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The Siege of Detroit

At the time of the Pontiac outbreak there were in the vicinity of Fort Detroit between one thousand and two thousand white inhabitants. Yet the place was little more than a wilderness post. The settlers were cut off from civilization and learned news of the great world outside only in the spring, when the traders' boats came with supplies. They were out of touch with Montreal and Quebec, and it was difficult for them to realize that they were subjects of the hated king of England. They had not lost their confidence that the armies of France would yet be victorious and sweep the British from the Great Lakes, and in this opinion they were strengthened by traders from the Mississippi, who came among them. But the change of rulers had made little difference in their lives. The majority of them were employed by traders, and the better class contentedly cultivated their narrow farms and traded with the Indians who periodically visited them.

The settlement was widely scattered, extending along the east shore of the Detroit River for about eight miles from Lake St. Clair, and along the west shore for about six miles, four above and two below the fort. On either side of the river the fertile fields and the long row of whitewashed, low-built houses, with their gardens and orchards of apple and pear trees, fenced about with rounded pickets, presented a picture of peace and plenty. The summers of the inhabitants were enlivened by the visits of the Indians and the traders; and in winter they light-heartedly whiled away the tedious hours with gossip and dance and feast, like the habitants along the Richelieu and the St. Lawrence.

The militia of the settlement, as we have seen, had been deprived of their arms at the taking over of Detroit by Robert Rogers; and for the most part the settlers maintained a stolid attitude towards their conquerors, from whom they suffered no hardship and whose rule was not galling. The British had nothing to fear from them. But the Indians were a force to be reckoned with. There were three Indian villages in the vicinity--the Wyandot, on the east side of the river, opposite the fort; the Ottawa, five miles above, opposite Ile au Cochon (Belle Isle); and the Potawatomi, about two miles below the fort on the west shore. The Ottawa here could muster 200 warriors, the Potawatomi about 150, and the Wyandot 250, while near at hand were the Chippewa, 320 strong. Pontiac, although head chief of the Ottawa, did not live in the village, but had his wigwam on Ile a la Peche, at the outlet of Lake St. Clair, a spot where whitefish abounded. Here he dwelt with his squaws and papooses, not in 'grandeur,' but in squalid savagery. Between the Indians and the French there existed a most friendly relationship; many of the habitants, indeed, having Indian wives.

Near the centre of the settlement, on the west bank of the river, about twenty miles from Lake Erie, stood Fort Detroit, a miniature town. It was in the form of a parallelogram and was surrounded by a palisade twenty-five feet high. According to a letter of an officer, the walls had an extent of over one thousand paces. At each corner was a bastion and over each gate a blockhouse. Within the walls were about one hundred houses, the little Catholic church of Ste Anne's, a council-house, officers' quarters, and a range of barracks. Save for one or two exceptions, the buildings were of wood, thatched with bark or straw, and stood close together. The streets were exceedingly narrow; but immediately within the palisade a wide road extended round the entire village. The spiritual welfare of the French and Indian Catholics in the garrison was looked after by Father Potier, a Jesuit, whose mission was in the Wyandot village, and by Father Bocquet, a Recollet, who lived within the fort; Major Henry Gladwyn was in command. He had a hundred and twenty soldiers, and two armed schooners, the "Gladwyn" and the "Beaver", were in the river nearby.

On the first day of May 1763, Pontiac came to the main gate of the fort asking to be allowed to enter, as he and the warriors with him, forty in all, desired to show their love for the British by dancing the calumet, or peace dance. Gladwyn had not the slightest suspicion of evil intent, and readily admitted them. The savages selected a spot in front of the officers' houses; and thirty of them went through their grotesque movements, shouting and dancing to the music of the Indian drum, and all the while waving their calumets in token of friendship. While the dancers were thus engaged, the remaining ten of the party were busily employed in surveying the fort--noting the number of men and the strength of the palisades. The dance lasted about an hour. Presents were then distributed to the Indians, and all took their departure.

