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History of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 online

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Crown of Great Britain may not, by the avarice and wickedness of a few, be deprived



f"Life and Times of David Zeisberger," p. 270.



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WHEN PONTIAC STRUCK 477

of the friendship and alliance of those nations who are capable of being our most use-
ful friends or most dangerous enemies.

It could have been wished for the sake of truth, that access had been allowed to
the minutes of Council, which are the only public records kept of the transactions
between the Government of Pennsylvania and the Indians, or the minutes of several
conferences with the Indians had been duly taken and regularly published, or that all
the deeds granted by the Indians had been recorded in the Rolls-Office, as they ought
to have been : had these been done, the matter might have been set in fuller and clearer
light. However, by pursuing the following extracts, taken from such as could be met
with, from the "Votes of the Assembly," from such deeds as have been recorded, and
from other authentic papers and letters, it will be clearly seen whether the complaints
of the Indians are only invented to palliate their late conduct; whether they are the
effects of party; or whether their pretensions are reasonable and their demands con-
sistent with justice.

Nevertheless, Thomson obtained sufficient data which even to-day
stands forth vividly a sorry indictment of the Pennsylvania authorities
of those unhappy years. Slight wonder the province paid most dearly in
precious blood and a devastation that could not be measured in money
value. The wickedness of the white traders among the Indians, other
than the French, is detailed by Thomson with surprising frankness ; and
the power of rum also, and the evils (a mild word here) of the rum traffic.
Says Thomson :

There is one paragraph in the Governor's Message which deserves to be strictly
attended to. "I cannot," says he, "but be apprehensive that the Indian Trade, as it is
now carried on, will involve us in some fatal quarrel with the Indians. Our Traders,
in Defiance of the Law, carry spirituous Liquors among them, and take the Advantage
of their inordinate Appetite for it to cheat them of their Skins and their Wampum,
which is their Money, and often debauch their wives into the Bargain. It is to be won-
dered at then, if, when they recover from their drunkeness, they should take some severe
Revenges. If I am rightly informed, the like Abuses of the Traders in New England
were the principal Causes of the Indian Wars there, and at length obliged the Govern-
ment to take the trade into their own Hands. This is a matter that well deserves your
attention, and perhaps will soon require your Imitation."^

All the old historians of Pennsylvania enlarge on the evils of this
traffic. While the Indian orators declaimed against it and acknowledged
the evils, they became in the end passive and drank with the rest of their
people. At times the Indians were plied with liquor for base purposes,
notably at the treaty of Lancaster in 1742. Thomson says further :

The Indians as early as 1736 called the traders Rum Carriers, and requested that
these be prohibited from coming among them and that none but honest and sober men
be suffered to deal with them. Had this request been complied with, the English might
easily have engrossed the hate and secured the affection of the many Indian nations,
whereas, by neglecting this and suffering a Parcel of Banditti under the character of
traders to run up and down from one Indian town to another, cheating and debauching
the Indians, we have given them ill opinbn of our religion and manners and have
lost their esteem and friendship.

With what Earnestness the Indians desired to have the Trade regulated may be
seen from the Speech of the Indian Chief to the Commissioners ; "Your Traders," says
he, '1)ring scarce anything but Rum and Flour ; They bring little Powder and Lead, or
other valuable goods. The Rum ruins us. We beg you would prevent its coming in
such Quantities by regulating the Traders. We never understood that the Trade
was to be for Whisky and Flour. We desire it may be forbidden, and none sold in the



ft^Alienatwu," etc; pp. S5-S6.



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478 HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

Indian country; but that, if the Indians will have any, they may go among the Inhabi-
tants and deal with them for it When these Whisl^-Traders come, they bring thirty
or forty Cags, and put them down before us, and make us drink, and get all the Skins
that should go to pay the debts we have contracted for Goods bought of the fair
Traders, and by this Means we not only ruin ourselves but them too. These wicked
Whisky-Sellers, when they have got the Indians in Whisky, make them sell the very
Cloaths from their Backs. In Short, if this Practice be continued, we must be inevitably
ruined We most earnestly, therefore, beseech you to remedy it"«

How much horror may have been caused by rum will never be told,
cannot be told. The practice was continued and the province well-nigh
ruined. The trouble with drunken Indians was a constant one. Teedyus-
cung was drunk whenever he could get drink, and died drunk in the
burning of his house. Post has told of his troubles with drunken Indians,
and Gist also, and Logstown is a name fit to write with Sodom instead
of Gomorrah. Even Weiser complained of Andrew Montour, who when
drunk proved the veritable thorn in the side of honest faithful Weiser.

