The City of Detroit, 1701 -1922, Volume 3 - Clarence Monroe Burton - ebook

The City of Detroit, 1701 -1922, Volume 3 ebook

Clarence Monroe Burton



'The City of Detroit' is a milestone work on the history of the Michigan metropolis. Burton's work covers more than two hundred years of events and facts and had to be split into four volumes due to its size. There is hardly a more detailed book dealing with Detroit's past. This is volume three, covering the military history and the professions.

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The City of Detroit

1701 – 1922


Volume 3: Military History & The Professions








The City of Detroit 3, C. M. Burton

Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck

86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9



ISBN: 9783849650414

[email protected]



























Although details which concern the various forts which have stood at Detroit have been given throughout the chapters dealing with the early military history of the place, we herewith present a few connected details in brief form.

The first forts in the region about the Great Lakes were established by the French for the purpose of facilitating trade with the Indians, and as a protection against the forays of unfriendly Indian tribes. The presence of a fort was regarded by the red men as evidence that the French were masters of the country. As early as 1671 a fort was built at Michilimackinac, a small garrison was stationed there to protect the traders and friendly Indians, and to prevent the English from opening a traffic with the western tribes.


On June 6, 1686, Marquis de Denonville, governor-general of New France, wrote to Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Luth, former commandant at Michilimackinac and then in charge of Indian affairs on the upper lakes, as follows:

" You will see from the letters which I am writing to M. de la Durantaye that my intention is that you should occupy a post at the Strait of Lake Erie with fifty men, that you should choose a post in an advantageous spot so as to secure this passage to us, to protect our savages who go hunting there, and to serve them as a refuge against the designs of their enemies and ours; you will do nothing and say nothing to the Iroquois unless they venture on any attempt against you and against our allies.

"You will take care that each (of the fifty men) provide himself with provisions sufficient for his subsistence at the said post, when I doubt not you may trade for peltries."

Durantaye was at that time commandant at Michilimackinac. He fitted out Du Luth's expedition according to the governor's instructions, but instead of locating a post "at the Strait of Lake Erie," Du Luth selected a site in what is now St. Clair County, a short distance north of Port Huron, where he established Fort St. Joseph. The following year Durantaye, Du Luth and Tonty, then commandant at Fort St. Louis in the Illinois country, all joined in an expedition against the Iroquois Indians. The expedition proved to be a failure, which left the posts on the lower lakes exposed to Indian attacks, and Fort St. Joseph was abandoned in August, 1688. One account says the buildings were destroyed by the Indians. Farmer says: "The fort was abandoned within two years after its erection and the passage between Lakes Erie and Huron was left undefended until 1701."

There is no record to show that the fort was ever rebuilt, though Captain Campbell, commandant at Detroit, in a letter to Col. Henry Boquet, dated October 12, 1761, says: "Captain Balfour proceeded to occupy Fort St. Joseph with a detachment of light infantry." It may be that Captain Balfour and his light infantry occupied the site of the former fort, and that Captain Campbell referred to the place by the name of the old post as a matter of convenience. At the time of the Pontiac war the site was occupied for a short time by an expedition from Michilimackinac.

In 1765 Patrick Sinclair, afterward lieutenant-governor of Michilimackinac, established a regular fortification at the mouth of the Riviere aux Pines (Pine River), where the Town of St. Clair now stands. Sinclair's fort was about fifteen miles south of the place where Du Luth's post was situated, though some writers have made the mistake of giving them the same location. In 1811 a few men belonging to the St. Clair militia met at Sinclair's old fort. Their supplies were cut off by a band of hostile Indians and they were relieved by an expedition from Detroit.


This fort, which was the beginning of the City of Detroit, was established by Antoine de LaMothe Cadillac, who arrived on the site with a company of French soldiers, voyageurs and Indians on July 24, 1701. The fort was named in honor of Count Pontchartrain, then the French colonial minister of marine. It was one arpent (192.75 feet) square and was of the stockade type, constructed of pickets planted close together in a trench about three feet deep, the tops of the pickets extending twelve feet above the ground. The fort was located on the first rise of ground from the river. Compared to the present streets, it was situated in the block bounded by Jefferson Avenue, Woodbridge, Griswold and Shelby streets. At each corner was a bastion of stout oak pickets. About two years after the fort was built it was set on fire by the Indians and seriously damaged, but was immediately repaired.

By 1717 the stockade had fallen into poor condition through negligence. The following year it was rebuilt by Tonty and it was then stronger than ever before. After the arrival of the immigrants in 1749 the stockade was enlarged and in 1751 the garrison was increased. The post then took the name of "Fort du Detroit."

Between the years 1754 and 1758 additional ground was enclosed. Soon after the post was surrendered to the English in the fall of 1760, the fort was made large enough for seventy-five or eighty houses inside the palisades. The enlarged fort extended from Griswold Street to a line about fifty feet west of Shelby Street, and from Woodbridge Street to the alley between Jefferson Avenue and Lamed Street. The bastions at the corners were enlarged and strengthened and over the gates on the east and west sides blockhouses were built for defense in case of an attack. Under the English the main gates were allowed to remain open from sunrise to sunset. In each of the large gates was a smaller one, through which only one person could pass at a time. Under the charge of a sentry these small gates were kept open until 9 P. M.


In the fall of 1778, when Col. George Rogers Clark and Col. Daniel Brodhead were both threatening Detroit, Maj. Richard B. Lernoult, the British commandant, after consultation with his officers, decided the fort was not strong enough to withstand an attack by any considerable force. Capt. Henry Bird was therefore ordered to lay out a new redoubt on the hill — a position better calculated for defense. Captain Bird gives the following account of the new fort in one of his reports:

"I at first intended only a square (our time as we imagined being but short for fortifying ourselves), but when the square was marked out it appeared to me so naked and insufficient that I added the half-bastions, imagining if the enemy appeared before the curtains were completed we might make tolerable defense by closing the bastions at the gorge. So perfect a work one with entire bastions for so small a number of defendants, four or five six-pounders very illy furnished and no artillery officers, and an attack expected in a few weeks, was what I never would have engaged to have undertaken. * * * We began, I think, early in November and worked without intermission until February, at which time the Indians declaring an intention of attacking Colonel Brodhead's post of 400 then at Tuscarowas I joined them. In the meantime, Lieutenant Duvernett returned from Post Vincent (Vincennes) and was appointed engineer; the work was then too far advanced for him to alter the form of it."

