|Cluggage's Ranging Company
|Cluggage’s Ranging Company And The Defense Of Fort Roberdeau|
|During the American Revolution, the Pennsylvania frontier was subjected to widespread hard-hitting Indian raids inspired by the British at Fort Niagara and Detroit. Regular troops, enlisted in the Continental Army, could not often be spared for frontier defense, particularly in remote mountain regions like Bedford County, which at the time embraced much of the Southern Alleghenies region of Pennsylvania.
Like most frontier communities, Bedford County relied on its militia for defense. According to the Pennsylvania Militia Law of 1777, all able bodied males aged 18 to 53 were enrolled in their country’s militia. When danger threatened, companies of men, drawn from the militia, took to the field to provide local defense.
By late 1777 it was clear that Bedford’s militia was unable to deal with the Indian raids. Many men eligible for militia duty fled the area when the raids began, others were off serving with the Army or had surrendered their weapons to arm regular soldiers in the East. The militia had little experience, few supplies and lacked leadership and organization.
Bedford officials called for the raising of companies of rangers, skilled woodsmen proficient in woods warfare. Men who knew the forests and how to survive in them, fighting the Indians on their own terms.
During the winter of 1778-79, Bedford County raised several companies of these woodsmen, who were to patrol or “range” the vast forests between Bedford and Bald Eagle (Milesburg, PA). By the spring of 1778, Congress had authorized the raising of three companies of rangers under the command of Major Robert Cluggage, a veteran of the siege of Boston. Cluggage’s brother Thomas, would command one of the three companies.
In the spring of 1778, General Daniel Roberdeau set out from Carlisle to mine lead ore in Sinking Valley, located in the northern corner of Bedford County. He brought with him elements of the Cumberland County Militia. On his journey to Sinking Valley, Roberdeau rendezvoused with Cluggage, who had partially recruited his company. Cluggage and his men joined Roberdeau on his mission to open lead mines and built Fort Roberdeau for their protection.
Unlike militia who served for only 60 days, Cluggage’s Rangers were recruited of r 9 months and thus became the backbone of defense for Fort Roberdeau and the surrounding area.
Cluggage’s Ranging Company was stationed at Fort Standing Stone (Huntingdon, PA) and at Fort Roberdeau. The men spent much of their time patrolling the woods on the lookout for Indian war parties. There service was harsh and demanding requiring that the men march long distances through dangerous forests and mountains, making do with little food and suffering constant exposure to the elements.
By November 1778, the Rangers were re-enlisted for another year’s service, but because Congress could not afford to maintain them, the company disbanded in early 1779. A second company under Thomas Cluggage was raised by the state of Pennsylvania in the spring of 1779.
The Rangers were armed with the deadly Pennsylvania Long Rifle and were clothed in hunting shirts and Indian leggings. The company saw service from 1779-1780 when a small detachment garrisoned Fort Roberdeau through the winter to guard military stores located there.
In 1978, on the 200th Anniversary of the founding of the original Cluggage’s Rangers, a historical re-enactment group was formed to authentically portray the rangers of 1778-1780. Painstaking research went into documenting and recruiting the Rangers. Today, the re-created company helps to bring history to many historical sites in several states.