Subj: Major Robert Rogers - Revenge 1759
Source: History of Charlestown, NH by Rev. Henry H. Saunderson pub 1876
During the winter of l758 Charlestown, NH was garrisoned with one hundred regular troops from the army which were under the command of Capt. Cruikshanks; and the winter passed away quietly without any incursions of the enemy. And the plan for operations for l759 was such as to en-courage the expectation, that the frontiers would be relieved from the depredations to which they had been so long exposed. The plan was for General James Wolf to conduct an expedition against Quebec, and General Amherst another against Ticonderoga and Crown Point. To aid in the latter expedition the troops which had garrisoned Charlestown under Capt. Cruikshanks were withdrawn to join the army on the Hudson - and General Amherst applied to the Governor of Massachusetts to raise an equal number of Provincials to take their place at Charlestown, NH, which was promptly done. The men raised from Col. Israel Williams' regiment in the county of Hampshire and placed under the command of Capt. Elijah Smith were ordered to fort 4 of Charlestown on the 4th of May.
"The army destined to attack Ticonderoga assembled at Albany about the lst of June under General Amherst and on the 22d of July he arrived before Tidonderoga and invested it with twelve thousand men, Provincials and regulars. The enemy immediately abandoned their ad-vanced lines which had proved so fatal to Abercrombie's army the preceding year. and retired within their main work.
Amherst pressed the siege as vigorously as possible and in a short time was ready to open his batteries; but M' de Bourlemaque, the French commander, finding he had to oppose a general of skill as well as courage, partially dismantled his fort, blew up some of the bastions and leaving most of his heavy artillery, retired down the lake to Crown Point and Amherst took possession of the place. A few days after, the French evacuated Crown Point and retired to their posts at the northern extreme of Lake Champlain, and Amherst immediately occupied the abandoned post and commenced additional works."
The capture of these important posts immediately re-lieved the frontiers of New England from incursions from the western quarter, and a general joy spread through the long distressed Provinces. Crown Point had been in poss-ession of the French for nearly thirty years; and from that place predatory parties had issued and involved the frontiers of Massachusetts and New Hampshire in blood and slaughter; and numerous were the prisoners who had there suffered the disgraceful and cruel treatment of the savages. One other post from which the Provinces of New Hampshire and Massachusetts had suffered similar cruelties still remained in the hands of the enemy. This was the village of St. Francis, situated at the mouth of the river of that name between Montreal and Quebec. From its easy communication with the upper part of the Connecticut River, this place had long been a focus of murder and devastation and many a captive had there suffered barbarities intolerable; and the place was loaded with the plunder of the English colonies. General Amherst now resolved to put an end to these barbarities by destroying the place.
"Major Robert Rogers, who had so frequently distinquish-ed himself as a partisan during the war, was selected for the arduous service with his hardy Rangers and an attachment of regular troops; and he received the folowing orders from the commander-in-chief.
Camp at Crown Point, Sept. 13, 1759
You will, this night, set out with the detachment, as ordered yesterday, viz., of two hundred men, which you will take under your command and proceed to Missisqui Bay. From thence you will proceed in such a manner as shall most effectually disgrace and injure the enemy, and redound to the honor and success of His Majesty's arms.
Remember the barbarities committed by the enemy's Indian scoundrels on every occasion, where they have had opportu-nities of showing their famous cruelties towards His Maj-esty's subjects. Take your revenge; but remember that although the villains have promiscuously murdered women and children of all ages, it is my order that no women or children should be hurt. When you have performed this service, you will again join the army, whereever it may be.
Yours, etc, Jeff Amherst Camp at Crown Point, Sept. l3, 1759 To Major Rogers.
The destination of this expedition was kept a profound secret from the army, who were given to understand in the public orders of the previous day, that it was to march in a different direction.
The evening after receiving his orders, with every equip-ment necessary to ensure success, Rogers started out on his adventurous expedition. He proceeded in batteaux down the lake to Missisqui Bay, the distance of which, from Crown Point, was computed to be not far from a hundred miles, using the greatest circumspection to avoid discovery by the enemy. Everything went on well until the fifth day, when, while they were encamped on the eastern shore, a keg of gun powder accidentally exploded wounding Capt. Williams and several men who had to be sent back to Crown Point, with a party to conduct them.
