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White Devil History

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Review for History 302

Thomas Dennis

Brumwell, Stephen. White Devil: A True Story of War, Savagery, and Vengeance in Colonial America. Da Capo Press Inc. March, 2005.

The book opens "Nous sommes tours Sauvages," which translates to "We are all Savages." It's a fitting way to begin a book chronicling the story of Major Robert Rogers and his rangers journey, Native American slaughter, and return home. In White Devil: A True Story of War, Savagery, and Vengeance in Colonial America, author Stephen Brumwell depicts a well researched, unbiased image of: war, hardship, courage, savagery, vengeance, and survival. Brumwell wants to show his readers an image of the true nature of war and all the trimmings that goes along with it. There has never been a war where atrocities were not committed. Further more, there has never been a war where the atrocities were not committed by all sides, to one extent or another. This war was no different. This compelling read draws from a broad range of primary sources, including Rogers' Journals, contemporary newspaper accounts, the letters and remembrances of Rogers' surviving Rangers, and several generations of Abenaki oral history.

The book is organized into a well detailed, accurate story account of Rogers' journey. It chronicles the massacre at Fort William Henry that led to everything. Rogers' journey to Canada to the village of St. Francis. His vengeful slaughter of the village in retaliation. Then the aftermath and the perilous journey home. The research from the numerous primary sources give it a historic tone. The Abenaki oral traditions themselves poke in the other side to the conflict.

To summarize the book into a few paragraphs doesn't due it the justice it deserves. The beginning details of the French and Indian War. The battles and skirmishes. The massacre that led to Rogers' raid. Two years later Major Robert Rogers led a revenge raid against the Indians some 200 wilderness miles behind the lines.

His long journey took him to Canada and to the village of St. Francis.

The carnage at St. Francis deserves a brunt of the detail. It was now good marching ground and the men pressed on with celerity till on the 22nd day after their departure from Crown Point, one of them, by climbing a tree, discovered the village of St. Francis at three miles distance, when the party were ordered to halt and refresh themselves. At eight o'clock in the evening, Major Rogers, Lieut. Turner and Ensign Avery left the company and went forward for the purpose of reconnoitering the place. They found the Indians engaged in a dance, evidently entertaining no apprehensions of an enemy in the vicinity. They returned about two o'clock in the morning and at three o'clock, Rogers advanced with the whole party, within three hundred yards of the village, where the men were lightened of their packs and formed for action. About an hour after this, the Indians broke up their dances and retired to their cabins for repose; and soon the whole village was asleep, the more oblivious from the weariness induced by their late diversion. About half an hour before dawn, the troops, having been arranged in three divisions for the purpose of making simultaneous attacks, in as many directions, were ordered to advance. Never was a place more completely surprised, nor in a condition less capable of making any sort of resistance.

At roughly 5:00 a.m. on the morning of October 4, 1759, Major Rogers and his men moved into position outside the sleeping Abenaki village of St. Francis, located some 50 miles northeast of Montreal. The signal to attack, recalled ranger Robert Kirkwood, was a shot fired by Rogers, after which "we were to fire the town at once and kill everyone without mercy." Employing bullets, tomahawks, and bayonets, the men did precisely that, murdering men, women, and children. Virtually every home was set ablaze, including the French Catholic mission, which the men ransacked as well. "Good Protestants all," Brumwell writes, "Rogers' men fell upon its popish trappings with iconoclastic relish."

By 7:00 a.m. the destruction was complete. Surveying the carnage he had helped to create, Kirkwood declared, "Thus the inhumanity of these savages was rewarded with a calamity, dreadful indeed, but justly deserved.



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