Robert Rogers

The colonial American Robert Rogers (1731-1795) was a frontiersman and army officer in the French and Indian War. Later he was extremely successful as a ranger, raider, and reconnaissance officer.

Robert Rogers was born in Methuen, Mass., on Nov. 18, 1731. He grew up in Dunbarton, N.H. Though formal education was slight in a frontier town like Dunbarton, his childhood in field and forest was ideal preparation for his career as a ranger officer.

Beginning service as a scout in King George's War (1744-1748), Rogers reentered service as a ranger officer when the French and Indian War (1755-1763) broke out, possibly because he was involved in alleged counterfeiting of the easily imitated colonial currency. Eventually, he commanded nine ranger companies and was promoted to major. He was in charge of reconnaissance, active in raiding around Lake Champlain, especially at Crown Point and Ticonderoga, and led the force that destroyed the St. Francis Indians (named after the Indian Village of St. Francis, northeast of Montreal), longtime terrors of the New England frontier. He was at the surrender of Montreal in 1760, which ended the French regime in Canada.

After the capitulation, Rogers led a party as far as Detroit to receive the surrender of the French garrison there and to persuade the Native Americans that they must hence-forward look to the British as their "fathers." The popular hero was not completely successful. The Native Americans attacked in Pontiac's Conspiracy, and Rogers was with the British troops that moved to relieve Detroit, fighting in the defeat at Bloody Run and commanding the men who covered the British withdrawal to Detroit again.

After brief service in the South and a trip to England, Rogers became commandant at the northwestern Mackinac post. Here he was accused of illegal trading with the Native Americans and other offenses, including treason; but a court-martial triumphantly acquitted him. Rogers had been unfortunate in business; the exact nature of his business is not clear, but it certainly included ventures in Native American trading. He also had difficulty with vouchers for expenses incurred during his Native American fighting, so that his debts eventually reached £13,000. When he returned to England in 1769, he was thrown into debtors' prison but was released with the aid of his brother James.

Returning to America in 1775 as a half-pay British lieutenant colonel, Rogers showed patriot sympathies, which may have been feigned. George Washington distrusted him, and Rogers eventually joined the service of the British with no great distinction. He died in poverty in London on May 18, 1795.

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Further Reading on Robert Rogers

Rogers's Journals are the best source for his military exploits. Rogers's Ponteach (1914) contains a biography by the editor, Allan Nevins. An excellent biography is John R. Cuneo, Robert Rogers of the Rangers (1959). The second volume of the 1937 edition of Kenneth Roberts, Northwest Passage, contains documents and a lengthy bibliography.

Additional Biography Sources

Cuneo, John R., Robert Rogers of the rangers, Ticonderoga, N.Y.: Fort Ticonderoga Museum, 1988.

Rogers, Robert, Reminiscences of the French War: with Robert Rogers' journal and a memoir of General Star, Freedom, N.H.: Freedom Historical Society, 1988.