The latter removed the disappointed man to a neighbor town. Here, by strange good fortune, the trader met his friend, Wawatam, who had given the unheeded warning. The Indian possessed more than the ordinary nobility of the human heart. He at once asked the council to set his friend free, and his eloquent appeal was emphasized at every pause by presents, which literally impoverished the savage. His request was granted, and Henry found himself established in an Indian family, on the footing of a brother of Wawatam.
On the morning following his release, Henry whose fears were by no means quieted, was alarmed by a noise in the prison lodge from where he had been removed. "Looking through the openings of the lodge in which I was, I saw seven dead bodies of white men dragged forth. Upon my inquiry into the occasion, I was informed that a certain chief, called by the Canadians Le Grand Sable, had not long before arrived from his winter's hunt; and that he, having been absent when the war began, and being now desirous of manifesting to the Indians at large his hearty concurrence in what they had done, had gone into the prison-lodge, and there with his knife put the seven whose bodies I had seen, to death.
"Shortly after, two of the Indians took one of the dead bodies, which they chose as being the fattest, cut off the head, and divided the whole into five parts, one of which was put into five kettles, hung over as many fires, kindled for this purpose, at the door of the prison-lodge. Soon after things were so far prepared, a message came to our lodge, with an invitation to Wawatam to assist in the feast. An invitation to a feast is given by him who is the master of it. Small cuttings of cedar wood, of about four inches in length, supply the place of cards; and the bearer by word of mouth states the particulars.
"Watatam obeyed the summons, taking with him, as is usual, to the place of entertainment, his dish and spoon.
"After an absence of about half an hour, he returned, bringing in his dish, a human hand, and a large piece of flesh. He did not appear to relish the repast, but told me that it was then and always had been the custom among all the Indian nations, when returning from war, or overcoming their enemies, to make a war-feast from among the slain. This he said inspired the warrior with courage in attack, and bred him to meet death with fearlessness."
Soon after this agreeable information, Henry learned that the Indians were going to remove to the Island of Mackinaw, which was accordingly done. One day the Indians captured a couple of canoes from Montreal, carrying a quantity of liquor. The savages began to drink heavily, a proceeding full of danger to every one near. Wawatam told Henry that he was bound to get drunk, and that it would not be safe for the Englishman to remain where he was during the debauch. Watatam therefor conducted him to a cave in the center of the island, where he was to hide himself until the liquor was all gone.
Henry broke some branches from the trees, and spreading them down in a corner of the cave for a bed, went to sleep. During the night he felt some hard substance under him, and groping for it, seized some kind of a bone, and threw it away. Not till morning did he discover that "he was lying on nothing less than a heap of human bones and skulls, which covered all the floor." He remained in this cheerful apartment a day or two without food, until Mr. Wawatam, with swollen eyes and thick utterance, staggered up to the cave, and told him the drunk was over. For more than a year Henry lived with protector, Wawatam, hunting through the gloomy forests of Michigan, before he finally succeeded in making his way to Montreal.
When Henry had met with his friend Wawatam, and been adopted into his family, the other survivors of the massacre were still kept by the Ottawas at Fort Michillimackinac, whence they were removed to L'Arbre Croche. Captain Etherington dispatched a letter to Lieutenant Gorell, the commander of the little post of Green Bay. The latter was requested to bring all his force to the relief of the prisoners. Gorell was on the point of obeying and abandoning his post, when the neighboring Indians intimated that his departure would be prevented. The threat might have been carried out had not a messenger from the terrible Dakota nation, with its thirty thousand braves, arrived with words of loyalty to the English, and denouncing with threatenings and slaughter, every tribe which was unfaithful to them. This sentiment must be attributed to no loftier source than the ancient hostility of the Dakotas to the Ojibwas. Gorell was now allowed to depart, and making his way to the Ottawa village, negotiated the release of the prisoners.
On July 18, 1763, they embarked in their canoes for Montreal, reaching there for than a year sooner than Henry. With the fall of Michillimackinac, and the abandonment of Green Bay, the Detroit garrison found itself left alone in the wilderness. There was not a British soldier west of Fort Niagara, except those behind the palisades of Detroit.
We have wandered far from the story of the defenders of Detroit. The news of the disasters which we have related was received by the despairing garrison with sad punctuality. Meanwhile, though we have neglected to follow their fortunes or misfortunes, events crowded each other in this remarkable siege.
One night some friendly Canadians, from the other side of the river, reported that there rumors among the Indians that the schooner Gladwyn was coming up the river. This vessel had gone down to hasten Cuyler's ill-fated expedition. Having passed the flotilla, which was yet voyaging prosperously, she held on her way to Niagara. She was still riding at anchor in the smooth river above the falls, at the time when Cuyler and two companions, haggard and exhausted, reached the fort with the story of the disaster, and of themselves alone left to tell the tale.
A force of sixty men was at once placed on board the schooner, with such ammunition and supplies as could be spared from the fort. She had made her way up the river, and was about to undertake the few dangerous miles which separated her from the fort. The garrison fired two guns to let the crew know that the fort still held out. This done, they waited.
The schooner, meanwhile, weighed anchor and started up the narrow channel between the shore and Fighting Island. Just as she reached the narrowest part, the afternoon breeze grew more and more gentle, and at last died away, leaving the white sails drooping idly in the air. Nothing is so absolutely helpless as a sail-vessel without a favoring wind. It is hardly possible to understand how the commerce of the globe was carried on entirely by the means of them until within the present century. The anchor chain rattled off rapidly from the capstan. The great iron fluke disappeared in the water, and energetically grabbed the bottom of the river. The vessel was standing still, within gunshot of an Indian ambush.