Having now learned of conditions antecedent to Pontiac's outbreak,
the reader is prepared for the account of what took place at Fort Pitt
and other points in Western Pennsylvania.

The year 1763 was fateful in American history. Then the British
settlements did not extend beyond the Allegheny mountains. Bedford
in Pennsylvania was the extreme verge of our frontier. To the south the
Virginia settlements extended to a corresponding distance. To protect
the frontiers, the Colonial authorities had besought the Crown* to estab-
lish forts after the manner of the French. The French forts taken over
after the conquest of Canada were garrisoned and maintained. In the
West these were the posts against which Pontiac directed his fury. The
English built some new works.

Fort Stanwix, in 1758, named for the British general who built Fort
Pitt, was the most important northern English fort. It stood where the
city of Rome, New York, now stands. Two or three smaller posts formed
a chain of defense. On the western extremity of Lake Ontario stood Fort
Niagara at the mouth of that river. It was a strong work, a work most
necessary to hold, as it guarded the whole New York country.

The chain of forts continued to the South, the route following the
river by the great cataract to Presque Isle on Lake Erie, now within the
city of Erie. There the chain went by a short overland passage to Fort
Le Boeuf, on French creek, now Waterford in Erie county. Thence it
went to the mouth of French creek, to Venango, since Franklin, Pennsyl-
vania, thence down the Allegheny to Fort Pitt.

Parkman says of Fort Pitt that its position was as captivating to
the eye of an artist as it was commanding in a military point of
view. "It was a strong fortification with ramparts of earth, faced
with brick on the side looking down the Ohio. Its walls have long
since been levelled to the ground and over their ruins have risen ware-
houses and forges with countless chimneys rolling up their black volumes
of smoke; where once the bark canoe lay on the strand, a throng of
steamers now lie, moored along the crowded levee."



6'*Alienation," etc; p. 75.



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WHEN PONTIAC STRUCK 479

Parkman gives the name of the commander at Fort Pitt during the
memorable siege as Captain Simeon Ecuyer; most writers call him
Simon Ecuyer. He was a Swiss, a countryman of Bouquet and like him
a soldier of fortune serving in the British army, a cool, brave, energetic
commander. The fame of one carries with it the fame of the other, the
besieged and the reliever.

Detroit, where Major Gladwyn held out, was saved by a friendly
squaw with timely warning. Fort Pitt must have succumbed had it not
been for Bouquet and Bushy Run.

Previous to the Pontiac outbreak, the borderland was quiet. Early in
May, 1763, Captain Ecuyer received warnings of danger. Ecuyer for a
time kept in communication with Detroit and managed to communicate
with Bouquet, even when affairs were desperate at Fort Pitt. Ecuyer
kept a journal and was a good writer. His letters are full of human inter-
est. He wrote Bouquet before the latter left Philadelphia: "Major
Gladwyn writes to tell me that I am surrounded by rascals. He com-
plains a great deal of the Delawares and Shawanese. It is this canaille
who stir up the rest to mischief."

A rapid review of the early events of the siege and how it dragged on
is here given, followed by extracts from Ecuyer's journal. These will
give the complete story of the siege.

May 27, at dusk, a party of Indians came down the banks of the Alle-
gheny with laden pack horses. They made their fires and camped on the
river bank until daybreak. They had a great quantity of valuable furs,
which they traded at the fort, demanding in exchange bullets, hatchets
and gunpowder, — no finery, gew-g^ws or strouds, (Indian coats), or
blankets. Their conduct was peculiar — sufficiently so to excite suspicion.
One could be naturally suspicious of the redskins then and for a century
after. The impression deepened that these Indians were either spies or
had hostile designs. These suspicions were well grounded. Hardly had
the Indians gone when the tidings came that Colonel Clapham, and other
persons, male and female, had been murdered and scalped near the fort.
Later tidings came of Indians abandoning their towns. This meant that
they were bent on mischief. The alarm spread. There were daily
refugees, traders and others coming into the fort. News came of the
murder and capture of all English traders in the Western country, and
the confiscating of their goods.

