The Rogers-Roche papers contain the outgoing letters of Robert Rogers and his stepson, John Roche. The Rogers material mainly concerns his military activities and money-making endeavors in North America and England, while the Roche letters relate to Roche's service on the U.S. Ship Constitution during the Quasi-war with France.
Language: The material is in English Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave. The University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190 Phone: 734-764-2347 Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Robert Rogers was born in Methuen, Massachusetts, on November 7, 1731, the son of Irish parents, James Rogers and Mary McPhatridge (sometimes spelled McFatridge or McPhetridge). Rogers grew up primarily in Dunbarton, New Hampshire, and worked as a trader until charged with counterfeiting; he escaped prosecution by enlisting in the New Hampshire regiment in the French and Indian War in 1755. Roberts moved up the ranks of the Army, first serving as a captain in the Crown Point expedition, and then gaining fame as the commander of a group of 600 irregular troops, called "Rogers' Rangers," who used guerrilla-like tactics and worked individually and in small groups to oppose the French. In 1761, he married Elizabeth Browne (1741-1813), daughter of Reverend Arthur Browne. In the same year he fought the Cherokees in South Carolina, and in 1763-1764, served in Pontiac's War.
In 1765, Roberts traveled to England in order to obtain money to pay off debts he had incurred in North America. There, he published his journals and a work entitled A Concise Account of North America, and wrote a play about Pontiac, entitled Ponteach. After an audience with King George III, who had read his works on North America, Roberts obtained the post of commander at Fort Michilimackinac in present-day Michigan, and an assignment to find a passage to the Pacific Ocean. In December 1768, Robert was arrested and court-martialed on suspicion of intrigue with the French. He was acquitted, but imprisoned for debt upon his return to England in 1769. Around this time, Elizabeth gave birth to their only known child, Arthur (1769-1841). Rogers again traveled to America in 1775, where he raised the Queen's American Rangers regiment and served as a spy for the British. In 1778, his wife divorced him on grounds of infidelity and abandonment; two years later, he returned to London, where he died in 1795.
After her divorce, which was granted by the New Hampshire General Assembly, Elizabeth married Captain John Roche of New Hampshire, and they had a son, John Roche, Jr. (1781-1807), known as "Jack." He joined the U.S. Navy in 1798 as a midshipman on the U.S. Ship Constitution and fought in the Quasi-war with France. In April 1801, he was appointed lieutenant. He died in 1807, at the age of 26.
The Rogers-Roche collection contains 53 letters and documents, spanning 1758 to 1881, with the bulk concentrated around 1758 to 1801.
Approximately half the collection consists of letters written by Robert Rogers to his wife, Elizabeth ("Betsy"), between 1761 and 1775, while he was in New York, South Carolina, Michigan, Ontario, Quebec, and London. The most frequent topic of letters is Rogers' finances; he often informed his wife of various attempts to get money that he believed the British government owed him, whether for commanding at Lake George during the French and Indian War (June 2, 1758), or for his expenses related to service at Fort Michilimackinac (March 8, 1770). On April 7, 1774, he notified his wife of his plan to send a memorial to General Thomas Gage requesting reimbursement and included a copy of the document on the verso of the letter.
The collection also includes three letters written by Rogers to his wife during his imprisonment at Montreal on charges of colluding with the French. On August 25, 1768, he noted, "my confinement…is made as agreable for me as possible," but several months later, he angrily noted, "I hop to soon have it in my power to reveng on my Enemys" (December 24, 1768). His early letters to Betsy are very loving in tone; he referred to her as "dearest dear," and soon after their marriage, wrote that he wished "once more to feast my Eyes on hir who so suddenly made me a prisoner to love" (November 9, 1761). In the same letter, written from South Carolina, he noted that a peace had been made between the Cherokees and British forces. His fine description of the capture of Fort Presque Isle by Native Americans during Pontiac's War is dated July 15, 1763.
The remainder of the collection primarily relates to John ("Jack") Roche, Jr., who joined the Navy and served on the U.S.S. Constitution during the quasi-war with France. The letters mainly concern his naval career and wartime service between 1798 and 1801. On May 7, 1798, Edward Livermore wrote to Roche, informing him, "I have entered your name as a midshipman on board the frigate-- You must come immediately if you mean to secure the place" and notified him of the pay and terms. In a letter of June 19, 1798, Roche described conditions onboard the Constitution , including the excellent provisions, the crew, and the ship's ordnance. In other letters, he made note of his duties and the capture of prizes. On September 25, , he described the capture of the 24-gun French ship Niger , carrying "large sums of money in bags & chests which have not been op'ned, probably the plunder of defenceless Americans."
Other topics include the death of several shipmates from yellow fever (September 29, ), the difficulty of finding French privateers off of Prince Rupert's Bay, Dominica (March 16, ), and the capture of a ship called the Indiaman (November 26, 1799). Roche also commented several times on conditions in Haiti, which had recently experienced a revolution. On Toussaint l'Ouverture, Commander-in-Chief of French Forces in Saint Domingue, he wrote, "we may shortly see the whole Island containing near a million of Inhabitants govern'd despotically by an ignorant negro, formerly a slave" (January 30, 1801). Several orders are also included among the papers, including one by the Constitution 's commander, Silas Talbot, which required that "each Lieut, Master and Midshipman Keepe an exact Journal of the Ships way" (December 15, 1800). The collection closes with a few scattered letters relating to Arthur Rogers and conveying family and financial news.