The new fortification was named Fort Lernoult, in honor of the commandant. It was evacuated by the British on July 11, 1796, and was occupied the same day by a detachment of United States troops under Capt. Moses Porter. On August 16, 1812, it was surrendered by General Hull to the British army commanded by Gen. Isaac Brock. Detroit was reoccupied by the Americans on September 29, 1813, when the name of the fort was changed to


The new name was adopted in honor of Gen. Isaac Shelby, governor of Kentucky, who raised a large body of Kentucky riflemen and marched to the relief of Detroit. Although sixty-three years of age, he joined his forces with those of General Harrison and took an active part in the campaign that ended the war in the Northwest. The following description of the fort is taken from an article written by Mrs. Samuel Zug in September, 1872, and published in the "Michigan Historical Collections. "

"The fort, the center of which was near the intersection of Shelby and Fort streets, was an embankment said to have been thirty feet high, surrounded by a ditch and pickets. It was built by the British in 1778. The cantonment, or barracks, were built in 1815 and were west of the fort, and composed of four rows of one-story log buildings, about three hundred feet long, arranged in a quadrangle. The center was used for the parade ground. The west row stood directly on the Cass line. The cantonment and the fort extended from the line to, I think, a little east of Shelby Street, and from the south side of Fort Street to a little north of Lafayette Avenue.

"The leveling of the parapet was considered a great undertaking and it was two or three years before it was entirely accomplished. Much of the earth taken from the fort was used to fill up the bank of the river, which was in some parts very shallow, and no doubt occasioned the severe malarial fevers that prevailed at certain seasons, and from which cause many useful lives were sacrificed.

" Well do I remember the consternation that was created by the cavin' in of a portion of the earth and one poor man, 'Old Kelly', being buried under it, and the haste with which his fellow workmen labored to extricate him. But when it was done life was extinct."

The chimneys of the barracks remained standing for several years after the rest of the buildings was removed. Mrs. Zug tells of an agreement made with a boy of some thirteen or fourteen years old to tear down the chimneys for fifty cents each. The young contractor was a thrifty sort of boy, for he sublet the job to other boys, paying them twenty-five cents each. In this way a number of youngsters obtained their spending money for a good time on the fourth of July.

On May 27, 1826, the last of the garrison — two companies of infantry — which had been stationed at Fort Shelby left for Green Bay, Wisconsin, and the military reservation was given to the City of Detroit by Congress. At the Fort Street entrance of the post office building is a bronze tablet, known as the "Evacuation Day Tablet," at the top of which is an outline design of the old fort, below which is the following inscription:

"This tablet designates the site of an English fort erected in 1778 by Major R. B. Lernoult as a defense against the Americans It was subsequently called Fort Shelby, in honor of Gov. Isaac Shelby, of Kentucky, and was demolished in 1826.

"The evacuation of this fort by the British at 12 o'clock noon,

July 11th, 1796, was the closing act of the war of Independence.

" On that day the American flag was for the first time raised over

this soil, all of what was then known as the Western Territory

becoming at that time part of the Federal Union."


This defense was a small affair, hardly worth the appellation of fort, which was built near what is now the northeast corner of Park and High streets. It was erected in 1806 to frighten marauding Indians, who were continually killing cattle and stealing horses. Stanley Griswold, acting governor and commander, gave the order for its erection. The fort was circular, about forty feet in diameter, with dirt embankment ten feet high and two feet wide on top.

Robert E. Roberts, in his "Sketches of Detroit," wrote that the fort was located near the intersection of Park and Duffield streets as now laid out, was seventy-five feet in diameter, with eight-foot parapet surrounded by a ditch ten feet deep. He said it was built by Capt. Moses Porter on the night of July 10, 1796, the day before the British evacuated Fort Lernoult and that traces of the fort remained until Park and Duffield streets were opened in the '50s.


Fort Wayne, now a United States government military post, located three and a half miles from the city hall, at the bending point of the river, where the distance across is the shortest, was begun in 1843 and completed about 1851 at a cost of $150,000. The site of this fort was the camping-ground for troops assembling for the Black Hawk war, also the Patriot war of 1838, also was a mobilization camp in 1861. General Meigs had charge of the construction of this fort, which was originally of the square-bastioned type with sand embankments and red cedar scarp with embrasures of oak. In 1864 the cedar scarp was replaced with brick, the wall being seven and a half feet thick and twenty-two feet high, with brick facing eighteen inches backed by six feet of concrete. The fort has, from time to time, undergone various structural changes, and has been occupied almost continuously by United States troops. The fort is now housing the First Battalion, Fifty-fourth Regiment. On October 19, 1921, one hundred men of the Fifty-fourth arrived from Camp Grant, near Rockford, Illinois, having marched the entire distance, more than four hundred miles, since the preceding September 29th. The Fifty-fourth assimilated the Thirty-seventh Regiment, which had been stationed at Fort Wayne just before them.



PLOT OF 1747.

For many years before the founding of Detroit, the Indian tribes inhabiting the country had been engaged in war with each other. As early as 1649 the Iroquoian tribes drove all the others from the neighborhood of the Detroit River. From that time until the coming of Cadillac in 1701, the country around Detroit was uninhabited, except for a few straggling Indian villages, and these were usually of a temporary character. Cadillac's first undertaking, after the establishment of the post, was to cultivate the friendship of a number of tribes and induce them to settle near the fort. In this he was measurably successful, as narrated in an earlier chapter.

But the ill feeling engendered by the tribal wars had not entirely disappeared in 1701 and some of the tribes refused to settle near the post. These tribes, by circulating false rumors about the French, sought to alienate Cadillac's Indian allies, even going so far at times as to threaten attacks upon the fort. Several times during the French occupation the old tribal ill feeling cropped out in forays upon white settlers or their Indian allies, and rumors of general uprisings against the post were not infrequent. Most of these affairs were trivial, hardly being entitled to the dignity of being designated as wars.


