Four American Indians - Frances Perry
Though the French were still fighting stubbornly at sea, the French war was over in America. Canada had been surrendered to the British, and England's banners waved over Quebec. Yet the tidings of defeat had not reached the French garrisons on the Great Lakes.
In the fall of 1760 Major Robert Rogers, with two hundred British rangers, set out in fifteen whale boats, to carry to the interior the news of the surrender and to take possession of the French forts on the lakes.
This was a somewhat dangerous task. For, although no resistance was to be feared from the French, the savages who were in league with them could not be counted on to understand or believe the changed state of affairs. Indeed, it was doubtful if they would even allow the British a hearing before attacking them.
Rogers and his men, however, coasted along the shores of Lake Erie without adventure until early in November. Then the weather became so stormy and the lake so rough that the commander decided to go ashore and camp in the forest until the tempest had passed.
The rangers were glad to feel the solid earth under their feet and to find shelter from the driving wind and rain. Nevertheless, they soon realized that the forest was not without its dangers.
They had not been long ashore when a large band of Indians entered the camp. These Indians said that Pontiac, chief of the Ottawas, had sent them before him to demand of the Englishmen how they dared to come into his country without his permission.
Before nightfall the famous warrior himself stood in the presence of the English commander and his officers and spoke in this fashion: "Englishmen, I am Pontiac, greatest councilor and warrior of the Ottawas. This land belongs to my people. You are the enemies of my people. You are the enemies of our brothers, the French. Why do you bring armed warriors into my country without asking my consent? You can not go farther until Pontiac leaves your path."
PONTIAC AND ROGERS
To this haughty speech Rogers answered: "Brother, we come to tell you that the war is over. Our mighty English warriors have made your French brothers shake with fear. We have slain their war chiefs; we have taken their strong villages. They have begged us for mercy. They have promised to be the dutiful and obedient children of the English king if we will lay down the hatchet and fight against them no more. They have given us their guns, their forts, and all the land of Canada. I have come into your country to take Detroit. I shall not fight with your brothers, the French; I shall not shoot them. I shall show their commander a paper and he will pull down his flag and he and his men will come out of the fort and give me their guns. Then I shall go in with my men and put up my flag.
"The English king is terrible in war. He could punish the Indians and make them cry for mercy, as he has the French. But he is kind and offers to his red children the chain of friendship. If you accept it he is ready to shut his eyes to the mischief the French have put you up to in the past, and to protect you with his strong arm."
Pontiac listened gravely to every word the white man spoke. But his dark face gave no token of what was passing in his mind. Now, Indians despise rashness, and it is their custom to deliberate over night before answering any important question. So, with the dignity of one who knows no fear and craves no favor, the greatest councilor of the Ottawas replied simply: "Englishmen, I shall stand in your path till morning. In the meantime if your warriors are cold or hungry the hands of my people are open to you." Then he and his chiefs withdrew, and slipped silently back through the dripping forest to their camp.
The English rangers slept with their guns at hand that night. They knew the pride and might and treachery of Pontiac, and they feared him. They felt as if they were in a trap, with the raging sea before them and the forest alive with pitiless savages behind.
But they need have had no fear, for the great chief thought not of massacre that night. He thought of the English who stood ready to avenge any harm done to their brothers; of his own race dependent on the white men for rum, for wampum, for guns and powder and bullets. Clearly the Indians must have friends among the palefaces. The French were their "brothers." They had given them presents, had married their maidens, had traded, hunted, and gone to battle with them. The English were their foes. But they were many and strong. They had beaten the French and taken their guns. The red men must let their hatred sleep for awhile. They would smoke the pipe of peace with the English, and the English would give them presents: tobacco and rum, guns and powder.
Having reached this conclusion, Pontiac and his chiefs returned to Rogers's camp on the following morning. There they smoked the calumet with the English and exchanged presents and promises of kindness and friendship. The men who had met as enemies parted as friends.
Years later, when British armies were marching against Indians whose tomahawks were red with English blood, Pontiac's faith in the friendship of Rogers remained unshaken. The latter sent to the chief a bottle of rum. When advised not to drink it lest it should contain poison, Pontiac replied: "I did not save from death on the shores of Lake Erie a man who would to-day poison me," and he drained the bottle without hesitation.
Though a single Indian and a single Englishman could thus overcome their distrust for each other, the feelings of the two races could not be so easily altered. The Indians looked upon the English as cruel robbers, whose object was to drive them from their homes and possess their lands. They thought of them as enemies too powerful to be withstood by open force and therefore to be met only with cunning and deception. Many of the English looked upon the savages as ignorant, filthy, and treacherous beings, little better than wild beasts, and thought that the world would be better off without them. Yet for the present both were glad to be at peace.
The Indians found that Major Rogers had spoken truly about Detroit. When they saw the large French garrison yield without resistance they were filled with wonder, and said to one another: "These English are a terrible people. It is well we have made friends with them."
By "making friends" with the English, the Indians had no notion of accepting them as masters. The French had seemed pleasant neighbors and valuable friends. When they occupied the fort the Indians had always found a warm welcome there. Their chiefs had been treated with great pomp and ceremony. They had received rich presents and great promises. They expected the English to show them the same consideration. But they were disappointed. The new masters of the fort had little patience with the Indian idlers, who loafed about at the most inconvenient times in the most inconvenient places, always begging, and often sullen and insolent. They frequently ordered them in no mild terms to be off. The chiefs received cold looks and short answers where they had looked for flattery and presents.
The Indians resented the conduct of the English bitterly, and when Pontiac learned that they claimed the lands of his tribe, he said within himself: "The hatred of the Ottawas has slept long enough. It is time for it to wake and destroy these British who treat the red man as if he had no right to the land where he was born."
We love our country principally because of the political freedom its government allows us. As we study its history, the lives of its heroes, and the struggles they have made for the liberties we enjoy, our patriotism grows stronger.
Pontiac loved his country, too, but in a much simpler and more personal way, as you will understand when you have learned about the proud chieftain's boyhood and youth.
SQUAW WITH PAPPOOSE
The birds scarcely know the forest so well as he did. When he was a tiny baby,—a fat, brown, little pappoose,—his mother used to bundle him up in skins, strap him to a board, and carry him on her back when she went to gather the bark of the young basswood tree for twine. As the strong young squaw sped along the narrow path, soft and springing to her moccasined feet with its depth of dried pine needles, the baby on her back was well content. Even if he felt cross and fretful the regular motion pleased him; the cool dim green of the forest rested him; the sweet smell of the pines soothed him; and the gentle murmur of the wind in the tree tops soon lulled him to sleep.
When the mother clambered over a large tree trunk that had fallen across the path and the little pappoose was jolted wide awake, he did not cry. His beady black eyes followed every stray sunbeam and every bounding rabbit, or chance bird with wonder and delight. When his mother went to work she placed his rude cradle beside a tree where he could look on, out of harm's way. He was very little trouble, and she always took him with her when she went to get cedar bark, to gather rushes for mats and herbs for dyes, to pick up fagots for the fire, or to get sap from the sugar tree. So it happened that when he grew up Pontiac could not remember a time when the dark forest did not seem like home to him.
INDIAN SQUAW AT WORK
As soon as he was old enough to understand words, he heard his mother laughing with her neighbors about the men in the village who stayed about their wigwams like women. Now, he thought that a wigwam or bark lodge was a very pleasant place. The small, dark, oven-shaped room, smoky and foul with the smell of fish and dirt, was home to him—the mud floor, worn smooth and hard with use, was strewn with mats and skins which served for chairs and beds. There was a fireplace in the center, and over it a rack on which smoked fish hung, well out of the reach of the wolf-like dogs that lay about gnawing at old bones. It was usually dry in wet weather, warm in cold weather, and cool when the sun was hot. It was where he went for food when he was hungry; it was where he slept on soft buffalo robes and bear skins when he was tired; it was where he heard good stories, and, best of all, it was where his mother spent most of her time.
