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Robert Rogers and his Rangers - various articles

from Discussion Boards for APUS student research - copyrighted material will be removed upon request:

Background by RG:
Rangers existed in English colonial America well before the United States of America came into being.
The first American "Ranger" of note, is considered to be Benjamin Church, who operated in the mid 1670's, but he was by no means the first or most famous. In actuality, the "ranger concept" in America dates back to colonial Virginia, which was established in 1607 with one small fort on the James River - Jamestowne. A short look at Virginia, the first permanent colony, and intended initially as a forward base of colonization with "settlers" serving 7 year periods, reveals how the "borderer" ranger concept inherited from Britain came into being.

As Edwin Mellen summarizes, "The Virginia militia was of greatest significance in the seventeenth century, during which time the development passed through several stages. The first quarter of the seventeenth century was marked by improvisation and experimentation as the colonists attempted to develop a formula which would work in the colony's particular circumstances. In the second quarter of the century "this system was reorganized, refined, and repeatedly tested in combat." In the third quarter the colonial leaders excluded slaves and indentured servants, but dwelled on intensive training of specialized units, such as the frontier rangers." - The American Colonial Militia, 1606-1785, Vol 5. The Colonial Militia of the Southern States. Edwin Mellen,1997.
Following the 1622 Powhatan Confederacy surprise attack which killed 347 colonists, Captain John Smith, back in England, offered the following: "IF you please I may be transported with a hundred Captaine Souldiers and thirty Sailers...These I would imploy onely in ranging the Countries, and tormenting the Salvages, and that they should be as a running Army till this were effected, and then settle themselves in some such convenient place, that should ever remaine a garison of that strength, ready upon any occasion against the Salvages, or any other for the defence of the Countrey, and to see all the English well armed, and instruct them their use. But I would have a Barke of one hundred tunnes, and meanes to build sixe or seven Shalops, to transport them where there should bee occasion." - The project and offer of Captaine John Smith, to [IV. 152.] the Right Honourable, and Right Worshipfull Company of Virginia. A.D. 1622. The generall historie of Virginia, New England & the Summer isles By John Smith

Indeed, the colony changed from an "all-inclusive" para-military force (between 1610 and 1612, 650 English veterans of the Protestant war in the Netherlands were sent with arms and armor) to a selective body of militia based around "eight defensible communities" from which they also launched offensives from each of these locales. In 1632, they erected a great wall across the peninsula from the James River to the York (akin to the Hadrians wall that was designed to hold back the Pictish tribes - ancient inhabitants of Scotland - to the north). In 1644, following another massacre, it organized militia into two military associations along county lines and mandated 4 drills a year. Then, in 1652, the counties were to form regiments instead of companies. By 1666 they had 5 military associations organized around counties and each county had a regiment of militia infantry, "trained bands" and a troop of dragoons. Thus, after after two protracted wars by 1650, the native threat had largely disappeared in tidewater Virginia and, as settlers, approached the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain range, the tribes again menaced colonial homesteads. In response were formed garrison forts on the frontier and manned with one year "draftees." They then formed and hired mounted ranger units to patrol between these forts. To give warning of hostile movements toward settlements, the colonists established teams of experienced backwoodsman to patrol, or "range," between outposts looking for signs of danger - thus the familiar term likly borrowed from Scotland - "rangers" - is fitting indeed. After a year or so, these rangers were disbanded and replaced with other forces...dragoons etc. However, in 1683, they went back to "trained bands of rangers, but who now lived at home at their own expense" only to replace them again in 1684 with a standing force of 120 troopers divided into 4 companies. All men had to provide for themselves. Throughout the period, 1607-1699, and unlike the trend in Europe, the colonists always provided their forces with various types of armor - believing it an "absolute necessity" to prevent great loss of life with the Indians - who were awed by the sight and whose weapons would generally be blunted or deflected. - Soldiers of the Virginia Colony 1607-1699: A Study of Virginia's Military, Its Origins, Tactics, Equipment and Development, Donald A. Tisdale, Dietz Books, 2000.
Rangers came back again, as related by Mellen, when "In 1710 the Assembly authorized the lieutenant-governor, as military commander of the colony, to form several bands of rangers. Each county lieutenant "shall choose out and list eleven able-bodied men, with horses and accouterments, arms and ammunition, resideing as near as conveniently may be to that frontier station." The lieutenant served simultaneously as county militia commander and commandant of the rangers. - Virginia State Papers, 1: 152."
Obviously, other English colonies followed, and with them the adaptation to their particular environment and conditions. Many also eventually employed "rangers" to patrol their frontiers. This was especially true in the southern colonies - often overlooked in the public telling of the Ranger story. For example, Georgia organized the "Troop of Highland Rangers" In 1739, to deter the attack by native tribes but also against a more feared threat of a Spanish incursions from Florida. During King George's War in 1746, changing alliances among Native American tribes led to the raising of forts that special ranging units would patrol between. By the outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1755, most colonies had small groups of rangers patrolling their western borders. For instance, the "rangers" scouting for the Augusta County Regiment in the Shenandoah Valley forwarded their reports to young Lieutenant Colonel George Washington, commanding the Virginia regiment protecting the colony. Based upon their information, Washington shifted troops to strengthen the several forts likely threatened by raids.
Amidst the French and Indian war, the Cherokee War, in the south, "was the greatest challenge mounted on South Carolina's soil since the Yamassee War of 1716-17....militia initially deployed suffered several defeats, primarily from well executed ambuscades. William Bull II assumed the high executive post and immediately took certain bold steps. He asked for and received legislative support to increase the number, training and supplying of additional ranging companies. He recruited his rangers heavily along the frontier, offering various bonuses, an opportunity for revenge and appeals to patriotism. The men he chose, after proper training and outfitting, proved to be the correct force for the job. As all colonial politicians discovered, urban militia were essentially useless in the deep forests and were not even especially suited for garrison duty in isolated areas. Some British regulars assumed responsibility for garrison duty in some forts. The Amerindians of course had made no real provision for a war of some length by laying in food and supplies. The provincial rangers simply ground them down in a series of small clashes, none of which was especially noteworthy; and by destroying their homes and crops and dispersing their families." - Mellen, Vol 5.
And yet, in the south, as Mellen advises "..there was essentially no rivalry in conquest from any other European power the way the northern colonies suffered from the rivalry between the French and the English for supremacy in North America. Occasionally, Georgia experienced incursions from the Spanish; and in the Seven Years' War the French presented a very few minor problems in Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia. In that war Virginia, Maryland and to a far lesser degree, the Carolinas, did supply troops to fight against the French in western Pennsylvania. - Mellen, Vol 5."
In "Quaker" Pennsylvania, no longer peaceful by 1755, "Governor Morris had used the two devices available to him after the king vetoed ill-fated militia act. First, Morris used the Supply Act of 27 November 1755. This law provided money to pay regular troops and to build frontier forts. The fund was administered by seven commissioners, two appointed by the governor and five by the legislature.(247) The governor's plan was to pay volunteer ranging companies, pointing out that these were more acceptable than the deployment of British or other "regular" troops. Morris raised 500 rangers at Shamokin alone. He created other ranging units in and for other frontier counties. These units, like those raised a year earlier under the authority of Penn's charter, did not disband with the expiration of the Militia Act.- Mellen, Vol 3. The Pennsylvania Colonial Militia."
But it was even further north in the major campaigns against the French and Canada, that the ranger concept earned its earliest and widest fame (and as legends go it did not hurt that then, as now, the Boston-New York axis, was the "media center of the" colonies.) Though not the first Ranger, even in New England, Robert Rogers became perhaps the best and, for certain, most acclaimed. In 1756 this woodsman (and accused counterfeiter) from New Hampshire, Robert Rogers, created and eventually took command of four companies, thereby creating the famous "Roger's Rangers". Roger's Rangers performed many long-range surveillance and attack missions; missions that very few units were capable of then; particularly in the rough terrain of the Americas. This then, among many, is a good summary of the Rogers' Rangers "story."



As the fourth ice age of the Pleistocene epoch receded some eleven thousand years ago, an almost impenetrable forest of oak, elm, birch, maple, and pine trees sprang up between the coast of New England and the shores of the Mississippi. So fertile was the soil and so thick did the green canopy become that sunlight seldom penetrated to the forest floor, where ferocious beasts prowled and decaying tree trunks littered the primordial gloom. It was in this great arboreal cavern, stretching from Maine to Missouri, that Robert Rogers found himself at home. He learned the haunts of its game, the pattern of its mountain ranges, and the run of its streams and rivers.

Such knowledge, combined with a breezy contempt for conventional military doctrine, became invaluable to the British colonial authorities at the outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1754. With a band of carefully chosen New Hampshire foresters known as Rangers, Rogers was to evolve the basic principles of modern irregular warfare and give native Americans an unconquerable confidence in their own military prowess. ”… though it was the fashion of the day to sneer at the efforts of provincial troops,” wrote the historian Francis Parkman of the French and Indian War, “the name of Rogers’s Rangers was never mentioned but with honor.” Indeed, most historians concede that without a hard backbone of highly disciplined Ranger veterans, Massachusetts men would not have triumphed at the Battle of Concord in 1775, nor would the colonies have survived the first year of their struggle for independence.

The man chiefly responsible for their accomplishments was a powerfully built, ugly individual with goggle eyes and a strangely effeminate mouth. Through his mastery of the leaf-dark forests Robert Rogers—an unlettered son of the New Hampshire frontier— was to become one of the great romantic legends of the eighteenth century; yet in many ways the plain facts of his turbulent career overshadow the fiction that grew un about his exploits.

His parents, James and Mary Rogers, were Scottish Presbyterians from Ulster who probably left northern Ireland sometime in the late 1720’s. At the time of Robert’s birth on November 18, 1731, his family owned a primitive farm on the banks of the Merrimack, which separated Massachusetts and the virgin territory that was shortly to become New Hampshire.

When Robert was seven, the family moved beyond the existing line of settlements to a fertile new tract of land close by what is now Dunbarton, New Hampshire. But the newcomers were not left in peace for long. In 1744 France declared war on England, and the outlying farms and villages became constant targets for marauding Indians allied to the French. In the summer of 1746, at the age of fourteen, Robert Rogers joined the militia. He signed up again for the 1747 campaign, returning to his family with the winter. As the snow melted the following spring, Indian raiders once more cut deep into New Hampshire. In April they burned the Rogers farm to the ground. Though the family escaped, all the cattle were killed, and most of the fruit trees, tenderly nurtured through years of toil, were cut down by the Indians.

Young Rogers himself attempted to farm for a while, but between 1743 and 1755, he later declared in his Journals, “my manner of life was such as led me to a general acquaintance both with the British and French settlements in North America, and especially with the unculticated desart, the mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes and several passes that lay between and contiguous to the said sei dements.”

Rogers’ purpose in making such long trips between New England and Canada is not clear, though some historians surmise that he was probably engaged in some aspect of the smuggling trade. In any event he enjoyed an easy familiarity with the American wilderness.

Perhaps it was on one of his smuggling ventures through this wilderness that Rogers met a convicted forger named Owen Sullivan. Court records show that in January, 1755, Rogers was arrested and imprisoned with eighteen others on charges of disbursing counterfeit money printed by Sullivan. The case, however, came to nothing, because the war drums were again beating throughout New England. Indians, led by French officers, once more terrorized English frontier settlements in an effort to deter further westward migration. As incentive the savages received sixty livres for every scalp.

Rogers came out of jail on bond and enlisted with the New Hampshire militia. Since he brought more than fifty men in with him, he was promptly commissioned captain and placed in command of Company One.

After patrolling the New Hampshire frontiers the militia was eventually posted to Albany, New York. Its objective was the great stone fortress of St. Frederick, built by the French at the southern end of Eake Champlain (at Crown Point) and a major mustering point for invading Indian war parties. By capturing Crown Point the British would dominate Eake Champlain, whose waters thrust like a gleaming bayonet to the very heart of French Canada. Thus, in a single successful siege, the British planned to move from the defensive to the offensive in the struggle for North America.

However, the American militia, under Major General William Johnson, could not immediately execute this simple plan. Many of Johnson’s troops arrived late, and the men of the different colonies began to feud among themselves. In the confusion it became clear that the militiamen—contrary to their reputation as intrepid woodsmen—were no more capable of fighting the Indians on their own terms in the wilderness than the redcoated British regulars. Though Crown Point lay more than fifty miles away at the opposite end of Eake George, militia scouts often panicked when no more than a couple of miles from American lines.

It was under these conditions that Captain Robert Rogers was recommended to General Johnson one day early in September, 1755, as “a person well acquainted with the haunts and passes of the enemy and the Indian method of fighting.” According to contemporary accounts the twenty-three-year-old Rogers was “six feet in stature, well-proportioned, and … well known in all trials of strength.” On September 24 Johnson authorized Rogers to carry the fight to the enemy for the first time by making a daring raid for prisoners and information far behind French lines.

Under cover of darkness Rogers and four men climbed aboard a small bateau on Lake George. After rowing through the night with muffled oars they finally disembarked at a point on the western shore twenty-five miles down lake. Leaving two men to guard the boat, Rogers headed into the deep woods. Unlike conventional scouts his men carried little more than a hatchet, a few days’ rations, and a musket with sixty rounds. They lit no fires and pitched no tents. Guided by his uncanny knowledge of the forest, Rogers’ party reached a hilltop overlooking the French citadel at Crown Point on September 29. Rogers crept through the enemy’s guards into a small village nearby. Although he was unable to take a prisoner for interrogation, he did make a detailed study of the fort’s defenses and the deployment of its French garrison. Four days later he and his companions returned to British lines with more useful information than all the preceding patrols—some of them numbering more than fifty men—had been able to acquire together. More important, Rogers had demonstrated that the wilderness was a weapon that could be turned against the enemy.

