When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few.
May 7, 1763
Pontiac’s Rebellion begins when Ottawa Indians attach Fort Detroit.
After the conclusion of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), Chief Pontiac (Ottawa) led a loosely united group of American Indian tribes against the British in a series of attacks, referred to as Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763-1766) or Pontiac’s War. Participating tribes included the Ottawa, Ojibwas, Potawatomis, Huron, Miami, Weas, Kickapoo, Mascouten, Piankashaw, Delaware, Shawnee, Wyandot, Seneca, and Seneca-Cayuga. Many view the Ottawa attack on Fort Detroit in May 1763, as the beginning Pontiac’s Rebellion. The Shawnee, Wyandot, Seneca-Cayuga, and Delaware Nations also raided British settlements in the Ohio Country and in western Pennsylvania. Is it estimated that by late fall of 1763, Pontiac’s forces had killed or captured more than six hundred people. Britain’s only garrisoned fort in the Ohio Country, Fort Sandusky, fell to the Ottawas that same year.
in early May, Pontiac, a leader of a local Ottawa Chief and military leader, gathered together the various tribes in order to stage an assault on the fort. As a result of other tribal leader informing the English, when Pontiac and several hundred Indians attempted to enter the fort with weapons, they were met with an armed garrison of several hundred Englishmen. Upon seeing this, Pontiac and his forces withdrew and began to lay siege to the Fort; while also capturing various people on the outskirts of the town.
Several shipments of supplies to the fort sent by the British to aid the fort throughout the siege were attacked and seized by the Native Americans, the first of which was lead by Lieutenant Abraham Cuyler. Cuyler, whom had not been informed of the ongoing siege, had made camp a short ways away from Detroit, with minimal defenses. The supply convoy was attacked and forced back to Fort Niagara. Approximately half of the member of the convoy were captured. On their way back to the outskirts of the fort, several of the soldiers attacked their captors, successfully freeing themselves and swimming to Fort Detroit with some of the supplies brought along by the convoy. Though the amount was likely not substantial; this delivery of supplies allowed the fort to more easily hold out while waiting for the next supply shipment.
As the summer began to come to a close, many of the people whom had committed themselves to assist Pontiac began to abandon this commitment and return to their respective villages. The harvest season was fast approaching, and many of them were needed back home to assist in cultivation and in the general preparations for the fast approaching, harsh winters of the Great Lakes region. Thus, a slow drain in the numbers of troops under Pontiac’s direction began, which would eventually lead to the collapse of the siege.
Later that year, the English and French signed a treaty with one another. As a result, the French, whom had been assisting Pontiac in his anti-British activities, could no longer send support to the Native Americans. This was the last straw; as many of his troops had returned home, and he could no longer rely on French support for supplies, he requested that peace between the natives of the fort and the attacking natives be negotiated. This request was forwarded to General Amherst, as the leader of the fort said he did not have the authority to negotiate such a peace. Pontiac then returned back to his home village. Thus, the siege had come to an end, in less than a year.
In the autumn of 1764, the British military took the offensive against Pontiac’s forces. Colonel John Bradstreet and Colonel Henry Bouquet each launched invasions of the Ohio Country from Pennsylvania. Most of the Wyandot and Ottawa, but not Pontiac, surrendered to Bradstreet in September due to a lack of ammunition, as they could not resupply without their French allies. Bouquet forced the Seneca-Cayuga, Shawnee, and Delaware to surrender a month later.
Although Pontiac did not formally surrender to the British until July 1766, Pontiac’s Rebellion essentially ended in the autumn of 1764. The Proclamation of 1763, which stated that any land west of the Appalachian Mountains was to be preserved for American Indian reservations, did not prevent colonists from settling on American Indian lands which were supposed to be protected by the Proclamation. The Proclamation also stated that all non-Natives who settled on these lands previously were required to relocate east of the Appalachian Mountains. However, many colonists completely disregarded this legislation and continued to encroach on Indian lands, settling in particular on the Kentucky bank of the Ohio River, which instigated continuous conflict between colonists and the tribes who lived there. American Indian Tribes continued to fight colonial settlement on their lands and territories. Heightened tensions and regular skirmishes over land disputes characterized the Ohio Country and surrounding regions for decades to come.
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