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


After killing, or rather drowning, another dog for the purpose of appeasing the evil spirit (as they gave me to understand), we set out next morning in our canoe, making short daily voyages, always landing before sunset and putting up our cabin and cooking our fish, which office fell to my share, as well as cutting wood for the fire. The cabin or hut is soon made. It consists of about twenty young trees set up in the shape of a sugar loaf, and all covered with a kind of matting (which is carried in the canoe), excepting a hole in the top to let out the smoke. Every one carries his or her bed clothes on his back, which is either the skin of a wild beast or a coarse blanket; and all lie down promiscuously, men, women, and children, with their feet to the fire, which is in the center.

The second day of our voyage we came to an island where there was an Indian burying ground. Here we halted, and around a particular grave, which my master afterwards told me was that of one of his sons, he made us all plant a few grains of corn; which done, we re-embarked and went on our journey, which we ended in four days, arriving at a Frenchman’s house in the neighborhood of Detroit.

This man being a friend of my master, we took up our residence close by his house rather than join the rest of the warriors, who were encamped five miles nearer the fort. We immediately set about building a large bark house more convenient than those they carry about with them. Here the fireplace was out of doors, where I broiled two hours every day, boiling their kettle with a little fish or Indian corn in it. This new house we finished in about four days, the severest part of which work fell to my share, such as carrying the wood and bark.

Here I must observe that I suffered inexpressible pain from my not having any clothes on, not so much as a shirt to protect me from the scorching rays of the sun which burned my shoulders and back so much that I was one continued blister, and the palms of my hands were in the same state from continual working with the axe. The next piece of fatigue I was put to was assisting my mistress in planting a large field of Indian corn, or maize, pumpkins, and other vegetables. This being finished, my master carried me to the grand encampment about five miles from Detroit. Here I had the pleasure of seeing Captain Campbell and Lieutenant McDougall of the 60th Regiment, who came out of the fort at the commencement of the blockade, with Major Gladwin’s proposals of peace with the Indians. To these they would not listen; on the contrary, they detained those two gentlemen prisoners at a Frenchman’s house.


Upon my observing to Captain Campbell that I thought we might attempt our escape, being within sight of the fort, he told me by no means to think of it, as he was well assured that if any one escaped, the Indians were determined to sacrifice those that remained. I frequently made visits to these gentlemen, who belonged to the Ottawa nation. Every day there were prisoners and scalps brought in to the camp. The scalp is not, as is commonly believed, the whole skin of the head, but is only the uppermost part of the crown, and must have in it that swirl in the hair which every one has there before it can be approved of as a just trophy of the warrior’s achievement.

They at this time brought in Ensign Pauli of the 60th Regiment, who commanded at a small fort on Lake Erie. The Indians came into his fort as friends, and while some of them were smoking a pipe as a token of pretended friendship the rest were butchering his small garrison, of whom they did not leave one alive. This gentleman made a very good Indian, being of a dark complexion, and was much liked by his master, who soon adopted him into his family, which exempted him from all drudgery.

So great a concourse of Indians gathered together in the French settlement reduced the inhabitants to great distress for want of provisions. The Indians killed their cattle, sheep, and poultry; and when these failed we were almost starved, frequently having nothing for a whole day but a single handful of Indian corn, which we parched in the ashes and ate with a spoonful of bear’s grease. I often used to beg for a morsel of bread among the Frenchmen’s houses, from whose doors I was frequently turned with an empty stomach. I was not able to bear this as well as the Indians, who, when thus pinched, have a way of girding their bodies with a belt, which they continue to straiten as their fast continues to be prolonged.

In this distressed situation my master prudently resolved to quit the camp, and moved us back to the place where I was taken prisoner. Here we had fish as before, and sometimes a little venison. On our return to this village we halted near the burying ground I have mentioned, and while my mistress and I were erecting our hut, my master went out and killed a bear, which we ate of most heartily. After finishing our repast I was ordered to put the kettle again on the fire, which surprised me a little as we commonly went to sleep after eating. I ventured to ask the meaning of it, and was given to understand by looks and gestures that in the morning I should have the mystery revealed. My master then cut some of the choicest bits of the bear and put them into the kettle, which was hung over a slow fire, and we went to rest.