Overjoyed with this unexpected success, General Johnson now dispatched Rogers on almost continuous patrol duty. Early in October Rogers left with five men to reconnoiter a new fort the French were building at Ticonderoga, some sixteen miles south of Crown Point; on October 8 his party ambushed a French canoe on Lake George, killing all but four of its occupants in the first fusillade.

Later that month Rogers again set out to capture a prisoner from Crown Point. After a gruelling five-day march he and his four companions stealthily advanced to within three hundred yards of the French battlements—close enough to hear the bugle calls and to see the white and gold French standard flapping lazily against its pole.

“My men lay concealed in a thicket of willows,” Rogers reported in his dispatch, “while I crept something nearer, to a large pine log, where I concealed myself by holding bushes in my hand. … About 10 o’clock a single man marched out directly towards our ambush. When I perceived him within ten yards of me, I sprung over the log, and met him, and offered him quarters, which he refused, and made a pass at me with a dirk, which I avoided, and presented my fusee to his breast; but … he still pushed on with resolution, and obliged me to dispatch him. This gave an alarm to the enemy, and made it necessary for us to hasten to the mountain.” Such audacity came to be commonplace for Rogers throughout the winter months. Though the lack of foliage and the glistening backdrop of snow made concealment difficult, he continued to harass the enemy with ambuscades and sneak attacks. Among the French he quickly earned the sobriquet of the White Devil. And even France’s savage mercenaries were perturbed by the ruthlessness of the Rangers, who often adopted the Indians’ custom of hatcheting and scalping prisoners.

It was clear to the British high command that it had at last found the answer to the problem that had beset the unfortunate General Braddock at the Monongahela —conventional European training versus the wilderness. In March, 1756, Captain Rogers was summoned to Boston by William Shirley, governor of Massachusetts and British Commander in Chief in North America. Appreciating the potential of this new mode of warfare, Shirley ordered Rogers to raise, train, and command a force of sixty Rangers, to be paid, not from colonial funds, but directly from the war chest of the British Army.

Throughout the summer of 1756 Rogers saw to it that the French were kept under continual alarms. Late in June he took fifty men in five whaleboats down lake. Under cover of darkness they cut past the enemy encampment at Ticonderoga—“so near the enemy as to hear their Gentry’s watchword”—and eventually rowed to a point twenty-five miles north of Fort St. Frederick at Crown Point. Carefully picking the moment to attack, the Rangers then played havoc with the French supply convoys moving up and down Lake Champlain. Ina few days they captured several ships and sank two.

The Rangers continued their raids in increasing strength into the fall and winter. Unlike conventional forces they did not go into winter quarters with the coming of the first snows. Instead they continued to assail the French supply convoys throughout the freezing upstate New York winter. Often Rangers went into action against the horse-drawn supply sleds on ice skates or snowshoes. Indeed, the frosty, leafless forests around Lake Champlain became the scene of some of the grimmest fighting in colonial history. Even when the intense cold jammed their primitive firearms and slowed their limbs with frostbite and gangrene, Rogers’ troops clambered across the ice to assail the convoys with no more than steel bayonets.

One of the severest Ranger battles took place on January 21, 1757. Rogers and a party of eighty-five Rangers attacked a sled convoy on the ice between Crown Point and Ticonderoga. But the enemy was inadvertently alerted, and soon more than two hundred Canadians and Indians endeavored to cut off the Rangers’ retreat.

About two o’clock in the afternoon, just as the Ranger column had topped a snow-covered hillock, it fell into a French ambush. Two men were killed in the first fire, and Rogers received a head wound. Startled, the outnumbered Rangers fell back on a small hill, where they formed a circle in the snow and doggedly repulsed each new French attack until nightfall. Short of ammunition, they soon had to fight off their attackers with bayonets, musket butts, and scalping knives. Twice the French tried to outflank the Rangers, but each time they were thwarted by a small reserve under two sergeants Rogers had cunningly concealed in the trees to his rear.

Just before sunset Rogers was wounded again, receiving “a ball thro’ my hand and wrist, which disabled me from loading my gun.” Though suffering from shock and loss of blood, he remained undaunted. Pulling in his outposts, Rogers broke out of the surrounding cordon under cover ol darkness. The French were too severely mauled to attempt pursuit, and two days later Rogers led fortyeight effective and six wounded Rangers into Fort William Henry, on the southern end of Lake George.

Although Rogers listed twenty Rangers nearly one quarter of his total force either killed or missing, the battle was construed as a great victory throughout the colonies. Perhaps this was because he also reported that French losses totalled 116 killed. (The French governor put his losses at thirty-seven killed and wounded.)

Rogers’ greatest feat of endurance, however, came in 1759. By now a major, he marched 141 Rangers more than one hundred miles behind enemy lines for a retaliatory strike against the main Abenaki village in Canada. In the morning mists of October 6 his men stealthily surrounded the Indian stronghold, which was situated on the St. Francis River at what is now Pierreville, Quebec.

In the half-light that precedes the dawn Rogers gave a signal, and the Rangers rose to their feet and began to move forward. With no sound save for the creak of leather webbing and the occasional chink of gun metal the Rangers stole swiftly through the unguarded outposts of the sleeping village. Soon every lodge was surrounded, and, on another signal from Rogers, heavy musket butts smashed a score of shanty doors. Some Indians were tomahawked before they awoke. Others were bayoneted as they made a grab for their weapons. Some perished in the flames of their burning houses, singing their highpitched song of death, while others were shot down as they struggled to escape across the St. Francis.

Surprise had been complete. In all, some two hundred St. Francis warriors—nearly the whole fighting force of the once-powerful Indian tribe—had been slaughtered in the space of a half hour. The Rangers dispersed into the wilderness as French-led war parties were hastily assembled and sent off in pursuit.

In an attempt to shake off his pursuers Rogers, instead of returning, as he had come, by way of Lake Champlain, headed directly overland to New England, through two hundred miles of uncharted back country. The rugged march took twenty-five days. Often lost and beset by bitter cold, the Rangers staved off starvation by eating ground nuts and lily roots. Some even resorted to cannibalism when they came upon some scalped and mangled bodies. When their ammunition ran out, they fought off the French-led Indians with fists and knives. In all, fortyseven Rangers perished on the march, and two were taken prisoner. The survivors finally reached the Connecticut River near the present site of Woodsville, New Hampshire, where Rogers and two of his men built a log raft that enabled them to reach the safety of a British fort.

To make continued long-range penetrations possible, the British high command had previously ordered Rogers to recruit and train six companies of Rangers, nearly a thousand men. It had also called upon him to indoctrinate young British officers in the techniques of wilderness fighting. To accomplish this Rogers set up a guerrilla-warfare training school on the shores of Lake George and supplemented on-patrol instruction with a tersely written manual.

Unlike the crisp lines of European-trained troops, Rogers’ men disdained the brilliant red and white uniforms that advertised a target to the distant ambusher. Instead their drab green hunting jackets and brown thigh-length boots allowed them to merge with the forest hues. In winter months they broke their silhouette against the snow with a white doublet. And the Rangers did not scorn a discreet withdrawal to the cover of the forest whenattacked. “If you are obliged to receive the enemy’s fire,” Rogers advised in his manual, “fall, or squat down, till it is over, then rise and discharge at them.” And while elaborately equipped regulars might take days or weeks to prepare for battle, the Rangers must always “be ready on any emergency to march at a minute’s notice.”

On the move Rogers urged his men to avoid neatly drilled ranks and to “march in a single file, keeping such a distance from each other as to prevent one shot from killing two men.” Encampment in the field was a time for special caution. To prevent observation by hostile eyes, Rangers were ordered to “march till it is quite dark before you encamp … keeping one half of your whole party awake alternately through the night.” Outposts, each numbering six men, should be set up “in such a manner as not to be relieved from the main body till morning, profound secrecy and silence being often of the … [utmost] importance in these cases.” If hostile movement was seen or heard, the sentry must not cry out; instead he must silently report back so that his commander could stealthily prepare a devastating counterattack.

While conventional troops were accustomed to attack at dawn, Roberts favored the evening attack, when the enemy is tired and “will not know your numbers, and if you are repulsed, your retreat will be favored by the darkness of the night.” Moreover, the Rangers often feigned a ragged retreat as a device to draw the enemy into an ambush.

To make an orderly retreat when hard-pressed by a superior foe often demanded a much higher order of discipline than the mindless obedience required of the conventional eighteenth-century soldier. When overwhelmed, the Rangers would let their first line fire and fall back and then let their second line do the same. The enemy, observed Rogers, would then be obliged “to pursue you, if they do it at all, in the face of constant fire.”

Much of Rogers’ manual is devoted to dealing with a very contemporary problem: how to avoid an ambush. Scouts, he said, should march some twenty yards in front and to each side of a column. In addition outlying observation patrols should move from high ground to high ground to watch for hostile movement ahead and in the rear. “If the enemy pursue your rear, take a circle till you come to your own tracks and there form an ambush to receive them,” he advised. By the same token, if in pursuit of a hostile party, the Rangers were instructed to “follow not directly in their tracks, lest you should be discovered by their rear guards … but endeavour by a different route, to head and meet them in some narrow pass, or lay in ambush to receive them when and where they least expect it.”

As word of the Rangers’ exploits spread, Rogers became the colonies’ most romantic combat hero. News sheets from Virginia to Maine printed his dispatches verbatim. London print shops blossomed with portraits of Rogers, and every Englishman from King George down to the lowliest street urchin rejoiced in the Rangers’ daring accomplishments.

By spring of 1759 the French were forced to withdraw, first from Fort Carillon (now Ticonderoga, New York) and then from Fort St. Frederick. That autumn Quebec fell to Wolfe. Within a year France surrendered all her possessions in North America. Two hundred Rangers in fifteen whaleboats under Major Rogers were ordered to row up the St. Lawrence River to Lake Ontario to take over the remote line of French outposts that stretched from Detroit to Michilimackinac, at the foot of Lake Superior.

Rogers’ diary of his pioneering voyage into the heartland of America is charged with intense excitement. Up until this moment the French fur-trading syndicates had jealously veiled the whole continent west of Fort Pitt in a shroud of secrecy. The British had no accurate maps of this western wilderness and knew neither the names nor the customs of many of the Indian tribes that dwelt there. Though rapidly forming lake ice prevented Rogers from reaching Michilimackinac in the fall of 1760, he relieved Detroit and made contact with several important Indian chiefs, including Pontiac.

When Rogers finally returned to civilization by marching directly across the unmapped wilderness to Philadelphia, the church bells of that city were rung in his honor, and he was welcomed as a national hero.

Peace, however, confronted Rogers with the most implacable opponent of his career: the British Army’s paymaster general. Due to the Rangers’ haphazard bookkeeping, the government refused to make good a large part of some £6,000 worth of debts that Rogers had incurred in paying his men and in purchasing weapons to replace those lost in combat. His creditors sued, and soon there were numerous attachments against his property in New Hampshire.

Rogers’ financial situation was not helped by his marriage, onjunc 30, 1761, to Miss Elizabeth Browne, the daughter of a leading Episcopalian clergyman in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In less than two years his father-in-law was suing him for £2,500 for failing to support Elizabeth. At the same time the Reverend Browne accused Rogers of “Gratification of unlawful pleasure and Passion.”

Despite her father’s accusations Elizabeth stood by Robert as he struggled to pay off his creditors. After brief service against the Cherokee in the Carolinas and helping to quell Pontiac’s Rebellion, Rogers was finally thrown into debtors’ prison in New York. On the night of January 14, 1764, veterans who had served under him broke into the jail and released their former commander. Rogers escaped to New Hampshire, and a year later he departed for London, where he hoped to make his plight directly known to the government.

Once in London, Rogers added new luster to his reputation with the publication of his military Journals and A Concise Account of North America. Both books were highly successful, but the Concise Account had a special appeal for the British public, because it described regions of the continent previously occupied by the French.

Rogers befriended Benjamin Franklin and a rising young politician, Charles Townshend, whose brother had fought and died alongside Rogers at Fort Carillon in 1759. On October 17, 1765, the young warrior from the borders of New Hampshire was presented at court and permitted to kiss the hand of George III.

There is little doubt that Rogers used the audience to forward his pet project: an expedition to discover a northwest passage through the Great Lakes of America to China. For the cost of £32,000 he proposed to lead an expedition on a three-year trek to the head of the Mississippi and “from thence to the River called by the Indians Ouragon which flows into … the Pacific Ocean.” Discovery of such a passage to the East, Rogers reasoned, would not only pay off his debts but yield an immeasurable fortune to him and his backers.

Although the king favored the project, he judged it too expensive. However, he did appoint Rogers the first royal governor of Fort Michilimackinac at the salary of £183 a year. Rogers was also to receive pay as a captain in a troop known as the Royal Americans. It was hoped that from his vantage point at Michilimackinac he would superintend the local Indian tribes and make a detailed exploration of the wilderness to the west.

