CHRONICLES OF CANADA Edited by George M. Wrong and H. H. Langton In thirty-two volumes
THE WAR CHIEF OF THE OTTAWAS A Chronicle of the Pontiac War
By THOMAS GUTHRIE MARQUIS TORONTO, 1915
I. THE TIMES AND THE MEN II. PONTIAC AND THE TRIBES OF THE HINTERLAND III. THE GATHERING STORM IV. THE SIEGE OF DETROIT V. THE FALL OF THE LESSER FORTS VI. THE RELIEF OF FORT PITT VII. DETROIT ONCE MORE VIII. WINDING UP THE INDIAN WAR BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
THE TIMES AND THE MEN
There was rejoicing throughout the Thirteen Colonies, in the month of September 1760, when news arrived of the capitulation of Montreal. Bonfires flamed forth and prayers were offered up in the churches and meeting-houses in gratitude for deliverance from a foe that for over a hundred years had harried and had caused the Indians to harry the frontier settlements. The French armies were defeated by land; the French fleets were beaten at sea. The troops of the enemy had been removed from North America, and so powerless was France on the ocean that, even if success should crown her arms on the European continent, where the Seven Years' War was still raging, it would be impossible for her to transport a new force to America. The principal French forts in America were occupied by British troops. Louisbourg had been razed to the ground; the British flag waved over Quebec, Montreal, and Niagara, and was soon to be raised on all the lesser forts in the territory known as Canada. The Mississippi valley from the Illinois river southward alone remained to France. Vincennes on the Wabash and Fort Chartres on the Mississippi were the only posts in the hinterland occupied by French troops. These posts were under the government of Louisiana; but even these the American colonies were prepared to claim, basing the right on their 'sea to sea' charters.
The British in America had found the strip of land between the Alleghanies and the Atlantic far too narrow for a rapidly increasing population, but their advance westward had been barred by the French. Now, praise the Lord, the French were out of the way, and American traders and settlers could exploit the profitable fur-fields and the rich agricultural lands of the region beyond the mountains. True, the Indians were there, but these were not regarded as formidable foes. There was no longer any occasion to consider the Indians—so thought the colonists and the British officers in America. The red men had been a force to be reckoned with only because the French had supplied them with the sinews of war, but they might now be treated like other denizens of the forest—the bears, the wolves, and the wild cats. For this mistaken policy the British colonies were to pay a heavy price.
The French and the Indians, save for one exception, had been on terms of amity from the beginning. The reason for this was that the French had treated the Indians with studied kindness. The one exception was the Iroquois League or Six Nations. Champlain, in the first years of his residence at Quebec, had joined the Algonquins and Hurons in an attack on them, which they never forgot; and, in spite of the noble efforts of French missionaries and a lavish bestowal of gifts, the Iroquois thorn remained in the side of New France. But with the other Indian tribes the French worked hand in hand, with the Cross and the priest ever in advance of the trader's pack. French missionaries were the first white men to settle in the populous Huron country near Lake Simcoe. A missionary was the first European to catch a glimpse of Georgian Bay, and a missionary was probably the first of the French race to launch his canoe on the lordly Mississippi. As a father the priest watched over his wilderness flock; while the French traders fraternized with the red men, and often mated with dusky beauties. Many French traders, according to Sir William Johnson—a good authority, of whom we shall learn more later-were 'gentlemen in manners, character, and dress,' and they treated the natives kindly. At the great centres of trade—Montreal, Three Rivers, and Quebec—the chiefs were royally received with roll of drum and salute of guns. The governor himself —the 'Big Mountain,' as they called him—would extend to them a welcoming hand and take part in their feastings and councils. At the inland trading-posts the Indians were given goods for their winter hunts on credit and loaded with presents by the officials. To such an extent did the custom of giving presents prevail that it became a heavy tax on the treasury of France, insignificant, however, compared with the alternative of keeping in the hinterland an armed force. The Indians, too, had fought side by side with the French in many notable engagements. They had aided Montcalm, and had assisted in such triumphs as the defeat of Braddock. They were not only friends of the French; they were sword companions.
The British colonists could not, of course, entertain friendly feelings towards the tribes which sided with their enemies and often devastated their homes and murdered their people. But it must be admitted that, from the first, the British in America were far behind the French in christianlike conduct towards the native races. The colonial traders generally despised the Indians and treated them as of commercial value only, as gatherers of pelts, and held their lives in little more esteem than the lives of the animals that yielded the pelts. The missionary zeal of New England, compared with that of New France, was exceedingly mild. Rum was a leading article of trade. The Indians were often cheated out of their furs; in some instances they were slain and their packs stolen. Sir William Johnson described the British traders as 'men of no zeal or capacity: men who even sacrifice the credit of the nation to the basest purposes.' There were exceptions, of course, in such men as Alexander Henry and Johnson himself, who, besides being a wise official and a successful military commander, was one of the leading traders.
No sooner was New France vanquished than the British began building new forts and blockhouses in the hinterland. [Footnote: By the hinterland is meant, of course, the regions beyond the zone of settlement; roughly, all west of Montreal and the Alleghanies.] Since the French were no longer to be reckoned with, why were these forts needed? Evidently, the Indians thought, to keep the red children in subjection and to deprive them of their hunting-grounds! The gardens they saw in cultivation about the forts were to them the forerunners of general settlement. The French had been content with trade; the British appropriated lands for farming, and the coming of the white settler meant the disappearance of game. Indian chiefs saw in these forts and cultivated strips of land a desire to exterminate the red man and steal his territory; and they were not far wrong.
Outside influences, as well, were at work among the Indians. Soon after the French armies departed, the inhabitants along the St Lawrence had learned to welcome the change of government. They were left to cultivate their farms in peace. The tax-gatherer was no longer squeezing from them their last sou as in the days of Bigot; nor were their sons, whose labour was needed on the farms and in the workshops, forced to take up arms. They had peace and plenty, and were content. But in the hinterland it was different. At Detroit, Michilimackinac, and other forts were French trading communities, which, being far from the seat of war and government, were slow to realize that they were no longer subjects of the French king. Hostile themselves, these French traders naturally encouraged the Indians in an attitude of hostility to the incoming British. They said that a French fleet and army were on their way to Canada to recover the territory. Even if Canada were lost, Louisiana was still French, and, if only the British could be kept out of the west, the trade that had hitherto gone down the St Lawrence might now go by way of the Mississippi.
The commander-in-chief of the British forces in North America, Sir Jeffery Amherst, despised the red men. They were 'only fit to live with the inhabitants of the woods, being more nearly allied to the Brute than to the Human creation.' Other British officers had much the same attitude. Colonel Henry Bouquet, on a suggestion made to him by Amherst that blankets infected with small-pox might be distributed to good purpose among the savages, not only fell in with Amherst's views, but further proposed that dogs should be used to hunt them down. 'You will do well,' Amherst wrote to Bouquet, 'to try to inoculate the Indians by means of Blankets as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this Execrable Race. I should be very glad if your scheme for hunting them down by dogs could take effect, but England is at too great a Distance to think of that at present.' And Major Henry Gladwyn, who, as we shall see, gallantly held Detroit through months of trying siege, thought that the unrestricted sale of rum among the Indians would extirpate them more quickly than powder and shot, and at less cost.
There was, however, one British officer, at least, in America who did not hold such views towards the natives of the soil. Sir William Johnson, through his sympathy and generosity, had won the friendship of the Six Nations, the most courageous and the most cruel of the Indian tribes. [Footnote: For more about Sir William Johnson see The War Chief of the Six Nations in this Series.] It has been said by a recent writer that Johnson was 'as much Indian as white man.' [Footnote: Lucas's A History of Canada, 1763-1812, p. 58.] Nothing could be more misleading. Johnson was simply an enlightened Irishman of broad sympathies who could make himself at home in palace, hut, or wigwam. He was an astute diplomatist, capable of winning his point in controversy with the most learned and experienced legislators of the colonies, a successful military leader, a most successful trader; and there was probably no more progressive and scientific farmer in America. He had a cultivated mind; the orders he sent to London for books show that he was something of a scholar and in his leisure moments given to serious reading. His advice to the lords of trade regarding colonial affairs was that of a statesman. He fraternized with the Dutch settlers of his neighbourhood and with the Indians wherever he found them. At Detroit, in 1761, he entered into the spirit of the French settlers and joined with enthusiasm in their feasts and dances. He was one of those rare characters who can be all things to all men and yet keep an untarnished name. The Indians loved him as a firm friend, and his home was to them Liberty Hall. But for this man the Indian rising against British rule would have attained greater proportions. At the critical period he succeeded in keeping the Six Nations loyal, save for the Senecas. This was most important; for had the Six Nations joined in the war against the British, it is probable that not a fort west of Montreal would have remained standing. The line of communication between Albany and Oswego would have been cut, provisions and troops could not have been forwarded, and, inevitably, both Niagara and Detroit would have fallen.
