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


That morning Captain Hopkins of the Rangers made a sortie from the fort, attacked a party of Indians, and killed one of the chiefs of the nation to which I belonged. The friends of the deceased were resolved to be revenged by killing an English captive. This they could not do more conveniently than by murdering poor Campbell, who belonged to the Ottawa nation. That nation, in their turn, was enraged against the Chippewas for killing their prisoner, whom they were fond of, and resolved upon having satisfaction, which could only be obtained by sacrificing a prisoner belonging to the Chippewas of rank equal to that of Captain Campbell, the better to compensate the loss. Accordingly they pitched upon Ensign Pauli, but he being informed of his danger by a handsome squaw who was in love with him, assisted by her escaped out of the Frenchman’s house; from whence with much difficulty he got into the fort after being fired at several times by the sentries, who took him for an Indian.

The Ottawas, disappointed in their design upon Pauli, determined to take my life—being, as they thought, next in rank to an officer and superior to any of the private soldiers they had among them. Peewash, hearing that they were in search of me, took me to a Frenchman’s barn and covered me with straw, in which situation I lay for the space of three hours, expecting every moment to have the tomahawk in my skull, till a party of Indians, with Peewash at their head, came and took me out of the barn. Notwithstanding his assuring me I was not to suffer death, I could not help being doubtful of my safety.

They marched me as a prisoner for four miles till we reached the grand encampment, which was in the middle of the French settlement. Here in the road was lying a dead body, mangled and scalped, which the dogs were eating. They made me stop for a considerable time, and looked at it with much seeming satisfaction, at the same time in an exulting tone of voice telling me that there lay our chief, our Great Chief, Captain Campbell. Indeed it would not have been possible for me to have recognized that it was the remains of my good friend. He was scalped and his ears, nose, an arm, a leg, and other parts of his body cut off. It was a very shocking spectacle to me; yet however disagreeable, I was obliged to view it.

They then led me into a great hall in a Frenchman’s house, in the court yard of which there were about two hundred Indians of different nations. In the middle of the hall a small table and five chairs were placed, in four of which sat the chiefs of the nations encamped around Detroit; the fifth chair was for myself, who at that time would gladly have dispensed with this mark of distinction.

They then produced some letters written in English; and Pontiac, the leading man of the four nations, told me by a French interpreter that as I could speak French and read English writing they had pitched upon me to explain what was in these letters; which he ordered me to do without concealing any part of them, threatening me with death if I did not read them verbatim as they were written. Then one of the prisoners, a native of Virginia who had been fond of an indolent life and married among them, told me that he could read English and would overlook the papers and discover if I attempted to conceal any part of them, adding that the consequence would be my being scalped on the spot.

I accordingly set to work and read the letters in French to a Frenchman, who explained them to the Indians. They were only some old letters that Captain Campbell had in his pocket when he was killed, and a few letters to him from his friends at Detroit, sent from thence by a Frenchman who, instead of delivering them, had kept them.

There were several French gentlemen in the hall, who were all as eager about reading the letters as the Indians. What both French and Indians wanted to know was whether peace was declared with France or not. It had been publicly declared by Major Gladwin in Detroit long before that time, but the Canadians could not bring themselves to believe that Le Grand Monarch [Louis XV] would ever cede their country to Great Britain. They still flattered themselves that if they could excite the savages to maintain the war against us for a little while, a reinforcement might come to their assistance from France, and that the English might be driven out of Canada; and they were in hopes that there might be something in the letters that might favor their design.

Accordingly they always told the Indians that Major Gladwin had only declared peace in order to prevent their making war upon the English. The letters, however, contained nothing that I thought could favor their design; notwithstanding, they found means to construe them differently, and at least made the Indians more doubtful of the truth of what had been told them by Major Gladwin. When I had done they all thanked me and appeared satisfied with my proceedings and gave me leave to return home with Peewash, who told me he was glad he brought me off so well.