Rogers’ appointment to Michilimackinac ran directly counter to the interests of two powerful and vengeful men then serving in North America. These were General Thomas Gage, the new Commander in Chief of British forces, and Sir William Johnson, the soldier-trader who controlled the Iroquois tribes of upstate New York and much of the territory to the west. Gage had reason to resent Rogers, because the New Hampshireman’s Rangers had time and again outperformed the British Army’s corps of “light infantry,” a body of regular soldiers raised by Gage in 1757 to perform similar scouting duties against the Indians. At the same time Johnson believed that Rogers’ governorship, however far west, would tend to siphon off much of his own profitable trade with the Indians.

Shortly after Rogers arrived in New York on January 9, 1766, Gage wrote Johnson: “Be So good to Send me your Advice in what manner he may be best tied up by Instructions and prevent doing Mischief and imposing upon you.” In the months to come the two plotters did more than tie up Rogers with instructions. Working through a number of spies, Johnson purported to discover that Rogers planned to hand over his post to the French, who still maintained a shadowy presence beyond the Mississippi. Rogers was accused of holding “dangerous and traitorous Conferences with his Majesty’s Enemies” and was arrested by one of his own officers on December 6, 1767.

Rogers’ court-martial, held in Montreal, did not begin until mid-October, 1768, and even after his acquittal Gage stalled on releasing him from jail for three more months. The General also refused to reimburse some £3,800 in debts that Rogers had legitimately incurred as governor of Michilimackinac.

In an effort to pay off his creditors Rogers departed once again for London in the summer of 1769, only to be thrown in a debtors’ prison on arrival. His old patron, Charles Townshend, had died, but he was shortly rescued by another friend. At his release the hulking Ranger once again set London agog as, using his bare fists, he “fought his way thro the jaylers and turnkeys,” refusing to tip them for their small favors. In the coming months, however, the subtle and devious pressures brought to bear by Gage and Johnson were too much for him, and Rogers was returned to prison in the spring of 1771. Again his release was obtained by friends, but he began drinking heavily.

On October 16, 1772, Rogers failed to meet a debt of £1,400 and was imprisoned once more, this time in the Fleet—one of London’s most notorious prisons. Only the passage of a new bankruptcy law enabled him to gain his freedom nearly two years later. He returned to North America in 1775 after obtaining a major’s pension from the British government.

When Rogers landed in Maryland in August, 1775, the American Revolution was well under way. News of Lexington was already four months old, and the Battle of Bunker Hill had shown what native Americans, including many former Rangers under the firm hand of John Stark, at one time Rogers’ second in command, could do against England’s finest regular infantry. Later these same troops would overwhelm the Hessian forces at the Battle of Bennington. “If the British military mind had allowed regulars to be exercised in Ranger tactics, they might have crushed the American Revolution,” writes Howard H. Peckham, director of the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, “instead the Americans absorbed the lessons of Rogers’ experience and fielded an army that perplexed the orthodox British.”

Preoccupied with paying off his debts, Rogers took little interest in the war. In his efforts to obtain a grant of land in upstate New York he petitioned both Tory Governor William Tryon of New York and patriot Dr. Elea/ar Wheelock, the founder and first president of Dartmouth College. Such behavior by a man with Rogers’ fearsome reputation, now on half pay as a major in the British Army, aroused deep suspicions among the rebels. General Washington ordered his arrest in South Amboy, New Jersey, early in July, 1776. Though Rogers had vaguely hoped to serve the Continental forces upon settlement of his debts, his arrest drove him to cast in his lot with the British. On the night of July 8 he escaped from jail and ten days later was seen clambering up the side of the British flagship in New York. General William Howe immediately ordered him to raise a battalion of Rangers for use against the Americans.

For all his popularity, however, Rogers was unable to recruit many of the backwoods fighters who had served so valiantly with him against the French. It also appeared that the forty-four-year-old Ranger, rumsodden and quarrelsome, was no longer up to the rigors of command. After some brief skirmishing around Mamaroneck, New York, he was soon replaced and took little part thereafter in the conflict.

Divorced by his wile in 1778, Rogers was again imprisoned for debt, this time in Malifax. After his release he sailed to New York, only to be captured by an American privateer and once more incarcerated, this time as a prisoner of war. He returned to London with the defeated British armies to live out the remainder of his days in a haze of alcoholic penury. He died on May 18, 1795, at Southwark and was buried two days later in a churchyard near the famous inn The Elephant and Castle.

Memorials to Rogers’ prodigious feats of valor still stand at the sites of the old forts of his Ranger days. Both Fort William Henry at the foot of Lake George and Fort Carillon (Fort Ticondcroga) have been completely restored, and at Crown Point can be seen the remains of Fort St. Frederick.

But the most enduring monument to Robert Rogers is likely to remain the unspoiled wilderness of the Lake Champlain region. Even today it is easy to imagine the spirits of long-departed Rangers flitting from cover to cover across the green woodland glades or trudging on some spectral mission through the eerie silences of the snow-muffled forest.

Professor Hubbard is chairman of the Magazine Department al Syracuse University. He is the author of a history of banking and westward expansion entitled Banking in Mid-America (Public Affairs Press, 1969).



Frontier campaigning in the French and Indian Wars by the organizer and commander of "ROGERS' RANGERS.
Reprinted from the original edition of 1765,
Introduction by Howard H Pfckham


The drama of Rogers'Rangers has become a byword among Americans. The experience of this small band of volunteer Colonial fighters in the long and savagely fought French and Indian War has captured the imagination of succeeding generations. The theory and technique of "Indian fighting," detailed by Rogers in his Journals, is now so widely accepted that "Ranger" companies are an integral part of modern military tactics.

Despite constant reference to the Journals by historians and scholars, there has not been a printing available for almost eighty years. This new edition is the first corrected yet faithful republication since its original London appearance in 1765.

Reprinted from the original edition of 1765.
Introduction by Howard H. Peckham

HOWARD H. PECKHAM is director of the William L. Clements Library of early Americana and Professor of American History at the University of Michigan. He has edited and written a
number of books among 'them Pontiac and the Indian Uprising, The War for Independence, George Croghans Journal of His Trip to Detroit in 1767, and Captured by Indians.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 61-8151
Copyright 1961 Corinth Books Inc.
Published by Corinth Books Inc.
32 West Eighth Street, New York 11, N. Y.
Distributed by The Citadel Press
222 Park Avenue South, New York 3, N. Y.
Printed in the US A.


Robert Rogers is a type that appears in every war: the restless, unsuccessful civilian who finds himself within the military discipline and emerges as a heroic leader, only to lapse into a drifting semi-failure again when peace is restored. Rough-cut or refined, he is a type that seems permanently maladjusted to normal civilian pursuits such as routine employment; family responsibility, financial solvency, civic duty, etc. Yet in a local disaster or a national war he reveals unsuspected clearheadedness, daring; endurance, and devotion, although these traits may be accompanied by a monumental impatience with paper reporting, formal regulations, or the ideas of others, as though they were a troublesome intrusion from the work-a-day world he had joyously abandoned.
But for the French and Indian War, Robert Rogers might have remained an obscure, uneducated frontiersman of New Hamshire, chained to some stony acres and known locally only for his instability and athletic prowess. Warfare, however, brought out his particular genius; it provided him with his opportunity for fame and a military reputation he richly deserved.
Rogers was born on November 18, 1731, in northeastern Massachusetts to Scotch parents from northern Ireland. When he was eight his family took up land in the isolated Great Meadow across the Merrimack River in southern New Hampshire. He was at an impressionable age when the opening of King George's War, 1744, unleashed hostile Indians from the St Lawrence on the English settlements. The Rogers family fled into the town of Rumford. In 1746 young Robert served with the militia but met no enemy.
In 1752 Robert acquired a small farm of his own but put a tenant on it and joined a surveyor's party laying out a road to the Connecticut River. He became adept in woodcraft and Indian lore. Standing six feet in height - a very tall man for those times-well muscled and excelling in all feats of strength, he was remarkably able to take care of himself in the wilderness.
Outbreak of the French and Indian war brought a call from New Hampshire early in 1755 for volunteers to drive the French from Grown Point The unemployed Rogers recruited more than fifty men and was made a captain; John Stark was his lieutenant At age 23 he was on his way. His Journals, herewith reprinted, relate his campaigns, scouting expeditions, and astonishing services to the English forces. The book opens in September 1755 when he was at Lake George and runs through January 1761, after he had received the surrender of Detroit to Great Britain. It includes several pieces of correspondence. Undoubtedly the high point of interest is his raid on the Indian village of St Francis and his harrowing flight Rogers' distinctive contribution to military tactics was his organization of a corps of skirmishers, scouts, and woodsmen called Rangers. The inadequacy of British regiments for wilderness fighting was obvious to all but the most bullheaded British officers, and Rogers' created a striking force and intelligence eye that General Amherst was quick to recognize as invaluable in this theater of war. Aristocrat though he was, Amherst admired the intrepid major and upheld him against the jealousies of lesser officers who were too painfully conscious of being "gentlemen."
Rogers was intelligent enough not only to lead his Rangers with incredible success on dangerous missions, but to write a manual for their training, included in the Journals. If the British military mind had allowed regulars to be exercised in Ranger tactics, they might easily have crushed the American Revolution later; instead the Americans absorbed the lessons of Rogers' experience and fielded an army that perplexed the orthodox British.
Relaxation of the pressures of war was postponed for awhile by detachment of Rogers to South Carolina to face a Cherokee uprising in 1761, and then to relieve Detroit in 1763 from Pontiac's siege. Meanwhile, as an undoubted hero known on two continents, he had married a minister's daughter back in New Hampshire. After the treaty of peace he found himself in debt from old unsettled accounts and without rank in the regular army. He decided in 1765 to go to London "to get what ever may offer." While there he wrote-certainly assisted by a secretary, a Princeton graduate, whom he had taken along-and published two books. First to appear was the Journals. It was well received but was not as popular as his Concise Account of North America, because it told the English about the rich interior country now opened to them. Today judgment is reversed, and the Journals is considered the more valuable reference. Both books were designed to obtain some Crown appointment for Rogers in the West, and they succeeded. He was named commandant of Fort Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Michigan), superintendent of neighboring Indians, and it was suggested to General Thomas Gage that he be commissioned a captain in the 60th Regiment.
The remote post and an administrative position proved his undoing. Hamstrung by restrictions from his suspicious superiors, beset by quarreling subordinates, extravagant in gifts to the Indians, injudicious in licensing traders, disappointed in a search for the northwest passage, never commissioned as a captain, and falling out with his secretary, Rogers found himself suddenly arrested in December 1767 for treason! The vague case collapsed when he was tried in Montreal, but Rogers' reputation was ruined and he was heavily in debt. He tried England again in 1769 to get his garbled accounts settled.
Obtaining part of his money, he was forced to turn it over to creditors. One petition followed another: to recover property losses, to get his army commission, to head a new colonial government in the West; to lead an expedition, to obtain a grant of land. Failing and floundering, he was thrown into debtors prison in 1772. He tried to sue General Gage in 1774 as the author of all his troubles. A new bankruptcy law opened the prison door for him and he finally secured his retired pay as a major. In 1775 he sailed for home and his neglected family.
The Revolution was on, and as a pensioned British officer Rogers was suspect. He made a secret application to Congress for a commission, but was rejected and even thought to be a
spy. His wife cast him out He then fled to the British lines and was commissioned a lieutenant colonel to raise a battalion, known as the Queen's Rangers. His name still earned magic. After some little military success, he was nevertheless replaced in 1777 by a regular officer, at the insistence of other regular officers. He continued to recruit Tories for military service, but by 1779 was drinking heavily. In 1782 he returned to England and soon was back in debtor's prison intermittently, his pension frequently assigned to creditors. He died in miserable exile on May 18, 1795.
In the new republic Rogers was forgotten until Francis Parkman retold the exploits of Rogers' Rangers in his popular Montcdm and Wolfe, 1884. He was written about for boys. In 1935 he was given generous space in the Dictionary of American Biography. Kenneth Roberts made him the hero of a historical novel, Northwest Passage, 1937. The definitive biography is by John R. Cuneo, Robert Rogers of the Rangers, 1959. Meanwhile, collectors had sought copies of his works and made them recognized as rare books. Because it is an authentic narrative of personal experience, the Journals is a valued and respected source for the French and Indian War.

William L. Clements Library
The University of Michigan

Read the book (select Flip book) at JOURNALS OF Major ROBERT ROGERS


Journals of Major Robert Robert Rogers


The Tarnished Tale of Robert Rogers
Written by J. Dennis Robinson


He is a troubling hero. Praised as America's first great national hero, Robert Rogers formed a crack militia to ward off Indian attacks. But he also fought against American patriots in the Revolution. Ouch! Love or hate him, Rogers has close connections to Portsmouth, NH. His wife hails from here. And a famous film about Rogers Rangers opens in Seacoast, New Hampshire.

The opening scene of the 1940 film Northwest Passage is Portsmouth's peak cinematic moment. The story begins in 1759. Carriages clatter down unpaved roads past colonial mansions while seamen haul gigantic ropes and load tall ships along Ceres Street. The entire city, including Stoodley's Tavern, came briefly alive inside a Hollywood studio.

But the bustling pre-Revolutionary seaport was just a plot device. The movie is really about the French and Indian War and the exploits of Roger's Rangers, a well-trained guerilla fighting group. The Portsmouth scenes merely introduce two key characters -- Langdon Towne (played by Robert Young of television’s Father Knows Best) and Hunk Mariner (played by Walter Brennan of The Real McCoys). The fictional Portsmouth natives quickly head west to the New York territory and join the Rangers, run by a nonfiction New Hampshire man named Robert Rogers (played by Spencer Tracy).

