Pontiac’s War

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Siege Of Detroit

Reddition de Détroit
The Surrender of Detroit by John Wycliffe Lowes Forster

Pontiac himself turned his attention to the reduction of Detroit. He well knew that a rich booty awaited him if he could possess himself of this important place, and laid his plans with caution and care suitable to the magnitude of the enterprise. The town was fortified by pickets and block-houses, and contained a garrison of one hundred and thirty men. The other inhabitants consisted of only a few traders.

Pontiac s intention was to demand a conference with Major Gladwyn, the commandant, taking with him as many of his warriors as could obtain admittance; and at a given signal to fall upon and kill the officers of the garrison. The work of destruction was to be completed by the aid of his followers from without the fort. Those whom he had chosen to share with him the danger of the first onslaught, were each furnished with a rifle, having the barrel so shortened that it could be concealed under the blanket usually worn by an Indian as his outer garment.

The account generally received of the manner in which Major Gladwyn became acquainted with the plot, and of the means resorted to by him to ward off the danger, is as follows: Pontiac, with several hundred warriors, presented himself without the camp, and requested an audience. On the evening of the same day, a squaw came to deliver to the major a pair of moccasins, which he had engaged her to make from an elk-skin. After he had praised her work, paid her handsomely, and dismissed her, with directions to convert the rest of the skin into similar articles, she continued to linger about the premises, apparently in an unsatisfied frame of mind. Her answers to those who questioned her were so singular, particularly a hint that she dropped respecting the difficulty she should have in “bringing the skin back,” that the major examined her closely, and succeeded in obtaining full particulars of the impending danger. The poor woman, affected by his kindness, had been unwilling to see her patron murdered, but fear of the vengeance of her own people, or a natural feeling of interest in their success, had restrained her from sooner betraying their deadly purpose.

Through the night, and previous to the morning’s conference, the Indians were distinctly heard performing their war-songs and dances; but no intimation was given them of any suspicion, and the party deputed for the grand talk was admitted within the pickets. Pontiac saw that the garrison was under arms, and he at once asked the reason for such precautions. The major represented that it was merely to discipline his soldiers.

The Ottawa chief opened the council with a haughty and threatening speech, and was about to give the signal for attack by some peculiar mode of delivering a wampum belt to the commandant when a sudden change in the demeanor of the English, quelled and discomposed him. He heard the drums beat, and saw every soldier s musket leveled, and the swords of the officers drawn and ready for use. Major Gladwyn, stepping to the warrior nearest him, lifted his blanket, and disclosed the shortened rifle. He then upbraided the sachem for his intended villainy, and, taking no advantage of the opportunity for securing him, gave proof of his own high-minded sense of honor by dismissing the whole party unharmed. The premeditated treachery of Pontiac would have fully justified the commandant in taking his life, had he deemed it necessary for the protection of himself and people.

Immediately subsequent to the failure of this undertaking, the Indians began openly to attack the town. They barbarously murdered a Mrs. Turnbell and her two sons, who lived a short distance from the fort; and killed or took prisoners the occupants of an establishment belonging to a Mr. James Fisher, still farther up the river.

From five hundred to a thousand Indians were now seen collected to lay siege to the town. The condition of the garrison appeared perilous in the extreme, not only from the insufficient supply of provisions, but from the necessity for keeping constant watch throughout the whole extent of the stockade. The soldiers were wearied by being continually on duty, by the loss of their natural rest; but their courage and spirit appeared to be unsubdued, and the commandant abandoned his first intention of evacuating the place. The French who were residing in Detroit brought about a negotiation, but Pontiac insisted upon the surrender of the town, and of all the valuable goods stored there, as the only condition upon which he would discontinue hostilities. The major was equally determined in his intention of maintaining his position.

The siege commenced early in May, and no succor or supplies reached the garrison for more than a month. About the end of May an attempt had been made to land forces and provisions by boats sent from Niagara, but the vigilance of the Indians rendered it abortive. Many of the English were slain, and many more were reserved to glut the vengeance of the savages at the stake.

In the month of June, a vessel, also from Niagara, made her way up the river, in spite of the attacks of the Indians, who exposed their lives with the utmost temerity in at tempts to board her. Fifty soldiers were landed at the fort, and a timely supply of provision gave new courage to the weary garrison. Mr. Thatcher, in his “Indian Biography,” gives extracts from various letters, written from the fort during the siege, which quaintly enough portray the condition of its inmates. “We quote the following from a letter of July 9th (1763):

“You have long ago heard of our pleasant situation, but the storm has blown over. Was it not very agreeable to hear every day of their cutting, carving, boiling, and eating our companions? To see every day dead bodies floating down the river, mangled and disfigured? But Britons, you know, never shrink; we always appeared gay to spite the rascals. They boiled and ate Sir Robert Devers; and we are informed by Mr. Pauly, who escaped, the other day, from one of the stations surprised at the breaking out of the war, and commanded by himself, that he had seen an Indian have the skin of Captain Robert son’s arm for a tobacco-pouch!”

Battle Of Bloody Bridge

A reinforcement of some three hundred men, under Captain Dalyell, reached Detroit the last of July. Thus strengthened, the commander deemed it advisable to make an immediate sally, and, if possible, break up the Indian encampment. Pontiac heard of the intended movement, and was well prepared for the English when they made their sortie in the evening. So deadly and unexpected was the fire of the Indians, who lay concealed on either side of the path, near the bridge over Bloody Run, that more than one hundred of the troops were said to have been killed or wounded.

Subsequent to this period we have no reliable history of the acts of the great sachem of the Ottawa. His people hung round Detroit until the ensuing spring, keeping the inhabitants in continual alarm. The strong force, which was led into the western country by General Bradstreet in the early part of the summer of 1764, effectually overawed and quieted the hostile Indians.

Pontiac is said to have been assassinated by a Peoria Indian, in the English interest, while attending a council in 1767. Considerable uncertainty, however, attends the recital of the latter events of his life, and of the causes, which led to his death.


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MLA Source Citation:

Brownell, Charles De Wolf. Indian Races of North and South America: Comprising an account of the principal aboriginal races; a description of their national customs, mythology, and religious ceremonies, the history of their most powerful tribes, and of their most celebrated chiefs and warriors; their intercourse and wars with the European settlers; and a great variety of anecdote and description, illustrative of personal and national character. Hartford, Conn., Chicago,E. B. & R.C. Treat; [etc., etc.]: Hurlbut, Scranton & Co. 1864. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 2 September 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/pontiacs-war.htm - Last updated on Feb 18th, 2013

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