Monday, November 26, 2012

Roger's Rangers

Robert Rogers, 1727 – 1795

In New England, one of the most interesting roles to play in battles re-enactments is to be a member of Rogers Rangers.  This is a maverick group, and the actors don’t wear colonial uniforms, but buckskins and moccasins like Daniel Boone.   The Rangers became famous fighting in the French and Indian war, chasing the enemy up and down the Connecticut and Merrimack River valleys, which were the major highways of the time.

Robert Rogers was raised in Londonderry, when it was a frontier to the wilderness.  Beyond Londonderry was disputed territory belonging to Indian tribes and the French.   There were no formal schools in Londonderry at the time, and we can imagine when he learned to read and write, it was at home.  He learned to hunt with his Scots Irish neighbors, and to be comfortable in the wilderness.   In 1739 his family removed from Londonderry to near present day Concord, New Hampshire.   His father called his land Munterloney, after a place in Derry, Ireland.  It was later called Dunbarton, New Hampshire.

Rogers became a scout for Captain Ladd in 1746, and when he was a teenage boy.  In 1753 he was mustered into Captain John Goffe’s company.   At the expedition against Crown Point Robert Rogers was named Captain and the Second Lieutenant was John Stark.  Rogers kept journals at this time, which are an interesting view of the war from the frontier.   His troop was now known as “Rogers Rangers” and in 1757 they reconnoitered Lake George by snowshoes, and attacked a wagon train supplying the French.   This was known as the “Battle of the Snowshoes.”  He was wounded at this battle, but highly commended by General Abercrombie. 

Rogers later took his Rangers to the siege of Louisburg, missing the siege of Fort William Henry whilst he was in Nova Scotia.  He returned to Lake George, New York, in 1758 where he lost 114 out of about 200 men.  After many other skirmishes along the New York border, he was at the siege of Detroit in 1763.  He was to be tried for high treason and court-martialed in 1768 due to his mismanagement of Fort Michilimackinac.   However, he sailed for England to escape the trial.  He was feted by the nobility in England, probably because of the wild tales he could tell of life in the wilderness fighting the Indians.

By now he was known as Major Rogers, and earned a large estate in Concord, New Hampshire.  He married the daughter of a Portsmouth minister.  The marriage didn't last, and his wife petitioned for a divorce in 1778, on the grounds of desertion.   She lived with her second husband on the estate in Concord.

He appeared again in America in July 1775 on behalf of the British Army.   The people of the colonies regarded him as a spy, and he was arrested in Pennsylvania.   He appeared in Hanover, New Hampshire where he paid a visit to President Wheelock of Dartmouth College.  He proposed a deal to Wheelock to obtain a grant of land for Dartmouth from the Crown in exchange for aiding him, yet Rogers disappeared the next morning.   He was finally arrested again in New York, and he fought his last battle at Mamaroneck and was defeated by the colonists.   He returned to England and died there in 1795.

Rogers had a romanticized life, portrayed by writers and actors as an adventurer, yet his life ended in disgrace according to the Americans.  The British probably have a different point of view!


For more information:

An American edition of Roger’s Journals was first edited by Dr. Franklin Benjamin Hough and published in 1883 and a new edition The Annotated and Illustrated Journals of Major Robert Rogers was edited by Timothy J. Todish, Purple Mountain Press, 2002

Rising Above Circumstances: The Rogers Family in Colonial America by Robert J. Rogers, Sheltus & Picard, 1998

Parker’s History of Londonderry, page 180 and 238

The Bay State Monthly, Volume 2, Issue 4, pages 211-   (January 1885), "Robert Rogers, The Ranger", by Joseph B. Walker

War on the Run: The Epic Story of Robert Rogers and the Conquest of America's First Frontier by John F. Ross, Bantam Publishing, 2009

See the website for more genealogical information on the Rogers family

Rogers Family Tree:

Gen. 1.  James Rogers, born 30 June 1706 in Ireland, died in 1753 in Bow, New Hampshire, buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery, Derry, New Hampshire;  married  December 1725 in Ireland to Mary McFatridge, born about August 1705 in Ireland, died before 1772 in Dunbarton, New Hampshire.  Ten children.

Gen. 2. Robert Rogers, born 7 November 1731 in Methuen, Massachusetts (a staging point for Ulster Scots headed to New Hampshire), died on 18 May 1795 at Borough, England;  married about 1760 to  Elizabeth Browne, daughter of Reverend Arthur Browne of Portsmouth, divorced in 1778.  One child.

Gen. 3.  Arthur Rogers, Esquire,  born 12 February 1769 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, died 1841 in Concord, New Hampshire.   He was a lawyer.  He married about 1795 in Concord to Margaret Furness, daughter of Robert Furness.   She was born 2 July 1770 in Portsmouth and died in 1848.  They had nine children.

For a related story see "Scots Irish at Concord, NH" by my guest blogger, Tom Tufts 
Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Oh my...thanks for sharing. These types of stories don't make it to the midwest too often. Wondering why not a movie. Has all the makings and it's all true!

    1. There was a movie called "Northwest Passage" back in 1940. It was rather anti-Indian, and I believe the real Rangers were friendlier with the Native Americans and not only used their tactics, but worked side by side with them on the frontiers of New England.

  2. The movie You mention Heather, is based on part 1 of Kenneth Roberts book of the same name. He wrote historical novels in which the characters are partly fictional but the facts of the actions are accurate. The book is much better than the movie. Rogers rules of ranging are still used by todays warriors. The action in the movies is based on their raid to the St. Francis Indian village in Canada which was in retribution for frontier attacks on the settlers. Some say it put an end to the Abenaki raids. The same tactic was used in a raid at Norridgewok (Maine). That is an interesting story too.

  3. Rogers sounds like a very interesting character, a product of pre-Revolution days who then found himself in the middle of a Revolution and perhaps on the wrong side -- but he was brave and followed his own star. He must have had amazing wilderness skills. What a personality. In the South we have the legend of The Swamp Fox," Francis Marion, who was also a daring maverick.

    1. Mariann, I remember "The Swamp Fox" Francis Marion from my high school AP American History Class. In local re-enactments, especially at the Fort at No. 4 in Charlestown, New Hampshire, it looks like it is more fun to play one of the members of Roger's Rangers in their buckskin clothes than it is to play a regular militia member. I suppose it would be more fun to re-enact Francis Marion or Daniel Boone, too.