Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Pontiac's War



[For further, and updated information, the reader should consult the biography of Pontiac found at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography ; a shorter discussion is also found at the Canadian Encyclopedia. For the full citation of the source, see the end of the text.]




WHEN Montreal capitulated the British considered themselves secure in their oversea empire. Naval victories had given them control of the ocean; France was in a bankrupt condition and could not transport an army to the St Lawrence even if she had been able to raise and equip one for the recovery of New France . From the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico the English flag flew over every important fort. In the hinterland the French flag was still flying at isolated spots, but by the terms of Vaudreuil's capitulation all the territory as far west as the Mississippi passed under British control. It was deemed necessary to send only small bodies of troops to the forts along the Great Lakes and in the Ohio valley and the Illinois country. With no civilized foe opposing, the home government and the British commander-in-chief in North America considered the Indians, who, save for a few traders and settlers, occupied this territory, as a negligible quantity. The armies which had driven the French from Canada were disbanded, only enough soldiers being retained to man in a feeble way the forts in Great Britain 's new possessions.


For this over-confidence the conquerors were to pay a heavy price. Hundreds of lives were to be sacrificed, and the western trade and settlement was to be retarded for years before British rule could be firmly established in the vast hinterland of Canada. Although the French armies had been shattered and French power ended along the region drained by the St Lawrence and its tributaries, French influence was still at work in North America . Louisbourg, Quebec and Montreal had fallen, but the French officials at remote western posts could not, or would not, believe that France was hopelessly beaten, and used every means in their power to keep the Indians inimical to the British. Even when the fort commanders realized that it was vain to hope for the arrival of a French army in the St Lawrence, the traders and settlers at the western posts kept the Indians antagonistic to the invaders. At any price the hated foe must be kept out of the region around the Great Lakes and from the territory west of Pennsylvania and Virginia. Otherwise the fur trade, on which they depended, would pass into other hands. For the time being the trade of the St Lawrence was gone, but the Mississippi route was still open and the trade of the West might yet be directed that way, to their benefit and to the benefit of the French colony at New Orleans. Sir William Johnson, whose evidence is always reliable, was well informed, shortly after Pontiac 's War began, "that the Mississagas and Chippewas had been greatly encouraged by officials sent among them from the governor of New Orleans ".


It was not difficult to keep the savages hostile to the British. They looked upon the French as their brothers. They had always been treated kindly by them. Missionaries, coureurs de bois, traders and settlers had won their confidence. The traders and coureurs de bois had in many instances taken Indian wives. Again, the Indians had fought side by side with the French in notable victories against the British. Pontiac at Duquesne had led the Ottawas at the time of Braddock's defeat, had won the esteem of Montcalm and gloried in gifts received from that heroic leader. At the forts, where the Indians delighted to loiter in time of peace, they were welcome guests, never subject to insult. They had been loaded with presents, so lavishly indeed that gifts to the Indians had for years proved a heavy tax on the revenue of New France .


It was otherwise when the British took over the forts. While the French held half the continent English officials had vied with French officials in bestowing presents on the savages to win them to their cause or to keep them at least neutral; but when the French were driven out the services of the Indians were no longer required, and it was thought that they were no longer to be dreaded. The gifts ceased; at the settlements and forts the savages met with insult where they had been accustomed to kind treatment, and too often blows where they had been wont to receive a generous welcome. According to Johnson, a report went abroad that the English "proposed their entire extirpation." Major Gladwyn, in April 1763, writing from Detroit said : "They 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 to wait until we are better established." This was believed, and in self-defence the Indians determined to strike the first blow, and to strike hard. While Pontiac 's War was to be exclusively an Indian war, behind the Indians was an insidious force rousing them to battle. Pontiac and his confederates were in a large measure tools in the hands of French officials and traders, particularly those of the Mississippi .


Sir William Johnson was thoroughly awake to the situation. In November 1763 he informed the Lords of Trade that the Indians had concluded that the British "had designs against their liberties, which opinion had been first instilled into them by the French, and since promoted by the traders of that nation, and others who retired among them on the surrender of Canada and are still there. "The French expected through the rupture to "draw the valuable furs down that river [the Mississippi ] to the advantage of their colony and the destruction of our Trade." A year later Johnson wrote to the Lords of Trade in the same tenor


"It now appears from the very best authorities, and can be proved by the oaths of several respectable persons, prisoners at the Illinois and amongst the Indians, as also from the accounts of the Indians themselves, that not only many French traders, but also French officers came amongst the Indians, as they said, fully authorized to assure them that the French King was determined to support them to the utmost, and not only invited them to the Illinois, where they were plentifully supplied with ammunition and other necessaries . . . . That in an especial manner the French promoted the interests of Pontiac ."


