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Siege of Fort Detroit
Ottawa vs. British in the Siege of Fort Detroit, May - October 1763
Ottawa Native Americans Under Pontiac Besiege Fort Detroit But Later They Make Peace
Painting by Frederic Sackrider Remington / Wiki

Pontiac's Rebellion 1763-1766

Also called Pontiac Rebellion, Pontiac Revolt, Pontiac War, or, Pontiac's Conspiracy, all of the above with or without apostrophe.

Pontiac, who lived 1720-1769, was a chief of the Ottawa tribe.

When Was Pontiac's Rebellion Fought?

From 1763 to 1766. The main fighting took place in 1763.

Pontiac's Rebellion begun on April 27, 1763, at an intertribal war council, when Pontiac and chiefs of other Indian Nations resolved to wage war.

Pontiac's Rebellion ended on July 25, 1766, when, at Fort Ontario, Pontiac and chiefs of other Indian Nations signed a peace treaty with the British, who were represented by Sir William Johnson.

Background of Pontiac's Rebellion:
The Ottawa, the French, and the British

Around 1680, the Ottawa started to trade fur with the white colonists, who themselves were in competition with each other.

The rivalry between France and Britain resulted in the  Fourth French and Indian War (1754-1763), which was the North American extension of the European  Seven Years' War (1756-1763).

In this war, France fought against Britain and lost. (Pontiac and many natives fought on the side of the French.) In its concluding 1763 Treaty of Paris, France ceded Canada to Great Britain.


Map of North America Before the 1763 Treaty of Paris
Map of North America Before the 1763 Treaty of Paris
Imperial Context before the 1763 Treaty of Paris
Library of Congress


Map of North America After the 1763 Treaty of Paris
Map of North America After the 1763 Treaty of Paris

Treaty of Paris 1763
Library of Congress


Why Was the Pontiac War Fought?

To eject the British from the Great Lakes region.

What Caused the Pontiac War?

The  French and Indian War had forced the Native Americans to chose between the British and the French, which, in turn, divided their tribes. Pontiac understood that the unwillingness to unite as one fighting force would ultimately mean defeat for all tribes.

Picking sides wasn't easy. Some switched sides when Britain became victorious, others switched sides when rumors spread that Spain and France joined forces to drive out the British.

On the whole, the French did get along with the indigenous peoples just fine. The British did not. How so?

The French were a bit more easy going than the British. In general, they mingled with the natives, learned their languages, adopted their customs, even intermarried. On this map of Detroit, it is well illustrated how the French and the natives lived side by side.

The British, on the other hand, could have a rather snooty attitude and shied away from having closer contact with the locals. Trade was confined to the forts, and not carried out in the homes of the tribal villages. And then, of course, the British banned the sale of arms and ammunition, and the sale of rum. They ended the long-standing tradition of gift-giving, a courtesy the French had practiced. It appears that, overall, there were a growing number of incidents in which a British trader tried to rip off a native. All this alienated a great many Indians.

Here is an often quoted simplification that nevertheless drives the point home:

Spanish civilization crushed the Indian; English civilization scorned and neglected him; French civilization embraced and cherished him.

Francis Parkman, American historian, 1912

In a nutshell, the causes of Pontiac's Rebellion were,

1. the urge to unite lest the white man (whatever country's origin) takes it all, and

2. the offensive haughty attitude and intolerable heavy hands of the new guys in power, the British. This included both, soldier and trader.


Who Fought Pontiac's Rebellion?

For 16 months, between 1762 and 1764, Pontiac had rallied his Confederacy of a Dozen Tribes, in the struggle against the white colonists. In effect, this was an insurrection of all the western tribes south of the Great Lakes and east of the Mississippi River. Apart from organized actions, individual skirmishes and raids were numerous, causing devastation in Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Although this confederacy was led by Pontiac, the vision of an anonymous Delaware prophet inspired the movement. Either he was anonymous, or his name was Neolin, depending on your source. In any case, this prophet preached that the white man, especially when he wears a red coat, should return to wherever he came from, with the help and convincing of the natives if necessary. And the Prophet made this aim a religious assignment.

According to vision, this is the wisdom:

This land where you dwell, I created for you and no others. Drive out the white man, make war upon them. Send them back to the lands I have created for them. And let them stay therein.

