georgia Press, 2010
"The Florida Historical Quarterly," 28 (1) (July, 1949),  Rembert W. Patrick, ed., "Letters of the Invaders of East Florida, 1812." pages 53-65

The Florida historical quarterly. Volume 28 Issue 01. July 1949.
Florida Historical Society
Patrick, Rembert W. "Letters of the Invaders of East Florida, 1812." Florida Historical Quarterly 28 (July 1949) pp. 53-65
The Florida Historical Quarterly Volume 28 Issue 1

see Chapter 6 in Florida Fiasco: Rampant Rebels on the Georgia-Florida Border, 1810-1815, by Rembert W. Patrick, 1954, University of Georgia Press, reprinted 2010 
The Other War of 1812: The Patriot War and the American Invasion of Spanish, by James G. Cusick, 2007

Is it possible to make too much of the selection of the Rifle Regiment, as a "chosen force," for one of the first "special operations" missioned to the U.S. Army?

War of 1812 - US Army Infantry, Rangers & Riflemen 

Rifle Regiment Lists - 1808-1821

U.S. Regiment of Riflemen Combat Actions and Timeline Table

The last battle of the Riflemen was also the general scene of its first 'secret' mission:
"The military importance of Point Peter near St. Marys had been recognized prior to this time and between the years 1793 and 1805 almost sixteen thousand dollars had been spent for the fortification there. However, in 1806 a military directive ordered the removal of the garrison and suggested that St. Marys could best be defended with gunboats armed with heavy cannon and aided by a fixed battery. It was not until 1809 that plans were made for the battery and for a strong block house at Point Peter (War Dept. Records).
In 1812, the commandant at the new fortification was Lieutenant Colonel Thomas A. Smith; acting commandant was Jacint Laval: and Abraham Massias was second in command. In 1[8]13, eight hundred reserves, available should Great Britain occupy East Florida and invade Georgia were kept in training at Point Peter. But before actual warfare, most of the troops were withdrawn and moved into other positions along the Atlantic, leaving the military force at Point Peter drastically reduced....Early in January 1815, before the battle of Point Peter and before the occupation of St. Marys, a letter was sent to Governor Peter Early of Georgia from the inhabitants of Camden County appealing for help for this, the weakest part of the state with "a scattered population and a seaboard and frontier more extensive than any other county in the state." The governor was informed that many of the inhabitants in the county had left and others were preparing to go. A request was made for a chain of blockhouses and a competent military force. The British arrived before military assistance, and Captain Massias had a detachment of only ninety-six men to defend Point Peter.
The British forces under the command of Admiral Cockburn sailed into Cumberland South with a fleet of two ships, seven frigates, several smaller armed vessels, and nineteen barges, with both naval men and fifteen hundred British Colonial and Negro troops aboard. The British invaded Cumberland Island with one division landing at Dungeness and the other at Plum Orchard, where they occupied an abandoned U. S. Marine installation. Two days after the landing on January 13, 1815, the British attacked Point Peter, where only thirty-six men had been left to defend the fort while Massias moved across land toward Kings Bay. A line of battle was formed at a place since known as Battle Hummock, but Massias and his men were compelled to withdraw to a point near Fort Barrington on the Altamaha River. Among the thirty-six men left to defend the fort, fourteen were soon casualties so the fort wwas abandoned. (Vocelle and Arnow) The British then burned the barracks at Point Peter, towed away all vessels at St. Marys and occupied the town for about a week...(Reddick 1976:26-27)
Reddick, Marguerite, compiler, 1976 Camden’s Challenge, A History of Camden County, Georgia. Camden County Historical Commission, Woodbine, Georgia."
Point Peter and the St. Marys River Forts,  LAMAR Institute Publication 62

"The skirmish at Point Peter was one of the last known battles of the War of 1812. It was fought even after peace was signed. The British attacked the battery at Point Peter, overwhelming the small American force. After the skirmish, British troops remained at Point Peter, looting the town of St. Marys and nearby plantations. The skirmish returned to public consciousness in 2003, when archaeological excavations rediscovered the site."
Forgotten Invasion - Point Peter's (GA) role in the War of 1812.

"American force of 160 soldiers of the 43rd Infantry Regiment and the Rifle Corps under Captain Abraham A. Massias."-wiki

" I have the pleasure to anticipate the best of conduct in the officers and men under me : though few, they are well chosen, and discover great eagerness for battle : they behaved well the day we prepared to receive the enemy." - Captain Massias, 1st rifle corps, U.S,  to Brigadier General Floyd, 11 January 1815
"Unless reinforcements are forwarded, this country is lost." - Lieutenant Colonel Scott to BG Floyd,  12 January 1815. 
"... I lament the necessity of informing you of the loss of the fort at Point Petre, I console myself with a consciousness of having done my best for its preservation, and of being peculiarly fortunate, in making good a retreat, always doubtful, and by none believed practicable but myself...."Captain Massias, 1st rifle corps, U.S, to BG Floyd, 13 January 1815
"...captain Massias would not co-operate with me, which was the cause of my falling back to this place yesterday." Lieutenant Colonel Scott to BG Floyd,  18 January 1815. 

Letter[s] from Captain Massias and Lieutenant Colonel Scott to Brigadier General Floyd, from ST MARY'S &c From the Savannah Republican of January 17, Niles Weekly register, Volume 7


The most telling accolades of the U.S. Riflemen came from their enemy and foreign observers:
As early as 1821, spurred by Frenchman M. Dupin's study of the British Army, a studied observation from the foe was elicited, to wit:
"...we repeat, that it is no small homage to the merits of our brave army, that an intelligent Frenchman (for such M. Dupin undoubtedly is.) should devote one part of three, in a scientific work on Great Britain, exclusively to the consideration of its military force.
There are some points in the book that we cannot help deeming worthy the attention of our military leaders, though we may perchance meet with the fate of the man who lectured Hannibal on the art of war. One reflection has recurred to us from M. Dupin's observation, that our light troops (except the Rifle Brigade) differ little in essentials from the infantry of the line. We are inclined to believe that they are not as peculiar in their organization for the service which they have to perform, nor as numerous in their proportion to the other infantry, as they might be with advantage.
We have, as a nation, been always remarkable for the want of light infantry : at least, since the use of the musket supplanted the bow; for, prior to that, the British archers were, as Froissard and Hollinshed tells us, some of the best of their kind in Europe, and came nearest, perhaps, to the modern idea of light troops, except indeed that Harry the Fifth's body of Welshmen, with their long knives, were doubtless the lightest armed of his host. When war was renewed after the peace of Amiens, Sir John Moore was employed to discipline his own and another regiment as light infantry, and this was subsequently extended to six others; but not effectually to any. The only light troops which we really possess, are the two battalions of the Rifle Brigade, and one of the same force of the 60th Regiment; for the eight so called are dressed and armed exactly like the infantry of the line. They are, it is true, trained to light manoeuvres, and are well known to be corps of high character; but for operations in intersected countries, (their proper field,) scarcely more useful than other regiments. Surely, light troops should be clothed as the riflemen are, in colours as little glaring as possible, using the rifle, and composed of small active men; in fact, riflemen are the only strictly light troops; and not less disposable for garrison duties, or operations in the field, than battalions of the line, to whose movements they are trained as well as their own. From the boundless extent of our empire, and the different nature of the scenes in which our military are liable to be engaged, there is a continual demand for such troops. During the last war, there was not one regular regiment of light infantry in Canada, a country in which, of all others, they were most needed; indeed, it is not the theatre for any other description of troops. Whenever our men were engaged with the Americans in the woods, the latter, contemptible in open warfare, and void of discipline and courage to withstand the bayonet, [Attest—Chippewa Plains:] had an evident superiority. Our soldiers, unaccustomed to act independently, and by their scarlet uniform and glittering appointments, in contrast to every thing around them, exposed to the deadly aim of the insidious foe, were very unequally matched against the enemy's riflemen. A Fencible corps, clothed in green, and disciplined as riflemen, was found more useful than any of the regular regiments; and, with ' the brown Indian,' [A congenial ally,] constituted the only suitable force for the occasion. Our regular Rifle Brigade would have answered equally well.—[In these remarks upon the excellence of light troops, there is great good sense ]..."pp. 475-476

Dupin's Military Force of Great Britain, The Literary and scientific repository, and critical review, Volume 3, edited by Charles Kitchell Gardner, 1821 

"The Regiment of Riflemen was unquestionably the most effective infantry formation fielded by the United States in the War of 1812...Accurate weapons, a soaring esprit de corps and inspired leadership.... all resulted in consistently superior performance." 
"At Conjocta Creek, the skill in planning and the firmness in the execution by the riflemen defeated the designs of the British and saved the entire American army."
John C. Fredriksen, Ph.D., author of "Green Coats and Glory"

This unique War of 1812 small unit organizational study by Fredriksen, first appeared as a two part series in MILITARY COLLECTOR & HISTORIAN.

Issue No.1, Vol. 50 (nominal Spring 1998)
Issue No.2, Volume 50 (nominal Summer 1998)

It was later published in book form:
"Green Coats and Glory," by John C. Fredriksen, Old Fort Niagara Assoc., Youngstown, NY. 2000.
Description: 80 pages. Four full color illustrations by H. Charles McBarron Jr., Allan Archambault, and twenty-two various black & white illustrations.

Book overview: Fredriksen gives a full examination of the corps, including clothing & accoutrements, information of M1803 Harper's Ferry rifle, and a full examination of the various campaigns that the corps of riflemen participated in. A must have for the enthusiast of American military history or scholar of the War of 1812." from e-bay description.

Excerpts from GREEN COATS AND GLORY: THE UNITED STATES REGIMENT OF RIFLEMEN, 1808-1821, granted by author permission

"...the story of the green-coated infantry that established a combat reputation second to none on the Niagara Frontier....(an) exploration of this little known and appreciated unit."
An excellent review of GCG by my classmate Kevin Kiley in Napoleon Series: November 2001 

"Despite a fair share of setbacks, the U.S. Army did produce some outfits and leaders worthy of attention and study. The 2nd and 3rd Regiments of Artillery, the 11th, 21st, and 25th Regiments of Infantry, and the Regiment of Riflemen all emerged as superb combat formations, equal to or surpassing many European counterparts." Fredricksen, p. 6 

See Rifles, pages  280-290, and also the mini-biography of Brigadier General Thomas A. Smith, the Rifle Regiments most notable commander:
"The United States Army in the War of 1812: Concise Biographies of Commanders and Operational Histories of Regiments, with Bibliographies of Published and Primary Sources," 
by John C. Fredriksen, Richard V. Barbuto, 2009.

"Fredriksen has provided an extremely useful reference work that surpasses anything currently in print.."- John R. Grodzinski
Here is a insightful and historiographical based review by John R. Grodzinski in Napoleon Series:  June 2009

Fredriksen has also personalized this conflict in his most recent War of 1812 offering:
original publication - Kearsley, Jonathan. "The Memoirs of Jonathan Kearsley: A Michigan Hero from the War of 1812." Edited by John C. Fredericksen. Indiana Military History Journal, 10 (May 1985), pp. 4-16. 


The next chapter in the Rifle Regiment story might be so-entitled:


Following the war the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Regiments of Riflemen, although scattered at various posts around the country, were consolidated into one Regiment numbering 820 officers and men. 

Prior to consolidation, and as part of the overall peace settlement,  the 2nd Rifles occupied Mackinac when the British evacuated.:
"List of Officers stationed at Fort Mackinac, Michigan, and year of their arrival, from 1815 to 1895 inclusive:
1815. Anthony Butler, Colonel 2nd, Rifles. Willoughby Morgan, Captain Riflemen. Talbot Chambars, Major. Joseph Kean, Captain. Joseph O'Fallow, Captain. John Heddelson, 1st Lieutenant. James S. Gray, 2nd Lieutenant. Wm. Armstrong, 2nd Lieutenant. William Hening, Surgeon's Mate...."
Mackinac, formerly Michilimackinac: a history and guide book with maps, by John Read Bailey, 1914

"SEPTEMBER (1815) Colonel
Thomas Adams Smith and his elite Regiment of Riflemen are transferred to St. Louis,Missouri Territory. Over the next six years they figure prominently in exploration and fort- building across the western frontier."p. 87
The United States Army: A Chronology, 1775 to the Present, John C. Fredriksen , 2010

A large contingent of recruited riflemen was mustered and trained at Carlisle, Pennsylvania,  and  in August of 1815, embarked on flatboats at Pittsburgh for movement down the Ohio river headed for points to and missions in the unstable west frontier. By September, the largest concentration of Rifles was soon centered around St Louis, Missouri, under Regimental commander, Thomas A. Smith, the former Rifle Regiment and 1st Rifles Commander, who was reverted to Colonel from Brigadier General after the war.

"The administration of Mr. Monroe, admonished by our experience with Great Britain in the second war with that power, early in 1817, began preparations to establish a line of posts from lake Michigan westerly to the mouth of the Yellowstone river. Black Hawk and his bands of British Sacs and Foxes had been both uniformed and armed, enlisted and arrayed, and had actually participated in the battles at some western posts during the war of 1812. Many hundreds of Indians along the forty-ninth parallel then carried British fusees, and hunted the buffalo and the elk with British powder and ball. This continued, notwithstanding the treaty of peace with that power, and our citizens were overpowered and driven from our hunting grounds by unfriendly menaces from the subjects of our adversary power, who were also reaping the rich profits from the Rocky mountain fur trade upon American soil. " p. 19
"Old Fort Atkinson," by W.B. Eller,in Nebraska State Historical Society, Transactions and Reports, 4: 18-29, Lincoln, Neb., 1892

Put another way - that of unintended consequences - it can be stated that:
"For a period of fifteen years following the War of 1812 the United States government more than redoubled its activity in establishing its power in the upper Mississippi region. Fort-building became a settled government policy. Thus in 1816 Fort Edwards arose in Illinois a few miles below the ruins of Fort Madison; Fort Armstrong on Rock Island, a favorite Indian resort, in 1816; Fort Crawford at Prairie du Chien, also in 1816; Fort Atkinson on Council Bluff on the Nebraska side of the Missouri in 1819; Camp Cold Water or Fort St. Anthony on the St. Peter's or Minnesota River in 1820 (named Fort Snelling in 1824); and Fort Winnebago at the portage between the Fox and the Wisconsin rivers. Fort Bellefontaine near St. Louis was superseded by the construction of Jefferson Barracks in 1827; and in the same year Fort Leavenworth appeared farther west on the frontier of the Indian country, replacing Forts Osage and Atkinson. Such evidences of military power struck terror into savage breasts, and not only served to keep foreign subjects out of American territory for the Indian trade, but served also "to invite wild and profitless adventures into the Indian country, the usual consequences of which are personal collisions with the natives, and the government is then put to the expense of a military expedition to vindicate the rights of these straggling traders." (my emphasis) p. 178
FORTS IN THE IOWA COUNTRY,Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Volume 12 by State Historical Society of Iowa, 1914

By 1817, the westward push had already begun with Riflemen at the fore of several expeditions; they helped establish Fort Armstrong, vicinity Rock island on the Mississippi (May 1816 - Rifle Regt under Thomas A. Smith and 8th Infantry - 600 soldiers/150 laborers), Fort  Crawford at Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi just above the mouth of the Wisconsin River (June 1816 - 6 companies Rifle Regt.), and Fort Howard at Green Bay (July, 1816- Rifle Regt ~ 300 soldiers).  