Before the post at Detroit was one year old, the conflict known as Queen Anne's War began between the French on one side and the English and Dutch on the other. Early in the summer of 1702, the English commandant at Albany (then called Orange) sent an invitation to the Indians at Detroit to visit that post and meet the representatives of the great English father. Several of the Ottawa chiefs accepted the invitation. They were made to believe the post at Detroit had been established chiefly for the purpose of enslaving them and their brethren. They returned to Detroit as a consequence with somewhat bitter feelings toward the French. It required the exercise of all Cadillac's good judgment and diplomacy, as well as a liberal distribution of presents, to restore the amicable relations that existed prior to their visit to Albany.

Even then a few of the malcontents were not fully reconciled. In the summer of 1703, while Cadillac was absent, some of these, knowing that many of their race were dissatisfied with the way affairs were being conducted while the chevalier was away, made an attack upon the post. A portion of the palisades, Cadillac's house, Ste. Anne's Church, the residence of the priest and another building were burned to the ground, but no lives were lost.

If the rebellious Indians hoped to bring about a general uprising, which would result in the destruction of the post, they were disappointed. Friendly Indians cooperated with the French in driving off the attacking party. The Indian allies then assisted in rebuilding the houses and gave to the commandant one hundred bushels of corn, as a partial reimbursement for the loss sustained by the fire.


Before the Indian settlements at Detroit were a year old, the Ottawa grew jealous of the Miami, who seemed to be favored in many ways by the French. Quarrels between small parties of these tribes were of frequent occurrence. On June 6, 1706, a party of six Miami Indians were set upon by some of the Ottawa, and five of the six were killed. The one who escaped gave the alarm in the Miami village, the inhabitants of which hurried to the fort for protection. The immediate cause of this trouble lay in the fact that an Ottawa was bitten by a dog belonging to a Miami and, when he kicked the dog, was so severely beaten by the commandant, De Bourgmont, that he died. (Some writers say the dog belonged to De Bourgmont).

Father de L'Halle, the beloved Recollet priest, was walking in his garden at the time of the outbreak. He was captured by some of the Ottawa, probably with the intention of holding him as a hostage to protect themselves from punishment. One of the chiefs, however, ordered his release and the priest started for the fort. Just as he was about to pass through the gate he was shot to death by an Ottawa. His body was carried inside the fort, the gates of which were then closed, and De Bourgmont ordered the garrison of fifteen soldiers to fire upon the insurgents. In the melee, which followed about thirty of the Ottawa were killed. Then they tried to induce the Huron braves to join them in making an assault upon the fort. Failing in this, they made an attack upon the Huron village, but were repulsed. For nearly a month the fort was kept practically in a state of siege, when the Ottawa grew tired of the warfare and sued for peace.

Cadillac wrote plainly to Governor Vaudreuil, urging the capture and execution of Le Pesant, the Ottawa chief at Michilimackinac, whom he accused of being the instigator, if not the actual leader, of the outbreak which resulted in the death of Father de L'Halle and the attack on the Huron village. Cadillac wrote:

" This outbreak is no sudden freak and if the savages have become so seriously disaffected as present appearances indicate, no doubt the cause may be imputed to my unjust detention at Quebec by your order, in consequence of a well-connected series of charges preferred against me by the Company of the Colony. I am aware that at first you might have believed me guilty; but after I had been acquitted by the intendant I had the honor to request, with all possible earnestness, your permission to return to the post to which I was appointed by the king, not having been the choice of any governor, but you refused to grant my request. "

Vaudreuil realized the gravity of the situation and followed Cadillac's suggestions so far as to order the principal Ottawa chiefs to appear before him at Quebec. He ordered several of these chiefs to report to Cadillac, who was given the power to deal with them as he saw fit. The result was that the chiefs La Blanc, Kinonge, Meaninan and Menekoumak, four of the leading chiefs of the Ottawa nation, returned to Detroit and promised to either surrender Le Pesant, or execute him in his village and bring his head to Cadillac. After some delay, he was surrendered to Cadillac, who, on account of his age and as a matter of policy, pardoned him.


The pardoning of Le Pesant was not approved by the Miami, who wanted him put to death. They accused Cadillac of acting in bad faith and went on the war-path. After killing three Frenchmen and destroying some property, they persuaded the Huron to raise a war-party to attack the French. This influenced the Iroquois to assemble a war-party for the same purpose.

Seeing himself menaced by a new danger, from an unexpected source, Cadillac wrote to the governor, asking for more troops and the means of strengthening the fort. He also succeeded in making a treaty of peace with the Miami. In the negotiation of this treaty, Cadillac made concessions to the Indians which they construed to mean that the commandant was afraid of them, and at the first opportunity they violated the provisions of the treaty. They were rudely awakened to the fact that it was not fear which caused Cadillac to make the concessions, for he now raised a large force and marched against them, compelling them to accept his. terms of submission. This restored order at Detroit for a time.


Early in the year 1710, the British decided that the best way to end the war in America was the complete subjugation of New France and expeditions against the French strongholds were planned. That against Port Royal was successful, but the others ended in failure. The Indian, in forming alliances, likes to be on the winning side. After the French victories of 1710, a deputation of chiefs of the Five Nations visited Quebec to offer their services to Governor Vaudreuil. Their reception was so cool that it amounted almost to a rebuff, though they were given a number of presents before their final dismissal. Nettled at the treatment they had received, they went back to their people and advised them to ally themselves with the English.

In the spring of 1711, representatives of the band of Fox Indians living on the peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan visited the Five Nations, with whom they formed an alliance. For several years, these Indians had played no important part in history, but they now promised the English that they would surprise and capture the post at Detroit. They spent several months in perfecting their plans, and in enlisting the assistance of part of the Kickapoo and Mascouten tribes.

