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Winding up the Indian War

Amherst was weary of America. Early in the summer of 1763 he had asked to be relieved of his command; but it was not until October that General Thomas Gage, then in charge of the government of Montreal, was appointed to succeed him, and not until November 17, the day after Gage arrived in New York, that Amherst sailed for England.

The new commander-in-chief was not as great a general as Amherst. It is doubtful if he could have planned and brought to a successful conclusion such campaigns as the siege of Louisbourg and the threefold march of 1760 on Montreal, which have given his predecessor a high place in the military history of North America. But Gage was better suited for winding up the Indian war. He knew the value of the officers familiar with the Indian tribes, and was ready to act on their advice. Amherst had not done this, and his best officers were now anxious to resign. George Croghan had resigned as assistant superintendent of Indian Affairs, but was later induced by Gage to remain in office. Gladwyn was 'heartily wearied' of his command and hoped to 'be relieved soon'; Blane and Ourry were tired of their posts; and the brave Ecuyer was writing in despair: 'For God's sake, let me go and raise cabbages.' Bouquet; too, although determined to see the war to a conclusion, was not satisfied with the situation.

Meanwhile, Sir William Johnson was not idle among the tribes of the Six Nations. The failure of Pontiac to reduce Fort Detroit and the victory of Bouquet at Edge Hill had convinced the Iroquois that ultimately the British would triumph, and, eager to be on the winning side, they consented to take the field against the Shawnees and Delaware. In the middle of February 1764, through Johnson's influence and by his aid, two hundred Tuscarora and Oneidas, under a half-breed, Captain Montour, marched westward. Near the main branch of the Susquehanna they surprised forty Delaware, on a scalping expedition against the British settlements, and made prisoners of the entire party. A few weeks later, a number of Mohawks led by Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) put another band of Delaware to rout, killing their chief and taking three prisoners. These attacks of the Iroquois disheartened the Shawnees and Delaware and greatly alarmed the Seneca, who, trembling lest their own country should be laid waste, sent a deputation of four hundred of their chief men to Johnson Hall--Sir William Johnson's residence on the Mohawk--to sue for peace. It was agreed that the Seneca should at once stop all hostilities, never again take up arms against the British, deliver up all prisoners at Johnson Hall, cede to His Majesty the Niagara carrying-place, allow the free passage of troops through their country, renounce all intercourse with the Delaware and Shawnees, and assist the British in punishing them. Thus, early in 1764, through the energy and diplomacy of Sir William Johnson, the powerful Seneca were brought to terms.

With the opening of spring preparations began in earnest for a twofold invasion of the Indian country. One army was to proceed to Detroit by way of Niagara and the Lakes, and another from Fort Pitt was to take the field against the Delaware and the Shawnees. To Colonel John Bradstreet, who in 1758 had won distinction by his capture of Fort Frontenac, was assigned the command of the contingent that was to go to Detroit. Bradstreet was to punish the Wyandot of Sandusky, and likewise the members of the Ottawa Confederacy if he should find them hostile. He was also to relieve Gladwyn and re-garrison the forts captured by the Indians in 1763. Bradstreet left Albany in June with a large force of colonial troops and regulars, including three hundred French Canadians from the St. Lawrence, whom Gage had thought it wise to have enlisted, in order to impress upon the Indians that they need no longer expect assistance from the French in their wars against the British.

To prepare the way for Bradstreet's arrival, Sir William Johnson had gone in advance to Niagara, where he had called together ambassadors from all the tribes, not only from those that had taken part in the war, but from all within his jurisdiction. He had found a vast concourse of Indians awaiting him. The wigwams of over a thousand warriors dotted the low-lying land at the mouth of the river. In a few days the number had grown to two thousand --representatives of nations as far east as Nova Scotia, as far west as the Mississippi, and as far north as Hudson Bay. Pontiac was absent, nor were there any Delaware, Shawnee, or Seneca ambassadors present. These were absent through dread; but later the Seneca sent deputies to ratify the treaty made with Johnson in April. When Bradstreet and his troops arrived, negotiations were in full swing. For nearly a month councils were held, and at length all the chiefs present had entered into an alliance with the British. This accomplished, Johnson, on August 6, left Niagara for his home, while Bradstreet continued his journey towards Detroit.