I warn you that if you allow the English among you, you are dead. Maladies, smallpox, and their poison will destroy you totally. You must pray to me and do only my will.

:: The Dozen Tribes
The dozen tribes turned out to be more than a dozen. They were the Seneca, the Delaware (Lenni Lenape), the Mingo, the Shawnee, the Ottawa, the Ojibwa (Chippewa), the Mississauga, the Potawatomi, the Huron (Wyandot), the Miami, the Wea, the Kickapoo, the Mascouten, the Illinois (Cahokia, Peoria), Piankashaw, the Menominee, and the Fox (Mesquakie).

Native American Tribes

:: The White Colonists
The French and the British. The French were a remnant of the troops, and settlers turned habitants, as many of them had been living in the area for generations by then. The British were the troops and the new settlers. Britain's monarch at the time was King George III.

King George III 1760-1820
King George III
George ruled as King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1760–1820.
Ann Ronan Picture Library/Heritage-Images

Where Was Pontiac's Rebellion Fought?

The Pontiac War targeted the European built forts along the Great Lakes. Eight of the twelve attacked forts were captured by Pontiac's Confederation of Tribes.

Here is the map:

Pontiac's War 1763 - Map Location of Fort Edward Augustus, Fort St. Joseph, Fort Ouiatenon, Fort Michilimackinac, Fort Miami, Fort Detroit, Fort Sandusky, Fort Presque Isle, Fort Le Boeuf, Fort Venango, Fort Pitt, Fort Ligonier, Fort Bedford
Map Location of Fort Edward Augustus, Fort St. Joseph, Fort Ouiatenon,
Fort Michilimackinac, Fort Miami, Fort Detroit, Fort Sandusky, Fort Presque Isle, Fort Le Boeuf, Fort Venango, Fort Pitt, Fort Ligonier, Fort Bedford
Click to enlarge



What Was the Outcome of Pontiac's Rebellion?

The uprising failed to evict the British from the Great Lakes region, but it did destroy European built forts and settlements. Although hundreds of colonists (some sources say up to 2,500) were killed, Indian losses were heavy as well.

Even if unsuccessful, Pontiac's War was a most formidable effort of Indian resistance against the advance of European colonists. And, in the process, this uprising forced the colonists to recognize for the first time, at least on paper, that Indians had property rights.

See the Royal Proclamation by King George III from October 7, 1763.


Key Events Before the Pontiac War

July 24, 1701 - Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit founded

September 8, 1760 - Vaudreuil surrenders New France to Amherst.

February 10, 1763 - Treaty of Paris. New France has officially become British.


Key Battles and Events of the Pontiac War

April 27, 1763 - War Council. Pontiac and other Indian chiefs decide to wage war.

May 7, 1763 - Pontiac meets with Gladwin at Fort Detroit, aborts his surprise attack.

May 9, 1763 - The Siege of Fort Detroit begins.

May 10, 1763 - Pontiac takes Campbell and McDougall hostages.

May 13, 1763 - Cuyler's British soldiers are ambushed and more than half of them killed.

May 16, 1763 - Fort Sandusky falls.

May 25, 1763 - Fort St. Joseph falls.

May 27, 1763 - Fort Miami falls.

May 28, 1763 - The Siege of Fort Pitt begins.

June 1, 1763 - Fort Ouitenon falls.

June 2, 1763 - Fort Michilimackinac falls.

Also on June 2, 1763 - Fort Ligonier is attacked but holds.

June 16, 1763 - Fort Venango falls.

June 18, 1763 - Fort Le Boeuf falls.

June 22, 1763 - Fort Presque Isle falls.

July 4, 1763 - Captain Donald Campbell is tomahawked.

July 31, 1763 - Battle of Bloody Run. Indian victory.

August 5-6, 1763 - Battle of Bushy Run. British victory.

August 10, 1763 - The Siege of Fort Pitt ends.

September 14, 1763 - Battle of Devil's Hole. Indian victory.

October 7, 1763 - Royal Proclamation by King George III

October 31, 1763 - The Siege of Fort Detroit ends. Pontiac sues for peace.

July 1765 - George Croghan and Pontiac sign a preliminary peace treaty.

July 25, 1766 - Pontiac and fellow chiefs meet at Fort Ontario and sign a final peace treaty with the British.

Here is the more detailed Timeline of Pontiac's Rebellion.