A large party of Fox and Kickapoo warriors, led by the chief Lamina, appeared at Detroit early in May, 1712, and encamped within a short distance of the fort, where they began to throw up earthworks. Dubuisson, the commandant, ordered them away, but Lamina informed him that they were the owners of the country and would encamp where they pleased. At that time there were only thirty soldiers in the garrison and the Huron and Ottawa men were still absent upon their winter hunt, so that Dubuisson was unable to drive them from the vicinity. The invaders killed animals and fowls without permission and even tried to pursue some of the inhabitants into the fort. An Indian named Joseph, who was acting as a spy for the French, informed Dubuisson that it was the intention of the red men to set fire to the fort. The garrison supply of wheat was stored in a house belonging to a Mr. A. Mallette outside the stockade. Dubuisson had it brought into the fort and the house in which it had been stored, as well as Ste. Anne's Church and one or two other buildings, were pulled down or burned by the commandant, in order to prevent them from being occupied by the enemy.

On the 13th, De Vincennes arrived with a small reinforcement and about the same time the Indian allies returned from their hunting expedition. The tables were now turned. The besiegers became the besieged. Parties were sent out to intercept any reinforcements. Saginaw, an Ottawa war chief, led one of these parties and cut off about one hundred and fifty Mascouten warriors who were trying to join Lamina. To escape the continued fire from the fort, the Fox warriors dug holes four or five feet deep, in which they concealed themselves, but Dubuisson ordered his men to erect scaffolds high enough to enable them to fire into the pits. The assailants were now in a precarious position. Closely held to their trenches, they were unable to obtain food or water, and every time one of them exposed himself he was greeted by a bullet. This forced them to abandon the pits under cover of darkness and seek a safer position.

One morning, after the siege had been going on for several days, a number of red blankets were seen waving as standards over the Fox camp. They were recognized as being of English manufacture and one of the chiefs boldly announced that the Fox Nation " acknowledged no father but the English. " To this the head chief of the Pottawatomi replied:

" Wicked nations that you are, you hope to frighten us by all that red color which you exhibit in your village. Learn that if the earth is covered with blood it will be yours. You speak to us of the English. They are the cause of your destruction, because you have listened to their bad counsels. They are enemies of prayer and it is for that reason the Master of Life chastises them, as well as you. Don't you know as well as we do that the Father of all nations, who is at Montreal, sends continually parties of his young men to make war, and who take so many prisoners that they don't know what to do with them?"

At this point Dubuisson stopped the speaker, because he saw the Fox women were taking advantage of the parley to obtain water from the river, and hostilities were renewed. The enemy got possession of a house within easy gunshot of the fort and built a scaffold at one end of it, on which they placed some of their best marksmen. Dubuisson ordered a swivel gun to be hoisted to one of the scaffolds within the fort and the second shot from this piece demolished the Indians' platform and killed several of the "snipers." The next morning a white flag was displayed and Chief Peenoussa was conducted into the fort for a parley. He was told that three women held captive in the enemy's camp must be returned before any proposals for a truce would be entertained. About two hours later the women were brought to the fort. Peenoussa then asked permission to be allowed to retire from Detroit, but one of the Illinois chiefs informed him that as soon as he reentered his fort the firing would be resumed.

Failing to obtain a truce that would permit them to withdraw unharmed from the vicinity of the fort, the enemy then tried to set the fort on fire by shooting burning arrows inside the stockade. But the garrison had made provision for just such an emergency. Two large pirogues were kept filled with water and as fast as the flaming arrows set fire to the straw thatches the flames were extinguished with swabs fastened to long poles and saturated with water.

The night following the nineteenth day of the siege was dark and rainy and the invaders took advantage of it to withdraw. They were pursued the next morning by M. de Vincennes with a few French soldiers and a large body of Indians and were found near what is now known as Windmill Point, where they had entrenched themselves. In his report of the affair, Dubuisson says cannon were sent up from the fort to dislodge the enemy and about one thousand of them were killed, while his own loss was trivial. Subsequent events indicate that these figures were based more upon imagination than upon fact. The survivors returned to Green Bay, where they erected a large stockade on an eminence called Buttes des Morts (Hills of the Dead) and for years their scouting parties infested all the trails leading to the posts, killing and plundering the traders. They were secretly encouraged by the Iroquois and their irregular warfare was so successful that some of the Siouan tribes formed an alliance with them. This would hardly have occurred had their chastisement been as severe as represented by Dubuisson.

By 1716 the situation had become so serious that Governor Vaudreuil determined to send an expedition against the Fox band at Green Bay. The expedition of 800 French and Indians was commanded by M. de Louvigny, who found the Indians in a position fortified by palisades. Artillery was brought into requisition and after a siege of a few days the occupants of the fort offered to capitulate, but the terms they offered were not satisfactory to Louvigny and the attack upon their stronghold was renewed. Finally, they surrendered and placed in the hands of the French six sons of the six principal chiefs, to be taken to Montreal as a pledge that a deputation of Indians would be sent there the next spring to ratify a treaty of peace.

Notwithstanding this action, another Fox attack was made upon Detroit in 1717, but it was repulsed without loss or serious inconvenience to the garrison. Mrs. Sheldon Stewart, in her "History of Early Michigan," states:

"From this time until the close of 1724 there was a succession of conflicts with the savages. As soon as one 'bad affair' was settled, another would crop up and some real or fancied grievance would cause the hatchet to be dug up and war declared by some tribe upon the French at Detroit. The forts at this post and Michilimackinac were at a low ebb and poorly defended, and to the savages were subjects of contempt rather than terror. It is impossible to trace a connected chain of events at these points and only now and then can be found isolated incidents known to be authentic",


For some time prior to 1738, jealousy among the Indian tribes about Detroit led to frequent petty quarrels, which sometimes threatened the safety of the post. In 1738 Desnoyelles, then commandant, summoned the chiefs to a council at his residence, hoping to allay the jealousies and restore harmony. At this council the head chief of the Huron Nation gave a belt to the Ottawa head chief, saying:

"We have made peace with the Flatheads of the West. We are now brothers and we invite you to regard them in the same way. We would be glad to have peace in the land. If you continue to send war parties against the Flatheads, some of our young men may go to warn them of their danger."