As the sun sank to rest in his couch of flame, the guards on board the vessel were doubled. Hour after hour their strained eyes sought to penetrate the darkness. At last, the plash of the muffled oars was heard. Dark objects came moving swiftly down the river toward the vessel. Every man was silently summoned on deck. A blow of a hammer on the mast was to be the signal to start firing. The long black canoes approached the dark and silent schooner. The Indians thought the prize was theirs. At last the hammer struck the mast. The slumbering vessel burst into a blaze of cannon and musketry. The hostile fleet was demoralized. Many Indians were killed. Some canoes were sunk outright. As the enemy opened fire from their barricade, the schooner weighed anchor, and, drifting with the river's tide, floated down out of danger.
The following day the passage was again attempted, this time with success. The beleaguered garrison received the much-needed supplies of men, ammunition, and provision.
Pontiac was disappointed. Everywhere success had crowned the conspiracy except that part of it which he superintended himself. For forty days his genius and resolution had held his restless followers to the dull monotony of the siege. How much longer could he do it? His uneasiness manifested itself. One thing which showed it was his attempt to force the neighboring Canadians to lend active assistance. He called them together in council, made a long speech, told them that he fought for the king of France, their sovereign; that if they were friendly to the English, and would not join in the war against them, then he would make war on them as enemies of France.
All men can, on occasion, be hypocrites. Some of the Canadians pretended to take up the hatchet and join in the siege. The accession required a celebration. Pontiac ordered a feast -- of dogs. In every one of all the numberless wigwams which formed the besieging lines, a dog was slain, and the flesh eaten. If an Indian happened to dislike the dish, it was so much the worse for him. An enormous piece of the delicacy was placed before him. By all the laws of Indian society and etiquette, he was not allowed to rise from the repast till he had eaten every bit of the meat.
Another incident revealed Pontiac's rage. It is hard even for a great leader to hide his real feelings from his followers. At first he had protected Major Campbell from Indian cruelty. But his red retainers now read a new lesson in his imperious eye. The captive was murdered in prison.
The two schooners in the bay were regarded by the Indians with mingled rage and superstition. The broadsides with which their camps were bombarded, the white wings which they spread, the mysterious control of their movements by the sailors, the knowledge that the schooners served to connect the otherwise isolated garrison with the rest of the world, inspired the savages with apprehension and fury.
One night in July, the lookout on one of the schooners saw a glowing speck of flame far up the river. It came nearer, growing brighter and brighter as it approached. The white beach along the river front, the dark pine trees in the background, were lit up by the illumination, revealing dense throngs of Indians crowded along the water's edge. The palisades of the fort, and the spars and rigging of the vessels, glowed like fire itself. Far across the harbor the waves were reddened with the light. The anxious soldiers of the garrison could be seen, watching with anxiety the singular apparition. As the flaming object came nearer, it was discovered to be a fire-raft. The inventive genius of Pontiac had caused a number of canoes to be lashed together, and a vast quantity of combustibles to be piled on the structure. A torch was applied, and the thing of destruction was pushed off into the current.
But fortune or providence protected the schooners. The blazing monster, sending up vast volumes of roaring flames, missed them by a hundred feet, and floated harmlessly down the river, consuming nothing but itself. As the relieved soldiers and sailors watched it receding into the night, the light grew fainter and fainter, until, at last with a mighty hiss, the demon of fire plunged into the watery depths, as if to drown its sorrow at the wretched failure. This attempt was made again and again, but the crews of the vessels arranged a barricade of boats and chains, which foiled every effort.
Unknown to the garrison, Captain Dalzell was on his way to Detroit with two barges, two hundred and eighty men, several small cannon, and a fresh supply of provision and ammunition. Under cover of night and fog, they reached the fort in safety, having been attacked only once, a conflict which, however, resulted in the loss of fifteen men. Boat after boat discharged its loads on shore amid the cheers of the soldiers and the booming of cannon. Among the arrivals was Major Rogers, of Rogers's Rangers, with twenty of his old followers.
Captain Dalzell, on the day of his arrival, much against Gladwyn's advice, insisted on attacking the Indians. These had been forced, by the cannonading from the schooners, to remove their camp to the rear of a great marsh, several miles from the fort.
At two o'clock on the morning of July 31st, the gates of the palisades were noiselessly opened, and two hundred and fifty men marched down the road along the river shore. Not a sound was heard in the still of the night but the muffled footfalls of the soldiery and the occasional rattle of an officer's sword. Close to the river shore, keeping pace with the troops, two bateaux, each carrying a swivel gun, were rowed with stealthy stroke. The starlit sky was moonless. But for the fresh lake breeze, which sighed among the foliage of the overhanging forest, the midsummer night would have been intolerably sultry. On the right side of the winding road lay the river, with its dark and restless tide; on the left, the houses and farms of Canadian settlers.
A mile and a half from the fort the road wound over a narrow, wooden bridge which spanned a small stream, and then crossed a succession of ridges lying parallel with the rivulet. These ridges were crowned with low barricades. The spot had been Pontiac's old camp. On either side of the road were vast piles of firewood, cut by the Canadians, and stumps of trees from which the fuel had been cut. Here was a long line of heavy picket fence, inclosing several orchards. There, on rising ground, stood the house of a Canadian named Meloche. Over it all hung the pall of darkness and the mist from the river which made the various objects indistinct.
The soldiers supposed their attack would be a complete surprise to Pontiac. Yet, in spite of this, the men shuddered as they filed down the descent which led across the narrow, wooden bridge. The ravine looked lonely and suspicious. The spot seemed fit for a massacre.
