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Major Robert Rogers

Courtesy of
America's Historic Lakes

COLD WINTER NIGHTS, BY ANNE WHITE

Cold Winter
Nights
A Lake George Mystery

by Anne White

ISBN #1-59133-298-2
ISBN #978-1-59133-298-5

Kindle edition available
ASIN: B005BSQR0S

SECRETS DARK AND DEEP

Secrets Dark
and
Deep
A Lake George Mystery

by Anne White

ISBN # 1-59133-197-8HC
ISBN # 1-59133-198-6TP

Kindle Edition Available
ASIN: B005A7RNXA


BEST LAID PLANS

Best Laid Plans
A Lake George Mystery

by Anne White

ISBN #1-59133-169-2 Hardcover
ISBN #1-59133-170-6 Paperback

Kindle Edition Available
ASIN: B005A76MLO

BENEATH THE SURFACE

Beneath the
Surface
A Lake George Mystery

by Anne White

ISBN #
1- 59133- 123- 4HC
ISBN #
1- 59133- 124- 2TP

Kindle edition available
ASIN: B005A76PRA

 

HISTORY

MAJOR ROBERT ROGERS–THE CONTROVERSY CONTINUES.


In the spring of 2005, a statue of Major Robert Rogers was unveiled and dedicated at Fort Edward in upstate New York, the home base of Rogers’ Rangers during the French and Indian War. The event caused disagreement among historians and re-enactors and focused public attention on a two-hundred-fifty-year old controversy: Should Rogers be honored as one of America’s first heroes or remembered as a traitor?

As I gathered background information for Beneath The Surface, the second in my Lake George Mystery Series, I found a wealth of material on this man who played such a significant role in the English defeat of the French in the battles which raged across New York and Canada in the late 1750’s.

Robert Rogers grew up on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire frontier where he developed skills in hunting, tracking and wilderness survival at an early age. When he was recruited by the British in 1755 to fight in the French and Indian War, known in Europe as the Seven Years War, he organized a small company of scouts and initiated a new style of warfare. This corps of woodsmen, called Rogers’ Rangers, employed tactics learned from the Indians. Their strategies – harass, ambush and attack from hiding – proved so successful in wilderness fighting that other companies were recruited. In 1758, the British placed Rogers in charge of all colonial Ranger companies.

Old World custom called for soldiers to stand in formation in their brightly colored uniforms and fire at the enemy. The Rangers, dressed in buckskins dyed green to blend with the forest setting, moved quickly and stealthfully, fired their muskets from behind trees and rocks and lived off the land whenever possible, often without fires or shelter.

The Standing Orders Rogers is said to have given his men two hundred fifty years ago at Fort Edward are still used in much the same form today by United States Special Forces, including the Green Berets. Although some historians question their exact origin, these rules of engagement offer practical, straightforward advice, such as: Don’t forget nothing. Have your musket clean as a whistle… Tell the truth about what you see and what you do. Never take a chance you don’t have to. And there are many more.

By 1757, fierce fighting raged up and down Lake George from the French-controlled Fort Carillion (Ticonderoga) at the northern end to Fort William Henry, manned by the English, at the southern end. Once the lake was frozen, the Rangers, quick to adapt to their environment, used skates and snowshoes to harass and attack the French in a deadly game of hide and seek.

Legend has it that during the Second Battle on Snowshoes in 1758, one of the Rangers’ most famous engagements, Rogers retreated from a large company of French to the edge of a steep cliff, still known as Rogers’ Rock. He then put his snowshoes on backwards and descended to the lake by another route, leaving the French thoroughly puzzled. Although the tale makes a colorful footnote to the area’s history, the story has been discredited.

The Rangers are also remembered for their battle with the Abenaki St Francis Indians, immortalized by Kenneth Roberts in Northwest Passage. After the Indians had killed many colonists and attacked a retreating British unit under a flag of truce, Rogers led a force of Rangers to destroy their village located midway between Montreal and Quebec. The raid was successful, but the return home through miles of swamp almost wiped out the surviving Rangers.

Later, Rogers and his men fought in General Wolfe’s expedition against Quebec, in the Montreal campaign and in Pontiac’s War around the Great Lakes.

After the close of hostilities, Rogers was given command of the northwest post of Fort Michilimackinac, located on Mackinac Island on the northern edge of Lake Michigan. Mackinac Island, preserved as it was in the last century, today offers tourists an unforgettable trip back in time. Although the island’s residents celebrate Rogers’ exploits, his assignment there ended in disgrace when he was removed in irons and sent to England on charges of treason.

Rogers was eventually acquitted of the charges against him, but his reputation was such that Washington refused him a commission during the Revolution. Rogers, hurt and angry, accepted a commission from the British and fought against the Americans – the reason for the present day controversy about honoring him. After the Revolution, the man the Indians called Wobi Mandanondo, the White Devil, returned to England, spent time in debtors’ prison and died in 1795 in a South London slum.

Several years ago as scientists and genealogists learned more about DNA, a New England newspaper reported a bizarre request. A group, convinced that Rogers had secretly returned to this country shortly before his death, sought permission to douse for his DNA in a Rogers family cemetery in New Hampshire. Although the request wasn’t granted, it was one more example of the controversy which continues to surround this man.

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