The Ottawa chief resented the advice of the Huron, accused him of interference in a matter which did not concern him or his tribe, and the Chippewa and Pottawatomi sided with the Ottawa. The result was that the council came to an end without having accomplished its purpose, the ill feeling in fact being greater than it was before. Soon after the adjournment of the council, an Ottawa war party of about twenty young men started on a foray against one of the Flathead villages. As they were on the march they saw two Huron parties. Their intention was to surprise the Flathead village, but just as they were about ready to attack the cry of a raven was heard and the occupants of the village were immediately upon the alert.

The raven cry was distinctively a Huron signal and had two meanings, a warning of impending danger and a call of hunger. It appears, however, that the Flathead Indians understood it and when the Ottawa made their attack they found themselves between the Flathead warriors on one side and the Huron on the other. Nine of the Ottawa were slain and scalped and five more were captured. The others broke through the Huron line, killing one of the number, and returned to Detroit. When they arrived within hearing distance of their village they raised the cry of mourning instead of the scalp yell, which would have proclaimed a victory. They entered the village and told how they had been betrayed by Huron treachery. The entire tribe was in a great rage and threatened the destruction of the Huron village. The Huron chiefs denied that any of their young men had betrayed the Ottawa or had killed any of them.

"We do not shed the blood of our brothers," said one of them, to which an infuriated Ottawa replied: "You are dogs; you are capable of shedding the blood of your father as well as that of your brothers." One of the survivors of the war party approached the Huron chief and in a voice full of passion said: "We have been to war with the Flatheads many a time, but we never heard the cry of the raven before. I killed one of your men, Orontega, and when your warriors come home we shall see if he is missing. Then you will see that I am telling the truth."

Thoroughly alarmed at this manifestation of hostility, the Huron retired to their village and the women and children dared not go out to cultivate their crop of corn. The trouble was finally ended by the removal of the greater part of the Huron settlement to Bois Blanc Island, where they remained for several years. Desnoyelles, in the fall of 1738, issued an order to the inhabitants not to sell ammunition of any kind to the Indians.

PLOT OF 1747

In 1746 Mackinac (the Turtle), a powerful Chippewa chief, undertook to enlist all the northern tribes in a movement against the post of Detroit. Several of the tribes, including the northern Ottawa, joined in the alliance and a formidable body of Indians suddenly appeared before the fort. The garrison was called to arms and Pontiac, the Ottawa chief at Detroit, came to the aid of the French. Mackinac was driven off with a loss of several of his warriors.

Messengers were then sent to the Iroquois to ask their cooperation in another attack. In the spring of 1747 the Iroquois sent belts to the tribes living about Detroit and succeeded in winning several of them to a plot to murder the garrison and drive the French out of the country. The plan was for the massacre to take place on the night following a church holiday. As many of the Indians as possible were to get permission to sleep inside the palisades and during the night each was to arise at a given time and kill the people of the house in which he was lodged. An Indian woman had occasion to go into the loft of one of the houses and while there heard voices below. She listened intently and thus gained a knowledge of the plot. As soon as the plotters left the house she went to the residence of Father Richardie to tell him of what she had learned. The priest happened to be absent, but she told a lay brother, who informed De Longueuil, the commandant.

De Longueuil called the Huron chiefs together, informed them that he knew of the plot, upbraided them for listening to the evil counsels of the Iroquois and threatened them with punishment. While engaged in the conspiracy, the Indians had paid little attention to the cultivation of their fields, with the result that only a small crop of corn had been raised. As the commandant controlled their winter supplies, they saw hunger staring them in the face. They therefore humbled themselves and promised allegiance for the future, whereupon they were pardoned by De Longueuil. The Huron Indians at Bois Blanc Island then moved up to Sandwich and settled around the mission house there, nearly opposite their old fort at Detroit.

The English were charged with being the instigators of this conspiracy, which was probably true, as the English traders were anxious to drive out the French, in order to gain control of the fur trade. This rivalry culminated in open war between the two nations, in which Detroit played an important part, and was finally surrendered to the English.


The causes of the conflict between France and England about the middle of the Eighteenth Century date back to the first explorations and settlements made in America by European nations. In the East, the struggle took the name of the "French and Indian War", for the reason that the tribes of that section were supplied with arms and ammunition by the French and incited to attack the English settlers. The British retaliated by arming the Iroquois and their allied tribes and inducing them to make war on the French. Upon the restoration of peace, the western people referred to the conflict as the "Seven Years' War", but historians generally have adopted the eastern name.


In 1493, the year following the first voyage of Columbus to the New World, the pope granted to the king and queen of Spain "all countries inhabited by infidels". At that time the extent of the American Continent was unknown, but as the native inhabitants were regarded as infidels, this papal grant included, in a vague way, all the present State of Michigan. The grant of the pope was strengthened by the expedition of Hernando de Soto (1540-42) into the interior and the discovery of the Mississippi River, by which Spain laid claim to "all the lands bordering on the great river and the Gulf of Mexico".


Henry VII, King of England, in 1496 granted to John Cabot and his sons a patent of discovery, possession and trade "to all lands they may discover and lay claim to in the name of the English Crown". During the next three years, the Cabots explored the Atlantic Coast and made discoveries upon which England, at the beginning of the Sixteenth Century, claimed all the central portion of North America. The charter granted by the English Crown to the Plymouth Company in 1620 included "all the lands between the fortieth and forty-eighth parallels of north latitude from sea to sea". This grant included all of the present State of Michigan and the northern half of Ohio and Indiana


Through the voyages and discoveries of Jacques Cartier, France laid claim to the Valley of the St. Lawrence River and the country about the Great Lakes. Explorations were then pushed westward toward the headwaters of the Mississippi River and southward into the Ohio Valley. As early as 1611 Jesuit missionaries were among the Indians that dwelt along the shores of Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior. In 1634 Jean Nicollet passed still farther to the westward and reached the country around the Fox River, in what is now the State of Wisconsin.

Claude Allouez, one of the most zealous of the Jesuit fathers, held a council in 1665 with the chiefs and head men of the leading western tribes at the Chippewa Village, on the south shore of Lake Superior. At this council the Chippewa, Illini, Sac and Fox, Sioux and Pottawatomi were represented. Allouez promised them the protection of the great French father and thus opened the way for a profitable trade with the natives. Three years later, Fathers Jacques Marquette and Claude Dablon founded the mission of St. Mary's, the oldest white settlement within the present State of Michigan.