But as it was, the Pontiac War proved serious enough. It extended as far north as Sault Ste Marie and as far south as the borders of South Carolina and Georgia. Detroit was cut off for months; the Indians drove the British from all other points on the Great Lakes west of Lake Ontario; for a time they triumphantly pushed their war-parties, plundering and burning and murdering, from the Mississippi to the frontiers of New York. During the year 1763 more British lives were lost in America than in the memorable year of 1759, the year of the siege of Quebec and the world-famous battle of the Plains of Abraham.
PONTIAC AND THE TRIBES OF THE HINTERLAND
Foremost among the Indian leaders was Pontiac, the over-chief of the Ottawa Confederacy. It has been customary to speak of this chief as possessed of 'princely grandeur' and as one 'honoured and revered by his subjects.' But it was not by a display of princely dignity or by inspiring awe and reverence that he influenced his bloodthirsty followers. His chief traits were treachery and cruelty, and his pre-eminence in these qualities commanded their respect. His conduct of the siege of Detroit, as we shall see, was marked by duplicity and diabolic savagery. He has often been extolled for his skill as a military leader, and there is a good deal in his siege of Detroit and in the murderous ingenuity of some of his raids to support this view. But his principal claim to distinction is due to his position as the head of a confederacy —whereas the other chiefs in the conflict were merely leaders of single tribes—and to the fact that he was situated at the very centre of the theatre of war. News from Detroit could be quickly heralded along the canoe routes and forest trails to the other tribes, and it thus happened that when Pontiac struck, the whole Indian country rose in arms. But the evidence clearly shows that, except against Detroit and the neighbouring blockhouses, he had no part in planning the attacks. The war as a whole was a leaderless war.
Let us now look for a moment at the Indians who took part in the war. Immediately under the influence of Pontiac were three tribes—the Ottawas, the Chippewas, and the Potawatomis. These had their hunting-grounds chiefly in the Michigan peninsula, and formed what was known as the Ottawa Confederacy or the Confederacy of the Three Fires. It was at the best a loose confederacy, with nothing of the organized strength of the Six Nations. The Indians in it were of a low type—sunk in savagery and superstition. A leader such as Pontiac naturally appealed to them. They existed by hunting and fishing—feasting to-day and famishing to-morrow—and were easily roused by the hope of plunder. The weakly manned forts containing the white man's provisions, ammunition, and traders' supplies were an attractive lure to such savages. Within the confederacy, however, there were some who did not rally round Pontiac. The Ottawas of the northern part of Michigan, under the influence of their priest, remained friendly to the British. Including the Ottawas and Chippewas of the Ottawa and Lake Superior, the confederates numbered many thousands; yet at no time was Pontiac able to command from among them more than one thousand warriors.
In close alliance with the Confederacy of the Three Fires were the tribes dwelling to the west of Lake Michigan—the Menominees, the Winnebagoes, and the Sacs and Foxes. These tribes could put into the field about twelve hundred warriors; but none of them took part in the war save in one instance, when the Sacs, moved by the hope of plunder, assisted the Chippewas in the capture of Fort Michilimackinac.
The Wyandots living on the Detroit river were a remnant of the ancient Hurons of the famous mission near Lake Simcoe. For more than a century they had been bound to the French by ties of amity. They were courageous, intelligent, and in every way on a higher plane of life than the tribes of the Ottawa Confederacy. Their two hundred and fifty braves were to be Pontiac's most important allies in the siege of Detroit.
South of the Michigan peninsula, about the head-waters of the rivers Maumee and Wabash, dwelt the Miamis, numbering probably about fifteen hundred. Influenced by French traders and by Pontiac's emissaries, they took to the war-path, and the British were thus cut off from the trade-route between Lake Erie and the Ohio.
The tribes just mentioned were all that came under the direct influence of Pontiac. Farther south were other nations who were to figure in the impending struggle. The Wyandots of Sandusky Bay, at the south-west corner of Lake Erie, had about two hundred warriors, and were in alliance with the Senecas and Delawares. Living near Detroit, they were able to assist in Pontiac's siege. Directly south of these, along the Scioto, dwelt the Shawnees—the tribe which later gave birth to the great Tecumseh—with three hundred warriors. East of the Shawnees, between the Muskingum and the Ohio, were the Delawares. At one time this tribe had lived on both sides of the Delaware river in Pennsylvania and New York, and also in parts of New Jersey and Delaware. They called themselves Leni-Lenape, real men; but were, nevertheless, conquered by the Iroquois, who 'made women' of them, depriving them of the right to declare war or sell land without permission. Later, through an alliance with the French, they won back their old independence. But they lay in the path of white settlement, and were ousted from one hunting-ground after another, until finally they had to seek homes beyond the Alleghanies. The British had robbed the Delawares of their ancient lands, and the Delawares hated with an undying hatred the race that had injured them. They mustered six hundred warriors.
Almost directly south of Fort Niagara, by the upper waters of the Genesee and Alleghany rivers, lay the homes of the Senecas, one of the Six Nations. This tribe looked upon the British settlers in the Niagara region as squatters on their territory. It was the Senecas, not Pontiac, who began the plot for the destruction of the British in the hinterland, and in the war which followed more than a thousand Seneca warriors took part. Happily, as has been mentioned, Sir William Johnson was able to keep the other tribes of the Six Nations loyal to the British; but the 'Door-keepers of the Long House,' as the Senecas were called, stood aloof and hostile.
The motives of the Indians in the rising of 1763 may, therefore, be summarized as follows: amity with the French, hostility towards the British, hope of plunder, and fear of aggression. The first three were the controlling motives of Pontiac's Indians about Detroit. They called it the 'Beaver War.' To them it was a war on behalf of the French traders, who loaded them with gifts, and against the British, who drove them away empty-handed. But the Senecas and the Delawares, with their allies of the Ohio valley, regarded it as a war for their lands. Already the Indians had been forced out of their hunting-grounds in the valleys of the Juniata and the Susquehanna. The Ohio valley would be the next to go, unless the Indians went on the war-path. The chiefs there had good reason for alarm. Not so Pontiac at Detroit, because no settlers were invading his hunting-grounds. And it was for this lack of a strong motive that Pontiac's campaign, as will hereafter appear, broke down before the end of the war; that even his own confederates deserted him; and that, while the Senecas and Delawares were still holding out, he was wandering through the Indian country in a vain endeavour to rally his scattered warriors.
THE GATHERING STORM
When Montreal capitulated, and the whole of Canada passed into British hands, it was the duty of Sir Jeffery Amherst, the commander-in-chief, to arrange for the defence of the country that had been wrested from France. General Gage was left in command at Montreal, Colonel Burton at Three Rivers, and General Murray at Quebec. Amherst himself departed for New York in October, and never again visited Canada. Meanwhile provision had been made, though quite inadequate, to garrison the long chain of forts [Footnote: See the accompanying map. Except for these forts or trading-posts, the entire region west of Montreal was at this time practically an unbroken wilderness. There were on the north shore of the St Lawrence a few scattered settlements, on Ile Perrot and at Vaudreuil, and on the south shore at the Cedars and Chateauguay; but anything like continuity of settlement westward ceased with the island of Montreal.] that had been established by the French in the vaguely defined Indian territory to the west. The fortunes of war had already given the British command of the eastern end of this chain. Fort Levis, on what is now Chimney Island, a few miles east of Ogdensburg, had been captured. Fort Frontenac had been destroyed by Bradstreet, and was left without a garrison. British troops were in charge of Fort Oswego, which had been built in 1759. Niagara, the strongest fort on the Great Lakes, had been taken by Sir William Johnson. Near it were two lesser forts, one at the foot of the rapids, where Lewiston now stands, and the other, Fort Schlosser, on the same side of the river, above the falls. Forts Presqu'isle, Le Boeuf, and Venango, on the trade-route between Lake Erie and Fort Pitt, and Fort Pitt itself, were also occupied. But all west of Fort Pitt was to the British unknown country. Sandusky, at the south-west end of Lake Erie; Detroit, guarding the passage between Lakes Erie and St Clair; Miami and Ouiatanon, on the trade-route between Lake Erie and the Wabash; Michilimackinac, at the entrance to Lake Michigan; Green Bay (La Baye), at the southern end of Green Bay; St Joseph, on Lake Michigan; Sault Ste Marie, at the entrance to Lake Superior—all were still commanded by French officers, as they had been under New France.
The task of raising the British flag over these forts was entrusted to Major Robert Rogers of New England, who commanded Rogers's Rangers, a famous body of Indian-fighters. On September 13, 1760, with two hundred Rangers in fifteen whale-boats, Rogers set out from Montreal. On November 7 the contingent without mishap reached a river named by Rogers the Chogage, evidently the Cuyahoga, on the south shore of Lake Erie. Here the troops landed, probably on the site of the present city of Cleveland; and Rogers was visited by a party of Ottawa Indians, whom he told of the conquest of Canada and of the retirement of the French armies from the country. He added that his force had been sent by the commander-in-chief to take over for their father, the king of England, the western posts still held by French soldiers. He then offered them a peace-belt, which they accepted, and requested them to go with him to Detroit to take part in the capitulation and 'see the truth' of what he had said. They promised to give him an answer next morning. The calumet was smoked by the Indians and the officers in turn; but a careful guard was kept, as Rogers was suspicious of the Indians. In the morning, however, they returned with a favourable reply, and the younger warriors of the band agreed to accompany their new friends. Owing to stormy weather nearly a week passed—the Indians keeping the camp supplied with venison and turkey, for which Rogers paid them liberally—before the party, on November 12, moved forward towards Detroit.
