Conspiracy Of Pontiac

Author:      Randall, E. O.

Conspiracy Of Pontiac

 

1763

 

 

 

     With the fall of Quebec and De Vaudreuil's capitulation of Montreal,

Canada passed from the dominion of France to Britain, and for a time came

under military rule.  In the West, around the shores of the Great Lakes and

the country watered by the Ohio, though small English garrisons occupied the

forts of the region, the French still held posts on the Wabash and the

Mississippi, and had a considerable settlement at New Orleans.  About the

Lakes and in the Ohio Valley discontent smoldered among the Indians, many of

whom bewailed the fate of their old allies, the French, while they feared the

English, whom they dreaded as likely to drive them from their hunting-grounds

and treat them with injustice or neglect.

 

     Their fears in this respect were worked upon and disaffection among them

was fomented by French traders from Montreal and St. Louis; the results of

which were presently seen in the rising of all the Western tribes under the

wily leadership of Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa warriors, who sought to

exterminate the English and restore the supremacy of the French and Indian

races.  The incidents of this conspiracy of Pontiac are related in an edifying

paper by the Hon. E. O. Randall, of Columbus, Ohio, contributed to the

Transactions of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society, and here, by

kind permission, reproduced.

 

     The conquest of Canada left the Indians of the Ohio and Mississippi

valleys subject to British domination.  The red men repulsed but not

conquered.  They were scattered over a vast territory; their total number

between the Mississippi on the west, the ocean on the east, between the Ohio

on the south, and the Great Lakes on the north was probably not in excess of

two hundred thousand, and their fighting warriors not more than ten thousand.

^1 Fort Duquesne was in November, 1758, captured from the French by the

British forces under General John Forbes.  The military posts of the French in

the East, on the waters of Lake Erie and the Allegheny, viz., Presqu'ile, Le

Boeuf, and Venango, passed into the hands of the British soon after the taking

of Fort Duquesne.  Most of the Western forts were transferred to the English

during the autumn of 1760; but the extreme Western settlements on the

Illinois, viz., Forts Ouatanon, Vincennes, Kaskaskia, Chartres, and Cahokia,

remained several years longer under French control. In the fall of 1760 Major

Robert Rogers was directed by the then British commander, Sir Jeffrey Amherst,

to traverse the Great Lakes with a detachment of provincial troops and, in the

name of England, take possession of Detroit, Michilimackinac, and the other

Western forts included in the surrender of the French.

 

[Footnote 1: Estimate of Sir William Johnson in 1763: Iroquois, 1950;

Delawares, 600; Shawnees, 300; Wyandots, 450; Miamis and Kickapoos, 800;

Ottawas, Ojibwas, and other wandering tribes of the Northwest "defy all

efforts at enumeration." The British population in the colonies was then about

1,000,000; the French, something like 100,000.]

 

     Major Rogers, with two hundred rangers, left Montreal, ascended the St.

Lawrence, crossed Lakes Ontario and Erie, and reached the mouth of the

Cuyahoga ^1 on November 7th.  No body of troops under the British flag had

ever before penetrated so far west on the Lakes.  Rogers and his men encamped

in the neighboring forest.  Shortly after their arrival a party of Indian

chiefs and warriors appeared at the camp and declared they were envoys from

Pontiac, "ruler of all that country," and demanded, in his name, that the

British soldiers "should advance no farther" until they had conferred with the

great chief, who was rapidly approaching.  That same day Pontiac himself

appeared; and "it is here," says Parkman, "for the first time, that this

remarkable man stands forth distinctly on the page of history."

 

[Footnote 1: Rogers called this river Chocage.  Rogers' camp was on the

present site of the city of Cleveland.]

 

     The place and date of birth of Pontiac are both matters of dispute. There

seems to be no doubt that he was the son of an Ottawa chief; his mother is

variously stated to have been an Ojibwa, a Miami, and a Sac. Preponderance of

evidence, as the lawyers say, seems to favor the Ojibwas. Authorities also

vary as to the date of his nativity from 1712 to 1720. ^1 Historical writers

usually content themselves with the vague statement that he was born "on the

Ottawa River," without designating which Ottawa River, for many were so

called; indeed, the Ottawas were in the habit of calling every stream upon

which they sojourned any length of time "Ottawa," after their own tribe.  The

Miami chief Richardville is on record as often asserting that Pontiac was born

by the Maumee at the mouth of the Auglaize. ^2 In any event, Pontiac, like his

great successor, the incomparable Shawano chief, Tecumseh, was a native of

Ohio.

 

[Footnote 1: Parkman says he was about fifty years old when he met Major

Rogers, which was in 1760.]

 

[Footnote 2: Chief Richardville also asserted that Pontiac was born of an

Ottawa father and a Miami mother.  The probability of this tradition is

allowed by Knapp, and accepted by Dr. C. E. Slocum, of Defiance, a very

careful and reliable authority.  Dodge says some claimed Pontiac was a Catawba

prisoner, adopted into the Ottawa tribe.]

 

     The Ottawas, Ojibwas, and the Pottawottomis had formed a sort of alliance

of which Pontiac was the virtual head.  He was of a despotic and commanding

temperament, and he wielded practical authority among all the tribes of the

Illinois country, and was known to all the Indian nations of America.