But before Pontiac was many years old he knew that the wigwam was the place for women and children, and that it was a shame for a man not to follow the deer through the forest, and go upon the warpath. He saw that if a man stayed at home and loved ease and comfort his squaw would scold him with a shrill tongue. But if he went off to hunt, it was different. Then, when he came home for a short time, he might lounge on a bear skin while his squaw worked hard to make him happy, cooking his meals, fetching clear water from the spring, and dressing the skins he had brought from the hunt.
Pontiac liked to watch his mother while she stood weaving the wet rushes into mats to cover the lodge in summer, or while she sat on the floor with her feet crossed under her, making baskets out of sweet grass or embroidering with brightly dyed porcupine quills. But if he showed his pleasure or offered to help her, she looked stern and shook her head, saying, "Go out into the field and run; then you will be swift when you are a man;" or "go into the forest and shoot rabbits with your little bow and arrow, so that you may one day be a great hunter like your father."
All this made little Pontiac feel that the great fields and forests were his—his to find his pleasure in while he was a boy; his to find his work in when he should become a man.
He learned, too, that his very life depended on the forests he loved. He could never forget the cruel winter days when he had asked his mother again and again for fish and meat, and she had told him to be still and wait till his father brought meat from the forest. And he had waited there long with his hollow-eyed mother, crouching before the feeble fire, starving with hunger. He had strained his ears toward the great white forest only to hear the wail of the winds and the howl of the wolves. But at last the yelp of the dogs was sure to be heard, and then the half-frozen hunters would appear, dragging the deer over the crusted snow.
Pontiac's father was a war chief. But it did not follow that therefore Pontiac would be a war chief. He would have to prove himself strong and brave, a good hunter and a good warrior, or his tribe would choose some more able leader.
Pontiac, like most small boys, took his father for his pattern. His ambition was to be like him. But he was told early, "Be a good Indian. Be a good Ottawan. Be true to your tribe. Be a strong man and help your people. But don't think about being chief. The greatest brave must be chief of the Ottawas."
Yet, Indians love glory and perhaps in the bottom of their hearts Pontiac's father and mother hoped that he would one day be a chieftain. At any rate they did all they could to train him to be a worthy Indian.
They were sometimes very severe with him. If he was rude to strangers or to old people; if he lost his temper and threw ashes at his comrades; if he told a falsehood, he was beaten. He had broken the laws of the Great Spirit, and the Great Spirit had commanded that parents should beat their children with rods when they did wrong. The boy understood this and he tried to take his punishment bravely that he might regain the good will of the Great Spirit. He stood quite still and endured heavy blows without whimpering or flinching.
He learned, too, to endure hunger and great fatigue without complaint. He raced, and swam, and played ball, and wrestled with other boys till his body was strong and straight and supple. He played at hunting and war in the forest, until his eyes became so sharp that no sign of man or beast escaped them.
But he did not depend altogether on his eyes for information. He could find his way through a forest in the dark, where the dense foliage hid the stars. Perhaps the wind told him the direction by the odors it brought. He could tell what kind of trees grew about him by the feel of their bark, by their odor, by the sound of the wind in the branches. He did not have to think much about his course when on a journey. His feet seemed to know the way home, or to the spring, or to the enemy's camp. And if he had traveled through a wilderness once he knew the way the next time as well as any boy knows his way to school.
While Pontiac was training his body, his parents took care that he should not grow up in ignorance of the religion and the history of his people. He heard much about the Great Spirit who could see all he did and was angry when he said or did anything dishonest or cowardly.
The laws of the Great Spirit were fixed in the boy's mind, for his mother was always repeating them to him. She would say as he left the wigwam: "Honor the gray-headed person," or "Thou shalt not mimic the thunder;" "Thou shalt always feed the hungry and the stranger," or "Thou shalt immerse thyself in the river at least ten times in succession in the early part of the spring, so that thy body may be strong and thy feet swift to chase the game and to follow the warpath."
In the evenings the older members of the family and some visiting Indians sat around the fire and told stones about the Great Spirit and many other strange beings, some good and some evil. They told, too, wonderful tales about omens and charms. The same story was told over and over again, so that in time little Pontiac knew by heart the legends of the Ottawas. He remembered and firmly believed all his life stories that as a child he listened to with awe, in his father's wigwam.
In the same way he heard about the great deeds of the warriors of his tribe; and he came to think there were no people in the world quite equal to the Ottawas. He heard of other tribes that were their foes and he was eager to go to war against them.
As he grew older he heard a good deal about men, not only of another tribe but of another race, the palefaces, who were trying to get the lands of the Indians. Then he thought less about being an Ottawa and conquering other Indians; while every day he felt more and more that he was an Indian and must conquer the white man. He wished he could unite the tribes in friendship and lead them against these strangers who were so many and so strong, and who had come to drive the Indians from their homes and hunting grounds.
Such thoughts made Pontiac very serious. Obeying the commands of the Great Spirit, the young Indian often blackened his face with a mixture of charcoal and fish-oil, and went into the depths of the forest, where he remained for days without food, praying and thinking earnestly about the future.
He formed his own plans, but he hid them in his heart. He practised keeping his feelings and thoughts to himself, and spoke only when he was very sure he was right. This habit soon gained him a reputation for gravity and wisdom.
When he was old enough to go to battle with the tried warriors, Pontiac took many scalps and distinguished himself for courage. He was, therefore, amid great feasting and rejoicing, made a war chief of the Ottawas.
His influence increased rapidly. The young men of his tribe felt sure of success when they followed Pontiac to battle. His very name made his foes tremble.
In the council, too, his power grew. His words seemed wise to the gray heads, and the young warriors were ready to take up the hatchet or lay it down at his bidding. Because of his eloquence and wisdom, Pontiac was made sachem, so that he not only led his people to battle, but also ruled them in time of peace. He was called the greatest councilor and warrior of the Ottawas; yet he was not content.
In Michigan, where the Ottawa Indians lived, there were other tribes of the Algonquin Indians. Chief among these were the Ojibwas and the Pottawottomies. These tribes, though related by marriage and on friendly terms, had separate chiefs. But gradually they came to recognize the great Pontiac as their principal ruler.
Among the Indians of his own tribe Pontiac's word was law. Among kindred tribes his friendship was sought and his displeasure feared. Through all the Algonquin territory, from the Lakes to the Gulf, from the mountains to the river, the great chief's name was known and respected.
Pontiac was no doubt proud and ambitious. But if he was glad to gain glory for himself he considered the good of his people also. To unite them and overpower the palefaces was the end toward which he planned.
By this time he had learned that all palefaces were not alike. There were two great nations of them, the French and the English, and the Indians had found a great difference between them. The English had treated them with contempt and helped themselves to their lands. The French had come among them as missionaries and traders, with kind words and gifts. To be sure, they had built forts in the land, but they told the Indians they did this for their sake that they might protect them from the English, who wished to take their lands. The French seemed to hate the English no less than the Indians did.
It is said that Pontiac planned to use the French to help him conquer the English, and then intended to turn upon them and drive them away. No doubt if the French had openly claimed the territory of the Indians, or in any way had shown that their professions of friendship were false, Pontiac would have been their enemy. But he evidently took them at their word and looked upon them as friends who wished to help his people.
In all his dealings with the French, Pontiac was true and honorable. He joined them in their wars against the English. He and his Ottawas helped to defeat the British regulars under General Braddock at Fort Duquesne. He saved the French garrison at Detroit from an attack by hostile Indians. He trusted them when all appearances were against them. His acceptance of the peace offered by Major Rogers on the shore of Lake Erie was not a betrayal of the French. Pontiac did not forsake their cause until they had given it up themselves. He took a step which seemed for the best interests of his own people, and, at the same time, not hurtful to the French. We have seen that he was disappointed in the reward he expected.
The English, having subdued the French, felt able to manage the Indians without difficulty. They were, therefore, more careless than ever about pleasing them. They refused to give the supplies which the French had been accustomed to distribute among the Indians. The Indians were obliged to provide for themselves, as in the days of Pontiac's childhood. They had no powder or bullets and the young men had lost their skill with the bow. There was suffering and death for want of food.
