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首页 » 英文名人传记 » Lives of Famous Indian Chiefs » CHAPTER V.
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It has been said that the history of the United States began with the triumph of the English on the heights of Abraham, resulting in the immediate fall of Quebec and the inevitable surrender of all Canada.
This memorable event took place September 13, 1759, and from New Hampshire to Georgia the American colonists welcomed the news with exuberant rejoicings.
But their joy was premature and of short duration, for though the French had been subdued, and were suing for peace, their Indian allies, under the indomitable Pontiac, had, in the language of Paul Jones, "just begun to fight."
This remarkable sachem was principal chief of the Ottawas, and the virtual head of a loose kind of confederacy, consisting of the Ottawas, Ojibways and Pottawatomies. Over those around him, his authority was almost despotic, and his power extended far beyond the limits of the three united tribes. His influence was great among all the nations of the Illinois country; while from the sources of the Ohio to those of the Mississippi, and, indeed, to the farthest boundaries of the wide-spread Algonquin race, his name was known and respected.
He is said to have been the son of an Ottawa chief and an Ojibway mother, a circumstance which proved an advantage to him by increasing his influence over both tribes. But the mere fact that Pontiac was born the son of a chief would, as Parkman says, "in no degree account for the extent of his power; for, among Indians, many a chief's son sinks back into insignificance, while the offspring of a common warrior may succeed to his place." Among all the wild tribes of the continent, personal merit is indispensable to gaining or preserving dignity. Courage, resolution, wisdom, address and eloquence are sure passports to distinction. With all these Pontiac was preeminently endowed, and it was chiefly to them, urged to their highest activity by a vehement ambition, that he owed his greatness, for all authorities, and especially those who came personally in contact with him, concede the fact that he was indeed great.
A traveler who visited his country about 1760 mentions him in the following terms: "Pontiac, their present King or Emperor, has certainly the largest empire and greatest authority of any Indian chief that has appeared on the continent since our acquaintance with it. He puts on an air of majesty and princely grandeur, and is greatly honored and revered by his subjects."
Pontiac is said to have commanded the Ottawas at Braddock's defeat, and was treated with much honor by the French officers. The venerable Pierre Chouteau, of St. Louis, remembered to have seen Pontiac a few days before the assassination of that chief, attired in the complete uniform of a French officer, which had been given him by the Marquis of Montcalm, a short time before the fall of Quebec.
An Ojibway Indian told Parkman that some portion of his power was to be ascribed to his being a chief of the Metai, a magical association among the Indians of the lakes, in which character he exerted an influence on the superstitions of his followers.
The great chief possessed many resources. His intellect was strong and capacious, while his commanding energy and subtle craft could match the best of his wily race. But, though capable of acts of lofty magnanimity, he was a thorough savage, sharing all their passions and prejudices, their fierceness and treachery. Yet his faults were those of his race; and they can not eclipse his nobler qualities, the great powers and heroic virtues of his mind.
At the time of which we write, Pontiac made his home at an Ottawa village about five miles above Detroit, on the opposite or Canadian side of the river. He lived in no royal state. His cabin was a small, oven-shaped structure of bark and rushes. Here he dwelt with his squaws and children; and here, doubtless, he might often have been seen, carelessly reclining his half-naked form on a rush mat, or bearskin, like any ordinary warrior. But his vigorous mind was ever active—thinking, scheming, plotting, if you will, how to most effectually unite all the scattered tribes, many of them his hereditary foes, in one great far-reaching effort to regain what the French had lost, by driving back the English invaders from his land.
The first time Pontiac stands forth distinctly on the page of history, or rather stalks across that page, was in 1760, about a year after the victory of the English at Quebec.
On September 12, 1760, the famous major, Robert Rogers, received orders from Sir Jeffrey Amherst to ascend the lakes with a detachment of two hundred rangers in fifteen whaleboats and take possession, in the name of his Britannic majesty, of Detroit, Michillimackinac, and other western posts included in the late capitulation. On November 7 they reached the mouth of a river called by Rogers the Chogage. Weary with their long voyage they determined to rest a few days, and were preparing their encampment in the neighboring forest when a party of Indian chiefs and warriors entered the camp.
They proclaimed themselves an embassy from Pontiac, "King and Lord of that country," and informed Rogers and his rangers that their great sachem, in person, proposed to visit the English; that he was then not far distant, coming peaceably, and that he desired the major to halt his detachment "till such time as he could see him with his own eyes."
The major drew up his troops as requested, and before long Pontiac made his appearance. He wore, we are told, "an air of majesty and princely grandeur." He saluted them, but the salutation, so far from being another "Welcome, Englishmen!" was very frigid and formal. He at once sternly demanded of Rogers his business in his territory, and how he had dared to venture upon it without his permission. Rogers very prudently answered that he had no design against the Indians, but, on the contrary, wished to remove from their country a nation who had been an obstacle to mutual friendship and commerce between them and the English. He also made known his commission to this effect, and concluded with a present of several belts of wampum. Pontiac received them with the single observation, "I shall stand in the path you are walking till morning," and gave at the same time, a small string of wampum. "This," writes the major, "was as much as to say I must not march farther without his leave."
Such, undoubtedly, was the safest construction, and the sequel shows that Pontiac considered it the most civil. Before departing for the night he inquired of Rogers whether he wanted anything which his country afforded; if so, his warriors should bring it for him.
The reply was discreet as the offer was generous, that whatever provisions might be brought in should be well paid for. Probably they were; but the English were, at all events, supplied the next morning with several bags of parched corn, game and other necessaries. Pontiac himself, at the second meeting, offered the pipe of peace, which he and Rogers smoked by turns. He declared that he thereby made peace with Rogers and his rangers and that they should pass through his dominions, not only unmolested by his subjects, but protected by them from all other parties who might incline to be hostile.
A cold storm of rain set in, and the rangers were detained some days in their encampment. During this time Rogers had several interviews with Pontiac, and was constrained to admire the native vigor of his intellect, no less than the singular control he exercised over his own warriors and all the Indians in the lake regions. In the course of their conversation, Rogers informs us that the great chieftain "often intimated to him that he should be content to reign in his country, in subordination to the King of Great Britain, and was willing to pay him such annual acknowledgment as he was able in furs, and to call him Uncle." England was much in his thoughts, and he several times expressed a desire to see it. He told Rogers that if he would conduct him there he would give him a part of his country. He was willing to grant the English favors, and allow them to settle in his dominions, but not unless he could be viewed as a sovereign; and he gave them to understand that unless they conducted themselves agreeable to his wishes, "he would shut up the way and keep them out."
"As an earnest of his friendship," continued Rogers, "he sent one hundred warriors to protect and assist us in driving one hundred fat cattle, which we had brought for the use of the detachment from Pittsburg, by the way of Presque Isle. He likewise sent to the several Indian towns, on the south side and west end of Lake Erie, to inform them that I had his consent to come into the country. He attended me constantly after this interview till I arrived at Detroit, and while I remained in the country, and was the means of preserving the detachment from the fury of the Indians, who had assembled at the mouth of the strait, with an intent to cut us off. I had several conferences with him, in which he discovered great strength of judgment, and a thirst after knowledge. He was especially anxious to be made acquainted with the English mode of war, to know how their arms and accoutrements were provided, and how their clothing was manufactured."
Up to this time Pontiac had been in word and deed the fast friend and ally of the French; but it is easy to discern the motives that impelled him to renounce his old adherence. The American forest never produced a man more shrewd, politic and ambitious. Ignorant as he was of what was passing in the world, he could clearly see that the French power was on the wane, and he knew his own interest too well to prop a falling cause. By making friends of the English he hoped to gain powerful allies, who would aid his ambitious projects, and give him an increased influence over the tribes; and he flattered himself that the newcomers would treat him with the same studied respect which the French had always observed. In this and all his other expectations of advantage from the English, he was doomed to disappointment.
There seems no reasonable doubt of the sincerity of Pontiac's friendship toward the English at this time, and we can not forbear thinking how different might have been the record of the historian, had the English authorities pursued a friendly and conciliatory policy toward the Indians in general, and this mighty chieftain in particular. What massacres and devastation might the country have been spared.
Instead of "a work of love and reconciliation" toward the Indians the exact opposite policy was pursued by the English. Flushed with their victory over the more formidable French, they bestowed only a passing thought on the despised savages, and greatly underrated their warlike prowess.
A number of things tended to enrage the Indians against the English invaders of their land, for such they regarded them from the first. It will be remembered that Pontiac, in his interview with Major Rogers, made his overtures of friendship and alliance with the English conditional. His whole conversation sufficiently indicated that he was far from considering himself a conquered prince, and that he expected to be treated with the respect and honor due to a king or emperor by all who came into his country or treated with him. In short, if the English treated him in this manner they were welcome to come into his country, but if they treated him with neglect and contempt, "he should shut up the way and keep them out."