The advance guard had proceeded half-way across the bridge. Suddenly there was a wild war-whoop in the darkness, and the ridges, the intrenchments, the orchard fence, and the black woodpiles, the half-chopped logs, whatever could afford a shelter to a savage, burst into flame. Half the advanced guard fell at the first fire. The unhurt men fled to the rear, and in a moment the whole column wavered. Dalzell dashed to the front. His clear voice rang out above the infernal din. The men rallied, and a spasm of rage, charged across the bridge and up the opposite slope. It was sad folly. Before one-third of the way up the slope, every howling Indian had fled to another spot, from which he could fire upon the English. The latter pushed on with the courage of insanity. The charge which they maintained so stubbornly was a bloody mockery. The lines were broken and tangled in a labyrinth of fences, outhouses, trees, and woodpiles, from behind which the red foes kept up a murderous fire.
To advance was madness. To halt was folly. To retreat was a necessity. One company, under Captain Grant, hurried back across the bridge, and taking possession of the road prepared to cover the retreat. The two bateaux had been rowed up the creek to the bridge, and the dead and wounded were hurriedly placed on board. A heavy fire was pored in upon the English during this last office of friendship. All at once a concentrated volley was received from another direction. The men of Grant's company turned to find a body of Indians strongly posted on their flank about the house of Meloche and the neighboring orchards. To stop the deadly cross-fire, Grant's men charged up the hill, at the point of bayonet, drove the savages from the orchards and house. In the latter were two Canadians. They said the English should retreat at once to the fort, as large numbers of Indians had posted themselves on the road in the rear.
The situation was critical. The men retreated rapidly and without serious opposition for half a mile. At this spot the road again ran through a region planted with houses and fences. Here, also, was a newly dug cellar for a house. This pit was near the road. It was full of Indians. As the center of the column arrived opposite the ambuscade, a heavy volley of balls was discharged at the soldiers.
Already unnerved by the disaster at the bridge, the men were well-nigh panic-stricken at this new surprise. They started down the road in wild confusion, breaking ranks, trampling on each other, throwing away their weapons, any way, every way, to fly from the storm of bullets. Dalzell, with drawn sword, shouted at the men, and forced some to stop. Others he seized by the shoulders and held. He was twice wounded, but paused not till his panic-stricken command was rallied.
It was almost daybreak. But a dense fog from the river, illuminated by incessant flashes from the enemy's guns, nevertheless concealed the enemy. Finally it grew light enough to discern the shadowy outline of a house, of which the Indians had taken possession, and from the windows of which they poured murderous volleys upon the little band of Englishmen. This house commanded the road along which the men must pass to reach the fort. Major Rogers, with his handful of Rangers, burst in the door of the house with an ax, and, in a fearful hand-to-hand conflict, killed every Indian in the house who did not fly. Another detachment charged a line of fences behind which the savages were concealed. This, too, was in the main successful.
In the lull that ensued after these two advantages, Dalzell at once ordered the retreat to recommence. The column had not moved twenty feet when the Indians came running from every direction with wild yells, and fell upon their rear and flank. Dalzell was shot and killed. The loss of their leader threatened the battered and unnerved command with total destruction.
In the crises Major Rogers and his Rangers took possession of another house which commanded the road. Some of the terrified regulars followed him, in frantic eagerness to gain shelter from the tempest of destruction without. The building was large and strong. The Canadian women and children of the neighborhood had already fled to it for refuge. They were crowded into the cellar.
As the Rangers entered the building, its owner, an old man named Campan, resolutely planted himself on the trap-door leading to the cellar, and thrust back every soldier who sought to lift it. No time was to be lost. Rogers's stentorian voice shouted to the men to barricade the windows. In a moment the yells of two hundred Indians, surrounding the house, mingled with the shrieks and cries of the half-stifled women and children in the cellar. With skilled hands, the Rangers piled the windows full of furs, bedding, clothes, whatever would serve to shelter them from the bullets of the savages, which now rattled against the building like the roar of a hailstorm.
While Rogers and his men boldly risked their lives to cover the retreat of the others, Captain Grant hurried forward for another half mile, and posted a squad of men in a strong situation, from which base of operations he sent forward other detachments, as they came up, to occupy other points along the road with supporting distance of each other, until by these tactics he had a complete line of communications with the fort. Each squad in turn, commencing with the farthest, then guardedly retreated to the fort, till all were in.
The gallant Rogers and his handful of Rangers, who had by their courage saved the command from complete destruction, were yet defending themselves in Campan's house against a vast multitude of savages, who had concentrated their force upon this isolated band of heroes. To relieve these brave fellows from their imminent peril, Grant ordered the bateaux to ascend the river to a point opposite the house. The swivel-guns were brought to bear, and in a short time the assailants were driven to the rear of the house. Rogers and his men seized the opportunity to rush out, just as the savages burst in at the rear door. Under cover of the cannonade, the Rangers made their way to the fort. At eight o'clock in the morning, after six hours of fighting, the last man entered the sheltering palisade. The fight at Bloody Run, as the creek was known from that time, had cost the English a loss of fifty-nine men.
The news of the Indian victory spread far and wide through the north, and bands of painted warriors arrived daily to re-enforce the besiegers. The siege resumed its old monotony, which was at last disturbed by a thrilling attack on the schooner Gladwyn. This vessel, the smaller of the two, was returning from a trip to Niagara. She had on board ten sailors and six Iroquois, who were supposed to support the cause of the English. One morning these wily children of the forest asked to be put ashore. In a moment of folly the request was complied with. That they repaired to Pontiac with reports of the weakness of the crew, there can be no doubt.
