Pontiac's Rebellion

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Pontiac's Rebellion

Pontiac's Rebellion, Pontiac's Conspiracy, or Pontiac's War, 1763–66, Native American uprising against the British just after the close of the French and Indian Wars, so called after one of its leaders, Pontiac.

Causes

The French attitude toward the Native Americans had always been more conciliatory than that of the English. French Jesuit priests and French traders had maintained friendly and generous dealings with their Native American neighbors. After conquering New France (Old Canada), the English aroused the resentment of the Western tribes by treating them arrogantly, refusing to supply them with free ammunition (as the French had done), building forts, and permitting white settlement on Native American–owned lands.

Course of the War

In Apr., 1763, a council was held by the Native Americans on the banks of the Ecorse River near Detroit; there an attack on the fort at Detroit was planned. Pontiac's scheme was to gain admission to the garrison for himself and some of his chiefs by asking for a council with the commandant, but the Native Americans, who would be carrying weapons, were then to open a surprise attack. Major Henry Gladwin, the commandant, was warned of the plot and foiled it. However, Pontiac and his Ottawas, reinforced by Wyandots, Potawatomis, and Ojibwas, stormed the fort on May 10. The garrison was relieved by reinforcements and supplies from Niagara in the summer, but Pontiac continued to besiege it until November, when, disappointed at finding he could expect no help from the French, he retired to the Maumee River.

Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania had been warned of the uprising by a messenger from Gladwin and withstood attack until relieved by Col. Henry Bouquet. Bouquet and his forces, on their way to Fort Pitt in Aug., 1763, had been victorious in a severe engagement at Bushy Run. Meanwhile, Pontiac's allies, the Delaware, Seneca, and Shawnee tribes, captured and destroyed many British outposts, among them Sandusky, Michilimackinac (see Mackinac), and Presque Isle. In an attempt by the British to surprise Pontiac's camp, the battle of Bloody Run was fought on July 31, 1763, with great loss to the British. The borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia were kept in a state of terror.

In the spring of 1764 an offensive campaign was planned by the English, and two armies were sent out, one into Ohio under Colonel Bouquet and the other to the Great Lakes under Col. John Bradstreet. Bradstreet's attempts at treaties were condemned by Gen. Thomas Gage, who had succeeded Sir Jeffery Amherst as commander in chief, and Colonel Bradstreet returned home with little achievement. Bouquet, by his campaign in Pennsylvania, brought the Delaware and the Shawnee to sue for peace, and a treaty was concluded with them by Sir William Johnson. After failing to persuade some of the tribes farther west and south to join him in rebellion, Pontiac finally completed in 1766 a treaty with Johnson and was pardoned by the English.

Bibliography

F. Parkman's History of the Conspiracy of Pontiac (1851, 10th rev. ed. 1913), although it contains certain inaccuracies, is the classic work. See also H. H. Peckham, Pontiac and the Indian Uprising (1947) and G. Evans, War under Heaven (2002).

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