Filmed just before America entered World War II, Northwest Passage is a thinly disguised recruitment poster. Drafted into Rogers’ elite force, often compared to the modern Green Berets, Langdon and Hunk overcome impossible odds, defeat the French, and return safely home, Imbued with patriotism. Stopping back in Portsmouth in the final scene of the film, Rogers bravely returns to the battlefront, a symbol of the indomitable American spirit.

But no one here talks much about Robert Rogers anymore. Famous Indian killers who carried around Native American scalps are distinctly out of fashion. With our fading grasp of history, many Americans find it confusing that Rogers Rangers actually worked for, not against, the British military. Despite his sometimes heroic efforts at Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Quebec, Detroit and elsewhere, Rogers independent streak led to his arrest for treason against the British, his court martial and later acquittal. When the Revolution arrived in 1775, he applied for a commission. Rejected by George Washington as "the only man I was ever afraid of", Robert Rogers was instead arrested as a spy. In revenge, he escaped and turned Loyalist, commanded the Queen's Rangers, and fought against the American cause.

So New Hampshire has been reluctant to claim Rogers, who was technically born in Methuen, Massachusetts. He moved with his family to a 2,190-acre wilderness farm near what is now Dunbarton. His father, according to legend, was shot by a neighbor who mistook him for a bear.

Rogers did not invent the ranger concept. Colonists had formally used Indian tactics to repel Indian attacks as early as the mid-1670s. Rogers, instead, codified the "Ranging Rules" and successfully recruited and trained companies of frontiersmen who defended British-held portions of North America in the Hudson River area. Unlike the formal "redcoats", rangers wore green leather uniforms, employed guerilla tactics and were empowered to act independently in battle.

Rangers carried "a firelock, sixty rounds of powder and ball, and a hatchet" and stood to inspection daily. They practiced their marksmanship, which the British saw as a waste of ammunition. They were experts at capturing enemy scouts and extracting information by any means necessary. Rangers marched in single file to keep one shot from killing two men. They were advised not to fire in battle until the enemy was very close, and were invited to disperse and run away if the odds were against them. A set of 28 rules told rangers how to travel in marsh, woods and along rivers, how to scout, to eat, to camp and to attack. Rangers carried their own food separately and could travel by canoe, afoot, on snowshoes and even ice skates. British forces, bound by a wholly different European code of battle, considered the unconventional rangers primitive, but valuable against the elusive French and Indian forces. Rogers, who had a "magnetic personality", was made a major and hired by the British to develop nine companies of men, used largely as scouts. A student of Indian warfare, he created one company made up entirely of Native Americans. His mission, ultimately, was to obliterate the Abenaki-speaking tribes that had killed hundreds of British pioneers. Today re-enactors from Michigan to Oregon to Kentucky and New York still dress in green garb and relive the ranger lifestyle.

Despite heavy losses, scandal and frequent failure, Rogers Rangers are credited with turning the tide in what Europeans called The Seven Years War. Although Rogers fought for the British, most of his Rangers became patriots. John Stark of Manchester, Rogers' trusted lieutenant, became a key general in the Revolution. Ebenezer Webster of East Kingston, future father of statesman Daniel Webster, is among the Rangers portrayed in the book version of Northwest Passage by Kenneth Roberts. Roberts' well-researched novel, published in 1936, was largely responsible for reviving the Rogers legend. Among the people credited with assisting the author was Portsmouth librarian Dorothy Vaughan who lived to age 99.

At the end of Northwest Passage, hero Langdon Towne marries his Portsmouth sweetheart. In reality, it was Robert Rogers himself who married a Portsmouth woman. On June 30, 1761, Rogers married Elizabeth Browne, the youngest daughter of the influential minister of Queen's Chapel, now St. John's Church. Rev. Arthur Browne, leader of the local Anglican Church, was among the city's most powerful men prior to the Revolution. Browne, who had married British Royal Governor Benning Wentworth to his young housekeeper, officiated at his daughter's wedding too. She was 20. Rogers was 29. Their separation during his court martial trial is the subject of a ballad by John Greenleaf Whittier appropriately titled "The Ranger".

Rockingham County records show Rogers at this time listing himself as "of Portsmouth". At least two dozen accounts show him speculating heavily in land, including one parcel of 3,000 acres presented by Gov. Benning Wentworth. The couple soon moved to Concord, NH (then Rumford) where Elizabeth lived with her enslaved servants Sylvia, Castro, Pomp and an Indian boy Billy, "who had been captured in the St. Francis raid". Here Rogers wrote his memoirs and even authored a play. Curiously, Rogers transferred ownership of the Concord house, lands and slaves to Elizabeth's father. She later inherited them.

The New Hampshire Gazette reported news of the marriage. When the Rogers moved west 1,300 miles to command a British outpost, the Gazette noted the story. And when Rogers was arrested and taken away in irons for treason, the Gazette suggested that he was most likely innocent of the charges. But despite John Stark's protest that Rogers had been unfairly branded as a Tory, public sentiment, even in Portsmouth, eventually turned against him. Though he claimed to love his native country, Rogers never returned. Living in England after the Revolution, Rogers drank heavily and died in obscurity in 1795.

Two odd and interwoven footnotes round out Robert Roger's Piscataqua connection. In 1777 the frigate Ranger, originally a privateer named "The Portsmouth" left Portsmouth Harbor en route to its famous raid against England. The ship's figurehead depicted a colonial ranger holding his rifle. The following year, in 1778, Elizabeth petitioned the New Hampshire General Assembly for a divorce from her husband on the grounds of Desertion and infidelity. Ironically, Elizabeth then married Captain John Roche the man who had originally been chosen to command The Ranger. Roche, also rumored to be a heavy drinker and a man of untrustworthy character, was replaced aboard Ranger by an ambitious young mariner named John Paul Jones. Jones sailed Ranger into history even as Robert Rogers was commanding the Queen’s Rangers against his own homeland.

Copyright © 2005 by J. Dennis Robinson. All rights reserved. Early portraits from Reflections of a Social Capital.

American Heritage Magazine    Summer 2009    Volume 59, Issue 2

Wilderness Ordeal

Two hundred and fifty years ago, Major Robert Rogers and his rangers launched a daring wilderness raid against an enemy village, but paid a steep price
By John F. Ross

A dozen miles north of the British fort of Crown Point on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, amid the buttonbush, bulrush, and cattail wetlands that crowded Otter Creek’s delta, Maj. Robert Rogers glassed down the lake for the lateen sails of a patrolling enemy French sloop or schooner. Pulled into hiding within the marsh lay 17 whaleboats, each bearing eight oars and provisions for a month. It was Saturday, September 15, 1759, in the midst of the French and Indian War, the titanic struggle between the French and British empires for dominion over North America.

Rogers’s nearly 200 handpicked men waited patiently. His glass disclosed one sloop, then another, tacking smartly within the lake’s close confines. Soon a schooner joined them. Had Rogers not pulled his craft inshore, these warships would have made short work of their small flotilla. In the coming days, the expedition, which had just set out from Crown Point, would undergo perhaps the most grueling ordeal ever recorded in North American history, and in so enduring and surviving its members would write a new chapter in the roster of special operations. The British commander in North America, Jeffery Amherst, had finally approved Rogers’s long-nurtured plan to make a bold and unprecedented strike against the village of Saint-Francois, 150 miles north as the crow flies into Canada. Since the early years of the 18th century, the Abenaki of Saint-Francois, strongly encouraged by the French, had launched dozens of terrorizing raids against British colonial settlements on the frontier. By playing the enemy’s own game of waging fast, surprising, and destructive small-unit warfare, Rogers was gambling that he could take the heart out of the Indians’will to continue their alliance with the French—a bold wager indeed. No British ground expeditionary force in 70 years of colonial wars had even contemplated a long-range lunge of such operational scope or strategic intent.

Rogers intended to row 75 miles north from Crown Point to the lake’s northeastern headwaters at Missisquoi Bay. That evening, no clouds or fog masked the waning quarter- moon, and so his impatient rangers had to wait again.

The next day Rogers noticed that a couple dozen men showed telltale signs of measles. With a full-blown epidemic on his hands not two days into the expedition, Rogers allowed the disease no further time to take its toll, posting 41 men, mostly invalids, under a minimum escort of healthy rangers, back to Crown Point within 48 hours of setting out.

Amherst’s orders to Rogers had dictated: “You will march and attack the enemy’s settlements on the south side of the river St. Lawrence, in such a manner as you shall judge most effectual to disgrace the enemy, and for the success and honour of his Majesty’s arms. . . . Take your revenge, but don’t forget that tho’those villains have dastardly and promiscuously murdered the women and children of all ages, it is my orders that no women or children are killed.”

That day, the French flotilla dropped past their position of concealment toward Crown Point. The whaleboats hurriedly resumed their tortuous journey north, hugging the eastern shore. The long train of boats each kept close to the next, following the 25th of Rogers’s 28 rules of warrior conduct—North America’s first war manual—that he had written to help the British survive brutal wilderness warfare against highly experienced French and Indian adversaries. The rule not only prevented dangerous straggling but also made mutual assistance possible in the event that gummed seams burst or a westerly surge broadsided and capsized part of the column.

In the morning hours of September 23 the tired men pulled into the northern confines of Missisquoi Bay. A cold rain had pounded the open boats all night, soaking the woolen blankets wrapped around heads and shoulders. In strict silence, the men dragged the boats ashore and unloaded their supplies; then they overturned the craft and covered them with brush.

One hundred and fifty men in 17 boats could only be so quiet. Despite the insistent patter of rain, a small party of keen-eared Abenaki hunters hurrying for the warmth and brandy of the French fort at Ile aux Noix, some 10 miles to the northwest, heard some unmistakably human sounds and hurried yet faster.

Unaware of this shadowy passage, the rangers had tucked at least a week’s cache of provisions into the boats for their return journey. Rogers posted two Indian rangers to lie watch; should the enemy discover them, they were “with all possible speed to follow on my track, and give me intelligence.” The raiders’destination still lay 72 miles away; they would have to wind as much as a third more of that distance to follow any practical path.

The small command moved directly east and away from ile aux Noix out into the gently undulating hardwood forest of what is now southern Quebec. While it still comprised a few more than 150 men, the force had already lost much of the Indian ranger complement and two of its three regular officers. Amherst had required Rogers to pick his men from the entire army, not just the rangers. As was often the case over the course of his military career, Rogers was struggling to build coherent working order among a disparate group. Time and again he strove to mold frontier individualists into effective battle formations by communicating effectively with unlettered pioneer Scots-Irish, praying Indians, British regulars, and flat-footed coast provincials. He trained his men rigorously and taught them extraordinary practical skills. Above all, he treated them in a challengingly respectful and equal spirit, taught them to overcome dread, and created a collective mystique. In doing so, Rogers innovated and codified a particularly modern—and American—brand of warfare still taught to special forces today and used in critical situations the world over.

As the men pressed ever deeper into the north country that first day, a French bateau patrol chanced upon a British oar floating in Missisquoi Bay—a discovery that, complemented by the Abenaki report, persuaded the French commandant at Ile aux Noix, Francois-Charles de Bourlamaque, to dispatch 40 men under his best partisan leaders, the veteran ensigns La Durantaye and Langy, whose formidable force had nearly annihilated Rogers’s at the desperate Battle on Snowshoes. In short order the French discovered the well-masked whale boats, took tomahawks to most of the hulls, and then burned the remains to ensure that no enemy could reconstruct that means of return.

The discovery spurred Bourlamaque into a frenzy of activity. A sizable party heading north from Missisquoi Bay would have few logical targets—most likely Chambly, Yamaska, or Saint-Francois, Indian villages that acted as a sort of defensive perimeter for Canadian France. He immediately sent a courier to warn the authorities in Montreal and the governor of Trois-Rivieres, 22 miles northeast of Saint-Francois, that Yamaska and Saint-Francois should be reinforced. He then moved nearly 400 men to the whaleboat landing. The trap was baited: the raiders would meet a warm reception in the north if the frontier garrison did not catch them first. Should they attempt to come back by way of Missisquoi Bay, they would be thrusting their heads yet deeper into a noose.

Oblivious to these mounting perils, Rogers and his men crossed the Riviere aux Brochets (near present- day Frelighsburg) and swung northeast. One or two days later, the mud-bespattered and gasping lookouts overtook the column, crying out the password and then articulating Rogers’s worst fears: 200 French and Indians lay in ambush at the whaleboat rendezvous, while another 200 had picked up the trail. All chance of returning via Lake Champlain was gone. “This unlucky circumstance . . . put us into some consternation,” wrote Rogers.

In an officers’council of war, he sketched out a desperate plan, which he acknowledged stood a good chance of failure. After ravaging Saint-Francois, the rangers would pass eastward by way of Lake Memphremagog, and then south to the Connecticut River valley and Fort No. 4, the northernmost British outpost on the river. He calculated that starvation would nevertheless overtake them long before they reached the fort (that way to safety being a good hundred miles longer than the Champlain passage), and so he planned to summon a relief party from No. 4 to rendezvous 60 miles up the Connecticut at the west-bank infall of the Wells River. Hard though the prospect was, the officers voted to push on.

Rogers charged 1st Lt. Andrew McMullen, who had gone lame, to carry an outline of the Wells plan to Amherst, “that being the way I should return, if at all.” McMullen left shortly thereafter at the head of six rangers.