That night the schooner attempted the narrow river channel below the fort, but was caught midway in a dead calm. The pitchy darkness concealed from the eyes of anxious lookouts a fleet of canoes, with three hundred and fifty Indians, which floated unobserved to within a few yards of the schooner. One cannon-shot was fired, but before its echoes had ceased the savages swarmed over the sides of the vessel by scores. A fearful hand to hand conflict ensued.
But resistance was useless. Ten or fifteen savages surrounded each sailor. Just as all was about over the mate shouted, "Boys, fire the magazine, and blow her up!" A moment more and the vessel would have been a dismantled wreck. But some Wyandots understood the words. With a wild cry of alarm the Indians leaped from the vessel into the water, swimming away at the top of their speed. The deck was cleared instantaneously. The astonished crew found not an Indian on board, where a minute before they had had been scores. The savages ventured no more near the vessel. The next morning a stiff breeze filled the languid sails, and the plucky little schooner made her way safely to the fort.
We cannot follow the detailed story of the siege further, but turn to view other fields which the ambition of Pontiac desolated with the horrors of war. When the weak line of frontier forts was overwhelmed, the news of the successive disasters was carried, not alone to the starving garrison of Detroit, and the great chieftain who sat watching it like an Evil Genius, but the same tidings spread like wild-fire along the defenseless frontiers, and among the wild Indians of the west, who yet hesitated to take up the hatchet. Venango, Sandusky, Le Boeuf, St. Joseph, Miami, Ouatanon, Michillimackinac, Presqu' Isle, these were the fated names which flashed over the frontiers, carrying dread and terror to every cabin.
It is to be remembered that the defenseless frontiers of Virginia and Pennsylvania bore the recent scars of the fearful desolation of the French and Indian War, which ensued after Braddock's defeat. Their sufferings were recent. The memory of the mighty panic which desolated vast stretches of settled country, and of the awful fate of hundreds and thousands of settlers, who, with dogged courage, faced the savage hordes, was fresh and vivid.
The imaginations of the terror-stricken pioneers dilated with horror as the black-winged rumors flew from cabin to cabin, and from settlement to settlement. Nor were the apprehensions untimely. The very worst came to pass. The most exaggerated fears were those which most nearly foretold the truth. The war-parties of the savages, with reddened tomahawk and flaming torch, followed swiftly after the tidings of the fall of the forts.
It was the French and Indian war over again. This statement must be received with some qualifications. It was more extended. It was bloodier. It was more sudden. It was more fearful in its details. In these respects the war of Pontiac was worse than that of the French and Indians. From the tall Creeks, who dwelt among the palms and magnolias of the sunny south, to the wiry savages who shivered around frosty Halifax, the war-cry resounded through the unending forests, and the tomahawk was uplifted by cruel hands.
The details of the fearful conflict may not be followed in this place. Only a few of the most striking incidents can be mentioned. In three months more than two thousand families were driven from their homes in Pennsylvania and Virginia to the settlements and cities of the east, and more than a thousand persons were massacred or taken captives. As in the former war, vast sweeps of settled country were absolutely abandoned by the flying inhabitants. As before, the multitudes of unhappy refugees were crowded together in the towns to which they had hurried, seeking shelter in barns, hovels, and temporary huts of bark, where they were confronted by all the horrors of penury and famine. As before, the Quaker government sat with hands folded, extending to the bleeding frontiers no comfort but counsels to non-resistance, and no aid but pious maxims. From every valley of the Alleghanies rose black columns of smoke from burning cabins and blazing hay-stacks.
The commander-in-chief of the British army was reluctantly forced to believe in a wide-spread Indian insurrection. From the meager resources at his command, two relief expeditions were organized for the two posts, which were thought to be in imminent peril. The story of the one designed for Detroit, under the brave but incautious Dalzell, we have already traced. The other expedition, under Henry Bouquet, consisting of five hundred emaciated and feeble regulars from the West Indias, was designed for Fort Pitt.
Day after day the weak, little band pressed on their errand of succor. Now they passed the charred ruins of desolated settlements in some lovely valley; now they came to some lonely little block-house, from which a swarm of beleaguering Indians fled at their approach; now suffering from the heat of the July sun, they toiled, panting up the long slopes of the Alleghanies; now from the crest of some range they looked out over the landscape, with its purple mountain ranges, its shimmering rivers, and its deep valleys, embowered in all the luxuriance of midsummer foliage.
The fate of Braddock's army, of more than ten times the strength of this little command of regulars, already wasted by disease contracted in the burning atmosphere of the Indias, and wholly unused to Indian warfare, hung constantly before the eyes of the men. Every possible precaution against ambuscade was taken. They were within twenty-five miles of Fort Pitt, descending a hill through a dense forest, when a volley of shots at the head of the column announced to every startled soldier that they were attacked. A command to charge was given, and company after company dashed down the hill. Before the impetuous Indians fled.
Just at the moment of victory, a heavy fire in the flank and rear announced that the enemy were by no means all in the front, and that the provision wagons, carrying the precious stores for Fort Pitt, as well as the supplies for the troops, had been attacked. No time was to be lost. The men turned hurried back up the hill to the relief of the convoy. A circle was formed about the wagons right on the hill-side. It was none too soon, for the Indians at once flung themselves on this protecting ring of soldiers. The forest rang with the war-whoops of the savages. Every tree and log served as a shelter from which they peppered the British regulars, who were wholly unused to bush fighting. He fight was kept up for seven hours, until the night hid the combatants from each other.