Army Register for 1816
American State Papers, House of Representatives, 14th Congress, 1st Session
Military Affairs: Volume 1 begins on page 626 of 860

Extract of combat units strength and general disposition from American State Papers, House of Representatives, 14th Congress, 2nd Session
Military Affairs: Volume 1 Page 662 of 860



However, seemingly with each proceeding year, with each lapse in research or failure to access original sources, the more blurred the history became - until the exploits and achievements, such  the building of these early forts, by the Rifle Regiment (and the old 8th Infantry), became largely lost in memory, written out of later accounts, or credited to other regiments,  e.g. Prucha in 1953, as renewed in 1981 or Goetzman in 1959.! 
However, some later historians it appears, beginning with Fredriksen, have shown greater awareness of sources and details, motivated to tell the true story and empowered by the worldwide web in their research capability and efforts.

"On the 21st of June, 1816, United States troops took possession of the fort at Prairie du Chien. Brevet Gen. Smythe, [mistaken identity- Alexander Smythe was the first USRR commander in 1808 but in 1816, Thomas A. Smith was the colonel commanding] in the month of June selected the mound where the stockade had been built, and the ground in front, to include the most thickly inhabited part of the village, for a site to erect Fort Crawford. During the ensuing winter, or spring of 1817, Col. Chambers [USRR] arrived, and assumed the command; and, the houses in the village being an obstruction to the garrison, he ordered those houses in front and about the be taken down by their owners, and moved to the lower end of the village, where he pretended to give them lots. ... there were four companies of riflemen under command of brevet Major Morgan, building the old fort, which was constructed by placing the walls of the quarters and storehouses on the lines, the highest outside, and the slope of the roof descending within the fort, with block-houses at two corners, and large pickets on the others, so as to enclose the fort. This fort was erected on the island formed by the river and the Slough of St. Ferrioie."
- see "Fort Crawford" in The State of Wisconsin, by Charles Tuttle, 1875, p. 116

"In September, 1815, the Eighth United States Infantry, under the command of Col. It. C. Nichols, colonel of the regiment, was sent up the river from Saint Louis to establish a fort at or near Rock Island...The expedition reached the mouth of the Des Moines River, about 140 miles below Rock Island, in November, and was there stopped by the ice and went into winter quarters..... 
The troops constructed huts or wigwams to protect them from the cold during the winter, and the post was named " Cantonment Davis." Fort Edwards was built at this place, near where Warsaw now stands, in the following year.  During the winter Colonel Nichols was placed in arrest and sent to Nashville, Tenn., and the command devolved upon Bvt. Lieut. Col. W. Lawrence, major of the regiment.
In the following April, 1816, Bvt. Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Smith, colonel of the rifle regiment, arrived at the cantonment with his regiment, took command of the expedition, and proceeded up the river. He arrived at Rock Island early in May, and after examining the country in the vicinity of the mouth of Rock River, fixed upon the foot or west end of Rock Island as the site of the fort which was to built. The troops were first landed on the island on the 10th of May, 1816. They went into camp and at once commenced cutting timber for building store-houses. At that time the west end of the island, which is now bare, was covered with a heavy growth of oak, black walnut, elm, and bass-wood.
On the day after landing General Smith sent messages to the Sacs and Foxes to meet him in council, but they refused to come. There were supposed to be living in the vicinity of Rock Island at that time about 11,000 Indians belonging to these two tribes.
General Smith remained at Rock Island only long enough to construct abatis for the protection of the troops from the Indians, and then proceeded up the river with the whole of the rifle regiment to re-occupy the fort at Prairie du Chien [Fort Armstrong], and establish a fort (Fort Saint Peters, afterward Fort Snelling) in the vicinity of Saint Anthony's Falls.
The Eighth Infantry, under the command of Colonel Lawrence, was left at Rock Island, and Colonel Lawrence at once commenced the construction of the fort, which was named Fort Armstrong, in honor of the Secretary of War." pp. 42-44
* fn p.42-"The following account of the occupation of Rock Island by United States troops aud building of Fort Armstrong is taken principally from official records: from a sketch of Colonel Davenport's life, written by F. B. Wilkic ; from newspaper articles written principally by Hon. Bailey Davenport, son of Colonel Davenport, aud from information obtained from Mr. Davenport and others, and from Judge Spencer's reminiscences of a " Pioneer Life," and other books."
fn p. 43-"The following incident of this expedition is related by Hon. B. Davenport: "One morning during a thick fog the boats were anchored in an eddy of the river for breakfast; while seated in the boats at breakfast, two of tho officers, Second Lieutenants Bennet Riley and T. F. Smith, of the rifle regiment, found that they had different opinions respecting the direction of the current of the river, and entered into a violent controversy on the subject. Finding that this would not make the river flow two ways, they chose their seconds, took pistols, left their breakfast, and went ashore to fight it out and settle the matter. After exchanging a few shots, neither having been hit, and having discovered a higher respect for each other's opinions, as is usual when looked at through the pistol medium, shook hands and went back to their breakfast." Mr. Davenport adds there were other duels before they reached their winter quarters."

"Old Fort Crawford and the Frontier, Bruce E. Mahan, (Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa, 1926), 89–98 - limited search available on internet - p. 69, 74, 83, appears to build on the Army report - see Frericksen citation of Mahan below

Broadax and Bayonet: The Role of the United States Army in the Development of the Northwest, 1815-1860, Francis Paul Prucha, 1953 & 1981, pp. 19-21

Prucha, in pages 19-22, fails to mention the name, let alone give credit to the role of the US Rifle Regiment in the westward push anywhere in his 277 page book. 
William Goetzman's, "Army Exploration in the American West, 1803-1863," first published in 1959, is even more disappointing, only referring to the troops of the Yellowstone Expedition of 1818-1820, by such vague terms as; "1000 men commanded by General Henry W. Atkinson,"p. 31,  (Atkinson was a Colonel at the time),  and as an "army group."p. 41 In Goetzman's 1966 book, "Exploration and empire: the Explorer and the Scientist in the winning of the American West, " which won a Pullitzer Prize in 1967, the Yellowstone Expedition receives a scant three pages of treatment on pages 58-60, and as concerns the units, refers only to them as "Atkinson's force" but denotes "America's seriousness of purpose with regard to the  trans-Mississippi..."p.59

"In the spring of 1816, Smith took several rifle companies and ascended the Mississippi River to confront [tribes]...War was averted but as a precaution he founded Fort Armstrong on Rock Island...citing Bruce E. Mahan, Old Fort Crawford and the Frontier," 1926.  
"American military leaders: from colonial times to the present," by John C. Fredriksen, 1999, p. 750
"Green Coats and Glory," John C. Fredricksen, 2000, pp. 67-68

Frontier forts of Iowa: Indians, traders, and soldiers, 1682-1862, William E. Whittaker, University of Iowa Press, 2009
- see "First Fort Crawford 1814-1831," by Vicki Twindle-Javner p.79 - no mention of USRR

"Fort Armstrong 1816-1836." by  Regena Jo Schantz p. 95 - "On May 10, 1816, the Rifle Regiment under Brigadier General Thomas A. Smith and the Eighth Infantry under Lieutenant Colonel William Lawrence, arrived on Rock Island and began felling tress for a fort."p. 95

Nevertheless, in the fall,  Major General Andrew Jackson, Commanding the Southern Division, was irked by the Rifles dispersal in the north and anxious to bring all of the regiment under his command. He wrote to the Secretary of War:

"To William Harris Crawford Chickasaw National Old Council House
7th, Septr. 1816
....It would be superfluous for me to dwell on the importance of the Lower Country, including Orleans and Mobile and the Command of the Rivers Mississippi & Mobile.  Nothing that could have the tendency to give security to the Western World should be left to chance.  Under these circumstances, I beg leave to submit for your consideration the propriety of making such arrangements as will enable me to bring to the support of the Lower Country, at the shortest possible notice, the 8th Regiment & The Rifle Corps. My object is to make surety doubly sure - to be ready, promptly to meet every Contingency & thus be able to act Offensively or Defensively, as circumstance may authorize.  The only mode which I can devise, that will enable us to realize this object, and to apply it practically if necessary, will be to direct the Commandant at Detroit, to make arrangements to relieve the Posts & Cantonments under the Command of Brevet relive & place the 8th Regt. Infy. at my disposal........The enclosed communication from Brevet Brigr. Smith, with the accompanying papers, will convince you of the impossibility of having my Division in that efficient state, which I could wish & which the public good requires. I trust a re-transfer of the Detachment in question will take place.  Brevet Majr. Genl. [Alexander] Macomb's conduct & the sanction given it by Majr. Genl. Brown is unauthorized & cannot be supported upon Military principles.  The Rifle Regt. has been arranged on the peace establishment to my Division.4 ....
fn 4. See Thomas A. Smith to [Robert] Butler, July 22.  In the peacetime army, the rifle regiment had been assigned to the Southern Division but had been allowed to remain on a temporary basis (with Jackson's approval) within the Northern Division. In April 1816, Jackson had ordered the regiment to St. Louis. Willoughby Morgan, captain and brevet major of the regiment, reported the order to Macomb (1782-1841), commander of the 5th Department, whereupon Macomb and subsequently Brown protested against Jackson's interference in Northern Division affairs; and the war department warned Jackson against such interference.  Within weeks, however, the regiment was transferred to Jackson's Southern Division."

The Papers of Andrew Jackson: 1816-1820,Harold D. Moser, David R. Hoth, Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1994, p. 61-62

"On July 30, 1817, Acting Secretary of War Richard Graham directed that an Army post was to be erected at or near the point where the Osage boundary crossed the Arkansas River2. Troops for this new post were to come from the Rifle Regiment [3rd Battalion]. One company under the command of Major William Bradford started the journey to this place to build the new post in mid-September 1817. The new Army post was to become Fort Smith, in present day Arkansas, named after rifleman General Thomas A. Smith." -

"Advised to select experienced and skillful men to carry out this mission, Jackson chose the Rifle Regiment, a crack infantry unit skilled in scouting and....Members of Rifle Regiments from Baton Rouge and Natchitoches joined Major William Bradford's company"p.319 
Fort Smith, Little Gibraltar on the Arkansas, by Edwin C. Bearss and Arrell M. Gibson, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press; 1979
The Louisiana Purchase: a historical and geographical encyclopedia, Junius P. Rodriguez - 2002 - Page 319 

RIFLE REGIMENT information at the National Park Service, FORT SMITH

The Fort Smith NPS website also has curriculum materials for teachers including Living the Legacy - see Section 2 (pdf file) -- Life at the First Fort Smith (1817-1824) - A Soldier in the United States Regiment Of Rifles.

Fort Smith on the Arkansas was one of the crucial first steps in the overall plan..but we must backtrack in time to properly tell this epic tale, worthy of greater renown:



In revising this blog post, to include a more precise look into the Rifle Regiments last several years of existence, it was my luck to stumble on to a pithy historical summary that brings clarity to the years 1818-1821:

"HISTORICAL NOTE: Fort Atkinson, Nebraska, on the Council Bluffs, was the most remote U.S. military post on the western frontier from 1819-1827. In 1819, John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, dispatched the Yellow-stone Expeditionary force under Col. Henry Atkinson as part of a plan to construct a chain of fortifications west of the Mississippi River. These forts were to serve as a warning to the British trading companies and to protect the fur trade along the Upper Missouri. The expedition had reached the Council Bluffs, when winter forced them to construct a camp. This camp was named Cantonment Missouri. In 1820, Congress abandoned the plan for the series of forts, leaving only the new post at the Council Bluffs. When floods destroyed this camp in the spring of 1820, a new site was selected on top of the Bluffs. The newly constructed post was known simply as Council Bluffs until 1821 when it was officially designated Fort Atkinson. Fort Atkinson was garrisoned by the Rifle Regiment and the Sixth Infantry Regiment. In 1821, as part of a military cutback, the two regiments were combined and some of the troops were discharged. The troops at the fort saw almost no military operations with the exception of the brief Arickara War of 1823 after a party of fur traders were attached by Indians. Fort Atkinson was to survive as an active military post only until 1827 when it was abandoned.  However, during the period of its active operation, the fort was a valuable outpost in the  opening of the west." (my emphasis) 

Yellowstone Expedition - wiki - "the crack Rifle Regiment"

The Mississippi Valley historical review , Volume 4 (Google eBook)
Mississippi Valley Historical Association, 1918
" (Goodman mentions the Rifles but once and the 6th not at all"

The American fur trade of the far West: a history of the pioneer trading ...Vol 2
 By Hiram Martin Chittenden, F.P. Harper, 1901

H.M. Chittendem in 1905, without ever mentioning either regiment involved,  nevertheless accurately criticized the expedition for
"putting into effect this plan it committed the always disastrous mistake of trusting itself bound hand and foot to the tender mercies of a contractor..."Chittendem, p.568

and as "an unqualified failure if not a huge fiasco... Although the troops could with ease have marched three times as far as the boats carried them, it was considered necessary to transport them in a manner becoming the dignity of so vast an enterprise. As a result it took an entire season to reach a point that could have been reached in two months at most."Chittendem, p.570

Fort Atkinson records, Nebraska State Historical Society
"..the First Rifle regiment, the "crack" organization of the United States army at that time." 
Sheffield Ingalls, History of Atchison, Kansas, 1916

"Immediately after the peace of 1815, Monroe, then secretary of war, recommended that a military post be established at the mouth of the Yellowstone River. In 1816 Monroe was elected president, and in 1817 John C. Calhoun, his secretary of war, undertook the great enterprise of establishing a chain of posts along the entire northern border, to guard against the hostility of the Indians who, he declared, were "open to the influence of a foreign power." An act of Congress passed April 29, 1816, prohibited persons not citizens from going into territory held by Indians within the United States without passports, and the issue of licenses to such persons to trade with Indians within the United States. The posts were needed to enforce this act..."