This reduced the force to one hundred and forty-two men, officers included. But, pursuing his voyage, he arrived on the twentieth of the month at Missisqui Bay without having been discovered, where he secreted his boats and provisions sufficient to carry them back, on the return, under the bank of a creek overhung with brushwood and, as a guard to which, he left two trusty Indians with orders that should the boats be discovered by the enemy to follow his trail and give him information.
This arrangement made, Rogers struck out into the wilderness. But only the second day after, he was over-taken by the trusty fellows whom he had left to watch the provisions and boats, who brought him the unwelcome news that four hundred French and Indians had discovered his boats and sent them away under the charge of fifty men and that the remainder of the company were on his trail in rapid pursuit. This intelligence Rogers kept to himself and quickly devised means to to meet the altered circumstances of his situation. For this he despatched Lieut McMillen with ten men, two of whom were Rangers, through the woods to Crown Point to inform General Amherst of what had taken place and request him to send provisions from Fort 4 at Charlestown up the Connecticut River to the mouth of the Great Ammonoosuc River near Coos intervals, by which route he intended to return.
One of the two things he now knew that he must do; he must either fight his enemies or out-march them. But as the latter appeared to be the only feasible way by which he could have a prospect of accomplishing the object of his expedition, he determined to press forward with a speed which should distance all the enemies on his track. The travelling was horrid from the sunken nature of the country, which , in many places was covered with water mid-leg deep and often for long distances, a spruce bog, in which it became necessary to prepare a sort of hammock from the boughs of trees to enable the men to repose at night; and this after a day's march, continued from early dawn until darkness.
On the tenth day after leaving the Bay, Rogers struck St. Francis River about fifteen miles above the village and with some difficulty, forded it, as the water was five feet in depth, and running in a rapid current. It was now good marching ground and the men pressed on with celerity till on the 22nd day after their departure from Crown Point, one of the men, by climbing
a tree, discovered the village of St. Francis at three miles distance, when the party were ordered to halt and refresh themselves. At eight o'clock in the evening, Major Rogers, Lieut. Turner and Ensign Avery left the company and went forward for the purpose of reconnoitering the place. They found the Indians engaged in high frolic or dance, evidently entertaining no apprehensions of an enemy in the vicinity. They returned about two o'clock in the morning and at three o'clock, Rogers advanced with the whole party, within three hundred yards of the village, where the men were lightened of their packs and formed for action.
About an hour after this, the Indians broke up their dances and retired to their cabins for repose; and soon the whole village was wrapped in slumber, the more oblivious from the weariness induced by their late diversion. About half an hour before dawn, the troops, having been arranged in three divisions for the purpose of making simultaneous attacks, in as many directions, were ordered to advance. Never was a place more completely surprised, nor in a condition less capable of making resistence. The assault was made in the usual Indian mode of attack, on similar occasions, and the Rangers remembering the instructions of Amherst to "take their revenge" dealt death and destruction around them on every side, and with unsparing hands. Amid the partial dark-ness it scarcely being possible to distinguish age, or sex, men, women and children fell indiscriminately before the resistless fury of their terrible onslaught.
Many were killed in their cabins, others, attempting to fly, were shot or knocked on the head. Some rushed to the river, but were pursued by the excited Rangers and their canoes sunk, and they were drowned or destroyed in some other way. When it became light enough to have a clear view of the scene, the prospect was truly horrible and had it not been for the sight of six hundred scalps of their countrymen, suspended upon poles and waving in the air, the assailants might have been moved to pity. But this horrid spectacle added such new vigor to their rage that no sympathy for the sufferers found place in their breasts and the slaughter was still continued without discrimination or mercy. The scene ended by a general conflagration of the cabins, (with the exception of some store houses) in which many Indians, who had con-cealed themselves, in their cellars and house lofts, and would not come out, were consumed. At seven o'clock in the morning all was over; and Rogers, in his report said: "By that time we had killed two hundred Indians and taken twenty women and children prisoners. Fifteen of the latter I suffered to go on their own way, and brought home with me two Indian boys and three girls".