Pontiac, conscious of his power and position, haughtily asked Major Rogers,

"What his business was in that country?" and how he dared enter it without

Pontiac's permission?  Rogers informed the chief that the war was over, the

French defeated, the country surrendered to the British, and he was on his way

to receive the posts from the French occupiers.  Pontiac was wily and

diplomatic.  He received the news stolidly, reserved his answer till next

morning, when his reply was that as he desired to live in peace with the

British, he would let them remain in his country as long as "they treated him

with due respect and deference." Both parties smoked the calumet and protested

friendship.  Rogers proceeded on his errand.  On November 29, 1760, the French

garrison at Detroit transferred that historic and most important Western

station to British possession. ^1

 

[Footnote 1: Detroit was first settled by Cadillac, July 24, 1701, with fifty

soldiers and fifty artisans and traders.  So it had been the chief Western

stronghold of the French for one hundred fifty years.  Detroit at this time

(1760) contained about two thousand inhabitants.  The centre of the settlement

was a fortified town, known as the "Fort," to distinguish it from the

dwellings scattered along the river-banks.  The Fort stood on the western bank

of the river and contained about a hundred small wood houses with bark or

thatch-straw roofs.  These primitive dwellings were packed closely together

and surrounded and protected by a palisade about twenty-five feet high; at

each corner was a wooden bastion, and a block-house was erected over each

gateway.  The only public buildings in the enclosure were a council-house,the

barracks, and a rude little church.]

 

     The stormy season prevented Rogers from advancing farther.

Michilimackinac and the three remoter posts of Ste. Marie, La Baye (Green

Bay), and St. Joseph remained in the hands of the French until the next year.

The interior posts of the Illinois country were also retained by the French,

but the British conquest of America was completed.  The victory of England and

the transfer of the French strongholds to British commanders were a terrible

and portentous blow to the Indian.  He could not fail to foresee therein dire

results to his race.  His prophetic vision read the handwriting on the wall!

Expressions and signs of discontent and apprehension began to be audible among

the Indian tribes; "from the Potomac to Lake Superior, and from the

Alleghanies to the Mississippi, in every wigwam and hamlet of the forest, a

deep-rooted hatred of the English increased with rapid growth." When the

French occupied the military posts of the lakes and the rivers they freely

supplied the neighboring Indians with weapons, clothing, provisions, and

fire-water.  The sudden cessation of these bounties was a grievous and

significant calamity.

 

     The English fur-trader and incomer was rude and coarse and domineering as

compared with the agreeable and docile Frenchman.  Worse and more alarming

than all was the intrusion into the forest solitude and hunting-ground of the

Indian by the English settler, who regarded the red man as having no rights he

was bound to respect.  While the rivalry between the two white nations was in

progress, the red man was courted by each as holding in large degree the

balance of power.  But the war over, the ascendant Briton no longer regarded

the Indians as necessary allies, and they were in large measure treated with

indifference and injustice.  The hostility of the Indian against the British

was, of course, assiduously promoted by the French, who saw in it trouble for

the British, possibly a regaining of their lost ground.  The warlike and

revengeful spirit of the Indian began to give itself vent.  The smouldering

fires were bound to burst forth.  During the years 1761 and 1762 plots were

hatched in various tribes to stealthily approach, and, by attack or

treacherous entrance, destroy the posts of Detroit, Fort Pitt, and others.

These plots were severally discovered in time to forestall their attempt.

Indian indignation reached its height when in 1763 it was announced to the

tribes that the King of France had ceded all their (Indian) country to the

King of England, without consulting them in the matter.  At once a plot was

contrived, "such as was never before or since conceived or executed by North

American Indians."

 

     It was determined and planned to make an assault upon all the British

posts on the same day; "then, having destroyed the garrisons, to turn upon the

defenceless frontier and ravage and lay waste the white settlements." It was

fondly believed by thousands of braves that then the British might be

exterminated, or at least driven to the sea-board and confined to their coast

settlements.  It was the great chief, Pontiac, who if he did not originally

instigate, fostered, directed, and personally commanded this secretly arranged

universal movement.  His mastermind comprehended the importance and necessity

of combined and harmonious effort.  He proposed to unite all the tribes into

one confederacy for offensive operations.  At the close of 1762 he despatched

ambassadors to the different nations - to the tribes of the North on the

Lakes; to the northwest, the head-waters of the Mississippi and south to its

mouth; to the east and the southeast.  The Indians thus enlisted and banded

together against the British comprised, "with few unimportant exceptions, the

whole Algonquin stock." Especially were the Ohio tribes solicited and secured;

the Shawanoes, the Miamis, the Wyandots, and the Delawares.  The Senecas were

the only members of the Iroquois confederacy that joined the league.  The

onslaught was to be made in the month of May, 1763, the tribes to rise

simultaneously at the various points and each tribe destroy the British

garrison in its neighborhood.

 

     It was a vast scheme, worthy the brain and courage of the greatest

general and shrewdest statesman.  The plan was divulged by individual Indians

to officers at two or three of the posts, but was either disbelieved or its

importance ignored.  While this gigantic and almost chimerical plot was being

developed by Pontiac and his associate chiefs, and treaty of peace between

France and England was signed at Paris, February 10, 1763.  By this compact

France yielded to England all her territory north of the Great Lakes and the

St. Lawrence and east of the Mississippi.  The Spanish possessions on the Gulf

of Mexico were ceded to England, the territory west of the Mississippi going

to Spain.  France was left no foothold in North America.  While the powers of

England, France, and Spain were in the French capital arranging this result,

as Parkman remarks, "countless Indian warriors in the American forests were

singing the war-song and whetting their scalping-knives."

 

     The chief centre of Indian activity and the main point of attack was the

post of Detroit, the Western head-quarters of the British government. Pontiac

was personally to strike the first blow.  The rendezvous of his painted and

armed warriors was to be the banks of the little river Ecorces, which empties

into the Detroit River a few miles below the Fort, now the city of Detroit.

It was April 27th when the assembled warriors listened to the final war-speech

of the great chief.