A messenger sent to warn the garrison at Venango was driven back,
returning sorely wounded. One trader, Calhoun, on the Tuscarawas in
Ohio, with thirteen companions, was deprived of arms and sent under
escort of three braves for safe guidance to Fort Pitt. These guides led
the men into an ambush at the mouth of Beaver river. Eleven were
killed. Calhoun and two others succeeded in escaping. This was Indian
treachery. Accounts of these outrages came in to Fort Pitt daily. At
Fort Ligonier the alarm was great. A volley of bullets fired suddenly
upon the garrison there did little harm, but left no doubt that the redskins
were nearby and in force. Even in the vicinity of Fort Bedford there



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48o HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

were outrages. Bouquet was kept informed of affairs by Ecuyer. May
29 the latter wrote :

Just as I finished my letter three men came in from Clapham's with the Melancholy
News that yesterday at 3 o'clock in the Afternoon, the Indians murdered Gapham, and
Every Body in his House. These three men were out at work and escaped through the
Woods. I immediately armed them and sent them to assist our people at Bushy Run.
The Indians have told Byerly (at Bushy Run) to leave his place in four days or he
and his Family would all be murdered : I am Uneasy for the little Posts — As for this,
I will answer for it^

Ecuyer got busy. All houses and cabins outside the ramparts of Fort
Pitt were leveled to the ground. Before dawn each morning drums were
beaten and the troops ordered to the alarm posts. The fort was defended
by 330 soldiers, traders and backwoodsmen. The numbers may seem
large, but there were within the fort 100 women and a still larger num-
ber of children, families of settlers in the neighborhood about to build
cabins in and about the new town of Pittsburgh. Ecuyer was confronted
by dangers within and without. He wrote Bouquet, June i6th :

We are so crowded in the fort that I fear disease, for in spite of every care I can-
not keep the place as clean as I would like. Besides the smallpox is among us, and I
have therefore caused a hospital to be built under the drawbridge out of range of
musket shot. I am determined to hold my post, spare my men and never expose them
without necessity.

Ecuyer had previously written :

We have alarms from and skirmishes with the Indians every day but they have
done us little harm as yet. Yesterday, I was out with a party of men when we were
fired upon and one of the sergeants was killed, but we beat off the Indians and brought
the man in with his scalp on. Last night the Bullock Guard was fired upon and one
cow killed. We are obliged to be on duty day and night. The Indians have cut off
above 100 of our traders in the woods besides all our little Posts. We have plenty of
provisions, and the fort is in such good posture for defense, that with God's assistance
we can defend it against 1,000 Indians.

Ecuyer lives only in history. Bouquet has been commemorated in a
street name here.

Summer came on. The desultory outrages reported were mainly the
mischief of unruly young warriors, with no chief of sufficient ability or
renown to control them. It became dangerous to venture outside the
walls of Fort Pitt. A few attempted it, but were shot and scalped by
lurking savages. The sentinels were nightly fired on; even during the
day it was dangerous to expose a head above the ramparts. Prowling
savages were everywhere, whose numbers seemed daily increasing, yet
no attempt was made at a general attack.

This came June 22, when a war party appeared at the farthest ex-
tremity of the cleared lands east of the fort. This party drove off all the
horses that were grazing there and killed the cattle. Having accom-
plished this there was opened a general fire of musketry from all sides
upon the fort and though the range was long two men of the garrison



7"Fort Pitt and Letters from the Frontier;" Mary Carson Darlington, p. 124;
from "Bouquet Papers" in British Museum.



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WHEN PONTIAC STRUCK 481

were killed. The garrison answered by a discharge of howitzers from
the fort, whose bursting shells brought dismay and astonishment to the
Indians in the woods. They drew off but at intervals throughout the
night the flashes of rifles were seen and Indian whoopings heard.

June 23 at 9 o'clock a. m. the Indians approached the fort, with per-
fect confidence, and stood at the outer end of the ditch. A Delaware
chief, Turtle's Heart, adjlressed the garrison with a characteristic Indian
speech. The Indians were their friends, he said. All the English forts
had been overcome except Pitt ; a great army of Indians was marching
hither to destroy the garrison ; they must leave, take all the women and
children and go down to the English settlements ; they must go at once.
There were many bad Indians about, he said, but Turtle's Heart and his
warriors would give them safe guarantee. If they hesitated until the six
great nations arrived, all the garrison and people in the fort would be
killed, he threatened.