The English did treat him and his people with neglect and contempt, and as a consequence the mighty chief was justly indignant.
From the small and widely separated forts along the lakes and in the interior, the red men had, with sorrow and anger, seen the fleur-de-lis disappear and the cross of St. George take its place. Toward the intruders—victors over their friends, patrons and allies—the Indians maintained a stubborn resentment and hostility.
The Indians were ever lovers of the French, and for good reasons, for when, as Parkman says, "the French had possession of the remote forts, they were accustomed, with a wise liberality, to supply the surrounding Indians with guns, ammunition and clothing, until the latter had forgotten the weapons and garments of their forefathers and depended on the white men for support. The sudden withholding of these supplies was, therefore, a grievous calamity. Want, suffering and death were the consequences, and this cause alone would have been enough to produce general discontent. But, unhappily, other grievances were superadded. When the Indians visited the forts, after the English took possession, instead of being treated with politic attention and politeness, as formerly, they were received gruffly, subjected to indignities, and not infrequently helped out of the fort with the butt of a sentry's musket or a vigorous kick from an officer. These marks of contempt were unspeakably galling to their haughty spirits."
Moreover, the wilderness was overrun with brutal English traders, who plundered, swindled and cursed the warriors, besides changing them into vagabonds by the rum traffic.
Meanwhile the subjugated French, still smarting under their defeat, dispatched emissaries to almost every village and council house, from the lakes to the gulf, saying that the English had formed a deliberate scheme to exterminate the entire Indian race, and with this design had already begun to hem them in with a chain of forts on one side and settlements on the other. King Louis of France, they said, had of late years been sleeping, and that, during his slumbers, the English had seized upon Canada; but that he was now awake again, and that his armies were advancing up the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi to drive out the intruders from the country of his red children. The French trading companies, and, it is said, the officers of the crown also, distributed with a liberal hand the more substantial encouragement of arms, ammunition, clothing and provisions.
The fierce passions of the Indians, excited by their wrongs and encouraged by the representations of the French, were farther wrought upon by disturbing influences of another kind. A great prophet arose among the Delawares, preaching the recovery of the Indian's hunting grounds from the white man, and claiming to have received a revelation direct from the Great Spirit. Vast throngs, including many from remote regions, listened spellbound by his wild eloquence. The white man was driving the Indians from their country, he said, and unless the Indians obeyed the Great Spirit, and destroyed the white man, then the latter would destroy them.
This was the state of affairs among the Indians in 1761 and 1762. Everywhere was discontent, sullen hatred and dark foreboding passion.
Pontiac saw his opportunity; he maintained close relations with the great Delaware prophet, and, like Philip before and Tecumseh after him, he determined to unite all the tribes he could reach or influence in a gigantic conspiracy to exterminate their common enemy, with the help of France, whom, he intended, should regain her foothold on the continent.
"The plan of operation," says Thatcher, "adopted by Pontiac evinces an extraordinary genius, as well as courage and energy of the highest order. This was a sudden and contemporaneous attack upon all the British posts on the lakes—at St. Joseph, Ouiatenon, Green Bay, Michillimackinac, Detroit, the Maumee and the Sandusky—and also upon the forts at Niagara, Presque Isle, Le Boeuf, Verango and Fort Pitt. Most of the fortifications at these places were slight, being rather commercial depots than military establishments. Still, against the Indians they were strongholds, and the positions had been so judiciously selected by the French that to this day they command the great avenues of communication to the world of woods and waters in the remote North and West. It was manifest to Pontiac, familiar as he was with the geography of this vast tract of country, and with the practical, if not the technical, maxims of war, that the possession or the destruction of these posts—saying nothing of their garrisons—would be emphatically 'shutting up the way.' If the surprise could be simultaneous, so that every English banner which waved upon a line of thousands of miles should be prostrated at the same moment, the garrisons would be unable to exchange assistance, while, on the other hand, the failure of one Indian detachment would have no effect to discourage another. Certainly, some might succeed. Probably the war might begin and be terminated with the same single blow; and then Pontiac would again be Lord and King of the broad land of his ancestors."
Montcalm at Massacre
But it was necessary, first of all, to form a belligerent combination of the tribes, and the more extensive the better. To this end, toward the close of 1762, dark mysterious messengers from this Napoleon of the Indians, each bearing a war belt of wampum, broad and long as the importance of the occasion demanded, threaded their ways through the forest to the farthest shores of Lake Superior, and the distant delta of the Mississippi. On the arrival of these ambassadors to a tribe, the chief warriors would assemble in the council house. Then the orator, flinging down the red-stained tomahawk before his audience, would deliver, with energetic emphasis and action the message from his lord. The keynote was war! On a certain day in May, after so many moons, the Indians, from lakes to gulf, were to take the war-path simultaneously, destroy the English fort nearest, and then throw themselves on the unprotected frontier.
"The bugle call of such a mighty leader as Pontiac," as Mason says, "roused the remotest tribes. Everywhere they joined the conspiracy, and sent lofty messages to Pontiac of the deeds they would perform. The ordinary pursuits of life were given up. The warriors danced the war-dance for weeks at a time. Squaws were set to sharpening knives, moulding bullets and mixing war paint. Children caught the fever, and practiced incessantly with bows and arrows. For the one time in their history, a hundred wild and restless tribes were animated by a single inspiration and purpose. That which was incapable of union, united. Conjurors practiced their arts. Magicians consulted their oracles. Prophets avowed revelations from the most High. Warriors withdrew to caves and fastnesses, where, with fasting and self-torture, they wrought themselves into more fearful excitement and mania. Young men sought to raise their courage by eating raw flesh and drinking hot blood. Tall chieftains, crowned with nodding plumes, harangued their followers nightly, striking every chord of revenge, glory, avarice, pride, patriotism and love, which trembled in the savage breast.
"As the orator approached his climax he would leap into the air, brandishing his hatchet as if rushing upon an enemy, yelling the war-whoop, throwing himself in a thousand postures, his eyes aflame, his muscles strained and knotted, his face a thunderstorm of passion, as if in the actual struggle. At last, with a triumphant shout, he brandishes aloft the scalp of the imaginary victim. His eloquence is irresistible. His audience is convulsed with passionate interest, and sways like trees tossed in the tempest. At last, the whole assembly, fired with uncontrollable frenzy, rush together in the ring, leaping, stamping, yelling, brandishing knives and hatchets in the firelight, hacking and stabbing the air, until the lonely midnight forest is transformed into a howling pandemonium of devils, from whose fearful uproar the startled animals, miles away, flee frightened into remote lairs."
The time for the bursting of the storm drew near. Yet at only one place on the frontier was there the least suspicion of Indian disturbance. The garrisons of the exposed forts reposed in fancied security. The arch conspirator, Pontiac, had breathed the breath of life into a vast conspiracy, whose ramifications spread their network over a region of country of which the northwestern and southeastern extremities were nearly two thousand miles apart. Yet the traders, hunters, scouts and trappers who were right among the Indians, and were versed in the signs of approaching trouble, suspected nothing wrong. Colossal conspiracy! Stupendous deceit!
Pontiac arranged to meet the chiefs of the allied tribes, from far and near, in a grand war council, which was held on the banks of the Aux Ecorces, or Etorces, a little river not far from Detroit, on April 27, 1763. Parkman has given us the best description of what occurred at this council. Said he, "On the long-expected morning heralds passed from one group of lodges to another, calling the warriors in loud voice to attend the great council before Pontiac. In accordance with the summons they came issuing; from their wigwams—the tall, half-naked figures of the wild Ojibways, with quivers slung at their backs, and light war clubs resting in the hollow of their arms; Ottawas, wrapped close in their gaudy blankets; Wyandots, fluttering in their painted shirts, their heads adorned with feathers and their leggings garnished with bells. All were soon seated in a wide circle upon the grass, row within row, a grave and silent assembly. Each savage countenance seemed carved in wood, and none could have detected the deep and fiery passion hidden beneath that immovable exterior.
"Then Pontiac rose; according to tradition, not above middle height. His muscular figure was cast in a mold of remarkable symmetry and vigor. His complexion was darker than is usual with his race, and his features, though by no means regular, had a bold and stern expression, while his habitual bearing was imperious and peremptory, like that of a man accustomed to sweep away all opposition by the force of his imperious will. On occasions like this he was wont to appear as befitted his power and character, and he stood before the council plumed and painted in the full costume of war.