On they struggled north-northeast through the spruce bogs that laced southern Quebec. As the men forded cold, dark water the color of long- steeped tea, each step proved treacherous. Submerged unseen branches, roots, and logs ripped at moccasins and stubbed now-numb toes. Sleep proved difficult because “we had no way to secure ourselves from the water.” They cut saplings and laid them down, overlaid by boughs and leaves “in Form of a raft” or “a kind of hammocks” on which they could grab a few hours of dreamless rest.

For nine days they trudged, beginning before dark and camping well after dusk, gaining less than 10 miles a day however great their effort. In the pervasive wet and cold, toenails dropped off, and despite the best efforts to keep feet dry, the first signs of trench foot became painfully manifest. And the tannin-rich water also induced painful stomach cramps.

Yet Rogers’s plan worked. La Durantaye’s 200 pursuers could not keep going against the bogs and frigid weather with Rogers’s head start. Quitting the drowned lands, they swung westward over dry ground, then drove north, intending to catch the invaders as they emerged from this difficult country.

Between the spruce wetlands and the northward-running Richelieu River flows the Yamaska, a natural water highway and marker through the forest that led directly to the Abenaki village of Saint-Michel d’Yamaska, known to the English as Wigwam Martinique, some half-dozen miles south of where that river falls into the St. Lawrence. None of the French or Indians could imagine that an alien raiding party might venture through this wilderness without keeping to its course—which made Wigwam Martinique the logical target.

Should such a force veer northeast toward Saint-Francois, it would have to cross the river of the same name. And nine days after leaving their boats, Rogers’s exhausted column indeed came upon that treacherous, rain-swollen watercourse, remarkably within a dozen miles of their target. They would have to wade across the several-hundred-yard-wide river—a task, Rogers wrote, that would be “attended with no small difficulty, the water being five feet deep, and the current swift.” Realizing that fires to dry wet clothes, a necessity in the chill fall weather, could announce their presence, Rogers told his lieutenants to have the men strip and bundle their clothes into their packs and carry them as high as possible on their necks and shoulders.

Rogers motioned forward the corps’s tallest man; he would step sideways into the river, facing upstream. Another large man behind him grabbed his waist, and behind him another, forming a human chain. Slowly they sidestepped across the torrent, occasionally losing purchase on the slippery and unsecured rocks. At times the current broke a man’s grip and threatened to send the hard- pressed line spilling downriver behind him. But somehow they held on and made it across.

The northern shore, soft but firm underfoot, proved a godsend to the shivering force. After several hours of marching with the sun drawing close to the horizon, Rogers shinnied up a tree and spotted smoke from cooking fires to the northwest, only five or six miles distant. That evening they closed to within two and a half miles of Saint-Francois.

As the gray light began to kiss the tall riverbank pines half an hour before sunrise, shadowy figures filed silently to crouch by front doors and alongside the embankment paths leading to the water. The struggling dawn revealed the grisly presence of some 600 or 700 scalps swaying in the light breeze atop trophy poles; some even hung above the white-painted Jesuit church.

Almost predictably, a musket discharged by accident, precipitating the attack. Yet Rogers’s men worked with grim efficiency, bursting down doors, and “shot some as they lay in bed, while others attempting to flee by back Ways, were tomahawked or run thro’ with Bayonets,” reported the Boston Gazette with dispassionate relish. The tribe’s tradition says that some warriors defended the thick-walled council house to the death. “The major, who was never known to be idle in such an Affair, was in every Part of the Engagement encouraging his Men and giving Directions,” declared the New-York Gazette.

Some dozen villagers fled down the embankment toward their beached canoes, but “about forty of my people pursued them, who destroyed such as attempted to make their escape that way, and sunk both them and their boats.” Oral tradition reports that the early sun caught the hat ornament of Abenaki elder Obomsawin just short of the farther shore, and a sharpshooter struck him dead. The disorienting fusillade and clamoring burst upon the Indians as though their winged spirit Bmola had swept through the village on an ill wind.

In a quarter of an hour or so the action ended, the attack “done with so much alacrity by both the officers and men, that the enemy had not time to recover themselves, or take arms for their own defense, till they were chiefly destroyed.” A chief’s two young sons had fallen to their knees crying “Quarter!” the only word they knew in English. The clamor subsided, and a handful of rangers stood with hot gun barrels and bloody bayonets and tomahawks, half incredulous at their success and braced against a counterattack that never came. Several emerged from the French church, one brandishing a 10- pound silver statue of the Madonna over his head in triumph. Inside they had torn tapestries from the walls and trampled the Host underfoot.

A little after sunrise, Rogers ordered all but three corncribs torched. Now some of the villagers hiding in the cellars or lofts streamed out, the women and children joining a small huddle of terrified prisoners; but others chose to die in the flames. The rangers heard fierce death chants from within.

The prisoners claimed that a 300- man enemy party lay in wait only four miles distant. Rogers ordered his men to stuff their packs with corn and warned against filling valuable space with loot, but many did not listen. They would pay for their greed.

In the afternoon of October 5, the day after Saint-Francois burned, 38-year old Jean-Daniel Dumas and 60 French Canadian militiamen from Trois-Rivieres, 16 miles to the northeast, dogtrotted into the ruined town. Some of the dead lay prepared for burial, rolled full-length in bark bound with cord. A wild-eyed figure in a heavy black wool cassock ran up to the belated rescuers. The settlement’s cure, Father Pierre-Joseph-Antoine Roubaud, could barely contain his fury at those who had defiled his church and burnt his parsonage. One detail of Roubaud’s tirade stopped Dumas short. The priest repeated that the rangers had carried off Nanamaghemet, or Marie-Jeanne Gill, the wife of the white chief Jean-Louis Gill of Saint- Francois, and their two sons, Antoine and Sabbatis.

This complicated matters. While his own small force could catch up fairly easily with Rogers, Dumas now had to move with unusual care for fear of putting the hostages at grave risk.

Dumas was no stranger to battle or strategic raiding; his savvy leadership and quick thinking had turned certain defeat into a stunning victory when Braddock’s army had knocked into them outside Fort Duquesne in 1755. A skilled orchestrator of Indian warfare, Dumas had long bedeviled British settlements. The bitter surviving Abenaki braves needed little encouragement to go with Dumas. The women were already at work grinding dried corn and forming the flour into bear-grease cakes. Unlike barely digestible raw dried corn, sagamite was a perfect food for traveling.

Rogers’s party, now swelled by six Abenaki women and boys and five newly unbound prisoners, had pushed southeast, paralleling the river but this time a mile more distant, so as to avoid hunting parties returning home. The men packed their cheeks with kernels of dried corn, letting their saliva soften the hard grain, the better to chew and digest it. At their infrequent halts they spat the mulch into their canteens for further soaking.

By the third or fourth day, after plodding some 30 miles, the strained command found the topography beginning to grow uneven and rugged as they entered the western flanks of the Appalachians. Rogers kept off game trails, so the going proved hard—clipping into ravines, negotiating the canopies of large blowdowns, pushing up steep inclines. Three weeks on the march with only a few hours’respite at Saint-Francois were starting to take their toll on speed and fitness. Long drenching downpours did little to improve morale.

Rogers kept flanking parties and a strong rearguard at constant alert, assuming that a well-fed and vengeful pursuit force could not be far behind. And something else bothered him as he urged his ragged rangers along: he had seen precious little game as they threaded through the woods. While their sheer numbers might have scared off some animals, even the good hunters whom he sent out after deer and bear came back empty-handed. The column found only an occasional partridge or red squirrel.

His men weakening by the hour, Rogers reviewed the options. Near present-day Sherbourne his officers urged that the party be split up to make hunting easier. Even though Rogers had envisioned reaching Lake Memphremagog, just a dozen miles to the southwest, from whence they could find an easier way to the Connecticut River, he agreed. The food situation was dire.

Rogers had struck a devil’s bargain. Divided, the rangers lost the advantage of numbers they would have had against almost any force likely on their trail, even while they gained the ability to move faster, more silently, and less obtrusively. Would he regret this decision? All now depended on whether McMullen had made it through to Crown Point and arranged for reprovisioning on the Wells River.

Rogers split his command into “Small Companies,” each of less than 20 men, excepting his own. An experienced officer would direct each group, each carrying a compass. Rogers would take the least effective and sickliest, his group and most of the others heading toward the rendezvous on the Wells. Those led by Capt. Joseph Waite, Ens. Elias Avery, and Lts. Abernathan Cargill and Jacob Farrington charted a course roughly similar to Rogers’s, south and southeast. Ranger George Turner and William Dunbar of the 80th Light Foot decided on the risky but faster Indian war trail leading southeast to the Connecticut. Billy Phillips and Lt. Jenkins of the Massachusetts militia would each lead a party back to Crown Point, southwest through the Green Mountains.

Soon enough Dumas and his Canadians and Abenaki reached the point where Rogers’s force had dispersed. His scouts quickly reviewed the signs and counted three diverging parties, not the 10 at least that had set off. Quickly dividing his own column and surging with the energy of a predator, he began to hunt rangers.

Two days after Rogers broke up his command, Dumas’s men overwhelmed Dunbar and Turner’s group, killing both lieutenants and five men and taking three prisoner. Eight rangers fought their way out as the Indians howled retribution, then scalped, stripped, and horribly mutilated the bodies, pitching the now unrecognizable corpses into a nearby beaver pond. Eventually the shaken survivors fell in with Rogers.

At nearly the same time, Dumas ran down Ensign Avery and his detachment but bided his time, despite his men’s eagerness to strike immediately. He could see that Avery’s group had gone beyond the limit of their resources, the men stumbling along, eyes fixed on the ground in front of their robotically moving feet.

On the evening of the ninth day, Dumas gave the order, and a handful of Indians plunged into the midst of the worn New Englanders. One cried out when he locked eyes with a warrior only two feet away. War whoops rent the air. Completely surprised, Corp. Frederick Curtiss and the others could not even struggle to their feet; Indian hands roughly pulled them up and long knives slashed off their blankets and leggings. The Indians and Frenchmen tied them naked to trees with tumplines, except for Ranger Ballard, whose hands and feet they bound. Then the vengeful, bereaved Indians plunged their knives into him, delighting in his screams until he died.

Dumas’s party then scalped Ballard, loosened the legs of the living prisoners, and set out. Sometime that evening two escaped, eventually falling in with Rogers’s party. The next day the others came to a watercourse, probably the Saint-Francois, where their captors built bark canoes. On the evening of the fifth day, Curtiss walked into Saint-Francois and found five of his comrades lying butchered in the village center. An anonymous Frenchman wrote that “some of them fell a victim to the fury of the Indian women, notwithstanding the efforts the Canadians could make to save them.”

Meanwhile Rogers and his party had worked their way southwest between Lakes Magog and Massawippi and shadowed the eastern shore of Lake Memphremagog. At every check Rogers harangued stragglers with prospects of what awaited them at the rendezvous. Soon they broke into the rugged northeastern highlands of Vermont.

Fortune had not entirely abandoned Rogers. In a marathon of their own and suffering from many ailments, McMullen’s team had struggled the 100 or so miles back to Crown Point in nine days, arriving on October 3, the day before Saint- Francois fell. Amherst detailed Samuel Stevens, one of Burbank’s New Hampshire rangers who had risen through the ranks to a lieutenancy five months earlier, to march in all haste to Fort No. 4 with a dispatch ordering its commander to furnish him with whatever was needed in the way of supplies, troops, and watercraft. Stevens would paddle up the Connecticut to the rendezvous and “there Remain with Said party, so long as You shall think there is any probability of Major Rogers returning that way.”

The wreck of Rogers’s command passed through great groves of American beech trees whose light gray trunks resembled elephant legs. The men grew irritable, agonizingly sensitive to cold, depressed, and simultaneously apathetic and easily offended. Game proved ever more elusive. Every so often they killed a partridge, but such small prizes could provide but little relief. The group took longer and longer breaks between marches. Many fell into listlessness, responding only mechanically to the major’s still astoundingly effective commands to get up and move along. By now he was pulling out all his tricks, harvesting oyster and chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms. The men scraped the exterior bark off black birch trees and ate the mildly sweet, wintergreen-tasting inside pulp.

As hunger gnawed at their guts, they doubled over on the march to find what little ease they could. Want bit so deeply home that they resorted to roasting the Indian scalps so recently taken as trophies and boiling their leather belts and straps, chewing the tough material for any ghost of nourishment. Some ate their moccasins and the nubs of candles they carried. They boiled their powder horns and drank the thin broth.

Some of the men in Lt. George Campbell’s group lost their minds and “attempted to eat their own excrements,” he later told a contemporary historian. After many foodless days, the spectral column, crossing a small river, came upon the horribly mutilated bodies of Dunbar and Turner’s hapless party, piled up floating among a tangle of logs in a stream running off a pond. “This was not a season for distinctions,” wrote Campbell, and the men waded into the water, so ridden by hunger that they tore into the raw and rotting flesh as though it were the finest dinner they had ever eaten. Their cravings somewhat assuaged, “they carefully collected the fragments, and carried them off.”

How far Rogers’s own struggling band broke the last taboo remains unclear. One rarely reliable source claimed that he killed an Indian woman and cut her into pieces, although killing so useful a forager does not square with his practicality. Another ranger, one named Woods, claimed that a black soldier who had died was cut up; he himself ate the man’s hand along with a trout he had caught, which “made a very good breakfast.”