The accounts of the country carried back to Quebec by explorers and missionaries led the Canadian authorities to send Nicholas Perrot to arrange for a grand council with the western tribes. The council met at St. Mary's late in May, 1671, and before the close of that year Father Marquette founded the mission of Point St. Ignace, which for many years was regarded as the key to the great, unexplored West.



In 1678, Louis XIV, then King of France, granted to Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, a patent to explore the western parts of New France, as the French possessions in America were then called. Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet had discovered the Mississippi River at the mouth of the Wisconsin in June, 1673, and had descended it to the mouth of the Arkansas. La Salle's first expedition to the west was unsuccessful, though he finally explored the Mississippi to its mouth, where on April 9, 1682 he formally claimed all the country drained by the great river and its tributaries in the name of France and gave to this vast expanse of country the name of Louisiana, in honor of the French king.


Following the usage of nations of that period, by which title to land was claimed "by right of discovery", it is not surprising that in course of time a controversy arose as to which nation was really the rightful owner of the soil.

Spain's claim to the interior was never strongly asserted and it soon came to pass that most of the European nations acknowledged that France possessed the better title, based upon the discovery of La Salle. But the Plymouth Company's grant of 1620, extending from "sea to sea", overlapped a large section where the French were actually in possession. The Hudson's Bay Company was chartered by the British Government on May 2, 1670, and its trappers and traders went into all parts of the Great Lakes country in spite of the French claim to the territory. Under these conditions, France and England were soon aroused by the conflict of their respective claims.

Several times the English were accused of inciting the Indians to attack French posts. In 1749 Comte de la Gallissoniere, then governor of New France, sent Pierre de Celeron, Sieur de Blainville, with 300 soldiers from Montreal to take formal possession of the Ohio Valley. Celeron was supplied with leaden plates, each bearing an inscription setting forth the claims of France and a formal declaration that France thus took possession of the Ohio Valley. Celeron planted the plates at various points along the Ohio River, after which he went to Detroit, arriving there on October 6, 1749. Gallissoniere also made special efforts to encourage immigration to the western posts by offering special privileges and supplies to the immigrants. Under these liberal offers a number of people came to Detroit during the next five years.

La Salle's claim to the region drained by the Mississippi River extended on the east to the summit of the Alleghany Mountains. On the other hand the English Colony of Virginia claimed territory northwest of the Ohio River. Shortly after Celeron's expedition, citizens of Virginia, hoping to offset the activities of the French, organized what was known as the Ohio Company, which was granted 500,000 acres of land northwest of the Ohio, on condition that 100 families should be settled thereon within seven years.


The first open rupture between the two nations did not come until 1753. The Ohio Company commenced a fort at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, where the City of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, now stands, but it was captured by the French before it was completed and named Fort Du Quesne. In 1753 the French began building a line of forts from the Ohio River to the Great Lakes to prevent the English from extending their settlements west of the mountains. The territory upon which some of these forts were located was claimed by Virginia. Governor Dinwiddie, of that colony, after consultation with Governor Clinton, of New York, decided to send an embassy to the commandant of Fort Du Quesne, to demand an explanation for the armed invasion of English domain while the nations were supposed to be at peace.

Governor Dinwiddie selected George Washington, just turned twenty-one, to bear the remonstrance to Fort Du Quesne. One reason for Washington's being chosen was that he understood land surveying and was instructed not only to remonstrate against the French trespass, but also to survey and locate the lands of the Ohio Company.

Legardeur St. Pierre de Repentigny, the commandant at Fort Du Quesne, received Washington courteously, though the only explanation he would offer was that the Ohio Valley had been generally recognized as French territory since 1682. Nor would he permit Washington to make any surveys northwest of the Ohio River. Washington then visited Fort Le Boeuf, a few miles up the Allegheny River, where he was treated in the same manner. Rebuffed at every point, Washington moved over to Monongahela, where he began the construction of a fort, but was driven out by a detachment of French troops, commanded by Captain Contrecoeur, and returned to Virginia.

Fort Du Quesne was then made a strong post by the French, who in 1754 had a chain of sixty forts (mostly blockhouses) between Quebec and New Orleans. One of these was the post at Detroit.


In 1754 Washington, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, was again sent into the disputed territory. This time he was supplied with a detachment of troops and was instructed "to complete the fort already commenced by the Ohio Company at the forks of the Ohio, and to kill, capture or drive out all who attempted to interfere with the English posts". This aroused the indignation of France and that nation formally declared war against Great Britain. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia had fallen into the hands of the English at the time of King George's War, but the French inhabitants, called Acadians, were permitted to remain in possession of their homes. Immediately after the declaration of war by France, the English ordered the expulsion of the Acadians from the two provinces, except such as would take the oath of allegiance to the English crown. About seven thousand people were thus rendered homeless. A few of the exiles found refuge in the French settlements of Canada and about the Great Lakes, some of them coming to Detroit, but by far the greater portion of them went to the French settlements in Louisiana. This unhappy incident was made the subject of Longfellow's poem "Evangeline".


The first active campaign of the English was directed against Fort Du Quesne. Its geographical position at the head of the Ohio River made it a post of great strategic importance and the British authorities saw that whichever side held the fort would hold the key to the Ohio Valley. In the spring of 1755, General Braddock, recognized as one of the best English military commanders, was placed at the head of a large force of regulars and colonial militia for the capture of the fort. His army was the largest military force which, up to that time, had ever crossed the Alleghany Mountains.

Braddock moved forward with "pomp and circumstance", his colors flying, fifers and drummers playing, and his troops marching in solid column, according to the established customs of civilized warfare. Col. George Washington, who commanded the Virginia troops, and who was well acquainted with the Indian characteristics, fearing an ambush, tried to persuade General Braddock, but his suggestions were spurned.

"High times, high times," retorted the pompous commander, "when a young buckskin presumes to teach a British general how to fight."