"Looking around upon his wild auditors he began to speak, with fierce gesture and loud, impassioned voice; and at every pause, deep guttural ejaculations of assent and approval responded to his words. Said he: 'It is important, my brothers, that we should exterminate from our land this nation, whose only object is our death. You must be all sensible, as well as myself, that we can no longer supply our wants in the way we were accustomed to do with our fathers, the French. They sell us their goods at double the price that the French made us pay, and yet their merchandise is good for nothing; for no sooner have we bought a blanket or other thing to cover us, than it is necessary to procure others against the time of departure for our wintering ground. Neither will they let us have them on credit, as our brothers, the French, used to do. When I visit the English chief and inform him of the death of any of our comrades, instead of lamenting, as our brothers, the French, used to do, they make game of us. If I ask him for anything for our sick, he refuses, and tells us he does not want us, from which it is apparent he seeks our death. We must, therefore, in return, destroy them without delay; there is nothing to prevent us; there are but few of them, and we shall easily overcome them—why should we not attack them? Are we not men? Have I not shown you the belts I received from our Great Father, the King of France? He tells us to strike—why should we not listen to his words? What do you fear? The time has arrived. Do you fear that our brothers, the French, who are now among us, will hinder us? They are not acquainted with our designs, and if they did know them, could they prevent them? You know as well as myself, that when the English came upon our lands, to drive from them our father, Bellestre, they took from the French all the guns that they have, so that they have now no guns to defend themselves with. Therefore, now is the time; let us strike. Should there be any French to take their part, let us strike them as we do the English. I have sent belts and speeches to our friends, the Chippeways of Saginaw, and our brothers, the Ottawas of Michillimacinac, and to those of the Riviere á la Tranche (Thames river), inviting them to join us, and they will not delay. In the meantime, let us strike. There is no longer any time to lose, and when the English shall be defeated, we will stop the way, so that no more shall return upon our lands."
He also assured them that the Indians and their French brothers would again fight side by side against the common foe, as they did in other years on the Monongahela, when the banners of the English had been trampled in the bloody mire of defeat.
The orator, having lashed his audience into fury, quickly soothed them with the story of the Delaware prophet, already mentioned, who had a dream in which it was revealed to him that by traveling in a certain direction he would at length reach the abode of the 'Great Spirit,' or Master of Life.
"After many days of journeying, full of strange incidents," continued Pontiac, "he saw before him a vast mountain of dazzling whiteness, so precipitous that he was about to turn back in despair, when a beautiful woman arrayed in white appeared and thus accosted him: 'How can you hope, encumbered as you are, to succeed in your design? Go down to the foot of the mountain, throw away your gun, your ammunition, your provisions and your clothing; wash yourself in the stream which flows there, and you will then be prepared to stand before the Master of Life.' The Indian obeyed, and again began to ascend among the rocks, while the woman, seeing him still discouraged, laughed at his faintness of heart and told him that, if he wished for success, he must climb by the aid of one hand and one foot only. After great toil and suffering, he at length found himself at the summit. The woman had disappeared, and he was left alone. A rich and beautiful plain lay before him, and at a little distance he saw three great villages, far superior to any he had seen in any tribe. As he approached the largest and stood hesitating whether he should enter, a man, gorgeously attired, stepped forth, and, taking him by the hand, welcomed him to the celestial abode. He then conducted him into the presence of the Great Spirit, where the Indian stood confounded at the unspeakable splendor which surrounded him. The Great Spirit bade him be seated, and thus addressed him: 'I am the Maker of heaven and earth, the trees, lakes, rivers and all things else. I am the Maker of mankind; and because I love you, you must do my will. The land on which you live I have made for you, and not for others. Why do you suffer the white man to dwell among you? My children, you have forgotten the customs and traditions of your forefathers. Why do you not clothe yourselves in skins, as they did, and use the bows and arrows, and the stone-pointed lances, which they used? You have bought guns, knives, kettles, and blankets from the white man, until you can no longer do without them; and what is worse, you have drunk the poison fire-water, which turns you into fools. Fling all these things away; live as your wise forefathers lived before you. And as for these English—these dogs dressed in red, who have come to rob you of your hunting grounds and drive away the game—you must lift the hatchet against them. Wipe them from the face of the earth, and then you will win my favor back again, and once more be happy and prosperous. The children of your great father, the King of France, are not like the English. Never forget that they are your brethren. They are very dear to me, for they love the red men, and understand the true mode of worshipping me.'"
Such is the tale told by Pontiac to the council, quoted by Parkman from statements recorded both by Indians and Canadians who were present.
Before this vast assembly dissolved, the great chieftain unfolded his wide-laid plans for a simultaneous attack on all the forts in possession of the English. The 7th of May, 1763, was named as the day of destruction, and his schemes, which were constructed with the white man's skill and the red man's cunning, met the hearty approval of all the assembled chiefs and warriors, and the great council dissolved.
The plan was now ripe for execution, and with the suddenness of a whirlwind, the storm of war burst forth all along the frontier. Nine of the British forts, or stations, were captured. Some of the garrisons were completely surprised and massacred on the spot; a few individuals, in other cases, escaped. In case of most, if not all of the nine surprisals, quite as much was effected by stratagem as by force, and that apparently by a pre-concerted system, which indicates the far-seeing superintendence of Pontiac himself.
In this storm of war, the most thrilling and tragic scenes were enacted at Mackinaw, or Michillimackinac, and Detroit. The former was the scene of a bloody savage triumph; the latter, of a long and perilous siege, in which the savage besiegers were under the personal command of the great Pontiac. As it is the only recorded instance of the protracted siege of a fortified civilized garrison by an army of savages, we will tell the story in detail, but will first briefly describe the successful stratagem which resulted in the capture of Michillimackinac and the slaughter of the garrison.
The name Michillimackinac, which, in the Algonquin tongue, signifies the Great Turtle, was first, from a fancied resemblance, applied to the neighboring island and thence to the fort.
By reason of its location on the south side of the strait, between lakes Huron and Michigan, Michillimackinac was one of the most important positions on the frontier. It was the place of deposit and point of departure between the upper and lower countries; the traders always assembled there on their voyages to and from Montreal. Connected with it was an area of two acres, inclosed with tall cedar-wood posts, sharpened at the top, and extending on one side so near the water's edge that a western wind always drove the waves against the foot of the stockade.
The place at this time contained thirty families within the palisades of the fort, and about as many more without, with a garrison of about thirty-five men and their officers, according to Parkman.
Warning of the tempest that impended had been clearly given; enough, had it been heeded, to have averted the fatal disaster. Several of the Canadians least hostile to the English had thrown out hints of approaching danger, and one of them had even told Captain Etherington, the commander, that the Indians had formed a design to destroy, not only his garrison, but all the English on the lakes. Etherington not only turned a deaf ear to what he heard, but threatened to send prisoner to Detroit the next person who should disturb the fort with such tidings. Only the day before the tragic 4th of June an Indian named Wawatam, an Ojibway chief, who had taken a fancy to Alexander Henry, a trader, who was in the fort, came over and first advised, then urged, and finally begged Henry on his knees, to leave the fort that night. But all in vain!
The morning of June 4, the birthday of King George, was warm and sultry. The plain in front of the fort was covered with Indians of the Ojibway, Chippewa and Sac tribes.
Early in the morning, many Ojibways came to the fort, inviting the officers and soldiers to come out and see a grand game of ball, or baggattaway, which was to be played between their nation and the Sacs, for a high wager. In consequence of this invitation, the place was soon deserted of half its tenants, and the gates of the palisade were wide open. Groups of soldiers stood in the shade looking at the sport, most of them without their arms.
Sober Indian chiefs stood as if intently watching the fortunes of the game. In fact, however, their thoughts were far otherwise employed. Large numbers of squaws also mingled in the crowd, but gradually gathering in a group near the open gates. And, strange to say, in spite of the warm day they were wrapped to the throat in blankets.
Baggattaway has always been a favorite game with many Indian tribes. At either extremity of the open ground, from half a mile to a mile apart, stood two posts, which constituted the stations or goals of the parties. Except that the ball was much smaller and that a bat or racket much like those used in lawn tennis served instead of the kick, the game was identical with our well-known football, and just as brutal.
The ball was started from the middle of the ground, and the game was for each side to keep it from touching their own post and drive it against that of their adversaries. Hundreds of lithe and agile figures were leaping and bounding over each other, turning handsprings and somersaults, striking with the bats, tripping each other up, every way, any way, to get at the ball and foil the adversary. At one moment the whole were crowded together, a dense throng of combatants, all struggling for the ball; at the next, they are scattered again, and running over the ground like hounds in full chase. Each, in his excitement, yelled and shouted at the height of his voice.