Detroit was at this time under the command of the Sieur de Beletre, or Bellestre. This officer had been in charge of the post since 1758 and had heard nothing of the surrender of Montreal. Rogers, to pave the way; sent one of his men in advance with a letter to Beletre notifying him that the western posts now belonged to King George and informing him that he was approaching with a letter from the Marquis de Vaudreuil and a copy of the capitulation. Beletre was irritated; the French armies had been defeated and he was about to lose his post. He at first refused to believe the tidings; and it appears that he endeavoured to rouse the inhabitants and Indians about Detroit to resist the approaching British, for on November 20 several Wyandot sachems met the advancing party and told Rogers that four hundred warriors were in ambush at the entrance to the Detroit river to obstruct his advance. The Wyandots wished to know the truth regarding the conquest of Canada, and on being convinced that it was no fabrication, they took their departure 'in good temper.' On the 23rd Indian messengers, among whom was an Ottawa chief, [Footnote: In Rogers's journal of this trip no mention is made of Pontiac's name. In A Concise Account of North America, published in 1765, with Rogers's name on the title-page, a detailed account of a meeting with Pontiac at the Cuyahoga is given, but this book seems to be of doubtful authenticity. It was, however, accepted by Parkman.] arrived at the British camp, at the western end of Lake Erie, reporting that Beletre intended to fight and that he had arrested the officer who bore Rogers's message. Beletre's chief reason for doubting the truth of Rogers's statement appears to have been that no French officers had accompanied the British contingent from Montreal.
When the troops entered the Detroit river Rogers sent Captain Donald Campbell to the fort with a copy of the capitulation of Montreal and Vaudreuil's letter instructing Beletre to hand over his fort to the British. These documents were convincing, and Beletre [Footnote: Although Beletre received Rogers and his men in no friendly spirit, he seems soon to have become reconciled to British rule for in 1763 he was appointed to the first Legislative Council of Canada, and until the time of his death in May 1793 he was a highly respected citizen of Quebec.] consented, though with no good grace; and on November 29 Rogers formally took possession of Detroit. It was an impressive ceremony. Some seven hundred Indians were assembled in the vicinity of Fort Detroit, and, ever ready to take sides with the winning party, appeared about the stockade painted and plumed in honour of the occasion. When the lilies of France were lowered and the cross of St George was thrown to the breeze, the barbarous horde uttered wild cries of delight. A new and rich people had come to their hunting-grounds, and they had visions of unlimited presents of clothing, ammunition, and rum. After the fort was taken over the militia were called together and disarmed and made to take the oath of allegiance to the British king.
Captain Campbell was installed in command of the fort, and Beletre and the other prisoners of war were sent to Philadelphia. Two officers were dispatched with twenty men to bring the French troops from Forts Miami and Ouiatanon. A few soldiers were stationed at Fort Miami to keep the officers at Detroit informed of any interesting events in that neighbourhood. Provisions being scarce at Detroit, Rogers sent the majority of his force to Niagara; and on December 10 set out for Michilimackinac with an officer and thirty-seven men. But he was driven back by stormy weather and ice, and forced, for the present year, to give up the attempt to garrison the posts on Lakes Huron and Michigan. Leaving everything in peace at Detroit, Rogers went to Fort Pitt, and for nine months the forts in the country of the Ottawa Confederacy were to be left to their own resources.
Meanwhile the Indians were getting into a state of unrest. The presents, on which they depended so much for existence, were not forthcoming, and rumours of trouble were in the air. Senecas, Shawnees, and Delawares were sending war-belts east and west and north and south. A plot was on foot to seize Pitt, Niagara, and Detroit. Seneca ambassadors had visited the Wyandots in the vicinity of Detroit, urging them to fall on the garrison. After an investigation, Captain Campbell reported to Amherst that an Indian rising was imminent, and revealed a plot, originated by the Senecas, which was identical with that afterwards matured in 1763 and attributed to Pontiac's initiative. Campbell warned the commandants of the other forts of the danger; and the Indians, seeing that their plans were discovered, assumed a peaceful attitude.
Still, the situation was critical; and, to allay the hostility of the natives and gain their confidence, Amherst dispatched Sir William Johnson to Detroit with instructions 'to settle and establish a firm and lasting treaty' between the British and the Ottawa Confederacy and other nations inhabiting the Indian territory, to regulate the fur trade at the posts, and to settle the price of clothes and provisions. He was likewise to collect information as exhaustive as possible regarding the Indians, their manners and customs, and their abodes. He was to find out whether the French had any shipping on Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior, what were the best posts for trade, and the price paid by the French for pelts. He was also to learn, if possible, how far the boundaries of Canada extended towards the Mississippi, and the number of French posts, settlements, and inhabitants along that river.
Sir William left his home at Fort Johnson on the Mohawk river early in July 1761. Scarcely had he begun his journey when he was warned that it was dangerous to proceed, as the nations in the west were unfriendly and would surely fall upon his party. But Johnson was confident that his presence among them would put a stop to 'any such wicked design.' As he advanced up Lake Ontario the alarming reports continued. The Senecas, who had already stolen horses from the whites and taken prisoners, had been sending ambassadors abroad, endeavouring to induce the other nations to attack the British. Johnson learned, too, that the Indians were being cheated in trade by British traders; that at several posts they had been roughly handled, very often without cause; that their women were taken from them by violence; and that they were hindered from hunting and fishing on their own grounds near the posts, even what they did catch or kill being taken from them. He heard, too, that Seneca and Ottawa warriors had been murdered by whites near Forts Pitt and Venango. At Niagara he was visited by Seneca chiefs, who complained that one of their warriors had been wounded near by and that four horses had been stolen from them. Johnson evidently believed the story, for he gave them 'two casks of rum, some paint and money to make up their loss,' and they left him well satisfied. On Lake Erie, stories of the hostility of the Indians multiplied. They were ready to revolt; even before leaving Niagara, Johnson had it on good authority that the Indians 'were certainly determined to rise and fall on the English,' and that 'several thousands of the Ottawas and other nations' had agreed to join the dissatisfied member 'of the Six Nations in this scheme or plot.' But Johnson kept on his way, confident that he could allay dissatisfaction and win all the nations to friendship.
When Sir William reached Detroit on September 3 he was welcomed by musketry volleys from the Indians and by cannon from the fort. His reputation as the great superintendent of Indian Affairs, the friend of the red man, had gone before him, and he was joyously received, and at once given quarters in the house of the former commandant of Detroit, Beletre. On the day following his arrival the Wyandots and other Indians, with their priest, Father Pierre Potier (called Pottie by Johnson), waited on him. He treated them royally, and gave them pipes and tobacco and a barbecue of a large ox roasted whole. He found the French inhabitants most friendly, especially Pierre Chesne, better known as La Butte, the interpreter of the Wyandots, and St Martin, the interpreter of the Ottawas. The ladies of the settlement called on him, and were regaled 'with cakes, wine and cordial. He was hospitably entertained by the officers and settlers, and in return gave several balls, at which, it appears, he danced with 'Mademoiselle Curie—a fine girl.' This vivacious lady evidently made an impression on the susceptible Irishman; for after the second ball—'there never was so brilliant an affair' at Detroit before—he records in his private diary: 'Promised to write Mademoiselle Curie my sentiments.'
While at Niagara on his journey westward Johnson had been joined by Major Henry Gladwyn, to whom Amherst had assigned the duty of garrisoning the western forts and taking over in person the command of Fort Detroit. Gladwyn had left Niagara a day or two in advance of Johnson, but on the way to his new command he had been seized with severe fever and ague and totally incapacitated for duty. On Johnson fell the task of making arrangements for the still unoccupied posts. He did the work with his customary promptitude and thoroughness, and by September 10 had dispatched men of Gage's Light Infantry and of the Royal Americans from Detroit for Michilimackinac, Green Bay, and St Joseph.
The chiefs of the various tribes had flocked to Detroit to confer with Sir William. He won them all by his honeyed words and liberal distribution of presents; he was told that his 'presents had made the sun and sky bright and clear, the earth smooth and level, the roads all pleasant'; and they begged that he 'would continue in the same friendly disposition towards them and they would be a happy people.' His work completed, Johnson set out, September 19, on his homeward journey, leaving behind him the promise of peace in the Indian territory. [Footnote: It is remarkable that Johnson in his private diary or in his official correspondence makes no mention of Pontiac. The Ottawa chief apparently played no conspicuous part in the plots of 1761 and 1762.]