Even Pontiac had been willing to profit by the generosity of the French. He had not only cheered himself with their firewater, but, like other Indians, he had been glad to give up his bow and arrow for a gun; he had been ready to accept corn and smoked meats in winter when game was scarce, and to protect himself from the cold with the Frenchmen's blankets.
He realized now that in adopting the white men's customs, in using their food and blankets and arms, his people had become dependent upon them. He remembered the stories he had heard in his childhood about the might of the Ottawas in the days when they depended on the chase for their food, and fought their battles with bows and arrows and stone hatchets. He wished his people would return to the old customs. In that way only could they regain their native hardihood and independence.
While Pontiac's hatred of the English grew more bitter daily, other Indians were not indifferent. Through all the Algonquin tribes spread this hatred for the English. The insolence of the garrisons at the forts provoked it; the cheating, the bad faith, and the brutality of the English trappers and traders increased it; the refusal of supplies, the secret influence of the French, the encroachments of English settlers, fanned it into fury. And when at last, in 1762, word came that the English claimed the land of the Algonquins their rage could no longer be restrained.
The time was ripe for rebellion and Pontiac was ready. All over the land should council fires be lighted. All over the land should the hatchet be raised. By wile and treachery the forts should fall. By fire and bloodshed the settlements should be laid waste and the Englishmen driven into the sea. Thus spoke Pontiac, and thus spoke his messengers, who with war belts of black and red wampum and hatchets smeared with blood sought out the villages of the Algonquins. Far and wide this dark company went its way through forests, across prairies, in spite of storm or flooded stream, or mountain barrier. No camp was so secret, no village so remote, that the messengers of war did not find it out. Wherever they went the bloody plan found favor; the tokens of war were accepted and pledges of warlike purpose sent to Pontiac.
Not far from the summering place where clustered the lodges of Pontiac and his kinsmen rose the walls of Fort Detroit. There Pontiac had suffered humiliation at the hands of the English, and upon it he planned to visit his vengeance.
The little French military station planted on the west bank of the Detroit River had reached half a century's growth. It had become a place of some importance. Both banks of the river were studded with farmhouses for miles above and below the "fort," as the walled village where the soldiers lived was called.
The fort consisted of about one hundred small houses surrounded by a palisade, or wall of heavy stakes, twenty-five feet high. Since gates are easily broken down, over every gate a block house had been built, from which soldiers could fire upon the approaching enemy. At the four corners of the palisade were bastions, or fortified projections, from which the inmates could see the whole length of the wall and shoot any one attempting to climb it, set fire to it, or do it any harm.
The small log houses within were crowded together with only narrow passage-ways between. They were roofed with bark or thatched with straw. To lessen the danger of fire a wide road was left between the wall and the houses. Besides dwelling houses, there were in the fort the barracks where the soldiers stayed, the church, shops, and the council house, where meetings with the Indians were held.
At this time the garrison consisted of about one hundred and twenty men. But counting the other inmates of the fort and the Canadians who lived along the river, there were about two thousand five hundred white people in the Detroit settlement. On the outskirts of the settlement hung the Indian villages, much as the Indian villages crowd around the white settlements of Alaska to-day.
In the midst of the wilderness this little band of English lived protected by their log walls. No friends were near. Their nearest neighbors were the conquered French, who regarded them with jealousy and dislike. Not far away were their Indian enemies. Yet they thought little of danger.
Occasionally some story of Indian treachery, some rumor of Indian hostility, or some omen of evil filled the garrison with vague alarm. In October, 1762, dense clouds gathered over the fort, and soon rain black as ink fell from them. This strange occurrence stirred up the fears of the settlers. Some said that it was a sign that the end of the world was at hand; others, that it was a sign of war. But by the spring of the next year the settlers of Detroit had ceased to think of the black rain and war.
If a few had suffered unrest because of the Indians, their fears were put to flight by a visit which Pontiac made to Detroit late in April. With forty of his chiefs he came to the fort asking to be allowed to perform the peace dance before the commander. The request was granted, and a good-natured crowd gathered near Major Gladwin's house to see the Indian dance.
No one thought anything of the fact that ten of the party took no part in the dance, but strolled around the fort prying into everything. Those who noticed them at all, thought their conduct showed nothing more than childish curiosity.
No one dreamed that these men were spies, and that the sole purpose of the visit was to discover the strength of the garrison. The Indians left with promises to come again to smoke the calumet with the English when all their chiefs should assemble after the winter's hunt.
After visiting Detroit, Pontiac sent swift-footed runners to all the tribes in the neighboring country, calling the chiefs to a council to be held in the village of the Pottawottomies.
When the day for the great council arrived, all the women were sent away from the village so that they could not overhear the plans of the chiefs. At the door of the great bark lodge where the chiefs met, sentinels were posted to prevent interruption.
When all had taken their places in the council room Pontiac rose and laid before his trusted chiefs his crafty plans. On the seventh of May the young warriors should gather on the green near Detroit to play ball, while the older men lay on the ground looking on, or loitered in and about the fort. The squaws should go about the streets with guns and tomahawks hidden under their blankets, offering mats and baskets for sale, or begging. Later Pontiac, with the principal chiefs would arrive, and ask to hold a council with the commander and his officers. While speaking in the council he would suddenly turn the wampum belt that he held in his hand. At that signal the chiefs should throw off the blankets that hid their weapons and war paint, and butcher the English before they could offer resistance. When the Indians outside heard the clamor within the council house they should snatch the guns and knives that the squaws carried, fall upon the surprised and half-armed soldiers, kill them and plunder and burn the fort, sparing only the French.
From the Indians' point of view this seemed a brave plot. No one objected to the treachery. All the guttural sounds that broke from the throng of listeners were made for approval and applause.
The Indians kept their secret well. A Canadian saw some Indians filing off their guns to make them short enough to hide under their blankets. But if his suspicions were aroused he held his peace and said no word of warning to the English. The appointed seventh of May was at hand and no alarm had been taken at the garrison.
But on the evening of the sixth, Major Gladwin talked long in secret with his officers, then ordered half the garrison under arms. He doubled the guard and himself went from place to place to see that every man was at his post. The soldiers did not know the reason for this unusual watchfulness, but they understood that it meant danger.
It is said that in the afternoon an Indian girl who was deeply attached to the English Major had brought him a pair of moccasins she had been embroidering for him. She lingered at the fort and seemed unwilling to leave. At last she begged Gladwin to go away from the fort for a day or two. Her conduct and request excited suspicion. The Major questioned her closely and discovered Pontiac's plot.
BETRAYAL OF PONTIAC'S PLOT
Be that as it may, on the night of the sixth Major Gladwin was on the alert.
Nothing disturbed the peace of the mild May night. In the morning one watchman on the walls said to another, "See, yonder they come."
The man addressed looked up the stream and saw many birch canoes rapidly approaching the fort. "A perfect fleet!" he exclaimed.
"Yes; plenty of boats, but not many Indians; only two or three in each canoe," replied the first.
"That's true. But see how deep the canoes are in the water, and what heavy paddling those fellows are doing! A dozen beaver skins to one, every canoe's got a load of those red rascals stretched on their backs well out of sight."
"You may be right," said the other, shaking his head. "It looks as if there might be some ugly work before us. They say the Major has ordered the whole garrison under arms. Even the shops are closed and the traders armed to the teeth."
Most of the Indians who came in the boats went to a green near the fort and began a game of ball. Soon Pontiac himself was seen approaching along the river road at the head of sixty of his chiefs. They wore blankets and marched in single file without a word. When they reached the gate Pontiac, with his accustomed dignity, asked that he and his chiefs might meet their English brothers in council to discuss important questions.
In answer to his request the gates swung open. Lines of armed soldiers appeared on either side. The Indians, trained to read signs, knew at once that their plot was discovered. Perhaps they felt that the treachery they had planned would be visited on their own heads. But if they feared, they gave no token; they said no word. They walked undaunted through the narrow streets, meeting armed soldiers at every turn.