Johnson knew, too, that with good reason the hearts of the Indians were with the French. He wrote:


"The French (be their motive what it will) loaded them with favors, and continued to do so, accompanied with all the outward marks of esteem and an address peculiarly adapted to their manners, which infallibly gains upon all Indians, who judge by extremes only, and with all their acquaintance with us upon the frontiers, have never found anything like it, but, on the contrary, harsh treatment, angry words, and in short anything which can be thought of to inspire them with a dislike to our manners and a jealousy of our views."


According to Johnson, the French traders were "men of abilities, honor and honesty"; the English "for the most part men of no zeal or capacity; men who often sacrificed the credit of the nation to the basest purposes." He adds: "What then can be expected but loss of trade, robbery, murder of traders, and frequent general ruptures."


Johnson was not the only one who deplored the English treatment of the red man. In 1786 there appeared in London a somewhat remarkable tragedy entitled Ponteach : or the Savages of America. Parkman is of the opinion that Major Robert Rogers had a hand in its composition. It is a sweeping condemnation of the attitude of the English traders towards the savages and to a large extent justifies the Indian rising of 1763. According to one of the characters (a trader) in this drama:


Our fundamental maxim then is this,

That it's no crime to cheat and gull an Indian.


Nor was it a crime to murder the savages and make off with their packs;


But as they live like Beasts, like Beasts they die.


The traders from the British colonies were in many instances guilty of murder and robbery; all debauched the Indians with rum, and with few exceptions cheated and overcharged them. The loss of life and the destruction of property along the frontier during the years 1763-64 were largely in the nature of a judgment for sins committed against the destroyers.


The French desire for vengeance on the conquerors, the French traders' hope of retaining control of the fur trade, and the attitude of English officials and traders and settlers towards the savages were the true causes of Pontiac 's War.




In September 1760 Major Robert Rogers was sent from Montreal by Sir Jeffrey Amherst to receive the surrender of the western posts included in Vaudreuil's capitulation. On November 7, as he advanced up Lake Erie to Detroit, he met Pontiac at the mouth of a stream called by him Cahogage. He explained the situation to the Ottawa chief, and that wily savage professed himself ready to smoke the pipe of peace with him. Pontiac 's ambition was to be a sort of Indian prince with authority over many confederated tribes. If the French could no longer support him in his ambitious plans, their conquerors might be of service to him. The meeting was a friendly one, and had Pontiac been treated at this period with proper tact the destructive Indian war might have been avoided. However, little consideration was given to him or other chiefs. In the eyes of the British they were all brutal savages, to be treated with contempt. Johnson and Rogers were exceptions, and, due to the influence of the former, the Iroquois, on the whole, were to remain neutral during the war.


Rogers sent a messenger in advance to Captain Belêtre, in command at Detroit, informing him of the capitulation and preparing him to surrender the fort. But Belêtre refused to credit the news and exerted himself to rouse the Indians along the Detroit River to resist Rogers 's force. When Rogers arrived at his destination he sent Captain Campbell to Belêtre with a copy of the capitulation and a letter from Vaudreuil. Belêtre could only yield, and the fleur-de-lis was pulled down from Fort Detroit and the British ensign raised in its stead. There were seven hundred Indians present on the occasion, and their savage yells of joy seemed to augur well for the new government. Pontiac was playing his part. This change might mean greater power for him, and he cared not who occupied the posts so long as he benefited. He would have preferred the French, but their sun had suffered eclipse, and an Indian has little use for an impotent ally.


Storm and the lateness of the season prevented the British from taking over the other lake posts for the time being, but Forts Miami and Ouatanon, to the south, were occupied and preparations made, with the return of spring, to take possession of the other forts. When the rivers and lakes were once more clear of ice a detachment of the 60th regiment, the Royal Americans, was sent to the West, and soon all the forts claimed by the British, save Fort Chartres on the Mississippi, were grudgingly handed over by their commanders, and the entire region yielded by Vaudreuil passed for ever from French rule.