For the time being Johnson's visit to Detroit had a salutary effect, and the year 1761 terminated with only slight signs of unrest among the Indians; but in the spring of 1762 the air was again heavy with threatening storm. The Indians of the Ohio valley were once more sending out their war-belts and bloody hatchets. In several instances Englishmen were murdered and scalped and horses were stolen. The Shawnees and Delawares held British prisoners whom they refused to surrender. By Amherst's orders presents were withheld. Until they surrendered all prisoners and showed a proper spirit towards the British he would suppress all gifts, in the belief that 'a due observance of this alone will soon produce more than can ever be expected from bribing them.' The reply of the Shawnees and Delawares to his orders was stealing horses and terrorizing traders. Sir William Johnson and his assistant in office, George Croghan, warned Amherst of the danger he was running in rousing the hatred of the savages. Croghan in a letter to Bouquet said: 'I do not approve of General Amherst's plan of distressing them too much, as in my opinion they will not consider consequences if too much distressed, tho' Sir Jeffery thinks they will.' Although warnings were pouring in upon him, Amherst was of the opinion that there was 'no necessity for any more at the several posts than are just enough to keep up the communication, there being nothing to fear from the Indians in our present circumstances.' To Sir William Johnson he wrote that it was 'not in the power of the Indians to effect anything of consequence.'
In the spring of 1763 the war-cloud was about to burst; but in remote New York the commander-in-chief failed to grasp the situation, and turned a deaf ear to those who warned him that an Indian war with all its horrors was inevitable. These vague rumours, as Amherst regarded them, of an imminent general rising of the western tribes, took more definite form as the spring advanced. Towards the end of March Lieutenant Edward Jenkins, the commandant of Fort Ouiatanon, learned that the French traders had been telling the Indians that the British would 'all be prisoners in a short time.' But what caused most alarm was information from Fort Miami of a plot for the capture of the forts and the slaughter of the garrisons. A war-belt was received by the Indians residing near the fort, and with it came the request that they should hold themselves in readiness to attack the British. Robert Holmes, the commandant of Fort Miami, managed to secure the 'bloody belt' and sent it to Gladwyn, [Footnote: Gladwyn's illness in 1761 proved so severe that he had to take a journey to England to recuperate; but he was back in Detroit as commandant in August 1762.] who in turn sent it to Amherst.
News had now reached the Ohio tribes of the Treaty of Paris, but the terms of this treaty had only increased their unrest. On April 30, 1763, Croghan wrote to Amherst that the Indians were 'uneasy since so much of North America was ceded to Great Britain,' holding that the British had no right in their country. 'The Peace,' added Croghan, 'and hearing so much of this country being given up has thrown them into confusion and prevented them bringing in their prisoners this spring as they promised.' Amherst's reply was: 'Whatever idle notions they may entertain in regard to the cessions made by the French crown can be of very little consequence.' On April 20 Gladwyn, though slow to see danger, wrote to Amherst: 'They [the Indians] say we mean to make Slaves of them by Taking so many posts in the country, and that they had better attempt Something now to Recover their liberty than wait till we are better established.' Even when word that the Indians were actually on the war-path reached Amherst, he still refused to believe it a serious matter, and delayed making preparations to meet the situation. It was, according to him, a 'rash attempt of that turbulent tribe the Senecas'; and, again, he was 'persuaded this alarm will end in nothing more than a rash attempt of what the Senecas have been threatening.' Eight British forts in the west were captured and the frontiers of the colonies bathed in blood before he realized that 'the affair of the Indians was more general than they apprehended.'
The Indians were only waiting for a sudden, bold blow at some one of the British posts, and on the instant they would be on the war-path from the shores of Lake Superior to the borders of the southernmost colonies of Great Britain. The blow was soon to be struck. Pontiac's war-belts had been sent broadcast, and the nations who recognized him as over-chief were ready to follow him to the slaughter. Detroit was the strongest position to the west of Niagara; it contained an abundance of stores, and would be a rich prize. As Pontiac yearly visited this place during the trading season, he knew the locality well and was familiar with the settlers, the majority of whom were far from being friendly to the British. Against Detroit he would lead the warriors, under the pretence of winning back the country for the French.
In the spring of 1763, instead of going direct to his usual camping-place, an island in Lake St Clair, Pontiac pitched his wigwam on the bank of the river Ecorces, ten miles south of Detroit, and here awaited the tribes whom he had summoned to a council to be held 'on the 15th of the moon'—the 27th of April. And at the appointed time nearly five hundred warriors—Ottawas, Potawatomis, Chippewas, and Wyandots—with their squaws and papooses, had gathered at the meeting-place, petty tribal jealousies and differences being laid aside in their common hatred of 'the dogs dressed in red,' the British soldiers.
When the council assembled Pontiac addressed them with fiery words. The Ottawa chief was at this time about fifty years old. He was a man of average height, of darker hue than is usual among Indians, lithe as a panther, his muscles hardened by forest life and years of warfare against Indian enemies and the British. Like the rush of a mountain torrent the words fell from his lips. His speech was one stream of denunciation of the British. In trade they had cheated the Indians, robbing them of their furs, overcharging them for the necessaries of life, and heaping insults and blows upon the red men, who from the French had known only kindness. The time had come to strike. As he spoke he flashed a red and purple wampum belt before the gaze of the excited braves. This, he declared, he had received from their father the king of France, who commanded his red children to fight the British. Holding out the belt, he recounted with wild words and vehement gestures the victories gained in the past by the Indians over the British, and as he spoke the blood of his listeners pulsed through their veins with battle ardour. To their hatred and sense of being wronged he had appealed, and he saw that every warrior present was with him; but his strongest appeal was to their superstition. In spite of the fact that French missionaries had been among them for a century, they were still pagan, and it was essential to the success of his project that they should believe that the Master of Life favoured their cause. He told them the story of a Wolf (Delaware) Indian who had journeyed to heaven and talked with the Master of Life, receiving instructions to tell all the Indians that they were to 'drive out' and 'make war upon' the 'dogs clothed in red who will do you nothing but harm.' When he had finished, such chiefs as Ninevois of the Chippewas and Takay of the Wyandots—'the bad Hurons,' as the writer of the 'Pontiac Manuscript' describes them to distinguish them from Father Potier's flock—spoke in similar terms. Every warrior present shouted his readiness to go to war, and before the council broke up it was agreed that in four days Pontiac 'should go to the fort with his young men for a peace dance' in order to get information regarding the strength of the place. The blow must be struck before the spring boats arrived from the Niagara with supplies and additional troops. The council at an end, the different tribes scattered to their several summer villages, seemingly peaceful Indians who had gathered together for trade.
THE SIEGE OF DETROIT
At the time of the Pontiac outbreak there were in the vicinity of Fort Detroit between one thousand and two thousand white inhabitants. Yet the place was little more than a wilderness post. The settlers were cut off from civilization and learned news of the great world outside only in the spring, when the traders' boats came with supplies. They were out of touch with Montreal and Quebec, and it was difficult for them to realize that they were subjects of the hated king of England. They had not lost their confidence that the armies of France would yet be victorious and sweep the British from the Great Lakes, and in this opinion they were strengthened by traders from the Mississippi, who came among them. But the change of rulers had made little difference in their lives. The majority of them were employed by traders, and the better class contentedly cultivated their narrow farms and traded with the Indians who periodically visited them.
The settlement was widely scattered, extending along the east shore of the Detroit river for about eight miles from Lake St Clair, and along the west shore for about six miles, four above and two below the fort. On either side of the river the fertile fields and the long row of whitewashed, low-built houses, with their gardens and orchards of apple and pear trees, fenced about with rounded pickets, presented a picture of peace and plenty. The summers of the inhabitants were enlivened by the visits of the Indians and the traders; and in winter they light-heartedly whiled away the tedious hours with gossip and dance and feast, like the habitants along the Richelieu and the St Lawrence.
The militia of the settlement, as we have seen, had been deprived of their arms at the taking over of Detroit by Robert Rogers; and for the most part the settlers maintained a stolid attitude towards their conquerors, from whom they suffered no hardship and whose rule was not galling. The British had nothing to fear from them. But the Indians were a force to be reckoned with. There were three Indian villages in the vicinity—the Wyandot, on the east side of the river, opposite the fort; the Ottawa, five miles above, opposite Ile au Cochon (Belle Isle); and the Potawatomi about two miles below the fort on the west shore. The Ottawas here could muster 200 warriors, the Potawatomis about 150, and the Wyandots 250, while near at hand were the Chippewas, 320 strong. Pontiac, although head chief of the Ottawas, did not live in the village, but had his wigwam on Ile a la Peche, at the outlet of Lake St Clair, a spot where whitefish abounded. Here he dwelt with his squaws and papooses, not in 'grandeur,' but in squalid savagery. Between the Indians and the French there existed a most friendly relationship; many of the habitants, indeed, having Indian wives.