 

     Pontiac was an orator of a high order, fierce and impassioned in style.

He presented at length the injustice of the British as compared with that of

the French; he set forth the danger to his race from the threatened supremacy

of the British power; he predicted the awakening of "their great father the

King of France," during whose sleep the English had robbed the Indian of his

American possessions.  In passionate appeals he aroused the vengeance and

superstition of his people and warned them that the white man's civilization

was poisoning and annihilating the red race.  In his dramatic way he related

to the superstitious Indians a dream wherein the Great Spirit sent his message

that they were to cast aside the weapons, the utensils of civilization, and

the "deadly rum" of the white men, and, with aid from the Great Spirit, drive

the dogs in red from every post in their (Indian) country.  He revealed his

plans of destruction of the whites and the details of the plot to secure

Detroit.  He and a few of his chosen chiefs were to visit the Fort, under

pretence of a peaceful visit, gain admittance, seek audience with Major Henry

Gladwin, the commandant, and his officers, and then at an agreed signal the

chiefs were to draw their weapons, previously concealed beneath their

blankets, raise the war whoop, rush upon the officers and strike them down.

 

     The Indian forces waiting meanwhile at the gate were then to assail the

surprised and half-armed soldiers.  Thus through this perfidious murder

Detroit would fall an easy prey to the savages and Pontiac's conspiracy have a

successful inauguration.  His plan was approved.  Just below Detroit, on the

same side of the river, was a Pottawottomi village; across the river some

three miles up the current was an Ottawa village; on the same eastern side

about a mile below Detroit was the Wyandot village.  Along each side of the

river for two or three miles were houses of the French settlers.  "The king

and lord of all this country," as Major Rogers called Pontiac, had located one

of his homes, where he spent the early summer, on a little island (Ile a

Peche) at the opening of Lake St. Clair.  Here he had a small oven-shaped

cabin of bark and rushes.  Here he dwelt with his squaws and children, and

here doubtless he might often have been seen, lounging, Indian style, half

naked, on a rush mat or bear-skin.

 

     The number of warriors under the command of Pontiac is variously

estimated from six hundred to two thousand.  The garrison consisted of one

hundred twenty soldiers, eight officers, and about forty others capable of

bearing arms.  Two armed schooners, The Beaver and The Gladwyn, were anchored

in the river near the Fort.  Pontiac's plot was revealed to Gladwyn the night

before its proposed execution by an Ojibwa girl from the Pottawottomi village.

^1 Gladwyn, thus warned, was forearmed.  Pontiac and his six chiefs were

admitted to the council-chamber.  Pontiac began the harangue of peace and

friendly palaver and was about to give the preconcerted signal when Gladwyn

raised his hand and the sound of clashing arms and drum-beating was heard

without.  Pontiac feared he was foiled, and announcing that he would "call

again," next time with his squaws and children, he and his party withdrew.

 

[Footnote 1: There are many versions of the divulging of the plot; one that it

was by an old squaw; another that a young squaw of doubtful character told it

to one of the subordinate officers; still another, that it was by an Ottawa

warrior.  Parkman seems to favor the Ojibwa girl, called Catherine, and said

to be the mistress of Gladwyn.]

 

     The next morning, Pontiac, in hopes of regaining Gladwyn's confidence,

repaired to the Fort with but three of his chiefs, and bearing in his hand the

pipe of peace.  Offering it to Gladwyn he again protested his friendship for

the British, whom he declared "we love as our brothers." A few days later, the

Indians thronged the open field behind the Fort gate.  It was closed and

barred.  Pontiac, advancing, demanded admittance.  Gladwyn replied that he

might enter, but only alone.  The great chief, baffled and enraged, then

"threw off the mask he had so long worn" and boldly declared his intention to

make war.  A day or two later the four tribes, Ottawas, Ojibwas,

Pottawottomis, and Wyandots, clamored about the Fort, and the attack was begun

by volleys of bullets fired at the palisade walls.  Thus opened the famous

siege of Detroit, which lasted six months, from May 1 to November 1 (1763),

one of the longest and most bitterly contested sieges in the history of

Western Indian warfare.

 

     The incomparable treachery of Pontiac in endeavoring to secure the Fort

by dissemblance of friendship was further evidenced by his pretence at a

truce.  Pontiac declaring his earnest desire for "firm and lasting peace,"

requested Gladwyn to send to the camp of the chief, Captain Campbell,

Gladwyn's second in command, a veteran officer and most upright and manly in

character.  Campbell went, was made prisoner, and subsequently was foully and

hideously murdered.  Pontiac neglected no expedient known to Indian perfidy,

cruelty, or deviltry.  He surpassed his race in all the detestable elements of

their nature.  His conduct from first to last was only calculated to create

distrust, contempt, and loathing.  His warriors murdered the British settlers

in the vicinity of the Fort, burned their huts, robbed the Canadians, and

committed every variety of depredation.

 

     Pontiac, realizing the seriousness of the situation and the obstinate

courage of the British garrison, prepared for a lengthy campaign.  He ordered

the Ottawa village moved across the river to the Detroit side, where it was

located about a mile and a half northeast of the Fort, at the mouth of

Parent's Creek, afterward known as Bloody Run.

 

     The garrison bravely and patiently withstood all assaults and bided the

time of rescue.  By midnight sallies and other expedients they removed all

exterior buildings, fences, trees, and other obstacles that lay within the

range of their guns or that might afford protection to sneaking and stealthy

Indians who would crawl snakelike close to the palisade and fire at the

sentinels and loop-holes, or shoot their arrows tipped with burning tow upon

the roofs of the structures within the Fort.  Fortunately the supply of water

was inexhaustible; the provisions were wisely husbanded; friendly Canadians

across the river, under cover of night, brought supplies.

