Before the United States laid claim to the lovely little patch of North America, the continent was a wild, untamed place and incredible true stories of intrepid frontiersman were forged on a daily basis. Among the greatest of those rugged men and women was Robert Rogers, one of the most fascinating forgotten figures of American colonial history.
There's a vast sea of important figures in colonial America, from famous people like Benjamin Franklin to obscure ones like Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. Robert Rogers is one of the overlooked frontiersmen who had an indelible impact on the early formation of the US, thanks to his unflappable spirit and his penchant for success. Unfortunately, Rogers also chose to fight for Great Britain in the midst of all the battles of the American Revolution, a decision which likely contributed to the total lack of true Robert Rogers stories circulating in US History classes. This bad*ss frontiersman, who had earned a reputation as a noble explorer and soldier, was ultimately shunted off to the footnotes of American history for this lapse in judgment.
But one mistake shouldn't overshadow the amazing accomplishments of Robert Rogers. Here, uncovered from various texts and footnotes, are some Robert Rogers facts, along with some of the most amazing true stories from American history.
Born in 1731 on the New Hampshire frontier, Rogers lived the typical life of a pioneer kid. He grew up self-sufficient, learning to hunt and trap to feed himself and earn a little money.
At an early age, Rogers developed a moral flexibility that would come to serve him well in the years to come. Rumors surfaced that Rogers was the man to talk to if you needed a little smuggling done. In 1755, he was semi-forced into the New Hampshire militia to avoid charges of counterfeiting. Right away, his aggression and bravery in combat earned him a reputation among his fellow soldiers.
In early 1756, Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts promoted Rogers to the rank of captain and gave him a company of 68 men and a wide-ranging purview. His mission: cause chaos behind French lines. Think of it like Inglourious Basterds, only in the French and Indian War.
Before he began terrorizing the French, Rogers made it an obsession to learn the lay of the lands. He scouted out the terrain surrounding his area of operation - Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point in upstate New York - and took diligent notes and several risks. At one point, he even kidnapped a sentry who’d wandered to close to him during one of his surveillance stints. Once Rogers got thoroughly acquainted with the area, he launched a game-changing assault on the French that became a huge thorn in their side.
In a time when battle tactics favored outright combat and battlefield niceties, Rogers saw right to the heart of warfare and adapted his tactics to meet the enemy. During the French and Indian War, which took place between 1754 and 1763, Rogers lead a group of “600 frontiersmen who successfully adapted Indian techniques to their fighting.” Known as Rogers’ Rangers, this elite group of soldiers conducted raids, provided scouting reports, and took more than their fair share of prisoners during the conflict.
In Rogers’ debut as a soldier in the Battle of Lake George in September of 1755, he and his rangers distinguished themselves as scouts and “hit-and-run” combatants. Rogers gained acclaim for teaching British troops some irregular tactics. The techniques, which Rogers first called “Indian fighting,” became an integral part of modern military tactics. “Rogers’ Rules of Ranging” are still printed in the Official Army Ranger Handbook.