At the council house they found Major Gladwin, his assistant, Captain Campbell, and other officers already assembled and waiting for them. If any Indian had doubted the discovery of their plot, he was certain of it when he saw that the officers wore swords at their sides and pistols in their belts. It was with some reluctance that they seated themselves on the mats arranged for them.
This was a trying moment for Pontiac. He stood there discovered, defeated. But he did not quail before the steady gaze of the English. His brow was only more haughty, his face more stern.
"And why," he asked, in a severe, harsh voice, "do our brothers meet us to-day with guns in their hands?"
"You come among us when we are taking our regular military exercise," answered the commander calmly.
With fears somewhat soothed, Pontiac began to speak: "For many moons the love of our brothers, the English, has seemed to sleep. It is now spring; the sun shines bright and hot; the bears, the oaks, the rivers awake from their sleep. Brothers, it is time for the friendship between us to awake. Our chiefs have come to do their part, to renew their pledges of peace and friendship."
Here he made a movement with the belt he held in his hand, as if about to turn it over. Every Indian was ready to spring. Gladwin gave a signal. A clash of arms sounded through the open door. A drum began beating a charge. Within the council room there was a startled, breathless silence. Pontiac's hand was stayed. The belt fell back to its first position. The din of arms ceased. Pontiac repeated his promises of friendship and loyalty, and then sat down.
Major Gladwin answered briefly: "Brothers, the English are not fickle. They do not withdraw their friendship without cause. As long as the red men are faithful to their promises they will find the English their steadfast friends. But if the Indians are false or do any injury to the English, the English will punish them without mercy."
The one object of the Indians was now to turn aside the suspicion of the English. After Gladwin's speech presents were exchanged, and the meeting broke up with a general hand-shaking. Before leaving, Pontiac promised that he would return in a few days with his squaws and children that they might shake hands with their English brothers.
"Scoundrels!" laughed one officer, when the last Indian had left. "They were afraid to sit down. They thought they had been caught in their own trap. It's a pity to let them off so easily."
"No," replied another, more seriously. "The Major is right. If there is an outbreak, the Indians must take the first step. They depend more on treachery than force for success; now that their plan is foiled, the whole trouble will probably blow over."
The next day this opinion seemed verified by the appearance, of Pontiac with three of his chiefs. He brought a peace-pipe and approached the commander with smooth speeches: "Evil birds have whistled in your ears, but do not listen to them. We are your friends. We have come to prove it. We will smoke the calumet with you."
Pontiac then offered his great peace-pipe. After it had been smoked in all solemnity, he presented it to Captain Campbell as a high mark of friendship.
Bright and early the next morning hordes of naked savages gathered on the pasture land near the fort. A long quadrangle was marked out on the grass with lines across it. At each end of this "gridiron" two tall posts were erected five or six feet apart. This, as you may have guessed, was to prepare for an Indian game of ball.
When all was ready the young men of the Ottawa tribes took their places on one side of the field. Opposite to them were the Pottawottomies. Each Indian had a long racket or bat with which he tried to drive the ball to the goal against the opposition of the players of the other nation. Such a yelling as they kept up, running and pushing and plunging and prancing the while! Small wonder that squaws, warriors, and chiefs should have come to watch so exciting a game!
INDIANS PLAYING BALL
Still the men in the fort kept the gates closed and stayed behind their walls, as if they took no interest in the game. They were really watching with some uneasiness the vast crowd of Indians so close at hand.
When the game was finished Pontiac went to the gate of the fort. His chiefs attended him and a motley crowd of warriors, squaws, and children came trooping after. The great chief shouted in a loud voice, demanding admission. He received answer that he might come in if he wished, but the rest would have to keep out. With injured dignity he asked if his followers were not to be allowed to enjoy the smoke of the calumet.
The English commander, tired of false speech, gave a short answer, refusing flatly to let the Indians in. Thereupon Pontiac's brow darkened and he strode off to the river in high dudgeon.
The others withdrew a little and stood in groups, muttering and gesticulating. Then with wild whoops they bounded off to join their comrades who lay stretched on the earth around the ball grounds. After a brief parley, some started with blood-curdling yells toward a house across the fields where an English woman lived with her children; others leaped into their canoes and paddled off to an island where an English farmer lived alone.
Before sunset the men at the fort heard the exultant scalp yell of the Indians, and knew that the first blood of the war had been shed.
In the meantime Pontiac hastened with gloomy rage to his own village across the river. It was deserted by all but a few squaws and old men. These Pontiac ordered to pack the camp luggage and make all ready for removal, as soon as the men came with their canoes to carry the camp equipment to the Detroit side of the river.
All labored to do their chief's will, while he went apart and blackened his face.
At nightfall the braves came in with the scalps they had taken. A pole was driven into the ground in the open space where the tents had been. The warriors gathered about it, their bodies decked with paint and eagle feathers.
Pontiac sprang into their midst, brandishing his hatchet and striking violently at the pole. As he danced about, he recited the great deeds he and his fathers had done in war. His appalling cries, his terrible words, stirred the hearts of his Indians and fired their blood. All were in a frenzy of excitement. With wild cries they joined their chief in his war dance.
Even the faint echo of the din these blood-thirsty demons made struck terror into the hearts of the watchers in Detroit. The soldiers kept close guard all night, expecting an attack at any moment.
But not till early dawn did the war cry sound. Shrill and near it rose from hundreds of throats. Strong men turned pale at the clamor of yells and cracking rifles. It seemed that the Indians must be at the very walls of the fort.
The guards on the ramparts, however, could see no enemy in the faint gray light. From behind every tree, every stone, every rise of ground, came the incessant flash of muskets. Bullets and blazing arrows rattled against the palisades. The Indians aimed at the loopholes and succeeded in wounding five of the English. The soldiers returned a cautious fire, unwilling to waste powder on an invisible foe.
After an attack of six hours' duration the Indians, weary with their night's activity, gradually withdrew to their camps, having suffered no loss, but at the same time having inflicted little.
Gladwin, whose spirit was manly and humane, wished if possible to avoid further bloodshed. The Canadians took no part in the war, and could, therefore, be safely used as messengers. As soon as the battle had subsided Major Gladwin sent a deputation of them to tell Pontiac that he was willing to listen to any real grievance of the Indians, and do his best to redress whatever wrongs they had suffered.
Pontiac knew that his chief charge of injustice against the English, their presence in and claim to his lands, would not be considered by the English a real grievance. He thought the hour for talking had passed; the time for action had come. Treachery was his readiest weapon and he used it. He replied that he could consent to no terms unless they were made with the English in person, and asked that Captain Campbell, second in command at the fort, come to a council in his camp.
Captain Campbell had no fear, and urged Major Gladwin to permit him to go. He and another Englishman, accordingly, hastened to the Indian village. The women and the warriors were so enraged at the sight of their red coats, that they would have stoned them had not Pontiac interfered and led them to his lodge.
After a long but fruitless talk around the council fire, the English rose to go. But Pontiac said: "Brothers, you will sleep to-night on the couches the red men have spread for you." He then gave orders that his prisoners should be taken to the house of a Canadian, where they should be treated with respect, but closely guarded.
When the officers at Detroit learned that their deputies were detained by the Indians, they realized that there was no hope of peace. Before the fort two armed schooners rode at anchor. Most of the officers wished to abandon the fort and seek safety by sailing away on these boats.
"There is no use trying to hold the old fort against eight times our number," they said impatiently.
But Major Gladwin had no thought of surrender. "We could not," he answered, "if the Indians should attempt to force the walls. But there is no danger of their venturing within gunshot in any numbers. They won't risk their red skins that way. They'll simply waste their powder and lead in such firing as they did this morning, and pretty soon they'll lose heart and drop off, leaving Pontiac to beg for peace."
"I don't suppose they will unite in a charge," assented one of the officers. "But they will keep a sharp lookout day and night to do us injury. We have four walls to guard and only one hundred and twenty men to do it. The garrison will be exhausted in no time."