 

     These Canadian farmers were also subject to tribute to the Indians, who

seized their supplies by theft or open violence.  They appealed to Pontiac,

and about the only creditable act recorded of that perfidious chief was his

agreement to make restitution to the robbed settlers.  Pontiac gave them in

payment for their purloined property promissory notes drawn on birch-bark and

signed with the figure of an otter - the totem to which he belonged - all of

which promises to pay, it is said, were redeemed.

 

     Day after day passed with varying incidents of attack and repulse.  The

keen-eyed watchfulness of the Indians never for an instant abated; their

vigils were tireless and ceaseless; woe to the soldier who ventured without

the Fort or even lifted his head above the palisade.  Pontiac's patience was

strengthened with the delusive idea that the French were only temporarily

defeated and would rally to his assistance.  He even despatched messengers

across the interior to the French commandant, Neyon, at Fort Chartres on the

Mississippi, requesting that French troops be sent without delay to his aid.

Meanwhile Gladwyn had sent one of his schooners to Fort Niagara to hasten

promised reenforcements from the British.

 

     Lieutenant Cuyler had already (May 13th) left Niagara with a convoy of

seven boats, ninety-six men, and quantities of supplies and ammunition.  This

little fleet coasted along the northern shore of Lake Erie until near the

mouth of the Detroit River.  The force attempted to land, when a band of

Wyandot Indians suddenly burst from the woods, seized five of the boats, and

killed or captured sixty of the soldiers.  Cuyler with the remaining men

(thirty-six), many of whom were wounded, escaped in the other boats and

crossed to Fort Sandusky, which they found had been taken and burned by the

Wyandots; the garrison had been slaughtered and Ensign Paully sent prisoner to

Pontiac's camp.  Cuyler with his escaping companions slowly wended his way

back, where he reported the result of his expedition to the commanding

officer, Major Wilkins.

 

     At the same time the Wyandots, with the captured boats and prisoners,

proceeded up the Detroit to Pontiac's quarters, arriving in full sight of the

Fort's garrison, when Gladwyn, of course, learned of the destruction of the

Cuyler flotilla.  The disappointment to the inmates of the Fort was almost

unbearable.  Gladwyn's schooner, however, reached Fort Niagara and returned

about July 1st, laden with food, ammunition, and reenforcements, and the most

welcome news of the Treaty of Paris.  Pontiac, undismayed, continued his

efforts.  His forces now numbered, it is recorded, about eight hundred twenty

warriors: two hundred fifty Ottawas, his own tribe and under his immediate

command; one hundred fifty Pottawottomis, under Ninivay; fifty Wyandots, under

Takee; two hundred Ojibwas, under Wasson; and one hundred seventy of the same

tribe, under Sekahos.

 

     The two schooners were a serious menace to the movements of the Indians,

and many desperate attempts were made to burn them by midnight attacks, and

the floating of fire-rafts down upon them; but all to no avail.  Pontiac had

the stubborn persistency of a later American general who said he would fight

it out on that line if it took all summer.  He exerted himself with fresh zeal

to gain possession of the Fort.  He demanded the surrender of Gladwyn, saying

a still greater force of Indians was on the march to swell the army of

besiegers.  Gladwyn was equally tenacious and unyielding; he proposed to "hold

the fort" till the enemy were worn out or reenforcements arrived. Pontiac

sought to arouse the active aid of the neighboring Canadians, but the Treaty

of Paris had made them British subjects, and they dared not war on their

conquerors.  History scarcely furnishes a like instance of so large an Indian

force struggling so long in an attack on a fortified place.

 

     The Wyandots and Pottawottomis, however, never as enthusiastic in this

war as the other tribes, late in July decided to withdraw from the besieging

confederacy and make peace with the British.  They did so, and exchanged

prisoners with Gladwyn.  The Ottawas and Ojibwas, however, still held on,

watching the Fort and keeping up a desultory fusillade.  The end was drawing

nigh.  On July 29th, Captain James Dalzell arrived from Niagara with artillery

supplies and two hundred eighty men in twenty-two barges.  Their approach to

the Fort was bravely contested by the combined Indian forces, even the

Wyandots, and Pottawottomis breaking their treaty and treacherously joining in

the assault.  Dalzell's troops entered the Fort, and he proposed an immediate

sortie.  Dalzell was bravery personified, and he had fought with Israel

Putnam.

 

     On the morning after his arrival (July 31st) at two o'clock, he led a

force of two hundred fifty men out of the Fort.  They silently in the darkness

marched along the river toward the Ottawa village just across Parent's Creek.

The Indians were prepared and had ambuscaded both sides of the road.  They

were, Indian fashion, secreted behind trees and fences and Canadian houses.

Their presence was not discovered till the van of Dalzell's column reached the

bridge over the creek, when a terrible fire was opened upon the soldiers from

all sides.  It was still dark; the Indians could not be seen.

 

     A panic ensued.  The troops in disorder retreated amid an awful

slaughter.  Dalzell himself was killed, and Major Robert Rogers assumed

command, and the fleeing soldiers were only spared from total destruction by

two of the British boats coming to the rescue.  About sixty men were killed or

wounded.  It was known as the Battle of Bloody bridge.  Upon the retreating

into the Fort of Major Rogers' survivors the siege was renewed. Pontiac was

greatly encouraged over this victory, and his Indians showed renewed zeal.

The schooner Gladwyn was sent to Niagara for help.  On its return, it was

attacked and its crew and supplies practically destroyed. Another relief

expedition under Major Wilkins in September was overwhelmed in a lake storm

and seventy were soldiers drowned.