Pontiac now summoned the Indians about Detroit to another council. On this occasion the chiefs and warriors assembled in the council-house in the Potawatomi village south of the fort. When all were gathered together, Pontiac rose and, as at the council at the river Ecorces, in a torrent of words and with vehement gestures, denounced the British. He declared that under the new occupancy of the forts in the Indian country, the red men were neglected and their wants were no longer supplied as they had been in the days of the French; that exorbitant prices were charged by the traders for goods; that when the Indians were departing for their winter camps to hunt for furs they were no longer able to obtain ammunition and clothing on credit; and, finally, that the British desired the death of the Indians, and it was therefore necessary as an act of self-preservation to destroy them. He once more displayed the war-belt that he pretended to have received from the king of France. This belt told him to strike in his own interest and in the interest of the French. He closed his speech by saying that he had sent belts to the Chippewa of Saginaw and the Ottawa of Michilimackinac and of the river La Tranche (the Thames). Seeing that his words were greeted with grunts and shouts of approval and that the assembled warriors were with him to a man, Pontiac revealed a plan he had formed to seize the fort and slaughter the garrison. He and some fifty chiefs and warriors would wait on Gladwyn on the pretence of discussing matters of importance. Each one would carry beneath his blanket a gun, with the barrel cut short to permit of concealment. Warriors, and even women, were to enter the fort as if on a friendly visit and take up positions of advantage in the streets, in readiness to strike with tomahawks, knives, and guns, all which they were to have concealed beneath their blankets. At the council, Pontiac was to address Gladwyn and, in pretended friendship, hand him a wampum belt. If it were wise to strike, he would, on presenting the belt, hold its reverse side towards Gladwyn. This was to be the signal for attack. Instantly blankets were to be thrown aside and the officers were to be shot down. At the sound of firing in the council-room the Indians in the streets were to fall on the garrison and every British soldier was to be slain, care being taken that no Frenchman suffered. The plan, by its treachery, and by its possibilities of slaughter and plunder, appealed to the savages; and they dispersed to make preparations for the morning of the 7th, the day chosen for carrying out the murderous scheme.

The plot was difficult to conceal. The aid of French blacksmiths had to be sought to shorten the guns. Moreover, the British garrison had some friends among the Indians. Scarcely had the plot been matured when it was discussed among the French, and on the day before the intended massacre it was revealed to Gladwyn. His informant is not certainly known. A Chippewa maiden, an old squaw, several Frenchmen, and an Ottawa named Mahiganne have been mentioned. It is possible that Gladwyn had it from a number of sources, but most likely from Mahiganne. The 'Pontiac Manuscript,' probably the work of Robert Navarre, the keeper of the notarial records of the settlement, distinctly states that Mahiganne revealed the details of the plot with the request that Gladwyn should not divulge his name; for, should Pontiac learn, the informer would surely be put to death. This would account for the fact that Gladwyn, even in his report of the affair to Amherst, gives no hint as to the person who told him.

Gladwyn at once made preparations to receive Pontiac and his chiefs. On the night of the 6th, instructions were given to the soldiers and the traders within the fort to make preparations to resist an attack, and the guards were doubled. As the sentries peered out into the darkness, occasional yells and whoops and the beating of drums reached their ears, telling of the war-dance that was being performed in the Indian villages to hearten the warriors for the slaughter.

Gladwyn determined to act boldly. On the morning of the 7th, all the traders' stores were closed and every man capable of bearing weapons was under arms; but the gates were left open as usual, and shortly after daylight Indians and squaws, by twos and threes, began to gather in the fort as if to trade. At ten in the morning, a line of chiefs, with Pontiac at their head, filed along the road leading to the river gate. All were painted and plumed and each one was wrapped in a brightly colored blanket. When they entered the fort they were astonished to see the warlike preparations, but stoically concealed their surprise. Arrived in the council-chamber, the chiefs noticed the sentinels standing at arms, the commandant and his officers seated, their faces stern and set, pistols in their belts and swords by their sides. So perturbed were the chiefs by all this warlike display that it was some time before they would take their seats on the mats prepared for them. At length, they recovered their composure, and Pontiac broke the silence by asking why so many of the young men were standing in the streets with their guns. Answer was made through the interpreter, La Butte, that it was for exercise and discipline. Pontiac then addressed Gladwyn, vehemently protesting friendship. All the time he was speaking Gladwyn bent on him a scrutinizing gaze, and as the chief was about to present the wampum belt, a signal was given and the drums crashed out a charge. Every doubt was removed from Pontiac's mind--his plot was discovered. His nervous hand lowered the belt; but he recovered himself immediately and presented it in the ordinary way. Gladwyn replied to his speech sternly, but kindly, saying that he would have the protection and friendship of the British so long as he merited it. A few presents were then distributed among the Indians, and the council ended. The chiefs, with their blankets still tightly wrapped about them, filed out of the council-room and scattered to their villages, followed by the disappointed rabble of fully three hundred Indians, who had assembled in the fort.