This is an excerpt from George Croghan's (Deputy Indian Agent) letter to his superior Sir William Johnson, outlining his views of the policy towards the Indians, best to be pursued by the English.

In the course of this tour through the Indian country, I made it my study to converse in private with Pontiac and several of the chiefs of the several nations, as often as opportunity served, in order to find out their sentiments of the French and English.

Pontiac is a shrewd, sensible Indian, of few words, and commands more respect among his own nation than any Indian I ever saw, could do among his own tribe.

He and all the principal men of those nations seem at present to be convinced that the French had a view of interest in stirring up, the late difference between his majesty's subjects and them, and call it a beaver war, for neither Pontiac, nor any of the Indians I met with, ever pretended to deny that the French were at the bottom of the whole, and constantly supplied them with every necessary they wanted, as far as in their power.

And notwithstanding they are at present convinced that it was for their own interest, yet it has not changed the Indians' affection for them.

They have been bred up together like children in that country, and the French have always adopted the Indian customs and manners, treated them civilly, and supplied their necessities, generally, by which means they gained the hearts of the Indians, and commanded their services, and enjoyed the benefits of a very advantageous fur trade. They well know if they had not taken these measures they could not enjoy these advantages.


It will require some time, and a very even conduct in those that are to reside in their country, before we can expect to rival the French in their affections. All Indians are jealous, and from their high notions of liberty, hate power. Those nations are jealous and prejudiced against us, so that the greatest care will be necessary to convince them of our honest intentions by our actions.


They are by no means so sensible a people as the Six Nations, or other tribes this way; and the French, for their own advantage, have learned them a bad custom; for, by all I could learn, they seldom made them any general present, but as it were fed them with necessaries just as they wanted, tribe by tribe, and never sent them away empty, which will make it difficult and troublesome to the gentlemen that are to command in their country, for some time, to please them and preserve peace, as they are a rash, inconsiderate people, and do not look on themselves as under any obligation to us, but rather think we are obliged to them for letting us reside in their country.

This letter has no date, but was probably written soon after October 21, 1765.


More to Read

:: Robert Navarre Journal
Here you can read the
Journal of Pontiac's Conspiracy 1763, published by Clarence Monroe Burton under the Auspices of the Michigan Society of the Colonial Wars, 1912.

Robert Navarre's Journal ou Dictation d'une Conspiration (Journal of the Pontiac Conspiracy) is a handwritten French manuscript, a first-person account of Pontiac's siege at Detroit in 1763. The journal describes in great detail affairs on both sides of the conflict between May 7 and July 31, 1763, providing an eyewitness account from within the fort, as well as intelligence, news, and rumors of Pontiac's activities. The original French manuscript is among the collections of the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library.

:: Robert Rogers, John Bradstreet
This is a
Diary of the siege of Detroit in the war with Pontiac : also a narrative of the principal events of the siege by Major Robert Rogers; a plan for conducting Indian affairs, by Colonel Bradstreet etc., 1860. The authors are Robert Rogers (1731-1795), John Bradstreet (1714-1774), and Franklin Benjamin Hough (1822-1885).

:: Jehy Hay Journal
ere is the
Jehu Hay Journal, which is a diary kept by Hay, a lieutenant of the 60th Regiment (Royal American), while he was stationed at Detroit from May 1, 1763, to June 6, 1765. In the journal, he wrote a firsthand account of the Ottawa, Ojibwa, Potawatomi, and Huron siege of Detroit, led by Pontiac, between May and October 1763.

:: Henry Gladwin
The Gladwin Manuscripts; with an introduction and a sketch of the conspiracy of Pontiac (1897) are written by Henry Gladwin (1730-1791) and Charles Moore (1855-1942).

:: Francis Parkman
And this is
The Conspiracy of Pontiac and the Indian War after the Conquest of Canada by Francis Parkman (1823-1893) the historian.


More Maps

With regards to conquest, expansion and colonization, these maps might be helpful:


North America 1713-1763
North America to 1763


North America 1700
North America Until 1700




Let's wrap it up with another one of Gladwin's brainchildren:

If your Excellency still intends to punish them for their barbarities, it may easily be done, without any expense to the crown, simply by permitting a free sale of rum, which will destroy them more effectively than fire and sword.

Gladwin in a letter to Amherst




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