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


When the evening came I lay down as usual upon my bear skin to sleep, putting off all my ornaments: wampum, silver bracelets, collar, etc. About the middle of the night when I guessed that the family were all fast asleep, I crawled out of the hut on all fours. When I was outside, I stood at the door for five minutes to hear if they were stirring, but as everything was still I thought this was my time to set off, which I did as fast as my feet could carry me, directly to the woods. I had no other clothes than my shirt, not even daring to put on a pair of moccasins to save my feet, for if the family had happened to awake, they would immediately have come after me; and if they had found me dressed, they would not be long in discovering my intention.

In all my life I never saw such a night of rain, thunder, and lightning. It was so dark, and the woods were so thick and full of briars and thorns, that I was very much retarded in my progress. I could scarcely make more than a mile in an hour. I therefore resolved upon a new method, and quitting the woods I went to the river which was hard by, in which I thought I could walk with the water up to my chin, so that the Indians on the road could not see me. This plan would have succeeded had I had more time, but I had yet four miles to go before I could reach the Frenchman, and was in danger of being surprised by daylight.

I therefore resolved to take to the woods again, but I was within an ace of being prevented, for just as I was going ashore I saw two Indians with their guns, in close conference. They passed by on the road within twenty yards of me. Fortunately there was an old tree which had fallen into the river close by me, behind which I immediately squatted; but I could not conceal myself altogether, so that they must have seen me had they looked that way. If they had observed me, I never would have gotten out of that spot alive. I knew this and was in dreadful apprehension, as several soldiers attempting to escape were caught, scalped, and tomahawked on the spot. But these Indians, fortunately for me, were engaged in earnest discourse, and were returning from a feast a little intoxicated. I saw them go into a little French house about one hundred yards from me. I immediately ran to the thicket, making as little noise as possible; and to prevent the whiteness of my skin from discovering me to the Indians I rubbed myself all over with black moss and mire.

Thus pursuing my journey in fear and hope, starting at every rustling among the leaves and often mistaking trees for Indians, I at last arrived at the place where I thought the Frenchman would be waiting with the canoe, but could not find him. I ventured to call out in a low voice, but nobody answered. I then began to exclaim against the perfidy of the Frenchman, who, in my desperate situation, I thought had deceived me. Being much exhausted with fatigue, I sat down to rest, hardly knowing what I did. My thoughts were occupied about the Frenchman who, upon reflection, I thought would not be such a coward as to abandon me when he knew that I had to go through the most dangerous part of the enterprise myself. I considered, likewise, that it was to his interest to carry out our agreement. Recollecting myself a little and looking around me, I discovered what my anxiety had made me overlook, that I was about a quarter of a mile higher up the river than the place we had appointed.

This discovery gave me fresh vigor and spirit. I soon reached the right place, and to my inexpressible joy, I found the man asleep in his canoe. After waking him we embarked and pushed to the middle of the river in order that the current might carry us down. We passed through the middle of the enemy’s camp, making as little noise with our paddles as possible. We could plainly hear them talk, and saw some of them dancing and singing at a feast around a fire. About an hour before day-break we arrived on board a ship lying opposite to Detroit.

Then it was that I was agitated in a manner I had never before experienced. It would be in vain to attempt to give an idea of my feelings on this occasion. In the morning I went to the fort, where my friends were overjoyed to see me, although I cut a very odd figure among civilized people. The whole town, inhabitants as well as the garrison, turned out to see me. My appearance was sufficient to excite their pity as well as their laughter. I had on nothing but an old greasy, painted shirt, my face was painted red, black, and green, my hair had been cut off, and my body was black with the moss I had put on. My thighs and legs were so torn by the briars and thorns and so affected by the poisoned vines that they were swollen as big as any grenadier’s in His Majesty’s service.

Monsieur Boileau went home as soon as he had put me on board the ship, fearing that if he did otherwise he would be suspected of having aided me in my escape, and this was the last sight I had of him. Mr. Sterling, by my order, gave him goods to the value of £23 which, with the £39 10 s . given by Monsieur Cuillerier when he bought me (of which scarcely any was returned when I was retaken), amounted to £62 10 s . Pennsylvania currency, which is equal to £39 sterling.