Suddenly the ball rose high, and descending in a wide curve, fell near the gate of the fort. This was no chance stroke, but a part of a preconcerted stratagem to insure the surprise and destruction of the garrison. The players instantly bounded toward the ball, a rushing, maddened and tumultuous throng, but just as they neared the gates, the shouts of sport changed suddenly to the ferocious war-whoop. The squaws threw open their blankets, exposing the guns, hatchets and knives, and the players instantly flung away their bats and seized the weapons, before the amazed English had time to think or act. They at once fell upon the defenseless garrison and traders, butchered fifteen on the spot, captured the rest, including the commander, while everything that had belonged to the English was carried off or destroyed, though none of the French families or their property was disturbed. It is said that these captives were afterward ransomed at Montreal, at high prices.
Hollow Horn Bear
As we have seen, it was a part of Pontiac's plan that each tribe should attack the fort or English settlement nearest to them. For this reason, and because it was the largest and best fortified place, he took personal command at the siege of Detroit.
This settlement was founded by La Motte Cadillac in 1701, and contained at this time, according to Major Rogers, about twenty-five hundred people. The center of the settlement was the fortified town or fort, which stood on the western margin of the river, and contained about a hundred houses, compactly built, and surrounded by a palisade twenty-five feet high, with a bastion at each corner, and block-houses over the gates.
The garrison of the fort consisted of one hundred and twenty English soldiers, under the command of Major Gladwyn. There were also forty fur traders, and the ordinary Canadian inhabitants of the place, who could not be trusted in case of an Indian outbreak.
Two small armed schooners, the Beaver and the Gladwyn, lay anchored in the river, while the ordnance of the fort consisted of two six-pounders, one three-pounder and three mortars; all of an indifferent quality. The settlement outside the fort, stretching about eight miles along both sides of the Detroit river, consisted of the dwellings of Canadians, and three Indian villages, the Ottawas and Wyandots, on the east, and the Pottawatomies on the west side of the stream.
"Such was Detroit—a place whose defences could have opposed no resistance to a civilized enemy; and yet situated as it was at a strategic point on the bank of a broad navigable river far removed from the hope of speedy succor, it could only rely, in the terrible struggle that awaited it, upon its own slight strength and feeble resources," as Parkman well says.
On the afternoon of May 5 a Canadian woman, the wife of St. Aubin, one of the prominent settlers, crossed the river to the Ottawa village to buy some maple sugar and venison. She was surprised at finding several warriors engaged in filing off their gun-barrels, so as to reduce them, stock and all to the length of about a yard. Such a weapon could easily be hid under a blanket. That night the woman mentioned the circumstance to a neighbor, the village blacksmith. "Oh," said he, "that explains it." "Explains what?" "The reason why so many Indians have lately wanted to borrow my files and saws."
It is not known whether this circumstance reached the ears of the commander; if so, it received no attention at his hands. But, in the hour of impending doom, the love of an Indian maiden interposed to save the garrison from butchery.
In the Pottawatomie village, it is said, there lived an Ojibway girl, who could boast a larger share of beauty than is common to the wigwam. She had attracted the eye of Gladwyn, who had taken great interest in her, and as she was very bright, had given her some instruction. While she, on her part, had become much attached to the handsome young officer. On the afternoon of May 6, Catharine—for so the officers called her—came to the fort and repaired to Gladwyn's quarters, bringing with her a pair of elk skin moccasins, ornamented with beads and porcupine work, which he had requested her to make. But this time the girl's eyes no longer sparkled with pleasure and excitement. Her face was anxious, and her look furtive. She said little and soon left the room; but the sentinel at the door saw her still lingering at the street corner, though the hour for closing the gates was nearly come.
At length she attracted the attention of Gladwyn himself. The major at once saw that the girl knew something which she feared yet longed to tell. Calling her to him, he sought to win her secret, but it was not for a long while, and under solemn promises that she should not be betrayed, but rather protected, should it become necessary, that the dusky sweetheart spoke. "To-morrow," she said, "Pontiac will come to the fort with sixty of his chiefs, and demand a council. Each will be armed with a gun cut short, and hidden under his blanket. When all are assembled in the council-house, and after he has delivered his speech, he will offer a peace belt of wampum, holding it in a reversed position. This will be the signal of attack. The chiefs will spring up and fire upon the officers, and the Indians in the street will fall upon the garrison. Every Englishman will be killed, but not the scalp of a single Frenchman will be touched."
Gladwyn believed the maid, and the words of warning spoken, she went back to her people. The guards that night were doubled. At times the watchers on the walls heard unwonted sounds, borne to them on the night wind from the distant Indian villages. They were the steady beat of the Indian drum and the shrill choruses of the war-dance.
The next day, about ten o'clock, the great war chief, with his treacherous followers, reached the fort, and the gateway was thrown open to admit them. All were wrapped to the throat in colored blankets, their faces smeared with paint, and their heads adorned with nodding plumes. For the most part, they were tall, strong men, and all had a gait and bearing of peculiar stateliness. The leader started as he saw the soldiers drawn up in line, and heard the ominous tap of the drum. Arriving at the council-house they saw Gladwyn, with several of his officers, in readiness to receive them, and the observant chiefs did not fail to notice that every Englishman wore a sword at his side and a pair of pistols in his belt, and the conspirators eyed each other with uneasy glances.
"Why," demanded Pontiac, "do I see so many of my father's young men standing in the street with their guns?" Gladwyn replied through his interpreter, La Butte, that he had ordered the soldiers under arms for the sake of exercise and discipline. Pontiac saw at once that the plot was discovered. He did not lose control of himself, however, but made the customary speech, though the signal for attack was not given. After a short and uneasy sitting he and his chiefs withdrew with marked discomfiture and apprehension.
Gladwyn has been censured for not detaining the chiefs as hostages for the good conduct of their followers. "Perhaps," as Parkman says, "the commandant feared lest should he arrest the chiefs when gathered at a public council and guiltless as yet of open violence, the act might be interpreted as cowardly and dishonorable. He was ignorant, moreover, of the true nature or extent of the plot."
Balked in his treachery, the great chief withdrew to his village, enraged and mortified, yet still resolved to persevere. That Gladwyn had suffered him to escape, was to his mind ample proof either of cowardice or ignorance. The latter supposition seeming the more probable, he determined to visit the fort once more and convince the English, if possible, that their suspicions against him were unfounded.
Accordingly, on the following morning he repaired to the fort, with three of his chiefs, bearing in his hand the sacred calumet, or pipe of peace, the bowl carved in stone, and the stem adorned with feathers. Offering it to Gladwyn, he addressed him and his officers as follows: "My fathers, evil birds have sung lies in your ear. We that stand before you are friends of the English. We love them as our brothers, and, to prove our love, we have come this day to smoke the pipe of peace." At his departure, he gave the pipe to Major Campbell, second in command, as a further pledge of his sincerity.
That afternoon, the better to cover his designs, Pontiac called the young men of all the tribes to a game of ball, which took place in a neighboring field, with great noise and shouting. At nightfall the garrison was startled by a burst of loud, shrill yells. The drums beat to arms and the troops were ordered to their posts; but the alarm was caused only by the victors in the ball game announcing their success by these discordant outcries. Meanwhile Pontiac spent the afternoon consulting with his chiefs how to compass the ruin of the English.
The next day, about eleven o'clock, the common behind the fort was again thronged with Indians; Pontiac, advancing from among the multitude, approached the gate, only to find it closed and barred against him. He shouted to the sentinels, and demanded why he was refused admittance. Gladwyn himself replied that the great chief might enter, if he chose, but the crowd he had brought with him must remain outside. Pontiac rejoined that he wished all his warriors to enjoy the fragrance of the friendly calumet. But Gladwyn was inexorable, and replied that he would have none of his rabble in the fort. Instantly the savage threw off the mask of deceit he had worn so long, and, casting one look of unspeakable rage and hate at the fort, he turned abruptly from the gate and strode toward his followers, who lay in great numbers flat on the ground beyond reach of gunshot. At his approach, they all leaped up and ran off "yelping," in the language of an eye witness, "like so many devils." They rushed to the house of an old English Woman and her family, beat down the doors and tomahawked the inmates. Another party jumped into their canoes, and paddled with all speed to the Isle of Cochon, where dwelt an Englishman named Fisher, formerly a sergeant of the regulars. Him they also killed and scalped.
That night, while the garrison watched with sleepless apprehension, the entire Ottawa village was removed to the west side of the river. "We will be near them," said Pontiac. The position taken by the Indians was just above the mouth of Parent's creek.
During the night a Canadian, named Desnoyers, came down the river in a canoe, and landing at the water gate, informed the garrison that two English officers, Sir Robert Davers and Captain Robertson, had been murdered on Lake St. Clair, and that Pontiac had been reinforced by the whole war strength of the Ojibways. If the Indians had prior to this, as it is claimed, a force of from six hundred to two thousand, these accessions would make them quite formidable.
Every Englishman in the fort, whether trader or soldier, was now ordered under arms. No man lay down to sleep, and the commander walked the ramparts all night. Not till the blush of dawn tinged the eastern sky did the fierce savages, yelling with infernal power, come bounding naked to the assault.