"Yes, we have hard work before us," agreed the commander, "but we can do it. Our case is not so bad as you represent. The ship's guns protect two walls, so that virtually only two sides of the fort are exposed to the enemy. To me the most alarming feature of the siege is short rations."
"The supplies are low and we cannot hope for more within three weeks. We'll starve to death, penned up here with no hunting and no provisions from the Canadian farmers," complained some, ready in their alarm to magnify every danger.
"By taking care to prevent waste we can make the supplies last," the commander interrupted. "I shall buy up at once everything in the fort that can serve as food, put it into a common storehouse, and give to each person a daily allowance. If even with this care the food runs short, Canadians may be found who love gold better than Indians." In this way the courageous leader argued, until, at last, he overcame the fears of his aids and roused in them a spirit of resistance.
Pontiac had no lack of warriors, nevertheless he, as well as the British leader, had his fears and difficulties.
His own followers were not easily managed. He had brought them together from near and far with promise of easy victory over the English. After a short struggle many of the tribes lost heart and were ready to go back to their villages.
The Canadians were neutral and were supposed to sympathize with the Indians; but Pontiac knew that many of them favored the English, and were ready at the slightest offense to take the side of his enemies.
His campaign against the English had begun with failure. Treachery had failed. He had put the English on their guard and must now use open force.
To hold a horde of savages together, to keep the fickle Canadians friendly, to take without cannon all the fortifications on the frontier, were the tasks the Indian general had set himself.
Pontiac's personal influence over the Indians was unparalleled. He had lost none of his power over them by the defeat of his plan to take Detroit. No Indian dared reproach him with failure. All quailed before his terrible rage and disappointment. They brought him the scalps of the English they had slain. They sought to please him with loud outcries against the English, and promises of the bloody work they would do. He held all in awe of him. He commanded as if sure of being obeyed, and punished the slightest disobedience with extreme severity.
But he did not govern by fear alone. He took care that his warriors should not want for food; he took care to give them grounds for hope and to keep them busy.
No preparations had been made for a long siege. When provisions failed and the tribes were on the point of leaving, Pontiac had a conference with some Canadians and arranged that they should furnish his people with corn and meat. He had no money to pay for provisions, but he made out notes promising to pay for them at some future time. These notes were written on birch bark, and signed with the figure of an otter, the totem of the great chief. Many of the farmers feared they would never see the money promised them in these notes, but Pontiac paid them all faithfully.
Pontiac knew how wasteful his people were, feasting in the day of plenty without thought of the morrow. He therefore employed a Canadian as his provision officer. This man had charge of the storehouse, and doled out each morning the provisions for the day.
This novel arrangement increased the Indians' confidence in their leader. Yet some grew restless and were on the point of giving up the struggle as a failure.
On learning this, Pontiac sent out messengers to the Wyandot Indians, ordering them to join him in his war against the British or prepare to be wiped off the face of the earth. By this stroke Pontiac turned threatened loss into gain. The support of the warlike Wyandots renewed the courage of the faint-hearted, and for a time all thought of failure ceased.
The chiefs conduct toward the Canadians was highly praiseworthy. They had encouraged him to make war against the British by promising that the French king would send him help. Week after week passed and no help came. Pontiac's expectation of the arrival of a French army grew fainter and fainter. Still he did not lose faith in the truth of the Canadians. He protected them and their property from injury and theft; for there were many lawless young warriors who were ready to do violence to the French as well as to the English.
While pretending to sympathize with the Indians, many of the French farmers were secretly helping the English by selling them food and reporting the movements of the Indians. Pontiac heard many reports of their faithlessness.
One stormy evening the chief entered the cabin of a Frenchman whom he had known for many years. With only a nod for his host he sat down before the dying fire. He sat there wrapt in his blanket for a long time without a word. At last he faced the Frenchman and said: "Old friend, I hear that the English have offered to give you a bushel of silver if you will take them my scalp."
"It is false," cried the Frenchman in alarm. "I would not injure my friend for many bushels of silver."
"Pontiac has no fear. Pontiac trusts his brother," the Indian replied, and stretching himself upon a bench he was soon sound asleep. The Frenchman could not be false to such faith and the chief slept unharmed.
While successfully keeping together his warriors and strengthening the bond of friendship between the French and the Indians, Pontiac was carrying on the war against the English with vigor. His camp near Detroit was the center of action. From it Pontiac directed the war and kept constant watch over the garrison. He prevented the besieged from leaving their walls; he sent out parties to waylay the supplies the British were expecting from the East; he planned and managed expeditions against other forts held by the British.
The English at Detroit soon became accustomed to the discomforts and alarms of the siege. The women no longer trembled when the Indian war whoop sounded. The men no longer ran to the walls at the popping of muskets. The smell of gunpowder, the whiz of bullets, had lost their power to quicken the pulse.
The days dragged slowly on. A few wan-faced men worked, many lounged in the narrow streets, playing games of chance, betting on the outcome of the war, quarreling, complaining, boasting. Now they talked vauntingly, telling tales of the Englishman's prowess and the Indian's cowardice. Again, they told dismal stories of Indian cruelty and massacre, and shook their heads over their own prospects.
But every idler had his firelock close at hand, and all the time the sentinels on the bastions kept a sharp lookout. Every little while rapid firing broke the monotony of the long watch; the rolling drum called the garrison to the ramparts; wounded men groaned under the rough kindness of the fort surgeon; the dead received the soldiers' burial. But over all the old flag with its red cross, stained with rain and smoke, flapped defiantly.
Major Gladwin went about with a cheerful face, but a heavy heart. Provisions were fast melting away. It seemed scarcely possible that the garrison would be able to hold out till the expected supplies arrived. He decided to send one of the schooners to meet the provision boats, to warn them of the hostility of the Indians and urge them to all speed.
They could ill spare any of the garrison, but food must be had. So, on a bright spring morning one of the vessels weighed anchor and started for the East. Before she left the Detroit River the wind died and her sails hung limp.
As the boat lay helplessly drifting with the current a hundred canoes darted out from the shore. In the foremost one the Indians had bound their prisoner, Captain Campbell. The British saw, and were afraid to fire lest they should shoot their countryman. Noticing their hesitation, the brave old man called out: "Don't think of me. Do your duty and fire." The man at the cannon still paused. A breeze stirred, swelled the canvas, and the schooner flew like a great gull over the blue waters far out of reach of the canoes.
After the boat left, a gloom settled upon the little garrison at Detroit. With two boats in the harbor flight had seemed possible. Now that one of them had gone, all felt that the siege meant victory or death. The daily allowance of food grew smaller. The men became exhausted with ceaseless watching. All hope was fixed on the expected reinforcements.
On the thirteenth of May the sentinel announced that the long looked for convoy was in sight. The good news spread rapidly. Soon the entire population of the village was hurrying to the gate that led to the river.
The hungry, haggard-looking men that crowded the wharf sent up cheer after cheer as the boats approached with flags flying. Days of rest and plenty seemed theirs again. Here were comrades to share their vigils. Here was food to satisfy their hunger.
As the boats drew nearer, the cheers died in throats hoarse with horror. No answering shout came from the boats. The English at the oars were not their own masters. The long expected supplies had fallen into the hands of the Indians. The men to whom the garrison had looked for help were the prisoners of the enemy.
Two Englishmen escaped from their guards and succeeded in reaching the fort where they told their story: Ninety men had started with large stores of food and ammunition, early in the spring to reinforce Detroit. Meeting the schooner from the fort and learning the danger and need of the garrison, they had pushed on with all possible speed until they reached the mouth of the Detroit River. That night, as the boats were drawn up on the shore and the men were getting supper, their camp was suddenly surprised by a horde of Wyandot Indians. The British made an attempt to defend themselves. But the Indians were upon them brandishing their tomahawks and yelling like demons. Panic fear seized the white men. They dropped their guns, fled to the boats, jumped in and pushed off. The exultant Indians pressed after them and succeeded in retaking all but two of their overloaded boats. The savages were now taking their prisoners, about sixty in number, to the camp of Pontiac, where they would be tortured and put to death.
