Master of the wilderness, taker of risks
paths, negotiated with Indians in good faith and, inevitably, made political enemies in high places. He faced bankruptcy, largely because his superiors failed to pay his troops’ wages, and by the time his countrymen were choosing sides in the Revolution, he was caught in the middle. British brass, such as Gen. Gage, suspected him of leading Indians against the crown; Continentals called him traitor for retaining his English officer’s commission because he needed the half-pay.
Hoping to join the American cause, he had an encounter with the one man who matched his larger-than-life reputation and persona. George Washington won the face-off, and Rogers was jailed (not for the first time). Breaking out of prison, he offered his services to Gen. Howe, who welcomed him. His last great deed was to unmask a spy gathering intelligence for the rebels, arrest him and see him hang: Nathan Hale.
Suffice it to say that Robert Rogers, backwoods child of a nascent nation, was heroic, admirable, brutal, canny, ambitious, duplicitous, visionary and much more — like America itself. In this book, variously scholarly, whiteknuckle-exciting and rambling, John Ross has done him justice.
Philip Kopper writes about history, the arts and the natural world.