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


This boy, having lived long with the English and speaking the language, made me think he would desire to get free from the Indians, who used him much worse than the English did. I therefore thought I might confide in him, so I laid myself open to him and told him of a scheme I had formed of our escaping together: which was that we should both get out of our respective huts in the night time when all were asleep, meet at a certain place agreed upon and there untie each other. As he understood traveling in the woods, he would pilot us to Detroit, which was not above eighty English miles from where we then were; each of us should bring as much fish as would subsist us upon our journey thither.

He agreed to the proposal and went off with an intention, as I supposed, of meeting at the place appointed. However, towards the end of the evening I was surprised to see my master coming into the hut, looking very angry at me, and having a thin wooden post and an axe in his hand. Without saying a word, he put one end of the post in the ground and, tying the other to the roof of the hut, cut a notch in it about two feet from the ground and told me in an angry tone something I did not understand, with signs to me to lie down upon my back. Then, taking my leg a little above the ankle, he put it into the notch, against which he tied another piece of stick so close that I could not move myself to turn upon my side, and lay upon my back with my hands tied and the end of the rope drawn underneath my master’s body, who lay with his squaw near me, upon a bear-skin. Thus I passed the night like a criminal just before his execution, only with the difference that I had nothing to reproach myself with, having committed no offense against my God or the laws of my country. This treatment gave me good cause to suspect the treachery of the Indian boy, who, I afterwards found, had, in order to get his freedom, disclosed my intentions.

Next morning my master loosed my leg, and by an Indian who spoke English told me he had discovered my intention of escaping; and that had I gone off, or even attempted it, death would certainly have been the consequence, showing the situation of Fort Detroit surrounded by four Indian nations, viz: Chippewas (the nation I was with), Ottawas, Potawatomies, and Wyandottes, who so blockaded the fort that nobody could come in or go out; adding that in a few days there would not be an Englishman in it alive. Whereupon I found it was absolutely necessary for my safety to affect a relish for their savage manners, and to put on an air of perfect contentment, which I had often heard was the way to gain the affections of the Indians; whereas a gloomy, discontented air irritates them and always excites worse treatment, and sometimes occasions the death of the captive who is so unfortunate as not to be able to accommodate himself to his situation. I therefore assured him I should no more think of leaving him, which so pleased him that he took me out to walk and showed me where Sir Robert was buried and what remained of Captain Robertson’s body after the feast. He likewise pointed out to me how impossible it was for us to have escaped in our boat. He then took me to where the bodies of the poor soldiers lay who fell in the attack and were become food for the dogs, which were eating them.

Here he loosed my hands, and with the string bound up a heavy burden of sticks which he put on my back to carry home, telling me I was always to do that, or whatever work his wife desired me. When I was delivered of my burden, he again tied my hands and fastened the rope to the rafters of the hut, but did not put my leg in the stocks as on the night before. It was equally impossible for me to escape, but by this time I had given up all hopes of effecting it, unless a more favorable opportunity should offer.

Next morning my master and his family went off in his canoe to join the rest of the warriors encamped at Detroit, leaving me to the care of his father, who seemed fond of me and wished that I should become a savage as soon as possible. Soon after my master’s departure, his father stripped me of my clothes and told me I should wear them no more, but dress like an Indian. He accordingly gave me a blanket and breechclout, which is a piece of blue cloth about a yard and a half long and a foot broad which they pass through betwixt their legs, bringing each end under a belt which is round the middle for that purpose. Then he shaved my head, leaving only a small tuft of hair upon the crown and two small locks, which he plaited with silver brooches interwoven, making them hang over my face which was painted with a variety of colors. He likewise made me a present of a tobacco pouch and pipe, telling me I should smoke. I did, and afterwards became fond of it.

The hunting season being at this time past, the Indians lived upon fish, without either bread, butter, or salt. This did not agree with my constitution, so that having suffered much from a dysentery, I became so weak as to be unable to walk for seven or eight days, during which time the old man consoled me by telling me that I should not be eaten if I died of that disorder. Ten days after this my master returned with his family; and after much talk of the success of their arms against the English, how many prisoners they had taken, &c, he looked at me, turning me round about, and seemed surprised to see me dressed en sauvage . He asked for my hair, which the old man giving him, he put carefully by. Still my hands were tied, and whenever I had occasion to go out an Indian boy held the end of the rope, and when he brought me in, fastened it to the rafters of the hut again.