The success of this bold venture probably would have ended the siege of Detroit with victory for Pontiac, had the Canadians been as loyal to the Indians as they pretended. But while they were giving the chief assurances of good will and future help, some of them were secretly succoring the English. Under the cover of night they smuggled cattle and sheep and hogs to the famishing garrison.
Even with this aid the prospects of the little garrison were dark enough. Every wind seemed to blow them ill news.
One afternoon the guard at the fort heard a weird chant and saw issuing from the distant forest a file of warriors whose naked bodies were smeared with black paint. Every one of them carried a pole over his shoulder, and the horrified watchers knew well enough that from the end of each pole fluttered the scalp of some Englishman. They learned from the Canadians that night that Fort Sandusky had been burned and its garrison murdered.
A little later the Indians offered to exchange some prisoners with the English. The victims thus released by the Indians proved to be from Fort St. Joseph. They told how that fort had been treacherously taken and burned, and all the inmates but themselves slain.
A traveling priest brought word that the plot which had failed at Detroit had succeeded only too well at Michillimackinac. Next came tidings of the massacres at Fort Ouatanon on the Wabash River and at Fort Miamis, on the Maumee.
Nor was the tale of fire and blood yet ended. A fugitive from the camp of Pontiac reached Detroit one afternoon. It proved to be Ensign Christie, the commanding officer at Presqu' Isle, near the eastern end of Lake Erie. His story was a thrilling one. He told how his little garrison of twenty-seven men had fortified themselves in their block house and made a fierce struggle to keep back the Indians and save their stronghold from the flames; how at last the Indians had undermined their fort and threatened to apply the torch above and below at once. Then to escape death by fire the little band had listened to the promises of the Indians and yielded themselves prisoners.
If these reports terrified the English at Detroit, they also strengthened their determination not to surrender. In spite of fatigue, hunger, and discouragement they fought stoutly on, until, at length, there came a turn in the tide of ill fortune that had surged against them.
On the nineteenth of June news reached them that the schooner which had been sent to meet the provisions had returned and was entering the Detroit River. This cheered all, for they knew that the boat had been to Niagara for more supplies and more men. Still, they remembered the fate of the provision boats, and were worried lest mischance should befall the schooner.
Their anxiety increased when they saw the Indians going in large companies down the river and heard from the Canadians that they were planning to attack the schooner. The British at the fort fired two cannon shots to let their countrymen know that they still held Detroit. But several days passed before they heard anything of the boat. At last they saw her sailing safely toward them.
There were waving caps, shouts of joy, and prayers of thanksgiving among the little company of half-starved men who thronged at the gate to welcome the newcomers.
They had heard that eight hundred more Ojibwa Indians were on their way to increase the forces of Pontiac. But what were eight hundred Ojibwas to sixty hardy sons of England and a schooner loaded with supplies and cannon!
Hope grew strong in Pontiac's heart as week after week his tribes and allies brought to his camp trophies of victory—guns, prisoners, scalps. But Detroit troubled him. The most violent attacks produced no effect. To starve the garrison seemed the only way to conquer it.
When, therefore, Pontiac's messengers had brought word that the schooner was approaching he bent his whole energy to prevent her reaching Detroit. Along the river where dense underwoods grew, hundreds of Indians lay concealed with their canoes, waiting for the schooner.
When, in the darkness of a moonless night, they saw the great boat sailing steadily up the narrow channel they paddled silently toward her, dark specks on the breast of the dark, shining river. Nearer and nearer they pressed. All was silent on the vessel. Surely no one had taken alarm. Not a shot and they had reached the boat; they were clambering like rats up its bulky sides—when lo! a sharp hammering on the mast head, a flash of muskets in the dark, a cry of defeat and rage above the din of battle! Cannon boomed; canoes flew high into the air; bullets did their work.
For fourteen Indians the long struggle against the palefaces was over. The rest scurried to the shore as best they could, some paddling, some swimming. Once there, they took shelter behind some temporary earthworks, and opened such a fierce fire on the schooner that it was forced to drop down stream to a broader part of the river. For several days they delayed the ship, but at length she sailed boldly past, and was but little injured by the fire.
Pontiac was sorely vexed that the ship had succeeded in reaching the garrison. He and his people looked upon the boats with almost superstitious horror. Their dislike was not lessened when one day the smaller schooner made her way against wind and current up to Pontiac's village, and there sent shot and shell roaring through the frail dwellings.
Though no loss of life resulted, the Indians were greatly alarmed. Pontiac moved his camp to a safer place and then turned his attention to destroying the ships. Early in July he made his first attempt.
Two large boats filled with birch bark and pitch pine were tied together and set on fire. They were then cut loose and left to float down stream. Keenly the Indians watched; keenly, the English. Would the fireboats go close enough? the first wondered with bated breath. Would they come too close? questioned the British. Woe on the one hand, joy on the other! the space between the ships and the flaming craft widens—the fireboats float harmlessly down the river. A second and a third attempt to burn the boats failed. Fortune seemed to favor the English.
Pontiac began to despair of taking Detroit unaided. He called a council of the French. He reminded them that the English were their enemies as well as his. He charged them with helping the English and told them that the time had come for them to choose sides and fight with him or against him. He then offered them the war belt. His hope was that they would take it up and join him against the English.
Now, the Canadians had become by the terms of the treaty that closed the French war, British subjects, but they were ashamed or afraid to admit it, and still deceived the Indians. They told Pontiac that much as it would please them to fight with him against the English, they must obey the commands of their father, the King of France, who had bidden them to remain at peace until his coming. They added that he, with a great army, was already on the St. Lawrence and would soon arrive to punish the enemies of his children and reward their friends. They advised the chieftain not to make an enemy of his mighty friend.
When the French speaker had finished, there was a short silence. Then an old trapper came forward, and, picking up the war belt, declared that he was ready to take sides with the Indians against the English. Several of his rough comrades followed his example.
Pontiac's hope of gaining aid from the French was thus not utterly defeated. Besides, he still believed their talk about the coming of the French king. So the French and Indians continued friends.
Some of the tribes growing restless, now made peace with the English and deserted Pontiac. But a greater blow than the desertion of a few tribes was in store for the chief.
Late in July he learned that twenty-two barges bearing large supplies of food and ammunition and almost three hundred men had made their way up the Detroit River in safety, protected by a dense fog. The news came so late that it was impossible for the Indians to oppose the progress of the boats, and they reached the fort with little resistance.
At about two o'clock in the morning of the second day after the arrival of this convoy, Pontiac's spies brought him word that the English were coming against his camp with a great force.
Swiftly and silently the Ottawas broke their camp, and with some Ojibwas started to meet the British. On reaching the site of their former camp, about a mile and a half above the fort, near the bridge that crossed a little stream, called from that night Bloody Run, they formed an ambush and waited for the British.
They had barely time to hide behind their old earthworks, natural ridges and piles of brush. Already they heard the barking of watchdogs at the farmhouses along the river road, and the tramp of many feet. They listened and discovered that the enemy outnumbered them. What of that! The night was dark. They knew their ground. Their scouts would soon bring other tribes to help them.
Every Indian was out of sight; every gun was loaded. The tramp of feet drew nearer. A dark mass of marching men came in sight. The quick steps of the advanced guard rang on the wooden bridge. All else was still. The vanguard had crossed the bridge and the main body of the English had started over, when, in front, to right, to left, burst blood curdling yells, blazed a fatal volley of muskets.
Back only, lay safety. Those who had not fallen in the first charge turned and fled, followed by a rain of bullets. Panic spread along the line. But the brave leader of the English, Captain Dalzel, sprang to the front and rallied his men. They made a bold charge, as they thought, into the midst of the enemy; but they found none to resist them. Every Indian had vanished. They pressed bravely on in search of their assailants; but the night was black and the way was rough and unfamiliar. Whenever they reached a place of difficulty the Indians unexpectedly renewed their attack.
The savages, whose eyes were accustomed to the darkness, saw the enemy after a parley return to the bridge. There, half of the men mounted guard while the others took up the dead and wounded and carried them to two armed boats that had accompanied them down the river.