Bradstreet halted at Presqu'isle. Here he was visited by pretended deputies from the Shawnees and Delaware, who ostensibly sought peace. He made a conditional treaty with them and agreed to meet them twenty-five days later at Sandusky, where they were to bring their British prisoners. From Presqu'isle he wrote to Bouquet at Fort Pitt, saying that it would be unnecessary to advance into the Delaware country, as the Delaware were now at peace. He also reported his success, as he considered it, to Gage, but Gage was not impressed; he disavowed the treaty and instructed Bouquet to continue his preparations. Continuing his journey, Bradstreet rested at Sandusky, where more Delaware waited on him and agreed to make peace. It was at this juncture that he sent Captain Thomas Morris on his ill-starred mission to the tribes of the Mississippi.1

Bradstreet was at Detroit by August 26, and at last the worn-out garrison of the fort could rest after fifteen months of exacting duties. Calling the Indians to a council, Bradstreet entered into treaties with a number of chiefs, and pardoned several French settlers who had taken an active part with the Indians in the siege of Detroit. He then sent troops to occupy Michilimackinac; Green Bay, and Sault Ste Marie; and sailed for Sandusky to meet the Delaware and Shawnee, who had promised to bring in their prisoners. But none awaited him; the Indians had deliberately deceived him and were playing for time while they continued their attacks on the border settlers. Here he received a letter from Gage ordering him to disregard the treaty he had made with the Delaware and to join Bouquet at Fort Pitt, an order which Bradstreet did not obey, making the excuse that the low state of the water in the rivers made impossible an advance to Fort Pitt. On October 18, he left Sandusky for Niagara, having accomplished nothing except occupation of the forts. Having already blundered hopelessly in dealing with the Indians, he was to blunder still further. On his way down Lake Erie, he encamped one night, when storm threatened, on an exposed shore, and a gale from the northeast broke upon his camp and destroyed half his boats. Two hundred and eighty of his soldiers had to march overland to Niagara. Many of them perished; others, starved, exhausted, frostbitten, came staggering in by twos and threes till near the end of December. The expedition was a fiasco. It blasted Bradstreet's reputation, and made the British name for a time contemptible among the Indians.

The other expedition from Fort Pitt has a different history. All through the summer Bouquet had been recruiting troops for the invasion of the Delaware country. The soldiers were slow in arriving, and it was not until the end of September that all was ready. Early in October, Bouquet marched out of Fort Pitt with one thousand provincials and five hundred regulars. Crossing the Alleghany, he made his way in a north-westerly direction until Beaver Creek was reached, and then turned westward into the unbroken forest. The Indians of the Muskingum Valley felt secure in their wilderness fastness. No white soldiers had ever penetrated to their country. To reach their villages dense woods had to be penetrated, treacherous marshes crossed, and numerous streams bridged or forded. But by the middle of October, Bouquet had led his army, without the loss of a man, into the heart of the Muskingum Valley, and pitched his camp near an Indian village named Tuscarawa, from which the inhabitants had fled at his approach. The Delaware and Shawnees were terrified; the victor of Edge Hill was among them with an army strong enough to crush to atoms any war-party they could muster. They sent deputies to Bouquet. These at first assumed a haughty mien; but Bouquet sternly rebuked them and ordered them to meet him at the forks of the Muskingum, forty miles distant to the southwest, and to bring in all their prisoners. By the beginning of November, the troops were at the appointed place, where they encamped. Bouquet then sent messengers to all the tribes telling them to bring thither all the captives without delay. Every white man, woman, and child in their hands, French or British, must be delivered up. After some hesitation, the Indians made haste to obey. About two hundred captives were brought, and chiefs were left as hostages for the safe delivery of others still in the hands of distant tribes. So far Bouquet had been stern and unbending; he had reminded the Indians of their murder of settlers and of their black treachery regarding the garrisons, and hinted that except for the kindness of their British father they would be utterly destroyed. He now unbent and offered them a generous treaty, which was to be drawn up and arranged later by Sir William Johnson. Bouquet then retraced his steps to Fort Pitt, and arrived there on November 28 with his long train of released captives. He had won a victory over the Indians greater than his triumph at Edge Hill, and all the greater in that it was achieved without striking a blow.

