ROGERS, ROBERT. (1731–1795). Ranger hero of colonial wars, Loyalist. New Hampshire. Born in Methuen, Massachusetts, on 7 November 1731, Rogers entered the New Hampshire Regiment in 1755 to escape prosecution for counterfeiting. After showing skill as a leader of raids and scouting expeditions, in March 1756 he became captain of an independent ranger company, and in 1758 Abercromby made him the major of nine such companies to be used for reconnaissance; they became known collectively as "Rogers's Rangers." After serving with Loudoun at Halifax (1757), with Abercromby at Ticonderoga (1758), and with Amherst at Crown Point (1759)—during which campaign he destroyed the St. Francis Indians in an audacious raid—he took part in the final operations against Montreal in 1760 and then went west to receive the surrender of Detroit and down the Scioto River to Sonioto (Shawneetown) on the Ohio. Lieutenants in Rogers's Rangers were John Stark, Israel Putnam, and James Dalyell (killed at Detroit in Pontiac's Rebellion).
In 1761 Rogers led an independent company in the Cherokee expedition of James Grant. During Pontiac's Rebellion he commanded an independent New York company and took part in the relief and defense of Detroit. In 1765 he fled to England to avoid prosecution for his debts and illegal trading with the Indians. In England he published two accounts of his military service, Journals (1769) and A Concise Account of North America (1770), along with a play, Ponteach: or the Savages of America (1776), often accounted one of the first American dramas.
Rogers returned to America in 1766 as commander of Fort Michilimackinac. After repeated violations of his instructions, he was charged by Gage in 1768 with embezzlement of public property and with treasonable dealings with the French but was acquitted at a court-martial for lack of evidence. Returning to England in 1769, he was unable to get another appointment and was jailed for his debts until bailed out by his brother James. In 1775 he returned to America, perhaps as a spy for the British.
In 1776 Washington ordered Rogers imprisoned on suspicion of espionage. Escaping to the British, he was commissioned to raise the Queen's American Rangers. Defeated at White Plains, he was removed from his command and replaced by James.
In 1780 Rogers returned to England. He died in a cheap London boardinghouse on 18 May 1795.
revised by Michael Bellesiles