The English were forced to encamp on the hill where they were. To attempt a remove was certain destruction. Yet not a drop of water could be had in their camp. After seven hours of fighting in a scorching midsummer sun, the men were almost insane with thirst. The gloom of night could hardly darken the prospect which confronted the command. Sixty of their number had been killed and wounded. The latter were placed behind a barricade of sacks of flour from the wagons. Fever lent its flames to intensify the fearful sufferings from thirst.
Bouquet, cool, competent commander, saw so little hope for the morrow, that he wrote a concise report of the engagement to his commander-in-chief, that the latter might be informed concerning it, "whatever our fate might be." The dream-haunted slumbers of the restless men were broken as the first gray light came stealing through the damp forest. It was a struggle of the previous day renewed. Yet some changes could be noticed. The Indians, confident of victory, dashed more openly and boldly upon the lines. The soldiers, on the other hand, fought with less hope, and some demoralization from their sufferings.
At ten o'clock in the morning there was no further alteration in the situation. Bouquet saw that it was only a question of time until his men were overpowered, unless a change came soon. The savages press harder and harder upon the distressed soldiery. The horses picketed in the circle near the barricade for the wounded, received many shots, and maddened with pain, added to the uproar of battle their own wild and unearthly cries, or sometimes breaking loose they would bound through the lines of friends and foes, and run up and down the mountains screaming with agony.
One thing was true. If the Indians could be collected into a body and stand long enough to fight it out, Bouquet might yet achieve a victory. He resolved on a desperate stratagem. Two companies, forming a part of a line hotly pressed, were ordered to fall back quickly, while the troops on either side were to rapidly cover the gap by a thin expansion of their own lines, as to cover retreat.
The maneuver was executed successfully. The savages, as Bouquet had foreseen, mistook the movement for retreat. They sprang forward at the gap from all directions, and throwing themselves on the slender line, were on the point of breaking into the very heart of the camp, when the aspects of affairs underwent a sudden change. The two companies which had withdrawn made a quick flank movement, hidden by the forest, and just as the Indians were on the point of victory, discharged a fearful volley into their flank at point-blank range.
The astonished savages turned at bay, and fought like tigers to extricate themselves from the trap. Before they could do so, and break out of the circle which they had fought so long to break into, two other companies were precipitated upon the Indians. At this new onslaught they broke and fled, pursued by the English and overwhelmingly routed. The exhausted troops collected their wounded, and, by the following evening, reached Fort Pitt.
This place had been peril, but on the report of the defeat of the warriors at Bushy Run, near which the battle had been fought, the besiegers fled. The defenders of the fort had taken every precaution possible. They had cleared the land around it so that the savages might have no shelter. They had raised the palisade, strengthened the barracks, and even constructed a rude fire-engine to be used in case the savages succeeded in firing the buildings.
On the other hand, the Indians had displayed equal ingenuity. Under cover of night, they had crawled up the open river banks, under the ramparts, and by incredible industry had dug out innumerable rifle-pits with their knives. Each one of these burrows held one or two warriors, whose deadly aim was certain to bring down every exposed soldier. The peril of the fort, thus closely invested, arose from famine. The arrival of Bouquet, however, happily averted it.
Bouquet's victory caused only a temporary lull in the desolation of the frontiers in its immediate neighborhood. The history of the time is full of fearful incidents. A party of twenty-four soldiers, in charge of a train of provision wagons, was ambuscaded three miles below Niagara Falls, where the narrow road ran close to the brink of the gloomy precipices and black abysses of Devil's Hole. Such as were not killed on the spot were thrown over the cliff, and were shattered beyond recognition far below on the rocks. A relief party started out from Fort Niagara on hearing the sound of rifles, but fell into an ambuscade not less terrible than the first, leaving over fifty of their numbers slain.
In the war on the Pennsylvania border one incident stands out unmatched in its cruelty. In the center of a lonely forest stood a small school-house. This building was attacked by Indians just as the master was about to begin the daily round of study with prayer. He was killed with the open Bible in his hand, and an agonizing plea for the safety of his scholars on his lips. At nightfall, when the little fellows who attended the school failed to return home, anxious searchers made their way to the school-house, where they found the lifeless remains of the teacher, surrounded by the corpses of his nine scholars.
Before the winter closed in, another attempt was made to relieve Detroit. Major Wilkins, with a force of six hundred regulars, collected with painful effort from the colonies, started up the Niagara River. Before proceeding far they were attacked by Indians and driven back in confusion to Fort Schlosser.
A second time the ill-fated expedition set out, and succeeded in reaching Lake Erie. The inland lake of azure, as deceitful as a coquette, had been almost traversed. The broad mouth of the Detroit River was already in sight. The tired garrison were just on the point of being relieved. But the sailors in the flotilla shook their heads with misgiving, and talked in low voices, as they saw rising in the north-western sky the dark battalions of the Storm King. With inconceivable rapidity, the little line of blue vapor which hung lazily on the horizon expanded and dilated until the blue canopy was obscured with dark and thunderous clouds. The ragged rain line advanced swiftly. A heavy gale of wind arose. The helpless bateaux were rocked more and more uneasily on the rising waves.
The surface of the lake grew black as ink, and was flecked with angry white-caps. The bright day was succeeded by the greenish darkness of the tempest. Every muscle was strained by the crew of each canoe to make the shore. It had been four miles away when the first signs of the approaching storm were detected. For fifteen minutes they had been headed for land. Yet it was still two and a half miles away.