Near the centre of the settlement, on the west bank of the river, about twenty miles from Lake Erie, stood Fort Detroit, a miniature town. It was in the form of a parallelogram and was surrounded by a palisade twenty-five feet high. According to a letter of an officer, the walls had an extent of over one thousand paces. At each corner was a bastion and over each gate a blockhouse. Within the walls were about one hundred houses, the little Catholic church of Ste Anne's, a council-house, officers' quarters, and a range of barracks. Save for one or two exceptions the buildings were of wood, thatched with bark or straw, and stood close together. The streets were exceedingly narrow; but immediately within the palisade a wide road extended round the entire village. The spiritual welfare of the French and Indian Catholics in the garrison was looked after by Father Potier, a Jesuit, whose mission was in the Wyandot village, and by Father Bocquet, a Recollet, who lived within the fort; Major Henry Gladwyn was in command. He had a hundred and twenty soldiers, and two armed schooners, the Gladwyn and the Beaver, were in the river near by.
On the first day of May 1763, Pontiac came to the main gate of the fort asking to be allowed to enter, as he and the warriors with him, forty in all, desired to show their love for the British by dancing the calumet or peace dance. Gladwyn had not the slightest suspicion of evil intent, and readily admitted them. The savages selected a spot in front of the officers' houses; and thirty of them went through their grotesque movements, shouting and dancing to the music of the Indian drum, and all the while waving their calumets in token of friendship. While the dancers were thus engaged, the remaining ten of the party were busily employed in surveying the fort—noting the number of men and the strength of the palisades. The dance lasted about an hour. Presents were then distributed to the Indians, and all took their departure.
Pontiac now summoned the Indians about Detroit to another council. On this occasion the chiefs and warriors assembled in the council-house in the Potawatomi village south of the fort. When all were gathered together Pontiac rose and, as at the council at the river Ecorces, in a torrent of words and with vehement gestures, denounced the British. He declared that under the new occupancy of the forts in the Indian country the red men were neglected and their wants were no longer supplied as they had been in the days of the French; that exorbitant prices were charged by the traders for goods; that when the Indians were departing for their winter camps to hunt for furs they were no longer able to obtain ammunition and clothing on credit; and, finally, that the British desired the death of the Indians, and it was therefore necessary as an act of self-preservation to destroy them. He once more displayed the war-belt that he pretended to have received from the king of France. This belt told him to strike in his own interest and in the interest of the French. He closed his speech by saying that he had sent belts to the Chippewas of Saginaw and the Ottawas of Michilimackinac and of the river La Tranche (the Thames). Seeing that his words were greeted with grunts and shouts of approval and that the assembled warriors were with him to a man, Pontiac revealed a plan he had formed to seize the fort and slaughter the garrison. He and some fifty chiefs and warriors would wait on Gladwyn on the pretence of discussing matters of importance. Each one would carry beneath his blanket a gun, with the barrel cut short to permit of concealment. Warriors and even women were to enter the fort as if on a friendly visit and take up positions of advantage in the streets, in readiness to strike with tomahawks, knives, and guns, all which they were to have concealed beneath their blankets. At the council Pontiac was to address Gladwyn and, in pretended friendship, hand him a wampum belt. If it were wise to strike, he would on presenting the belt hold its reverse side towards Gladwyn. This was to be the signal for attack. Instantly blankets were to be thrown aside and the officers were to be shot down. At the sound of firing in the council-room the Indians in the streets were to fall on the garrison and every British soldier was to be slain, care being taken that no Frenchman suffered. The plan, by its treachery, and by its possibilities of slaughter and plunder, appealed to the savages; and they dispersed to make preparations for the morning of the 7th, the day chosen for carrying out the murderous scheme.
The plot was difficult to conceal. The aid of French blacksmiths had to be sought to shorten the guns. Moreover, the British garrison had some friends among the Indians. Scarcely had the plot been matured when it was discussed among the French, and on the day before the intended massacre it was revealed to Gladwyn. His informant is not certainly known. A Chippewa maiden, an old squaw, several Frenchmen, and an Ottawa named Mahiganne have been mentioned. It is possible that Gladwyn had it from a number of sources, but most likely from Mahiganne. The 'Pontiac Manuscript,' probably the work of Robert Navarre, the keeper of the notarial records of the settlement, distinctly states that Mahiganne revealed the details of the plot with the request that Gladwyn should not divulge his name; for, should Pontiac learn, the informer would surely be put to death. This would account for the fact that Gladwyn, even in his report of the affair to Amherst, gives no hint as to the person who told him.
Gladwyn at once made preparations to receive Pontiac and his chiefs. On the night of the 6th instructions were given to the soldiers and the traders within the fort to make preparations to resist an attack, and the guards were doubled. As the sentries peered out into the darkness occasional yells and whoops and the beating of drums reached their ears, telling of the war-dance that was being performed in the Indian villages to hearten the warriors for the slaughter.
Gladwyn determined to act boldly. On the morning of the 7th all the traders' stores were closed and every man capable of bearing weapons was under arms; but the gates were left open as usual, and shortly after daylight Indians and squaws by twos and threes began to gather in the fort as if to trade. At ten in the morning a line of chiefs with Pontiac at their head filed along the road leading to the river gate. All were painted and plumed and each one was wrapped in a brightly coloured blanket. When they entered the fort they were astonished to see the warlike preparations, but stoically concealed their surprise. Arrived in the council-chamber, the chiefs noticed the sentinels standing at arms, the commandant and his officers seated, their faces stern and set, pistols in their belts and swords by their sides. So perturbed were the chiefs by all this warlike display that it was some time before they would take their seats on the mats prepared for them. At length they recovered their composure, and Pontiac broke the silence by asking why so many of the young men were standing in the streets with their guns. Answer was made through the interpreter La Butte that it was for exercise and discipline. Pontiac then addressed Gladwyn, vehemently protesting friendship. All the time he was speaking Gladwyn bent on him a scrutinizing gaze, and as the chief was about to present the wampum belt, a signal was given and the drums crashed out a charge. Every doubt was removed from Pontiac's mind—his plot was discovered. His nervous hand lowered the belt; but he recovered himself immediately and presented it in the ordinary way. Gladwyn replied to his speech sternly, but kindly, saying that he would have the protection and friendship of the British so long as he merited it. A few presents were then distributed among the Indians, and the council ended. The chiefs, with their blankets still tightly wrapped about them, filed out of the council-room and scattered to their villages, followed by the disappointed rabble of fully three hundred Indians, who had assembled in the fort.
On the morrow, Pontiac, accompanied by three chiefs, again appeared at the fort, bringing with him a pipe of peace. When this had been smoked by the officers and chiefs, he presented it to Captain Campbell, as a further mark of friendship. The next day he was once more at the gates seeking entrance. But he found them closed: Gladwyn felt that the time had come to take no chances. This morning a rabble of Potawatomis, Ottawas, Wyandots, and Chippewas thronged the common just out of musket range. On Pontiac's request for a conference with Gladwyn he was sternly told that he might enter alone. The answer angered him, and he strode back to his followers. Now, with yells and war-whoops, parties of the savages bounded away on a murderous mission. Half a mile behind the fort an English woman, Mrs Turnbull, and her two sons cultivated a small farm. All three were straightway slain. A party of Ottawas leapt into their canoes and paddled swiftly to Ile au Cochon, where lived a former sergeant, James Fisher. Fisher was seized, killed, and scalped, his young wife brutally murdered, and their two little children carried into captivity. On this same day news was brought to the fort that Sir Robert Davers and Captain Robertson had been murdered three days before on Lake St Clair by, Chippewas who were on their way from Saginaw to join Pontiac's forces. Thus began the Pontiac War in the vicinity of Detroit. For several months the garrison was to know little rest.
That night at the Ottawa village arose the hideous din of the war-dance, and while the warriors worked themselves into a frenzy the squaws were busy breaking camp. Before daylight the village was moved to the opposite side of the river, and the wigwams were pitched near the mouth of Parent's Creek, about a mile and a half above the fort. On the morning of the 10th the siege began in earnest. Shortly after daybreak the yells of a horde of savages could be heard north and south and west. But few of the enemy could be seen, as they had excellent shelter behind barns, outhouses, and fences. For six hours they kept up a continuous fire on the garrison, but wounded only five men. The fort vigorously returned the fire, and none of the enemy dared attempt to rush the palisades. A cluster of buildings in the rear sheltered a particularly ferocious set of savages. A three-pounder—the only effective artillery in the fort—was trained on this position; spikes were bound together with wire, heated red-hot, and fired at the buildings. These were soon a mass of flames, and the savages concealed behind them fled for their lives.