Seeing that a return to the fort was intended, the Indians turned back in large numbers to form another ambuscade at a point where several houses and barns stood near the road and cut the English off from the fort.
They again allowed the vanguard to pass unmolested and surprised the center with a galling fire. The soldiers, confused by the weird and terrible cries of the savages and the blaze of musketry, blinded by smoke and flash, and stung by pelting bullets, huddled together like sheep.
Captain Dalzel, though severely wounded, by commanding, imploring, fairly driving his men with his sword, at last succeeded in regaining order. He made a charge and as usual the Indians fled before the attack. As soon as the English attempted to continue their retreat the Indians were upon them again, firing from every fence and thicket.
The gallant Dalzel was among those shot down by this fire. He died trying to save a wounded soldier from the scalping knife of the Indians. In the confusion he was scarcely missed. The officers next in command took charge of the retreat. In the gray dawn the remnant of Dalzel's army reached the fort. The Indians went off, well satisfied with their night's work, to count their scalps and celebrate.
While the English lost about sixty men in this engagement, called the battle of Bloody Ridge, the number of Indians killed and wounded was not greater than fifteen or twenty. The Indians considered it a great victory and fresh warriors flocked to the camp of the Indian commander who seemed to be a match for the English.
We have seen that after the battle of Bloody Ridge many tribes that had before been afraid to take up the hatchet against the English, presented themselves at the camp of Pontiac, eager for a share in the victory at Detroit, which they thought would follow.
Yet that English stronghold, that log palisade, was a prize out of reach of the chief and his warriors. The Indians kept close watch. If a head appeared at a loophole, bang went an Indian's gun. If a point was left unguarded, there was the torch applied. Fire arrows whizzed over the rampart in the darkness, only to burn themselves out in the broad roadway between the wall and the buildings. Again and again hundreds of painted warriors danced about the fort yelling as if Detroit, like Jericho, might be taken with shouting. Their spent bullets pelted the old fort like harmless hail. They tried to rush upon the gate, but the fusilade from the block house and the fire-belching cannon of the British drove them back helter-skelter.
Late in September an incident occurred which increased the Indians' awe of the British. A scout brought word to Pontiac that a dispatch boat with a large store of provisions was on her way to the fort. As there were only twelve men aboard, her capture seemed an easy matter.
The Indians planned a midnight attack. Three hundred of them drifted down the river in their light birch canoes. The night was so dark and they came so noiselessly that the watching English did not know of their approach until they were within gunshot of the boat.
A cannon was fired, but its shot and shell went over the heads of the Indians and plowed up the black water beyond. The canoes were all about the ship and the savages, with knives in their teeth, were climbing up its sides. The crew fired once. One or two Indians fell back into the water; the rest came on. As they climbed nearer, the British charged them with bayonets, and hacked them with hatchets and knives. But where one man was driven back a dozen gained the deck.
The little crew defended themselves desperately; they were surrounded by brandished tomahawks; their captain had fallen; more than half their number were cut down. The Indians were raising their shout of triumph. Then the order of Jacobs, the mate, rang out: "Blow up the ship!" he said. One Indian understood and gave the alarm to his fellows. With one accord they threw down hatchets and knives and leaped into the river. They made haste to reach the shore and left six bloodstained British sailors to take their boat in triumph to Detroit.
As autumn advanced the Indians grew weary of the long siege. The prospect of winter with no food, the continued resistance of the British, and the report that a large force of armed men was coming to relieve Detroit, discouraged them.
One tribe after another sent delegations to Major Gladwin to sue for peace. They told smooth stories. They had always loved the English, but Pontiac had compelled them to go to war. Now they were sorry they had obeyed him and longed to be at peace with their English brothers.
Gladwin understood their deceit, but as he was in need of winter supplies, readily granted them a truce. The various tribes broke up their camps and separated for the long winter hunt.
Pontiac and his Ottawas still held their ground without flinching. "Surely," thought the proud-hearted chief, "our French father will send us help before long."
One day, near the close of October, a messenger did come from the French. The letter he brought was from M. Neyon, the commandant of Fort Chartres, in the Illinois country. Pontiac had written to him asking for aid. What had he answered? He had told the truth. He had told Pontiac that the French in America were now the subjects of the English king, and so could not fight against his people.
When the great chief heard this he did not put on his war paint and lead his warriors against the defenseless French who had so long dealt falsely with him. He sat alone for a long time, thinking. The next day he sent a letter to Major Gladwin saying that he was now ready to bury the hatchet, and begging the English to forget the past.
Major Gladwin thought that the French were more to blame than the Indians in the war, and was willing to be at peace with his red neighbors. So he sent Pontiac a favorable reply. A few days later the stern-faced chief turned his back on Detroit, and began his march to the Maumee River, followed by his faithful braves.
The plan of Pontiac had been to take the forts all along the frontier by strategy and then destroy the defenceless English settlements.
We have seen that while there were many French farmers living outside of the walls of Detroit there were very few English. And, in truth, in 1763, there were not many English settlers east of the Alleghany Mountains. Most of the forts that had been taken from the French, except those on the Mississippi River, were garrisoned with English. Within reach of the protection of these forts, lived some British traders and trappers, and a few venturesome settlers. But the Mohawk Valley in New York, and the Susquehanna, in Pennsylvania, really formed the western limit of extensive English settlement.
Pontiac's war belts had stirred up the Indians all along the border. In the summer of 1763, while he and the Ottawas and Ojibwas were besieging Detroit, the Delawares and Shawnees were laying waste the Pennsylvania frontier.
Backwoodsmen, trappers or travelers, venturing into the wilderness were shot down without warning. Men, women, and children were miserably slain. Isolated farmhouses were attacked, their inmates scalped, the cabins burned. Churches and schools added to the blaze that swept the wilderness from the Great Lakes to the Ohio. One after another the smaller forts were taken by the Indians.
Panic seized the settlers. Women left the kettle on the hearth, men the plow in the furrow, and fled. Some crowded for refuge into the nearest fort. Others feared to stop until they had reached Lancaster or even Philadelphia.
The terrible butcheries committed by the Indians so maddened the frontiersmen that they forgot their civilization and resorted to methods as inhuman as did the Indians. Peaceable, friendly Indians were massacred by bands of ruffian borderers, organized for vengeance as well as protection. Even men in high places forgot their usual humanity. The commander-in-chief of the army, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, and Colonel Henry Bouquet planned to send smallpox among the Indians by giving them infected blankets. They even talked of fighting them with bloodhounds instead of soldiers. The Governor of Pennsylvania issued a proclamation offering a reward for Indian prisoners and Indian scalps.
Fort Pitt, one of the most important posts on the frontier, held out against the attacks of the Delawares and the Shawnees. When the commander-in-chief of the army learned of the distress of the fort he sent a strong force under Colonel Bouquet to relieve it.
In August, when crossing the Alleghany Mountains, Bouquet's army was assailed by a horde of Indians that had been lying in wait for them at Bushy Run. The battle which followed was hot. The British were courageous, but they fell in large numbers under the fire of the Indians, who fled before every charge, only to return like infuriated wasps at the moment the English fancied they had repulsed them. Night brought relief from the galling fire. But the battle was not over.
The English were held penned up on the road without water till dawn, when the charge was renewed with such zest that for a time it looked as if there were no escape for the forces of Bouquet. The unusual boldness of the Indians suggested to him a stratagem.
REDOUBT AT FORT PITT
He feigned a retreat. Thus encouraged the Indians rushed upon the British with war whoop and scalp cry. The forces of Bouquet divided; the Indians filled the breach. Then at the word of command the troops closed on them, charging with bayonets. Many of the Indians entrapped in this way fell; the rest fled.
After that the English made their way to Fort Pitt without serious interruption. In the battle of Bushy Run the loss on both sides was heavy for an Indian battle. The English lost eight officers and over one hundred soldiers; the Indians, several chiefs and about sixty warriors. Though the English loss was greater than that of the Indians, it could be more easily made up. For that reason, and because the English had succeeded in reaching Fort Pitt, the expedition was regarded as a splendid victory for the palefaces.