On the morrow, Pontiac, accompanied by three chiefs, again appeared at the fort, bringing with him a pipe of peace. When this had been smoked by the officers and chiefs, he presented it to Captain Campbell, as a further mark of friendship. The next day, he was once more at the gates seeking entrance. But he found them closed; Gladwyn felt that the time had come to take no chances. This morning a rabble of Potawatomi, Ottawa, Wyandot, and Chippewa thronged the common just out of musket range. On Pontiac's request for a conference with Gladwyn he was sternly told that he might enter alone. The answer angered him, and he strode back to his followers. Now, with yells and war-whoops, parties of the savages bounded away on a murderous mission. Half a mile behind the fort, an English woman, Mrs. Turnbull, and her two sons cultivated a small farm. All three were straightway slain. A party of Ottawa leapt into their canoes and paddled swiftly to Ile au Cochon, where lived a former sergeant, James Fisher. Fisher was seized, killed, and scalped, his young wife brutally murdered, and their two little children carried into captivity. On this same day, news was brought to the fort that Sir Robert Davers and Captain Robertson had been murdered three days before on Lake St. Clair by, Chippewa who were on their way from Saginaw to join Pontiac's forces. Thus began the Pontiac War in the vicinity of Detroit. For several months the garrison was to know little rest.

That night at the Ottawa village arose the hideous din of the war-dance, and while the warriors worked themselves into a frenzy, the squaws were busy breaking camp. Before daylight, the village was moved to the opposite side of the river, and the wigwams were pitched near the mouth of Parent's Creek, about a mile and a half above the fort. On the morning of the 10th, the siege began in earnest. Shortly after daybreak the yells of a horde of savages could be heard north and south and west. But few of the enemy could be seen, as they had excellent shelter behind barns, outhouses, and fences. For six hours, they kept up a continuous fire on the garrison, but wounded only five men. The fort vigorously returned the fire, and none of the enemy dared attempt to rush the palisades. A cluster of buildings in the rear sheltered a particularly ferocious set of savages. A three-pounder--the only effective artillery in the fort--was trained on this position; spikes were bound together with wire, heated red-hot, and fired at the buildings. These were soon a mass of flames, and the savages concealed behind them fled for their lives.

Presently the Indians grew tired of this useless warfare and withdrew to their villages. Gladwyn, thinking that he might bring Pontiac to terms, sent La Butte to ask the cause of the attack and to say that the British were ready to redress any wrongs from which the Indians might be suffering. La Butte was accompanied by Jean Baptiste Chapoton, a captain of the militia and a man of some importance in the fort, and Jacques Godfroy, a trader and likewise an officer of militia. It may be noted that Godfroy's wife was the daughter of a Miami chief. The ambassadors were received in a friendly manner by Pontiac, who seemed ready to cease hostilities. La Butte returned to the fort with some of the chiefs to report progress; but when he went again to Pontiac he found that the Ottawa chief had made no definite promise. It seems probable, judging from their later actions, that Chapoton and Godfroy had betrayed Gladwyn and urged Pontiac to force the British out of the country. Pontiac now requested that Captain Donald Campbell, who had been in charge of Detroit before Gladwyn took over the command, should come to his village to discuss terms. Campbell was confident that he could pacify the Indians, and, accompanied by Lieutenant George McDougall, he set out along the river road for the Ottawa' encampment at Parent's Creek. As the two officers crossed the bridge at the mouth of the creek, they were met by a savage crowd--men, women, and children--armed with sticks and clubs. The mob rushed at them with yells and threatening gestures, and were about to fall on the officers when Pontiac appeared and restored order. A council was held, but as Campbell could get no satisfaction he suggested returning to the fort. Thereupon Pontiac remarked: 'My father will sleep tonight in the lodges of his red children.' Campbell and McDougall were given good quarters in the house of Jean Baptiste Meloche. For nearly two months they were to be kept close prisoners.

So far only part of the Wyandot had joined Pontiac: Father Potier had been trying to keep his flock neutral. But on the 11th, Pontiac crossed to the Wyandot village, and threatened it with destruction if the warriors did not take up the tomahawk. On this compulsion they consented, no doubt glad of an excuse to be rid of the discipline of their priest.