Presently the Indians grew tired of this useless warfare and withdrew to their villages. Gladwyn, thinking that he might bring Pontiac to terms, sent La Butte to ask the cause of the attack and to say that the British were ready to redress any wrongs from which the Indians might be suffering. La Butte was accompanied by Jean Baptiste Chapoton, a captain of the militia and a man of some importance in the fort, and Jacques Godfroy, a trader and likewise an officer of militia. It may be noted that Godfroy's wife was the daughter of a Miami chief. The ambassadors were received in a friendly manner by Pontiac, who seemed ready to cease hostilities. La Butte returned to the fort with some of the chiefs to report progress; but when he went again to Pontiac he found that the Ottawa chief had made no definite promise. It seems probable, judging from their later actions, that Chapoton and Godfroy had betrayed Gladwyn and urged Pontiac to force the British out of the country. Pontiac now requested that Captain Donald Campbell, who had been in charge of Detroit before Gladwyn took over the command, should come to his village to discuss terms. Campbell was confident that he could pacify the Indians, and, accompanied by Lieutenant George McDougall, he set out along the river road for the Ottawas' encampment at Parent's Creek. As the two officers crossed the bridge at the mouth of the creek, they were met by a savage crowd—men, women, and children—armed with sticks and clubs. The mob rushed at them with yells and threatening gestures, and were about to fall on the officers when Pontiac appeared and restored order. A council was held, but as Campbell could get no satisfaction he suggested returning to the fort. Thereupon Pontiac remarked: 'My father will sleep to-night in the lodges of his red children.' Campbell and McDougall were given good quarters in the house of Jean Baptiste Meloche. For nearly two months they were to be kept close prisoners.
So far only part of the Wyandots had joined Pontiac: Father Potier had been trying to keep his flock neutral. But on the 11th Pontiac crossed to the Wyandot village, and threatened it with destruction if the warriors did not take up the tomahawk. On this compulsion they consented, no doubt glad of an excuse to be rid of the discipline of their priest.
Another attack on the fort was made, this time by about six hundred Indians; but it was as futile as the one of the earlier day. Pontiac now tried negotiation. He summoned Gladwyn to surrender, promising that the British should be allowed to depart unmolested on their vessels. The officers, knowing that their communications with the east were cut, that food was scarce, that a vigorous assault could not fail to carry the fort, urged Gladwyn to accept the offer, but he sternly refused. He would not abandon Detroit while one pound of food and one pound of powder were left in the fort. Moreover, the treacherous conduct of Pontiac convinced him that the troops and traders as they left the fort would be plundered and slaughtered. He rejected Pontiac's demands, and advised him to disperse his people and save his ammunition for hunting.
At this critical moment Detroit was undoubtedly saved by a French Canadian. But for Jacques Baby, the grim spectre Starvation would have stalked through the little fortress. Baby was a prosperous trader and merchant who, with his wife Susanne Reaume, lived on the east shore of the river, almost opposite the fort. He had a farm of one thousand acres, two hundred of which were under cultivation. His trading establishment was a low-built log structure eighty feet long by twenty wide. He owned thirty slaves—twenty men and ten women. He seems to have treated them kindly; at any rate, they loyally did his will. Baby agreed to get provisions into the fort by stealth; and on a dark night, about a week after the siege commenced, Gladwyn had a lantern displayed on a plank fixed at the water's edge. Baby had six canoes in readiness; in each were stowed two quarters of beef, three hogs, and six bags of meal. All night long these canoes plied across the half-mile stretch of water and by daylight sufficient food to last the garrison for several weeks had been delivered.
From day to day the Indians kept up a desultory firing, while Gladwyn took precautions against a long siege. Food was taken from the houses of the inhabitants and placed in a common storehouse. Timber was torn from the walks and used in the construction of portable bastions, which were erected outside the fort. There being danger that the roofs of the houses would be ignited by means of fire-arrows, the French inhabitants of the fort were made to draw water and store it in vessels at convenient points. Houses, fences, and orchards in the neighbourhood were destroyed and levelled, so that skulking warriors could not find shelter. The front of the fort was comparatively safe from attack, for the schooners guarded the river gate, and the Indians had a wholesome dread of these floating fortresses.
About the middle of the month the Gladwyn sailed down the Detroit to meet a convoy that was expected with provisions and ammunition from Fort Schlosser. At the entrance to Lake Erie, as the vessel lay becalmed in the river, she was suddenly beset by a swarm of savages in canoes; and Pontiac's prisoner, Captain Campbell, appeared in the foremost canoe, the savages thinking that the British would not fire on them for fear of killing him. Happily, a breeze sprang up and the schooner escaped to the open lake. There was no sign of the convoy; and the Gladwyn sailed for the Niagara, to carry to the officers there tidings of the Indian rising in the west.
On May 30 the watchful sentries at Detroit saw a line of bateaux flying the British flag rounding a point on the east shore of the river. This was the expected convoy from Fort Schlosser, and the cannon boomed forth a welcome. But the rejoicings of the garrison were soon stilled. Instead of British cheers, wild war-whoops resounded from the bateaux. The Indians had captured the convoy and were forcing their captives to row. In the foremost boat were four soldiers and three savages. Nearing the fortress one of the soldiers conceived the daring plan of overpowering the Indian guard and escaping to the Beaver, which lay anchored in front of the fort. Seizing the nearest savage he attempted to throw him into the river; but the Indian succeeded in stabbing him, and both fell overboard and were drowned. The other savages, dreading capture, leapt out of the boat and swam ashore. The bateau with the three soldiers in it reached the Beaver, and the provisions and ammunition it contained were taken to the fort. The Indians in the remaining bateaux, warned by the fate of the leading vessel, landed on the east shore; and, marching their prisoners overland past the fort, they took them across the river to Pontiac's camp, where most of them were put to death with fiendish cruelty.
The soldiers who escaped to the Beaver told the story of the ill-fated convoy. On May 13 Lieutenant Abraham Cuyler, totally ignorant of the outbreak of hostilities at Detroit, had left Fort Schlosser with ninety-six men in ten bateaux. They had journeyed in leisurely fashion along the northern shore of Lake Erie, and by the 28th had reached Point Pelee, about thirty miles from the Detroit river. Here a landing was made, and while tents were being pitched a band of painted savages suddenly darted out of the forest and attacked a man and a boy who were gathering wood. The man escaped, but the boy was tomahawked and scalped. Cuyler drew up his men in front of the boats, and a sharp musketry fire followed between the Indians, who were sheltered by a thick wood, and the white men on the exposed shore. The raiders were Wyandots from Detroit, the most courageous and intelligent savages in the region. Seeing that Cuyler's men were panic-stricken, they broke from their cover, with unusual boldness for Indians, and made a mad charge. The soldiers, completely unnerved by the savage yells and hurtling tomahawks, threw down their arms and dashed in confusion to the boats. Five they succeeded in pushing off, and into these they tumbled without weapons of defence. Cuyler himself was left behind wounded; but he waded out, and was taken aboard under a brisk fire from the shore. The Indians then launched two of the abandoned boats, rushed in pursuit of the fleeing soldiers, speedily captured three of the boats, and brought them ashore in triumph. The two others, in one of which was Cuyler, hoisted sail and escaped. The Indians, as we have seen, brought the captured boats and their prisoners to Detroit. Cuyler had directed his course to Sandusky, but finding the blockhouse there burnt to the ground, he had rowed eastward to Presqu'isle, and then hastened to Niagara to report the disaster.
The siege of Detroit went on. Towards the middle of June, Jacques Baby brought word to the commandant that the Gladwyn was returning from the Niagara with supplies and men, and that the Indians were making preparations to capture her. A few miles below Detroit lay Fighting Island; between it and the east shore, Turkey Island. Here the savages had erected a breastwork, so carefully concealed that it would be difficult even for the keenest eyes to detect its presence. The vessel would have to pass within easy range of this barricade; and it was the plan of the Indians to dart out in their canoes as the schooner worked up-stream, seize her, and slay her crew. On learning this news Gladwyn ordered cannon to be fired to notify the captain that the fort still held out, and sent a messenger to meet the vessel with word of the plot. It happened that the Gladwyn was well manned and prepared for battle. On board was Cuyler with twenty-two survivors of the ill-starred convoy, besides twenty-eight men of Captain Hopkins's company. To deceive the Indians as to the number of men, all the crew and soldiers, save ten or twelve, were concealed in the hold; to invite attack, the vessel advanced boldly up-stream, and at nightfall cast anchor in the narrow channel in front of Turkey Island. About midnight the Indians stealthily boarded their canoes and cautiously, but confidently, swept towards her with muffled paddles. The Gladwyn was ready for them. Not a sound broke the silence of the night as the Indians approached the schooner; when suddenly the clang of a hammer against the mast echoed over the calm waters, the signal to the soldiers in the hold. The Indians were almost on their prey; but before they had time to utter the war-whoop, the soldiers had come up and had attacked the savages with bullets and cannon shot. Shrieks of death arose amid the din of the firing and the splash of swimmers hurriedly making for the shore from the sinking canoes. In a moment fourteen Indians were killed and as many more wounded. From behind the barricade the survivors began a harmless musketry fire against the schooner, which simply weighed anchor and drifted down-stream to safety. A day or two later she cleared Turkey Island and reached the fort, pouring a shattering broadside into the Wyandot village as she passed it. Besides the troops, the Gladwyn had on board a precious cargo of a hundred and fifty barrels of provisions and some ammunition. She had not run the blockade unscathed, for in passing Turkey Island one sergeant and four men had been wounded. There was rejoicing in the fort when the reinforcement marched in. This additional strength in men and provisions, it was expected, would enable the garrison to hold out for at least another month, within which time soldiers would arrive in sufficient force to drive the Indians away.
