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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter III. — The Confederate Algonquins and Hurons of the Upper Lakes, Under the Direction of Pontiac, Dispute the Occupation of that Region by the English.

OTHER tribes besides the Cherokees, manifested dissatisfaction, or broke out into open hostility. The Shawnees and Delawares of the Ohio valley had been inimical to the colonies ever since their migration, or, in effect, expulsion from Pennsylvania, in 1759. The entire mass of the Algonquin tribes of the upper lakes, and to the west of the Ohio, deeply sympathized with the French in the loss of Canada. They hoped that the French flag would be once more unfurled on the western forts, and this feeling, we are assured by Mante — a judicious historian of that period — had been fostered by the French, whose mode of treatment of the Indians he, at the same time, commends.

"For," he continues, "it soon appeared that, at the very time we were representing the Indians to ourselves completely subdued, and perfectly obedient to our power, they were busy in planning the destruction, not only of our most insignificant and remote forts, but our most important and central settlements." 292 Under this impression, General Amherst had ordered to the west, to keep the Indians in check, the regular forces which had been employed against Niagara, Quebec, and Montreal. Little more was done, in 1761, than supplying garrisons to the forts at Presque Isle, Detroit, and
Michilimackinac, by which, though the country was occupied, its native inhabitants were not overawed. Fort Pitt had been occupied from the period of its capture, in 1758; but its garrison having been reduced by the Indian wars in the west, it was, early in 1763, invested by the Shawnees, Delawares, and their confederates. The defection of the western tribes was found to be very great, extending from the Ohio valley to, and throughout, the whole series of lakes, into the valleys of the Illinois, Miami and Wabash.

At this time, there was living, in the vicinity of Detroit, a chief possessing more than ordinary intelligence, decision of character, power of combination, and great personal energy, named Pondiac, or Pontiac. He appears to have been the originator of this scheme of a western confederation against the English; for, in 1761, on the

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first advance of the relief of the French garrison, when Major Rodgers, who led the troops, had reached the entrance to the straits of Detroit, Pontiac visited his encampment, and, employing one of those bold metaphors which the Indians use to express much in a few words, assuming an air of supremacy, he exclaimed, "I stand in the path." 293 "To form a just estimate of his character, we must judge him by the circumstances in which he was placed; by the profound ignorance and barbarism of his people; by his own destitution of all education and information; and by the jealous, fierce, and intractable spirit of his compeers. When measured by this standard, we shall find few of the men whose names are familiar to us, more remarkable for all things proposed and achieved, than Pontiac." To him the conduct of the plot had been left. It had been secretly discussed in their councils for about two years, during which time he brought the principal tribes of the region into the scheme. The tribes which formed the nucleus of this plot were the Ottawas, Chippewas, Pottawattamies, and the two bands of Hurons residing on the river Detroit. From facts gleaned after the submission of the tribes to General Bradstreet, in 1764, it appears that this combination was more extensive than has been supposed, and that the Miamies, Piankashaws, and Weas, had also been compromitted. The time appointed for a general rise having arrived, the whole line of posts on that frontier, comprising twelve in number, extending from Forts Pitt and Niagara to Green Bay, were simultaneously attacked, and, either by open force, or by finesse, nine of them taken. 294 The most singular mode of attack among the whole, was that practised at
Fort Michilimackinac. The fortress, at that period, occupied the apex of the peninsula of Michigan, where it juts out into the strait in a headland (called Picwutinong). It consisted of a square area, having bastions, built of stone, surmounted with pickets, which were closed by gates; and was capable of being defended against any attack. But stratagem was resorted to. The king's birthday (June 4th) having arrived, the Ottawas and their confederates engaged in a game of ball on the level boulevard, which led from the landing, up by the fort, into the village. The gates were open, and the officers attended the sport. While moving up and down this boulevard, the players struggling and rushing, the ball was dextrously thrown into the fort, and the contending parties rushed in after it. This was the signal for an attack. The war whoop was raised, and the tomahawk applied so rapidly, that not a drum was beat, or a rank formed, and the place became the scene of one of the most startling massacres. 295 One officer and seventy soldiers were killed; but, of three hundred Canadians in the fort, not one was molested. For a view of the ruins of this fort, with the island of Michilimackinac in the distance. (
See Plate LIII., Vol. II.)

Detroit was selected by Pontiac for the display of his own arts of siege and attack.

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Having, in a previous volume, 296 given a copy of a journal of this siege, kept within the fort, it is only necessary to furnish here a succinct abstract of the events which transpired. The fort was under the command of Major Gladwyn, who had a garrison of two complete companies of infantry, numbering one hundred and twenty-two privates, and eight officers. 297 There were also, within its walls, forty French traders and engagées. Pontiac invested the place, May 8th, 1763, with a total force of 450 warriors, 298 who had been instructed at the councils, drilled under his own eye, and painted and feathered for battle. But an attack was not his first move; he aimed to take the fort by a deeply laid plot, which was, in effect, to visit the commandant at his quarters, accompanied by a limited number of assassins, bearing concealed weapons, to smoke with him the pipe of peace, and to present him with a formal address, which was to be accompanied by a belt of wampum, the most solemn and honored custom in Indian diplomacy. This belt was worked on one side with white, and on the other with green beads. 299 Having finished his speech, with the white side turned towards his auditor, the reversal of it in his hands to the green side, was to be the signal of attack. The plan was well devised, and must have succeeded, had it not been revealed to the commandant, in a manner which it is unimportant to our purpose to state.

On the day appointed, Pontiac appeared at the gates with his aboriginal fellow-conspirators, demanding an audience. He was freely admitted, but, in passing the esplanade, observed an unusual display of the military. The garrison was under arms, and the sentinels doubled, which aroused Pontiac's fears; but his covert inquiries were met by a ready answer, that "it was to keep the young men 300 to their duty, and prevent idleness." The language employed by one who has collated the local traditions on the subject, while they were still within reach, may here be quoted. "The business of the council then commenced, and Pontiac proceeded to address Major Gladwyn. His speech was bold and menacing, and his manner and gesticulations vehement, and they became still more so, as he approached the critical moment. When he was on the point of presenting the belt to Major Gladwyn (and turning it in his hands) and all was breathless expectation, the drums at the door of the council suddenly rolled the charge, the guards levelled their pieces, and the officers drew their swords from their scabbards. Pontiac was a brave man, constitutionally and habitually. He had fought in many a battle, and often led his warriors to victory. But this unexpected and decisive proof that his treachery was discovered and prevented, entirely disconcerted him. Tradition says he trembled. At all events, he delivered his belt in the usual manner, and thus failed to give his warriors the concerted signal of attack. Major Gladwyn immediately approached the chief, and, drawing aside his blanket, discovered the shortened rifle, and then, after stating his knowledge of the plan, turned him out of the fort." 301

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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