The gale rose higher and higher. Now a rolling wave lifted the prow of a canoe five feet in the air, now plunged it as far below the surface of the lake, and broke athwart the bow, deluging the rowers with spray and water. Red lightnings shot zigzag across the angry sky, and terrific peals of thunder exploded like the trumps of doom. As the tempest grew heavier and wrought the mobile lake into more perfect reflection of its own fury and violence, the bateaux heaviest laden began to fill and sink. Some of the crew would be taken on board other boats; others, with white faces upturned, and piercing screams for help, sank out of sight forever in the raging depths. Great drops of water began to fall. The oarsmen pulled with swollen arteries and knotted sinews.
At last, as the flood-gates of the sky were opened, the flotilla attempted to land. The frail vessels were caught in the arms of giant breakers and flung again and again with remorseless violence against the beach. The men jumped overboard, and abandoning provisions, weapons, and ammunition to the greedy waves, fought their way through the seething surf to the land so many had failed to reach. The equipment of the expedition was utterly lost. To proceed to Detroit was only to treble the number behind the palisade which must be fed, without replenishing the scanty supply of provision. With misery and hardship the men struggled back to Niagara. Detroit was still left alone.
Before the news of this disaster reached the garrison, information of a very different kind had filled the spirit of the mighty Pontiac with bitterness and rage. While Pontiac had been maturing the far-reaching plans of his ambitious conspiracy in the winter of 1762-1763, to overthrow the English, re-establish France in the military dominion of the west, and seat the Indians, the aboriginal lords, upon the throne of the balance of power between the two European nations, these latter had been maturing a counter movement, culminating on the 10th of February, 1763, in the treaty of Paris, by which France resigned all claim to the territory east of the Mississippi.
The news of his treaty reached Pontiac when the siege of Detroit was but a month old. But with iron-headed skepticism the dark brown king of the forest refused to believe it, and threatened death to every person who ventured to bring such news. As the summer days rolled away, with Detroit still unsubdued, and the expected war canoes of the French king, which he had promised his followers months before were already on their way to strike the English, were yet as far off as ever, Pontiac stamped his foot with rage, and dispatched a fierce, haughty demand for weapons, provisions, and re-enforcements to the French commandant of Fort Chartres, in the Illinois country.
The reply to this demand reached the haughty Pontiac about the time of the Lake Erie disaster. It was to the effect that the French king had made peace and resigned all claim to her territory in America; that instead of expecting help for war, Pontiac should himself lay down the hatchet.
On receipt of this message, of which the authenticity could not be doubted, Pontiac's fierce spirit was wrought into unspeakable fury. For hours no man or woman dared go near him, so terrible was his rage. He sat raving and cursing, like an "archangel fallen." There are fiercer storms than those of wind and wave. This was one. It was a tempest in a brain. At last he rose, and with imperious gesture ordered the frightened squaws to take down the wigwams. That night the dark conspirator withdrew to the tribes along the Maumee River. The siege of Detroit, however, though practically suspended during the winter, was renewed the following spring, but with less pertinacity and zeal. The eye of the master was no longer there to oversee it.
Though Detroit still baffled the fierce tribes of the north, the defenseless borders of Pennsylvania and Virginia ceased not to be desolated with fire and blood. Farther and farther to the east the savages pushed their depredations. Nearer and nearer to the quick of the nation did the assassin's knife cut its way. To these things the Quaker Assembly of Philadelphia refused to make any resistance. With placid obstinacy and undisturbed countenances, they heard the horrible tales of border massacre and bloodshed, and then declared that resistance would be sinful! The poor frontier people flooded the assembly with memorials, pleas, petitions, prayers, and supplications, imploring, begging, demanding protection. To these things the good Quakers turned an ear of stone.
So the frontiersmen, as is always the case where the government fails to discharge its duty and enforce the law, took the law and its execution into their own hands. Bands of maddened and desperate men organized for protection and revenge. As the report of their telling blows against the savages reached Philadelphia, the Quakers raised a fearful clamor of denunciation. As the majority of the frontiersmen were Presbyterians, the gall of sectarianism was added to the wormwood of political strife over the issue of resistance or non-resistance -- which?
The bold borderers fought well, shouting their notes of defiance to the citizens of the Quaker capitol. Among them, our old friend James Smith, whose fortunes in captivity we traced in a former chapter, was one of the most notorious and successful leaders. Of course this irregular warfare, a sort of unlicensed murdering, led to excesses. One of these has become historic. It illustrates the stormy time.
Near the broad and mirror-like Susquehanna, and at no great distance from the town of Lancaster, at a spot known as the Manor of Conestoga, lived a small band of Indians. The settlement was old, and in former years had been prosperous, but at the time of which we write had dwindled, till nothing remained but a cluster of squalid hovels, inhabited by twenty wretched Indians, regarded in the neighborhood simply as lazy, but harmless vagabonds. On the east bank of the Susquehanna, and some distance, and some distance further up, stood the town of Paxton. It had been burned by the Indians in the French war. Of this burning and massacre which followed, the inhabitants carried in their hearts the memory. For the Indians they had no mercy, but only black hate and an undying thirst for revenge. For some time, as the horrors of Indian warfare again swept along the frontiers, they had watched the poor vagabonds of Conestoga Indians with an eye of fierce suspicion. The verdict of history is that one or two of the Conestoga Indians were guilty; the rest were innocent.