In the meantime Pontiac was becoming alarmed. He had expected an easy victory, and was not prepared for a protracted siege. He had drawn on the French settlers for supplies; his warriors had slain cattle and taken provisions without the consent of the owners. Leaders in the settlement now waited on Pontiac, making complaint. He professed to be fighting for French rule, and expressed sorrow at the action of his young men, promising that in future the French should be paid. Acting, no doubt, on the suggestion of some of his French allies, he made a list of the inhabitants, drew on each for a definite quantity of supplies, and had these deposited at Meloche's house near his camp on Parent's Creek. A commissary was appointed to distribute the provisions as required. In payment he issued letters of credit, signed with his totem, the otter. It is said that all of them were afterwards redeemed; but this is almost past belief in the face of what actually happened.
From the beginning of the siege Pontiac had hoped that the French traders and settlers would join him to force the surrender of the fort. The arrival of the reinforcement under Cuyler made him despair of winning without their assistance, and early in July he sent his Indians to the leading inhabitants along the river, ordering them to a council, at which he hoped by persuasion or threats to make them take up arms. This council was attended by such settlers as Robert Navarre, Zacharie Sicotte, Louis Campau, Antoine Cuillerier, Francois Meloche, all men of standing and influence. In his address to them Pontiac declared: 'If you are French, accept this war-belt for yourselves, or your young men, and join us; if you are English, we declare war upon you.'
The Gladwyn had brought news of the Peace of Paris between France and England. Many of the settlers had been hoping that success would crown the French arms in Europe and that Canada would be restored. Some of those at the council said that these articles of peace were a mere ruse on the part of Gladwyn to gain time. Robert Navarre, who had published the articles of peace to the French and Indians, and several others were friendly to the British, but the majority of those present were unfriendly. Sicotte told Pontiac that, while the heads of families could not take up arms, there were three hundred young men about Detroit who would willingly join him. These words were probably intended to humour the chief; but there were those who took the belt and commenced recruiting among their fellows. The settlers who joined Pontiac were nearly all half-breeds or men mated with Indian wives. Others, such as Pierre Reaume and Louis Campau, believing their lives to be in danger on account of their loyalty to the new rulers, sought shelter in the fort.
By July 4 the Indians, under the direction of French allies, had strongly entrenched themselves and had begun a vigorous attack. But a force of about sixty men marched out from the fort and drove them from the position. In the retreat two Indians were killed, and one of the pursuing soldiers, who had been a prisoner among the Indians and had learned the ways of savage warfare, scalped one of the fallen braves. The victim proved to be a nephew of the chief of the Saginaw Chippewas, who now claimed life for life, and demanded that Captain Campbell should be given up to him. According to the 'Pontiac Manuscript' Pontiac acquiesced, and the Saginaw chief killed Campbell 'with a blow of his tomahawk, and after cast him into the river.' Campbell's fellow-prisoner McDougall, along with two others, had escaped to the fort some days before.
The investment continued, although the attacks became less frequent. The schooners manoeuvring in the river poured broadsides into the Indian villages, battering down the flimsy wigwams. Pontiac moved his camp from the mouth of Parent's Creek to a position nearer Lake St Clair, out of range of their guns, and turned his thoughts to contrive some means of destroying the troublesome vessels. He had learned from the French of the attempt with fire-ships against the British fleet at Quebec, and made trial of a similar artifice. Bateaux were joined together, loaded with inflammable material, ignited, and sent on their mission but these 'fire-ships' floated harmlessly past the schooners and burnt themselves out. Then for a week the Indians worked on the construction of a gigantic fire-raft, but nothing came of this ambitious scheme.
It soon appeared that Pontiac was beginning to lose his hold on the Indians. About the middle of July ambassadors from the Wyandots and Potawatomis came to the fort with an offer of peace, protesting, after the Indian manner, love and friendship for the British. After much parleying they surrendered their prisoners and plunder; but, soon after, a temptation irresistible to their treacherous natures offered itself, and they were again on the war-path.
Amherst at New York had at last been aroused to the danger; and Captain James Dalyell had set out from Fort Schlosser with twenty-two barges, carrying nearly three hundred men, with cannon and supplies, for the relief of Detroit. The expedition skirted the southern shore of Lake Erie until it reached Sandusky. The Wyandot villages here were found deserted. After destroying them Dalyell shaped his course for the Detroit river. Fortune favoured the expedition. Pontiac was either ignorant of its approach or unable to mature a plan to check its advance. Through the darkness and fog of the night of July 28 the barges cautiously crept up-stream, and when the morning sun of the 29th lifted the mists from the river they were in full view of the fort. Relief at last! The weary watching of months was soon to end. The band of the fort was assembled, and the martial airs of England floated on the morning breeze. Now it was that the Wyandots and Potawatomis, although so lately swearing friendship to the British, thought the opportunity too good to be lost. In passing their villages the barges were assailed by a musketry fire, which killed two and wounded thirteen of Dalyell's men. But the soldiers, with muskets and swivels, replied to the attack, and put the Indians to flight. Then the barges drew up before the fort to the welcome of the anxious watchers of Detroit.
The reinforcement was composed of men of the 55th and 8th regiments, and of twenty Rangers under Major Robert Rogers. Like their commander, Dalyell, many of them were experienced in Indian fighting and were eager to be at Pontiac and his warriors. Dalyell thought that Pontiac might be taken by surprise, and urged on Gladwyn the advisability of an immediate advance. To this Gladwyn was averse; but Dalyell was insistent, and won his point. By the following night all was in readiness. At two o'clock in the morning of the 31st the river gate was thrown open and about two hundred and fifty men filed out.
Heavy clouds hid both moon and stars, and the air was oppressively hot. The soldiers marched along the dusty road, guided by Baby and St Martin, who had volunteered for the work. Not a sound save their own dull tramp broke the silence. On their right gleamed the calm river, and keeping pace with them were two large bateaux armed with swivels. Presently, as the troops passed the farm-houses, drowsy watch-dogs caught the sound of marching feet and barked furiously. Pontiac's camp, however, was still far away; this barking would not alarm the Indians. But the soldiers did not know that they had been betrayed by a spy of Pontiac's within the fort, nor did they suspect that snake-like eyes were even then watching their advance.
At length Parent's Creek was reached, where a narrow wooden bridge spanned the stream a few yards from its mouth. The advance-guard were half-way over the bridge, and the main body crowding after them, when, from a black ridge in front, the crackle of musketry arose, and half the advance-guard fell. The narrow stream ran red with their blood, and ever after this night it was known as Bloody Run. On the high ground to the north of the creek a barricade of cordwood had been erected, and behind this and behind barns and houses and fences, and in the corn-fields and orchards, Indians were firing and yelling like demons. The troops recoiled, but Dalyell rallied them; again they crowded to the bridge. There was another volley and another pause. With reckless bravery the soldiers pressed across the narrow way and rushed to the spot where the musket-flashes were seen. They won the height, but not an Indian was there. The musket-flashes continued and war-whoops sounded from new shelters. The bateaux drew up alongside the bridge, and the dead and wounded were taken on board to be carried to the fort. It was useless to attempt to drive the shifty savages from their lairs, and so the retreat was sounded. Captain Grant, in charge of the rear company, led his men back across the bridge while Dalyell covered the retreat; and now the fight took on a new aspect. As the soldiers retreated along the road leading to the fort, a destructive fire poured upon them from houses and barns, from behind fences, and from a newly dug cellar. With the river on their left, and with the enemy before and behind as well as on their sight, they were in danger of being annihilated. Grant ordered his men to fix bayonets: a dash was made where the savages were thickest, and they were scattered. As the fire was renewed panic seized the troops. But Dalyell came up from the rear, and with shouts and threats and flat of sword restored order. Day was breaking; but a thick fog hung over the scene, under cover of which the Indians continued the attack. The house of Jacques Campau, a trader, sheltered a number of Indians who were doing most destructive work. Rogers and a party of his Rangers attacked the house, and, pounding in the doors, drove out their assailants. From Campau's house Rogers covered the retreat of Grant's company, but was himself in turn besieged. By this time the armed bateaux, which had borne the dead and wounded to the fort, had returned, and, opening fire with their swivels on the Indians attacking Rogers, drove them off; the Rangers joined Grant's company, and all retreated for the fort. The shattered remnant of Dalyell's confident forces arrived at Fort Detroit at eight in the morning, after six hours of marching and desperate battle, exhausted and crestfallen. Dalyell had been slain—an irreparable loss. The casualty list was twenty killed and forty-two wounded. The Indians had suffered but slightly. However, they gained but little permanent advantage from the victory, as the fort had still about three hundred effective men, with ample provisions and ammunition, and could defy assault and withstand a protracted siege.