Why Fort Atkinson was established, by Albert Watkins, pp. 4-5 in NEBRASKA HISTORY AND RECORD OF PIONEER DAYS, VOLUME II. JULY-SEPTEMBER, 1919, published by Nebraska State Historical Society 

"It was to re-assert American supremacy to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Dakota, Montana, and our own Nebraska land,  that appropriations were made and two expeditions fitted out under the action of congress, at the instance of Mr. President Monroe and Mr. Calhoun, his secretary of war. One under Colonel Leavenworth, following the Mississippi river, resulted in the occupation of Rock Island, Prairie du Chien, and the falls of St. Anthony on the Mississippi ; and the other, under that superb veteran, Gen. Henry Atkinson [6th Infantry], following the Missouri, was known as the Yellowstone expedition [also known as the Missouri River Expedition]. " Eller, 1892, pp. 19-20

Here we go again!  Eller omits unit identification, i.e. mention of the Rifle Regiment's role and that Leavenworth followed Smith and Chambers of the Rifles.   

Leavenworth and his 5th Infantry, would relieve the Rifle Regiment detachments ALREADY manning Rock Island (Fort Armstrong)* and Prairie du Chien (First or Old Fort Crawford), before reaching the falls of St Anthony and building Fort Snelling (which would be named for a former wartime Rifle officer)!

That the correct facts were available is revealed by V.M. Porter, editor of "The 1820 Journal of Stephen Watts Kearney," published in 1908, who informs us that" 

"Fort Crawford" ...was built in 1816 by the Rifle Regiment, on the same spot, the top of a mound, where had stood a stockade of the same name, erected by the Americans in 1814, captured by the British and held by them till the peace of 1815. During the several years intervening between the completion of the fort and the time Kearny wrote, the commanding officer of the post was Lieutenant-Colonel Willoughby Morgan, the senior officer accompanying our party. The fort
was abandoned in 1826 through the instrumentality of Col. Snelling, who disliked Prairie du Chien for differences he had had with some of its principal inhabitants, and the troops were removed to Fort Snelling. The following year, on account of fresh Indian troubles, two companies were
returned. The fort was thereafter continuously garrisoned till 1831, when a newer fort of the same name was erected in another part of the town." Porter, p.41

The 1820 Journal of Stephen Watts Kearney, comprising a Narrative Account of the Council Bluff-St. Peter's Military Exploration and a Voyage down the Mississippi River to St. Louis. Edited by Valentine Mott Porter, Vice-President Missouri Historical Society. St. Louis: Reprinted from Missouri Historical Society Collections, Vol. Ill, 1908. 54 pages, about 6x9 inches, paper, illustrated.
also in AN EXPEDITION ACROSS IOWA IN 1820. A Journal by S.W. Kearny, Annals of Iowa, By Iowa. Historical, Memorial, and Art Dept

for a discussion of motives and these efforts see Prucha, 1953, pp. 19-22. Yet, Prucha, as noted before fails to mention the Rifles by name ANYWHERE in his 277 page book, let alone give credit to the role of the US Rifle Regiment in his study of the development of the west.

Better yet, the search for historical detail should have started with as search in the official American State Papers, Military Affairs Volume 1, which would have revealed the basic facts, even if in graphic, table form.

1817 disposition of Rifle Regiment
American State Papers, House of Representatives, 15th Congress, 1st Session
Military Affairs: Volume 1 Page 672 of 860

 1818-1819 disposition of the Rifle Regiment
American State Papers, House of Representatives, 15th Congress, 1st Session
Military Affairs: Volume 1 Page 820 of 860

By 1817-1818, the RIFLE REGIMENT had a proven record as the "go to" unit for frontier duties - the productive missions of "nation building" and "show of force"- just as they had for the destructive mission of combat. Their proven combat reputation,  authorities undoubtedly believed, made Rifles the best choice should hostilities commence. In short they were the "spearhead" unit of the U.S. Army.

In a 10 March, 1818 directive  to Thomas A. Smith (commanding the Rifle Regiment and Ninth Military Department but soon to resign) and in subsequent letters to Major General Jackson, commanding the Division of the South consisting of Military Departments Eight and Nine [see the Report Of Inspection Of The Ninth Military Department, 1819], and to Colonel Henry Atkinson, who assumed command of the Ninth Military department in March 1819, the energetic John C. Calhoun would continually stress, the "importance of the service...," the:
"glory of planting the American flag at a point so distant, on so noble a river, will not be unfelt. The world will behold in it the mighty growth of our republic, which but a few years since, was limited by the Alleghany; but now is ready to push its civilization and laws to the western confines of the continent." p.135

He had also materially backed up his rhetoric informing Smith that recruits intended for other regiments would be diverted to the Rifle Regiment:
"To enable you to make the detachment required, without weakening too much your other posts, orders have been given to march at least two hundred recruits enlisted in Pennsylvania and Ohio, for the 3rd and 5th."p. 135 
"LETTERS OF JOHN C. CALHOUN; Account of Calhoun's early life, abridged from the manuscript of Col. W. Pinkney Starke", Annual report of the American Historical Association for the year 1899
(He would also inform Henry Atkinson of similar reinforcement for the 6th Infantry.)

Afterward, in response to a Congressional inquiry, Calhoun provided several statements in table form to explain his plans.

  American State Papers, House of Representatives, 16th Congress, 1st Session,  Military Affairs: Volume 2 Reports of Committees. 
177 Expedition to the mouth of Yellow Stone river, January 3, 1820,  pages  31-35.

"On July 1, 1818, Talbot Chambers, Colonel Commanding the Riflemen, was notified at Camp Salubriety that he was to assume command of the troops that were to engage in the proposed Yellowstone Expedition to traverse and establish a series of Army posts along the Missouri River. On August 30, 1818, the [the 1st Battalion - 3 companies]...approximately 350 strong left Bell Fontaine and proceeded up the Missouri River..." -

By plan, Colonel Chambers, after leading the 1st Battalion flotilla of 10 flatboats for 3 days, returned to Belle Fontaine on 2 September, and the command devolved to Rifles Captain Wyly Martin. Chambers would proceed again from Belle Fontaine in the spring with the 2nd Battalion Rifle Regiment, along with the 6th Infantry Regiment, all under the overall command of Colonel Henry Atkinson, dual hatted as the 6ths Commander and also the Ninth Military Department Commander.

That August, to Jackson, Calhoun reiterated his concerns:
"You, no doubt, are aware of the great importance I attach to the expedition to the mouth of the Yellow Stone, and as much of its Success will depend upon the Commander, I have to request that the ablest and most experienced officer of the rifle regiment, be selected for that Command. The remoteness of the position, surrounded by Indians, and in the neighbourhood of the British Fur Company, requires, the greatest prudence, in the Commander to effect the objects of the expedition. Capt. Martin of that regiment is now in command of the expedition. As I do not know his merits, I leave it with you to determine whether he combines the requisite qualities for such a command. .."Calhoun, p.150
He repeated essentially the same concerns in a following letter in March.

Later, however, in a 5 September letter to Major General Jacob Brown, he would remark that some previous movement by the Rifle Regiment in 1816, apparently lacked "economy and despatch" and had not met with his approval. Calhoun, p. 162

Back on the river, preceding the main body, on October 16th, 1818, Captain Wyly Martin and his advance guard of  riflemen, LEADING THE WAY, arrived at Isle au Vache, or Cow Island, in present-day Atchison County, Kansas. The rest of the expedition arrived on the 18th and the rifle companies of Captains  Martin, McGee, and Riley constructed the post and through the winter months and on into the summer of 1819 waited for the advance of General Atkinson.  Captain Martin would remain in command until 13 April 1819, when Lieutenant Colonel Willoughby Morgan, second in command of the Regiment, arrived in advance of Colonels Atkinson and Chambers.

CANTONMENT MARTIN  was "...the first United States military post established above Ft. Osage, and west of Missouri Territory...,"in what was to become Kansas. Cantonment Martin was occupied through the winter months and on into the summer of 1819, it was later returned to by Major Long in October 1820, and then abandoned until temporarily occupied by US troops in 1826. By 1832 successive flooding had destroyed the buildings.
History of Atchison County Kansas, by Sheffield Ingalls, Standard Publishing Co., Lawrence, Kansas, pp.33-34, 1916
Ft. Osage "the second U.S. outpost built following the Louisiana Purchase..."
Fort Osage - later "known as Fort Clark or Fort Sibley - was part of the United States factory trading post system for the Osage Nation in the early 19th century near Sibley, Missouri."
Historic Fort Osage
Kansas Forts of the Old West, LEGENDS OF AMERICA: A Travel Site for the Nostalgic & Historic Minded
Old Forts Along the Upper Missouri River (Early St. Louis)

Delayed in awaiting promised steamboats and supplies, "...General Atkinson [Commander of the 6th Infantry, the Ninth  Military Department and the Missouri Expedition] and staff finally embarked [from Missouri] about the 5th of July, 1819, but did not pass St.Charles until the 11th. None of these boats reached their destination...General Atkinson's men were compelled to assist the contractor in transferring his goods from the boats to barges and keel boats which were cordelled up the stream by human strength by the use of ropes and pulleys attached to the trees on the low river banks. It was a weary march of great privations to the men, and resulted in the loss of Colonel Johnson's [contractor] entire fortune, his bills for transportation being refused by the action of congress. It was not until late in September that the army reached the Council Bluffs [September 19], still one thousand miles short of their destination (the Yellowstone)...The delay was providential, as the presence of an army was never more greatly needed in the Dakota country until the construction of the Northern Pacific Railway, many years afterward. The troops of this new expedition consisted of the rifle regiment [the 2nd Battalion; the 1st Battalion was already above at Cantonment Martin on Cow Island] commanded by Colonel Chambers, the Sixth Infantry, under Major Wooley, and three detachments of artillery, in all about twelve hundred men, the whole being under the command of General Atkinson. The Sixth regiment marched altogether, or rather tugged, as history now shows, on foot and on barges a distance of 2,628 miles from Plattsburg, New York, to their new camp on the Missouri river; and their endurance was only less remarkable than the debates in congress upon the Missouri compromise. The riflemen came from Philadelphia, Prairie du Chien, and Baton Rouge....the Yellowstone expedition began to construct its winter quarters. It was at once christened with the name of Camp Missouri, and its log houses soon demonstrated the industry of American soldiers. General Atkinson, notwithstanding the popular misapprehension and newspaper abuse of this expedition, 'was a real hero upon this occasion, and suffered many privations..."- Eller, pp 20-24

The post selected, Camp  Missouri, or, as officially designated on 2 November, 1819,  CANTONMENT MISSOURI, initially occupied a site on low ground on the west side of the river a mile above the Council Bluffs high ground, which Atkinson stated best "afforded on the spot & near at hand an abundant supply of timber for huts and fuel, command of the river, an easy access to it for water for general purposes, & good landing for the boats."Nichols, p. 117
However, this location would eventually prove be its undoing as it was based on an underestimation of the extent and destructive power of a severe Missouri flood season.
Atkinson devoted the bulk of his 23 November letter to Jackson, explaining why Council Bluffs, recommended by Lewis and Clark, was not chosen. Atkinson informed Jackson of the disadvantages of being on an open, timber less, plane atop an elevated bluff, 150 ft above the river, with another elevation beyond commanding the "naked plane," lack of a water source on top, exposure to the cold winds of winter, and the difficulties of hauling timber up.
The Missouri Expedition, 1818-1820; the Journal of Surgeon John Gale, with Related. Documents.
Edited by Roger L. Nichols, Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1969

"Although virtually forgotten today, the post itself was a strong one. Initially it had the strongest garrison of any fortification within the bounds of the United States or her territories at that time. [1,120  men]. As representative of the armed strength of the United States, the outpost paved the way for the fur trading expeditions who were penetrating the Plains-Rocky Mountain region. The efforts of the men of the Sixth Infantry and the Rifle Regiments to build Cantonment Missouri in October 1819, are colorfully revealed in the orderly books of these two regiments. " Johnson, p. 121
CANTONMENT MISSOURI, 1819-1820, by SALLY A. JOHNSON, Nebraska History, Volume 37, Number 2, June, 1956

The winter months of 1819-1820 saw the combined effects of a lack of supplies, harsh winter weather, poor sanitation, drainage difficulties, and disease mainly widespread scurvy, decimate the ranks and claim the lives of over 150 of the 1,120 men. The scurvy, owing to the absence of fresh vegetables (poor nutrition and lack of vitamin C), was recognized and eventually brought under control by the efforts of the regimental surgeons. By spring, the post included an adjacent one hundred acres of promising cultivated farmland. (Ney extols the example set by the troops in farming - as one to the entire nation - in the potential of what was erroneously believed to be a vast wasteland - ironically conveyed by the report of Major Stephen H. Long who led another part of the Yellowstone Expedition, a pioneering scientific survey, the first of the region.)
FORT ON THE PRAIRIE: FORT ATKINSON ON THE COUNCIL BLUFF, 1819-1827, by Colonel Virgil Ney, 1979 and

see also

Rifle Regiment and 6th Infantry cited on page 39 in chapter on GENERAL DEDUCTIONS (Scorbutus)...The climate of the United States and its endemic influences: Based chiefly on the records of the Medical department and Adjutant General's office, United States army, Samuel Forry,J. & H. G. Langley, 1842

Discussion of pre and post Rifle Regiment events  at Fort Atkinson, see pp. 168-169.
also snippet vignettes on Chambers, Willoughby Morgan, Bennet Riley and Martin Scott in text...e.g.