Another attack on the fort was made, this time by about six hundred Indians; but it was as futile as the one of the earlier day. Pontiac now tried negotiation. He summoned Gladwyn to surrender, promising that the British should be allowed to depart unmolested on their vessels. The officers, knowing that their communications with the east were cut, that food was scarce, that a vigorous assault could not fail to carry the fort, urged Gladwyn to accept the offer, but he sternly refused. He would not abandon Detroit while one pound of food and one pound of powder were left in the fort. Moreover, the treacherous conduct of Pontiac convinced him that the troops and traders, as they left the fort, would be plundered and slaughtered. He rejected Pontiac's demands, and advised him to disperse his people and save his ammunition for hunting.

At this critical moment Detroit was undoubtedly saved by a French Canadian. But for Jacques Baby, the grim specter, starvation would have stalked through the little fortress. Baby was a prosperous trader and merchant who, with his wife Susanne Reaume, lived on the east shore of the river, almost opposite the fort. He had a farm of one thousand acres, two hundred of which were under cultivation. His trading establishment was a low-built log structure eighty feet long by twenty wide. He owned thirty slaves--twenty men and ten women. He seems to have treated them kindly; at any rate, they loyally did his will. Baby agreed to get provisions into the fort by stealth; and on a dark night, about a week after the siege commenced, Gladwyn had a lantern displayed on a plank fixed at the water's edge. Baby had six canoes in readiness; in each were stowed two quarters of beef, three hogs, and six bags of meal. All night long these canoes plied across the half-mile stretch of water and by daylight sufficient food to last the garrison for several weeks had been delivered.

>From day to day the Indians kept up a desultory firing, while Gladwyn took precautions against a long siege. Food was taken from the houses of the inhabitants and placed in a common storehouse. Timber was torn from the walks and used in the construction of portable bastions, which were erected outside the fort. There being danger that the roofs of the houses would be ignited by means of fire-arrows, the French inhabitants of the fort were made to draw water and store it in vessels at convenient points. Houses, fences, and orchards in the neighborhood were destroyed and leveled, so that skulking warriors could not find shelter. The front of the fort was comparatively safe from attack, for the schooners guarded the river gate, and the Indians had a wholesome dread of these floating fortresses.

About the middle of the month the "Gladwyn" sailed down the Detroit to meet a convoy that was expected with provisions and ammunition from Fort Schlosser. At the entrance to Lake Erie, as the vessel lay becalmed in the river, she was suddenly beset by a swarm of savages in canoes; and Pontiac's prisoner, Captain Campbell, appeared in the foremost canoe, the savages thinking that the British would not fire on them for fear of killing him. Happily, a breeze sprang up and the schooner escaped to the open lake. There was no sign of the convoy; and the "Gladwyn" sailed for the Niagara, to carry to the officers there tidings of the Indian rising in the west.

On May 30, the watchful sentries at Detroit saw a line of bateaux flying the British flag rounding a point on the east shore of the river. This was the expected convoy from Fort Schlosser, and the cannon boomed forth a welcome. But the rejoicings of the garrison were soon stilled. Instead of British cheers, wild war-whoops resounded from the bateaux. The Indians had captured the convoy and were forcing their captives to row. In the foremost boat were four soldiers and three savages. Nearing the fortress one of the soldiers conceived the daring plan of overpowering the Indian guard and escaping to the "Beaver", which lay anchored in front of the fort. Seizing the nearest savage he attempted to throw him into the river; but the Indian succeeded in stabbing him, and both fell overboard and were drowned. The other savages, dreading capture, leapt out of the boat and swam ashore. The bateau with the three soldiers in it reached the "Beaver", and the provisions and ammunition it contained were taken to the fort. The Indians in the remaining bateaux, warned by the fate of the leading vessel, landed on the east shore; and, marching their prisoners overland past the fort, they took them across the river to Pontiac's camp, where most of them were put to death with fiendish cruelty.

