Pontiac's Rebellion

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OHS AL02710.jpg
Illustration titled "Visit of Pontiac and the Indians to Major Gladwin." Pontiac, Chief of the Ottawas, united a coalition of American Indian tribes to resist British rule in the Great Lakes region and Ohio Valley. He led an uprising at Fort Detroit known as Pontiac's Rebellion in 1763, but the tribes were not able to overcome the fort's strong fortifications in spite of a five-month siege.

In 1763, the Treaty of Paris brought the French and Indian War to a close. With England's victory in the conflict, all French lands in North America now belonged to the British. American Indians in the Ohio Country feared the loss of their traditional ally and also believed that British settlers would be moving soon across the Appalachian Mountains. To prevent the incursion of whites, Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa encouraged Ohio Country American Indians to unite together and to rise up in 1763. The Ottawa attacked Fort Detroit in May 1763. Many people today view this as the beginning of Pontiac's Rebellion. The Shawnee, the Munsee, the Wyandot, the Seneca-Cayuga, and the Lenape (Delaware) also raided British settlements in the Ohio Country and in western Pennsylvania during 1763. By late fall, Pontiac's American Indian confederation had killed or captured more than six hundred people. Britain's only garrisoned fort in the Ohio Country, Fort Sandusky, fell to the Ottawas that same year. The thirteen soldiers inside the fort were killed.

In the autumn of 1764, the British military took the offensive against the American Indians. Colonel John Bradstreet and Colonel Henry Bouquet each launched invasions of the Ohio Country from Pennsylvania. Most of the Wyandot and Ottawa, but not Pontiac, surrendered to Bradstreet in September due to a lack of ammunition. The American Indians, without their French allies, could not re-supply themselves with needed items. Bouquet forced the Seneca-Cayuga, the Shawnee, and the Lenape (Delaware) to surrender a month later. To avoid the British soldiers' wrath, the three tribes had to return all captives, including those who still wished to live as American Indians. All of the tribes reluctantly complied. In early November, Bouquet's army marched to Fort Pitt with more than two hundred former captives. Several fled back to the natives before even arriving at the fort.

Although Pontiac did not formally surrender to the British until July 1766, Pontiac's Rebellion had ended in the autumn of 1764. The uprising clearly shows the difficulties American Indians in the Ohio Country faced with France's withdrawal from North America. It also illustrates the tenuous grasp Britain had over the Ohio Country. Faced with large debts following the French and Indian War and fearful that further American Indian uprisings would drain the British treasury even more, Britain enacted the Proclamation of 1763. This act hoped to prevent further tensions between the British and the American Indians by forcing all colonists to live east of the Appalachian Mountains. The land west of the mountains was to be set aside for the American Indians. This act did briefly improve relations between the two sides. Yet colonists soon ignored the provisions and moved into the Ohio Country. New bloodshed quickly followed.

See Also


  1. Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.