John Ross captures one of the most unique views of the American Frontier in this intense novel of Robert Rogers and the French and Indian War.
When I mention this book and The Frontier to most people they imagine Louis & Clark which occurs a good 40 years later after the United States had established its independence. This book describes a world in its infancy, long before exploring the frontier was even a possibility in the minds of the general population. John’s version of the frontier begins when colonial relations with the Native Americans are budding and new. The potentials of the frontier and its inhabitants has yet to be imagined.
If the setting isn’t enough John gives us the life and legend who is Robert Rogers. The original small unit commander, Robert Rogers arguably created the original special forces combat unit. Leveraging his unique knowledge of the landscape and culture of the natives, he was able to infiltrate deep enough into enemy territory to forever redefine modern warfare. To this day the US Army Ranger handbook includes his original rules of ranging.
Don’t sleep beyond dawn. Dawn’s when the French and Indians attack.US Army Ranger Handbook
Roger’s story spans the colonial French and Indian War which occurred from 1754 to 1763. These 7 years of violence, which was arguably lit by America’s George Washington as a young commander in the British Army, wrapped up Robert and his family at a young age when his father’s orchard was torched by raiding French and Native Americans.
Rogers quickly impressed the British with his knowledge of the landscape and ability to conduct diplomacy with the Native Americans. As a provincial in the British military his successes ultimately turned the tide of the war for the British. He was able to consistently recruit additional provincials to the cause as well as establish the essential training program required to create the infamous Rogers Rangers which conducted patrols and won battles that went beyond the imagined capability of men at war.
The exploits of Robert Rogers and his rangers made him famous throughout the world. His infamy alone if not for his pedigree paired with success became the scorn of his British peers which were not born in the colonies. While the British commanders couldn’t win without him, they mostly refused to recognize him as a superior commander to themselves.
In the end Robert’s successes thrust him into a world of politics where he ultimately failed at basic tasks of administration and died a pauper.
Before death however, he was able to write a play about the frontier that positioned the Native Americans in a noble light focusing on the story of Chief Pontiac. This was a stark contrast to the popular opinion of the savages.
His journals were ultimately published in London and became the authoritative account of the Americas for a long time.
This account of Robert Rogers is the only one I’ve read, but its depth and knowledge of the setting and time as well as military life painted a vivid picture. This book taught me something about marksmanship in those times when I learned that flintlock rifles and carbines actually had a delay after the trigger was pulled and the flint struck before the gunpowder in the barrel was lit and the ball fired. This made Rogers Rangers much more impressive and impactful during the war as they were famed as great marksmen, able to hit a moving target at distance.
I highly recommend this book for people curious about the frontier. I picked it up by recommendation from a random bookseller when I was browsing the history section looking for something that could mirror today with the chaotic unknown inching closer and closer.
This is also a great book for those who are interested in military history as well as American history. I greatly appreciated the depiction of life as a colonial in those times who had to constantly balance their relations with Native Americans as well as the French and the British while attempting to forge a life for themselves and their families.
The descriptions of Military life in those times makes a modern veteran like myself really appreciate the sacrifices our ancestors made to create the world we live in today. Certain stories almost brought me to tears when I realized I would not be here without the selfless sacrifices of those men.
A lengthy book that doesn’t stop until its over. Read it today.