The soldiers who escaped to the "Beaver" told the story of the ill-fated convoy. On May 13, Lieutenant Abraham Cuyler, totally ignorant of the outbreak of hostilities at Detroit, had left Fort Schlosser with ninety-six men in ten bateaux. They had journeyed in leisurely fashion along the northern shore of Lake Erie, and by the 28th had reached Point Pelee, about thirty miles from the Detroit River. Here a landing was made, and while tents were being pitched, a band of painted savages suddenly darted out of the forest and attacked a man and a boy who were gathering wood. The man escaped, but the boy was tomahawked and scalped. Cuyler drew up his men in front of the boats, and a sharp musketry fire followed between the Indians, who were sheltered by a thick wood, and the white men on the exposed shore. The raiders were Wyandot from Detroit, the most courageous and intelligent savages in the region. Seeing that Cuyler's men were panic-stricken, they broke from their cover, with unusual boldness for Indians, and made a mad charge. The soldiers, completely unnerved by the savage yells and hurtling tomahawks, threw down their arms and dashed in confusion to the boats. Five they succeeded in pushing off, and into these they tumbled without weapons of defense. Cuyler himself was left behind, wounded; but he waded out, and was taken aboard under a brisk fire from the shore. The Indians then launched two of the abandoned boats, rushed in pursuit of the fleeing soldiers, speedily captured three of the boats, and brought them ashore in triumph. The two others, in one of which was Cuyler, hoisted sail and escaped. The Indians, as we have seen, brought the captured boats and their prisoners to Detroit. Cuyler had directed his course to Sandusky, but finding the blockhouse there burnt to the ground, he had rowed eastward to Presqu'isle, and then hastened to Niagara to report the disaster.

The siege of Detroit went on. Towards the middle of June, Jacques Baby brought word to the commandant that the "Gladwyn" was returning from the Niagara with supplies and men, and that the Indians were making preparations to capture her. A few miles below Detroit lay Fighting Island; between it and the east shore, Turkey Island. Here the savages had erected a breastwork, so carefully concealed that it would be difficult even for the keenest eyes to detect its presence. The vessel would have to pass within easy range of this barricade; and it was the plan of the Indians to dart out in their canoes as the schooner worked up-stream, seize her, and slay her crew. On learning this news, Gladwyn ordered cannon to be fired to notify the captain that the fort still held out, and sent a messenger to meet the vessel with word of the plot. It happened that the "Gladwyn" was well manned and prepared for battle. On board was Cuyler with twenty-two survivors of the ill-starred convoy, besides twenty-eight men of Captain Hopkins's company. To deceive the Indians as to the number of men, all the crew and soldiers, save ten or twelve, were concealed in the hold; to invite attack, the vessel advanced boldly up-stream, and at nightfall cast anchor in the narrow channel in front of Turkey Island. About midnight the Indians stealthily boarded their canoes and cautiously, but confidently, swept towards her with muffled paddles. The "Gladwyn" was ready for them. Not a sound broke the silence of the night as the Indians approached the schooner; when suddenly the clang of a hammer against the mast echoed over the calm waters, the signal to the soldiers in the hold. The Indians were almost on their prey; but before they had time to utter the war-whoop, the soldiers had come up and had attacked the savages with bullets and cannon shot. Shrieks of death arose amid the din of the firing and the splash of swimmers hurriedly making for the shore from the sinking canoes. In a moment fourteen Indians were killed and as many more wounded. From behind the barricade the survivors began a harmless musketry fire against the schooner, which simply weighed anchor and drifted down-stream to safety. A day or two later she cleared Turkey Island and reached the fort, pouring a shattering broadside into the Wyandot village as she passed it. Besides the troops, the "Gladwyn" had on board a precious cargo of a hundred and fifty barrels of provisions and some ammunition. She had not run the blockade unscathed, for in passing Turkey Island one sergeant and four men had been wounded. There was rejoicing in the fort when the reinforcement marched in. This additional strength in men and provisions, it was expected, would enable the garrison to hold out for at least another month, within which time soldiers would arrive in sufficient force to drive the Indians away.

In the meantime, Pontiac was becoming alarmed. He had expected an easy victory, and was not prepared for a protracted siege. He had drawn on the French settlers for supplies; his warriors had slain cattle and taken provisions without the consent of the owners. Leaders in the settlement now waited on Pontiac, making complaint. He professed to be fighting for French rule, and expressed sorrow at the action of his young men, promising that in the future the French should be paid. Acting, no doubt, on the suggestion of some of his French allies, he made a list of the inhabitants, drew on each for a definite quantity of supplies, and had these deposited at Meloche's house near his camp on Parent's Creek. A commissary was appointed to distribute the provisions as required. In payment he issued letters of credit, signed with his totem, the otter. It is said that all of them were afterwards redeemed; but this is almost past belief in the face of what actually happened.