The report goes on: "When the detachment paraded, Capt. Ogden was found to be badly wounded, being shot through the body, but still able to perform duty. Six privates were wounded and one Stockbridge Indian killed. I ordered the party to take corn out of the reserved houses for their subsistence home, which was the only provision to be found. While they were loading them-selves I examined the captives who reported that a party of three hundred French and Indian were down the river, four miles below us, and that our boats were waylaid. I believed this to be true, as they told the exact number of the boats and the place where they had been left. They also stated that two hundred French had, three days before, gone up the River to Wigwam Martinique, supposing that I intended to attack that place. A council of war now concluded that no ther course remained for us, than to return by Connecticut River to No. 4." Source: Memoir of Rogers, in Life of Stark, (pp.448 to 449).
This reslove being taken, Rogers, after an hour's rest commenced his march up the St. Francis and by Memphremagog Lake for Coos on the Connecticut. For eight days the detachment continued together, when, their provisions being entirely expended, Rogers found it necessary to divide it into several parties, that subsistence might more easily be procured, giving them orders to assemble at the junction of the great Ammonoosuc and Connecticut Rivers, where he expected to find provisions which were to be forwarded by the order of General Amherst, from Fort 4 at Charlestown, NH.
Two days after separating, the party under Ensign Avery were overtaken by the Indians - seven were captured and two escaped. Another party of about twenty, under Lieutenants Dunbar and Turner, were attacked and the principal part were killed or taken, including the two officers. The company under Rogers after a most wearisome march reached the Coos Meadows where they were expecting to find food, in a most fearful state of starvation; but no provision being found, so great was their disappoint-ment that several of them died before the next day. Provisions had been sent by General Amherst's order by a party from Charlestown under the command of Lieut. Samuel Stevens, but hearing guns which he supposed to be those of the enemy the Lieutenant and his attendants immediately made their retreat down the river taking their provisions with them.
About two hours after, Rogers and his men arrived to find their camp fire still burning and fired several guns for the purpose of bring them back, but without success. Subsequently, Rogers wrote concerning this situation:
"Our distress on this occasion was truly inexpressible. Our spirits, greatly depressed by the hunger and fatigue we had already suffered, now almost entirely sank within us; seeing no resource left, nor any reasonable hope that we should escape a most miserable death by famine. At length I came to a resolution, to push as fast as possible towards Number Four leaving the remains of my party, now unable to march further, to get such wretched subsistence as the barren wilderness could afford, till I could get relief to them, which I engaged to do within ten days. I taught Lieutenant Grant, the commander of the party, the use and method of preparing ground nuts and lily roots, which being cleansed and boiled will serve to preserve life.
I with Capt. Odgen and one Ranger and a captive Indian boy, embarked upon a raft we had made of dry pine trees. The current carried us down the stream in the middle of the river where we endeavored to keep our wretched vessel by such paddles as we had made out of small trees or spires split and hewed." (Rogers' letter to General Amherst).
This whole history is of deep interest, but it must suffice to say that Rogers, after various disheartening experiences, at length reached No. 4 in safety and redeemed his pledge to his brave followers by relieving them on the tenth day. In two hours after his arrival at Fort 4 at Charlestown, NH boats were despatched loaded with provision up the river. Rogers himself went up with other canoes also laden with provisions two days after, for the relief of others of his party that might be coming on that way, the inhabi-tants assisting him in this affair. He likewise sent out expresses to Suncook (Pembroke) and Pennacook (Concord N.H.) that any who should straggle that way might be assisted and provision were sent up said rivers accordingly.
On returning from his expedition up the river, Major Rogers waited for his men at Charlestown, with whom, after they had been refreshed, he marched to Crown Point where he arrived December l, 1759 and joined the army under Lord Amherst.
Upon examination it was found that after leaving the smoking ruins of St. Francis, he had lost three Lieutenants and forty six Sergeants and privates. A few of these were prisoners but the greatest number of them perished miserably by famine in the wilderness. (end chapter p. 85)
Transcribed by Janice Farnsworth