This book contains two accounts of Pontiac, the great Ottawa chief of the eighteenth century American colonial period. After the end of the French and Indian War there was, irrespective of the treaties made, no peace on the frontiers of the New World. The indigenous Indian tribes—broadly the Huron and Iroquois—had made their allegiances with the British or the French according to their loyalties and those were not readily to be curtailed. Pontiac rose in rebellion and conspired with his allies to destroy the British and American settlers on the frontier, burning outposts and outlying forts and putting their defenders to the knife. His tactic of deception worked well for a time culminating in the significant Battle of Bloody Run. However, when his forces came up against the substantial defences of fortified Detroit, its defenders were not taken in by his ruse and his failure to take the fort by assault ultimately contributed to his undoing. These two accounts are quite different in their character, One concentrates primarily on the culmination of his career with the great ‘Conspiracy’ and the other takes an over view of the chiefs life generally to give the reader context. Also included is a little known play by the famous ranger, Robert Rogers, that lends a first hand perspective to the events described herein. Available in softcover and hardcover with dust jacket.
About the middle of the month the Gladwyn sailed down the Detroit to meet a convoy that was expected with provisions and ammunition from Fort Schlosser. At the entrance to Lake Erie, as the vessel lay becalmed in the river, she was suddenly beset by a swarm of savages in canoes; and Pontiac’s prisoner, Captain Campbell, appeared in the foremost canoe, the savages thinking that the British would not fire on them for fear of killing him. Happily, a breeze sprang up and the schooner escaped to the open lake. There was no sign of the convoy; and the Gladwyn sailed for the Niagara, to carry to the officers there tidings of the Indian rising in the west.<br>
On May 30 the watchful sentries at Detroit saw a line of bateaux flying the British flag rounding a point on the east shore of the river. This was the expected convoy from Fort Schlosser, and the cannon boomed forth a welcome. But the rejoicings of the garrison were soon stilled. Instead of British cheers, wild war-whoops resounded from the bateaux. The Indians had captured the convoy and were forcing their captives to row. In the foremost boat were four soldiers and three savages. Nearing the fortress one of the soldiers conceived the daring plan of overpowering the Indian guard and escaping to the Beaver, which lay anchored in front of the fort. Seizing the nearest savage he attempted to throw him into the river; but the Indian succeeded in stabbing him, and both fell overboard and were drowned. The other savages, dreading capture, leapt out of the boat and swam ashore. The bateau with the three soldiers in it reached the Beaver, and the provisions and ammunition it contained were taken to the fort. The Indians in the remaining bateaux, warned by the fate of the leading vessel, landed on the east shore; and, marching their prisoners overland past the fort, they took them across the river to Pontiac’s camp, where most of them were put to death with fiendish cruelty.<br>
The soldiers who escaped to the Beaver told the story of the ill-fated convoy. On May 13 Lieutenant Abraham Cuyler, totally ignorant of the outbreak of hostilities at Detroit, had left Fort Schlosser with ninety-six men in ten bateaux. They had journeyed in leisurely fashion along the northern shore of Lake Erie, and by the 28th had reached Point Pelee, about thirty miles from the Detroit river. Here a landing was made, and while tents were being pitched a band of painted savages suddenly darted out of the forest and attacked a man and a boy who were gathering wood. The man escaped, but the boy was tomahawked and scalped. Cuyler drew up his men in front of the boats, and a sharp musketry fire followed between the Indians, who were sheltered by a thick wood, and the white men on the exposed shore. The raiders were Wyandots from Detroit, the most courageous and intelligent savages in the region. Seeing that Cuyler’s men were panic-stricken, they broke from their cover, with unusual boldness for Indians, and made a mad charge. The soldiers, completely unnerved by the savage yells and hurtling tomahawks, threw down their arms and dashed in confusion to the boats. Five they succeeded in pushing off, and into these they tumbled without weapons of defence. Cuyler himself was left behind wounded; but he waded out, and was taken aboard under a brisk fire from the shore. The Indians then launched two of the abandoned boats, rushed in pursuit of the fleeing soldiers, speedily captured three of the boats, and brought them ashore in triumph. The two others, in one of which was Cuyler, hoisted sail and escaped. The Indians, as we have seen, brought the captured boats and their prisoners to Detroit. Cuyler had directed his course to Sandusky, but finding the blockhouse there burnt to the ground, he had rowed eastward to Presqu’isle, and then hastened to Niagara to report the disaster.