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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 IV. — Pontiac Holds Detroit in a State of Siege During the Summer of 1763.

FOILED in his attempt to take the garrison by stratagem, Pontiac commenced an open attack. He had no sooner left the walls of the fort, than he fired upon it, and his followers began to assail the scattered English settlers in its vicinity, while on every side could be heard the startling sassaquon, or war-whoop. A widow woman, and her two sons, were immediately murdered on the common. A discharged sergeant and his family, cultivating lands on Hog Island, were the next victims. Taking shelter behind buildings contiguous to the fort, an incessant fire was maintained against it, which was continued for several days; blazing arrows being discharged by the Indians, which set fire to some buildings within the walls. Determination of purpose marked every act, while the savage yells of the natives, and the continual reports of murders and outrages filled the garrison with apprehensions. The abandonment of the fort and embarkation of the troops for Niagara was contemplated, but the plan was opposed by the prominent French inhabitants, who were better acquainted with the true character of Indian demonstration and bluster, and particularly with the real dangers of such a voyage. A small vessel was, however, dispatched to Niagara on the 21st of May, soliciting aid both in provisions and men, through a country entirely occupied by Indians. The Indians unabatedly continued their attacks, absolutely confining the garrison within the walls, and preventing them from obtaining supplies of wood and water. Pontiac, meantime, conceived the idea of decoying Major Campbell into his camp, under the pretence of renewing pacific negotiations. This gentleman was favorably known to the Indians, as the immediate predecessor of Major Gladwyn, who had but recently relieved him in the command of the fort. By the advice of those most conversant with the Indian character, Pontiac's request was acceded to, and Campbell went to his camp, accompanied by Lieutenant McDougal. But all the projects of Pontiac were set at nought by an unforeseen occurrence. In one of the sorties from the fort, an Ottawa of distinction, from Michilimackinac, had been killed, and his nephew, who was present, determined to revenge his death. Meeting Major Campbell one day, as he was walking in the road near the camp of Pontiac, the savage immediately felled him to the earth with his war-club, and killed

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him. This act was regretted and disavowed by Pontiac, who, by the detention of Major Campbell, sought only to secure ulterior advantages through the person of his hostage.

Anticipating succors to be on their way to the fort, the Indians kept vigilant watch at the mouth of the river. This duty appears to have been committed to the Wyandots. On one of the last days of May, a detachment of troops from Niagara, having charge of twenty-three batteaux, laden with provisions and supplies, encamped at Point Pelée, on the north shore, near the head of Lake Erie, wholly unconscious that any danger awaited them. Their movements had, however, been closely reconnoitered by the Indians, who, having formed an ambuscade at this place, furiously attacked them near daybreak. During the resulting panic, the officer in command leaped into a boat, and, accompanied by thirty men, crossed the lake to Sandusky. The rest of the detachment were killed, or taken prisoners, and all the stores fell into the enemy's hands. The prisoners were reserved to row the boats. On the 30th of May, the first of the long line of batteaux was seen from the fort, as it rounded Point Huron, on the Canada shore. The garrison crowded the ramparts to view the welcome sight, and a gun was fired as a signal to their supposed approaching friends. But the only response was the gloomy war cry. As the first boat came opposite to the little vessel anchored off the fort, the soldiers rowing it determined to recapture it. While the steersman headed the boat across, another soldier threw overboard the Indian who sat on the bow. In the struggle both were drowned, but the boat was rowed under the guns of the fort. Lest the other captive rowers should imitate this example, they were landed by the Indians on Hog Island, and immediately sacrificed.

