Pontiac's Rebellion

Pontiac's rebellion. The French/Indian War was over. But that didn't stop Ottawa Chief Pontiac from lifting the hatchet. Get the full story.

The French Indian War came to an end in 1760, with the British coming off victorious. The French forts that were scattered across the wilderness frontier were now to pass into British possession. In the process of taking control of these outposts British Major Robert Rogers met an Indian who was to soon cause much trouble to his country. The man he met was Pontiac, the great Ottawa chief who had sided with the French. Pontiac, who, along with a delegation of Ottawa and Huron warriors met Rogers along the banks of the Detroit River, demanded to know by what authority Rogers was trespassing on Indian land. Rogers assured him that he was only there to remove the French, not the Indians. The two men then smoked a pipe of peace. Rogers later commented that Pontiac "was far from considering himself as a conquered Prince."

Major Roger's intuition about Pontiac proved to be spot on. The proud Ottawa leader found it extremely difficult to put up with the arrogance and disdainful conduct of the British officers. Within three years he had had enough. He sent his runners to the neighbouring tribes to incite them to join with him to drive out the British intruders. Pontiac was a great political leader who managed to form a confederation of tribes who, for the first time, were united in their attempts to drive out the British. Pontiac planned to begin his campaign with a direct attack on the British stronghold at Fort Detroit. Rather than lay a siege from outside, however, Pontiac intended to enter the stockade to talk with the British. The warriors to accompany him would be carrying guns and tomahawks under their blankets. At a signal from their chief they would attack the British.

Unfortunately for Pontiac, however, the plan was leaked, apparently by way of a young Chippewa woman who warned her lover,the commander of the Fort, Major Henry Gladwin. When the Indians entered the fort the British soldiers were on full alert. Pontiac immediately knew that Gladwin was wise to his intentions. He turned and stormed out of the fort. Learning of how his plan was leaked he sent for the woman who had revealed his intentions to the British Commander and nearly beat her to death.

After two days of regrouping, Pontiac returned and laid siege to the fort in a more conventional way. First he had his warriors strike at farms that were within sight of the fort. Three civilians were killed and scalped. Pretending to agree to a truce, he took the forts second in command as a hostage. He now called on Gladwin to surrender. However the British Major refused. The fort was reinforced by soldiers and supplies from Fort Niagara and after, several long months of siege Pontiac eventually gave up on it.

The rebellion spread across the British outposts stretching from the Allegheny River all the way to Lake Michigan. The British were so desperate to rid themselves of Pontiac that they offered a two hundred pound reward for his scalp. British commander Sir Jeffrey Amherst even suggested spreading small pox among Pontiac's followers.

However by the Autumn of 1763 the Rebellion was virtually over. Warriors who had supported Pontiac left in droves for the winter hunt. Before long the British were able to retake their lost forts. Pontiac did not resist, confident that he had made his point. He acknowledged King George as his "╦ťfather'. His rebellion had cost upwards of 2000 white lives. He went to live out the rest of his life in peace in Illinois. However it was not to be. He was murdered by a Peoria warrior who it is believed was urged on by the British.

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