Conquest of the Old Northwest - James Baldwin

England in Full Possession

I. Bouquet

While the lake tribes were being subdued, Colonel Bouquet at Fort Pitt was preparing to invade the Ohio country and compel the Shawnees and other tribes of that region to sue for peace. Early in October, he set out from the forks of the Ohio with fifteen hundred soldiers. In front went a company of woodsmen, brawny wielders of the ax, who hewed their way through the forest and made a passable road for the host which followed. Behind was a long train of pack horses, and droves of cattle and sheep that were taken along for the subsistence of the troops. Their progress was slow, but on the tenth day they reached the Tuscarawas River at a point almost west of Fort Pitt and directly south of the place where the city of Cleveland now stands. They were now in the midst of the Indian country, and their coming struck terror into the hearts of the already conquered savages.

As Colonel Bouquet continued his march down to the Muskingum, the chiefs of the various bands met him and begged him to appoint a time and place for a council. This request was readily granted, and, on the day agreed upon, white men and red met under the spreading branches of oaks and maples, to discuss the questions of war and peace.

After all had smoked for a long time in silence, the spokesman of the Indians arose. His name was Turtle Heart, and he was a chief of the Delawares.

Soldiers and Indians


"Brother," said he, addressing Colonel Bouquet, "this war was neither your fault nor ours. It was the work of the nations that live to the westward, and of our wild young men who would have killed us if we had not consented. We now put away all evil from our hearts, and we hope that your mind and ours will once more be united together.

"Brother, it is the will of the Great Spirit that there should be peace between us. We, on our side, now take fast hold of the chain of friendship; but, as we cannot hold it alone, we desire that you will take hold also, and we must look up to the Great Spirit that he may make us strong, and not permit this chain to fall from our hands.

"Brother, these words come from our hearts, and not from our lips. You desire that we should deliver up your flesh and blood now captive among us; and to show you that we are sincere, we now return you as many of them as we have at present been able to bring. You shall receive the rest as soon as we have time to collect them."

Eighteen white prisoners were at once delivered up to their friends, and each chief gave to Bouquet a bundle of small sticks which indicated the number of captives still held by his people, and whom he agreed to set free as soon as possible. Three days later, another council was held, and Colonel Bouquet made a long speech to the assembled chiefs. It was a stern and unrelenting speech, and filled his red hearers with fear and humility.

"I give you twelve days," said Colonel Bouquet, "to deliver into my hands all the prisoners in your possession without exception; and you are to furnish these prisoners with clothing and provisions, and with horses to carry them to Fort Pitt. When you have fully complied with these conditions, you shall then know on what terms you may obtain the peace you sue for."

This speech had the desired effect of hastening matters; and when, a few weeks later, Bouquet's army marched back to Fort Pitt, more than two hundred men, women, and children, who had been delivered from captivity, returned with it and were restored to their relatives and friends. Many of these returned unwillingly; for the Indians had been kind to them, and they had grown to love the wild life of the woods.

II. The Last Hope Dispelled

Although defeated on every hand and deserted by his allies, Pontiac had not yet lost hope, nor was he among those who sued for peace. He had retired in disappointment and rage to the Wabash country, hoping to stir up the western tribes, and prevent them from making peace with the English. Here, indeed, he had more reason to hope for success.

For the French posts on the Wabash and the Mississippi had not yet been surrendered to the English. The French traders who still plied their vocation in these regions were fearful that the coming of the English would work their ruin; and they used every means to persuade the Indians to revolt.

"Your father, the king of France," said they, "intends surely to help you. Before many moons have passed you will see his white-coated warriors whom he has sent to fight for you. Do not trust the English; do not permit them to come near you. They want only to drive you from their homes, and to take your lands for their own."

Pontiac found numbers of Indians who were willing to promise him aid. He passed down the Wabash, stopping at the French posts of Ouiatenon and Vincennes, and visiting the villages of the Kickapoos, the Miamis, and the Piankeshaws. His fiery eloquence stirred the hearts of all that heard him; but no organized plan was made for resisting the English, who were sure to come. With four hundred warriors at his heels, he hastened across the prairies to Fort Chartres on the Mississippi, above whose bastions the white flag of France was still floating. The great chief had known the commandant, St. Ange, in happier days for them both, and he hoped now to gain his support.

"Father," said he, "I love the French, and I have come hither with my warriors to avenge their wrongs. I remember the battles which we fought together against the English dogs, and now I come to ask you to give me arms and ammunition and men, that I may carry on the war."