"Presumably soldiers would also find target practice more attractive than marching about the parade ground, but evidently there was little of it.  Some commanders, however, emphasized it.  Willoughby Morgan of the Rifle Regiment built a range with firing points at 50 and 100 yards and established standards for marksmen.  The best won the privilege of serving on the hunting detail..." p. 163
"More than any of the efforts of the doctors and the post commander, Colonel Willoughby Morgan brought an end to the epidemic."
The old army: a portrait of the American Army in peacetime, 1784-1898, by Edward M. Coffman, 1986, p. 163, p. 187

But it was "a little too late" for the Cantonment for, on or about 10-11 June,  a severe Missouri River seasonal flood struck, washing away much of the Cantonment and leading to its abandonment and rebuilding at a new site on higher ground, where the remnants of Fort Atkinson's are preserved and remembered today at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, located just east of Fort Calhoun, Nebraska [some 15 miles above present day Omaha] and by the
Friends of Fort Atkinson.

Fort Atkinson

In HISTORICAL SKETCHES OF STAFF AND LINE, published in 1896,  the claim is put forth that "The Sixth Infantry thus built the first United States fort west of the Missouri River and started the earliest settlement in Nebraska. " Such an unequivocal claim, while symptomatic of unit histories as such, obscures part of the legacy and general knowledge, to erstwhile Army history buffs, of the Rifle Regiment. Thankfully, the staff at Fort Atkinson strive for historical accuracy.

In building the first Camp or Cantonment Missouri and the later Camp Missouri on higher ground north, and not named Fort Atkinson until the fall of 1821, after General Atkinson's promotion and transfer - the 6th did not do it alone!  The plain gray uniformed* Riflemen  led the way.

"The Rifle Regiment completed its quarters and was able to enter them on November 23.  Lt. Col. W. Morgan lauded the "industry and activity displayed in the erection of their Quarters, it reflects high honour on the Rifle Reg't., that on all occasions it has encountered hardships, and privations without a murmur in all the different marches in which it has performed [,] in the almost constant labour in which it has been engaged." The remaining troops of the Sixth Infantry moved into their barracks at different periods during the month of December, although many of the rooms still lacked floors, bunks, doors, etc. Once the barracks were erected, Camp Missouri officially assumed the name Cantonment Missouri....Captain Bliss made the following report..."The police in front of the Rifle Corps is generally very good, that of the [6th] Infantry is bad..."  The Rifle Regiment...approximately 608 noncommissioned officers and privates....the Sixth Regiment (the smaller of the two regiments)...460 noncommissioned officers and privates." Johnson, pp. 124-126

*The gray uniform description is a "most probable" deduction.  A shortage of green cloth, in the midst of war in 1814, required the army to uniform the quickly organized 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Rifle Regiments in a "plain gray uniform" but the "1st Regiment probably managed to retain its green uniform..." - H. Charles McBarron. [and as Winfield Scott did with his "Regulars, By God!" brigade of infantry prior to the Battle of Chippewa.]
H. Charles McBarron's original text to CMH illustration Plate 95  REGIMENT OF RIFLEMEN, WINTER UNIFORM  1812-1815 first published in MILITARY UNIFORMS IN AMERICA,VI, No. 4: December 1954 reproduced in color, with their texts in Years of Growth, 1796-1851 (John R. Elting, ed.; Presidio Press, San Rafael, California, 1977).

With 3 of 4 regiments already so uniformed in gray, and with sufficient post-war stocks of the gray uniform available, it seems likely that grey/gray was the uniform imposed on the singular regiment. Then too, there exist units records and documents, which I have not personally read, that may specify exact uniforms worn by the regiment from 1815-1821.

The gray uniform is also cited by Colonel Virgil Ney, FORT ON THE PRAIRIE: FORT ATKINSON ON THE COUNCIL BLUFF, 1819-1827, by Colonel Virgil Ney, 1979,  by Kenneth Flint in his historical fiction account entitled On Earth's Remotest Bounds: Year One: Blood and Water, 2004, and by James M. McCaffrey in The Army in Transformation, 1790-1860, 2006



Meanwhile, a flood of another sort had risen in the East and the troops at Cantonment Missouri learned of it later on 4 May, 1820, a month before they faced their severe Missouri flood.  Congress, it was noted in the official journal, "had refused to make any further appropriation for the Missouri Expedition under the impression that the views of the Government may be realised by an established post at this place..." Nichols, p. 84
This journal entry was likely based from a one paragraph order Atkinson received from the Army Adjutant General dated 7 April, but which did not contain the rationale that Government views [goals] might be "realised" by the occupation of the forward post vicinity Council Bluffs. Perhaps this reason was provided in later correspondence from the Secretary of War promised by the Adjutant General. The order also directed Atkinson to occupy the Post at Fort Osage with the company of Riflemen now on their march from Newport Ky & the other detachment of the 6th at Pittsfield [Massachusetts]..." Nichols, p. 126

What had happened back East?
As early as his "...annual message of December 7, 1819, the president reported that:
 "The troops intended to occupy a station at the mouth of the St. Peters, on the Mississippi, have established themselves there and those who were ordered to the mouth of the Yellow Stone, on the Missouri, have ascended that river to the Council Bluff, where they will remain until the next spring, when they will proceed to the place of their destination"....[BUT] There had always been jealous opposition in the East to expansion in the West - against the acquisition of Louisiana, for example; but in this case it was most strenuous in the Southwest. The scandals attending the Yellowstone Expedition, strengthened this opposition that it was able to force the abandonment of the principal part of the enterprise and confine it to maintenance of but one post, at Council Bluff, far below the two sites at first projected. On December 29, less than a month after the president's announcement that the original plan would be carried out the secretary of war, in answer to an inquisitorial letter from the chairman of the House committee on military affairs, said that "to guard against the hostility of Indians, who were "open to the influence of a foreign power," measures had been taken "to establish strong posts at the Council Bluffs and the Mandan village on the Missouri . . . "

In the meantime the Secretary, and presumably the President also, had discovered (my emphasis) that:
   "The position at the Council Bluff is a very important one, and the post will consequently be rendered strong. . . . It is at the point on the Missouri which approaches the nearest to the post at the mouth of the St. Peters, with which, in the event of hostilities, it may cooperate."
Being but "180 miles in advance of settlements on the Missouri and in the center of the most numerous and powerful Indian population west of the Mississippi," the secretary believed it "to be the best position on the Missouri," and aside from other objects, "ought to be established for that purpose alone."p. 4 (Watkins is here quoting from the Letter of the Secretary of War to the Chairman of the Military Committee)
"Why Fort Atkinson was established," by Albert Watkins, pp. 4-5 in NEBRASKA HISTORY AND RECORD OF PIONEER DAYS, VOLUME II. JULY-SEPTEMBER, 1919, published by Nebraska State Historical Society

The War Department's full response (defense) to a Congressional inquiry "into the expenditures, which have been and are likely to be incurred, in fitting out and prosecuting the expedition ordered to the mouth of the Yellow Stone river, on the Missouri, and concerning the objects to be accomplished by the expedition.", sample tables from which are shown above, is available at  American State Papers, House of Representatives, 16th Congress, 1st Session,  Military Affairs: Volume 2 Reports of Committees. 
177 Expedition to the mouth of Yellow Stone river, January 3, 1820,  pages  31-35.

United States Army distribution of the arny of the United States, showing the strength of posts and garrisons
Niles' weekly register, Volume 19, by William Ogden Niles, 1820

For the next eight years Fort Atkinson remained the furthest post west, only to be abandoned in 1827.

A highly recommended reading on the importance of the expedition and Fort Atkinson can be found by accessing:
Fort Atkinson 1819-1827 An Historical Evaluation, in Friends of Fort Atkinson Handbook pp 70-73, by Virgil Ney, 2008
See also Cardinal Goodwin's "A Larger View of the Yellowstone Expedition, 18W-18W," in The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. IV, pp. 299-313.

Non-linked sources:
"Fort Atkinson Records, 1819-1827, illus., by Addison E. Sheldon, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1915
A minute record of events at the post may be found in Addison E. Sheldon (ed.),  This is a typescript copy of the unit records of the Rifle Regiment until it was disbanded in 1821 and of the Sixth Infantry."
"Life at a Frontier post: Fort Atkinson, 1823-26, by Wesley B. Edgar, Journal of the American Military History Foundation, 3: 202-20, 1939
“Fort Atkinson at Council Bluffs.” by Sally Johnson, Nebraska History 38(3): 229–336, 1957
“The Sixth’s Elysian Fields—Fort Atkinson on the Council Bluffs.” by Sally Johnson, Nebraska History 40(1):1–38, 1959
“Excavations at Fort Atkinson Nebraska: A Preliminary Report.” by Marvin F. Kivett, Nebraska History 40(1):39–66, 1959 
Fort Atkinson on the Council Bluffs. by Sally Johnson and Marvin Kivett, Nebraska History, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1959

"Prairie Generals and Colonels at Cantonment Missouri and Fort Atkinson," by Colonel Virgil Ney,  Nebraska History 56, pp. 51-76, 1975 

Linked sources:

OLD FORT ATKINSON, History and Stories of Nebraska, by Addison Erwin Sheldon, CHICAGO AND LINCOLN THE UNIVERSITY PUBLISHING CO., 1914
Produced by Connie Snyder

"Daily Life at Fort Atkinson on the Missouri 1820-27," by Colonel Virgil Ney, Military Review, 1977, Part 1 (Jan) and 2 (Feb), Part 1: pp. 36-48 Part 2: pp. 50-66
follow directions - patience required - at

A short narrative is found at:
The article discusses a 1997 field season and surface survey by Gayle Carlson, which resulted in increased archeological findings and interpretation of Fort Atkinson. In 1956, the first large-scale excavation at the fort was carried out by the Nebraska State Historical Society. Gayle Carlson is the associate director for Archeology/State Archeologist at the Nebraska State Historical Society.

On 17 Jun 10,  a targeted search of "Mr. Gayle Carlson" + "Fort Atkinson" yielded this  recent (to my mind) bonanza:

"Lt. Gabriel Field  died at Fort Atkinson in 1823. NSHS archeologists identified his remains and commissioned a facial reconstruction based on cranial structure."

Lt. Gabriel Field was a lieutenant in the post-war Rifle Regiment from May 1817- May 1821 (although not mentioned in the articles) and then transferred to the 6th Infantry in June 1821. For more on him and others see: Rifle Regiments - officer sketches

"...During this same period a military expedition was traversing the State on its way from Council Bluff to the mouth of the St. Peter's (Minnesota) River. It was a detachment from Major Long's expedition led by Captain Magee of the Rifle Regiment sent out for the purpose of opening a road between Council Bluff and the military post recently constructed on the Mississippi River. Accompanying the party was Stephen Watts Kearny to whom we are indebted for our knowledge of the expedition.1 Leaving Camp Missouri on July 2, 1820, the company consisting of about twenty men [divided almost equally between the Rifle Regiment and the 6th Inf] followed a route leading in a general northeasterly direction, veering occasionally either to the east or to the north, finally arriving at Camp Cold Water twenty-three days later...." Shambaugh p. 84
THE AMERICAN OCCUPATION OF IOWA 1833 TO 1860, The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, by Benjamin F. Shambaugh, 1919, p. 84

The 1820 Journal of Stephen Watts Kearney,  comprising a Narrative Account of the Council Bluff-St. Peter's Military  Exploration and a 
Voyage down the Mississippi River to St. Louis.  Edited by Valentine Mott Porter, Vice-President Missouri Historical  Society. St. Louis: 
Reprinted from Missouri Historical Society  Collections, Vol. Ill, 1908.

On disease and the early beginnings of the U.S. Army Medical Department and U.S. Weather Bureau see: 

DR. JOHN GALE, A PIONEER ARMY SURGEON. By Irving S. Cutter, MD, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society,  Illinois State Historical Society, 1931
(fn-A fascinating individual, Gale would father a child by a native princess, and later give up medicine to become a Captain, Commanding Ecompany, 1st infantry by 1825 - where he would level multiple charges stemming from drunkenness, against his former Rifles and then 1st Infantry Commander, Colonel Talbot Chambers - see American State Papers, Senate, 19th Congress, 1st Session, Military Affairs: Volume 3
330. Communicating the proceedings of a court-martial for the trial of Colonel Talbot Chambers 1826, May 16
332. In relation to the court-martial for the trial of Colonel Talbot Chambers 1826, May 20... 327

Scurvy in Nebraska: I. the epidemic of scurvy at cantonment Missouri (Fort Atkinson), Nebraska,

1819–1820, American Journal of Digestive Diseases, Volume 22, Number 1 / January, Springer Boston, ISSN 0002-9211, 1955

"Scurvy at Cantonment Missouri, 1819-1820," by Roger L. Nichols, Nebraska History 49 (Winter 1968): pp. 338-46.

The Missouri Expedition, 1818-1820; the Journal of Surgeon John Gale, with Related. Documents.

Edited by Roger L. Nichols, Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1969

The Army Medical Department 1818-1865 by Mary C Gillett, 1987

The post had one more role (ironically fortunate) to play some 20 years later when, in the winter of 1847-48, the Mormons camped nearby. Old provisions found at the old fort, potatoes and horseradish,  helped the Saints while in their Winter Quarters encampment; although they too lacked fresh vegetables.



As with their cantonment, one year later, the Regiment of Riflemen was also "washed over."

Politics and scandal had not only halted the Yellowstone Expedition at Camp Missouri-Fort Atkinson, but, combined with economics,  halted the life of the Regiment itself - seemingly no longer needed for the mission it was best manned and suited to conduct - but more accurately - no longer affordable.

