By 1761 the French Indian War had ceased in America, the French and English continued it upon the ocean and among the West India islands, with almost unbroken success by the latter. It was ended by a treaty of peace negotiated in 1762, and signed at Paris on the 10th of February, 1763. By its terms France ceded to Great Britain all her claimed territory in America eastward of the Mississippi River, north of the latitude of the Iberville River, a little below Baton Rouge. New Orleans, and the whole of Louisiana, was ceded by France to Spain, at the same time; and so her entire possessions in North America, for which she had labored and fought for more than a century, were relinquished. Spain, with whom the English had been at war for a year previously, ceded East and West Florida to Great Britain, at the same time. Now the English held undisputed possession (excepting by the Indians) of the whole continent from the shores of the Gulf of Mexico to the Frozen Sea, and by claimed prescriptive right, from ocean to ocean. The domain wrested from the French had been procured at a cost to Great Britain and her American colonies of five hundred and sixty million dollars.
The storm in the south had scarcely ceased when another, more portentous, was seen gathering in the northwest. All over the land from the Shenandoah Valley to Lake Superior, from Western New York and the line of the Alleghany Mountains stretching into the Carolinas, to the Mississippi River, a deep-rooted jealousy of the English appeared among the Indians after the conquest of Canada. They regarded the English as a nation of amazing power, who were ready to rob them of their lands and destroy their race. The treatment of the natives by the English was so cold and unfriendly when compared with the French, that the Indians could feel no real friendship for the British, and it was only fear or policy that caused the Indians to make treaties with them. The chiefs were treated with contempt by the British officers, and so their pride was wounded; they treated the people as children or slaves, and so lost their respect. Traders cheated them and aroused their anger. In every way they were made to feel, by contrast with the conduct of the French, the meanness and wickedness of the English. The jealousy of the Indians was crystallized into implacable hatred, and in 1761, they began to form confederacies and plotted conspiracies for the destruction of their English masters.
When, after the treaty of Paris in 1763, the tribes were informed that France had ceded the country to Great Britain, without asking their leave, there was wide-spread indignation among them. The arrogance of Amherst in his official intercourse with them fanned the flame, and a vast confederacy was formed for the purpose of attacking all of the English forts on the frontiers on the same day, to destroy their garrisons and to desolate their settlements, westward of the Alleghanies.
At the head of this conspiracy was the great Ottawa chief, Pontiac, then about fifty years of age. He was conspicuous for courage, resolution, energy, and magnetic attraction and vehement ambition, and ruled many tribes with almost despotic power. He had fought on the side of the French in the war just ended, and was their friend until his interview with Major Rogers. He trimmed his sails so as to catch the favoring breeze of the power he held to be the most potential, but his pride was soon deeply wounded by the arrogance and neglect of the English. He saw his race divided, weak, and powerless before a great nation. He saw the English rapidly spreading their settlements over the hunting-grounds of the Indians, and driving them steadily toward the setting sun. In his horoscope of the future, he saw the last of his race, naked and famishing, driven into the Pacific Ocean, of which he had vague ideas. Ambition and patriotism urged him to lead a conspiracy for the salvation of his country and his race. He did so, with marvellous skill and energy.
Late in 1762, Pontiac sent ambassadors to the tribes around the lakes, and all over the country southward far toward the Gulf of Mexico. Each bore the wampum war-belt and a hatchet painted red in token of hostilities. Each delivered the stirring words of Pontiac, calling them to the defence of their country and their lives; and everywhere his words were approved. He called a general council at a spot near Detroit, designated by him, and there the tribes were assembled in April, 1763--the Ottawas, Miamis, Wyandotts, Chippewas, Pottawatomies, Mississaugues, Shawnoese, Foxes, Winnebagoes and Senecas--the latter the most warlike of the Six Nations. Pontiac was there with his squaws and children, and the meadow in which the council was held presented a gay and animated scene. The idle young warriors gathered in groups to feast, smoke, gamble, and tell stories; many of them bedizened with beads, feathers, hawks' bills, and other tokens of foppery. "Here, too," says Parkman, "were young damsels radiant with bears' oil, ruddy with vermilion, and versed in all the arts of forest coquetry; shrivelled hags, with limbs of wire, and the voices of screech-owls; and troops of naked children, with small, black, mischievous eyes, roaming along the outskirts of the woods."
