Pontiacs Rebellion

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About encyclopedia.com content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

Pontiac's Rebellion (1763–66).This multitribal assault on British western posts after the French and Indian War resulted from several factors: trade disputes; the Delaware Prophet's millennial teachings; Gen. Jeffrey Amherst's termination of customary gift distributions to Indians; settlers' encroachment; and the new British forts.

The Ottawa war leader Pontiac opened the conflict on 9 May, attacking Fort Detroit with warriors from several tribes. The 120‐man garrison held out under Maj. Henry Gladwin, but Indians soon captured six forts and forced the abandonment of Fort Edward Augustus. Senecas took two other forts, Venango and Le Boeuf; Le Boeuf's garrison escaped to Fort Pitt, joining the command of Capt. Simeon Ecuyer, to fight off further Indian attacks. At one point, Ecuyer tried to weaken the besiegers by distributing smallpox‐contaminated blankets during a parley, which may have caused an epidemic.

In the next phase, fighting centered on the supply lines of Detroit and Fort Pitt. Indians inflicted heavy losses on the British in a surprise attack at Point Pelee, Ontario (28 May), and won a signal victory at Devil's Hole near Niagara Falls, 14 September, when 300–500 Senecas overwhelmed 2 British companies and a convoy, killing 72. Nonetheless, the British armed vessels Huron and Michigan retained control of Lake Erie, bringing reinforcements to Detroit between June and November, and sustaining the post until the Indians raised their siege. Indians attacked Col. Henry Bouquet's relief force of 460 men at Bushy Run (5 August). Bouquet reached Fort Pitt, but his 110 casualties prevented him from beginning offensive operations.

The final phase began in 1764, when Colonel Bouquet led 1,200 men into the Delaware heartland in October, securing the release of 200 captives and a promise of peace. Pontiac failed to secure assistance from the remaining French garrisons in Illinois and finally sought peace in late 1764. Hostilities were formally concluded at Oswego, July 1766.

The war exacerbated Indian‐hating in the colonies, as both the resort to smallpox at Fort Pitt and the “Paxton Boys” massacre in 1763 of twenty peaceful Indians in Pennsylvania show. The British promised to enforce the Royal Proclamation of October 1763 prohibiting colonization west of the Appalachian ridge, and restored the prewar patterns of trade and gift giving. Indians ceded no extensive lands, and the British reestablished none of their abandoned forts. Some 450 British regulars and provincials lost their lives. Indian and settler losses re‐main unknown.
[See also Native American Wars: Wars Between Native Americans and Europeans and Euro‐Americans.]


Howard H. Peckham , Pontiac and the Indian Uprising, 1947.
Richard White , The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815, 1991.

Gregory Evans Dowd

views updated

Pontiac's Rebellion, Pontiac's Conspiracy, or Pontiac's War, 1763–66, Native American uprising against the British just after the close of the French and Indian Wars, so called after one of its leaders, Pontiac.


The French attitude toward the Native Americans had always been more conciliatory than that of the English. French Jesuit priests and French traders had maintained friendly and generous dealings with their Native American neighbors. After conquering New France (Old Canada), the English aroused the resentment of the Western tribes by treating them arrogantly, refusing to supply them with free ammunition (as the French had done), building forts, and permitting white settlement on Native American–owned lands.

Course of the War

In Apr., 1763, a council was held by the Native Americans on the banks of the Ecorse River near Detroit; there an attack on the fort at Detroit was planned. Pontiac's scheme was to gain admission to the garrison for himself and some of his chiefs by asking for a council with the commandant, but the Native Americans, who would be carrying weapons, were then to open a surprise attack. Major Henry Gladwin, the commandant, was warned of the plot and foiled it. However, Pontiac and his Ottawas, reinforced by Wyandots, Potawatomis, and Ojibwas, stormed the fort on May 10. The garrison was relieved by reinforcements and supplies from Niagara in the summer, but Pontiac continued to besiege it until November, when, disappointed at finding he could expect no help from the French, he retired to the Maumee River.

Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania had been warned of the uprising by a messenger from Gladwin and withstood attack until relieved by Col. Henry Bouquet. Bouquet and his forces, on their way to Fort Pitt in Aug., 1763, had been victorious in a severe engagement at Bushy Run. Meanwhile, Pontiac's allies, the Delaware, Seneca, and Shawnee tribes, captured and destroyed many British outposts, among them Sandusky, Michilimackinac (see Mackinac), and Presque Isle. In an attempt by the British to surprise Pontiac's camp, the battle of Bloody Run was fought on July 31, 1763, with great loss to the British. The borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia were kept in a state of terror.

In the spring of 1764 an offensive campaign was planned by the English, and two armies were sent out, one into Ohio under Colonel Bouquet and the other to the Great Lakes under Col. John Bradstreet. Bradstreet's attempts at treaties were condemned by Gen. Thomas Gage, who had succeeded Sir Jeffery Amherst as commander in chief, and Colonel Bradstreet returned home with little achievement. Bouquet, by his campaign in Pennsylvania, brought the Delaware and the Shawnee to sue for peace, and a treaty was concluded with them by Sir William Johnson. After failing to persuade some of the tribes farther west and south to join him in rebellion, Pontiac finally completed in 1766 a treaty with Johnson and was pardoned by the English.


F. Parkman's History of the Conspiracy of Pontiac (1851, 10th rev. ed. 1913), although it contains certain inaccuracies, is the classic work. See also H. H. Peckham, Pontiac and the Indian Uprising (1947) and G. Evans, War under Heaven (2002).

views updated

Pontiac's Rebellion (1763–66) Native American rising against the British. Pontiac (d.1769) was an Ottawa chief who led a loose association of allies hostile to the British takeover of Québec (1760). A number of outposts in the Great Lakes region were overrun. News of the French withdrawal from North America fatally weakened the campaign, which soon collapsed.