Pontiac's Rebellion

views updated May 29 2018

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

Pontiacs Rebellion

views updated Jun 27 2018

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.

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Pontiacs Rebellion

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