As winter advanced the Indians were obliged to desist from war and go into the forest in small companies to hunt. During the winter that followed the rebellion, the Indians had no help from the white people, and the bitter hardships they suffered did much to put them into a pacific frame of mind.
Sir William Johnson, the king's sole agent and superintendent of Indian affairs, understood the red men better than most of his countrymen did. He lived among them on a great estate in the Mohawk Valley. He spoke their language and often dressed in Indian suit of slashed deerskin.
In his opinion it was wasteful and unwise to fight with the Indians. He said the English were largely to blame for the Indian war because of their injustice and their want of policy in dealing with the savages. He advocated following the example of the French, and winning the good will of the Indians by flattery and presents. He believed that under that policy the Indians would become so dependent on the white man that they could be easily subdued.
Early in the spring of 1764 he sent messages to the various tribes, warning them that two great armies of English soldiers were ready to start into the western forest to punish the enemies of the English, and inviting all who wished to make peace to meet him at Niagara.
Accordingly, early in the spring, the fields around the fort at Niagara were dotted with Indian encampments. Among the savages were friendly Indians who had come to claim their reward; enemies who, through want or fear, were ready to make a temporary peace, and spies, who wanted to see what was going on.
For many a long day Sir William Johnson sat in the council room at the fort making treaties with various tribes. All day the fumes of the peace-pipe filled the hall, and threats and promises were made, and sealed with long strings of wampum.
It would have taken much less time to make one treaty with all the Indians, but Sir William Johnson sought to discourage the idea of a common cause, which Pontiac had done so much to arouse among the Indians. He treated each tribe as if its case were quite different from that of every other tribe.
Some Indians were so bold that they would not even pretend to be friendly. The Delawares and the Shawnees replied to the Indian agent's message summoning them to Niagara, that they were not afraid of the English, but looked upon them as old women.
The armies to which Sir William Johnson had referred were under the command of Colonel Bouquet and Colonel Bradstreet. The latter went by way of the Lakes to relieve Detroit, offer peace to the northern Indians, and subdue those who refused to submit. Bouquet, with a thousand men, penetrated the forests further south to compel the fierce Delawares and Shawnees to submission. Both succeeded.
COUNCIL WITH COLONEL BOUQUET
Bradstreet found the northern Indians ready to come to terms. He has been criticised for requiring the Indians to sign papers they did not understand and make promises that they did not fulfill. He did not see Pontiac, but sent a deputation to find him and confer with him.
Colonel Bouquet, on the other hand, was stern and terrible. In council he addressed the Indians as chiefs and warriors, instead of "brothers." He refused to smooth over their wrong doing or listen to the excuses they offered for going to war. He charged them openly with the wrongs they had done, and required them to surrender all their white prisoners and give him hostages from their own race.
Many of the captives had lived among the Indians so long that they had forgotten their white relatives and friends. They left the Indian life and Indian friends with tears, and would have remained in captivity gladly. But Colonel Bouquet would make no exceptions.
His stern measures subdued the warlike tribes completely. In the fall of 1764 Bouquet returned to the East to receive honors and rewards for his services.
While other Indians were promising to bury the hatchet, Pontiac, the soul of the conspiracy, made no promises and smoked no peace-pipe. Surrounded by hundreds of warriors the chief camped on the Maumee River. His messengers brought him news of what was going on, and until the white men had taken their soldiers from the land he was content to wait and plan.
Captain Morris, who had been sent to Pontiac's camp by Colonel Bradstreet, was coldly received by the great chief. Pontiac, indeed, granted him a hearing, but he bent upon his guest dark looks and refused to shake his hand. He made no flowery speeches, but declared that all the British were liars, and asked what new lies he had come to tell. After some talk Pontiac showed the captain a letter which he supposed to have been written by the King of France. It told the old story of the French army on its way to destroy the English. Captain Morris did his best to persuade him that the report was false. He was much impressed with the influence, knowledge, and sense of Pontiac—an Indian who commanded eighteen nations and was acquainted with the laws that regulated the conduct of civilized states.
Pontiac would make no official promises of peace, but he was so much discouraged by the communications Captain Morris brought, that he said to one of the followers of the latter: "I shall never more lead the nations to war. As for them, let them be at peace with the English if they will; for me, I shall be at war with them forever. I shall be a wanderer in the woods, and if they come to seek me I will fight them single-handed." With much bitterness of soul did Pontiac learn that the forts he had taken with so much effort and loss of Indian blood, had been retaken by the enemy; that the war spirit he had with so much labor aroused had been put to sleep.
But his hopes were not easily dashed. There were the letters from the French. The English said they were false, but the English were his enemies. The French were his friends. Enemies might deceive each other, but friends must trust each other.
His confidence in the French was encouraged by the fact that several of the forts in the Illinois country were still occupied by French garrisons.
Pontiac resolved to make another effort to rouse his people. He set his squaws to work on a wampum war belt, broad and long, containing symbols of the forty-seven tribes which belonged to his confederacy. When the belt was done he sent a delegation of chiefs to the south with it. These messengers were instructed to show the war belt and offer the hatchet to all the tribes along the Mississippi River as far south as New Orleans. They were then to visit the French Governor at New Orleans and invite him to assist them in war against their common enemy.
Pontiac, in the meantime, went about among his old French friends asking for their help, and among the Illinois Indians urging them with threats and promises to join him in making war against the English. He met with some success, but his dreams were rudely broken by the return of his chiefs with the news that the Governor of New Orleans had indeed yielded to the British, and by the arrival of a company of British from Fort Pitt, offering terms of peace to the Illinois Indians. Daily Pontiac's allies deserted him, and accepted the terms of the English.
Again the day had come when it seemed to Pontiac wise to let his hatred of the English sleep. He sent his great peace-pipe to Sir William Johnson and promised to go to Oswego in the spring to conclude a treaty with him.
True to his promise, in the spring of 1766, Pontiac, greatest war chief and sachem of the Ottawas, presented himself in the council chamber of Sir William Johnson. There was nothing fawning in his attitude; he conducted himself with the dignity of a fallen monarch. "When you speak to me," he said, "it is as if you addressed all the nations of the west." In making peace he submitted not to the will of the British but to that of the Great Spirit, whose will it was that there should be peace. He made it clear that in allowing the English to take the forts of the French the Indians granted them no right to their lands. When he promised friendship for the future, he called his hearers to witness how true a friend he had been to the French, who had deceived him and given him reason to transfer his friendship.
It would be hard to say how sincere Pontiac was, or how readily he would have let go the chain of friendship he had been forced to take up, had opportunity offered. He went back to his camp on the Maumee River, and there among his own people tried to live the life of his fathers. Little was heard of him for a year or two, but whenever an outbreak occurred among the Indians there were those who said Pontiac was at the bottom of it.
In the spring of 1769, anxious to see his French friends once more, he made a visit to St. Louis. He was cordially received and spent several days with his old acquaintances. Then he crossed the river with a few chiefs to visit an assembly of traders and Illinois Indians.
After feasting and drinking with some of the Illinois, Pontiac sought the quiet of the forest. He wandered through its dim aisles, living over again the hopes and ambitions of the past, which his visit with the French and the Illinois had vividly recalled. He had forgotten the present and was again the mighty warrior who had made the hearts of the palefaces quake with fear. Little he dreamed that behind him stood an assassin with up-raised tomahawk.
The murderer of the great chief was an Illinois Indian who had been bribed to do the deed by an English trader.
During his life Pontiac had tried to overcome the tribal feeling of the Indians, and to unite them as one people. Over his grave the old tribal instinct awoke. The Illinois rallied about their kinsman to protect him; the Ottawas flew to arms to avenge their chief—such a sachem, such a chief, could not be forgotten. Wrong to him could not be forgiven. The fury of the Ottawas was not slaked until they had avenged the death of their chief, through the destruction of the powerful tribes of the Illinois.