News of the treaty of peace concluded at Versailles, February 10, 1763, between France and England, reached Detroit on the 3d of June, while these events were in progress. From the French who were assembled on this occasion, the intelligence received a full and prompt acquiescence, as a conclusive sovereign act; but the Indians continued the siege. Pontiac finding he could not take the fort, proposed to the French inhabitants to aid him, but they refused. 302 About this time, the vessel which had been dispatched to Niagara, by Major Gladwyn, arrived at the mouth of the river with supplies and some sixty men. The winds being light and baffling, the Indians determined to capture her, and a large force left the siege and proceeded to Fighting Island for that purpose. While the vessel was lying at the mouth of the river, the Indians had endeavored to annoy her by means of their canoes, but the wind had forced her to shift her anchorage to this spot. The captain had ordered his men below decks, to keep the Indians in ignorance of his strength, having apprized them that a loud stroke of a hammer on the mast, would be a signal for them to come up. As soon as darkness supervened, the Indians came off in their canoes in great force, and

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attempted to board her; but a sudden discharge of her guns disconcerted them. The following day the vessel dropped down to the mouth of the straits, where she was detained six days by calms. Meantime, Pontiac determining to destroy her, for this purpose floated down burning rafts, which were constructed of the timbers from barns destroyed by the Indians, dry pine, and a quantity of pitch added, to make the whole more combustible. 303 Notwithstanding two such rafts were constructed and sent down the river, the vessel and boats escaped them. A breeze springing up on the 30th of June, the vessel was enabled to hoist sail, and reached the fort in safety.

General Amherst, the commander-in-chief, though weakened by the force withdrawn for the Indian war in the west, was fully sensible of the perilous position of the western posts, in consequence of the Indian hostility, and prepared to send at the earliest period, reinforcements to Forts Pitt, Niagara, and Detroit. The relief destined for the latter post was placed under the orders of his secretary, Captain Dalzell, who, after relieving Niagara, proceeded to Detroit in armed batteaux, at the head of a force of 300 men. To the joy of all concerned, this reinforcement arrived at Detroit on the 30th of July, when the place had been besieged upwards of fifty days. Captain Dalzell, who brought this timely accession to the garrison, proposed a night assault on Pontiac's camp, which the commandant assented to, not, however, without some misgivings. Two hundred and fifty men were selected for this duty, and, with this force Captain Dalzell left the fort, as secretly as possible, at half-past two o'clock on the morning of the 31st. At the same time, two boats were despatched to keep pace with the party, and, if necessary, take off the wounded. The darkness of the night rendered it somewhat difficult to discern the way, and made it a task for them to keep the proper distance between the platoons. After marching about two miles, when the vanguard had reached the bridge over the stream, which has since been known as Bloody Brook, a sudden fire was poured in by the Indians, which created a temporary panic among the troops, from which, however, they recovered. The intense darkness completely obscuring the enemy, a retreat was ordered; when it appeared that there was a heavy force in the rear, through which the column had been allowed to pass. The English were, in fact, in the midst of a well-planned ambuscade. Dalzell displayed the utmost bravery and spirit in this emergency, but was soon shot down and killed. Grant, on whom the command devolved, was severely wounded. The Indians were concealed behind the wooden picketing, which lined the fields, and sheltered the buildings of the habitans; but as the day began to dawn, the troops were enabled to discern their perilous position. They then embarked some of their wounded in the boats which had accompanied them, and, concentrating their forces, retreated toward the gates of the fort, which they entered in compact order. The loss in this attack was seventy men killed, including the commander, and forty wounded; being

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nearly one-half of the sallying party. It was a decided triumph for the Indians, who thenceforth pressed the siege with renewed vigor.

As the season for hunting approached, the Indians gradually dispersed; the siege languished, and was finally abandoned. There is no previous record in Indian history of so large a force of Indians having been kept in the field for so long a period; and this effort of the Algonquin chief to roll back the tide of European emigration, was the most formidable that was ever made by any one member of the Indian race. Rodgers styles Pontiac an emperor. He certainly possessed an energy of mind and powers of combination exceeding those of any other antecedent or contemporary chief. Opechanganough possessed great firmness, and was a bitter enemy of the white race; Sassacus only fought for tribal rights and supremacy; the course of Uncas was that of a politician; Pometacom battled, indeed, to repel the people whose education, industry, and religion, foredoomed his own; but Pontiac took a more enlarged and comprehensive view, not only of the field of contest, but also of the means necessary for the retention and preservation of the aboriginal dominion. At a later period, Brant merely fought for, and under the direction of a powerful ally; and Tecumseh but re-enacted the deeds of Pontiac, after the lapse of fifty years, when the scheme of repelling the whites was, in reality, preposterous.

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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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