When General Braddock’s army was routed in July of 1755, the frontier of Virginia was left utterly defenseless. Governor Dinwiddie responded to this threat by forming several “ranging companies” that would “range” between forts and backcountry settlements, protecting them from hostile natives allied with the French. These companies built, strengthened and manned fortifications, spread alarm during times of Indian unrest, and reinforced areas that anticipated attack. This was largely a defensive war, with comparatively little action between long periods of mundane, hard physical labor.
The only offensive move the Rangers participated in (in fact, Virginia’s only offensive of the war) was the Sandy Creek Expedition of February/March 1756. The expedition was mounted to destroy the towns of hostile Shawnee along the Ohio River. 220 rangers and volunteers, along with 130 Cherokee warriors started the long wilderness march to the Ohio villages. Troubles appeared from the start; cutting a path through the wilderness and trekking through the narrow mountain passages, with repeated river and creek crossings was painstakingly slow. After several weeks, supplies ran short and disagreements with their Cherokee allies led to the warriors withdrawing from the campaign. As hunger set in, the men refused to go further. On March 13th, they turned back for their homes.
Though the Sandy Creek Expedition wasn’t exactly a successful campaign, it may have provided valuable experience to many of the men involved. William Preston, Andrew Lewis, and others, would become central figures in the militia, defending Virginia throughout the French & Indian War, later native uprisings, and on into the Revolution. The rangers would continue to serve through the end of the decade, guarding the backdoor to Virginia.
-------------------------------------Virginia's Colonial soldiers
By Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck
Major Andrew Lewis who commanded the late expedition against the Shawnees discharged his duty with integrity. The ill success thereof due entirely to mutinous and refractory behavior of Captain Obediah Woodson, John Smith and John Montgomery who commanded the volunteers. The House recommended to the Governor to stop the pay of Woodson, Smith and Montgomery and that they never be employed in His Majesty's service. 15 May 1756