In 1761 the British flag flew over Fort Niagara, at the mouth of the Niagara River; Fort Schlosser, immediately above the Falls; Fort Presqu'Isle, on the southern shore of Lake Erie; Forts le Boeuf, Venango and Pitt, directly south of Presqu'Isle; Fort Miami, on the Maumee; Fort Ouatanon, on the Wabash; Fort Detroit, on the Detroit River; Fort Sault Ste Marie, at the entrance to Lake Superior; Fort Michilimackinac, between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan; and Forts I'Arbre Croche and St Joseph, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Fort Chartres alone continued to fly the French flag.


The troops, small in number and badly supplied, at all these points were living in a false security. All about them was growing discontent among the savages. The happy days of gifts, kindly treatment and abundant ammunition were at an end. Many of them were brought to the verge of starvation, and, to add to the unrest, unscrupulous traders from the British colonies were flocking into the country, and land-grabbers were crossing the Alleghanies and settling on their lands. The Shawnees and Delawares , and even a portion of the friendly Six Nations, were assuming a warlike attitude, and the French among them were keeping their enmity against the intruders at fever heat.




Pontiac was recognized as the greatest Indian warrior of his time, and all eyes were. turned towards him. He had hoped for increased power and prominence under the British, but as the months sped by he saw how vain was his hope, and his early feigned friendship turned to the intensest hate. Pontiac now began to plot the destruction of the British in the Indian country. He sent messengers with war-belts to the widely distributed tribes scattered from the western plains to the mouth of the Mississippi . The savages began to settle in large numbers in the immediate vicinity of the forts and made ready to seize the opportune moment to make a simultaneous attack on the British posts. Meanwhile the French were at work. They spread a report among the savages that the armies of the king of France were advancing up the St Lawrence and the Mississippi to recover the lost territory. Gifts of arms, ammunition, clothing and provisions were liberally bestowed on the Indians, and everything done in a covert manner to set them against the English.


In 1761 there was a rumour of an Indian rising, but Captain Campbell, then in command at Detroit , acted with such promptness and wisdom that it was prevented from coming to a head. Again in the summer of 1762 another outbreak threatened, but it too was checked in time. Early in 1763, shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, Pontiac had all his preparations made for a general uprising at all the forts. So stealthily had he done his work that at not a single fort were the troops aware of the threatened danger.


Pontiac made his summer headquarters on an island at the entrance to Lake St Clair. He was thus in touch with the strongest position of the British in the Indian country. Near Fort Detroit were three populous Indian villages : the Ottawas , four miles above the fort; the Pottawatamies, one mile below; and the Wyandots, on the eastern side of the river. Each shore was dotted with the homes of French settlers, friendly to the savages either through fear or a desire for vengeance. Pontiac no doubt thought that with the downfall of Detroit, which he fully expected to accomplish, British power in the West would be broken.


Pontiac was an astute, ambitious, crafty savage, with a marvellous influence over the Indians. He had all the primitive savage's characteristics. There was little of the heroic about him. His personal acts of cruelty and the manner in which he permitted the torture of prisoners, and even cannibal orgies, among his confederates showed that he was lacking in those noble traits of character for which Tecumseh, the great Shawnee chief, was afterwards distinguished. But he had fine organizing power, and while the British commander-in-chief hopelessly failed to grasp the Western situation, and the British troops lived in a false security within their palisaded forts, he had planned an uprising that was intended with one swift stroke to put an end to British power in the Indian country. This uprising against forts hundreds of miles apart was to take place simultaneously. The forts were to be seized and the garrisons slaughtered. Pontiac had little doubt but that he would succeed. At the forts were barely men enough to keep them in repair, and so widely scattered were the posts that no one fort could be of material assistance in time of danger to any of the others. At the beginning of 1763 Pontiac was ready to commence his work of destruction. His war-belts had been effective. It has been computed that fully fifty-six thousand warriors were ready to answer his call to arms.




Detroit was the first position to be attacked. As a preliminary movement Pontiac called a council of the tribes at the River Ecorces and laid his plans before the various chiefs. He addressed the assembly with vehement words; reminded them of Braddock's defeat and declared that the British troops must now be smitten as they were at Duquesne. The Great Spirit had commanded the Indians to wipe them off the face of the earth. The scheme of operations he presented to the assembled braves was approved and preparations made for the capture of the fort.


