Robert Rogers was born in Methuen, Massachusetts – twenty minutes from where I currently live. His family moved to what was then the wilderness of Dunbarton, New Hampshire a few years later. Rogers is famous for leading a group of colonists in the French and Indian War. There are some who will point to his debts, drinking and war atrocities committed against women and children. These are very much the darker part of his story. But Rogers was very good at what he did, which is taking the fight to the French and Native America populations during war. In war you need strong leaders, and Rogers was certainly that, leading Roger’s Rangers to fame that lasts to this day.
I first learned about Roger’s Rangers when I was a kid watching the movie Northwest Passage. I haven’t seen that movie in 40 years, but I’ve read up on Rogers, and everything I read makes me want to learn more about this guy. Rogers and his Rangers wore green uniforms and did epic raids and scouting missions across vast and hostile wilderness. Roger’s Rangers were the origin of what is now the United States Army Rangers. Live off the land, shrug off hardship and discomfort and get the job done.
Perhaps the most epic story I read about Rogers Rangers – and there are many – is a mission when they skated across Lake George, switched to snowshoes and trekked across snow covered forest for miles. These were tough, athletic and versatile men who never saw a mission that they didn’t want to tackle. On another snowshoeing mission they ambushed the enemy deep in hostile territory, only to be ambushed themselves. Rogers and many of the Rangers managed to escape by holding off the French and Native Americans until dark, separating into smaller groups and melting into the wilderness.
By all accounts, Rogers was a brilliant soldier who adopted Native American tactics to create his own form of fighting. Today people talk about Navy Seals with awe. Frankly I do as well. Rogers Rangers would hold a place of honor at the table of military heroes in America’s history. Many of the tactics used in the armed forces today originated with Robert Rogers. In fact, Rogers “Rules of Ranging” are still followed by the U.S. Army Rangers of today.
Rogers was a hero of the French and Indian War, but like many soldiers he struggled after the war. Debt, scandal, alcoholism and war crimes muddied his reputation after the war and in the years since. During the Revolutionary War he took the British side, and it’s said that he was the one who recognized Nathan Hale (“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”) when he was spying on the British in New York. Hale was hanged soon afterwards. New Hampshire, which Rogers did as much to protect as anyone during the French and Indian War, expelled him as a Tory. He would die in poverty in London.