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‘Honors of War’
White Devil by Stephan Brumwell

A True Story of War, Savagery and Vengeance in Colonial America, Da Capo Press, 2004, 335 pages

White Devil is the single best book I have read on warfare in the Eastern Woodlands. Stephan Brumwell has a sense for military narrative which is unsurpassed and he applies it to a subject which has generally been relegated to the biographer—and his biographical work is equal to the task at hand.

Such warfare of small human scale, conducted across vast operational theaters, rarely catches the attention of the military historian. But as the innovations pioneered in frontier war by Robert Rogers were of seminal importance to the evolution and conduct of 20th and 21st century infantry doctrine and were of an importance so obvious and deep that even the dunderheaded British officer class of the 18th Century realized that the necessity of adapting Indian modes of warfare would be of prime importance to the fate of their empire, the terrible little slaughter of a few score of mixed-race refugees settled on the Saint Francis River under French protection, on a brutal October morning in 1759, offered a fitting focus for a study of man’s timeless mode of wilderness warfare. The story of Robert Rogers and his ill-fated Rangers is one of severe hardship and bone-chilling brutality.

Rogers is known as the White Devil by Abenaki people, who were and are a mixed Amerindian-Caucasian tribal remnant of various compresses and displaced New England tribes, runaway servants, abducted and adopted English children and also the sons and daughters of French trappers, traders and priests. However, what Rogers and his men did in such a pitiless and brutal fashion to that enemy village was identical to what so many Abenaki war parties had done to smaller English settlements, homesteads, plantations and even forts over the previous half century. Indeed, as told in Brumwell’s unbiased narrative, the French and Indian war and those 75 years of uninterrupted slaughter, abduction, torture and cannibalism on the frontier between New England and New France had no “good guys.”

Despite what postmodern Canadian and First Nation propagandists assert, in those forested and river-cloven lands contested by Algonquin, Iroquoian, French and English from 1637 to 1776, there were no good guys and no bad guys, but only heroes and heroines, victims and prey, the hunter and the hunted. For our best look at what war before civilization truly looked and felt like, White Devil is my choice for the ideal war story.

Brumwell does more than draw aside the twin veils of Amerindian martyrdom and frontiersman sainthood. He exposes Mercantile Britain and the British Army for institutions at once resilient and undaunted but also as contemptable and corrupt. Though falling into the trap of accepting all African Americans as oppressed slaves and all English Americans as privileged masters, Brumwell presents evidence that free blacks fought in Roger’s corps of butchers and that English colonists—unlike negro slaves and freemen, often not meriting a name in the historical record—were routinely sold into bondage by English, Indian and French, and that the highest mortality rate among English settlers attacked by Indians, was among the unarmed servants, who were butchered for a scalp even as their masters were spared for ransom or sale in New France.

Most scandalous was the fact that Rogers, the second most lauded officer of the war, surpassed only in notoriety by Wolfe who gained victory and death on the Fields of Abraham before Montreal, was imprisoned for debt before the war was even won! Rogers was broken out of the slavers gaol by a company of enraged British redcoats, in garrison and in battle forever the ages old superior to their degenerate generals spawned from the wicked bowels of English high society.

His crime?

When his men were poorly supplied—even dying for want of British supplies, unavailable due to officer cowardice—he drew on his own credit to supply them and was eventually imprisoned for this, which began his long slide from fame to infamy as jealous senior officers persecuted him and he eventually turned to drink and wasted away in debtor prisons and English pubs, his last heroic act the capture of a highwayman on an English road. Rogers was a man’s man, a commander who always thought of and acted on behalf of is men before himself. He would have been an Achilles, a Caesar or a Genghis Khan in some human time. But in the mercantile age of Great Britain’s ascendency he could be only a criminal, despite being the best man of his place and time.

White Devil is a superb book, citing valuable primary sources and shall serve as one of my guides to questions of White Indians and White Slaves I Plantation America.

To support this project and view some graphics go to:

Stillbirth of a Nation: Caucasian Slavery in Plantation America: Part One

So His Master May Have Him Again

Add Comment
miforestMarch 22, 2018 10:35 AM UTC

I am from Kentucky . my family goes bac to before that era and my ancestors fought extensively in the frontier wars . I am a direct descendant of the brother of Capt. henry francis . the family fought in the Virginia militia and various other groups in the area throughout the area. Henry Francis was later killed in combat in the revolutionary war.

his wife was also killed shortly after the battle in an ambush of camp supporters. . there is a book on rogers called " War on the run " that is pretty good too.

It is a shame that a lot of the history of this time is unknown to most people. my folks fought the French in the French and Indian wars, the British in the revolution, and the Indians constantly.
responds:March 22, 2018 5:18 PM UTC

Thank you so much for this link!

The forested continental divide in the east was the roughest operational zone men have fought over in North America and it did more to forge our reviled national character of armed autonomy than any other element.

That, I believe is why more is not known of this era—it hits too close to the right kind of American home for our rulers to abide.