Washington's fears were realized. While marching through a narrow valley a few miles east of the fort, where the Town of Braddock is now located, the Indians opened fire from all sides, accompanied by the most blood-curdling yells. At the first volley the British regulars, brave enough men, but unused to fighting with an unseen foe, were thrown into confusion and General Braddock was killed. Washington then took command, covered the retreat with his Virginians, and saved a remnant of the army. There is a tradition that General Braddock's body was buried in the road and the wagons and artillery driven over the grave to prevent its discovery and desecration by the savages.


During the year 1756 there was not much activity displayed by either side. General Montcalm arrived at Quebec in May and on August 14th captured Fort Ontario, at Oswego, New York, which was the most important military event of the year.

In 1757 the British Government adopted the vigorous policy, proposed by William Pitt, of sending a large force of troops and efficient commanders to America. General Amherst was sent against Ticonderoga, General Wolfe was ordered to lay siege to Quebec, and General Prideaux was directed to effect the capture of the fort at Niagara. Before the close of the year Louisburg, which had been captured by Gen. William Pepperell during King George's War and returned to the French in 1748, was taken by Generals Wolfe and Amherst and the place was destroyed.

On October 15, 1758, an English force commanded by Major Grant made a determined attack on Fort Du Quesne, but the attempt failed, the assailants being driven off with considerable loss in killed and wounded. General Forbes was then sent with a larger force against the fort and on November 28th the French abandoned the post, after burning the stores and some of the buildings, and made their way to Detroit. The English rebuilt the fort and gave it the name of Fort Pitt.

The year 1759 saw the English arms victorious at almost every point. General Amherst took the two forts — Crown Point and Ticonderoga — on Lake Champlain. On July 24th, General Prideaux captured or dispersed a reinforcement of 1,200 men sent from Detroit and other western posts to the relief of Fort Niagara and the next day the fort capitulated. The surrender of Niagara broke the French line of communication with the posts at Presque Isle, Venango and Le Boeuf. These forts were then blown up and the garrisons retired to Detroit. The influx of so many troops caused a scarcity of provisions. It is said that "meat without bread or corn was distributed to the soldiers and there was much distress". On September 13, 1759, Quebec, the stronghold of the French, capitulated. Montreal then was the only eastern post of consequence remaining in the hands of the French.

Early in the year 1760 three divisions of the British Army moved by different routes toward Montreal, sweeping everything before them, and on September 8, 1760, Marquis de Vaudreuil, governor of New France, surrendered Montreal and all its dependencies to the British Crown. Pitt's policy had proved successful.


In 1751, before the actual beginning of the war, the garrison at Detroit was increased and in 1754 the fort was enlarged. During the next three years the stockade was extended, inclosing additional ground. Late in the year 1754 or early in 1755 the intendant of Canada sent Hugues Jacques Pean with 400 militia and large supplies to Detroit. It is believed that some of these troops later went east and took part in the defeat of General Braddock.

Soon after the declaration of war by France, the government of that country sent large quantities of military supplies to America, and some of these supplies were stored at Detroit. That the post was depended upon to a considerable extent during the war as a base of supplies is seen in a letter of Governor Vaudreuil, dated July 12, 1757, and addressed to M. de Moras, in which he says:

"I have already written several letters to the commandants and Illinois, to put themselves at that moment in a condition to transmit at the opening of navigation, for the victualling of the posts on the Beautiful River (the Ohio), the largest quantity of provisions of all descriptions that they could spare, by restricting the settlers to mere subsistence".

After the capture of Fort Du Quesne in the fall of 1758, General Forbes planned an attack on Detroit. Concerning this movement, one of the publications of the Quebec Literary and Historical Society states:

"Sieur de Bellestre, having heard that the enemy was marching, put himself at the head of the Hurons and other Indians to give an attack to the advance guard, which he defeated. The Hurons gave signs enough of their bravery and made about twenty prisoners, but the Ottawas disgraced themselves in scalping all those the French had killed."

When the British began their active campaigns in the East, a considerable force was mobilized in Detroit. About the time General Prideaux began his operations against Fort Niagara, Belestre, the commandant at Detroit, was appealed to for provisions and reinforcements. Preparations to send the provisions were commenced, but were soon abandoned. A French officer, evidently not a friend of Belestre, said this was done "because the provisions were required for the private and invincible trade of some person in that very post itself". The same officer, criticizing Belestre for failing to send reinforcements to Niagara, said:

"In the spring of 1759 ore hundred and fifty militia, almost all belonging to Fort Du Quesne and who had wintered at Detroit, were also detained under pretext of making a ditch around the stockade fort which tumbled down immediately."

In view of the fact that 1,200 troops from Detroit and other western posts were "captured or dispersed" by General Prideaux the day before Fort Niagara capitulated, it would seem that this criticism was unmerited. The only trouble was that they arrived too late to be of service in saving the fort from capture.

More French troops were sent to Detroit in June, 1760. They brought with them several pieces of artillery, provisions, ammunition and other supplies, and from that time Detroit became the great stronghold and depot of the West, though its career as such was of short duration.

On September 12, 1760, four days after the surrender of Canada to the English, Maj. Robert Rogers, known as "The Ranger", received orders from General Amherst "to advance with a sufficient force to take possession of Detroit, Michilimackinac and the entire Northwest, and administer the oath of allegiance to the inhabitants. Rogers left Montreal the next day with fifteen bateaux and 200 men of the Eightieth Regiment. At Presque Isle he was joined by a small detachment commanded by Captain Croghan and Captain Campbell's Royal Americans. From Presque Isle, Rogers and the main body continued the journey by water, while Captain Brewer with a small force marched overland along the south shore of Lake Erie with a drove of cattle.


Sieur de Belestre, who was an able commander, seemed to think the Canadian Government was secure and that he could defend Detroit against any force likely to be sent against him. It should be borne in mind that during the struggle most of the fighting had been done in the East, that most of the Indian tribes of the territory tributary to Detroit remained loyal allies of the French, and that none of the western posts had been molested. Being far out on the frontier, the soldiers and even their officers had remained in comparative ignorance of the progress of events.