The soldiers looked from their loopholes, thinking to see their assailants gathering for a rush against the feeble barrier. But in this they were agreeably disappointed. For though their clamors filled the air, and their guns blazed thick and hot, while the bullets pelted the fort with leaden hail, yet very few were visible. Some were sheltered behind barns and fences, some skulked among bushes, others lay flat in hollows of the ground while those who could find no shelter were leaping about with the agility of monkeys, to render it impossible for the marksmen at the fort to hit them. Each had filled his mouth with bullets, for the convenience of loading, and each was charging and firing without suspending these swift movements for a moment.
At the end of six hours the assailants grew weary and withdrew. It was found that only five men had been wounded in the fort, while the cautious enemy had sustained but trifling loss.
Gladwyn, believing the affair ended, dispatched La Butte, a neutral interpreter, accompanied by two old Canadians, Chapeton and Godefroy, to open negotiations. Many other Canadian inhabitants took this opportunity of leaving the place.
Pontiac received the three ambassadors politely, and heard their offers of peace with seeming acquiescence. He, however, stepped aside to talk the matter over with the other chiefs, after which Pontiac declared that, out of their earnest desire for a lasting treaty, they wished to hold council with their English fathers themselves, and they were especially desirous that Major Campbell, the veteran officer, second in command at the fort, should visit their camp.
When the word reached Campbell he prepared at once to go, in spite of Gladwyn's fears of treachery. He felt, he said, no fear of the Indians, with whom he had always been on the most friendly terms. Gladwyn, with some hesitation, gave a reluctant consent. Campbell left the fort accompanied by Lieutenant McDougal, and attended by La Butte and several other Canadians. A Canadian met them and warned the two British officers they were entering the lion's den, but the brave men refused to turn back.
As they entered the Indian camp a howling multitude of women and children surrounded them, armed with clubs, sticks and stones. But Pontiac, with a word and a gesture, quelled the mob, and conducted them to the council-house, where they were surrounded by sinister faces. Campbell made his speech. It was heard in perfect silence, and no reply was made. For a full hour the unfortunate officers saw before them the same concourse of dark faces bending an unwavering gaze upon them. At last Campbell rose to go. Pontiac made an imperious gesture for him to resume his seat. "My father," said he, "will sleep to-night in the lodges of his red children." The gray-haired soldier and his companion were captives.
Many of the Indians were eager to kill the captives on the spot; but Pontiac protected them from injury and insult, and conducted them to the house of M. Meloche, near Parent's creek, where good quarters were assigned them, and as much liberty allowed as was consistent with safe custody. The peril of their situation was diminished by the circumstance that two Indians had been detained at the fort as prisoners, for some slight offense, a few days prior to this, and it is quite possible Pontiac designed to effect an exchange.
Late the same night La Butte returned with anxious face to the fort. Some of the officers suspected him, no doubt unjustly, with a share in the treachery. Feeling the suspicion, he spent the remainder of the night in the narrow street, gloomy and silent.
Thatcher informs us concerning these two prisoners that McDougal effected his escape, "but Major Campbell was tomahawked by an infuriated savage named Wasson, in revenge for the death of a relative. One account says 'they boiled his heart and ate it, and made a pouch of the skin of his arms!' The brutal assassin fled to Saginaw, apprehensive of the vengeance of Pontiac; and it is but justice to the memory of that chieftain to say that he was indignant at the atrocious act and used every possible exertion to apprehend the murderer. Doubtless had he been captured the chief would have inflicted the death penalty."
It is said that the wily chieftain found out in some manner that the Ojibway maiden, Catharine, disclosed the plot to Gladwyn, and ordered four Indians to take her and bring her before him. The order was promptly obeyed, according to the diary of a Canadian who was contemporary, and having arrived at the Pottawatomie village, they seized Catharine "and obliged her to march before them, uttering cries of joy in the manner they do when they hold a victim in their clutches on whom they are going to exercise their cruelty; they made her enter the fort, and took her before the commandant (Gladwyn), as if to confront her with him, and asked him if it was not from her he had learned their design; but they were no better satisfied than if they had kept themselves quiet. They obtained from that officer bread and beer for themselves and for her. They then led her to their chief (Pontiac) in the village."
It will be remembered that before the girl imparted her secret, which was destined to save the lives of all in the fort, Gladwyn solemnly promised that she should not be betrayed, but rather protected should it become necessary. And now the exigency has arisen; Catharine and her captors are in the fort. But when did a white man ever keep his sacred word to an Indian? Gladwyn did not betray her, it is true, for he made no answer to the questions asked him. But he afforded her only such protection in this, her hour of peril, "as the wolf shows to the lamb, or the kite to the dove." He gave beer to the four Indians, who were already angry, to enrage them still more, and also supplied Catharine with beer, which may have been the starting point of her ruin, as we shall see.
But he did not lift a finger to save or protect the one to whom he probably owed his life, but permitted her to be dragged from the fort into the presence of the enraged Pontiac, who, according to another Canadian tradition, seized a bat or racket used by the Indians in their ballgame, and flogged her until life was almost extinct. An old Indian told Henry Conner, formerly United States interpreter at Detroit, that Catharine survived her terrible punishment and lived for many years; but having contracted intemperate habits, she fell, when intoxicated, into a kettle of boiling maple sap, and was so severely scalded that she died in consequence.
Major Campbell
Pontiac proceeded to redistribute his forces. One band hid in ambush along the river below the fort. Others surrounded the fort on the land side. The garrison had only three weeks' provisions, and the Indians determined that this scanty store should not be replenished. Every house in Detroit was searched for grease, tallow, or whatever would serve for food, and all the provisions were placed in a public storehouse.
The Indians, with their usual improvidence, had neglected to provide against the exigency of a siege, thinking to have taken Detroit at a single stroke. The Canadian settlers were ruthlessly despoiled of their stores, and the food thus obtained was wasted with characteristic recklessness. Aggravated beyond endurance they complained to Pontiac. He heard them, and made the following characteristic reply:
"I do not doubt, my brothers, that this war is very troublesome to you, for our warriors are continually passing and repassing through your settlement. I am sorry for it. Do not think I approve of the damage that is done by them; and as a proof of this, remember the war with the Foxes and the part which I took in it. It is now seventeen years since the Ojibways of Michillimackinac, combined with the Sacs and Foxes, came down to destroy you. Who then defended you? Was it not I and my young men? Mickinac, great chief of all these nations, said in council that he would carry to his village the head of your commandant—that he would eat his heart and drink his blood. Did I not take your part? Did I not go to his camp, and say to him, that if he wished to kill the French he must first kill me and my warriors? Did I not assist you in routing them and driving them away? And now you think I would turn my arms against you! No, my brothers; I am the same French Pontiac who assisted you seventeen years ago. I am a Frenchman, and I wish to die a Frenchman; and now I repeat to you that you and I are one—that it is for both our interests that I should be avenged. Let me alone. I do not ask you for aid, for it is not in your power to give it. I only ask provisions for myself and men. Yet, if you are inclined to assist me, I shall not refuse you. It would please me, and you yourselves would be sooner rid of your troubles; for I promise you, that as soon as the English are driven out, we will go back to our villages, and there await the arrival of our French father. You have heard what I have to say; remain at peace, and I will watch that no harm shall be done to you, either by my men or by the other Indians."
Pontiac promptly took measures for bringing the disorders complained of to a close, while at the same time he provided sustenance for his warriors, a veritable commissary department, "and, in doing this, he displayed," as Parkman says, "a policy and forecast scarcely paralleled in the history of his race." He first forbade the commission of farther outrages, on the penalty of condign punishment. He next visited in turn the families of the Canadians, and, inspecting the property belonging to them, he assigned to each the share of provisions which it must furnish for the support of the Indians. The contributions thus levied were all collected at the house of Meloche, near Parent's creek, whence they were regularly issued to the Indians of the different camps.
Knowing that the character and habits of an Indian would render him incapable of being a judicious commissary, Pontiac availed himself of Canadian help, employing one Quilleriez and several others to discharge, under his eye, the duties of this office. But he did another thing which revealed his genius for command, and proved him to be an Indian Napoleon. Anxious to avoid offending the Canadians, yet unable to make compensation for the provisions he had levied, Pontiac issued promissory notes, drawn upon birch-bark, and signed with the figure of an otter, the totem to which he belonged. Under this was drawn the representation of the particular article for which the bill was valid—as a gun, a bag of corn, a deer, a hog, or a beef. These bills passed current among the Canadians and Indians of the period, and were faithfully redeemed after the war. As Goodrich says, "The 'Pontiac treasury notes,' we believe, were never below par. Repudiation was unknown under savage rule in Michigan and Canada. Let the barbarian chief enjoy the full applause due to his financial honor. His modern successors might find something in his example worthy of imitation."
