A Journal Of An Indian Captivity During Pontiac’s Rebellion In The Year 1763, By Mr John Rutherfurd, Afterward Captain, 42nd Highland Regiment


I ventured to crawl to the window, where I saw them lead to the riverside (which ran just by the house) eight of these poor creatures, one by one, whom they put to death on the spot. Some of them were tomahawked, others they shot with their guns, and some of them they made the little boys shoot with bows and arrows, in order to accustom them to cruelty and perfect them in the use of that weapon. Thus they prolonged the pain of these unhappy wretches, and when one fell, the multitude would set up the most dreadful yells and cries that can be conceived. When they were all dead they scalped them, and some of the Indians took the skin off their arms to make tobacco pouches of (as they had formerly done with Captain Robertson and Captain Campbell), leaving the first joints of the fingers by way of tassels.

Then they threw the bodies into the river that they might float down to the fort, where their countrymen might see what they said they should all undergo in a short time. When this tragical scene was at an end, the Indian that had hid me came and set me at liberty, first leading me publicly through the middle of the crowd to convince me that there was no more danger at that time. Then he delivered me to Peewash, who seemed very happy to see me safe, having heard that the warriors had been hunting to destroy me.

The following reason was given for this last instance of their barbarity. An old squaw, the wife of a chief, dreamed that she saw ten English men killed and scalped. This she told to the young warriors, who wished for nothing more than a pretext to make a frolic of that sort. She conjured them at the same time to make her dream come true, otherwise, she assured them, they would never prosper in war. This, with a great deal more enthusiastic stuff mixed in her speech, excited their passions to such a degree that they flew immediately about the camp like mad men to collect ten of the prisoners in order to kill them, in the manner I have related, to verify the dream of that imp of hell.

However, they were partly disappointed in their design, as all those who had any regard for their captives concealed them. The little drummer was the favorite of an old squaw, who wanted much to save him, but notwithstanding her tears and earnest entreaties the young fellows tore him from her arms, declaring that upon such an occasion they would spare neither age nor sex. Almost every day exhibited fresh instances of their barbarity upon some of the prisoners, so that I lived in continual terror, expecting that every day would be the last. I therefore resolved to attempt escaping at all risks.

There lived a Frenchman near where we had our cabin named Boileau. This man had been civil to me upon several occasions, and I thought he might be of some assistance to me in making my escape. I therefore sounded him upon the subject and found that a little money would go a great way with him. Accordingly I promised to reward him if he would assist me, and thereby gained him to my service. As the French were admitted into the fort, I gave him a letter to my friend, Mr. Sterling, who likewise promised him a reward if he should succeed in delivering me from my captivity. Major Gladwin and several other officers also assured him of their countenance.

When he returned with a line from Mr. Sterling, I found him ready to engage in my interest. I therefore redoubled my entreaties and promises in case of success. A scheme for my departure in the most secret manner was next to be fixed upon. We formed many, but rejected them all upon more coolly considering the matter. Our eagerness—he to enjoy the promised reward and I, what was more important, my liberty—made it difficult for us to determine upon the most practicable way of effecting it.

However, we at last determined upon the following plan: in the evening we should fix upon, he was to embark in his canoe, giving out publicly that he was going fishing as usual; instead of which, he was to go about two miles down the river nearer the fort, and at a certain point of low land which was covered with rushes, he was to push into the place in the dusk of the evening when the Indians would not perceive him, and so conceal himself. I, on my part, was to make the best of my way to him in the night, where he would lie waiting for me.

This plan we were to put into execution the following night. However, on this and several preceding nights the Indians were alarmed by a report that the Chippewas were to be attacked by our forces, which actually happened a few days afterward. Captain DaIzell, who had just brought a reinforcement to the garrison of Detroit, in the night of July 30-31 made a sortie with a strong body of men, with the intention of surprising the hostile camp. But the Indians, who had been warned of his design by the French, lay in ambush and attacked him with great spirit; nay, upon this occasion they did what savages were never known to do, they threw themselves into the houses and annoyed the British troops very much from there and from behind fences. The battle continued doubtful for some time; but at last our troops were obliged to retreat, which they did in good order to the fort, leaving upon the field Captain Dalzell and about sixty private soldiers.