For all these incommunicable privations, a map that Rogers drew indicates that he had kept a clear head. On October 20, some eight days after the groups divided, he and his party encountered the steep-descending Wells River somewhere near present- day Groton. The distance from the dispersal point was some 80 miles as the crow flies, but they had been compelled to travel considerably more ground as their actual course had pulled them first southwest, then southeast. Five weeks had passed since they had left Crown Point.

On a tongue of flat alluvial grassland, formed by the Wells’s confluence with the main river and cleared by generations of Indian farmers, they came upon a deserted camp, its fire still burning. The survivors, who had given everything to get here, looked at one another with incredulous eyes. McMullen had clearly gotten back with Rogers’s request for resupply, but the relief—with their provisions—had decamped at most only a couple of hours before. Rogers’s men fired their muskets in the air and hallooed with all the strength they could muster, but the wilderness quiet swallowed all noise, and they collapsed.

By cruel fate, the relief party—Lt. Samuel Stevens and five other men— had only just given up waiting after several days. What had prompted Stevens to abandon hope after so brief a vigil? The party did not lack for provisions. Perhaps they feared enemy patrols, or perhaps the still vastness awakened ancient terrors. Most likely, however, was that Stevens did not believe that even the great major could have pulled off so demanding a journey through such treacherous terrain, a bleak judgment so absolute that he had decided not even to cache provisions.

“Our distress upon this occasion was truly inexpressible,” wrote Rogers, “our spirits, greatly depressed by the hunger and fatigues we had already suffered, now almost entirely sunk within us, seeing no resource left, nor any reasonable ground to hope that we should have escaped a most miserable death by famine.” Still he pushed off to hunt, but with little effect, hampered by his own diminishing strength. The Connecticut, cold and fast, reminded the survivors hourly of the abundant food just 60 miles downriver.

After six days Rogers, rested but weakening further, decided to “push as fast as possible toward No. 4, leaving the remains of my party, now unable to march further.” A day or two earlier, he had gotten his men to fell uniformly sized pine trees with their tomahawks, then cut them to length to form a craft capable of supporting three men and a boy. Others of the unit dug up stringy but tough spruce roots, with which he bound the logs together near the water’s edge. He selected Captain Ogden, an unnamed ranger, and the part-Indian boy Sabbatis, taken from Saint-Francois.

He left a Lieutenant Grant in command of the withering remnant, reiterating the importance of keeping the men somehow occupied. He had already taught Grant where to look for groundnuts (Apios americana), a climbing perennial vine that carries large starchy tubers, which boiled or roasted taste like potatoes. Indians often planted them in wet ground near their settlements, and thus a good many of the Saint- Francois raiders probably owed their lives to the people they had set out to kill.

Solemnly pledging to return within 10 days, the major gathered his three companions and pushed off with makeshift paddles that “we had made out of small trees, or spires split and hewed.” The current bore them swiftly away; at first they spun in circles, fast learning how to keep in the midline of the river and avoid obstacles.

On the second day they nearly shot right over the roaring White Falls (near today’s Wilder, Vermont), only narrowly escaping by throwing themselves into the water and thrashing ashore. The raft crashed over and broke into pieces, which the current dragged out of reach downriver. The sodden, exhausted crew worked their way around the boiling whitewater. Rogers sent Ogden and the other ranger off after red squirrels, while he and Sabbatis set about building a new raft—a challenging enough task even with adequate tools. The pair built fires around the bases of several pine trees and by sheer application brought them toppling down. Then they renewed the fire to divide the logs into roughly equal lengths.

The hunters returned with a “partridge”—either a ruffed or spruce grouse—and that scrap of sustenance gave them barely enough strength to try again. The following day, the fourth since they had set out, they bound the logs together, probably with spruce roots, again risking the river’s power.

The roar of Ottaquechee Falls, 50 yards of pounding cataracts, alerted the dazed foursome just in time to make it ashore. Rogers and Ogden reviewed the situation. In his journals Rogers put it simply: they would not have been “able to make a third raft in case we had lost this one.” Their only chance—a steep gamble in itself—lay in getting it down the rapids. Rogers stumbled over to a bush, probably beaked hazel, pulled out his long knife, and harvested dozens of thin, wiry stems. By knotting the ends one to another, the men slowly braided a strong rope and hitched one end to the logs.

Ogden, the other ranger, and Sabbatis stared with the nearly total apathy of the starving as their leader crabbed down the embankment to the bottom of the falls. They could no longer hear one another, but Rogers waved his arm, and Ogden pushed the raft out into the current. He kept a drag on the current’s power with the hazel rope while guiding it as best as he could through the tangle of rocks. At the bottom Rogers prepared “to swim in and board it when it came down, and if possible paddle it ashore.” The raft bounced, bumped, and tumbled through the rapids, remarkably without coming apart. As it drew nearer, Rogers built up what head of steam he could and jumped into the icy water, kicking toward it as hard as he could.

“I had the good fortune to succeed,” he later wrote with characteristic understatement. The raft’s worn-out complement then worked their way toward the shivering Rogers as he lay collapsed on the rocky shore beside the crude craft. The next morning they reboarded and once more shot downriver. Near Fort No. 4 they encountered woodcutters, who at first refused to believe that this haggard remnant could be the lead detail of a fine force that only a few weeks before had dared the wilderness. The workmen helped the survivors back to Fort No. 4, where one anonymous observer noted that the major “was scarcely able to walk after his fatigues.”

At Rogers’s steely insistence that a provision canoe must leave immediately, a detachment pushed off upstream within a half-hour. It reached Grant’s party four days later, on exactly the promised tenth day after the rafters had pushed off. Despite his own exhaustion, Rogers coordinated other canoes to probe for survivors along the Ammonoosuc, dispatched couriers to the Suncook and Pena- cook settlements on the Merrimack with instructions to supply provisions to any rangers who might straggle in, and wrote up his report to Amherst.

All told, 63 survivors somehow made their way to Fort No. 4, and another 17 to Crown Point. Dumas’s partisans and the bereft people of Saint-Francois had killed 18 rangers; nearly a dozen known prisoners had disappeared; and starvation had claimed some two dozen more, several during Rogers’s desperate passage of the Connecticut.

Rogers calculated that he had lost three officers and 46 privates. The overall number may have been slightly higher, but clearly about a third of the 142-man command that had struck Saint-Francois had not returned—rather more than 50 percent of the number they had killed.

In April 1760 Rogers, still weak from the ordeal, traveled to Crown Point for the court martial of Lieutenant Stevens for “Neglect of Duty upon a Detachment to Wells’s River in October last,” before which he testified under oath that had Stevens “delayed but a day, or even some hours longer he would have saved the Lives of a Number of his party, who Perished in the Woods.” Rogers’s gaze set grimly on Stevens. By flouting his corps’s prime directive of complete loyalty and never giving up on one’s comrades, this weak-spined subaltern had doomed many good men to slow deaths.

The court found Stevens guilty and cashiered him “a poor reward, however,” wrote Rogers, “for the distresses and anguish thereby occasioned to so many brave men, to some of which it proved fatal.”

The raid’s success lay not in the crude accounting of lives taken but rather in the psychology of two whole societies: it had shifted the balance of terror. None of the Indian villages or French towns along the St. Lawrence could now feel secure against overland attacks. By this time, Britain had prevailed in the French and Indian War west of the Atlantic, but the final outcome of the Seven Years’War on the European continent was still unclear. Events there might force the British to return their Canadian conquests, much as they had had to give back Louisbourg in Nova Scotia in 1745.

The brilliance of Rogers’s idea of undertaking a raid of such scope lay not in any massive tactical effect but in its strategic ability to unnerve the enemy. Outmatched in troop strength and resources, the French had fought—as do all effective but outnumbered powers—by employing speed and surprise to amplify what assets they possessed. Throughout the war the only British soldier who got inside the French frame of mind was Rogers, a consummate hunter and lifelong careful student of his prey. His success lay in providing a mode of warfare that outmatched the other side in its strongest suit.

The Saint-Francois raid delivered a blow as bold and terrifying as the Deerfield Raid of 1704 to the psyche of the St. Lawrence frontier settlements. It also sent a clear message to all Indians allied with the French: their patrons could not protect them—and the English could move where they would.

Adapted from the new book WAR ON THE RUN: The Epic Story of Robert Rogers and the Conquest of America’s First Frontier by American Heritage Magazine’s Executive Editor, John F. Ross. Copyright © 2009 by John F. Ross.



Online Books etc

for an example of an old romance/classic style history -



via Google

Journals of Major Robert Rogers:
By Robert Rogers, Franklin Benjamin Hough

Book overview

Full view - 1883 - 297 pages - History
  • Diary of the siege of Detroit in the war with Pontiac: also a narrative of ... By Robert Rogers, Franklin Benjamin Hough, John Bradstreet
Book overview

Full view - 1860 - 304 pages - History

  • Michillimackinac Journals of Major Robert Rogers By Robert Rogers, William Lawrence Clements
Book overview
The original journal, previously unpublished, has title: A journal of Major Robert Roger's proceedings with the Indians in ye district of Michillimackinac commencing the 21st of Sept. 1766 & ending Feb. 1st 1767 and continued from thence till the 23d May-from the 29 May till July the 3d.

Full view - 1918 - 52 pages

new blog and related article discovered!
James McPherson: Ranger and Rancher on the Southern Colonial Frontier


"the undisputed expert on Rogers' Rangers"

I first corresponded with Mr. Loescher, back in 1979 in order to purchase his then unpublished volumes and drawings as obscurely advertised in a magazine. Vol III was, in fact, sent as folded and fastened mimeographed pages! This was long before his Rogers Rangers volumes were appreciated or before a publisher was obtained. Mr. Loescher was a most friendly author and inscribed my copies with some very kind comments that I treasure to this day.
Below is an image of the collected and now well-presented volumes available at several fine booksellers (obviously at a greater cost than I could ever have afforded in 1979).
I recently learned he passed away in 2006 but am happy for him that his devotion and passion had been recognized at last - RIP my "Rogers Rangerish friend."

Google: Books by Burt Garfield Loescher - click for some limited preview reads

Troy A. Lettieri review at amazon

"ROGERS Was Not Looking For A few Good Men, Just The BEST!, January 10, 2005 By Troy A. Lettieri "Professional Warrior" (NC, USA) - See all my reviews

This review is for the complete set of History of Rogers Rangers Volumes I, II, III and IV. Facsimile and Revised Editions, Published by: Heritage Books, Inc. All four volumes of this four-volume set are in medium green cloth covered boards with gold text stamping on the spine and on the front board. Without dust jackets as issued. Each volume is an octavo measuring 8 1/2" tall by 5 1/2" deep overall. Just outstanding quality with an overall nice feel to them.

Volume one uncovers the "first part of the history of one of the most remarkable corps of men that ever gathered under a similarly remarkable leader; and also to establish facts on the important part they played in the most vital period of American, Canadian, British and French history in North America." Covered is the history of the very beginning of Rogers' Rangers, including a complete description of Ranger uniforms 1755-1783, terms of enlistment, Rogers' famous ranging rules, journals, official reports, personal diaries, French accounts and so much more. Volume I contains 438 pages followed by a fold-out map, bibliography and nearly 40 pages of notes that make this book absolutely essential for every Ranger enthusiast.

Volume II of the set, this classic offers the complete record of every action, ambuscade, scout and expedition of Major Robert Rogers and his rangers from April 6, 1758 to their disbandment on December 24, 1783. This volume has 311 pages, maps, illustrations, index, extensive chapter notes, and a fantastic 20-page bibliography.

This third volume is a treasure trove of biographical material on the more than 200 rangers, including: Rogers, Stark, Hazen, Brewers, and others. 86 pages.

Finally Volume four, Loescher superb research and study of the St. Francis Raid. Just one of the most incredible exploits of Ranger history, truly a masterpiece of military research and history. Covers 300 pages with illustrations, maps, appendices, and bibliography.

Together these volumes provide the researcher with the most comprehensive study yet performed of Robert's Rangers and the legacy their exploits generated. An exhaustive treatise on Major Robert Roger's band of men given the name Roger's Rangers from their initial formation in 1755 at the start of the French and Indian War to their disbandment in December of 1783, at the close of the American Revolution. The first two volumes are facsimile reprints of the very scarce first editions of 1946 and 1969. Volume III is a revision of the first edition published in 1957 and again in 1985. Volume III provides short biographical information regarding each of the Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers of Robert's Rangers. Truly a most own for any Ranger enthusiast, military historian or re-enactors."


Various Online sites of interest

Frigid Fury - the Battle on Snowshoes

Major Robert Rogers - Revenge 1759

Rogers' Raid on St. Francis - October 1759 - Rogers' Menu

at the Ne-Do-Ba (Friends) website: Exploring & Sharing the Wabanaki History of Interior New England

"The following pages provide you with a glimpse of an important (and controversial) event in the history of the Abenaki People. The raid by Major Robert Rogers and his company of Rangers on the Village of St. Francois du Luc (Odanak) on October 4, 1759 has been referred to by the English as the "raid that destroyed the savage Abenaki Nation forever" and as "Rogers' Massacre" by the Abenaki that survived. Despite the success of the company in reaching the village, the return trip to New England was a disaster for Rogers and his men. Approximately half of the Rangers died on the trip home. Was the raid really the success that our history books want us to believe? Read and decide for yourself!"