From the beginning of the siege Pontiac had hoped that the French traders and settlers would join him to force the surrender of the fort. The arrival of the reinforcement under Cuyler made him despair of winning without their assistance, and early in July he sent his Indians to the leading inhabitants along the river, ordering them to a council, at which he hoped by persuasion, or threats, to make them take up arms. This council was attended by such settlers as Robert Navarre, Zacharie Sicotte, Louis Campau, Antoine Cuillerier, Francois Meloche, all men of standing and influence. In his address to them, Pontiac declared: 'If you are French, accept this war-belt for yourselves, or your young men, and join us; if you are English, we declare war upon you.'

The "Gladwyn" had brought news of the Peace of Paris between France and England. Many of the settlers had been hoping that success would crown the French arms in Europe and that Canada would be restored. Some of those at the council said that these articles of peace were a mere ruse on the part of Gladwyn to gain time. Robert Navarre, who had published the articles of peace to the French and Indians, and several others were friendly to the British, but the majority of those present were unfriendly. Sicotte told Pontiac that, while the heads of families could not take up arms, there were three hundred young men about Detroit who would willingly join him. These words were probably intended to humor the chief; but there were those who took the belt and commenced recruiting among their fellows. The settlers who joined Pontiac were nearly all half-breeds or men mated with Indian wives. Others, such as Pierre Reaume and Louis Campau, believing their lives to be in danger on account of their loyalty to the new rulers, sought shelter in the fort.

By July 4, the Indians, under the direction of French allies, had strongly entrenched themselves and had begun a vigorous attack. But a force of about sixty men marched out from the fort and drove them from the position. In the retreat, two Indians were killed, and one of the pursuing soldiers, who had been a prisoner among the Indians and had learned the ways of savage warfare, scalped one of the fallen braves. The victim proved to be a nephew of the chief of the Saginaw Chippewa, who now claimed life for life, and demanded that Captain Campbell should be given up to him. According to the 'Pontiac Manuscript' Pontiac acquiesced, and the Saginaw chief killed Campbell 'with a blow of his tomahawk, and after cast him into the river.' Campbell's fellow-prisoner McDougall, along with two others, had escaped to the fort some days before.

The investment continued, although the attacks became less frequent. The schooners maneuvering in the river poured broadsides into the Indian villages, battering down the flimsy wigwams. Pontiac moved his camp from the mouth of Parent's Creek to a position nearer Lake St. Clair, out of range of their guns, and turned his thoughts to contrive some means of destroying the troublesome vessels. He had learned from the French of the attempt with fire-ships against the British fleet at Quebec, and made trial of a similar artifice. Bateaux were joined together, loaded with inflammable material, ignited, and sent on their mission but these 'fire-ships' floated harmlessly past the schooners and burnt themselves out. Then for a week the Indians worked on the construction of a gigantic fire-raft, but nothing came of this ambitious scheme.

It soon appeared that Pontiac was beginning to lose his hold on the Indians. About the middle of July, ambassadors from the Wyandot and Potawatomi came to the fort with an offer of peace, protesting, after the Indian manner, love and friendship for the British. After much parleying they surrendered their prisoners and plunder; but, soon after, a temptation irresistible to their treacherous natures offered itself, and they were again on the war-path.

Amherst at New York had at last been aroused to the danger; and Captain James Dalyell had set out from Fort Schlosser with twenty-two barges, carrying nearly three hundred men, with cannon and supplies, for the relief of Detroit. The expedition skirted the southern shore of Lake Erie until it reached Sandusky. The Wyandot villages here were found deserted. After destroying them, Dalyell shaped his course for the Detroit River. Fortune favored the expedition. Pontiac was either ignorant of its approach or unable to mature a plan to check its advance. Through the darkness and fog of the night of July 28 the barges cautiously crept up-stream, and when the morning sun of the 29th lifted the mists from the river they were in full view of the fort. Relief at last! The weary watching of months was soon to end. The band of the fort was assembled, and the martial airs of England floated on the morning breeze. Now it was that the Wyandot and Potawatomi, although so lately swearing friendship to the British, thought the opportunity too good to be lost. In passing their villages the barges were assailed by a musketry fire, which killed two and wounded thirteen of Dalyell's men. But the soldiers, with muskets and swivels, replied to the attack, and put the Indians to flight. Then the barges drew up before the fort to the welcome of the anxious watchers of Detroit.