Detroit was not a strong position. It was a stockaded fort on the west side of the river. It had a blockhouse over each gate and a bastion at each comer; the palisades were twenty-five feet high, and the whole was surrounded by a moat. In the blockhouses and bastions were a few light guns. The fort had a garrison of 8 officers, 120 soldiers, and at the time of the outbreak 45 traders were in the place. Fortunately the commanding officer was an able one. Few British soldiers in America proved themselves more wise, watchful and courageous than did Major Henry Gladwyn during the trying months of siege his post experienced. The fort had the support of two small schooners, the Beaver and the Gladwyn, whose courageous crews did essential work in helping the beleaguered garrison.


Pontiac's first move was to get definite knowledge of the strength of Detroit . For this purpose, on May 1, he, with forty warriors, gained entrance to the fort, and, while the majority of them entertained the officers with a calumet dance, the remainder moved about the garrison, examining the place, noting the weak points, the number of the soldiers and their preparedness to resist attack. A second council was called, and Pontiac then proposed his final plan. A number of chiefs were to be chosen for the great enterprise. These were to gain admittance to the fort under the pretence of discussing important matters with Gladwyn. Each was to carry under his blanket a musket, of which the barrel had been shortened. At a signal from Pontiac the officers were to be shot down, and in the panic which would ensue the unprepared garrison was to be slaughtered.


On May 6 Gladwyn received a detailed account of this plot; from whom it is not definitely known. His informant has been variously stated to have been a French settler, an Ottawa warrior, an old squaw, and a young Ojibwa squaw named Catherine who was in love with Gladwyn. No doubt, on account of the romantic interest attached to the last story it has been the generally accepted one, but there is less evidence for its truth than for that of any of the others.


On the 7th of the month, when the warriors arrived, they were readily admitted, but, to their chagrin, they saw officers, soldiers and fur traders armed and on the alert, as if suspecting treachery. With stoical self-control they showed no sign of their disappointment, and after conferring with Gladwyn filed out of the fort with increased hatred in their hearts. On the 9th Pontiac, with a large band of braves, once more sought entrance, but was sternly refused. Pontiac then threw diplomacy to the winds, and hostilities were commenced. His warriors rushed to the houses of several British settlers living in the vicinity of Detroit and began their work of tomahawking and scalping. An assault lasting six hours was made on the fort. In this preliminary engagement five of the garrison were wounded and the Indians, fighting from cover, sustained trifling loss. On May 11 another attack was made by six hundred warriors, but was repulsed. For six weeks there was a continuous series of assaults. Buildings near the fort gave the skulking savages protection, and volunteers from the garrison bravely sallied forth and gave these to the flames. Early in the siege an effort was made by the interpreter, La Butte, and two citizens of Detroit, Chapeton and Godefroy, to bring Pontiac to terms. Pontiac requested that Captain Campbell, an officer held in much respect by both the French and Indians, should visit him in his camp to discuss the situation. Contrary to the advice of Gladwyn, Campbell visited the chief accompanied by Lieutenant McDougall. Both officers were harshly treated and kept prisoners. McDougall ultimately escaped, but Campbell was at length brutally murdered. This crime, which Pontiac permitted, was sufficient in itself to take away all sympathy from him and his cause.


The garrison was in a dangerous position. They were surrounded on all sides by enemies, and supplies were cut off. Provisions and munitions of war had been sent by the lake from Fort Schlosser in a number of barges under Lieutenant Cuyler, but on May 28 the party had been ambushed at Point Pelee and sixty men killed or taken prisoners. Lieutenant Cuyler with some thirty men escaped. The prisoners were taken to Detroit , where they were tortured and mutilated. Starvation threatened, and, unless relief soon came, surrender would be inevitable. But the soldiers bravely lined the ramparts day and night for two months, and a warrior need only show himself to be picked off. The Indians were not the only enemies to be feared. On July 8 Gladwyn wrote


"It will Appear ere long that One-half of the Settlement merit a Gibbet, and the Other Half ought to be Decimated. Nevertheless, there is some Honest Men among them to whom I am Infinitely Obliged; I mean, Sir, Monsieur Navarre, the two Babys & my interpreters, St Martin & La Bute."


