Wilderness Ordeal

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The brilliance of Rogers’s idea of undertaking a raid of such scope lay not in any massive tactical effect but in its strategic ability to unnerve the enemy. Outmatched in troop strength and resources, the French had fought—as do all effective but outnumbered powers—by employing speed and surprise to amplify what assets they possessed. Throughout the war the only British soldier who got inside the French frame of mind was Rogers, a consummate hunter and lifelong careful student of his prey. His success lay in providing a mode of warfare that outmatched the other side in its strongest suit.

The Saint-Francois raid delivered a blow as bold and terrifying as the Deerfield Raid of 1704 to the psyche of the St. Lawrence frontier settlements. It also sent a clear message to all Indians allied with the French: their patrons could not protect them—and the English could move where they would.

Adapted from the new book WAR ON THE RUN: The Epic Story of Robert Rogers and the Conquest of America’s First Frontier by American Heritage Magazine’s Executive Editor, John F. Ross. Copyright © 2009 by John F. Ross.