 

     But even Indian persistency began to tire.  The realization that the

French were beaten and time only would bring victory to the British led all

the tribes, except the Ottawas, to sue for peace.  This was on October 12th.

Pontiac could only hold his own tribe in line.  The Ottawas sustained their

hostility until October 30th, when a French messenger arrived from Neyon, who

reported to Pontiac that he must expect no help from the French, as they were

now completely and permanently at peace with the British. ^1 Pontiac was

advised to quit the war at once.  His cause was doomed.  The great chief who

had so valiantly and unremittently fought for six months suddenly raised the

siege and retired into the country of the Maumee, where he vainly endeavored

to arouse the Miamis and neighboring tribes to another war upon the invading

British.

 

[Footnote 1: True to his Indian nature, Pontiac determined to assume a mask of

peace and bide his time.  Gladwyn wrote as follows to Lord Jeffrey Amherst:

"This moment I received a message from Pontiac telling me that he should send

to all the nations concerned in the war to bury the hatchet; and he hopes your

excellency will forget what has passed." - Ed.]

 

     Though the memorable siege of Detroit, personally conducted by Pontiac,

ended in failure to the great chief, his conspiracy elsewhere met with

unparalleled success.  The British posts planned to be simultaneously attacked

and destroyed by the savages were some dozen in number, including besides

Detroit, St. Joseph, Michilimackinac, Ouiatenon, Sandusky, Miami, Presqu'ile,

Niagara, Le Boeuf, Venango, Fort Pitt, and one or two others of lesser

importance.  Of all the posts from Niagara and Pitt westward, Detroit alone

was able to survive the conspiracy.  For the rest "there was but one unvaried

tale of calamity and ruin." It was a continued series of disasters to the

white men.  The victories of the savages marked a course of blood from the

Alleghanies to the Mississippi.

 

     On May 16, 1763, the Wyandots surrounded Fort Sandusky, and under

pretence of a friendly visit several of them well known to Ensign Paully, the

commander, were admitted.  While smoking the pipe of peace the treacherous and

trusted Indians suddenly arose, seized Paully, and held him prisoner while

their tribesmen killed the sentry, entered the fort, and in cold blood

murdered and scalped the little band of soldiers.  The traders in the post

were likewise killed and their stores plundered.  The stockade was fired and

burned to the ground.  Paully was taken to Detroit where he was "adopted" as

the husband of an old widowed squaw, from whose affectionate toils he finally

escaped to his friends in the Detroit Fort.

 

     St. Joseph was located at the mouth of the river St. Joseph, near the

southern end of Lake Michigan. ^1 Ensign Schlosser was in command with a mere

handful of soldiers, fourteen in number.  On the morning of May 25th the

commander was informed that a large "party" of Pottawottomis had arrived from

Detroit "to visit their relations," and the chief (Washashe) and three or four

of his followers wished to hold a "friendly talk" with the commander. Disarmed

of suspicion, the commander-ensign admitted the callers; the result is the

oft-repeated story.  The entering Indians rushed to the gate, tomahawked the

sentinel, let in their associates, who instantly pounced upon the garrison,

killed eleven of the soldiers, plundered the fort, and later carried Schlosser

and his three surviving companions captives to Detroit.

 

[Footnote 1: This post of St. Joseph was the site of a Roman Catholic mission

founded about the year 1700.  Here was one of the most prominent French

military posts.]

 

     Fort Michilimackinac was the most important point on the Upper Lakes,

commanding as it did the Straits of Mackinac, the passage from Lake Huron into

Lake Michigan.  Great numbers of the Chippewas (Ojibwas), in the last of May,

began to assemble in the vicinity of the fort, but with every indication of

friendliness.  June 4th was King George's birthday.  It must be celebrated

with pastimes.  The discipline of the garrison, some thirty-five in number,

was relaxed.  Many squaws were admitted as visitors into the fort, while their

"braves" engaged in their favorite game of ball just outside the garrison

entrance.  It was a spirited contest between the Ojibwas and Sacs.

 

     Captain George Etherington, commander of the fort, and his lieutenant,

Leslie, stood without the palisades to watch the sport.  Suddenly the ball was

thrown near the open gate and behind the two officers.  The Indians pretending

to rush for the ball instantly encircled and seized Etherington and Leslie,

and crowded their way into the fort, where the squaws supplied them with

tomahawks and hatchets, which they had carried in, hidden under their

blankets.  Quick as a flash, the instruments of death were gleaming in the

sunlight, and Lieutenant Jamet and fifteen soldiers and a trader were struck

down, never to rise.  The rest of the garrison were made prisoners and five of

them afterward tomahawked.  All of the peaceful traders were plundered and

carried off.  The prisoners were conveyed to Montreal.  The French population

of the post was undisturbed.  Captain Etherington succeeded in sending timely

warning to the little garrison at La Baye; Lieutenant Gorrell, the commandant,

and his men were brought as prisoners to the Michilimackinac fort and thence

sent with Etherington and Leslie to the Canadian capital.  The little post of

Ste. Marie (the Sault) had been partially destroyed and abandoned.  The

garrison inmates had withdrawn to Michilimackinac and shared its fate.

 

     The garrison at Ouiatenon situated on the Wabash (Indian Ouabache), near

the present location of Lafayette (Indiana), then in the very heart of the

Western forest, as planned, was to have been massacred on June 1st.  Through

the information given by the French at the post, the soldiers were apprised of

their intended fate, and, through the intervention of the same French friends,

the Indians were dissuaded from executing their sanguinary purpose. Lieutenant

Jenkins and several of his men were made prisoners by stratagem; the remainder

of the garrison readily surrendered.