  • Roger's Raid according to the Research of Gordon Day (1981) -- Estimates of the damage caused at St. Francis by Rogers is currently believed by many scholars and Abenaki descendants to be much less than stated by Rogers.
  • Roger's Raid - In Their Own Words -- Oral tradition at Odanak from Harrington's interviews of 1869 & Gordon Day's research in the 20th Century
  • Roger's Raid - Additional Notes from Burt Garfield Loescher's "History of Rogers' Rongers, Vol. 4, St. Francis Raid"
  • Major Rogers and the Abenakis' Treasures article by Jacques Boisvert


The Annotated and Illustrated Journals of Major Robert Rogers
Annotated by Timothy J. Todish
Illustrated by Gary Zaboly
243 pages, 8-1/2" X 11", softcover: $29.00
Reviewed by Bill Scurlock

The subject of Rogers Rangers has stirred my interest and imagination for over 25 years. As a reenactor I’ve passed through my “Rangers” phase, but I’m still historically fascinated by Rogers and his rangers. In this new book, you get Rogers telling his story through his Journals (reprinted from the rare 1769 Dublin edition), plus you get the insights and interpretation of Tim Todish, one of the foremost Rogers’ Rangers historians of our time.

Todish’s annotations help clarify the events mentioned in Rogers’ Journals. In writing these annotations, Tim used mostly eyewitness accounts or accounts written by contemporaries of Rogers. Later secondary sources were used sparingly. All in all, you get a more complete picture of the times and events than if the original Journals were printed by themselves.

An enjoyable and educational addition is the historical artwork of Gary Zaboly. Gary’s illustrations animate the events in the Journals. His well-written captions are historical works unto themselves, and they help fill in some gaps lefts in the original Journals.

Although Rogers’ Journals are the core of the book, there is more to this book than appears in the title. There is “An Historical Account of the Expedition against the Ohio Indians” by Rev. William Smith, “Rogers’ Rangers and Their Uniforms: Fact to Legend; Legend to Misconceptions” by Gary Zaboly, an appendix entitled “Portraits of Major Robert Rogers” and an extensive bibliography and index.

If you like the French and Indian War period and/or Rogers’ Rangers, this book will be a valuable addition to your library. You may order this title or a free catalog from Purple Mountain Press, Ltd., PO Box 309, Fleischmanns, NY 12430-0309. Or call 845-254-4062, email , or visit their website .


A True Ranger: The Life and Many Wars of Major Robert Rogers
By Gary Stephen Zaboly
521 pages, illustrated, 8-1/2" X 12", hardcover: $80.00
ISBN 0-9761701-0-8

Reviewed by Tim J. Todish

Several years ago Frank Nastasi, owner of most of the historic area of Rogers’ Island, asked me if I would consider writing a new biography of Robert Rogers. Although it was the opportunity of a lifetime, I knew that, with his accumulated knowledge and access to important sources near his home in New York City, the proper person to write this book was my longtime friend and fellow Ranger historian Gary Zaboly. Gary is not only a great artist, but also he is a gifted writer, and fortunately he was able to accept Mr. Nastasi’s challenge. The resulting book, A True Ranger: The Life and Many Wars of Major Robert Rogers, will no doubt be the definitive biography of Robert Rogers for many years to come. Much new material has been discovered since 1959 when the last major work on Rogers, John Cuneo’s Robert Rogers of the Rangers, was published. Thanks to Mr. Nastasi’s generous backing, Gary was able to search far and wide for new sources of information, either personally or through the efforts of professional researchers.

A True Ranger weaves the story of Robert Rogers’ life into a fascinating narrative that covers both the good and the bad of his life honestly and fairly. The text is well organized and flows logically, and the facts are carefully documented with well organized endnotes. The book traces the famous ranger’s life in chronological order in an easy-to-read and enjoyable style. The reader is exposed not only to Robert Rogers, his family and his associates, but also to the world in which he lived. The result is an in-depth understanding of the man and the forces that drove him. While there is only minimal use of the large quantity of Ranger art that Gary has created over the years, other well chosen and often rare illustrations create a visual understanding of Rogers’ world. My one disappointment with the book is that, with the system of endnotes used, there is no consolidated bibliography. This is a very minor deficiency considering the book’s many positive points.

Without a doubt, Maj. Robert Rogers is one of the most widely known figures to come out of Colonial America. He was a man of great strengths and also more than a few human weaknesses. That he possessed uncommon physical strength and mental determination there is no doubt. Best known for his incredible exploits as a ranger during the French and Indian War, Robert Rogers was far more than just a good soldier—he could scout the unknown wilderness and move in the highest levels of society with equal ease. Debts incurred on behalf of his ranger corps led to lifelong financial difficulties. He was a heavy drinker, at least in his later years, and he was a less than perfect husband and father.

As an explorer, one of his proposals to find the fabled Northwest Passage anticipated the route taken by Lewis and Clark 50 years later. In spite of a limited formal education, he was the author of two highly successful books and is credited with one of the first plays by a native-born American to be published in England. A ferocious Indian fighter in time of war, he understood and admired their culture and also often championed their cause.

The outbreak of the French and Indian War allowed Rogers to escape trial for his alleged involvement with a ring of counterfeiters. He quickly established himself as a source of reliable intelligence sorely needed by his British commanders and before long rose to command a corps of independent ranging companies. Their extraordinary accomplishments, especially the 1759 raid on the Abenaki Indian village of St. Francis, made Rogers famous on both sides of the Atlantic.

With the fall of Montreal in 1760, Rogers was selected to lead the first British military expedition into the Great Lakes, a region that would play a great part in his future years. He returned to Detroit in 1763 to serve with distinction during the Pontiac Uprising. In 1766, as commandant of the important fur-trading post of Michilimackinac, he sent out a preliminary expedition in search of the Northwest Passage. The next year he negotiated a treaty between two traditional enemies, the Ojibwa and the Sioux, that greatly advanced British trading interests in the region. Unfortunately, he also antagonized some powerful and influential enemies, and he was charged with treason and removed from his command on some very suspicious evidence. Although quickly acquitted when finally brought to trial, his reputation was severely damaged and again he was forced to go to England to seek preferment.

Rogers returned to America at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, but the hostilities put an end to his hopes for another opportunity to search for the Northwest Passage. After being rebuffed by the Americans, he accepted a British commission, raising two units that, although called rangers, were nothing like his intrepid French and Indian War companies. Rogers’ most significant accomplishment during the Revolution was the capture of American spy Nathan Hale. While it has long been known that his unit made the apprehension, a recently discovered journal explains how Rogers personally met with Hale on two occasions and tricked him into admitting his espionage mission. At war’s end, in broken health and drinking heavily, he sailed to England, where he died in poverty and obscurity on May 18, 1795.

Who knows what great things Robert Rogers could have accomplished in his later years if fate had dealt him a kinder hand. One thing is certain from Zaboly’s careful study—Robert Rogers was indeed one of the most famous Americans of his day. A True Ranger: The Life and Many Wars of Major Robert Rogers takes a welcome fresh and unbiased look at this mysterious and fascinating man. As we begin the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War, thanks to Gary Zaboly and Frank Nastasi, we are left with no doubt that, in spite of his human failings, Robert Rogers was not only A True Ranger but also a true hero.

A True Ranger was published in 2004 by Royal Blockhouse, 147 Herricks Road, Garden City Park NY 11040.

RG - Great book by a a fantastic artist - we exchanged e-mails a few years ago and he was most friendly and sharing of information.


Rangers and Redcoats on the Hudson: Exploring the Past on Rogers’ Island, the Birthplace of the U.S. Army Rangers
By David R. Starbuck
168 pages, 7" X 10", softcover: $21.95
ISBN 1-58465-378-7

Reviewed by Tim J. Todish

Rangers and Redcoats on the Hudson is the third of a series of Dr. David Starbuck’s books that I have reviewed for MUZZLELOADER. (See The Great Warpath: British Military Sites from Albany to Crown Point, July/August 2000, and Massacre at Fort William Henry, November/December 2003.) All three books, including the present title, are similar in format and style, and together they give a comprehensive and interesting picture of the archaeology surrounding French and Indian War sites in New York and New England.

Like its predecessors, Rangers and Redcoats combines history and archaeology into an interesting, easy to read package. From 1991 through 1998, Dr. Starbuck conducted a series of archaeological excavations on Rogers’ Island. Some of the information in this book is new, and some of it just combines previously published material into one neat package. Through his writing and his carefully selected illustrations, Dr. Starbuck carefully chronicles the story of one of the most important historical sites of the French and Indian War. Located in the Hudson River adjacent to Fort Edward, Rogers’ Island was home to countless Regular and Provincial troops, as well as the primary headquarters for the famous Rogers’ Rangers throughout much of the war. In addition to the Rangers’ huts, the island contained a military barracks, a large hospital and a smaller hospital for isolating smallpox victims.

Those who are familiar with Dr. Starbuck’s previous works know that he has very stringent standards. According to the author, “archaeology is not principally about digging or finding objects. Rather, it is asking appropriate questions about the past, followed by the systematic, disciplined recording of information in the field; followed by precise artifact analysis and appropriate conservation; culminating in the publication of all results in a timely and thorough manner” (115). He has harsh words for amateur “pothunters” who destroy archaeological sites for personal gain, but he has a similar low tolerance for professional archaeologists who dig a site and then never publish their findings. While his Rangers and Redcoats is designed for the reenactor and history buff market, he notes in his book that he will be following up with a more scientific report on his findings (84).

Because of the amount and types of use that the Island has received, it is an especially challenging site to interpret. Dr. Starbuck succinctly describes the potential difficulties faced by archaeologists when he writes, “The archeologist has a difficult task in finding and interpreting military architecture in frontier settings because many structures were not built for permanency and it was easier to support a building’s weight with posts rather than to construct foundations. After all, the storehouse or hospital was often needed only for a season or two. In the specific case of Rogers’ Island, rows of tents and huts were constantly being pitched or constructed in close proximity to each other, thus producing large numbers of overlapping archaeological sites. Building materials such as bricks would have been ‘raided’ from earlier sites, and trash from later occupations was thrown on top of the remains of tents or huts from just a year before. Consequently, few sites can be studied in isolation and artifacts that appear to be associated with a particular structure and its occupants may simply be trash thrown there later by someone else” (48).

This book gives the reader a brief but clear history of the island from prehistoric to modern times, along with an account of the archaeology that has taken place there over the years. A particularly satisfying section for this reviewer was entitled “Remembering Earl Stott, the Longtime Owner of Rogers Island.” When Earl owned the island, he was a warm friend and gracious host to countless historians, reenactors, Scout groups and others who had an interest in the place’s history. Although the archaeology that Earl engaged in was not up to modern professional standards, Dr. Starbuck recognizes his passionate love of the island and its history. The stone monument to Rogers’ Rangers that Earl and his sons built in 1964 still stands, recently joined by a statue of Robert Rogers commissioned by the island’s current owner, Mr. Frank Nastasi.

Like Dr. Starbuck’s other books, Rangers and Redcoats is must reading for any student of Rogers’ Rangers or the French and Indian War in general. It leaves the reader with a basic understanding of the history of the site and the archaeology associated with it, as well as an appreciation for the archaeologists who so carefully carry on the important studies that help us preserve our past.

Rangers and Redcoats contains 168 pages and over 120 illustrations and sells for $21.95 plus shipping. It was published by University Press of New England in 2004 and may be ordered online at or by calling toll-free 1-800-421-1561.


American Colonial Ranger: The Northern Colonies 1724–64
By Gary Zaboly
64 pages, illustrated, softcover: $16.95
ISBN 1-84176-649-6
Reviewed by Tim J. Todish

Although he is mainly known for his artistic ability, Gary Zaboly writes as well as he paints, and his new book for the Osprey Warrior Series is a wonderful blend of his talents. American Colonial Ranger: The Northern Colonies 1724–64 chronicles the tradition of the American Ranger from 1724 through the end of the Pontiac Uprising. While the famous Maj. Robert Rogers and his Ranger corps play a large part in the narrative, lesser-known but equally deserving units are also given their due.
All Osprey titles are “formula” books with a clear publisher-defined structure, but Zaboly makes the most of this format in telling his story. Through such sections as Recruiting and Enlistment, Training and Tactics, Camp Life, On Campaign, and Their Legacy, the author weaves a fascinating story of the contributions of these intrepid and unorthodox fighters.
American Rangers were tough but also were fiercely independent, which at times put them at odds with their more conventional superiors. Zaboly’s text presents a balanced picture. British Lt. Col. William Haviland remarked, “It would be better if they were all gone than have such a Riotous sort of people.” On the other hand, the author points out that “the very qualities that these commanders despised in the rangers—their field attire that often resembled that of ‘savage’ Indians, their unconventional tactics, their occasional obstreperousness, their democratic recruiting standards that allowed blacks and Indians into their ranks—are what helped make them uniquely adroit at fighting their formidable Canadian and Indian wilderness foes, in all kinds of weather conditions and environments.”
In addition to an ample number of outstanding black and white illustrations, there are eight beautiful color plates created exclusively for this book. Three of the plates show closeup views of Ranger clothing, weapons and equipment, while the others are dramatic scenes of various Ranger units in camp, in the field or in action against the enemy.
While there are more in-depth studies available on the subject, the amount and quality of the illustrations, along with the concise, well-written text make American Colonial Ranger a must for reenactors, figure painters and anyone else interested in Ranger history.
American Colonial Ranger was published by Osprey Publishing Ltd, Oxford, England, and is available at major retailers and online.