"By the end of Calhoun's second term as secretary, outstanding accounts had been reduced from $45 to $3 million. Congress, however, refused to approve Calhoun's proposals for a network of coastal and frontier fortifications and military roads, imposing steep cuts in the defense budget after Treasury Secretary William Crawford's 1819 annual report projected a budget deficit for 1820 of $7 million (later adjusted to $5 million). Postwar economic expansion had given way to a depression of unprecedented severity, and the panic of 1819 had left hundreds of speculators impoverished and in debt. These conditions, and Crawford's dire forecast, prompted calls for sharp reductions in government expenditures. The war department came under immediate attack, which intensified when the press reported that one of Calhoun's pet projects, an expedition to plant a military outpost on the Yellowstone River, had run significantly over budget.
Some scholars have suggested that Crawford timed the release of his report both to embarrass Monroe and Calhoun and to enhance his own presidential prospects. Shortly afterwards, the president received an anonymous letter alleging that Calhoun's chief secretary had realized substantial profits from an interest in a materials contract. The transaction was not illegal, for war department officials enjoyed considerable latitude in awarding government contracts, and the primary contractor had submitted the lowest bid, but the appearance of impropriety gave Crawford additional ammunition. Congress began an exhaustive review of the war department, with the "Radicals" taking the lead. Although the investigation found no evidence of malfeasance on Calhoun's part, Republicans were inherently suspicious of standing armies, and even the National Republicans were reluctant to fund a peacetime army on the scale envisioned by Calhoun. Congress ultimately reduced the war department budget by close to 50 percent."

John C. Calhoun and the Military Establishment, 1817-1825,by RW Barsness, The Wisconsin Magazine of History, 1966

Reduction of the Army, December 12th, 1802, p. 80-94
The Works of John C. Calhoun; Vol V; Reports and Public Letters; by John C. Calhoun, reprinted 2008

"The desire of Congress to reduce the army was partly petty politics on the part of Crawford and Clay and their followers, partly traditional anti-militarism, and partly a result of the worsening economic condition of the country produced by the panic of 1819." p. 222
Sword of the border: Major General Jacob Jennings Brown, 1775-1828, by John D. Morris, 2000

When one of the Army's two Major Generals, Jacob Brown,  commanding the Division of the North (Jackson commanded the South),  proposed "...a derangement of the Rifle Regiment by transferring the rank and file to other corps. Riflemen, though deriving in actual service a high degree of importance from the nature of our country, I did not consider a positively essential arm of the peace establishment (my emphasis)...."Fredriksen, pp. 7-71
the Rifles fate was sealed in a regular army that disdained fighting an irregular foe in irregular fashion.
Brown gave as further reasoning, "...because it was not "positively essential and could be easily levied and perfected if war arose." He estimated that disbanding the Rifle Regiment would cut 821 officers and men and save over $135,000.  He also suggested that since the infantry was the most important part of the army, the artillery could be reduced by 1,248 men, to cut expenditures a further 305,000...."Morris,  p.222 (Brown to Calhoun, Oct 6 1820, M221, reel 88, enclosing the cuts Brown suggested. Morris, p.313)
Sword of the border: Major General Jacob Jennings Brown, 1775-1828, by John D. Morris, 2000
Calhoun, Crawford, and the Politics of Retrenchment C. Edward Skeen
The South Carolina Historical Magazine © 1972 South Carolina Historical Society.
Quote of Brown to Calhoun, 6 October, 1820, in "Green Coats and Glory," by John C. Fredriksen, Old Fort Niagara Assoc., Youngstown, NY, 2000, pp. 70-71

A full read is now available (google preview) of the the 6 October 1820 Brown letter , and does, I must confess, echo the unenviable choice Brown was forced to make, albeit a conservative one.
(see extract below)
Papers, Volume 5; Volumes 1820-1821, by John Caldwell Calhoun, 1971

By 1821, Brown was the only Major General left in the service, Jackson having resigned, and was thereby appointed commanding general of the U.S. Army. There would be no reprieve.

Despite having two cousins, one of whom was also a brother-in-law, who were former officers in the Rifle Regiment, Secretary of War Calhoun did not seek to persuade or override General Jacob Brown as he might have. Recall too that he had stated to Brown on 5 Sep., 1819, "The economy and despatch with which the 5th regt. moved over to Prarie du chien meets with my entire approbation. The contrast is great between this movement and that of the rifle regiment in 1816." p. 163
That he felt the Rifle Regiment also had an air of the undisciplined about it was revealed in a letter to no less than the President himself; albeit a little over a month after the official disbandment:
"To James Monroe.
Department of War 18 June 1821
I have received the proceedings of the Court Martial in the case of Col. Chambers, which I herewith enclose. He has been found guilty of the charge preferred against him, and has been sentenced to be suspended for one month, which however, the Court recommends to be remitted. The sentence would seem to be very inadequate to the Offence; and altho' there are mitigating circumstances, I doubt not, the punishment will be thought to be very inadequate by the community. I regret, that so correct an Officer, as Genl Smith was thought to be, should have set the example of such illegal and odious punishment; and that a knowledge of it had not then reached the Government, so that our immediate check might have been put to it. The truth appears to be, that the Officers of the Army, at the end of the War, had a very erroneous mode of thinking, as well on this, as many other points,, which took some years to correct. I believe the establishment is now thoroughly reformed of most of the faults, which grew out of the incidents of the War. I propose however, to order a Summary Statement of all proceedings of Courts Martial and punishments inflicted on the soldiers to be transmitted to the Office of the Adjutant Genl. so that the government may at once check any abuse which may appear. I do not doubt, but that the example of Genl Smith, and the supposed necessity of the case were the real cause of Col Chamber's improper, and illegal conduct......"
Letter from Sec War Calhoun to President Monroe, Correspondence of John C. Calhoun By John Caldwell Calhoun, John Franklin Jameson, "Account of Calhoun's early life, abridged from the manuscript of Col. W. Pinkney Starke" pp. 188-189

So, perhaps a lurking grudge had manifested in him and the decision to let the Rifle Regiment go caused no regrets.  

Effective May 4th, 1821, the Rifle Regiment was disbanded.

The ex-riflemen and officers were largely consolidated into the Sixth Infantry remaining at Fort Atkinson but not all, many were dismissed from the service so that, by 1823,  the 6th Infantry at Fort Atkinson numbered only 371 officers and men present and absent.

Some notable officers (as later events would prove),  James S. McIntosh and Martin Scott,  were transferred to the 5th Infantry, headquartered at Fort Snelling by 1825 (named for Josiah Snelling former Lieutenant Colonel, 4th Rifle Regiment). Bennett Riley remained  in the 6th Infantry.

Disbandment must have come as some kind of incredulous shock and disappointment to the many officers and riflemen who held the regiment close to their hearts. Despite an impressive combat record in the late war, the completion of an epic and arduous expedition, the building of three major posts, enduring untimely deaths to accidents and disease, fatigue, food shortages, severe winter weather and early summer flooding, the Rifle Regiment would cease to be. Bennett Riley's later testimony in 1837, communicated to Congress in 1838,  speaks to this sentiment in his proud and querulous manner.



"Where can you find troops more efficient than Morgan's riflemen of the Revolution or Forsyth's riflemen of the last war with Great Britain? - Lieutenant-Colonel Bennett Riley 
Bennett Riley's Complete Testimony
American State Papers - House of Representatives, 25th Congress, 2nd Session Military Affairs: Volume 7, beginning at the bottom of page 957-958

Defence of the western frontier.--Correspondence with officers of the army relative to the establishment of military posts and ... 956
Riley, Major Bennel, relative to the establishment of military posts and defence of the western frontier.--Letter of ... 957

For more on Bennett Riley,  James McIntosh and Martin Scott see Noted ex-Riflemen in the Mexican War - segue into the CIVIL WAR and US Sharpshooters

see also (if you can find it) "This Excellent & Gallant Rifle Corps; The Model 1803 Harpers Ferry in Service." from Man at Arms, Vol. 3, No.4, July/August 1981. by Dr. Wayne R. Austerman (Historian, U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, Fort Sam Houston, TX.)
This is a rare gem that includes vivid combat and post-war exploits of the Rifles - including the exploits of Bennett Riley. As Austerman comments on the abolishment in 1821 of the Rifle Regiment "It was a curiously illogical decision, for the specially trained and superbly armed riflemen would have been the ideal unit for infantry service on the Indian frontier. Unfortunately Congress preferred the clumsy, but cheaper, line units, and even then eliminated one regiment..." Riley's own testimony supported this line of thinking. In Riley, and his rifle inspired tactics against the Arikaras, Kiowa, and Comanches, Austerman provides a compelling example - elaborated on by Robert Utley and other like-minded historians of the west.

A concise overall history of the Rifle Regiment is available at the:

Re-enactors at Fort Atkinson,  led by "Captain" E.G. Smith,  portray the time period of Fort Atkinson's founding, 1819-1821, as Captain Bennett Riley's Company I, as well as the earlier Captain William Smith's company during the War of 1812. The Friends of Fort Atkinson provide an informative volunteer handbook including detailed historical and interpretative information, including a detailed clothing list for the Rifleman re-enactor.

Another outfit with a web presence is Forsyth's Rifles Inc.  an "umbrella group" for local re-enactors, based in Ogdensburgh, NY, interpreting various periods of America's history. They portray Forsyth's Rifle Regiment (although Benjamin Forsyth never commanded "the" regiment then or later), who saw considerable action in the winter of 1812-13  in and around Ogdensburgh, including a notable raid across the St Lawrence River on Gananoque, Canada and the unsuccessful defense of the area following a British counter-raid.

Associated "riflemen" of today's Gower's Company also keep the flame alive through their historical re-enacting at a wide variety of events, and their highly informative, unmatched, website at 1812 US Riflemen, as well as, their collaboration and discussion via the 1812usriflemen Yahoo Group at

All Rifle Regiment re-enactors are truly dedicated to the legacy of the Rifle Regiments 1808-1821. (see order of battle at

Their motto is:
Riflemen - First In, Last Out - Celeritas et Audeo (Speed and Daring)



Courtesy of the unprecedented information revolution, today's  easily accessible online archive collections (the Library of Congress - American State papers etc) and books (Google,, Gutenberg)  has enabled the US Rifle Regiment and individual riflemen stories to be told to a wider and more enlightened audience -  "Celeritas" indeed!

Some more recent books on the riflemen include:

Major Jonathan Kearsley, 2nd U.S. Artillery and 4th Rifle Regiment, Part I, Chap 3: The Regulars, The War of 1812 in Person: Fifteen Accounts by United States Army Regulars, by John C. Fredriksen, 2010, p. 51-69

A Stranger and a Sojourner: Peter Caulder, Free Black Frontiersman in Antebellum Arkansas by Billy D. Higgins, 2005
"The extraordinary story of a pioneering African-American community leader is now told. After serving in the War of 1812, Peter Caulder, a free African-American settler in the Arkansas territory, has his life turned upside down on the eve of the Civil War."
- a rifleman-pioneer in the Third Rifle Regiment and post-war Rifle Regiment.
- February 5th 1822 Belle Point, William Bradford's rifle company As Edwin Bearss wrote, "...the last company of the proud Rifle Regiment was no more." p. 111
Edwin C. Bearss and A.M. Gibson, Fort Smith: Little Gibraltar on the Arkansas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969) - detailing Seventh Infantry's reassignment.
- Inspection returns, Seventh Infantry, Fort Smith, Arkansas Territory, April 30, 1824, War Department, Western Department Reports received File, RG 94 National Archives

On Earth's Remotest Bounds: Year One: Blood and Water by Kenneth C. Flint, 2004
Captivating historical fiction - "the story of the far-frontier bastion called Fort Atkinson, built on the Council Bluff made famous by the Indian parley held with Lewis and Clark there in 1804. It is a saga of a fledgling, struggling nation with a most tenuous toehold on a massive territory. The fort faces threats from Indians, British, and nature itself. It is a fascinating and brutal time little chronicled, falling between the Revolution and the main westward expansion"

Flint's book artfully interprets the events set for in the actual journal kept for the expedition:

The Missouri expedition, 1818-1820;: The journal of Surgeon John Gale, with related documents (The American exploration and travel series) by John Gale, 1969

Also noteworthy are those informative, analytical excerpts on the U.S. Rifle Regiments found in the series of books and websites, with illustrations, referenced below (descending by year):
Rifleman illustration
The United States Army 1783-1811
By James Kochan, Illustrated by David Rickman
Published by Osprey Publishing, 2001

Riflemen illustration
The United States Army 1812-1815
By James Kochan, Illustrated by David Rickman
Published by Osprey Publishing, 2000

Riflemen illustrations (no link)
Green Coats and Glory: the United States Regiment of Riflemen, 1808-1821
By John C. Fredriksen; illustrated - including 2 by H. Charles McBarron.
Published by Old Fort Niagara Association, 2000

Riflemen illustration
- The United States infantry: an illustrated history, 1775-1918
By Gregory J. W. Urwin, Illustrated by Darby Erd
Published by University of Oklahoma Press, 2000
Rifleman illustration (no link)
The American War 1812–14
Philip Katcher
Illustrator: Bryan Fosten
Published by Osprey Publishing, November 1990

Riflemen illustration
The American Soldier, 1814
by H. Charles McBarron, 1975, US Army Center of Military History
select Artwork-Prints and Poster Sets-The American Soldier-page 1

Riflemen illustration
copy of McBarron's -The American Soldier 1814, 1975
Fort Atkinson, Ne - The First Regiment of United States Riflemen

Riflemen illustration
American Soldier ~ 1814 (2 prints - for sale)

by H. Charles McBarron, Facsimile Signed 1975, Vintage Prints and Collectibles

Rifleman illustration (black & white)
first published in MILITARY UNIFORMS IN AMERICA,VI, No. 4: December 1954  
reproduced in color, with their texts in Years of Growth, 1796-1851 (John R. Elting, ed.; Presidio Press, San Rafael, California, 1977)
The Company of Military Historians

Short narratives with insignia depicted, are found in:

Rifle Units - short narrative in The United States Army 1812-1815
By James Kochan, Illustrated by David Rickman
Published by Osprey Publishing, 2000

Encyclopedia of United States Army insignia and uniforms
By William K. Emerson
Edition: illustrated
Published by University of Oklahoma Press, 1996

*previous full or limited views of google book pages with illustration(s) may have changed

See "riflemen," "Regiment of Riflemen," "Rifles," "Rifle Corps," "Rifle Regiment" entries in:

Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, by David Stephen Heidler, Jeanne T. Heidler Naval Institute Press, 2004
"Gathered together for the first time in one comprehensive volume are more than 500 alphabetically arranged entries from over 70 contributors examining the military, political, and social history of the War of 1812. This volume also contains the text of important documents such as the Embargo Act, the Rambouillet Decree, Macon's Bill No. 2, and President James Madison's War Message of 1812. Readers will also discover a chronology of political, military, and diplomatic maneuvers; a listing of the executive federal government officers during the Madison presidency; and a glossary of military, diplomatic, and nautical terms. Numerous illustrations, cross-references, bibliographies, and an index supplement a volume that is a welcome addition to school and public libraries."