 

     On the present site of Fort Wayne (Indiana) was Fort Miami, ^1 at the

confluence of the Rivers St. Joseph and St. Mary, which unite to form the

Maumee.  The fort at this time was in charge of Ensign Holmes.  On May 27th

the commander was decoyed from the Fort by the story of an Indian girl, that a

squaw lay dangerously ill in a wigwam near the stockade, and needed medical

assistance.  The humane Holmes, forgetting his caution on an errand of mercy,

walked without the gate and was instantly shot dead.  The soldiers in the

palisades, seeing the corpse of their leader and hearing the yells and

whoopings of the exultant Indians, offered no resistance, admitted the red men

and gladly surrendered on promise of having their lives spared.

 

[Footnote 1: There were several forts called Miami in those early days.  This

one was built in 1749-1750 by the French commandant, Raimond.]

 

     Fort Presqu'ile stood on the southern shore of Lake Erie at the site of

the present town of Erie.  The block-house, an unusually strong and commodious

one, was in command of Ensign Christie, with a courageous and skilful garrison

of twenty-seven men.  Christie, learning of the attack on the other posts,

"braced up" for his "visit from the hell-hounds" as he appropriately called

the enemy.  He had not long to wait.  On June 15th about two hundred of them

put in an appearance from Detroit.  They sprang into the ditch around the

fort, and with reckless audacity approached to the very walls and threw

fire-balls of pitch upon the roof and sides of the fortress. Again and again

the wooden retreat was on fire, but amid showers of bullets and arrows the

flames were extinguished by the fearless soldiers.

 

     The savages rolled logs before the fort and erected strong breastworks,

from behind which they could discharge their shots and throw their fire-balls.

For nearly three days a terrific contest ensued.  The savages finally

undermined the palisades to the house of Christie, which was at once set on

fire, nearly stifling the garrison with the smoke and heat, for Christie's

quarters were close to the block-house.  Longer resistance was vain, "the

soldiers, pale and haggard, like men who had passed through a fiery furnace,

now issued from their scorched and bullet-pierced stronghold." The

surrendering soldiers were taken to Pontiac's quarters on the Detroit River.

 

     Three days after the attack on Presqu'ile, Fort le Boeuf, twelve miles

south on Le Boeuf Creek, one of the head sources of the Allegheny River, was

surrounded and burned.  Ensign Price and a garrison of thirteen men

miraculously escaped the flames and the encircling savages and endeavored to

reach Fort Pitt.  About half of them succeeded; the remainder died of hunger

and privation by the way.

 

     Fort Venango, still farther south, on the Allegheny River, was captured

by a band of Senecas, who gained entrance by resorting to the oft-employed

treachery of pretending friendliness.  The entire garrison was butchered,

Lieutenant Gordon, the commander, being slowly tortured to death, and the fort

was burned to the ground.  Not a soul escaped to tell the horrible tale.

 

     Fort Ligonier, another small post, commanded by Lieutenant Archibald

Blane, forty miles southeast of Fort Pitt, was attacked but successfully held

out till relieved by Bouquet's expedition.

 

     Thus within a period of about a month from the time the first blow was

struck at Detroit, Pontiac was in full possession of nine out of the twelve

posts, so recently belonging to and, it was thought, securely occupied by the

British.  The fearful threat of the great Ottawa conspirator that he would

exterminate the whites west of the Alleghanies was wellnigh fulfilled.  Over

two hundred traders with their servants fell victims to his remorseless march

of slaughter and rapine, and goods estimated at over half a million dollars

became the spoils of the confederated tribes.

 

     The result of Pontiac's widespread and successful uprising struck untold

terror to the settlers along the Western frontier of Pennsylvania, Maryland,

and Virginia.  The savages, roused to the highest pitch of fury and weltering

in the blood of their victims, were burning the cabins and crops of the

defenceless whites and massacring the men, women, and children.  Many hundreds

of the forest-dwellers with their families flocked to the stockades and

protected posts.  Particularly in the Pennsylvania country did dread and

consternation prevail.  The frontiersmen west of the Alleghanies fled east

over the mountains to Carlisle, Lancaster, and numbers even continued their

flight to Philadelphia.  Pontiac was making good his threat that he would

drive the palefaces back to the sea.

 

     But Forts Niagara and Pitt were still in the possession of the

"red-coats," as the British soldiers were often called by the forest

"redskins." Following the total destruction of Le Boeuf and Venango, the

Senecas made an attack on Fort Niagara, an extensive work on the east side of

Niagara River, near its mouth as it empties into Lake Ontario.  This fort

guarded the access to the whole interior country by way of Canada and the St.

Lawrence.  The fort was strongly built and fortified and was far from the

centre of the country of the warpath Indians, for, with the exception of the

Senecas, the Iroquois tribes inhabiting Eastern Canada and New York did not

participate in Pontiac's conspiracy.  The attack on Fort Niagara, therefore,

was half-hearted, and after a feeble effort the besiegers despaired of success

or assistance and abandoned the blockade, which only lasted a few days.

 

     Fort Pitt was the British military head-quarters of the Western frontier.

It was the Gibraltar of defence, protecting the Eastern colonies from invasion

by the Western Indians.  The consummation of Pontiac's gigantic scheme

depended upon the capture of Fort Pitt.  It was a strong fortification at the

confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers.  Its northern ramparts

were faced with brick on the side looking down the Ohio.  Fort Pitt stood "far

aloof in the forest, and one might journey eastward full two hundred miles

before the English settlements began to thicken." The garrison consisted of

three hundred thirty soldiers, traders, and backwoodsmen, besides about one

hundred women and a greater number of children.  Captain Simeon Ecuyer, a

brave Swiss officer, was in command.  Every preparation was made for the

expected attack.  All houses and cabins outside the palisade were levelled to

the ground.  A rude fire-engine was constructed to extinguish any flames that

might be kindled by the burning arrows of the Indians.