WHITE DEVIL: An Epic Story of Revenge from the Savage War That Inspired The Last of the Mohicans
By Stephen Brumwell
335 pages, maps, hard cover: £ 20 Sterling
ISBN 0-297-84677-9

Reviewed by Tim Todish

Almost everyone with an interest in historical reenacting or black powder shooting is at least somewhat familiar with Kenneth Roberts’ novel Northwest Passage and the 1940 movie based on the book. Most recognize that the book and the movie incorporate fictional characters and are not 100 percent historically accurate. Nevertheless, they do a fine job of capturing the spirit of Rogers’ Rangers’ 1759 attack on the Abenaki Indian village of St. Francis, one of the most difficult military expeditions in American history.

In White Devil English author Stephen Brumwell tells the true story of the famous raid using a variety of sources from both sides of the Atlantic. His previous book,Redcoats, has become the definitive study of the British Regular soldier in North America during the French and Indian War, and Brumwell approaches his current subject with the same thoroughness and attention to detail.

The “White Devil,” as Maj. Robert Rogers was called by the Abenakis, was a multi-dimensional character, perhaps even more famous in his own time than he is today. Brumwell’s book not only gives a detailed, almost day-by-day account of the raid, but it also gives us a close-up look at Rogers and his famous rangers. On December 15, 1757, Capt.-Lt. Henry Pringle of the 27th, or Inniskilling Regiment, described the Rangers as “created Indians.” He further wrote:

They dress & live like the Indians, & are well acquainted with the woods. There are many of them Irish, & their Commanding Officer, Rogers (who dined with me this very day)… is a very resolute clever fellow, & has several times, as he terms it, banged the Indians & the French heartily…They shoot amazingly well, all Ball, & mostly with riffled Barrels. One of their Officers the other day, at four shots with four balls, killed a brace of Deer, a Pheasant, & a pair of wild ducks. The latter he killed at one shot. They, as well as the Indians, go out every now & then about six men together, upon a scout to shoot men, for 15 or 20 days; & carry their provisions & blankets upon their backs. [101–102]

Pringle’s statement that the Rangers used mostly rifles and a later claim by the author that the entire 1757 Cadet Company was equipped with them is somewhat surprising new information. When I asked about all of the Cadet Company having rifles, the author stated that he found documentation both for the rifles’ issue and subsequent return to stores in the orderly books of Lord Loudoun now in the National Archives of Scotland. This interesting sidelight is definitely worthy of further research.

Another thing that makes this book valuable is its balance. The author attempts to explain the background and perspectives of the Abenakis and their French allies as well as the British/American view. To the best of my knowledge, the last book seriously to attempt to explain the raid from the Abenaki perspective was Gen. Charles Bowen’s very difficult-to-find 1959 novel Lost Virgin.

The Abenaki village of St. Francis, or Odanak, was located on the northeast bank of the St. Francis River a few miles south of its juncture with the St. Lawrence. In the early 18th century, its French-allied Christian Indian inhabitants were the scourge of the northern British settlements. Fierce Abenaki warriors killed or carried off hundreds of British settlers, and the destruction of Odanak was one of the goals of Maj. Robert Rogers from the time he first organized his ranger corps.

It was not just a village of ramshackle dwellings. In 1752 a French engineer counted more than 50 houses of squared timbers covered with bark or boards, and other reports indicated that some houses were of frame and stone construction. An earlier log stockade had long since disappeared by 1759.

Although they were without a doubt formidable and sometimes cruel enemies, the Abenakis of Odanak also had a side that was proud and noble. Ranger Capt. John Stark remarked about the kindness shown to him when he was held captive there in the early 1750s. A British soldier left this description of the Abenakis:

No people have a greater love of liberty, or affection to their relatives; but they are the most implacably vindictive people upon the earth, for they revenge the death of any relation, or any great affront, whenever occasion presents, let the distance of time or place be ever so remote. (40)

In September 1759 Rogers was finally given orders that he had been waiting for—to attack and destroy St. Francis. He and his party of about 220 Rangers and volunteers left the British fort at Crown Point on the night of September 13 and rowed down Lake Champlain. Eventually they hid their boats at Mississquoi Bay and marched overland for another 100 miles or so until they reached the St. Francis River. After a difficult crossing, Rogers led his men to the village, attacking it on the early morning of October 4. Although the exact number of warriors killed in the assault is in dispute, there is no doubt that, as a result of this raid, the Abenakis were never again a serious threat for the remainder of the war.

As it turned out, the destruction of the village was the easy part of the mission, and the return was an epic march of fatigue and starvation. The French had found the boats at Mississquoi Bay, so the raiders, ever short of food, were forced to find their way home on foot through rugged country that would eventually become the states of Maine and New Hampshire.

Brumwell’s book tells both sides of this fascinating story without bias or any concern for political correctness. The narrative flows smoothly, but it is backed up by substantial endnotes that thoroughly document his sources and often provide further interesting details on issues discussed in the text. While in some books endnotes can sometimes be convoluted and confusing, Brumwell’s are a pleasant and often fascinating addition to his story.

White Devil is a gripping tale of Rogers’ leadership, the raiders’ courage and the tenacity of their French and Indian pursuers. It is the most in-depth account of these events to date and is simply a “must-read” for anyone interested in Rogers’ Rangers, the Abenaki Indians or the French and Indian War in the Northern Colonies.


Remembering Robert Rogers

In today’s Boston Globe, Michael Kenney reviews War on the Run: The Epic Story of Robert Rogers and the Conquest of America's First Frontier, by John F. Ross. The reviewer admits:

Rogers has been a heroic figure for this reader since first encountering him some 60 years ago in Kenneth Roberts’s classic 1937 novel, Northwest Passage.

Roberts’s story indeed reinvigorated Rogers’s legacy in America. Or, as the Dictionary of Canadian Biography says:

The considerable Rogers cult that has been in evidence in the United States during the last generation probably owes a good deal to K. L. Roberts’ popular historical novel...

After all, American culture doesn’t usually admire Loyalist officers. Especially one apparently involved in capturing another national hero—in this case, Nathan Hale. (Whether Hale deserves his prominence in American lore is another question.)

Both Roberts’s novel and Ross’s new book focus on Rogers’s part in the British Empire’s wars against the French and some Native American nations during the 1750s and 1760s. That means they can describe the high points of the man’s life and avoid the iffy decades that followed till his death in 1795.

Many accounts of Rogers’s career note that he began to drink heavily, which must have contributed to his erratic behavior. But he was courting trouble even in his early twenties, when he was arrested in New Hampshire for leading a counterfeiting ring. He never seems to have done well playing by the rules. The mid-century frontier wars may simply have created the environment in which Robert Rogers flourished.

J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.


Tales of a stealth warrior before the Revolution

By Michael Kenney, Globe Correspondent | May 19, 2009

In November 1759, reporting on his audacious mission to destroy the French-allied Indian village of Saint-François in Quebec, Major Robert Rogers wrote that he and his elite Rangers "[had] marched nine days through wet sunken ground; the water most of the way a foot deep, it being a spruce bog."

The return journey through that same unforgiving terrain, now pursued by Canadian militia and Indian warriors seeking vengeance, has become one of the great epics of the American frontier.

And Rogers, in John F. Ross's sweeping account, "War on the Run," stands forth as one of the most skilled tacticians of small-unit, backcountry warfare - a war of endurance and stealth.

An unschooled farmboy growing up on the New Hampshire frontier, Rogers volunteered in 1748 for a local militia unit after seeing the bodies of neighbors who had been killed in an Indian raid.

Over the next dozen years, as war with French Canada raged across the northern New England frontier, Rogers organized an elite commando-style unit, leading it in raids against French outposts, ambushing French patrols - and being ambushed in turn.

"It would be his signature genius," as Ross puts it, "to create a new and formidable mode of warfare; the invisibility and sweeping range of the forest people would be cleverly united to the newcomers' technologies, strategic vision, and cultural appetite for innovation." It would be a brand of warfare, he writes, "to match not only the continent's environment, but also its magnitude." It is no surprise to learn that Rogers's "Rules of Ranging" are now taught at Camp Rogers, the US Army's Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga.

Ross, the executive editor of American Heritage magazine, has crafted a thrilling narrative from Rogers's "Journals," the accounts of British and French commanders, and those of Rangers themselves. In addition to such traditional sources, Ross has hiked and kayaked over much of Rogers's territory and conveys a fine sense of place.

Here is Ross bringing the reader into those spruce bogs that the Rogers Rangers had traversed on the trek to Saint-François.

"As the men stepped into cold, dark water the color of long-steeped tea, each step proved uncertain: one foot might gain good purchase, the next sink in above the ankle or knee. Submerged, unseen branches, roots, and logs ripped at moccasins and stubbed now-numb toes. Stiff, sharp back spruce needles raked weary, stumbling bodies. Human beings entering any [such] habitat become conscious only slowly of the sheer magnitude of its life-sucking otherness. The glow of yellow tamarack needles in their fall splendor did little to temper the foreboding."

Rogers would live for another 36 years after the Saint-François raid.

There was a brief period of recognition when he was appointed commandant at the Great Lakes trading post at Michilimackinac, envisioning it as the gateway to an overland Northwest Passage. Suspected of planning to defect to his former French Canadian foes, he was court-martialed, but exonerated.

When the Revolution began, he offered his services to the Continental Army. But General Washington distrusted him, suspecting that he was a British agent, and ordered his arrest for treason. Rogers fled, received a command from the British, and in an act of typical cunning, tricked Nathan Hale into revealing himself as an American spy.

A romantic marriage, marred by long absences, had long since ended in divorce, and Rogers died, deeply in debt, in London in 1795.

Rogers has been a heroic figure for this reader since first encountering him some 60 years ago in Kenneth Roberts's classic 1937 novel, "Northwest Passage."

Here is Roberts's narrator describing Rogers on the night before the attack on Saint-François:

"Rogers, it seemed to me, could go beyond the limits of human endurance; and then, without rest, buoyantly hurl himself against the fiercest opposition of Nature or man, or both. There was something elemental about him - something that made it possible for men who were dead with fatigue to gain renewed energy from him, just as a drooping wheat-field is stirred to life by the wall of wind that runs before a thunder-storm."

It deepened the pleasure of reading "War on the Run" to find that historian Ross has matched the narrative skills of novelist Roberts.

Michael Kenney is a Cambridge-based freelance writer.


Publisher Comments:

Hailed as the father of today's elite special forces, Robert Rogers was not only a wilderness warrior but North America's first noteworthy playwright and authentic celebrity. In a riveting biography, John F. Ross reconstructs the extraordinary achievements of this fearless and inspiring leader whose exploits in the early New England wilderness read like those of an action hero and whose innovative principles of unconventional warfare are still used today.
They were a group of handpicked soldiers chosen for their backwoods savvy, courage, and endurance. Led by a young captain whose daring made him a hero on two continents, Rogers's Rangers earned a deadly fame among their most formidable French and Indian enemies for their ability to appear anywhere at any time, burst out of the forest with overwhelming force, and vanish just as quickly. This swift, elusive, intelligence-gathering strike force was the brainchild of Robert Rogers, a uniquely American kind of war maker capable of motivating a new breed of warrior.
The child of marginalized Scots-Irish immigrants, Robert Rogers learned to survive in New England's dark and deadly forests, grasping, as did few others, that a new world required new forms of warfare. Marrying European technology to the stealth and adaptability he observed in native warriors, Rogers trained and led an unorthodox unit of green provincials, raw woodsmen, farmers, and Indian scouts on impossible missions that are still the stuff of soldiers' legend. Covering heartbreaking distances behind enemy lines, they traversed the wilderness in whaleboats and snowshoes, slept without fire or sufficient food in below-freezing temperatures, and endured hardships that would destroy ordinary men.
With their novel tactics and fierce esprit de corps, the Rangers laid the groundwork for the colonial strategy later used in the War of Independence. Never have the stakes of a continent hung in the hands of so few men. Rogers would eventually write two seminal books whose vision of a unified continent would influence Thomas Jefferson and inspire the Lewis and Clark expedition.
In War on the Run, John F. Ross vividly re-creates Rogers's life and his spectacular battles, having traveled over much of Rogers's campaign country. He presents with breathtaking immediacy and painstaking accuracy a man and an era whose enormous influence on America has been too little appreciated.


Terror marked America's earliest frontier 250 years ago--and a poorly-educated farmer's son responded by innovating a new American type of warfare so effective that it forms the core of special operations efforts today.


Near the end of the course Announcements, I refer to a memorable scene from the movie Northwest Passage - Book 1 Rogers' Rangers (1940):
Elizabeth Browne: [standing alongside Langdon Towne as Major Robert Rogers and his rangers march into the distance]
Is there, Langdon? Is there a Northwest Passage?
Langdon Towne: Who knows. It's every man's dream to find a short-route to his heart's desire. If the Major
dreams long enough, he'll find it.
Elizabeth Browne: Will we hear from him?
Langdon Towne: Hear from him? Everytime we look across the river we'll hear his voice calling us through the wind. He'll be within us, Elizabeth - wherever we are or he may be - for that man will never die.

While Rogers did not find the fabled Northwest passage of legend (and no one did because it does not exist) what he did do deserves recognition and remembrance.

Ross eloquently summarizes as excerpted here:

"Rogers performed the rough and perfunctory ceremony of accepting...surrender of Detroit, the symbolic centerpiece of the French west...he officiated over one of the most transformational moments in Western history..the largest international transfer of land in history. (307)....Rogers had logged a remarkable 1,600 miles in four months during the fall and winter [1760], several hundred more miles then Lewis and Clark...Yet, it draws little notice, [probably because Rogers made it look so matter of course." (309)


Ranging Standing Orders



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