Kentucky Rifle

04Jun09

A couple of things.

First, Invention & Technology magazine has kindly posted my “Kentucky Rifle” piece online. Unfortunately, it lacks the stunning photos of the paper version, but I expect that’s owing to copyright issues. You can download a PDF of the original article — with photos — from my website. (Scroll about halfway down the page.) 

Second, I attended the American Revolution Round Table’s dinner a few nights ago, where Gordon Wood was speaking (about the clash between Hamiltonian “monarchism” and Jeffersonian republicanism in 1780s/1790s America — I think he has a book coming out). At the dinner, Thomas Fleming, the historian, verbally reviewed John Ross’s new War on the Run, a biography of Robert Rogers and his times. It was, as they say, a double-thumbs-up rave. I happened to review the book on Amazon (my first-ever review), a copy of which I’ve posted below. The book’s well worth a look. 

My Amazon review:

“In my own book — and I apologize for the self-serving plug, but it’s pertinent — Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring, I devoted part of a chapter to Robert Rogers, one of the most remarkable killing gentlemen of Colonial (and Revolutionary) America. I always, however, wanted to know more about this bewitching, wild creature, and so I’m glad that John Ross has undertaken the burden of excavating his life and times from the murk of the past. 

Good, narrative-driven history-writing is tricky to pull off, but, having blazed through the book, I think Ross has done a sterling job introducing Rogers to a modern audience. Ross is particularly skilled at evoking the frightening nature of the wilderness and the unique exigencies of frontier fighting. The vast, unexplored backcountry was densely thicketed by forests, rumpled by towering mountain ranges, and watered by unbridgeable rivers — and Rogers was master of it all. Small wonder his enemies (and friends) were terrified of him; small wonder that they (in Ross’s words) “could not get their imagination around the man, this master of nature and humans who could lead unimpressionable New Englanders to the edge of death over and over.” 

Now, while I had once foolishly assumed that Rogers was merely a rough-hewn, if cunning, ranger with an eye for the main chance, I’m happy to admit that War on the Run set me straight. Rogers, in truth, was an immensely complex individual, being both the most famed (or notorious) frontiersman in the world — a kind of Davy Crockett/Daniel Boone twofer — as well as a literate and entertaining American who, through his books and a play, illuminated to his fellow colonists the amazing potential of what would become their own country come 1783. 

Production-wise, the photos have been chosen with great care, and his footnotes (or rather, endnotes) are rock solid. A useful list of “Dramatis Personae” — to help us keep track of the dozens of colorful characters stalking the early frontier — and no fewer than 14 maps make War on the Run a worthwhile purchase. This is a very fine biography of one of America’s early Greats, and it’s certainly one of the most interesting books I’ve read all year. 

Recommended for anyone interested in early America and military history (especially insurgency, Special Forces, and the evolution of tactics).”

Alexander Rose, www.alexrose.com



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