 

     In the latter part of May the hostile savages began to approach the

vicinity of the fort.  On June 22d they opened fire "upon every side at once."

The garrison replied by a discharge of howitzers, the shells of which,

bursting in the midst of the Indians, greatly amazed and disconcerted them.

The Indians then boldly demanded a surrender of the fort, saying vast numbers

of braves were on the way to destroy it.  Ecuyer displayed equal bravado and

replied that several thousand British soldiers were on the way to punish the

tribes for their uprising.  The fort was now in a state of siege. For about a

month "nothing occurred except a series of petty and futile attacks," in which

the Indians, mostly Ottawas, Ojibwas, and Delawares, did small damage.  On

July 26th, under a flag of truce, the besiegers again demanded surrender.  It

was refused and Ecuyer told the savages that if they again showed themselves

near the Fort he would throw "bombshells" among them and "blow them to atoms."

The assault was continued with renewed fury.

 

     Meanwhile Sir Jeffrey Amherst, the commander-in-chief of the British

forces, awakening to the gravity of the situation, ordered Colonel Bouquet, a

brave and able officer in his majesty's service, to take command of certain

specified forces and proceed as rapidly as possible to the relief of Fort

Pitt, and then make aggressive warfare on the Western tribes.  Bouquet,

leaving his head-quarters at Philadelphia, reached Carlisle late in June,

where he heard for the first time of the calamities at Presqu'-ile, Le Boeuf,

and Venango.  He left Carlisle with a force of five hundred men, some of them

the pick of the British regulars, but many of them aged veterans enfeebled by

disease and long, severe exposure.  Bouquet had seen considerable service in

Indian warfare.  He was not likely to be caught napping.  He marched slowly

along the Cumberland Valley and crept cautiously over the mountains, passing

Forts Loudon and Bedford, the latter surrounded with Indians, to Fort

Ligonier, which, as noted above, had been blockaded for weeks by the savages

who, as at Bedford, fled at Bouquet's approach.

 

     On August 5th the little army, footsore and tired and half-famished,

reached a small stream within twenty-five miles of Fort Pitt, known as Bushy

Run.  Here in the afternoon they were suddenly and fiercely fired upon by a

superior number of Indians.  A terrific contest ensued, only ended by the

darkness of night.  The encounter was resumed next day; the odds were against

the British, who were surrounded and were being cut down in great numbers by

the Indians who skulked behind trees and logs and in the grass and

declivities.  Bouquet resorted to a ruse which was signally successful.  He

formed his men in a wide semicircle, and from the centre advanced a company

toward the enemy; the advancing company then made a feint of retreat, the

deceived Indians followed closed after and fell into the ambuscade.  The

outwitted savages were completely routed and fled in hopeless confusion.

Bouquet had won one of the greatest victories in Western Indian warfare.  His

loss was about one hundred fifty men, nearly a third of his army.  The loss of

the Indians was not so great.

 

     As rapidly as possible Bouquet pushed on to Fort Pitt, which he entered

without molestation on August 25th.  The extent and the end of Pontiac's

conspiracy had at last been reached.  The Pennsylvania Assembly, and King

George, even, formally thanked Bouquet.

 

     Forts Detroit and Pitt, as has been seen, proved impregnable; neither the

evil cunning nor the persistent bravery of the savage could dislodge the

occupants of those important posts.  The siege of Detroit had been abandoned

by the combined forces of Pontiac, but the country round about continued to be

infested with the hostile Indians, who kept up a sort of petty bushwhacking

campaign that compelled the soldiers and traders of the fort, for safety, to

remain "in doors" during the winter of 1763-1764.  Bouquet, on gaining Fort

Pitt, desired to pursue the marauding and murderous savages to their forest

retreats and drive them hence, but he was unable to accomplish anything until

the following year.

 

     In the spring of 1764 Sir Jeffrey Amherst resigned his office, and

General Thomas Gage succeeded him as commander-in-chief of the British forces

in America, with head-quarters in Boston.  Shortly after assuming office,

General Gage determined to send two armies from different points into the

heart of the Indian country.  The first, under Bouquet, was to advance from

Fort Pitt into the midst of the Delaware and Shawano settlements of the Ohio

Valley; and the other, under Bradstreet was to pass from Fort Niagara up the

Lakes and force the tribes of Detroit and the region round about to

unconditional submission.

 

     Colonel John Bradstreet left Fort Niagara in July, 1764, with the

formidable force of over a thousand soldiers.  In canoes and bateaux this

imposing army of British regulars coasted along the shore of Lake Erie,

stopping at various points to meet and treat with the Indians, who, realizing

their inability to cope with so powerful an antagonist, made terms of peace or

went through the pretence of so doing.  At Sandusky (Fort), particularly,

Bradstreet accepted the false promises of the Wyandots, Ottawas, Miamis,

Delawares, and Shawanoes.  On August 26th he arrived at Detroit, to the great

joy and relief of the garrison, which now, for more than a year, had been "cut

off from all communication with their race" and had been virtually prisoners

confined within the walls of their stockade.  Bradstreet forwarded small

detachments to restore or retake, as the case might be, the farther western

British posts, which had fallen into the hands of Pontiac's wily and exultant

warriors.