One night word was brought to Paxton that an Indian, known to have committed depredations, had been tracked to Conestoga. The Paxton blood was fired. Fifty men, athirst for blood, mounted on horses, proceeded to the Indian settlement and surrounded it just before daybreak. As they drew near to the hovels, an Indian overheard them and looked out. One of the men thought or pretended that he recognized him. "Curse him! He is the one that killed my mother," he shouted, and firing at the instant, the poor wretch fell dead. With wild shouts, the ruffians burst into the cabins, and shot, stabbed, and butchered the inmates. As it happened, there were only six Indians in the settlement, the rest, vagabonds that they were, being scattered over the surrounding country. After firing the cabins, the fierce Paxtonians rode rapidly away, freely scattering the news.
In an hour or two the sheriff of Lancaster arrived on the ground. He at once proceeded to collect the fourteen other Indians who had escaped the massacre by being absent, and lodged them in the Lancaster jail for safety. On receipt of the news at Philadelphia, the government at once offered a reward for the apprehension of the murderers. This measure inflamed the Paxton men beyond all control. On December 27, 1763, they started to Lancaster, against the protests of the cooler-headed people of the community, with the purpose, more or less understood among them, of breaking into the jail and killing the Indians who had escaped the first massacre.
About three o'clock in the afternoon the rioters, all heavily armed, galloped into the little town and up to the jail, quickly burst in the door, and made their way to the Indians. The latter gathered billets of wood for self-defense. At sight of resistance the rioters fired into the crowd. "In a moment more," says Parkman, "the yard was filled with ruffians, cursing and firing upon the cowering wretches, holding the muzzles of their pieces, in some instances, so near their victims' heads that the brains were scattered by the explosion. The work was soon finished The bodies of men, women, and children, mangled with outrageous brutality, lay scattered about the yard, and the rioters were gone."
The whole country was thrown into an uproar by this event. On the one hand, the government was offering rewards for the apprehension of the murderer; on the other hand, the hardy frontiersmen threatened to destroy a government which left them to their fate, and branded them as murderers if they but defended themselves. The sectarian quarrel, and political disputes concerning inadequate representation, and taxation without protection, filled the country with agitation and clamor.
To Philadelphia there had been removed, a few weeks before the Lancaster affair, a community of Moravian Indians from Bethlehem, in order to save them from the fate which afterwards befell the Conestogas. All along the line of march the refugees had been insulted, and a howling mob assaulted then in the streets of Philadelphia. They were protected by the Quakers, and afforded shelter and food. This thing was remembered as the agitation over the Paxton matter grew greater and greater. Far and wide through the frontier borders, the notion sprang up of proceeding to Philadelphia, destroying these poor savages, and overturning the government.
Towards the close of January, a force of from five hundred to fifteen hundred desperate borderers started on this mission to Philadelphia. They expected co-operation from the city mob. Rumor had anticipated movement by several days, and thrown the city of Philadelphia into a panic of fear.
The first resolution was to send the Indians away to New York. The execution of the timid third plan was hastily begun. Before daybreak, one bitter cold January morning, the half-clad Indians filed mournfully through the streets of the City of Brotherly Love. The report of their removal had filled the streets with a howling mob, even at that hour. Under the protection of soldiers little less hostile than the mob itself, the unfortunate Indians commenced their march on foot to New York.
Greeted everywhere by the curses of the people, the sad children of the forest proceeded as far as Amboy, where they were notified by the governor of New York that they would not be allowed to enter that province, and that an attempt to do so would be resisted by force. For some days the poor Indian converts remained in the barracks at Amboy, engaged almost constantly in singing and praying. But there seemed to be no resting-place for them in the land of their fathers. The governor of New Jersey sent a message requiring them to leave that province forthwith. Beaten from pillar to post, the unhappy Indians again turned their faces to Philadelphia.
The return of the Indians, together with the news of the approach of the Paxton men, again convulsed the city with apprehension, discord, and fright. A large element in the city openly declared that they would espouse the cause of the borderers if it came to an armed conflict. The rest of the inhabitants took active measures for defense. Barricades were thrown up in the streets, cannon were mounted, patrol guards posted, and a citizen soldiery hastily organized.
At two o'clock one morning the wild clangor of the alarm bells sent a shudder to every heart. By previous arrangement, every window was filled with candles. A vast multitude of armed citizens surged up and down the streets of the city. The alarm proved groundless. The rioters, learning the reception prepared for them, advanced no nearer than Germantown. Here they were visited in camp by many citizens.
A compromise treaty was drawn up. The Paxton men contented themselves with presenting elaborate memorials to the assembly, which were never acted on. They withdrew to their homes without having accomplishing any thing further than to demonstrate the weakness of the provincial government, and the folly of all doctrines of non-resistance. As for the city, as soon as the external danger was removed, the rival factions, engaged in a war of pamphlets and newspapers, which at the time was one of the most serious, but now appears as one of the most laughable, disputes in American history.
With this outline of the border wars of the time we must be content. The year 1764 witnessed serious military efforts commensurate with undertaking to crush the Indian power. Bradstreet in August of this year effected the relief of Detroit. The weary garrison, after a siege of fifteen months, during which they had been cut off from communication with the rest of their race, had been pent up in rigorous and wearisome confinement, had contended with a sleepless and powerful foe, had subsisted on scanty and wretched food, and had worn their clothes threadbare, were at last relieved, and permitted to step outside the worn and beaten enclosure of the palisade, and return to a world from which they had been so long banished.
In the south, Bouquet, at the head of a strong army, pushed westward from Fort Pitt, compelled the Indian tribes everywhere to submit, make treaties of peace and surrender their captives.
On a certain day the Indians from far and near brought their captives, taken during many years of warfare, to an appointed rendezvous for their surrender. Thither also repaired anxious throngs of settlers, whose relatives and friends had long been missing. The scene was tragical. The long lost were restored. Friend recognized friend; mothers clasped their children to their eager breasts. There was great joy. There was also great grief. Many persons failed to find the faces of the loved ones sought. Some of the captives had their hopes crushed, their hearts broken by failing to meet a single familiar face.