St. Ange was obliged to refuse this request; but he tried to soothe the wounded feelings of the chief by giving him presents and praising his courage. Pontiac, in bitterness of heart, turned away, angrily crying out against such hollow friendship.

III. The Last Post Given Up

Early in the summer of the following year, Sir William Johnson determined to send a trustworthy messenger to the Wabash country to prepare the French and Indians for the coming of the English forces. In looking about for a suitable person to undertake this perilous mission, whom could he better choose than our old acquaintance, George Croghan, who had been the companion of Gist in his famous visit to the Miamis fifteen years before? Croghan, with two boats and some white companions, started from Fort Pitt about the middle of May. Floating down the Ohio, he took careful note of its windings and of the nature of the country which it watered. The river flowed majestically onward through one vast stretch of wilderness land. Forests of oak and walnut and maple trees shut out the view on either side. Buffaloes and wild game of every kind were abundant, and the whole country seemed to be a hunter's paradise.

The Shawnees in the valley of the Scioto hastened to make their peace with Croghan. But as he passed farther down the Ohio he found the Indians less ready to submit to the English. In June, when near the mouth of the Wabash, he was taken prisoner by some strolling Kickapoos and Mascoutins, who probably thought that they were thus serving the cause of the French. Croghan, however, was so well acquainted with Indian character that he quickly won the esteem of his captors. They treated him with unwonted kindness, and carried him to Vincennes, where he found the French commandant very courteous, and quite ready to surrender the post whenever the English should demand it. There were at that time about eighty French families at Vincennes, living in contented ease upon the products of the forest and their little garden plots. On the outskirts of the village were clusters of Indian huts where certain of the Twightwees and other tribes dwelt under the protection of the French fort.

Croghan was allowed to remain only a day or two at Vincennes, and was then sent up the river to Ouiatenon. There he was set at liberty, and a council with the Indians was called. The French garrison had already abandoned the fort; but a dozen French families were living inside of the little stockade, and two or three traders were there for the purpose of buying furs. For several days Croghan was kept busy, smoking the peace pipe and making treaties with the various tribes that dwelt in that region. All seemed ready to receive their new rulers; They promised to give up any prisoners that were among them, and to hoist the English flag over their villages.

Having finished his business with these tribes, Croghan started across the country to Fort Chartres; but hardly had he lost sight of the Wabash when he was met by a band of warriors under the leadership of a stern, eagle-eyed chief whom he at once recognized as the great Pontiac. The meeting was a friendly one. Pontiac had lost all hope of receiving aid from the French, and he was now on his way to make peace with the English. "He was a shrewd, sensible Indian," said Croghan, afterward.

All now returned to Ouiatenon, and a solemn council was held with the Ottawa chief and his friends. Pontiac offered the belt of peace and declared his friendship for the English. He had been deceived by the French, he said; he would no longer stand in the way.

The speech in which Croghan replied to the great chief was so like an Indian's that every one of his dusky hearers was charmed with its eloquence, and all pledged their undying friendship to the English.

Croghan's mission to prepare the western tribes for the coming of the English was now ended, and he thought it unnecessary to go forward to Fort Chartres. He therefore hastened to Detroit, whither he was followed by Pontiac. Another council of peace was held with the lake tribes.

"Father," said Pontiac, "we have all smoked out of this pipe of peace. It is your children's pipe, and as the war is all over, and the Great Spirit and Giver of Light, who has made the earth and everything therein, has brought us all together this day for our mutual good, I declare to all nations that I have settled my peace with you . . .

Before the end of September, Croghan was at Oswego, New York, where he reported to Sir William Johnson all that he had seen and done. In the meanwhile Captain Thomas Stirling had been chosen as the best man to take possession of the Western country. With his famous Black Watch regiment, composed of a hundred and twenty Highlanders, he at once started down the Ohio. The voyage was a quick and prosperous one, and the regiment arrived at Fort Chartres without any mishap.

On the 10th of October the white flag of France, which had floated for half a century over that famous fortress, was hauled down, and the cross of St. George was hoisted in its stead.

Thus, at last, the Northwest was won by England. But England, as Mr. Bancroft says, had not achieved this conquest for herself. She became "not so much the possessor of the valley of the West as the trustee, commissioned to transfer it from the France of the Middle Ages to the free people who were making for humanity a new life in America."