A Pilgrimage to Rogers Island

Whilst visiting up State New York for an Autumn break, I managed to fulfill a lifetime ambition. To go on a pilgrimage and pay homage to the great Robert Rogers.

When I was a young SAS student back in the mid 1970s in Hereford, those of us that passed the first phase of selection were handed out a copy of Rogers Rangers Rules. These rules were written in the late 1750s by the commander of the Rangers, Major Robert Rogers. The rules have been taken on by almost every Western Special Forces unit since.

Rogers was born in New Hampshire. His family were Scots/Irish. He had the skills of a woodsman and got on well with the native Indians. He fought in the French Indian War for the British, and he achieved some amazing operations out in the Wilderness. He and his Rangers dressed mainly in a mix of green or dark clothing, Indian attire, an array of British and Indian weaponry, and some wore blue Scots bonnets. The British red tunic wasn’t for them. They operated mainly ahead of the British troops and with minimal kit-much like today’s Long Range Patrol Groups and Special Forces.

In his ranks he had a mix of Native Americans, free slaves, Scots and Irish and local settlers. The great thing about this period is that he gave everyone an equal chance of promotion, and to lead operations. in other words, a man not in the least racist. What’s happened to America since?

Operating in the Rangers was tough. Going out into the wilderness in all seasons, fighting and surviving. There are stories recorded of Rangers turning into cannibals as a last resort whilst in survival mode.

Travelling through the Hudson Valley and up along Lake George to Ticonderoga, and further on to Lake Champlain to Crown Point, gave me an idea of what they must have gone through (even though I benefited from all the comforts of modern travel). The highlight for me though was setting foot on Rogers Island which sits across the bank from the small, sleepy community of Fort Edward.  This modest scrap of land is where Robert Rogers trained, lived, fought alongside his men and penned the enduring “Rogers Rules”. Walking through the grass I came upon a clearing where the monument to him stands.  It was simply breathtaking.

I’ve spent years reading up on Robert Rogers and his Rangers. For those of you who are interested, the best book by far is Journals of Robert Rogers by Timothy J Todish, with some fabulous illustrations by Gary S Zaboly. It’s a very well written account of Rogers’ life and absolutely pulls no punches.