Not one of the Ottawa tribe dared to infringe the command he had given, that the property of the Canadians should be respected. They would not so much as cross the cultivated fields but followed the beaten paths; in such awe did they stand of his displeasure. A few young Wyandots, however, still committed nightly depredations on the hog-pen of Baby, an old friend of Pontiac. The Canadian complained of the theft to Pontiac, and desired his protection. The great chief hastened to the assistance of his friend, and, arriving about nightfall at the house, walked to and fro among the barns and enclosures. At a late hour he saw the dark forms of hog thieves stealing through the gloom. "Go back to your village, you Wyandot dogs," he shouted; "if you tread again on this man's land, you shall die." They slunk away abashed; and from that time forward Baby's property was safe. Pontiac could claim no legitimate authority over the Wyandots, but his powerful spirit forced respect and obedience from all who approached him.
One night at an early period of the siege, Pontiac entered the house of Baby, and seating himself by the fire, looked for some time steadily at the embers. At length, raising his head, he said he had heard that the English had offered the Canadian a bushel of silver for the scalp of his friend. Baby declared that the story was false, and assured him that he would never betray him. Pontiac studied his features keenly for a moment and replied: "My brother has spoken the truth, and I will show him that I believe him." So saying, he wrapped his blanket around him, and "lay like a warrior taking his rest," in peaceful slumber until morning.
Some time after this our old friend Rogers, of Rogers' Rangers, arrived at Detroit with a detachment of troops, and the next day sent a bottle of brandy by a friendly Indian, as a present to Pontiac. The other chiefs urged him not to drink it for fear of poison. Pontiac heard them through, and boldly replied "It is not possible that this man, who knows my love for him, and who is also sensible of the great favors I have done him, can think of taking away my life"; then putting the cup to his lips he drank a draught without betraying the slightest apprehension. He could practice treachery himself, yet scorned to suspect it in white men.
Weeks rolled by with no change in the situation at Detroit. The British commander-in-chief at New York, unmindful of the Indian outbreak, had, as usual in the spring, sent a detachment up the lakes with food, ammunition and reenforcements for the different forts.
On May 30 some faint specks appeared on the distant watery horizon. They grew larger and blacker. The sentry in the bastion called aloud to the officers, who eagerly ran to look with spy-glasses. They recognized the banner of St. George, floating at the masthead of the leading boat of the long expected fleet. The officer at once gave command for a salute of welcome. When the sound of the booming cannon died away, every ear was strained to catch the response. It soon came, but instead of artillery, it was a faint but unmistakable war-whoop. The faces of the English grew pale. The approaching flotilla was watched with breathless anxiety. When it was well in view, a number of dark and savage forms rose up in the boats. The flotilla was in the hands of the Indians. In the foremost of the eighteen barges there were four prisoners and only three Indians. In the others, the Indians outnumbered the white men and compelled them to row. Just as the leading boat was opposite the Beaver, the one small schooner which lay at anchor before the fort (the Gladwyn having been sent to hasten and escort this very flotilla) one of the soldiers was seen to seize a savage by the hair and belt and throw him overboard. The Indian held fast to his enemy's clothes, and drawing himself upward, stabbed him again and again with his knife and then dragged him overboard. Both sank grappled in each other's arms. The two remaining Indians leaped out of the boat. The prisoners turned, and pulled for the distant schooner, shouting aloud for aid. The Indians on shore opened a heavy fire upon them, wounding one of their number, and the light birch canoes gave chase, gaining on them at every stroke of the oar. Escape seemed hopeless, when the report of a cannon burst from the side of the schooner. The ball narrowly missed the foremost canoe, beating the water in a line of foam which almost capsized the frail craft. At this the pursuers drew back in dismay; and the Indians on shore, being in turn saluted by a second shot, ceased firing and scattered among the bushes. The prisoners thus rescued were greeted as men snatched from the jaws of death.
This, in brief, was their story. Lieutenant Cuyler had left Fort Niagara on May 13 with twenty barges, ninety-six men and a plentiful supply of provisions and ammunition. Coasting along the northern shore of Lake Erie, they had passed the armed schooner Gladwyn without seeing it, and, of course, knew nothing of the Indian hostilities. On the twenty-eighth of the month, the flotilla landed at Point Pelee, not far from the mouth of the Detroit river. The boats were drawn on the beach, and the party prepared to encamp. A man and a boy went to gather firewood at a short distance from the spot, when an Indian leaped out of the woods, seized the boy by the hair, and tomahawked him. The man ran into the camp shouting that the woods were full of Indians. The report was true, for Pontiac had stationed the Wyandots at this very spot to intercept trading boats or parties of troops. Cuyler quickly formed his soldiers into a semicircle before the boats, just as the Indians opened fire. For an instant there was a hot blaze of musketry on both sides; then the Indians broke out of the woods in a body, and rushed fiercely upon the center of the line, which gave way in every part; the men flinging down their guns, running panic-stricken to the boats and struggling with ill-directed efforts to shove them into the water. Five were set afloat, and pushed off from the shore, crowded with terrified soldier's, huddled together like sheep in the shambles. Never was rout more complete or soldiers more unnerved and demoralized.
Cuyler, seeing himself deserted by his men, as he afterward stated, waded up to his neck in the lake and climbed into one of the retreating boats. The Indians, on their part, pushed two more boats afloat and went in pursuit of the fugitives, three boatloads of whom allowed themselves to be captured without resistance. Think of it, two boatloads of Indians capture three boatloads of English, who seemingly made no effort to escape the fate of horrible torture which awaited all but a few, who were enslaved. The other two boats, in one of which was Cuyler himself, effected their escape, and returning to Niagara, he reported his loss to Major Wilkins, the commanding officer. Between thirty and forty men, some of whom were wounded, were crowded in these two boats. These, with the three rescued at Detroit, were all of the ninety-six which survived the ill-fated expedition.
The little schooner Gladwyn, having passed the flotilla probably in the night or during a fog, reached Niagara without mishap. She was still riding at anchor in the smooth river above the falls, when Cuyler and the remnant of his men returned and reported the terrible disaster that had befallen him. This officer, and the survivors of his party, with a few other troops spared from the garrison of Niagara, were ordered to embark on board of her, and make the best of their way back to Detroit. The force, amounting to sixty men, with such ammunition and supplies as could be spared from the fort, was soon under sail. In due time they entered the Detroit river, and were almost in sight of the fort, but the critical part of the undertaking still remained.
The river was in some places narrow, and more than eight hundred Indians were on the alert to intercept their passage. On the afternoon of the 23d the schooner began to move slowly up the river, with a gentle breeze, which gradually died away, and left the vessel becalmed in the narrow channel opposite Fighting Island, and within gunshot of an Indian ambush.
Of the sixty men on board all were crowded below deck except ten or twelve, in hopes that the Indians, encouraged by this apparent weakness, might make an open attack. At sunset the guards on board the vessel were doubled. Hours wore on, and nothing had broken the deep repose of the night. At last, the splash of muffled oars was heard. Dark objects came moving swiftly down the stream toward the vessel. The men were ordered up from below and took their places in perfect silence. A blow on the mast with a hammer was to be the signal for firing. The Indians, gliding stealthily over the water in their birch canoes, thought the prize was theirs. At last the hammer struck the mast. The slumbering vessel burst into a blaze of cannon and musketry, which illumined the night like a flash of lightning. Grape and musket shot flew, tearing among the canoes, sinking some outright, killing fourteen Indians, wounding about twenty more and driving the rest in consternation to the shore. As the enemy opened fire from their breastwork, the schooner weighed anchor, and, drifting with the river's tide, floated down out of danger. Several days afterward, with a favoring wind, she again attempted to ascend. This time she was successful, for though the Indians fired at her constantly from the shore, no man was hurt. As she passed the Wyandot village she sent a shower of grape among its yelping inhabitants, by which several were killed; and then, furling her sails, lay peacefully at anchor by the side of her companion vessel, abreast of the fort.
The schooner brought to the garrison a much-needed supply of men, ammunition and provisions. She also brought the important news that a treaty of peace was concluded between France and England. But Pontiac refused to believe it, and his war went on.
The two schooners in the river were regarded by the Indians with mingled rage and superstition; not alone on account of the broadsides with which their camps were bombarded, but the knowledge that the vessels served to connect the isolated garrison with the rest of the world. They determined, therefore, to destroy them. The inventive genius of Pontiac caused a fire raft to be constructed by lashing together a number of canoes, piled high with a vast quantity of combustibles. A torch was applied in several places, and the thing of destruction was pushed off into the current.
But fortune or Providence protected the schooners, the blazing raft passed within a hundred feet of them, and floating harmlessly down the stream, consumed nothing but itself. This attempt was several times repeated, but Gladwyn, on his part, provided boats and floating logs, which were moored by chains at some distance above the vessels, and foiled every attempt.