There was still, however, important work to be done before any guarantee of permanent peace in the hinterland was possible. On the eastern bank of the Mississippi, within the country ceded to England by the Treaty of Paris, was an important settlement over which the French flag still flew, and to which no British troops or traders had penetrated. It was a hotbed of conspiracy. Even while Bouquet was making peace with the tribes between the Ohio and Lake Erie, Pontiac and his agents were trying to make trouble for the British among the Indians of the Mississippi.

French settlement on the Mississippi began at the village of Kaskaskia, eighty-four miles north of the mouth of the Ohio. Six miles still farther north was Fort Chartres, a strongly built stone fort capable of accommodating three hundred men. From here, at some distance from the river, ran a road to Cahokia, a village situated nearly opposite the site of the present city of St. Louis. The intervening country was settled by prosperous traders and planters who, including their four hundred Negro slaves, numbered not less than two thousand. But when it was learned that all the territory east of the great river had been ceded to Britain, the settlers began to migrate to the opposite bank. The French here were hostile to the incoming British, and feared lest they might now lose the profitable trade with New Orleans. It was this region that Gage was determined to occupy.

Already an effort had been made to reach Fort Chartres. In February 1764, Major Arthur Loftus had set out from New Orleans with four hundred men; but, when about two hundred and forty miles north of his starting-point, his two leading boats were fired upon by Indians. Six men were killed and four wounded. To advance would mean the destruction of his entire company. Loftus returned to New Orleans, blaming the French officials for not supporting his enterprise, and indeed hinting that they were responsible for the attack. Some weeks later, Captain Philip Pittman arrived at New Orleans with the intention of ascending the river; but reports of the enmity of the Indians to the British made him abandon the undertaking. So at the beginning of 1765, the French flag still flew over Fort Chartres; and Saint-Ange, who had succeeded Neyon de Villiers as commandant of the fort, was praying that the British might soon arrive to relieve him from a position where he was being daily importuned by Pontiac or his emissaries for aid against what they called the common foe.

But, if the route to Fort Chartres by way of New Orleans was too dangerous, Bouquet had cleared the Ohio of enemies, and the country which Gage sought to occupy was now accessible by way of that river. As a preliminary step, George Croghan was sent in advance with presents for the Indians along the route. In May 1765, Croghan left Fort Pitt accompanied by a few soldiers and a number of friendly Shawnee and Delaware chiefs. Near the mouth of the Wabash a prowling band of Kickapoo attacked the party, killing several and making prisoners of the rest. Croghan and his fellow-prisoners were taken to the French traders at Vincennes, where they were liberated. They then went to Ouiatanon, where Croghan held a council, and induced many chiefs to swear fealty to the British. After leaving Ouiatanon, Croghan had proceeded westward but a little way when he was met by Pontiac with a number of chiefs and warriors. At last the arch-conspirator was ready to come to terms. The French on the Mississippi would give him no assistance. He realized now that his people were conquered, and before it was too late he must make peace with his conquerors. Croghan had no further reason to continue his journey; so, accompanied by Pontiac, he went to Detroit. Arriving there on August 17, he at once called a council of the tribes in the neighborhood. At this council sat Pontiac, among chiefs whom he had led during the months of the siege of Detroit. But it was no longer the same Pontiac: his haughty, domineering spirit was broken; his hopes of an Indian empire were at an end. 'Father,' he said at this council, 'I declare to all nations that I had made my peace with you before I came here; and 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 the nations now assembled.' He further agreed to visit Oswego in the spring to conclude a treaty with Sir William Johnson himself. The path was now clear for the advance of the troops to Fort Chartres. As soon as news of Croghan's success reached Fort Pitt, Captain Thomas Sterling, with one hundred and twenty men of the Black Watch, set out in boats for the Mississippi, arriving on October 9 at Fort Chartres, the first British troops to set foot in that country. The next day Saint-Ange handed the keys of the fort to Sterling, and the Union Jack was flung aloft. Thus, nearly three years after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the fleurs-de-lis disappeared from the territory then known as Canada.