When Major Rogers arrived at the mouth of the Detroit River, runners carried the news to Belestre that a large English force was approaching. A little later Major Rogers' courier arrived with a demand for the surrender of the post, at the same time imparting the information that Canada had been surrendered to the English. So certain was Belestre that the report of the courier was false that he asked time to consider. It was at this time that, partly in derision and partly to inflame the Indians, the commandant erected a pole, upon the top of which was the effigy of a crow pecking at a man's head, indicative of the manner in which he would treat the English if they continued to advance.

Major Rogers then sent another messenger to the fort with a copy of the terms of capitulation and Vaudreuil's letter of instructions to the commandant at Detroit. In this letter the governor stated that the conditions of the capitulation were "particularly advantageous to Detroit; that all persons, even the soldiers, were to retain their property, real and personal, including their peltries; that the soldiers were to be allowed to delegate to some resident the care of their property, or to sell it to either French or English, or they might take with them their portable property. They were to lay down their arms and agree not to serve again during the war."

After dispatching the second messenger, Rogers pushed on toward the fort. When within a half mile of the post, he received a message from Belestre surrendering the fort. At last the commandant was convinced that Canada had become an English possession. He called his garrison together and, with ill-concealed chagrin, gave notice that New France had been turned over to the English. Rogers had sent forward Lieutenants Leslie and McCormick, with thirty-six of the Royal Americans, to take possession. The French troops marched out upon the little plain in front of the main entrance to the fort and laid down their arms. The Canadian militia was disarmed and disbanded, many of them taking the oath of allegiance. With military honors the French flag, which had waved over the fort for fifty-nine years, was lowered, the British troops marched in and hoisted the colors of Great Britain as the symbol of the new ruling power. All this occurred on November 29, 1760, which day marks the beginning of English domination in what is now the State of Michigan, though the post at Michilimackinac was not turned over to the British until sometime later.

Some seven hundred Indians, who only the day before had been allies of the French, were present when the troops laid down their arms. They cheered the British flag when it was raised and sarcastically referred to Major Rogers as the crow and Belestre as the victim. The French prisoners of war were sent to Philadelphia and from there to France. The French inhabitants were permitted to retain their farms and homes, on condition of their taking the oath of allegiance, which most of them did, though three years later some of them broke their oath and gave assistance to Pontiac in his uprising against the English.

At the time of the surrender, the garrison consisted of three officers and thirty-five privates. The condition of the fort and conditions generally were thus described by Captain Campbell in a letter written to Col. Henry Boquet three days after the English took possession:

"The inhabitants seem very happy at the change of government, but they are in want of everything. The fort is much better than we expected. It is one of the best stockades I have seen, but the commandant's house and what belongs to the King are in bad repair."

Major Rogers remained at Detroit until December 23, 1760, when he turned over the command to Captain Campbell and set out for Fort Pitt.


The French and Indian War was brought to an end by the preliminary Treaty of Fontainebleau, which was concluded on November 3, 1762, by which France ceded Canada to Great Britain, also all the posts about the Great Lakes and that part of Louisiana lying east of the Mississippi River, except the city and island of New Orleans. This preliminary treaty was ratified by the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763, and the two nations were again at peace, after a dispute that had kept their American colonies in a state of war and turmoil for almost a decade.




In order to understand the motives of Pontiac in organizing his conspiracy against the British posts in the Ohio Valley and about the Great Lakes in 1763, it is necessary to notice briefly the conditions which preceded it. By the treaty which ended the French and Indian War, Canada surrendered the posts in the region of the Great Lakes and that part of Louisiana lying east of the Mississippi River to England. In fact, some of the posts were occupied by the English before the conclusion of the treaty.

Through the transfer of the western posts from the French to the English, the Indians soon became acquainted with the different policies of the two nations, as described in an earlier chapter of this history. Instead of pursuing the French policy of liberality and conciliation, the English treated the natives with contempt, paid them less for their furs than the French had been accustomed to pay, and often took possession of the best hunting grounds without the formality of purchase or treaty. The tribes most affected by this policy, and whose grievances were consequently the greatest, were the Delaware (also known as Lenni Lenape, meaning original men), Ottawa and some of the Iroquoian tribes in New York.

In the Delaware tribe there arose a prophet about the time the English took possession of the country. He spent days at a time in seclusion, during which periods he claimed to hold communion with the Great Spirit, or the Master of Life. By his interpretations of his alleged visions, the burden of which was that the Master of Life wished the red men to join in an uprising among the whites, he excited many of the his people almost to madness. Under the influence of his teachings, an attempt was made in 1761 to destroy some of the frontier posts, but it ended in failure. During the year 1762 several outbreaks occurred, but there was no concerted action. In numerous instances, the Indians were abetted and encouraged by the coureurs de bois, who remained loyal to French customs and traditions and maintained intimate relations with the natives, many of them having married Indian women.


In June, 1761, a plot was formed by the Seneca and Huron Indians to massacre the garrison at Detroit post, but the attempt was frustrated by the prompt action of the white men. In view of the general discontent among the Indians, and their frequent depredations, Sir William Johnson, superintendent of the tribes of the Northwest, decided to hold a council. On July 5, 1761, accompanied by his son, John Johnson, a nephew, Lieut. Guy Johnson, Capt. Andrew Montour and a few friendly Mohawk and Oneida Indians, he left Fort Johnson (now Johnstown, New York) for Detroit. At Niagara, the party was joined by Maj. Henry Gladwin, with Gage's Light Infantry.

Gladwin left for Detroit on the 12th of August and was followed a week later by Sir William, who had been reinforced by a detachment of the Royal Americans, under Ensigns Holmes and Slosser, and a company of British regulars, commanded by Lieutenant Ogden. He arrived at Detroit on the afternoon of September 3, 1761 and was lodged in the house formerly occupied by Commandant Belestre. The next day Colonel Du Quesne and the officers of the fort dined with him and preparations for the council were discussed. Meantime news of the superintendent's arrival had spread among the Indians and a large number had gathered outside. In the afternoon, Sir William began the distribution of presents he had brought for that purpose.

Charles Moore, in his introduction to "The Gladwin Papers," Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collection, states that Sir William and Major Gladwin reached Detroit on August 17th.