Pontiac’s Rebellion Against the British

At length, the wife of Langlade informed the Indians of Henry’s concealment, fearing, as she subsequently alleged, that if they should find him secreted in her house, they would destroy her and her children. Unlocking the door, she was followed by half a dozen Indians, naked down to their waist, and intoxicated. On entering, their chief, Wenniway, a ferocious man, of gigantic stature, advanced with lips compressed, seized Henry by one hand, and with the other held a large carving-knife, as if to plunge it into his heart, while his eyes were steadfastly fixed on his. Gaining for a moment, he dropped his arm and said, “I won’t kill you.” He then at once adopted him in the place of a brother whom he had lost in the wars with the English, and Henry was eventually ransomed.

Seventy of the troops were massacred, and of these, the bodies of several were boiled and eaten. The remainder, together with those taken at the fall of forts, St. Joseph, and Green Bay, were restored after the war.

Siege of Detroit (May 7, 1763)

Fort Detroit, Michigan

Fort Detroit, Michigan

Detroit was a more important situation even than Fort Michiliinackinac. Besides, an immense quantity of valuable goods, it was stated, that over two million dollars was known to be stored there. If captured, it would unite the separate lines of operation, pursued by the Indian tribes above and below the Great Lakes. Under these circumstances, its reduction was undertaken by Chief Pontiac in person. The garrison numbered 130 men, including officers, besides whom, there were about 40 individuals in the village engaged in the fur trade.

Such was the situation of Detroit when the Ottawa chieftain, having completed his arrangements on the 7th of May, presented himself at the gates of the town with a force of about 300 Indians, chiefly Ottawa and Chippewa, and requested a council with Major Henry Gladwyn, the commandant. He expected, under this pretext, to gain admittance for himself and a considerable number of attendants, who accordingly were provided with rifles, sawed-off so short as to be concealed under their blankets. At a given signal, which was to be the presentation of a wampum belt, in a particular manner, by Pontiac, to the commandant, during the conference, the armed Indians were to massacre all the officers, then open the gates to admit the main body of the warriors, who were to be waiting without for the completion of the slaughter and destruction of the fort.

However, an Indian woman betrayed the secret. She had been employed by the commandant to make him a pair of moccasins out of elk skin and brought them into the fort finished, on the evening of the day on which Pontiac made his appearance and application for a council. The Major paid her generously, requested her to make more from the residue of the skin, and then dismissed her. She went to the outer door, hut there stopped and loitered about as if her errand was still unperformed. A servant asked her what she wanted, but, she made no answer. The Major himself observed her, and ordered her to be called in, when, after some hesitation, she replied to his inquiries, that as he had always treated her kindly, she did not like to take away the elk skin which he valued so highly — she could never bring it back. The commandant’s curiosity was, of course, excited, and he pressed the examination until the woman, at length, disclosed everything which had come to her knowledge.

Her information was not received with implicit credulity, but, the Major thought it prudent to employ the night in taking active measures for defense. A strict guard was kept upon the ramparts during the night, it being apprehended that the Indians might anticipate the preparations now known to have been made for the next day. Nothing, however, was heard after dark, except the sound of singing and dancing in the Indian camp, which they always indulged in upon the eve of any great enterprise.

In the morning, Pontiac and his warriors sang their war song, and danced their war dance, and then repaired to the fort. They were admitted without hesitation, and conducted to the council house, where Major Gladwyn and his officers were prepared to receive them. They perceived at the gate, and as they passed through the streets, an unusual activity and movement among the troops. The garrison was under arms, the guards were doubled, and the officers were armed with swords and pistols.

Pontiac inquired of the British commander, what was the cause of this unusual appearance. He answered that it was proper to keep the young men to their duty, lest they should become idle and ignorant. 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 upon the point of presenting the belt to Major Gladwyn, and all was breathless expectation, the drums at the door of the council house suddenly rolled the charge, the guards leveled their pieces, and the officers drew their swords from their scabbards. Pontiac, whose eagle eye had never quailed in battle, turned pale and trembled. This unexpected and decisive proof that his treachery was discovered, entirely disconcerted him. He delivered the belt in the usual manner, and thus failed to give his party the concerted signal of attack; while his warriors stood looking at each other in astonishment, Major Gladwyn immediately approached Pontiac, and drawing aside his blanket, discovered the shortened rifle, and then, after stating his knowledge of his plan, advised him to leave the fort before his young men should discover their design and massacre them. He assured him, as he had promised him safety, that his person should be held unharmed until he had advanced beyond the pickets. The Indians immediately retired, and as soon as they had passed the gate, they gave the yell and fired upon the garrison: Several persons living without the fort, were then murdered, and hostilities commenced.

The cannibalism of the Indians at this time may be learned from the fact, that a respectable Frenchman was invited to their camp to partake of some soup. Having finished his repast, he was told that he had eaten a part of an English woman, a Mrs. Turnbell, who had been among the victims; a knowledge that, probably, did not improve his digestion.

Pontiac's Council

Pontiac’s Council

The Indians soon stationed themselves behind the buildings, outside the pickets, and kept a constant, though ineffectual fire upon the garrison. All the means which the savage mind could suggest were employed by Pontiac to demolish the settlement of Detroit. During the siege, which lasted more than two months, the Indians endeavored to make a breach in the pickets, and aided by Major Gladwyn, who, as a stratagem, had ordered his men to cut also on the inside; this was soon accomplished, and the breach immediately filled with Indians. At this instant, a cannon was discharged upon the advancing Indians, which made destructive havoc. After that period, the fort was merely invested; supplies were cut off, and the English were reduced to great distress from the diminution of their rations, and the constant watchfulness required to prevent surprise.

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