The pictorial field-book of the war of 1812, by Benson John Lossing, 1868;printsec=frontcover
Benson John Lossing (February 12, 1813 – June 3, 1891) was a prolific and popular American  historian, known best for his illustrated books on the American Revolution and American Civil War and features in Harper's Magazine."...we know not where to find so perfect a history, not only of the events, but of the times of which he writes, as is contained in this really magnificent volume. It is not only that he has visited every battle-ground, depicted by sketches taken on the spot the most important localities, added maps and diagrams, without which descriptions of battle are only a confused picture of masses of men moving indiscriminately amidst the smoke and carnage of conflict; made constantly his pencil subservient to his pen, and written the best historical narrative of the stirring events of a war which he rightly designates the "last War for American Independence;" Harper's magazine, Volume 38, 1869

8 "Rifle Regiment" results from The Papers of John Calhoun, Volume 5; Volumes 1820-1821, by John Caldwell Calhoun, 1971

Summary of letter from William Wirt to John Calhoun, Washington, April 19, 1820
"I have examined the documents relative to the points in controversy between the government & Colo[nel] James Johnson, and have, now, the honor of submitting my view of the case....The project was one and entire.  It was to establish a chain of military posts, in the Northwest, through the Indian settlements,from the Lakes to Arkansas. The execution of the whole project was under the direction of one department, the Department of War, and although managed by officers subordinate to ["the head of" interlined] that department, yet every contract, in execution of the plan, was, in substance, a contract with that department. From the division of duties among the officers charged with the details of this department, it resulted that there must be different contracts....three contracts were made [one word canceled] Colo[nel] Johnson...Quarter-Master..Commissary..transportation..
the nature of these engagements will shew that they are so mutually dependent, so inseparably interwoven, as to constitute for every practical purpose, a single engag[e]ment, only, and that, one and indivisible; it was, as already stated, because the parts were, from their nature, practically indivisible that they were placed under the direction of a single contractor; and it must be too clear to require discussion that a failure in any one of the parts would render a compliance with the rest, unavailing to the government.  The attempt, therefore, on the part of Colo[nel] Johnson's advocates to separate these parts, by urging that they are different contracts and that a failure in any one ought not to affect his claims under any other, is considered as totally inconsistent with that spirit of candor & liberality which they have invoked....The great object of the government was to compleat [sic] the military establishments on the Missouri, as high up as the Mandan Villages, in the course of the year 1819: it was necessary, therefore,, that all the arrangements should be adapted to the accomplishment of this object, within that year...all these considerations conspired to indicate the month of ["March" canceled and "April" interlined] 1819, as the time, when it would be necessary ["that" interlined] the expedition should set out.
In execution of this plan a ["Regiment" canceled and "Battalion" interlined] of riflemen was, in the preceding fall, pushed up the Missouri, as high as L'Isle au Vaches, for the purpose of forming an advance guard, carrying with them a sufficient quantity of provisions to last, until the expedition contemplated in the spring, should furnish ["an additional" canceled and "them a fresh" interlined] supply....In this ["enagagement" interlined] it is in proof that he failed, by several months, and [several words canceled] all the effects of this failure deserve to be seriously weighed, in a case, in which, the contractor is claiming a compensation in damages.
It defeated the enterprize in the extent to which it had been projected, and lost to the government the expense of one year's operations. As a minor but yet important consideration, it exposed the Rifle Regiment, in advance, at L'Isle au Vaches, to famine, or drove them to alternative necessity of tresspasing [sic] on the Indian hunting grounds, for the procurement of subsistence, and, thus, putting in jeopardy the peace of the government....Colo[nel] Johnson's failure then to meet his engagements in March remains without excuse....It is essential to the success of his argument that he himself was ready to move, and that he was delayed by the government; it is now, however, made manifest, by a witness of his own selection, that he himself never was ready to move until he did move, and hence his whole argument falls to the ground and with it this most extraordinary complaint. The government had nothing to do with the selection of thee steam-boats or the fabrication of their machinery.  If they were badly built or injudiciously chosen the fault was not theirs..." pp. 48-67

"From Jacob Brown [to John Calhoun] Head Q[uarte]rs, Brownsville, [N.Y.,] 6th October 1820
...It is not without reluctance that I have for a moment taken into consideration the reduction of the military establishment, so little adequate do I consider it to the actual exigencies of the country The protection of our western settlements, & the occupation of posts already established, the maintenance of which is of obvious and generally admitted necessity, with the labors essential to preserve them from dilapidation, afford employment for the full numbers of our military force with its present dimensions; and, in view of our country as a member of the great society of nations, to the general posture of which her own individual policy has an irresistible relation, her peace establishment sinks to a very humble level.  I had hoped that these forcible considerations, combining with the intelligence & wisdom of the National Legislature would have fortified the Army against all diminution of numbers & strength.  I still cherish this hope, a hope, which derives greater force from a contemplation of the existing state of European governments in relation to their subjects.  The pending struggle between free and despotic principles, and the augmenting causes of collision, which are rapidly developed, announce events, perhaps changes, of high interest to every individual of the human family.  In these results, whatever they may be, general societies have more extensive and complicated interests; and it seems no more than a common act of wisdom to be provided against the most unpropitious forms, which they are capable of assuming.  In the circular, recently addressed by the chief of the confederacy of European sovereigns to his foreign ministers, the spirit of hostility to the representative governments, which characterizes it, and the determination, which it evinces to resist the progress of free principles, must penetrate all those, who are the subjects of liberal institutions with deep concern.  In the settlement of a question, wherein the destinies of all Europe are involved, it is, perhaps, difficult to foresee how profoundly its decision may affect our own prosperities.  Should it eventuate in the confirmation of despotic government and in the demolition of those infant structures of freedom, which have begun to rear themselves in the field of European politicks, the political consanguinity of our own government would naturally dispose us to sympathize in their fall.  And it is, perhaps, not altogether a visionary speculation to apprehend in the success of the coalesced sovereigns a further combination for the utter extinction of the flame of liberty throughout the circle of civilized man.
   While such prospects exist, even in the nature of possibilities, it would seem unwise voluntarily to enfeeble our strength; and I cannot but indulge the confidence that the Army will be preserved undiminished.  If, however, its reduction, contrary to my expectations, should be decreed, I would suggest a change in the organization of the Companies of the Corps of Artillery to effect a confirmation to the standard of Infantry Companies, with the reservation of the Quarter Master Sergeant of each Company of Artillery: this non-commissioned officer is properly the assistant of the Conductor of Artillery in preserving the ordnance of the Company, and his services in garrison are also important in the department of police.  The non-commissioned officers and Privates, who should be deranged from the Artillery by this reduction, might be transfer[r]ed to other Corps, in which deficiencies exist, whereby the vacancies might be supplied and the recruiting fund economized.  The reduction of force and expenditure, which would arise from such a changes, is exhibited in the accompanying schedule marked no. 1.  In this change I do not contemplate a reduction of the number of Officers:  I conceive it of the highest importance to retain as many as possible.  Military experience is too laborious & tedious of acquisition to be sacrifised [sic] without urgent necessity, when once attained.  The greater part of the officers of the Army have served in the late war, and have enjoyed the benefit of practical service in the field.  By retaining them with a reduced number of rank and file as a basis for enlargement, the establishment might be extended with great facility and promptitude upon any sudden emergency.  Enfeebled in numbers, it may still hold the principles of efficiency and strength.  To reject them, is to incur, in the event of another war, a repetition of the delays, discomfitures and reverses, which tarnished the introduction of the last.
If further reduction should be determined upon, I would propose a derangement of the Rifle Regiment by transfer[r]ing the rank & file to other Corps.  Such officers of this Regiment as the government should select for retention might be provided for in other Corps by vacancies created by disbandment.  Riflemen, though deriving in actual service a high degree of importance from the nature of the country, I do not consider a ["positively' interlined] essential arm of the peace establishment.  In war they are readily levied, and as readily perfected in their peculiar habits of discipline, which are few & of the simplest form.  Infantry, supported by Artillery in its proper proportion, is destined to be for a long time the great strength of our armies in the field; and , against the opponents it is destined to encounter, it is in vain to look for vigorous and successful operations but with every advantage of discipline and of able able [sic]  direction. In open it can derive little aid from Riflemen, who are rarely valuable but in partizan warfare, and cavalry cannot be employed with advantage in the present state of the country.  The Corps of Artillery is valuable as the primary and almost the only auxillary of Infantry, and as furnishing garrisons for the numerous fortresses upon our extensive borders.  These two arms, with the exception of the Corps of Engineers, have a claim over all others, and in a reduction of the peace establishment, they should be the last to be subjected to change.
The influence of the reduction of the Rifle Regiment upon the numbers & expenditures of the establishment is exhibited in the accompanying schedule, marked 2.
The amount of reduction by the two proposed changes is contained in a consolidated form in schedule no. 3.
If Congress should determine to reduce the establishment to the number expressed in the resolution passed at their last session, I would, after the changes ["above" interlined] projected in the Corps of Artillery and Rifle Regiment, recommend, that it should be effected by a further reduction of the rank & file of each Company of the Army to meet the proposed number....."pp. 377-38?

"From Lt. Col. W[illoughby] Morgan [to John Calhoun] St. Louis, Sept. 8th 1820
In a news paper printed at Lexington in the State of Kentucky much abuse is lavished upon the officers upon the Missouri on account of the severe punishments (the Editor says) they are in the habit of inflicting upon the soldiers under their command.

As I commanded upon the the Missouri for nearly eight months (from November to June last0 I conceive it to be my duty to give you some information on this subject with a view to obviate the erroneous impressions the above mentioned publication is calculated to produce.
There were two Corps under my immediate command-the sixth Regiment of Infantry and Rifle regiment.
In the first mentioned Regiment there is a standing order that no soldier shall be punished otherwise than by sentense [sic] of a Court Martial except in cases of mutinous conduct or insolense [sic] and disrespect toward their officers.  These offenses must meet with prompt punishment; otherwise there can be no discipline[,] no subordination and in fact no efficient military force in the United States.
  In the Rifle Regiment I gave orders and repeated them often that no soldier should be punished in a summary way without the approbation of the commandant of the Corps; and that this mode of punishment must be confined to incorrigible offenders whom it was impossible to manage or controul in any other way.  It was well understood in this Corps that no good soldier could be punished without the intervention of a Court-Martial except for mutinous conduct or insolent and dispespectfull behaviour toward his officers.  These offenses but seldom occur; but when they do occur they must meet with instant and exemplary punishment.
The officers were at the same time told that there must be nothing like cruelty in their punishments.
These were verbal [that is, oral] orders-but they were afterwards published to the Regiment in Regimental Orders.  I believe they are now in force in the Regiment.
Some officers were of the opinion that the law prohibiting corporeal [sic] punishment was repealed, and Courts-Martial have sentenced in pursuance of this opinion; but such sentences were always disapproved and consequently never carried into effect.
From this statement every one must be satisfied that punishments ["on the Missouri" interlined] were confined in as narrow limits as possible consistant [sic] with prese[r]vation of discipline and subordination.
With respect to Cropping that punishment has been inflicted by the sentense of a General Court-martial for desertion.  In two or three instances soldiers have suffered the same punishment without the intervention of a regular Court_martial for the same offense.  I do not give this information that it may be acted upon.  I wish from the heart this matter would sleep.  I shall be the last man to bring it to the public notice.  I mention this circumstance, because from my knowledge of it, I could not say any thing in reply to the abusive piece above alluded to.
I have justified myself.  I wish to injure no one.  I therefore desire that the portion of this letter relative to cropping may be considered as confidential-the other parts may be used as you shall judge proper.
Since General [Henry] Atkinson has been in command of the Department punishment by cropping has ceased.  It is a mode of punishment which cannot be reconciled to the feelings of the nation.
I am at this place upon indulgence.  I have been so long stationed in the wilderness that I find it necessary for the health both of soul and body to mingle a little in society.  I shall be at my post the moment my services are required."
pp. 350-351

"To Brig. General H[enry] Atkinson, St. Louis Department of War, October 10th 1820
You will perceive by the Editorial remarks of the Kentucky Gazette herewith sent, that considerable excitement exists in that section of the Country (upon the charge of punishing by cropping0 against the Army on the Missouri.  In order to arrive at the truth in this case, you will make a thorough examination of it, and report to this Dep[artmen]t all the facts, if any exist, connected with it, that shall come to your knowledge."p. 387

Summary of letter from John Calhoun to Henry Atkinson Dec 12th 1820
Calhoun acknowledges Atkinson's letter of 10/18...and is "so much gratified with the important information it contains & at the success of your measures [to prevent the intrusion by whites upon Indian lands and to prevent the infliction of cruel punishments upon soldiers], that I have directed the principal part of it to be published in the National intelligencer [sic]."  Calhoun expresses pleasure over the completion of barracks at [Council] Bluffs, the opening of a road between Chariton, [Mo. Territory,] and [Council Bluffs], the exploration of the area near St. Marys, the progress made by the troops in planting crops for their food, "and the respect for the U.S. with which the Indian Tribes have been inspired wherever any forces have appeared."  Calhoun is glad that Atkinson has not sanctioned the cropping [of ears] as punishment to soldiers, and he reports that [James Monroe] has ordered a court-martial of Col. [Talbot] Chambers [upon charges that he ordered a soldier's ears to be cropped in 6/1819." pp. 466-467

The Papers of John Calhoun, Volume 5; Volumes 1820-1821, by John Caldwell Calhoun, 1971

"To give such an organization the leading principles in its formation ought to be, that, at the commencement of hostilities, there should be nothing either to new model or create.  The only difference, consequently, between the peace and the war formation of the army ought to be in the increased magnitude of the latter; and the only change in passing from the former to the latter, should consist in giving to it augmentation which will then be necessary...."[Expansible Army concept]
John Calhoun's Reduction of the Army plan, December 12, 1820, ... 188
"The ablest, most ingenious, and, upon the whole, the best defense of a standing army which I have seen in print"  -
Annals of Congress, House of Representatives, 16th Congress, 2nd Session, - Speech of Thomas W Cobb (GA) - Reduction of Expenditures - Army considered starting on page  727-728 


U. S. Army Center of Military History 


Pertinent Chapters
5 The Formative Years, 1783-1812
6 The War of 1812
7 The Thirty Years' Peace

Centuries of Service: The U.S. Army, 1775-2000 by David W. Hogan, Jr.
American Military History, Volume I (2005) : The U.S. Army and the Forging of a Nation, 1775-1917, ed by Richard W. Stewart

American Military History, Volume II (2005): The U.S. Army in a Global Era, 1917-2003, ed. by
Richard W. Stewart

Online Bookshelves - Research Materials



Contention -  The Regiment(s) of Riflemen (1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th), forgotten as they are, justly deserve to be considered part of the evolution of the U.S. Army Ranger concept and, therefore, should be included in the Ranger historical lineage.