As his gigantic conspiracy crumbled into ruins, Pontiac, furious as a lion at bay, unconquered, because in spirit unconquerable, placed himself in person among the Indians of what are now the States of Indiana and Illinois, rousing them by his individual influence into a state of frenzy and warlike wrath. To defend this region, over which waved the flag of France, into which no English foot had dared to penetrate, he resolved to devote all of his great and desperate energies. French traders, hostile to the advance of the English would destroy their occupation, practiced on his ignorance and favorite belief. By means of forged letters, purporting to be written by the king of France, they again inspired in him the belief which was the corner-stone of his conspiracy, namely, that France would lend him her powerful aid and re-enforcement.
Bent on this idea, Pontiac presented himself to the French commander at St. Louis, and demanded arms and ammunition. The Frenchman tried to soften his refusal by presents of a less warlike character. But Pontiac had one absorbing, overmastering ambition. Whatever ministered to that ambition he desired and demanded. Whatever did not minister to it he flung aside as unworthy his attention. So he refused the presents with angry scorn and bitter words.
Still the resources of this Napoleon of the forest were not exhausted. He dispatched an embassy all the way to New Orleans to demand help from the French government. These ambassadors also carried war-belts to the distant warriors of Louisiana, to whom the name and fame of the mighty Pontiac were as the sun at noon. These tribes were urged at every cost to prevent the English from ascending the Mississippi, which Pontiac's military genius foresaw they would attempt. In this he was right, and their attempts to ascend the river were completely foiled.
The principal mission of the ambassadors was, however, a complete failure. The French rule was just about to give way to Spain, to whom France had by the treaty of Paris resigned Louisiana. The governor interviewed them and explained the true situation. From France no help was to be expected.
To this announcement the Indian orator made a reply full of the most cutting sarcasm. "Since we last sat on these seats, our ears have heard strange words. When the English told us they had conquered you, we always thought they lied; but now we have learned that they spoke the truth. We have learned that you, whom we have loved and served so well, have given the lands that we dwell upon to your enemies and ours. We have learned that the English have forbidden you to send traders to our villages to supply our wants, and that you, whom we thought so great and brave, have obeyed their commands like women, leaving us to starve and die in misery. We now tell you once for all that our lands are our own; and we will tell you, moreover, that we can live without your aid, and hunt, and fish, and fight as our fathers did before us. All that we ask of you, is this, that you give us back the guns, the powder, the hatchets, and the knives which we have worn out in fighting your battles. As for you," hissed the orator, shaking his long forefinger at some English officers who were present, -- "as for you, our hearts burn with rage, when we think of the ruin you have brought on us."
When the report of this embassy reach Pontiac, he saw that all was lost. The foundation of all his ambitious schemes was French interference. He had rested on a delusion. He had believed in a lie. His solitary will, which had controlled and combined into co-operation a thousand 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. Near the site of Lafayette, Indiana, he met an English officer and formally tendered the traditional calumet of peace. He proceeded to Detroit with his diminished retinue, and, in the old council-hall, where he and his blanketed chiefs had attempted to destroy the garrison, the terms of peace were arranged. The following spring he visited Sir William Johnson, at his castle in the Mohawk valley, and finally concluded the peace, renouncing forever the bold ambition by which he expected to avert or retard the ruin on his race.
From this time he disappears from the historic page, only to reappear in the last scene in the eventful drama of his life. Of his movements during the intervening years no record exists. He is known to have planted his lodge, and to have hunted and fished like a common warrior, through the region which now forms the great states of Indiana and Illinois.
In April, 1769, he appeared at St. Louis, and made a two days' visit on his old friend, St. Ange, who was still commandant, though by that time his command was in the interest of Spain. On the second day, word came that the Indians of an Illinois town, across the river, were having a dance and carousal, and Pontiac announced his intention of going over. He drank deeply, and marching down the street into the forest, sang the medicine song.
An English trader named Williamson, apprehensive of the proximity of such a mighty chieftain and conspirator as Pontiac, and especially suspicious on account of his visit to the French at St. Louis, resolved to dispatch him while he was in his power. A drunken Illinois Indian was bribed with liquor to watch Pontiac as he left the place, and stealing after him through the forest, to kill him. The assassin carried out the plan, and buried a tomahawk in the mighty brain in which all ambitions were dead forever.
Parkman, the great chieftain's biographer, thus closes his work: "The dead body was soon discovered, and startled cries and wild howlings announced the event. The word was caught up from mouth to mouth, and the place resounded with infernal yells. The warriors snatched their weapons. The Illinois took part with their guilty countryman, and the few followers of Pontiac, driven from the village, fled to spread the tidings and call the nations to revenge. Meanwhile, the murdered chief lay in the spot where he had fallen, until St. Ange, mindful of former friendship, sent to claim the body, and buried it with warlike honors near his fort of St. Louis.
"Thus basely perished this champion of a ruined race. But 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. Whole tribes were rooted out to expiate it. Chiefs and sachems whose veins had thrilled with his eloquence, young warriors whose aspiring hearts had caught the inspiration of his greatness, mustered to revenge his fate; and, from the north and east, their united bands descended on the villages of the Illinois. 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 meagre 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 Patroclus; and the remnant of the Illinois who survived the carnage remained forever after sunk into utter insignificance.
"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 trample with unceasing footsteps of his forgotten grave."
Retyped and reformatted by Ray and Kathy Leigh