In the meantime, unknown to the garrison, Captain Dalyell was on his way to Detroit with twenty-two barges, bearing two hundred and eighty men, with several small cannon, and a fresh supply of provisions and ammunition. Under cover of night and fog they reached the fort in safety, but not until they sustained an attack from the Indians which resulted in the loss of fifteen men. With this expedition was Major Rogers, commander of the famous Rogers's Rangers, and twenty of his men.
Hollow Horn
Captain Dalyell had a conference with Gladwyn, and requested permission to march out on the following night and attack the Indian camp. The commander, better acquainted with the position of affairs, opposed it; but Dalyell urged the matter so strongly, Gladwyn gave a reluctant consent. About two o'clock on the morning of July 31, the gates were silently opened, and two hundred and fifty men marched up the road along the river's shore. In the river, keeping abreast of the troops, two bateaux, each carrying a swivel gun, were rowed with muffled oars. As there was no moon shining, everything seemed favorable to strike a deadly blow at the camp of Pontiac. But though they knew it not, that vigilant and crafty chieftain was apprised of this movement by his spies, and with several hundred Indians lay in ambush at the bridge across Parent's creek, a mile and a half from the fort. As the English drew near the dangerous pass they could discern the house of Meloche, mentioned before, upon a rising ground to the left, while in front the bridge was dimly visible, and the ridges beyond it seemed like a wall of blackness, partly due to the fog rising from the river. The advance guard were half way over the bridge and the main body just entering upon it. Suddenly there was a wild war-whoop in the darkness, and the ridges, fences, trees and anything which could afford shelter to a savage, burst into flame. Half the advance guard fell at the first discharge; the terrified survivors fled to the rear, and in a moment the whole column was thrown into confusion. Dalyell rushed to the front and did what he could to rally his men. His clarion voice rang out above this infernal din. But all in vain. He received several wounds, and was in the act of rescuing a disabled soldier when he was killed. It is said that Pontiac ordered the head of the gallant captain to be cut off and set upon a post. The total command was demoralized by his fall. In this crisis Major Rogers and his twenty rangers, followed by a number of the regulars, took possession of a strong house, which commanded the road, owned by a Canadian named Campau. Barricading the windows, they held the savages at bay and covered the retreat. Captain Grant hurried forward and took another strong position near the river. From here he ordered the two armed bateaux to return to a point opposite Campau's house, and open a fire of swivels in order to scatter the Indians and rescue Rogers and his men. This was promptly done, and the gallant Rogers and his handful of rangers, who, by their courage, saved the command from total destruction, were in turn rescued, just as the savage horde was about to overpower them by sheer force of numbers. The rangers made their way to the fort under cover of the cannonade.
The fight at Bloody Run, as Parent's creek has since been called, cost the garrison at Detroit fifty-nine men killed and wounded, according to Parkman, while Thatcher, strange to say, estimates the loss of the English at seventy men killed and forty wounded. This was the last important event attending the prosecution of the siege.
Not long after this, the schooner Gladwyn, having been sent down to Niagara with letters and dispatches, made the trip in safety. She was now returning, having on board Horst, her master; Jacobs, her mate, and a crew of ten men, besides six Iroquois Indians, supposed to be friendly to the English. She entered the Detroit river on the night of September 3, and in the morning the six Indians asked to be put ashore, and the request was foolishly granted.
That they went at once to Pontiac with a report of the weakness of the crew there can be no doubt. Certain it is, the wind failing, the schooner anchored about nine miles below the fort. Here she was attacked by three hundred and fifty Indians, at night. The savages swarmed over the sides of the vessel by scores, but they were met with such desperate courage and furious resistance that in a few minutes the English had killed and wounded more than twice their own number. There were only twelve men on board and they killed and wounded twenty-seven Indians; of the wounded, eight died in a few days. But resistance was useless. Ten or fifteen Indians surrounded each gallant defender. Just as all seemed over, Jacobs, the mate, shouted, "Fire the magazine, boys, and blow her up!" This desperate command saved her and her crew. Some Wyandots understood the meaning of the words, and gave the alarm to their companions. With a wild cry of terror the Indians leaped from the vessel into the water, and all were seen swimming and diving in all directions, to escape the explosion. The savages did not renew the attack.
The next morning the Gladwyn sailed up the river, reaching the fort safely. Six of her crew escaped unhurt; of the other six, two, including Horst, the master, were killed and four seriously wounded, while the Indians had seven men killed outright, and about twenty wounded, of whom eight were known to have died within a few days. The whole action lasted but a few minutes, but the fierceness of the struggle is apparent from the loss on both sides. The survivors of the little crew each received a medal.
The news of the disaster at Bloody Run, following on the heels of the ill-fated Cuyler's expedition, was conveyed to Niagara by the schooner Gladwyn on the last voyage, just recorded.
These disasters at the siege of Detroit, together with the fact that nine out of the twelve forts on the frontier had been captured by Pontiac's warriors, forced Sir Jeffrey Amherst to the reluctant conclusion that the tribes had risen in a general insurrection. As commander-in-chief of these English forces, he saw the time had come for decisive action with a large force if he would regain what was lost, and force the Indians into subjection.
Accordingly, he dispatched two armies, from different points, into the heart of the Indian country. The command of the first was given to Colonel Boquet, with orders to advance from Philadelphia to Fort Pitt, and thence to penetrate into the midst of the Delawares and Shawnees. The other army, under Colonel Bradstreet, was to ascend the lakes and force the tribes of Detroit and the regions beyond to unconditional submission.
The first expedition, that under Colonel Boquet, was very successful. He met the Indians at Bushy Run, and in a two-days' battle—one of the best contested ever fought between white and red men—routed them completely. He now compelled the Indians to sue for peace and surrender their captives.
News of Boquet's victory, and the approach of Colonel Bradstreet with a force of three thousand men, soon reached the Indians besieging Detroit, in the summer of 1764. Pontiac was too well aware of the superiority of the English arms to indulge a hope of resisting successfully so great a force in battle. Many of his allies were now ready to desert him and make peace with the English. Early in the summer of 1764, a grand council was held at Niagara by Sir William Johnson and Colonel Bradstreet, who stopped there on his way to Detroit and the Northwest. Nearly two thousand Indians attended, including representatives from twenty-two different tribes, eleven of them Western—a fact strikingly indicating the immense train of operations managed by the influence of Pontiac. Before Bradstreet and his army reached Detroit, Pontiac and his Ottawas abandoned the siege, at least temporarily, and repaired to the Illinois. His allies at Detroit made a treaty of peace with Colonel Bradstreet, and thus ended the siege which had continued a year, but, as Rogers says, "he (Pontiac) would not be personally concerned in it, saying, that when he made a peace, it should be such a one as would be useful and honorable to himself and to the King of Great Britain. But he has not as yet proposed his terms."
What the great chief attempted to do about this time was to rally the western tribes of Indiana and Illinois into a new confederation to resist the English invaders to the last. Crossing over to the Wabash, he passed from village to village, among the Kickapoos and the three tribes of the Miamis, rousing them by his eloquence and breathing into them his own fierce spirit of resistance.
He next, by rapid marches, crossed to the banks of the Mississippi, and summoned the four tribes of the Illinois to a general council. But these degenerate savages, beaten by the surrounding tribes for several generations past, had lost their warlike spirit, and though still noisy and boastful, they had become "like women, using only tongues for weapons." They showed no zeal for fight, nor did they take any interest in the schemes of the great war chief of the Ottawas.
But Pontiac knew how to deal with such cravens. Frowning on the cowering assembly, he exclaimed: "If you hesitate, I will consume your tribes as a fire consumes the dry grass on the prairie." They did not hesitate, but professed concurrence in his views at once. It is quite probable, however, those threatening words cost Pontiac his life, as will be seen. Even cowards have good memories.
Leaving the Illinois, he hastened to Fort Chartres, at the head of four hundred warriors, and demanded men and ammunition, which St. Ange, the commander, politely refused to grant. He also sent an embassy all the way to New Orleans to demand help from the French government, and to convey a war belt to the distant tribes of Louisiana, urging them, in the name of the mighty Pontiac, to prevent the English from ascending the Mississippi, which his military genius foresaw they would attempt. In this he was right, but their attempts were completely foiled.
The principal mission of the ambassadors was, however, a complete failure. The government was about to be transferred from France to Spain. The Governor granted an interview and explained the true situation. From France no help was to be expected.
