Archaeology has revealed significant information about the Native Americans who began hunting and fishing on Rogers Island and along the Hudson River as long ago as 4000 BC or perhaps earlier. They left behind their hearths, trash pits and dumps scattered along the river bank. They continued to visit this area until shortly before the first Europeans arrived around the turn of the 18th century AD. Research is continuing into the significant role Rogers Island and Fort Edward played in the lives of indigenous groups that traveled, hunted and fished along the Great Warpath.
Later, Rogers Island would be strategically located in the Hudson River directly opposite Fort Edward, one of the largest British fortifications in North America. The wars for world empire between Great Britain and France in the 18th century are collectively known as the French and Indian Wars. This name was tagged especially to the last war (1754-1760) by the people of the English colonies who bore the brunt of frequent raids along the frontier settlements of New England. Fort Edward eventually became the staging ground for invasions northward into French Canada by the British and provincial troops who would eventually drive the French out of New France. Thousands of troops encamped in and around this fort, most notably on the banks of the Hudson and on the "Great Island" adjacent to the fort. Construction soon extended to the Island where additional barracks, storage buildings, hospitals and a blockhouse were built. During the height of troop build up, Fort Edward became the third largest city in this country behind New York City and Boston.
From 1756 to 1759 Rogers Island was the base camp for Major Robert Rogers and his company of Rangers. It was here that Rogers composed his "Ranging Rules" in a letter to Lord Loudon on October 25, 1757 detailing his method of training and rules of order which marked a change from the British way of confronting an enemy on the battlefield. These "Ranging Rules", now known more commonly as "Standing Orders" form the basis of military tactics adopted by irregular fighting forces all over the world.
In 1766, after the French & Indian War was over, Fort Edward was ordered evacuated and its stores were moved to the British fort at Crown Point, leaving Fort Edward to decay. Although the fort itself was in ruins during the Revolutionary War, Fort Edward remained strategically located on the Great Military Warpath and troops garrisoned in the remaining barracks on the island. In 1777 they were forced to flee when General John Burgoyne's army passed through en route to Saratoga.
Recent archaeology has borne out Fort Edward's past with the discovery of the locations of many military structures at the fort. On the island the locations of the smallpox hospital built in 1757, rangers huts, barracks, an officers house and storehouse have been defined.
The 19th century saw the construction of homes on the northern end of the island while the southern 40+ acres remained untouched. Before leaving for duty in the Civil War local militia units drilled here on the island.
to be continued...
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11 Rogers Island Drive (off Rte. 197) – PO Box 208, Fort Edward, NY 12828
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