Argument 1:  In tactics, organization, and qualifications the Regiment of Riflemen belong to the Ranger story - especially as the ranger story "rightly"* includes Morgan's Riflemen/Rangers and allows for Mosby's Rangers (a partisan-ranger outfit) belonging to an opposing army! - *see below*

Argument 2:  The few military historians who have studied the US Rifle Regiments' actions are in agreement that, in the use of concealment, marksmanship, aimed fire, skirmish, ambush, raid, and spearhead tactics, they pointed the way to the future employment of "modern ranger infantry."

The Rifle Regiment remains officially ignored; its credit for services confused with or obscured by other long-service regiments (the 5th and 6th Infantry, and regiment of Mounted Riflemen), its battle flag and years of hard distinguished service, in war and peace, lost to those future units of a similarly conceived, dervied and evolved tactical purpose - skirmish, sniper, ambush, raid, assault, spearhead, long range penetration, and other now termed direct action missions.  Units today could have recognized, added or re-inforced their esprit de corps - such units as today's 2nd Dragoons, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen (Brave Rifles!),  and the Ranger Regiment of today.  Since much of the "Early Ranger" history narrative is non-lineage derived, unofficial, and surface-based, i.e. non-US Army derived  or celebratory (e.g. Rogers "His Majesty's - King's, Queen's - Rangers, and Mosby's Confederate (Secesh) Partisan Rangers) - making such a  connection is not unprecedented.

Just as today we retroactively recognize or posthumously reward individual medals of valor to those originally denied,  overlooked or slighted, because of past prejudices; select mythological  and anciently derived names (Phantoms, Spartans etc.) to boost esprit in new formations; shouldn't we also do justice to overlooked units? Do justice to the several thousand combined U.S. Riflemen, Voltigeurs and Sharpshooters who, usually by detachments, companies, or battalions,  fought in most of the major campaigns of our early wars? Continental and U.S. Army Riflemen-Sharpshooters were found in the fighting, more often than not up front - from the first American conducted siege in front of Boston in 1775, to the last Union conducted siege outside of Petersburg in 1864;  from the first long march way "up" north to Quebec in 1775-1776, to the long haul "up" the Missouri in 1819-1820; then landing on the beach near Vera Cruz and marching "up" the mountain road to the "Halls of Montezuma" and the seizure of Mexico City in 1847-1848, all the while fighting in numerous "big" and famous battles and hundreds of smaller and more obscure engagements.
(To name but a few more battles and campaigns: Freeman's Farm and Bemis Heights at Saratoga-Tippecanoe-Ogdensburgh -the raid and capture of York and assault on Fort George-Niagara and Fort Erie Campaigns-Sandy Creek-Conjocta Creek-Plattsburgh-Contreras- Churubusco-the Assault and capture of Chapultepec- the second siege at Yorktown-the Seven Days battles-South Mountain-Antietam Campaign-Fredericksburg-The Mud March-Chancellorsville Campaign- the 3 days at Gettysburg-the battles of and in the Wilderness-battles around and at Spotsylvania - the Assault on the Bloody Angle-North Anna River-Cold Harbor).

Related Official documents, Laws:

 - American State Papers: Indian Affairs Volume Four Part One, p. 199

Extracts from Military Laws  - citations for "riflemen,  "regiment of riflemen," or "mounted" beginning with contents page.


SECOND CONGRESS First Session 24 Oct, 1791 - 8 May, 1792
"1792 May 8 Chap 33
- An act more effectually to provide for the national defence by establishing an uniform militia throughout the United States...p. 95...Sec 4 That out of the militia enrolled as is herein directed there shall be formed for each battalion at least one company of grenadiers light infantry or riflemen and that to each division there shall be at least one company of artillery and one troop of horse there shall be to each company of artillery one captain...
" p. 98

FIFTH CONGRESS Third Session 3 Dec, 1798 - 3 March, 1799
"1799 March 2 Chap 31
- An Act giving eventual authority to the President of the United States to augment the army.1
That it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, in case war shall break out between the United States and a foreign European power, or in case imminent danger of invasion of their territory by any such to be raised in addition to the other military force of the United States, twenty four regiments of infantry, a regiment and a battalion of riflemen, a battalion of artillerists and engineers and three regiments of cavalry, or such part thereof as he shall judge necessary; the non commissioned officers and privates of which to be enlisted for a term not exceeding three years, and to be entitled each to a bounty of $10 one half to be paid at the time of enlistment and the remainder at the time of joining the regiment to which they may belong....
1.-The 1st and 2d sections of this net expired by the operation of the 11th section the powers thereby conferred not having been continued for a longer time .." p. 131

TENTH CONGRESS, First Session 26 Oct, 1807 - 26 April, 1808
"1808 April 12 1808 -
Chapter 43
- An Act to raise for a limited time an additional Military Force
That in addition to the present military establishment of the United States there be raised five regiments of infantry, one regiment of riflemen, one regiment of light artillery, and one regiment of light dragoons, to be enlisted for the term of five years unless sooner discharged..." p. 201

THIRTEENTH CONGRESS Second Session 6 Dec, 1813 - 18 April, 1814
"1814 Feb 10 Chap 11
- An act to raise three regiments of riflemen..."That there be immediately raised such number of regiments of riflemen not exceeding three as in the opinion of the President will best promote the military service to serve for five years or during the war unless sooner discharged...

 p. 251

THIRTEENTH CONGRESS Third Session 19 Sept, 1814 - 3 March, 1815
"March 3 Chap 79
- An act fixing the military peace establishment of the United States..."shall consist of such proportions of artillery infantry and riflemen not exceeding in the whole ten thousand men as the President of the United States shall judge proper"....
" p.266  
- one regiment of riflemen retained

SIXTEENTH CONGRESS Second Session 13 Nov, 1820 - 3 March, 1821
"1821 March 2. Chap 13.
- An act to reduce and fix the military peace establishment of the United States....
" p. 306. 
- by effect eliminated the regiment of riflemen..

John Calhoun's Reduction of the Army plan, December 12, 1820, ... 188
Annals of Congress, House of Representatives, 16th Congress, 2nd Session, - Speech of Thoma W Cobb (GA) Reduction of Expenditures - Army considered on page  727 

TWENTIETH CONGRESS Second Session 1 Dec, 1828 - 3 March, 1829
"1829 March 2 Chap 38
- An act providing for the printing and binding sixty thousand copies of the abstract of infantry tactics including manoeuvres of light infantry and riflemen and for other purposes...
" p. 320

TWENTY SECOND CONGRESS First Session 5 Dec, 1831 - 16 July, 1832
"1832 June 15 Chap 131
- An act to authorize the President to raise mounted riflemen for the defence of the frontier..."That the President of the United States be and he is hereby authorized to raise either by the acceptance of volunteers or enlistment for one year unless sooner discharged six hundred mounted rangers to be armed equipped mounted and organized in such manner and to be under such regulations and restrictions as the nature of the service may in his opinion make necessary...
" p.325  *

(RG - note the interchangeable use of the term - riflemen and ranger -  To extend the point, one interesting figure - Captain Jesse Bean - may be said to "connect" the old Rifle Regiment to the US Mounted Rangers:
"(Bean) was born about 1784 in Tennessee, and died before 31 January 1844 in Independence County, Arkansas...served during the war of 1812 in between 28 July 1812 and 28 July 1817 in Captain Joseph Kean's Company of the US Rifle Regiment as a gunsmith. In 1832 Lewis Cass, Secretary of War, commissioned Jesse to raise a company for the military force at Fort Gibson on the Arkansas River above Fort Smith. This was Captain Jesse Bean's Arkansas Mounted Rangers of the Army of the United States, the first military company raised in the area specifically to serve outside the territory. The company was in service for about a year. In 1832 the Indian Commissioner, Henry Leavitt Ellsworth was instructed "to visit and examine the country set apart for the emigrating Indians, west of the Mississippi", land in what is now Oklahoma. He was accompanied by the famous author Washington Irving whose book "A Tour of the Prairies," published in 1835 and based on Irving's journal during this trip. Washington Irving's "tour" included a circuit from Ft. Gibson through the back country and back to Ft. Gibson between 10 October 1832 and 9 November 1832. During this portion of the tour Ellsworth and Irving were escorted by Jesse's company...." - Kraus-Everette Genealogy)

TWENTY FOURTH CONGRESS First Session 7 Dec, 1835 - 4 July, 1836
"1836 May 23 Chap 80
- An Act authorizing the President of the United States to accept the service of volunteers and to raise an additional regiment of dragoons or mounted riflemen..."That the President of the United States be and he hereby is authorized to accept volunteers who may offer their services either as infantry or cavalry not exceeding ten thousand men to serve six or twelve months after they shall have arrived at the place of rendezvous unless sooner discharged and the said volunteers shall furnish their own clothes and if cavalry their own horses and when mustered into service shall be armed and equipped at the expense of the United States ...Sec 3 That the said volunteers so offering their services shall be accepted by the President in companies battalions squadrons, regiments, brigades, or divisions whose officers shall be appointed in the manner prescribed ...
" p. 336

  TWENTY FIFTH CONGRESS Second Session 4 Dec, 1837 - 9 July, 1838
"1838 July 5 Chap 162
- An act to increase the present military establishment of the United States and for other purposes... ..."Sec 22 Sec 22 Regiments of riflemen and light infantry p.341 - "
- That the President shall be and he is hereby authorized whenever he may deem the same expedient to cause not exceeding two of the regiments of infantry to be armed and equipped and to serve as regiments of riflemen and one other of the regiments of infantry to be armed and equipped and to serve as a regiment of light infantry...
" p. 347

TWENTY FIFTH CONGRESS Third Session 3 Dec, 1838 - 3 March, 1839
"March 3 Chap 89
- An act giving to the President of the United States additional powers for the defence of the United States in certain oases against invasion and for other purposes.."upon hereby the same expedient to accept the services of any number of volunteers not exceeding fifty thousand in the manner provided for by an act entitled An net authorizing the President of the United States to accept the service of volunteers and to raise an additional regiment of dragoons or mounted riflemen approved May 23d 1836...
" p. 353 

TWENTY SEVENTH CONGRESS Second Session 6 Dec, 1841 - 31 Aug, 1842
"1842 August 23 Chap 186 

- An Act respecting the organization of the army and for other purposes
1 Dragoons reduced - 2d regiment dragoons into riflemen...
 "...the second regiment of dragoons now in service shall be converted after the fourth day of March next into a regiment of riflemen;...
" p.358

TWENTY EIGHTH CONGRESS First Session 4 Dec, 1843 - 17 June, 1844
"1844 April 4 Chap 11 -
An act to repeal so much of the act approved twenty third of August one thousand eight hundred and forty two as requires the second regiment of dragoons to be converted into a regiment of riflemen after the fourth day of March one thousand eight hundred and forty three...
" p. 364

TWENTY NINTH CONGRESS First Session 1 Dec, 1845 - 10 Aug, 1846
"1846 May 19 Chap 22
An act to provide for raising a regiment of mounted riflemen and for establishing military stations on the route to Oregon..
." p. 371

TWENTY NINTH CONGRESS Second Session 7 Dec, 1846 - 3 March, 1847
"1847 February 11 Chap 8
An act to raise for a limited timo an additional military force and for other purposes..."Sec 1...Provided, That one or more of the regiments of infantry authorized to be raised by this section, may, at the discretion of the President be organized and equipped as voltigeurs and as foot riflemen and be provided with a rocket and mountain howitzer battery
Sec 2 That during the continuance of the war with Mexico the term of enlistment of the men to be recruited for the regiments authorized by this act shall be during the war unless sooner discharged..." p. 379

THIRTIETH CONGRESS First Session - 6 Dec, 1847 - 14 Aug, 1848
"1848 - June 16 Res 9
- Joint resolution providing for the payment of the regiment of Texas mounted troops called into the service of the United States under the requisition of Colonel Curtis in the year eighteen hundred and forty seven and for other purposes...
" p. 399

THIRTY FIFTH CONGRESS Fint Session - 7 Dec, 1857 - 12 June, 1858
"1858 April 7 Chap 13
- An act to provide for the organization of a regiment of mounted volunteers for the defence of the frontier of Texas and to authorize the President to call into the service of tho United States two additional regiments of volunteers..."p. 451

THIRTY SEVENTH CONGRESS First Session - 4 July - 6 August, 1861
"1861 August 3 Chap 42
- An act providing for the better organization of the military establishment...Dragoons mounted rifles and cavalry to be denominated cavalry Brevet officers to retain...p 480...Sec 12 That the two regiments of dragoons the regiment of mounted riflemen and the two regiments of cavalry shall hereafter be known and recognized as the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth regiments of cavalry, respectively, the officers thereof to retain their present relative rank and to be promoted as of one arm of service according to existing law and established usage and regulations..."p. 484 

for a good compilation and chronology of major laws etc. see 
MILITARY ESTABLISHMENT OR REGULAR SERVICE SINCE THE REVOLUTION, A Manual of Pensions, Bounty, and Pay: Laws, Forms and Regulations..., 1862, pp. 18-45




Some "riflemen" snippets over the years (descending order):

"In 1819, the men of the Rifle Regiment spent more than two weeks at a rifle range. Their target was a three-inch circle, placed at a distance of fity yards..Each man fired six times, and any of them who hit the target at least three times was ...Those who hit this more distant mark at least three out of six shots were considered to be first class riflemen....A contemporary observer remarked:
"There....fifty of them fell within about a foot of the center! Even at 500 yards - a distance well beyond what any musket shooter would have attempted-"p.31

"His shoes were black, coming up above the ankle, and he covered the tops of them with short, half gaiters.  A black round hat [resembling a modern top hat] continued to serve as his....members of the Rifle regiment wore green uniforms with black collars, cuffs, and lapels trimmed in yellow..."p. 94
"the men of the Rifle Regiment were soon clad in gray uniforms, a color usually associated with poorly trained and poorly led militia troops" p. 95
"the members of the Rifle Regiment wore green coats that, with a few exceptions, were cut similarly to those of blue...The riflemen wore green pantaloons, the same color as their coats. Grey woolen jackets were specified for all men for fatigue duty...The riflemen, as might be expected by now, wore green pompoms..All enlisted men wore tall lace-up boots that extended four inches above their ankles."p. 96
The Army in transformation, 1790-1860, by James M. McCaffrey, 2006 ($65)
Rifle regiment pp. 94-5, 96

"The US Army, while often myopic, could occasionally see the future clearly. One instance of this was the periodic use of rifle units." 

