During the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the French used Indian raids to attack British settlements all along the east coast. These efforts were successful in checking British colonial expansion. In response, Britain occupied forts in upstate New York with hopes that their conventional forces would inhibit Indian raids. These forts failed because they only controlled the area within musket range of their walls. The British turned to Robert Rogers and his rangers. The colonial rangers were inured to the deprivations of wilderness fighting. They had a personal stake in the war in their backyard. Comfortable in the woods, the rangers fought to win.
In the fall of 1759, Rogers and two hundred rangers trekked 150 miles through French-controlled wilderness to attack the Indian town of Saint Francis.1 The action was a stunning model for future special operations raids. The ability to materialize where not expected and strike a blow changed the dynamic of the war. The British has gained the offensive and it was the French and their allies who had to fear the darkness at civilizations edge.
The raid on Saint Francis can be described in terms of its sociopolitical backdrop. The French, British, Indians, and settlers all had different goals and motives.
British colonists were outcasts and religious misfits who came to the new world to escape persecution and social ills. Britain saw the colonies as a place to send dissidents and ne’er do wells. English colonists were not agents of the crown but settlers looking for land to start anew. The British government’s main interest in America was to protect their colonists and allow them to produce goods, specifically lumber, cotton, and tobacco. As a consequence, Native...
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...inking and relaxed pass privileges were common for rangers.13 During the raid, this sense of entitlement caused a problem. After Saint Francis fell, Rogers told his men to gather food for the march home. Many rangers disregarded this order and filled their packs with valuables instead. This was the right of the victor in frontier warfare. Rogers’s men felt they deserved a reward for their struggle. The rangers had performed superbly and Rogers was loathe to deny them the spoils of war. In retrospect, food would have been a wiser choice and prevented many deaths.
Robert Rogers and his rangers are an excellent example of special operations and their use. Many lessons can be derived from the raid on Saint Francis. To this day, special operations organizations trace their heritage back to Robert Rogers and his use of unconventional warfare in the French and Indian War.
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