When the report of this embassy reached Pontiac, he saw that all was lost. The foundation of all his ambitious schemes had been French interference. He had believed a lie and rested his hopes on a delusion. As Mason says, "His solitary will, which had controlled and combined into cooperation a hundred restless tribes, had breathed life into a conspiracy continental in its proportions, and had exploded a mine ramifying to forts, isolated by hundreds of miles of unbroken wilderness, could no longer uphold the crumbling fabric. His stormy spirit had warred with destiny, and had been conquered."
For the proud Pontiac there remained but two alternatives destruction or submission. With a hell of hate in his heart he chose the latter. At Fort Quiatenon, on the Wabash, near the site of Lafayette, Indiana, he met George Croghan, the commissioner appointed by Sir William Johnson, and formally tendered the traditional calumet of peace. Pontiac and his retinue also accompanied Croghan to Detroit, and in the same old council-hall where he and his sixty chiefs had attempted to destroy the garrison, the terms of peace were arranged, and ratified by representatives from Ojibway and Pottawatomie tribes, August 27, 1764.
Pontiac's speech on this occasion, in reply to that of Croghan, is rich in figures and symbols, and is, therefore, quoted in full:
"Father, we have all smoked out of this pipe of peace. It is your children's pipe; and as the war is over, and the Great Spirit and Giver of Light, who has made the earth and everything therein, has brought us all together this day for our mutual good, I declare to all nations that I have settled my peace with you before I came here, and now deliver my pipe to be sent to Sir William Johnson, that he may know I have made peace, and taken the King of England for my father, in the presence of all the nations now assembled; and whenever any of those nations go to visit him, they may smoke out of it with him in peace. Fathers, we are obliged to you for lighting up our old council-fire for us, and desiring us to return to it; but we are now settled on the Miami river, not far from hence. Whenever you want us you will find us there.
"Our people love liquor, and if we dwelt near you in our old village of Detroit, our warriors would be always drunk, and quarrels would arise between us and you."
The wise chief could see that drunkenness was the bane of his whole unhappy race, and therefore chose to be remote from the white settlement. He kept his young men away from whisky. When will the white chiefs be as wise and keep whisky away from their young men?
The following spring, 1766, Pontiac was as good as his word, and visited Sir William Johnson at his castle on the Mohawk, and in behalf of the tribes lately banded in his confederation concluded a treaty of peace and amity.
From this time he disappears from the page of history, only to reappear in the closing scene in the eventful drama of his life. He is believed to have lived like a common warrior, with a remnant of his tribe, in different parts of what is now the States of Indiana and Illinois.
In April, 1769, he went to St. Louis, and made a two days' visit with his old friend, St. Ange, who was then in command at that post, having offered his services to the Spaniards after the cession of Louisiana. St. Ange, Pierre Chouteau and other principal inhabitants of the little settlement, entertained him and his attendant chiefs with cordial hospitality for several days. But hearing that there was a large assembly of Illinois Indians at Cahokia, on the Illinois side of the river, Pontiac, against the advice of his friends, determined to go over and see what was going forward. It was at this time he was arrayed in the full uniform of a French officer, which had been presented to him by the Marquis of Montcalm as a token of esteem, and this fact tended to excite uneasiness, as well as to enrage the English traders at Cahokia, who believed the chief did it to add insult to injury.
The gathering in progress proved to be a trading and drinking bout, in which the remorseless English traders, as usual, plied the Indians with whisky in order to swindle them, while intoxicated, out of their furs. The place was full of Illinois Indians, but Pontiac held them in contempt, and accepted the hospitality of the friendly Creoles of Cahokia, and, at such primitive entertainment the whisky bottle would not fail to play its part. Pontiac soon became intoxicated himself, and starting to the neighboring woods was shortly afterward heard singing magic songs, in the mystic influence of which he reposed the greatest confidence.
An English trader, named Williamson, was then in the village, who, in common with the rest of his countrymen, regarded Pontiac with the greatest distrust, probably augmented by the visit of the chief to St. Louis, and while the opportunity was favorable, determined to effect his destruction. Approaching a strolling Indian of the Kaskaskia band of the Illinois tribe, he bribed him with a barrel of whisky and a promise of a further reward to murder the great chief.
It will be remembered that Pontiac incurred the hatred of this tribe by saying to them when in council, "If you hesitate, I will consume your tribes as the fire consumes the dry grass on the prairie." No doubt those words had been rankling in the hearts of the Illinois Indians ever since, for an Indian never forgets a friend or forgives an injury, and now the hour of revenge has come. The bargain was quickly made. The assassin glided up behind Pontiac in the forest and buried a tomahawk in the mighty brain in which all ambitions were dead forever.
Thus basely terminated the career of the warrior whose great natural endowments made him the greatest of his race, but his memory is still cherished by the remnant of the tribes who felt the power of his influence.
The body was soon found, and the village became a pandemonium of howling savages. His few friends seized their arms to wreak vengeance on the perpetrator of the murder, but the Illinois, interposing in behalf of their countryman, drove them from the town. Foiled in their attempt to obtain retribution they fled to the tribes over whom Pontiac had held sway, to spread the tidings and call them to avenge his murder. Meanwhile St. Ange procured the body of his guest, and mindful of his former friendship, buried it with warlike honors near the fort under his command at St. Louis.
A war of extermination was declared against the abettors of this crime. Swarms of Ottawas, Sacs, Foxes, Pottawatomies and other northern tribes who had been fired by the eloquence, or led to victory by the martyred chief, descended on the prairies of Illinois, and whole villages and tribes were extirpated to appease his shade.
It was at this time that the famous "Starved Rock" took its expressive but unpoetical name. It is a rocky bluff about six miles below the beautiful city of Ottawa, Illinois, named after the tribe of which Pontiac was head chief. The great rock overhangs the sluggish Illinois river on the left bank, and is about one hundred and twenty-five feet high and inaccessible except by a narrow and difficult path in the rear. Its top is nearly an acre in extent. Here La Salle and Tonty built a palisade, which they named Fort St. Louis, and collected at its base about twenty thousand Indians, whom they formed into a defensive league against the encroachments of the dreaded Iroquois.
Tradition states, that in the war of extermination which followed the cold-blooded and unprovoked murder of Pontiac in time of peace, a remnant of the Illinois Indians made their last stand at this famous stronghold. Here they were besieged by a vastly superior force of Pottawatomies. But the besieged knew that a few warriors could defend this rock against a host, and defied their enemies for a time and kept them at bay. Hunger and thirst, more formidable enemies, however, soon accomplished what the foe was unable to effect. Their small quantity of provisions quickly failed, and their supply of water was stopped by the enemy severing the cords of rawhide attached to the vessels by which they elevated it from the river below. Thus environed by relentless foes, they took a last lingering look at their beautiful hunting grounds, spread out like a panorama on the gently rolling river and slowly gave way to despair.
Starved Rock
Charles Lanman says of this tragic event, "Day followed day, and the last lingering hope was abandoned. Their destiny was sealed, and no change for good could possibly take place, for the human bloodhounds that watched their prey were utterly without mercy. The feeble white-haired chief crept into a thicket and breathed his last. The recently strong warrior, uttering a protracted but feeble yell of exultation, hurled his tomahawk at some fiend below and then yielded himself up to the pains of his condition. The blithe form of the soft-eyed youth parted with his strength, and was compelled to totter and fall upon the earth and die. Ten weary, weary days passed on, and the strongest man and the last of his tribe was numbered with the dead."
Years afterward their bones were seen whitening on the summit of this lofty fortress, known since as "Starved Rock."
All this horrible torture and slaughter was because a brutal English Indian trader (and most of them were brutal) bribed an Indian already drunk on the whisky he had supplied, to murder probably one of the greatest warriors and rulers of all history, considering his environment.
"But," as Parkman, the great chieftain's biographer, strikingly says, "Could his shade have revisited the scene of murder, his savage spirit would have exulted in the vengeance which overwhelmed the abettors of the crime. Tradition has but faintly preserved the memory of the event and its only annalists, men who held the intestine feuds of the savage tribes in no more account than the quarrels of panthers or wildcats, have left but a meager record. Yet enough remains to tell us that over the grave of Pontiac more blood was poured out in atonement than flowed from the hecatombs of slaughtered heroes on the corpse of Patroelus.
"Neither mound nor tablet marked the burial-place of Pontiac. For a mausoleum, a city has risen above the forest hero, and the race whom he hated with such burning rancor tramples with unceasing footsteps over his forgotten grave. {FN} But he became a model and inspiration for subsequent chiefs."
Michigan, where his eventful life was largely spent, and Illinois, where it ended, have each a beautiful city preserving his name. It is also embalmed in tradition and legend. And nature, kinder than man, had built for him a colossal monument which will endure for ages, and be known throughout all time as "Starved Rock."
{FN} F. M. Crunden, Librarian, Public Library of St. Louis, wrote the author: "It is believed that Pontiac was buried on the site of the present Southern Hotel here; and a tablet marking his burial-place is there now."


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