- Marksmanship in the U.S. Army: by William K. Emerson,  2004

"In 1808, on threat of war, the army created its first regular army rifle regiment.. The regiment did well during the War of 1812,...In 1821, a government more concerned with saving money than with military preparedness folded the 1st US Rifle regiment."
- Sharpshooters of the American Civil War 1861-65, by Philip Katcher, Stephen Walsh, 2002

"fn - The rifle regiments (four by 1814) had the excellent Model 1803 rifle, a short-barreled .54-caliber weapon."
- Amateurs, to arms!: a military history of the War of 1812, by John R. Elting, 1995, p. 9

"Although in the very founding of the United States regiments of volunteer civilian infantry armed with their own Kentucky rifles proved again and again infinitely superior in battle to regiments of veteran soldiers armed with smooth bores, nevertheless, the new United States let nearly twenty five years go by before attempting to make military rifles. But the prospect of war with France at the close of the 18th century awoke the martial spirit of the new little nation and revived old romantic tales of the days of 1775 to 1783. Memories awoke to the feats of skill of the "Mid-Colonials," feats which had seemed so remarkable not only to the trained British soldiery, who were their opponents and victims but also to that other part of the American Army which had been armed with just muskets. Whereupon Congress in 1799 passed an act authorizing the addition to the regular army of "A Rifle Regiment"....the expected war with France failed to materialize....The scarcity of Model 1800 rifles at present in collections, dated earlier than 1812 War time, probably indicates that a few per year were sufficient to equip the slowly forming rifle regiment. The earliest of these arms which is widely known is in the Pugsley Collection and is dated 1803."
- Firearms in American History: Our rifles, by Charles Winthrop Sawyer, 1920. pp. 127-129

"....the rifle, which first began to supersede the old smooth bore musket in 1804, during which year seven hundred and seventy two rifles were manufactured at the United States Armory at Harper's Ferry, and in 1805 and 1806 three thousand and ninety seven rifles were produced. There is no doubt but that these rifles were used in the war of 1812,...This and other information convinces me that full credit cannot be given to the statement frequently advanced that the first battle after the introduction of rifles was the Alma (1854)."

"In 1821, the relations of the States with the Indians, as well as with European nations, having become settled, and confirmed by a peace of some duration, the same authority resolved that 6,000 men were an establishment adequate to answer all the demands of the public service, simplifying the organization by suppressing the light artillery and riflemen, corps which bad served rather to diversify than to improve the means of defence."
Notes on the Military Establishment of the United States , Army and Navy chronicle, Volumes 8-9, 1839, pp. 369-373 


** A review of five available Ranger histories on the web; official and unofficial, treat the foregoing Morgan's Riflemen-Rangers connection either in a cursory fashion or,  in one case, not at all.
The "75th Rangers" official history ; "The Continental Congress formed eight companies of expert riflemen in 1775 to fight in the Revolutionary War. In 1777, this force of hardy frontiersmen commanded by Dan Morgan was known as The Corps of Rangers." Then adds "Francis Marion, “The Swamp Fox”, organized another famous Revolutionary War Ranger element known as Marion’s Partisans." -
There is no mention of Morgan's rangers/rifles or even  the "Swamp Fox" at the
US Army Ranger Association (USARA) Ranger History site.  Under the American Revolution are short discourses on, King's Rangers, Armand's Legion, and Whitcomb's Rangers.
The King's of course being a British unit!? and deserving mention because....
At the Sua - "Of Their Own Accord" - site  under EARLY RANGERS: THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR THROUGH THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, we find two short paragraphs devoted to the independent ranger Companies and Morgan vice six short paragraphs to "Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, and his Partisans." Two sentences on Thomas Knowlton's Connecticut Rangers and one mentioning loyalist Ranger units, citing John Butlers Corps of Rangers (what happened to the King's Rangers?).  Again the treatment is surface but a tad more accurate and than the 75th Ranger's online version and overall more pertinent than the USARA treatment.
The best and most definite connection is made here between Rifles and Rangers: 
"During the American Revolution (1775-1784), the individual states and the continental government made widespread use of Rangers. On June 14, 1775, with war on the horizon, the Continental Congress resolved that six companies of expert riflemen be immediately raised in Pennsylvania, two in Maryland, and two in Virginia. In 1777, this force of hardy frontiersmen provided the leadership and experience necessary to form the organization George Washington called the Corps of Rangers. Dan Morgan commanded the Corps of Rangers.

The type of fighting used by the first Rangers was further developed during the Revolutionary War by Colonel Daniel Morgan, who organized the unit known as Morgan's Riflemen. These men, clad in frontiersman buckskin garb, schooled in the Indians' methods of forest fighting, and armed with the deadly, accurate frontiersmen's rifles were without equal. Their service ran from 1775 to 1781, and some of their most famous battles were fought at Freeman's Farm during September 1777 and at the Battle of Cow Pen during January 1781, against General Cornwallis' crack British troops. According to remarks by General Burgoyne, a famous British general, Morgan's men were the most famous corps of the Continental Army. All of them crack shots."
Courtesy of "historian" JD Lock, the available Ranger History at (
- For Rangers By Rangers) is taken from his book. Under THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, one finds an opening paragrph citing the "The Corps of Rangers" as refrred to by George Washington and a link to expanded discussion including mention of the Queen's & King's Rangers (Robert Rogers) (2 paragraphs), Morgan's 'Rangers'(3 paragraphs) and  Francis Marion "Swamp Fox'(a whopping 20 paragraphs by comparison for a Partisan i.e. non Continental unit!).
By far the most "rewarding" site, as promised by its webmaster, at least in terms visually, is the extensive collage of colorful graphics with narrative, all set to music, found at the Ranger Ring website - at which I helicoptered in and rappelled down unto the Ranger Base Camp! Here, a worthy tribute to various selected Patriots, including Ethan Allen, Nathan Hale, leads to a three paragraph paen to Daniel Morgan. The narrative uses the title "Morgan's Rifles," cites their weapon's prowess as Morgan's Sharpshooters - but alas includes no mention of Washington's
bestowed title - the "Corps of Rangers."  John Stark, the former French and Indian war ranger, is mentioned for his role at Bennington, followed by the old Fox Marion, and even a discourse on his nemesis "The Bastard Tarleton."
Most interesting, to me, was discovering what was treated and NOT treated on the following pages covering the period 1786-1847. A full treatment, with beautiful music, proceeds with the Lewis and Clark (1803-1806) epic; and then a moving tribute to the "Ranging Abilities of Frontier Explorers and The American Mountain men," and the bestowing of the "Honorary Ranger" title - "They were all ranger Qualified" for a Who's Who List of legends.  Page 4 followed with no mention having been made of the Rangers of the War of 1812, 1832-33 Mounted Ranger Battalion, or even the renowned  Texas Rangers - as US Army absorbed units during the Mexican war or Indian Fighters.  Nope, by scratch, its on to - you guessed it - Mosby and his Confederates comrades (
formally the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry, Partisan Rangers); opening to the melody of Dixie no less - nary a mention of an US Army - read Union or Federal rangers - and on through to the Korean war.

The other three sites do not shine either when it comes to the Rangers between the Revolution and the Civil War either..all three mention that "companies of United States Rangers were raised from among the frontier settlers as part of the regular army." Sua Sponte tells us they were independent companies, JD Lock informs there were 6 of them (there were more) - the 75th site reveals that Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln were Rangers and another, that Andrew Jackson formed a ranger Company in 1818."  No Ranger-Rifleman connection is made as with the revolutionary era; such a connection is at least as mentionable as the inclusive efforts highlighted above concerning British units and "bloody" heroes, Confederate Units and resigned US Army officers in rebellion, and American Mountain Men who deserve the tab!

Rangers in the War of 1812

The American environment and ranger-riflemen indeed inspired their former foes to develop their own rifle units - of which their history has been kept alive from one reform and transformation to the next and made famous, in this country by a popular PBS series- Sharpe's Rifles - in ironic contrast to our own:

British Rifleman 1797-1815 by Philip J. Haythornthwaite,
Illustrated by Christa Hook; Edition: 3,
Published by Osprey Publishing, 2002
(note the number of editions - not one yet on the US Rifleman!)
 "There are probably very few people nowadays who have not tolerably clear ideas of the power and deadly precision of modern rifles, for the war in South Africa has brought it home to the least military of our population how rifle-bullets can, and unfortunately frequently do, inflict death or terrible injuries on our soldiers at all ranges up to two miles. It is, therefore, all the more curious to reflect that just one hundred years ago rifles were so little in favour that only one regiment, known as the Rifle Corps, was armed entirely with them, the British soldier in general having for his weapon the famous old musket known as Brown Bess. This Rifle Corps, the lineal ancestor of the present Rifle Brigade, celebrated its centenary on August 25th of this present year.....Like very many other useful and indispensable inventions, the principle of rifling arms had been known for many years, and rifles had been freely used in other countries, before our military authorities would sanction their introduction into our army. During the American War of Independence the Yankees, as they have so often done since, led the way in the adoption of this new invention, and their riflemen did us no inconsiderable damage on many occasions, not only by reason of the accuracy of their fire but also on account of the intelligent adaptation of their movements in extended order to the nature of the ground in which they were fighting,—in other words, by good skirmishing. About the same period sundry Jager battalions were formed on the Continent armed with rifles and equipped as riflemen. Our authorities, however, still persisted in ignoring this, the latest whim as it was apparently considered, and our armies knew it not.
A Militia regiment, the North York, was one of the first to partially adopt rifles, one company being thus armed in 1795, the remainder carrying the smooth-bore musket. There is a rumour to the effect that Colonel Coote Manningham, the founder of the Rifle Corps, saw this company and that he was so favourably impressed with it that he never ceased urging on our authorities to form a regiment of riflemen in the regular army. Three years later, in 1798, a battalion of German riflemen was added to the 60th Royal American Regiment. It may be mentioned here that the latter corps consisted at this time of four battalions; it had been specially raised in 1756 for the defence of our Colonies in America, where it served with great distinction for over sixty years, being only brought to England between 1825 and 1830, when its title was changed from 60th Royal American to the now famous one of 60th King's Royal Rifle Corps.
The new battalion, the 5th, was formed from two corps of German Jagers, at the time in British pay, and despatched to America. Our authorities however still remained obdurate as regards the formation of a regiment of British riflemen. Finally in 1799, owing to the strong representations of Colonel Coote Manningham and Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. William Stewart, they at last consented to form an Experimental Corps of the commencement of 1803, the Rifle Corps was incorporated amongst the numbered Regiments of the Line and the numeral 95 bestowed on it; and it was under the official title of the 95th Foot and the colloquial one of The Rifles that the young regiment fought its way to fame in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo. At the famous Camp of Instruction formed at Shorncliffe under Sir John Moore in 1803, the Rifles, in company with their subsequent inseparable companions in arms, the 43rd and 52nd Light Infantry, received that admirable training, based on the Company System, the fruits of which were to be manifested to all the world a few years later in the gallant deeds of the Light Division....[1815]...fought at Waterloo...five companies were ordered to embark on secret service, which proved to be none other than the New Orleans expedition. The fighting which marked the advance of the British forces after their disembarkation at Fine Island in many ways bears a marked similarity to some of our recent experiences in South Africa, and shows the exceptional difficulties under which troops labour when opposed to an enemy speaking the same language. Thus in a very sharp attack on our outposts on the banks of the Mississippi, on the night of December 22nd, 1813, the Yankees constantly called out, "Come on, my brave 95th," and similar encouraging words, and upon the men rallying to the cry and advancing, shot them down at close quarters....In the disastrous assault on the lines of New Orleans in January, 1815, the riflemen covered the front, and upon the failure of the main attack, were left for hours unsupported close up to the edge of the ditch. Eventually they withdrew with a loss of seven officers and more than a hundred men...In February, 1816, the regiment was removed from among the regiments of the Line and ordered to be styled the Rifle Brigade....[1818]During the eighteen years that had elapsed since its first formation it had been almost constantly employed in war. In Europe the green jackets of the riflemen had been seen in France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, while in the New World they had fought both in North and South America."p.468-480

A Century of Fighting, MacMillan's Magazine, Volume 82, by David Masson, 1900


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