Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Who was the Canadian Robert Rogers?

This is probably something not many people wonder about, but bear with me. We all know Rogers' Rangers - they are synonimous with the French and Indian war through the interest in his person and his writing. Fine. I wouldn't take that from him but the fact that we know about him so much is because he was an excellent self-publicist - it's his accounts that tell us his deeds. He is credited with having a price on his head but there is very little in the way of evidence from the French side that he was a particular problem to them. So in some ways a French Rogers would have to have some of the gifts of self-promotion and for that I choose Joseph Marin. We based our French reenactment unit on him for that reason - he was notorious. I'm not claiming to be a historian so I am going to try and paraphrase the Canadian Biographical Dictionary entry - if you want depth go there.
JOSEPH MARIN DE LA MALGUE, 1719-1774 “a man of war, courageous by nature, thirsting for glory and eager for the dangers through which it is gained,”
Born into a distinguished military family he joined the King's service at 13. He explored the Pays en Haut - travelling for most of his youth far into the West meeting with the Sioux and becoming fluent in their language. Now I am going to quote directly from Donald Chaput 's piece, as it's a fascinating life he led and he really derserves to be better known.

On 11 July 1756, having been recalled to participate in the campaigns against the British, he arrived in Montreal with a large contingent of Menominee warriors from Baie-des-Puants. During the next two years Marin, now a lieutenant, took part in a number of engagements on the New York frontier. He saw action in 1756 near Oswego (Chouaguen), where he and his Menominees were successful against larger British detachments. That August, near Fort George (also called Fort William Henry, now Lake George, N.Y.), he and a party of 100 defeated a force of some 65 men, killing or capturing all but their leader, whom he believed to have been Robert Rogers. In December he led a force of 500 French and Indians to attack the settlements along the Connecticut River. When his Huron and Iroquois guides objected, Marin shifted towards Albany. Again the Indians protested, and the force proceeded against Saratoga instead.
In July 1757 Marin undertook a reconnaissance mission in the vicinity of Fort Lydius (also called Fort Edward, now Fort Edward, N.Y.). Despite some desertions Marin made his way close to the British fort, where he wiped out first a ten-man patrol and then a 50-man guard. His little detachment next had to face a substantial force which it-held off for more than an hour before retiring in good order. Marin had lost only three men. The financial commissary of wars André Doreil called it a “most daring expedition.” At the beginning of August 1758 Marin encountered a detachment commanded by Robert Rogers in the woods near Lake Champlain. Marin gradually withdrew from the combat, blaming the lack of a complete victory on the Canadian militia, most of whom deserted. In the report of the battle, Doreil referred to Marin as “a Colonial officer of great reputation.”
Joseph Marin was made captain in January 1759. He spent the first part of the year in the vicinity of Fort Machault (Franklin, Pa) and the British Fort Cumberland (Cumberland, Md), where he harassed the frontier settlements. In the summer he joined the relief force that François-Marie Le Marchand de Lignery led to Fort Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.) to raise the British siege. The force was ambushed by the British as it neared the fort, and Marin was taken prisoner.
'They announced my capture as a great triumph in their newspaper'
This was the end of glory for him. He later wrote that “they announced my capture as a great triumph in their newspaper.” The imprisonment was a “horror.” In the final battle for New France, the Marin home in Quebec was plundered and burned by the British. He estimated his loss at more than 60,000 livres and reported that all the family’s personal and business papers had been destroyed.
Marin, with other important prisoners, was sent to England and eventually released to France, the mother country he had never seen. In 1762 he was among the reinforcements who embarked for St John’s, Newfoundland, following its capture by Charles-Henri-Louis d’Arsac de Ternay, but he became a prisoner once again on 22 September, when the François-Louis was taken by the British. He was again repatriated to France.
His years in France were not happy: his fortune lost, he lived on a meagre pension from the crown. He tried to have the court acknowledge his status as a noble, claiming to be descended from the Marini family of Toulon, Toulouse, and Marseilles. There is some possibility that the Marins may have been of the minor nobility of southern France. Paul and Joseph had considered themselves nobles and were certainly considered as such in the colony. In 1767 Lieutenant Governor Guy Carleton* included Joseph Marin’s name in a report on the Canadian nobility. Although the French court acknowledged Marin as “a man of war, courageous by nature, thirsting for glory and eager for the dangers through which it is gained,” did not deem these qualities sufficient to grant him his request. He did receive the cross of Saint-Louis in 1761, when the king tried to compensate the officers from New France for their service in a lost cause.
Probably in 1773, Marin was appointed lieutenant-colonel in the troops which were to take part in the Count de Benyovszky’s attempt to establish a French settlement at the Baie d’ Antongil, Madagascar. Shortly after their arrival on the island in 1774, both Marin and the son who had accompanied him died of fever.
The Marins were among the several families who dominated exploration, trade, and military affairs in the pays d’en haut prior to 1760. The continuing control of the best trading posts by the same families was often criticized, and the Marine did not escape censure. The wealth of the trade is difficult to assess, but it is certain that the Marins’ association with La Jonquière, Bigot, and Legardeur was profitable. Joseph Marin was no doubt aided in his activities in the west by his relationship to the Vaudreuil family. One might conclude, as Louise Phelps Kellogg does, that La Jonquière and the Marine began the trading system which “by favoritism, corruption, and undue profits hastened the downfall of New France.” But such a generalization ignores the effective frontier work of the Marins. They maintained peace in the west, explored new territory, and by their diplomatic skills tied the tribes so closely to the French that great numbers of Indians from the pays d’en haut fought in campaigns against the British. Marin claimed that he brought at least 20 tribes to the side of the French.
Marin was one of the ablest French military leaders, at various times successfully commanding regular, militia, and Indian detachments. He was, of course, a colonial officer, a type despised by regulars. Yet Montcalm, who consistently preferred his regulars and who detested Marin’s relative, Governor Vaudreuil, was nevertheless forced to give Marin credit for some victories, although he described him as “brave but stupid.” André Doreil, who shared Montcalm’s contempt for colonials, always praised Marin as an aggressive, effective officer.

1 comment:

  1. I've enjoyed reading your blog. I must take some exception with the common perception that Rogers was a major self publicist. I don't see any boasting in his journals--and many of the entries don't show him off in a good light.

    Just completed a book about Robert Rogers that you and your readers would enjoy. For a taste of the "real" Robert Rogers, some of which you might find surprising, check out "War on the Run: The Epic Story of Robert Rogers and the Conquest of America's First Frontier" (Random House, May 2009). My website has more info: www.warontherun.com

    John F. Ross