In the early days of the siege one of the Babys undoubtedly saved the situation for the British by supplying the garrison, at great risk, with cattle, hogs and other provisions. Nor were these the only friends of the English among the French. The Jesuit missionary, Father Pothier, for a time kept a part of the Wyandots neutral, and at Michilimackinac Father Jonois proved himself their true friend. There is, besides, evidence that French traders had warned the commanders at several of the forts of the impending outbreak.


In the latter part of June one of the schooners brought from Fort Schlosser reinforcements and provisions, and the outlook was thereafter more hopeful. Tidings, too, reached Detroit of the Peace of Paris. The effect of this news was to arouse Pontiac to greater effort, and he even went so far as to try to force the French settlers to join him in active warfare, but only a few renegades did so.




Meanwhile it had been faring ill with the other forts in the Indian country. On May 16 Fort Sandusky was captured and burned, the soldiers slaughtered and Ensign Paully, the commander, taken prisoner to Detroit. On the 25th Fort St Joseph shared the same fate, and eleven soldiers were killed and Ensign Schlosser and three men taken prisoners. On the 27th Ensign Holmes was seduced out of Fort Miami on a charitable mission. He was treacherously tomahawked and his men were forced, under threat of torture, to open the gates. On June 1 Lieutenant Jenkins, in command of Fort Ouatanon, and several of his soldiers were made prisoners by stratagem and the fort surrendered. On the 4th of the month, the birthday of King George III, when the garrison of Fort Michilimackinac were enjoying a holiday, the savages entertained them with a game of lacrosse. During a critical moment in the game the ball was adroitly thrown towards the open gates. In an instant a howling mob of players was rushing towards it. They threw down their sticks and seized Captain Etherington and Lieutenant Leslie, who were watching the game. Stolid, blanket-clad squaws were standing near the gate; under their blankets they carried hatchets; these the players seized, and in an instant Lieutenant Jamette and fifteen rank and file, and a trader named Tracy , were killed. Two others were wounded; the rest were taken prisoners. The traders in the fort, among whom was Alexander Henry the elder, who has left a thrilling narrative of the capture of Michilimackinac, were made captive and their merchandise seized. Fort Presqu'Isle made a stubborn resistance to the attack of two hundred warriors, but at length Ensign Christie and his garrison of twenty-four men surrendered and were carried off to Detroit . On the 18th Fort le Boeuf, garrisoned by Ensign Price and thirteen men, was attacked and set on fire. The garrison escaped by the rear, and Price and seven men reached Fort Pitt eight days later. The fate of the remainder of the garrison is unknown. Fort Venango fell, probably on the 20th of the month, but Lieutenant Gordon in command and all his men were slaughtered, and both the manner of its capture and the tribe which captured it are unknown to history. Fort Ligonier was attacked on the 21st, but Lieutenant Blaine was able to report the repulse of the enemy. Fort Pitt was constantly threatened, and towards the end of July sustained several assaults, but through the courage and military skill of Captain Ecuyer was able to offer a successful resistance. During the preceding winter the fort at Sault Ste Marie had been partly burned and the garrison was in Michilimackinac at the time of the uprising. The garrison of L'Arbre Croche abandoned their fort on June 21. At the end of June, six weeks after Pontiac began his memorable struggle, there was not a British soldier, save those at Detroit and in the hands of the Indians west of the Niagara River , in the Great Lake region. The capture of all these posts had been largely due to stratagem. The Indians sought admission under the guise of friendship, and the unsuspecting garrisons extended a welcome to them only to be slain or carried off as prisoners.




Meanwhile the situation at Detroit was still critical. Attacks continued and the garrison was kept ever on the alert. However, on July 29 Captain Dalzell, an experienced Indian fighter, who had left Fort Schlosser in June with twenty-two barges carrying a force of 280 men, a supply of provisions, ammunition and several small cannon, arrived at the fort. Dalzell was a soldier who believed that attack is often the best mode of defence, and so on the day following his arrival he urged Gladwyn to allow him to take a body of 250 men out to attack Pontiac 's camp and, if possible, make that noted chief a prisoner. Gladwyn had learned discretion from experience and was reluctant to permit the sally, but so insistent was Dalzell that he at length consented. In the early morning of July 31, before the break of day, the troops filed out of the gates and advanced towards Pontiac's position; but Pontiac, who had his agents everywhere, had received timely warning of the movement, and had skilfully placed a strong force of Indians in ambush along the banks of a stream called Parents Creek. When the British reached this spot they were met with a heavy fire from an unseen foe. After a short, sharp fight they were forced to retreat with a loss of twenty killed and thirty-nine wounded. Dalzell himself made a gallant stand in the rear of his retreating men, protecting the wounded, and his courage cost him his life. The heavy loss sustained caused the engagement to be known as Bloody Run, but Pontiac gained nothing but momentary satisfaction from his victory, as the fort was now too well garrisoned and provisioned to be reduced by an enemy which was without engineers, or guns with which to breach the walls.


