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


My master—for as such I was to acknowledge him—at that time dragged me out of the boat by the hair of the head, into the water, which took me up to the neck. However, he brought me safe on shore, and with a rope adorned with trinkets (which they always carry with them to war to bind their prisoners) bound me and delivered me over in charge of his squaw; and then he went back to plunder the boat.

All this while, Sir Robert Davers (as I was afterwards informed by his Indian boy, who was with him in the canoe) upon seeing the Indians attack us, endeavored to escape with his light canoe to the opposite side of the river. The Indians called to him repeatedly to come on shore and give himself up to them, and they would not hurt a hair of his head. He paid no regard to them, which exasperated them so much that two of them leveled their pieces at him and brought him down. His body fell out of the boat into the river, which they picked up and brought on shore, cut his head off and buried his body. His head was also buried after the scalp was taken off.

My master returned with his share of the plunder of the boat, which he laid upon my back; with which, marching through the village, we came to the hut where he lived. We had not been there long, when a great many Indians came in and got drunk upon some shrub they had got as part of the plunder; and, as I knew that in their cups they often killed one another, I thought myself in as much danger as ever. One of them, dressed in Captain Robertson’s clothes, came in very drunk, and seeing me lying in a corner with my hands tied, gave a hollow, calling out English dog, and made a stroke at me with his tomahawk which must have killed me, had not an Indian more sober (and whom I afterwards found to be the best of them) seized his arm and prevented him, and then turned him out of the hut.

My master’s wife, seeing the danger I was in, and knowing the same or more Indians might return to the hut, made me lie down behind her, and covered me with skins and furs. Soon afterward the same Indian returned and demanded me from my master, saying no English dog should be left alive, upon which he was turned out a second time and well kicked. Soon after that a party of them came for me, upon which my master was obliged, in order to save me, to tell them I had been carried to another hut, which satisfied them.


The whole night they kept drinking what little liquor we had brought with us and making a most hideous yelling, dancing, and singing while they were feasting upon Captain Robertson’s body. This shocking piece of barbarity is practiced only by some of the Indian nations to the northward. The Six Nations, who use their prisoners, while alive, much worse than they do, never eat human flesh, which they do, not for want of food but as a religious ceremony, or rather from a superstitious idea that it makes them prosperous in war. They teach their children to be fond of it.

The next day my master’s son brought some small pieces of the body to the hut and roasted it upon a stick at the fire, and endeavored to prevail with me to eat of it, often assuring me that Englishmen’s flesh was very good to eat. My master requested me to taste it, telling me I was never to think of going back to the English, and so ought to conform to the custom of the Indians. I told him I would obey him in everything he desired me—and even in that if he insisted—but that it was very disagreeable to me, and that that was the only command I would make the least hesitation to obey him in, and begged he would not insist upon it. Thus, by a seeming readiness to obey him, I avoided eating the body of my friend; and I believe by showing a desire to please him rather gained upon his affections.

My hands were still kept bound behind my back. This being the second day of my captivity ∗ and not having seen any of the poor soldiers, I concluded they had shared the same unhappy fate as their captain, which added to my uneasiness, fearing that I would not be more favorably dealt with. However, to my great joy and comfort, towards the evening of that day I saw Sir Robert’s Indian boy, who told me he knew of some of the soldiers being alive.

∗ On this day, May 7, Pontiac and sixty warriors appeared before the gates of Fort Detroit, begging admission. But the commanding officer, Major Gladwin, had been warned that the Indians concealed shortened rifles underneath their blankets, and he ordered his men to stand armed and ready for action. The Indians were allowed within the walls; but observing the unexpected show of British strength, they did nothing. Realizing that he could not take the fort by subterfuge, Pontiac proclaimed outright war two days later. In full view of the garrison, the Indians rushed upon the cabin of an English settler and scalped the inhabitants, signaling the start of a siege which would continue for five months.