 

     In October (1764) Bouquet, with an army of fifteen hundred troops,

defiled out of Fort Pitt, and, taking the Indian trail westward, boldly

entered the wilderness, "which no army had ever before sought to penetrate."

It was a novel sight, this regiment of regulars, picking its way through the

woods and over the streams to the centre of the Ohio country.  Striking the

Tuscarawas River he followed down its banks, halting at short intervals to

confer with delegations of Indians until October 25th, when he encamped on the

Muskingum, near the forks of that river formed by the confluence of the

Tuscarawas and Walhonding rivers.  Here with much display of the pomp and

circumstance of war on the part of Bouquet, to impress and overawe the

savages, he held conferences with the chiefs of the various tribes.  They

agreed to lay down their arms and live for the future in friendship with the

white invaders.  All prisoners heretofore taken and then held by the Indians

were to be surrendered to Bouquet.  Over two hundred of these, captives,

including women and children, were delivered up, and with these Bouquet, with

his successful soldiery, retraced his course to Fort Pitt, arriving there on

November 28th.  It was one of the most memorable expeditions in the pre-State

history of Ohio.

 

     The sudden and surprising victories of Pontiac were being rapidly undone.

The great Ottawa chief saw his partially accomplished scheme withering into

ignominious failure.  Sullen, disappointed, consumed with humiliation and

revenge, he withdrew from active prominence to his forest wigwam.  He sought

the banks of the Maumee, the scene of his birth and the location of the

villages of many tribes who were his sympathetic adherents. He did not

participate in any of the councils held by Bradstreet and the chiefs.  "His

vengeance was unslaked and his purpose unshaken." But his glory was growing

dim and his power was withering into dust.  From the scenes of his promising

but short-lived triumphs, he retired into the country of the Illinois and the

Mississippi.  He tried to arouse the aid of the French.  He gathered a band of

four hundred warriors on the Maumee, and with these faithful followers

revisited the Western tribes, in hopes of creating another confederation. ^1

Not even would the southern tribes, however, respond to his appeals.  All was

lost.  His allies were falling off; his followers, discouraged, were deserting

him.  Again and again he went back to his chosen haunts and former faithful

followers on the Maumee.  But his day had passed.

 

[Footnote 1: Pontiac sought the aid of the Kickapoos, Piankishaws, Sacs,

Foxes, Dakotas, Missouris, and other tribes on the Mississippi and its

headwaters.]

 

     In the spring of 1766 Pontiac met Sir William Johnson ^1 at Oswego.  In

his peace speech at that time he said: "I speak in the name of all the nations

westward, of whom I am the master.  It is the will of the Great Spirit that we

should meet here to-day; and before him I now take you by the hand.  I call

him to witness that I speak from my heart; for since I took Colonel Croghan ^2

by the hand last year, I have never let go my hold, for I see that the Great

Spirit will have us friends.

 

[Footnote 1: Sir William Johnson was at this time superintendent of Indian

affairs in the North (of the colonies) by appointment from the King.  Johnson

was a great favorite with the Indians, and exerted great power over them,

especially among the Six Nations.  He married a sister of Brant, the Mohawk

chief; he was, moreover, adopted into the Mohawk tribe and made a sachem.]

 

[Footnote 2: George Croghan was a deputy Indian agent under Sir William

Johnson.  In 1765, at the instance of Johnson, Croghan proceeded from Fort

Pitt down the Ohio to the mouth of the Wabash, up which he journeyed and

thence across the country to Detroit, treating with the Indians as he passed.

On this journey Croghan met Pontiac, who made promises of peace and

friendship.]

 

     "Moreover, when our great father, of France, was in this country, I held

him fast by the hand.  Now that he is gone, I take you, my English father, by

the hand, in the name of all the nations, and promise to keep this covenant as

long as I shall live."

 

     But he did not speak from the heart; on the contrary, only from the head.

Leaving the Oswego conference, "his canoe laden with the gifts of his enemy,"

Pontiac steered homeward for the Maumee; and in that vicinity he spent the

following winter.  From now on for some two years the great Ottawa chief

disappeared as if lost in the forest depths.

 

     In April, 1769, he is found at Fort St. Louis, on the west side of the

Mississippi, where he gave himself mainly to the temporary oblivion of

"fire-water," the dread destroyer of his race.  He was wont to cross the

"Father of Waters" to the fort on the British side at Cahokia, where he would

revel with the friendly creoles.  In one of these visits, in the early

morning, after drinking deeply, he strode with uncertain step into the

adjacent forest.  He was arrayed in the uniform of a French officer, which

apparel had been given him many years before by the Marquis of Montcalm.  His

footsteps were stealthily dogged by a Kaskaskia Indian, who in the silence and

seclusion of the forest, at an opportune moment, buried the blade of a

tomahawk in the brain of the Ottawa conqueror, the champion of his race.

 

     The murderer had been bribed to the heinous act by a British trader named

Williamson, who thought to thus rid his country (England) of a dangerous foe.

The unholy price of the assassination was a barrel of liquor. It was supposed

that the Illinois, Kaskaskia, Peoria, and Cahokia Indians were more or less

guilty as accomplices in the horrible deed.  That an Illinois Indian was

guilty of the act was sufficient.  The Sacs and Foxes, and other Western

tribes friendly to Pontiac and his cause were aroused to furious revenge.

They went upon the war-path against the Illinois Indians. A relentless war

ensued, and, says, Parkman, "over the grave of Pontiac more blood was poured

out in atonement than flowed from the veins of the slaughtered heroes on the

corpse of Patroclus."

 

     The body of the murdered chief was borne across the river and buried near

Fort St. Louis.  No monument ever marked the resting-place of the great hero

and defender of his people.

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