While Gladwyn was maintaining such a noble resistance to an overwhelming force a new actor came upon the stage, and the whole course of the struggle was suddenly to undergo a change. On August 5 Colonel Henry Bouquet, with a strong contingent of regulars, was surrounded by a host of Indians at Edge Hill. On the first day of the battle he maintained his position and prevented the destruction of his troops. He took up his stand in the evening at a place since called Bushy Run and waited the morrow, and with consummate skill made his preparations. On the 6th the Indians came against them, confident of treating his men as Braddock's army had been treated. But they had no Braddock to deal with. With reckless daring the savages attacked Bouquet's centre. After a volley or two the British soldiers at this point, acting on Bouquet's orders, retired. The Indians, with triumphant yells, pressed after them, only to find themselves subject to a destructive flank fire. Panic seized them and they fled the field in a wild rout, leaving large numbers of dead and wounded behind. In the fights at Edge Hill and Bushy Run Bouquet lost 50 men killed, 60 wounded and 5 missing - a heavy price to pay for victory; but it was effective. The Indian confederacy was smashed. The savages saw that their cause was hopeless and could no longer be induced to take concentrated action, and no other battle of importance took place during Pontiac's War.


When news of Bushy Run reached Detroit some of the chiefs sued for peace, and in November the siege was raised. However, though there was peace on the frontier during the winter of 1763-64., Bouquet and Gladwyn made preparations for further fighting in the spring.


On October 31 a messenger arrived at Detroit from Fort Chartres bearing a letter from Neyon, the commandant at that post - a letter sent at the demand of Sir Jeffrey Amherst. This letter warned Pontiac that the Indians could expect no help from the French, that the French and English were now at peace, and advised the Indians to lay down their arms. This message undoubtedly had much to do with Pontiac's action in raising the siege. On its receipt he expressed a desire for peace, and even hypocritically asked that the British commander-in-chief "would forget the past."




During this summer Fort Niagara, on account of its strength, had escaped attack, but within sound of its guns one of the greatest tragedies of the year occurred. On September 14 a party of twenty-four men were escorting a wagon-train and pack-horses loaded with supplies from the lower landing at Lewiston to Fort Schlosser. As they were skirting the high bank of the river at the point known as Devil's Hole they were suddenly fired upon. In a panic, horses and men tumbled over the precipice, and all but three perished. The three survivors were Philip Stedman, one of the escort, who dashed through the surrounding savages; a drummer-boy, who, falling over the cliff, was caught in a tree; and a wounded teamster, who managed to conceal himself in the bushes. The firing was heard at the lower landing, and a body of troops was sent out to the assistance of the convoy. Once more the savages lay in ambush, and as the men of the 60th and 80th regiments recklessly advanced they received a concentrated fire from a body of Indians estimated at 500. Only 20 escaped unwounded; 5 officers, 76 rank and file were killed and 8 wounded. Major Wilkins, who was in command at Niagara , when he learned of this disaster, hurried forward with every available man. But the Indians had disappeared with the plunder of the convoy, and the only trace of the fight was the scalped and mutilated bodies of the British soldiers. The Indians who caused this disaster were Senecas of the Six Nations, so that, either from greed for plunder or indignation at the invasion of their territory by the British, these ancient friends of England were in arms against her.


Nor was this the last disaster of the year. Detroit needed provisions, and Major Wilkins, early in November, left Fort Schlosser with a fleet of bateaux. A treacherous autumn storm drove the boats ashore on November 7 with a loss of 3 officers, 4 sergeants and 63 privates. The shattered remnant of the fleet returned to Fort Schlosser , and when tidings of the affair reached Gladwyn he was forced, on account of scarcity of supplies, to send all but 200 men to Niagara .




Amherst had asked to be relieved of his command, and in November he was replaced by General Gage. Gage, unlike his predecessor, was fully alive to the critical nature of the situation, and at once made preparations for an active campaign in the spring.


