- Historic Sites
A Journal Of An Indian Captivity During Pontiac’s Rebellion In The Year 1763, By Mr John Rutherfurd, Afterward Captain, 42nd Highland Regiment
“Every one of us was seized by his future master…
April 1958 | Volume 9, Issue 3
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.
After I had been about ten days in the fort and had got the better of my fatigues (though not of the paint), one of the vessels sailed for Niagara to obtain a supply of provisions for the garrison. Mr. Sterling had obtained leave of Major Gladwin to have a considerable quantity of goods that were lying at Niagara brought to Detroit in the vessel, and having no proper person whom he could trust to oversee their safety, he applied to me. I knew that bringing up these goods would be of considerable advantage to the company, and wishing to do what little was in my power for the advantage of a company with which my uncle was connected, I agreed to run the hazard, and accordingly embarked on board the sloop.
We had some shots fired at us by the Huron Indians going down the river, which we returned. In four days we arrived at Fort Schlosser, near the Falls, and marched under a strong guard to Niagara without any interruption from the enemy. It was late before the sloop was loaded and ready to sail again. Some artillery stores and provisions, with about 18 officers and soldiers of the 17th and 46th Regiments, was the chief loading.
We had only sailed one day when the vessel sprung a leak and was half full of water before it was discovered. All of the pumps were of little use, so that after throwing all the heavy artillery and some other things overboard, we found the only way to save our lives was to crowd sail for the land and run the vessel on shore; but every one seemed to think she would go to the bottom before we could reach land.
Dread and consternation was painted on every countenance, and I was surprised to find myself the least moved of all, which must have been owing to my having been for some time so much exposed and inured to danger. While some were stripping themselves to swim, others cursing and swearing at their companions for not working, others praying, and some drinking brandy, I looked tamely on, after finding I could be of no assistance.
When we were at the worst and everyone thought we were going down, our boat, which was our last resource, broke adrift. Our prospect was now truly dismal, expecting every minute to sink or be dashed to pieces on the rocks. I may truly say that the cries and shrieks of a naval officer’s lady with three children affected me much more than my own condition. It was a pitiful sight indeed. The mother held two of her children in her arms while the other little innocent was making a fruitless attempt with her hands to stop the water from rushing into the cabin, already some three inches deep. She did this, she said, to prevent the water from drowning her mama.
A last, to the inexpressible joy of all on board, the vessel struck upon a bank of sand within fifty yards of the shore. The difficulty now was how to get ashore, where we had much reason to wish ourselves, as we feared the high surf of the lake would dash us to pieces. In this situation we would have been much at a loss had not Captain Montresor of the Engineers bravely undertaken to swim ashore. Although the distance was great with a high sea and the danger of Indians being there, he accomplished it and brought the boat back, by which means we all got safe to land.
Expecting the Indians would attack us, we fortified ourselves the best way we could with the barrels of provision. The necessity for this soon appeared, for we were soon attacked by a large body of them, who had watched our motions for some time, waiting till we should be more off our guard, which we in fact were at that time.