The council was convened on the 27th of April. All were seated on the grass in a wide circle, row within row, a grave and silent assembly. When pipes had been lighted and passed from hand to hand, Pontiac arose, plumed and painted, in full war-costume, and with loud voice and impassioned manner, addressed the multitude. He recounted the wrongs of the red race, and spoke of the danger to be apprehended from the sovereignty of the English. He held out a long and broad belt of wampum, which, he said, he had received from the king of the French, and that the fleets and armies of that monarch would soon come back to reconquer Canada, when the Indians would once more fight by their side. He appealed to the superstition of his hearers by reciting an Indian legend, and in various ways he excited them with a burning desire for immediate action.
Treachery was to be the first movement of Pontiac and his followers in the execution of the sanguinary scheme. He was to begin the tragedy at Detroit. Under the pretext of holding a friendly council with Major Gladwin, the commander of the fort, he entered it in May, with about three hundred warriors, each carrying a knife, tomahawk and short gun, concealed under his blanket. When Pontiac should arise and show the green side of a belt, the massacre of the garrison was to begin. A friendly Indian had warned Gladwin of the danger the day before, and it was averted by the appointment of another conference. The gates were shut upon Pontiac after he and his warriors had retired, and he began a siege of the fort that continued more than a year. By similar acts of treachery, or by sudden and unexpected assaults, every post west of Oswego, excepting Niagara, Fort Pitt and Detroit, fell into the hands of the dusky confederates within a fortnight afterward, for the work was performed at different points almost simultaneously.
At Michillimackinack, Indians came to the fort at the close of May, as if to trade. Every day they engaged in the exciting pastime of ball-playing on the plain near the fort. On the 2d of June their squaws came with them, entered the fort, and stayed there. The commander and a lieutenant, unsuspicious of any danger, stood just outside the gate, watching the game. At length the ball was sent near the gate, and two or three Indians pursuing it, went behind the officers, seized them, and carried them off to the woods. The other Indians rushed into the fort, seized hatchets which the squaws carried under their blankets, and murdered a part of the garrison, making prisoners of the remainder.
Captain Dalyell, aide-de-camp to General Amherst was sent in a vessel with reinforcements and supplies for the garrison at Detroit. They ran up the river in the night at the close of July, and succeeded in getting both into the fort. Dalyell at once proposed to make a sally from the fort and attack the besiegers, who lay about a mile up the river. Gladwin thought it would be imprudent. Dalyell persisted, and with two hundred and forty chosen men, he marched in the darkness at three o'clock in the morning of the 31st of July, to surprise Pontiac. The chief was on the alert, and at a small stream at the northern verge of the city of Detroit, the English, furiously assailed, were forced to make a precipitate retreat, leaving twenty of their comrades killed and forty-two wounded, on the borders of the brook, which, to this day, bears the name of Bloody Run. Dalyell was slain while trying to carry off the wounded, and his scalp was an Indian's trophy.
This victory encouraged the Indians, and they swarmed around Detroit and Fort Pitt. For the relief of the latter, Colonel Bouquet was sent with a force of regulars from Pennsylvania. Early in August he approached the fort, when the besieging Indians attacked him. He had two desperate fights with them, in which he lost about one-fourth of his command and all of his horses, but he drove the assailants away and entered the fort with the remainder. Detroit was relieved the next summer by a force under Colonel Bradstreet.
The power of the Indian Confederacy was now broken, and chiefs of the hostile tribes sued for pardon and peace. The haughty Pontiac would not yield. He tried to rally the confederate tribes, but in vain. He went to the Illinois country where no Englishman had been, and where the French flag yet waved. Among the tribes there he exerted his eloquence to induce them to make war on the English. He sent an ambassador to New Orleans to ask the French to aid him. His efforts were vain. The cause that lay next to his heart was ruined. Afterward we find him holding a friendly conference with Sir William Johnson at Oswego; then he is seen at St. Louis trying to arouse the French people there to drive the English out of the Illinois country, which they had seized. At last, in 1769, this haughty Indian prince--this Catawba prisoner adopted by the Ottawas--who had swayed almost unbounded power over thousands of square miles of territory, was slain near Cahokia. A strolling Indian was bribed by an English trader to murder him. That Indian, for the gift of a barrel of rum, stole softly behind Pontiac in the forest and buried his hatchet in his brain.
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