War on the Run
By John F. Ross
Bantam, 548 pages, $30
Ross, the executive editor of American Heritage magazine, has taken it
upon himself to bring this extraordinary man back to life. He succeeds
with “War on the Run,” a lively, evocative and at times moving
biography. Rogers is the godfather of modern Special Ops. His spirit
still hovers over the elite units who do extraordinary things in
Afghanistan and Iraq, from the Rangers to the Navy SEALs, Marine Recon and
was also the original American frontiersman. Born in the wilds of New
Hampshire in 1731, he explored the far reaches of the North American
wilderness up to the western shores of Lake Michigan. His obsessive hope
of finding a land passage to the Pacific made him the “expounder of a
realm never made coherent by map or report,” Mr. Ross writes, a
realm stretching from the Appalachians to Oregon (a name Rogers coined for
the Pacific Northwest Territory) and “so vast and alien in its contours,
fauna, botany, and human occupation that it resembled a new planet.”
Thirty years later Meriwether Lewis and George Rogers Clark took up the
challenge of charting its immensity. Still, it is Robert Rogers, far more
than Daniel Boone or Lewis and Clark, who spawned the American idea of
going where no one has gone before.
Tall, broad and strong, Rogers had
trapped, canoed, hunted and fought Indians across the British colonies in
America since his early teens. His restless and unstable temperament also
landed him in trouble. In 1755 he was actually about to be indicted of
counterfeiting when news came of the outbreak of war against the French.
For Rogers it meant a pardon, an officer’s commission and an opportunity
to apply the crafts he had learned from the Indian tribes, and from the
trappers and traders who passed among them, to the art of war.
Rogers realized that the American
wilderness of swamp, forest, river and mountain, far from imposing a
barrier, actually opened a daring opportunity to seize the initiative
and carry the war to the French and their native allies. He became the
David Petraeus of his time: It took the possibility of defeat to convince
others that he was right. Like certain commanders in Iraq, British
generals Edward Braddock comes to mind were skilled and experienced in
conventional European warfare but unable to adapt to their new combat
environment. When on July 9, 1755, Braddock was killed and some 900 of his
1,300 men killed or wounded by a smaller French and Indian force, it was a
sign that a new approach was needed.
For a Great Read check out this new
book: "War on the Run" by John F.
Ross - Bantam, 548 pages, $30.00
Mr. Ross notes, "Robert Rogers had forced his fellow Americans
to rethink their continent and their place in it". John F.
Ross is the godfather not only of Special Ops but of Manifest
Destiny. Mr. Ross would argue, ideally suited to the American
temperament. Members of the SAS and Royal Marines might disagree. But
there is no denying that thanks to Robert Rogers it’s still the
Americans, and the Rangers, who lead the way.