Tuesday, April 10, 2012


My knowledge of the French and Indian war of the mid 18th Century was limited, so when I saw a book reviewed online somewhere I availed myself of it.  It's titled White Devil...  That's what the Abenakis called Major Rogers the 'founder' of the US Army Rangers (see his Rules, that are still taught today to young infantry types, like "I see Bantha tracks but I... sand people walk single file to hide their numbers"  Wait, I'm confused...).  In their language it is pronounced Wobomagonda.  Wobomagonda... White Devil... 

You get a good overview of Rogers' area of operations and also other events of the war.  Depredations on both side are extensive.  But after the war the Indians were no longer the danger to New England settlers as before conflict.  Before the war, the northern colonies was savage wilderness with bears and Indians ready to kill and eat you, after the war is was settled pastoral expanses.  Or at least that's what it seemed.

If you want to keep wilderness wilderness if is probably a good idea to make it a frontier between 2 potential combatants to keep the area in flux.  And, of course, war changes things.  When a war ends things are invariably different.  No different here.

So Roger was pretty much a badass snake-eater type.  Light infantry that took to Indian style tactics rather than standard 18th Century European set piece unit tactics.  And this is how Roger's unit was employed.  They drew from rugged colonial types accustomed to a wilder existence.  Also recent Scoth-Irish immigrants.  Not exactly London townies.  The Rangers were paid more, and were hell raisers and carousers when in camp.  In battle they were often deployed on long raids and as scouts, including the most famous looong raid, and the purpose of the book, when they went from where Fort Ticonderoga was being built all the way up to the mouth of the St. Francis river where it empties into the St. Lawrence.  180 miles of so as the crow flies, all through hostile territory.  Then exfiltrate south to what is now Charleston on the Connecticut river.   The object of the Rangers was the Abenaki village that the ranges pillaged and burned.  Much hardships result on this trek.  And there was a LOT of animosity between the British colonists and the Abenakis, who were vengeful badasses in their own right.

Very little gun content, believe it or not.  One thing:  Yes the Rangers used rifled muskets, but it wasn't universal.  For one thing, in a dense forest the range advantage for rifles is null.  A faster loading smoothbore is preferred for hot action.  They did practice a LOT with their arms, so even muskets in the hands of Rangers were more accurate, relatively.

Firearms accidents, and their frequency, were reported.  The 4 Rules were not followed with these flintlocks.  Assuming a gun was unloaded one Ranger wanted to double check to be sure so he loaded the primer pan and pulled the trigger on his flintlock.   Yet he couldn't manage to do that without refraining from also pointing it at a comrade.

Next up on the reading pile... Verdun.



ProudHillbilly said...

Hm. Wonder if Murphy's Law would blog about it if I checked to see if a gun on the table was loaded by pointing it at him and pulling the trigger?

Bubblehead Les. said...

You know, Nancy R. and Family are the Go-To Subject Matter Experts on that Historical Period. Bet you you there's a whole lot of Historical Records she can tap. Provided she's not Sewing enough Clothes for the entire Continental Army!

Old NFO said...

Good point about Nancy... And I'll add that one to the read list!

mikee said...

Spencer Tracy, 1940, Nothwest Passage.

With all the nonhistorical revisions a 1940 action movie had to have, this movie still captures some of the adventures and deprivations and heroism of the story.