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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
May 6th. In the morning we arrived at La Pinnierre where there were some Canadians building a sawmill for whom we brought, at the desire of a French gentleman at Detroit, a few barrels of flour.† They returned us thanks, and told us with all the rhetoric they were masters of that all the nations of Indians around were in league to take up the hatchet against the English; that they knew of our coming that way, and were waiting six miles up the river to seize and destroy us; and if we proceeded any farther we would certainly be cut to pieces. They begged us with tears in their eyes for God’s sake to return, and by means of the wind and strong current of the river, we might gain the fort before they could perceive we had discovered their intentions.
†La Pinnierre (the Pinery), on the Pine River, was the principal source of building timber for French Detroit.
This was friendly advice given by people who showed, even by their countenances, that they had our safety very much at heart; and had we followed their counsel, many would have saved their lives on this occasion and others would have avoided a long and dangerous captivity. Captain Robertson partly doubted the truth of what the Canadians told us, and partly imagined they would not dare to attack us till under cover of the night. As it was then morning, he thought that he might go six miles farther and sound about the mouth of the River Huron ∗—which done, his work would be finished—and then return to the fort as fast as possible. He therefore ordered the rowers to ply their oars, and without seeming to suspect any danger proceeded till we came within six miles of the above river, where there was a small Indian village at the same place where the Canadians had informed us we would be attacked by the savages.
∗ That is, the St. Clair River at present-day Port Huron, Michigan. It must be noted that here and in several other places in the narrative Rutherfurd’s estimates of distance are inaccurate.
Then it was, though alas too late, that Captain Robertson discovered the truth of the information we had got; for the whole bank of the river was covered with Indians to the amount of three or four hundred. Sir Robert Davers, who was at the time considerably before us in his canoe, at the request of the Indians put the head of his canoe on shore and smoked a pipe of friendship (as they called it) with some of their chiefs till we came up. He advised us to row on and pass him, and not to seem to suspect their having a design upon us.
Here I must observe that the river was narrower and ran so rapid that we were obliged to keep the boat close to the shore; and even there the Indians could walk faster than we could row. To have attempted to return would have been inevitable destruction to us all; besides, they had all their canoes ready for pursuing us. This we were sensible of, so we kept rowing on and humored them as much as possible. They crowded about us, men, women, and children, giving us the friendly appellation of brothers, telling us they were glad to see us, and begging us to come ashore and we should have whatever was good, the squaws, or Indian women, showing us fish, maple sugar, &c, in order to induce us to land. We did not, however, choose to accept of their invitation or presents. They asked for some of our bread and tobacco, which we gave them. This was only to take up our attention, for all this time they were filing off by degrees, till at last there was not an Indian to be seen.
The squaws were collected so closely upon the bank of the river, endeavoring to divert our attention by ridiculous stories and immodest gestures, that it was impossible to see what was going on behind them or what the men were about, who were then posting themselves behind a rising ground a little beyond us. When we came opposite that place, the squaws, as it had been preconcerted, ran off as fast as they could.
As soon as they were all out of the way, the warriors fired upon us at the distance of about sixty yards. Captain Robertson was immediately wounded in the left side, which, showing me, he called to the men to sheer off; but alas! he had just spoken the words when another shot through his body killed him. I then took the helm and endeavored to bring the boat around, but two of the soldiers being now killed, the remaining five could not navigate the boat; and as they neither had their arms ready nor loaded, they thought only of screening themselves the best way they could from the enemy’s fire; but this was all in vain, for the Indians seeing Captain Robertson killed and the confusion we were in, rushed upon us and easily boarded us, at the same time, according to their custom upon such occasions, making the most dreadful cries and yellings, what they call the death hollow.
They had changed their dress from what it was when they spoke to us as brothers, having at that time their blankets and ornaments on, whereas now they were naked and painted black and red, making a very frightful appearance. Every one of us was seized by his future master; for by their custom whoever first seizes a captive by his hair, to him he belongs, and none may take him from him. I was laid hold of by one whose hideous appearance was enough to have banished any hope of obtaining quarter; but indeed before this I had given up all hope of being saved and became, in a manner, resigned to the worst. They immediately scalped Captain Robertson and the two soldiers that were killed, and stripped them naked.