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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Sunday, January 16, 2011

War on the Run — Review

War on the Run: The Epic Story of Robert Rogers and the Conquest of America's First FrontierWar on the Run: The Epic Story of Robert Rogers and the Conquest of America's First Frontier by John F. Ross

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Note: This expands on my review at Goodreads.

What is it about the way U.S. history is taught that makes it uninteresting to so many Americans? I wish I knew. Perhaps the lessons we get in fourth grade — third grade was Colorado history for me — are so poorly constructed as to seem worn and trite. Regardless, it's a shame we can't do better at making history come alive for kids.

One period of history that is being removed from the books, even in states where it occurred, is the history of the French and Indian War (that's the Seven Years' War for the Britishly inclined among you..). And that's too bad because the F&I War had such an impact on the rest of history. Not only did it see European forces changing their methods of warfare as they tried to survive, but also the war had far-reaching impacts, setting us up for the Revolution by putting a wedge between Britain and the colonists, sewing seeds that would grow into the French Revolution, and more.

It also saw the rise of a new kind of military hero in Robert Rogers and his Rangers. This book follows Rogers and his men through the war, bringing alive in the way few sources have the harshness of the struggle they endured, not only facing enemies who would do unspeakable things to them if they were captured alive, but also the taking on the dangers of the natural world. From freezing cold to starvation, Rogers faced situations that would challenge the military of today.

One fact completely blew my mind: After the French capitulated at Montreal, Amherst chose Rogers and his men to travel west to French frontier forts at Detroit and Michilimackinac to tell the French forces stationed there that the war was over. This entailed traveling more than 1,600 miles during fall and winter through what was still hostile territory to tell men inclined to kill them — both French and Indian — that they’d lost so please disarm and get out of here.

Rogers did it in four months — and he did so without any loss of life. Whether dealing with people or dealing with the elements, he was such a damned good strategist. It took Lewis and Clark a year to travel 1,600 miles.

Think about that for a moment...

I couldn't make Rogers the hero of my story for a variety of reasons. He wasn't suited to being a romantic hero. In real life, he did marry, but his wife later divorced him. He also had a past tainted with allegations of counterfeiting and might have been saved from the noose by the outbreak of war.

But here was a young man — he was 24 when the war started — who was capable of astonishing physical feats. Surviving without food. Staying on his feet in freezing cold while marching for hours. Encouraging his men to keep moving when their toes were frozen, their stomachs were empty and bodies were beaten down by disease and injuries. The story of his raid on St. Francis is almost unbelievable, and yet he was still on his feet by the end, pushing himself harder in order to save his men’s lives.

When I saw his powderhorn at Fort Ticonderoga, I burst into tears because here was a real implement of war and survival for one of the greatest heroes in American history — a hero we know very little about, probably because he sided with the British during the Revolutionary War and so went from being one of the Colonies' greatest celebrities to being considered a traitor.

The rawness of this time period, the perils, the cultural conflicts — all of this fascinates me. And this book brought it all alive. I imagine the author was sometimes imagining how Rogers felt or what he was facing, but by incorporating multiple sources, he provides a 3D glimpse of a world now gone.

I have to admit that reading it made me want to back to the beginning of my MacKinnon’s Rangers series and start over. It also made me want to keep writing this time period forever. That probably won't happen.

Anyone with an interest in this period will find this book fascinating. Highly recommended for history nerds and lovers of adventure.



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5 comments:

Debbie H said...

I love all history up to 1870. After that, it just doesn't interest me. I try to keep Anastasia interested in American History (all of it) and help her understand how brave these men and women were to get us where we are today with the freedoms we have.

This book will be part of my next Amazon order. It sounds amazing. I wonder why Rogers and his wife divorced?

Hi, Debbie — I have the same problem. The closer we get to modern times, the less interesting it is to me. The further back in time we go, the more interesting it is. I wish ancient time periods had high historical romance reader interest because my degree in archaeology focused on Cycladic cultures, Greece, Rome and Egypt. Oh, well...

Hi, Jennie — She filed for divorce using abandonment as her claim. He was gone a lot trying (in vain) to get Britain or the Colonies to reimburse him for the money he paid the Rangers out of his own pocket during the war. Because he was broke after he paid his men, she had little interest in him. Considering what he did for the British and the Colonies, it's absolutely unfair how brutally he was treated afterward.

Diane W. said...

Wow...I can't wait to read this! I know my hubby will love it, too. We're huge history nerds and proud of it. LOL Thanks for the heads up!

Doreen said...

I'm a big lover of American History and I do my best to make history come alive for the Kindergarten classes I teach and our elementary school in general. So many kids lose interest in history and it's a shame. Come to my classroom in a few weeks to meet General George Washington and John Antoine Houdoun...one very famous and the other not so famous. Both have made their indelible marks on history in their own amazing ways! Our Kindergarten team has developed a way to make history concrete and hands on for young children and hopefully light the spark of the love of history in them all.
I'm constantly amazed and humbled by the courage and selflessness of the Americans who first helped shape our country and I love that you write about the French and Indian War period!

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