In this fight Chippewas and Ottawas took the leading part. The Wyandots had, however, at the sound of firing crossed the river, and the Potawatomis also had joined in the combat, in spite of the truce so recently made with Gladwyn. At the battle of Bloody Run at least eight hundred warriors were engaged in the endeavour to cut off Dalyell's men. There was rejoicing in the Indian villages, and more British scalps adorned the warriors' wigwams. Runners were sent out to the surrounding nations with news of the victory, and many recruits were added to Pontiac's forces.
THE FALL OF THE LESSER FORTS
While Fort Detroit was withstanding Pontiac's hordes, the smaller forts and block-houses scattered throughout the hinterland were faring badly. On the southern shore of Lake Erie, almost directly south of the Detroit river, stood Fort Sandusky—a rude blockhouse surrounded by a stockade. Here were about a dozen men, commanded by Ensign Christopher Paully. The blockhouse could easily have been taken by assault; but such was not the method of the band of Wyandots in the neighbourhood. They preferred treachery, and, under the guise of friendship, determined to destroy the garrison with no risk to themselves.
On the morning of May 16 Paully was informed that seven Indians wished to confer with him. Four of these were members of the Wyandot tribe, and three belonged to Pontiac's band of Ottawas. The Wyandots were known to Paully, and as he had no news of the situation at Detroit, and no suspicion of danger to himself, he readily admitted them to his quarters. The Indians produced a calumet and handed it to Paully in token of friendship. As the pipe passed from lip to lip a warrior appeared at the door of the room and raised his arm. It was the signal for attack. Immediately Paully was seized by the Indians, two of whom had placed themselves on either side of him. At the same moment a war-whoop rang out and firing began; and as Paully was rushed across the parade-ground he saw the bodies of several of his men, who had been treacherously slain. The sentry had been tomahawked as he stood at arms at the gate; and the sergeant of the little company was killed while working in the garden of the garrison outside the stockade.
When night fell Paully and two or three others, all that remained of the garrison, were placed in canoes, and these were headed for Detroit. As the prisoners looked back over the calm waters of Sandusky Bay, they saw the blockhouse burst into flames. Paully and his men were landed at the Ottawa camp, where a horde of howling Indians, including women and children, beat them and compelled them to dance and sing for the entertainment of the rabble. Preparations were made to torture Paully to death at the stake; but an old squaw, who had recently lost her husband, was attracted by the handsome, dark-skinned young ensign, and adopted him in place of her deceased warrior. Paully's hair was cut close; he was dipped into the stream to wash the white blood from his veins; and finally he was dressed and painted as became an Ottawa brave.
News of the destruction of Fort Sandusky was brought to Gladwyn by a trader named La Brosse, a resident of Detroit, and a few days later a letter was received from Paully himself. For nearly two months Paully had to act the part of an Ottawa warrior. But early in July—Pontiac being in a state of great rage against the British—his squaw placed him in a farmhouse for safe keeping. In the confusion arising out of the attack on Fort Detroit on the 4th of the month, and the murder of Captain Campbell, he managed to escape, by the aid, it is said, of an Indian maiden. He was pursued to within musket-shot of the walls of Detroit. When he entered the fort, so much did he resemble an Indian that at first he was not recognized.
The next fort to fall into the hands of the Indians was St Joseph, on the east shore of Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the St Joseph river. This was the most inaccessible of the posts on the Great Lakes. The garrison here lived lonely lives. Around them were thick forests and swamps, and in front the desolate waters of the sea-like lake. The Indians about St Joseph had long been under the influence of the French. This place had been visited by La Salle; and here in 1688 the Jesuit Allouez had established a mission. In 1763 the post was held by Ensign Francis Schlosser and fourteen men. For months the little garrison had been without news from the east, when, on May 25, a party of Potawatomis from about Detroit arrived on a pretended visit to their relations living in the village at St Joseph, and asked permission to call on Schlosser. But before a meeting could be arranged, a French trader entered the fort and warned the commandant that the Potawatomis intended to destroy the garrison.
Schlosser at once ordered his sergeant to arm his men, and went among the French settlers seeking their aid. Even while he was addressing them a shrill death-cry rang out—the sentry at the gate had fallen a victim to the tomahawk of a savage. In an instant a howling mob of Potawatomis under their chief Washee were within the stockade. Eleven of the garrison were straightway put to death, and the fort was plundered. Schlosser and the three remaining members of his little band were taken to Detroit by some Foxes who were present with the Potawatomis. On June 10 Schlosser had the good fortune to be exchanged for two chiefs who were prisoners in Fort Detroit.
The Indians did not destroy Fort St Joseph, but left it in charge of the French under Louis Chevalier. Chevalier saved the lives of several British traders, and in every way behaved so admirably that at the close of the Indian war he was given a position of importance under the British, which position he held until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.
We have seen that when Major Robert Rogers visited Detroit in 1760, one of the French forts first occupied was Miami, situated on the Maumee river, at the commencement of the portage to the Wabash, near the spot where Fort Wayne was afterwards built. At the time of the outbreak of the Pontiac War this fort was held by Ensign Robert Holmes and twelve men. Holmes knew that his position was critical. In 1762 he had reported that the Senecas, Shawnees, and Delawares were plotting to exterminate the British in the Indian country, and he was not surprised when, towards the end of May 1763, he was told by a French trader that Detroit was besieged by the Ottawa Confederacy. But though Holmes was on the alert, and kept his men under arms, he was nevertheless to meet death and his fort was to be captured by treachery. In his desolate wilderness home the young ensign seems to have lost his heart to a handsome young squaw living in the vicinity of the fort. On May 27 she visited him and begged him to accompany her on a mission of mercy—to help to save the life of a sick Indian woman. Having acted as physician to the Indians on former occasions, Holmes thought the request a natural one. The young squaw led him to the Indian village, pointed out the wigwam where the woman was supposed to be, and then left him. As he was about to enter the wigwam two musket-shots rang out, and he fell dead. Three soldiers, who were outside the fort, rushed for the gate, but they were tomahawked before they could reach it. The gate was immediately closed, and the nine soldiers within the fort made ready for resistance. With the Indians were two Frenchmen, Jacques Godfroy, whom we have met before as the ambassador to Pontiac in the opening days of the siege of Detroit, and one Miny Chesne; [Footnote: This is the only recorded instance, except at Detroit, in which any French took part with the Indians in the capture of a fort. And both Godfroy and Miny Chesne had married Indian women.] and they had an English prisoner, a trader named John Welsh, who had been captured and plundered at the mouth of the Maumee while on his way to Detroit. The Frenchmen called on the garrison to surrender, pointing out how useless it would be to resist and how dreadful would be their fate if they were to slay any Indians. Without a leader, and surrounded as they were by a large band of savages, the men of the garrison saw that resistance would be of no avail. The gates were thrown open; the soldiers marched forth, and were immediately seized and bound; and the fort was looted. With Welsh the captives were taken to the Ottawa village at Detroit, where they arrived on June 4, and where Welsh and several of the soldiers were tortured to death.
A few miles south of the present city of Lafayette, on the south-east side of the Wabash, at the mouth of Wea Creek, stood the little wooden fort of Ouiatanon. It was connected with Fort Miami by a footpath through the forest. It was the most westerly of the British forts in the Ohio country, and might be said to be on the borderland of the territory along the Mississippi, which was still under the government of Louisiana. There was a considerable French settlement, and near by was the principal village of the Weas, a sub-tribe of the Miami nation. The fort was guarded by the usual dozen of men, under the command of Lieutenant Edward Jenkins. In March Jenkins had been warned that an Indian rising was imminent and that soon all the British in the hinterland would be prisoners. The French and Indians in this region were under the influence of the Mississippi officers and traders, who were, in Jenkins's words, 'eternally telling lies to the Indians,' leading them to believe that a great army would soon arrive to recover the forts. Towards the end of May ambassadors arrived at Ouiatanon, either from the Delawares or from Pontiac, bringing war-belts and instructions to the Weas to seize the fort. This, as usual, was achieved by treachery. Jenkins was invited to one of their cabins for a conference. Totally unaware of the Pontiac conspiracy, or of the fall of St Joseph, Sandusky, or Miami, he accepted the invitation. While passing out of the fort he was seized and bound, and, when taken to the cabin, he saw there several of his soldiers, prisoners like himself. The remaining members of the garrison surrendered, knowing how useless it would be to resist, and under the threat that if one Indian were killed all the British would be put to death. It had been the original intention of the Indians to seize the fort and slaughter the garrison, but, less blood-thirsty than Pontiac's immediate followers, they were won to mercy by two traders, Maisonville and Lorain, who gave them presents on the condition that the garrison should be made prisoners instead of being slain. Jenkins and his men were to have been sent to the Mississippi, but their removal was delayed, and they were quartered on the French inhabitants, and kindly treated by both French and Indians until restored to freedom.