Siege of Fort Detroit
In the years concluding the Seven Year's War there were several Native American uprisings against the British. In this case, chief Pontiac of the Ottwana tribe gathered an alliance of Native American tribes and plotted to attack Fort Detroit. This attack failed and led to months of Fort Detroit being under siege. It was under a year when the siege came to an end, resulting with no definite victor
Backstory and Context
The battle at Fort Detroit was the first of many in the Pontiac Rebellion. Pontiac’s Rebellion began when the leader of the Ottwada tribe, Potinac, led a ban of Native Americans to attack Fort Detroit, modern day Michigan. The French had disserted Fort Detroit, leaving it in the hands of the British. British forces did not support the Native Americans as the French did, creating tension and turmoil between the Natives and the British. A war council was devised in April, to create the initial plan of attack. The attack was initiated on May 7th, 1763. Unfortunately, the attack failed because British major Henry Gladwin already had known of the attack coming. This inevitably lead to a siege, which lasted for months.
Pontiac originally planned to have all Native American tribes ban together for the downfall of the British. When the plan was to take place, not all tribes were eager to displease the British. The Ottawa, Potawatomis, and Huron were the only tribes who came together with Pontiac to plan the attack on Fort Detroit. As the attack was being planned, those who did not join Pontiac’s side quickly gave over vital information to the British. Pontiac gathered the tribes for the assault on Fort Detroit and once again those who did not support the attack, informed the British the Natives were coming. Pontiac set way for Fort Detroit. Pontiac’s assault on Fort Detriot occurred on May 7th, 1763. It is estimated Pontiac brought with him 300 or more men from several tribes to attack the Fort. As Pontiac and his men attempted to enter the fort with their weapons, to their surprise they were met with hundreds of British soldiers who had more advanced weapons. The Pontiac’s army quickly retreated and began to lay siege.
Supplies and aid for Fort Detroit attempted to make way but almost always was captured by the Native Americans. An example of such is when Lieutenant Abraham Cuyler made a basic camp with little defense right outside of the fort. Not only were they attacked but then sent back to the original camp they came from, Fort Niagara. Half the men in Cuyler’s convoy were captured and later fought the Natives to escape. Those who did escape gathered the remaining supplies and swam for Fort Detroit. The British forces were receiving small amounts of supplies to wait it out longer. In a siege it is very important to stop incoming supplies to ensure the siege be successful. The ones who did not escape were then made an example of by the Natives. The natives goal was to scare the British by torturing, killing and leaving their bodies to float to the Fort. This did not go as planned for the Natives and only gave the British more moral to fight it out. The moral certainly pushed the British to attack the Natives.
As the British were approaching the Pontiac camp, allies of the Natives alerted Pontiac’s men to prepare. The Natives rushed the British soldiers resulting in mass casualties for the British. The remaining 60 men retreated to Fort Detroit and continue under siege. But as the harvest season was approaching many of the tribes would prefer to take care of their land than fight a war.
The declining number in Pontiac’s men was severe, then France and England signed a treaty. Due to the treaty all French aid and supplies must be stopped to the Natives, which left Pontiac with virtually no men or aid. Pontiac realized the only choice and attempted to negotiate a peace treaty with the British. The head of the Fort was General Amherst and he alleged he could not negotiate peace with the natives. Although there was no true victory to either side of the conflict, this led to other Native American uprising. The Native Americans were showing their power together to prevent the extinction of a culture.