The reinforcement was composed of men of the 55th and 8th regiments, and of twenty Rangers under Major Robert Rogers. Like their commander, Dalyell, many of them were experienced in Indian fighting and were eager to be at Pontiac and his warriors. Dalyell thought that Pontiac might be taken by surprise, and urged on Gladwyn the advisability of an immediate advance. To this Gladwyn was averse; but Dalyell was insistent, and won his point. By the following night all was in readiness. At two o'clock in the morning of the 31st, the river gate was thrown open and about two hundred and fifty men filed out.

Heavy clouds hid both moon and stars, and the air was oppressively hot. The soldiers marched along the dusty road, guided by Baby and St. Martin, who had volunteered for the work. Not a sound save their own dull tramp broke the silence. On their right gleamed the calm river, and keeping pace with them were two large bateaux armed with swivels. Presently, as the troops passed the farm-houses, drowsy watch-dogs caught the sound of marching feet and barked furiously. Pontiac's camp, however, was still far away; this barking would not alarm the Indians. But the soldiers did not know that they had been betrayed by a spy of Pontiac's within the fort, nor did they suspect that snake-like eyes were even then watching their advance.

At length Parent's Creek was reached, where a narrow wooden bridge spanned the stream a few yards from its mouth. The advance-guard were halfway over the bridge, and the main body crowding after them, when, from a black ridge in front, the crackle of musketry arose, and half the advance-guard fell. The narrow stream ran red with their blood, and ever after this night it was known as Bloody Run. On the high ground to the north of the creek a barricade of cordwood had been erected, and behind this and behind barns and houses and fences, and in the cornfields and orchards, Indians were firing and yelling like demons. The troops recoiled, but Dalyell rallied them; again they crowded to the bridge. There was another volley and another pause. With reckless bravery the soldiers pressed across the narrow way and rushed to the spot where the musket-flashes were seen. They won the height, but not an Indian was there. The musket-flashes continued and war-whoops sounded from new shelters. The bateaux drew up alongside the bridge, and the dead and wounded were taken on board to be carried to the fort. It was useless to attempt to drive the shifty savages from their lairs, and so the retreat was sounded. Captain Grant, in charge of the rear company, led his men back across the bridge while Dalyell covered the retreat; and now the fight took on a new aspect. As the soldiers retreated along the road leading to the fort, a destructive fire poured upon them from houses and barns, from behind fences, and from a newly dug cellar. With the river on their left, and with the enemy before and behind as well as on their sight, they were in danger of being annihilated. Grant ordered his men to fix bayonets: a dash was made where the savages were thickest, and they were scattered. As the fire was renewed panic seized the troops. But Dalyell came up from the rear, and with shouts and threats and flat of sword restored order. Day was breaking; but a thick fog hung over the scene, under cover of which the Indians continued the attack. The house of Jacques Campau, a trader, sheltered a number of Indians who were doing most destructive work. Rogers and a party of his Rangers attacked the house, and, pounding in the doors, drove out their assailants. From Campau's house Rogers covered the retreat of Grant's company, but was himself in turn besieged. By this time, the armed bateaux, which had borne the dead and wounded to the fort, had returned, and, opening fire with their swivels on the Indians attacking Rogers, drove them off; the Rangers joined Grant's company, and all retreated for the fort. The shattered remnant of Dalyell's confident forces arrived at Fort Detroit at eight in the morning, after six hours of marching and desperate battle, exhausted and crestfallen. Dalyell had been slain--an irreparable loss. The casualty list was twenty killed and forty-two wounded. The Indians had suffered but slightly. However, they gained but little permanent advantage from the victory, as the fort had still about three hundred effective men, with ample provisions and ammunition, and could defy assault and withstand a protracted siege.

In this fight Chippewa and Ottawa took the leading part. The Wyandot had, however, at the sound of firing, crossed the river, and the Potawatomi also had joined in the combat, in spite of the truce so recently made with Gladwyn. At the battle of Bloody Run at least eight hundred warriors were engaged in the endeavor to cut off Dalyell's men. There was rejoicing in the Indian villages, and more British scalps adorned the warriors' wigwams. Runners were sent out to the surrounding nations with news of the victory, and many recruits were added to Pontiac's forces.


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Chronicles of Canada, The War Chief of The Ottawa, A Chronicle of the Pontiac War, 1915

 

Chronicles of Canada


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