In June 1764 Colonel Bradstreet, who had won renown in 1758 by his capture of Fort Frontenac, was sent up the Great Lakes with a force of 1200 men. At Niagara he found an immense gathering of over 2000 savages whom Sir William Johnson had summoned to a council. There were present Indians from the north of Lake Superior, from the Mississippi, from the Illinois country, and even, it is said, from the Hudson Bay region. Treaties of peace were concluded with the various tribes represented, and a strip of land four miles wide on each side of the river between Lakes Ontario and Erie was ceded to the British government.


After these negotiations were ended Bradstreet took leave of Johnson and continued his journey. At Presqu'Isle alleged delegates from the Shawnees and Delawares waited on him, and he very unwisely concluded a treaty of peace with them, instead of punishing them for their depredations, as he had been instructed to do. Wyandots, Miamis and Ottawas met him at Sandusky, and these too he treated in a friendly manner. He then proceeded to Detroit, where he arrived on August 26, much to the relief of Gladwyn and his garrison, who had now been in a state of siege for over fifteen months, and at all times in danger and compelled to be on the alert.


Pontiac had fled to the Maumee, still breathing defiance. His followers in the vicinity of Detroit were ready to make peace. An open-air meeting was held on September 7, 1764, at which Ottawas, Ojibwas, Pottawatamies, Miamis, Sacs, Wyandots and others were present. These acknowledged the sovereignty of the king of England. In these treaties Bradstreet showed an over-eagerness to make friends with the savages, and thus to some extent injured the British cause. The treaties were duly signed, but the warriors in the Ohio country and elsewhere continued their work of tomahawking and scalping. General Gage disavowed the treaties, and Bouquet ignored a message sent him by Bradstreet telling him that there was now no occasion to invade the Ohio country, as, by his diplomacy, peace had been brought to that region. Bouquet, in the autumn of 1764, marched through the Ohio wilderness to Fort Pitt with a force sufficient to crush down all opposition. His daring and stern attitude towards the savages brought about an effective peace in the Ohio valley.


In the following year a body of troops was sent to Fort Chartres, and St Ange, the commander, handed over the last post held by the French on the east of the Mississippi.


Affairs dragged on slowly to a conclusion. In August 1765 George Croghan, the deputy superintendent of Indian Affairs under Sir William Johnson, after a perilous journey of over a year among the Indian tribes of the Ohio and the Illinois country, arrived at Detroit and summoned a general meeting of the savages for the purpose of securing peace. Pontiac was present on this occasion, and his spirit seems now to have been broken. Bouquet and Gladwyn, the one by his aggressive work in the field, the other by his gallant defence of Detroit, had destroyed his hopes, and he was ready to make peace. The Indians submitted to the terms offered and agreed to bury the hatchet, and Pontiac, with affected humility, said :   "I now deliver my pipe to Sir William Johnson that he may know that I have made peace, and taken the King of England to be my father, in the presence of all nations now assembled." The Pontiac War was thus practically brought to a close. By the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768) the boundaries of the Indian territory were defined and the British were granted the right to settle, under certain conditions, along the Western frontier.


The war had been a destructive one : over two hundred traders had been killed; several hundred British soldiers had been slain; forts and private property had been destroyed; and hundreds of women and children had been carried into captivity. Trade and settlement had been retarded, and it took some years for the Western country to recover from the results of Pontiac's War.   But good came out of evil. Through bitter experience the attitude of the British towards the savages was changed, and, under the direction of Sir William Johnson, a policy was inaugurated that kept the natives, with few exceptions, loyal to the British during two great wars, the War of the Revolution and the War of 1812.


Pontiac 's fate was a tragic one. After agreeing to the peace at Detroit he moved about from tribe to tribe like an unquiet spirit. At the French forts on the western side of the Mississippi he was still a welcome guest, but the French could in no way help him to regain his old power. The English he still hated, but he was impotent to do them injury. His deeds were remembered, and the traders in the hinterland had vengeance in their hearts against one who had slain so many of their friends. In 1769, near the Fort of St Louis, he was treacherously tomahawked by an Illinois warrior, bribed, probably, to the deed by an English trader.

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Source: T. G. MARQUIS, " Pontiac 's War", in Adam SHORTT and Arthur G. DOUGHTY, eds., Canada and its Provinces, Vol. III, Toronto, Glasgow, Brook & Company, 1914, pp. 53-70.


© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College