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Major Robert Rogers, Trader

A re-publishing of an edited paper written by Josephine Janes Mayer that was  presented here in Ticonderoga ~ at the Hancock House ~ on September 15, 1933.  From our library archives ~~

“Although to present-day Americans the name of Robert Rogers is practically unknown, during the French and Indian War he was one of the most talked of officers in the Provincial army.  The exploits of his corps of Rangers were not only duly recorded in official military reports and favorably commented upon by his American and English superiors, but were also frequently chronicled in colonial newsletters.  On his visits to “York” he was pointed out as “the” Major Rogers, while to the little groups of merchants, traders and junior officers in Albany and in the various camps on Lake George and Lake Champlain he was familiarly known as “the Major.”  Albany merchants, moreover, writing to their New York correspondents for consignments of “brown beere” and choice Madeira, ruffled shirts and Muscavado sugar, took time to recount the picturesque or horrible details of his various engagements.  One of them, apparently with an eye to publication, was careful to add,  “this acct. is Genuine as I have it from Lt. Crofton, the only officer save one that returned and who was sent here yesterday by the Major with ye accot to the Commanding Officer.”

Albany, NY circa 1758

If any figure of Rogers has survived the one hundred and seventy odd years since his little band, with orders to “distress” the enemy, travelled up Lake George in the dead of winter and lay all night without any fire “by the foot of a Great Mountain,” it is the Robert Rogers of the Journals that remains – “a bold, useful man,” as a contemporary described him.  Yet, quite in keeping with the spirit of the times, Rogers, this New Hampshire man, was trader as well as fighter.  At the height of his military career he was shrewdly laying plans to capitalize his position and his reputation – Sir William Johnson had written to Sir Charles Hardy that his “Bravery and Veracity stands very clear in my Opinion & of all who know him” – and to gain through trade a more satisfying reward for his “substantial services’ than that offered by the slower if more glorious route of military preferment.

Robert Rogers

His opportunity came with the surrender of Canada to the English king.  Four days after the capitulation of Montreal. General (Jeffrey) Amherst appointed Rogers to receive the surrender of the western forts – “Myamis, Fort Detroit, St. Joseph, and Michilimackina.”  The very day he was handed his orders, Rogers sent word to Abraham Douw, merchant and member of the common council of Albany, that the Tour he had undertaken was exceedingly agreeable to him & he expected to make a Fortune by it.”  Douw’s clerk, Paul Burbeen, who had conducted some private business for Rogers in Boston the preceding winter and who had followed Amherst from Oswego to Montreal to have the Albany firm’s accounts certified, relayed this message to his employer.  The state of Rogers’ finances was evidently of particular interest to Abraham Douw.  Rogers, Burbeen went on, “ has with him the French Officer  that commanded at Fort DeTroit who has promised him about three hundred thousand wt of Furs at a very low price – and he desires that if he should have Occasion for any Money before he could see you that you would supply him & he will allow as heretofore.”

Sustained by this comfortable prospect, Rogers with two hundred picked Ranges and with provisions enough to last his force as far as Niagara, started up the St. Lawrence.  The little band threaded the dangerous upper reaches of the river in canoes, and embarked in whaleboats for the hazardous autumn crossing of Lakes Ontario and Erie.  It was an undertaking which made George Croghan, who joined the expedition at Presque Isle, exclaim.”itt is very Late in Ye Sason to Take Such a Journay Butt ye Business we are going on will Make itt agreeable anough.”