There is still to record the closing act in the public career of Pontiac. Sir William Johnson, fearing that the Ottawa chief might fail to keep his promise of visiting Oswego to ratify the treaty made with Croghan at Detroit, sent Hugh Crawford, in March 1766, with belts and messages to the chiefs of the Ottawa Confederacy. But Pontiac was already preparing for his journey eastward. Nothing in his life was more creditable than his bold determination to attend a council far from his hunting-ground, at which he would be surrounded by soldiers who had suffered treachery and cruelty at his hands--whose comrades he had tortured and murdered.

On July 23, there began at Oswego the grand council at which Sir William Johnson and Pontiac were the most conspicuous figures. For three days the ceremonies and speeches continued; and on the third day Pontiac rose in the assembly and made a promise that he was faithfully to keep: 'I take the Great Spirit to witness,' he said, 'that what I am going to say I am determined steadfastly to perform... While I had the French king by the hand, I kept a fast hold of it; and now having you, father, by the hand, I shall do the same in conjunction with all the western nations in my district.'

Before the council ended, Johnson presented to each of the chiefs a silver medal engraved with the words: 'A pledge of peace and friendship with Great Britain, confirmed in 1766.' He also loaded Pontiac and his brother chiefs with presents; then, on the last day of July, the Indians scattered to their homes.

For three years, Pontiac, like a restless spirit, moved from camp to camp and from hunting-ground to hunting-ground. There were outbreaks of hostilities in the Indian country, but in none of these did he take part. His name never appears in the records of those three years. His days of conspiracy were at an end. By many of the French and Indians he was distrusted as a pensioner of the British, and by the British traders and settlers he was hated for his past deeds. In 1769, he visited the Mississippi, and while at Cahokia he attended a drunken frolic held by some Indians. When he left the feast, stupid from the effects of rum, he was followed into the forest by a Kaskaskia Indian, probably bribed by a British trader. And as Pontiac lurched among the black shadows of the trees, his pursuer crept up behind him, and with a swift stroke of the tomahawk cleft his skull. Thus by a treacherous blow ended the career of a warrior whose chief weapon had been treachery.

For twelve years England, by means of military officers, ruled the great hinterland east of the Mississippi--a region vast and rich, which now teems with a population immensely greater than that of the whole broad Dominion of Canada--a region which is today dotted with such magnificent cities as Chicago, Detroit, and Indianapolis. Unhappily, England made no effort to colonize this wilderness empire. Indeed, as Edmund Burke has said, she made 'an attempt to keep as a lair of wild beasts that earth which God, by an express charter, had given to the children of men.' She forbade settlement in the hinterland. She did this ostensibly for the Indians, but in reality for the merchants in the mother country. In a report of the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations in 1772, are words which show that it was the intention of the government to confine 'the western extent of settlements to such a distance from the seaboard as that those settlements should lie within easy reach of the trade and commerce of this kingdom,... and also of the exercise of that authority and jurisdiction... necessary for the preservation of the colonies in a due subordination to, and dependence upon, the mother country... It does appear to us that the extension of the fur trade depends entirely upon the Indians being undisturbed in the possession of their hunting-grounds... Let the savages enjoy their deserts in quiet. Were they driven from their forests the peltry trade would decrease, and it is not impossible that worse savages would take refuge in them.'

Much has been written about the stamp tax and the tea tax as causes of the American Revolution, but this determination to confine the colonies to the Atlantic seaboard 'rendered the revolution inevitable.'2 In 1778, three years after the sword was drawn, when an American force under George Rogers Clark invaded the Indian country, England's weakly garrisoned posts, then by the Quebec Act under the government of Canada, were easily captured; and, when accounts came to be settled after the war, the entire hinterland south of the Great Lakes, from the Alleghanies to the Mississippi, passed to the United States.


1 Morris and his companions got no farther than the rapids of the Maumee, where they were seized, stripped of clothing, and threatened with death. Pontiac was now among the Miami, still striving to get together a following to continue the war. The prisoners were taken to Pontiac's camp. But the Ottawa chief did not deem it wise to murder a British officer on this occasion, and Morris was released and forced to retrace his steps. He arrived at Detroit after the middle of September, only to find that Bradstreet had already departed. The story will be found in more detail in Parkman's "Conspiracy of Pontiac".
2 Roosevelt's "The Winning of the West", part i, p. 57.


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Chronicles of Canada, The War Chief of The Ottawa, A Chronicle of the Pontiac War, 1915

 

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