The Indians, hoping to gain a safe and easy possession, were quite
discomfited, when Ecuyer resolutely refused these demands and replied
in kind, telling of three armies on the way to his relief. Six thousand
English, a host of Virginia frontiersmen, and a large war party of the
hereditary foes of the Delawares, the Cherokees and Catawbas. Ecuyer
besought them to withdraw and save themselves, their wives and chil-
dren, and said Ecuyer naively : "We hope that you will not tell the other
Indians lest they should escape from our vengeance."

June 26 another parley ensued. A party of Indians numbering among
them Shingiss and Turtle's Heart, were admitted. These were all chiefs
of distinction. They told of the Ottawas about Detroit, spurring them
on to overpower and destroy the garrison and people at Fort Pitt. In
characteristic Indian language what they had to say came from their
hearts and not from their lips. They wished to hold fast the chain of
friendship, the ancient chain that their forefathers held with the English.
The English had let the chain fall to the ground. The Delawares still
had their end fast in their hands. The English, despite remonstrances,
had marched armies into their country and built forts that the Indians
wished removed. Pitt was one of these. The land was the Indians'
land. They recited the demands of the Ottawas and finally demanded
that the English leave the fort immediately and no harm would come of
it, but if they stayed, they must blame themselves for what would happen.

Ecuyer absolutely refused. He could hold out three years, he said;
he would fire bombs into them and their bursting shells would destroy
them by the hundreds. He again advised the Indians to go home. From
this time, when a general siege was begun, until after August 6 when
Bouquet came was a critical point in our history.

Rupp, in his account of events at Pittsburgh, after detailing those at
Detroit and the terror on Pennsylvania frontiers, says :

The Indians had already surrounded Fort Pitt, and cut off all oommunication from
it, even by message. Though they had no cannon, nor understood the methods of regu-
lar siege, yet with incredible boldness they posted themselves under the banks of both
rivers by the walls of the fort, and continued as if they were buried there* from day tff

Pitts - Sl



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482 HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

day, with astonishing patience, pouring in an incessant storm of musketry and fire
arrows; hoping at length, by famine, by fire, or by harrassing the garrison to carry
their point

Captain Ecuyer, who commanded there, though he wanted several necessaries for
sustaining the siege, and the fortifications had been damaged by the floods, took all the
precautions that art and judgment could suggest for the repair of the place, and repuls-
ing the enemy. His garrison, joined by the inhabitants and surviving traders who had
taken refuge there, seconded his efforts with resolution. Their situation was alarming,
being remote from all immediate assistance, and having to deal with an enemy from
whom they had no mercy to expect.

Fort Pitt remained all this while in a most critical situation. No account could be
obtained from die garrison, nor any relief sent to it, but by a long and tedious mardi of
near two hundred miles beyond the settlements, and through those dangerous passes,
where the fate of Braddock and others still rises to the imagination.^

Verily those were days of peril. How great the panic in Pennsyl-
vania will appear as the story proceeds.

Ecuyer's journal begins May 14th. He recorded that a number of
the Six Nation Indians that lived about ninety miles down the Ohio
came up and settled at Pine creek on the Allegheny, where they began
to plant corn. Three days later their chiefs collected a number of horses
their young men had stolen, and delivered them up. From this time until
the 26th they were busy planting their com. The Indians were the Ohio
Senecas, generally called Mingoes. May 27th two men that went up the
Ohio (Allegheny) seven miles to a Delaware village of the Munsey tribe
returned and informed Ecuyer that all the Indians the preceding night
had removed from their towns and carried everything with them, leav-
ing their crops. This, said Ecuyer, made him suspect some mischief
about the fort was intended. That day the Indians (Delawares) came
down with the peltries. '"Mischief was, in the language of the records,
a synonym for deviltry. The hurry of the chiefs to dispose of their
extraordinary large quantity of furs and their indifference to prices, and
the solicitation they expressed to McKee, urging him to go down the
country and not to stay over four days, was ample cause of suspicion —
''More suspicion," says the commander, — ^and caused the inhabitants to
arm themselves. The following extracts from Ecuyer's journal tell the
happenings from day to day:^

May 28th, 1763. — At break of day this mom«r.g three men came in from Colond
Qapham's, who was settled at the Sewickly old town, about 25 miles from here, on the
Youghygane river, with an account that Colonel Clapham» with one of his men, two
women and a child, were murdered by Wolfe and some other Delaware Indians, about
2 o'clock the day before. The 27th Wolfe with some others robbed one Mr. Coleman
on die road between this and Ligonier, of upwards of 50 pounds. The women that
were killed at Colonel Clapham's were treated in such a manner that decency forbids
the mentioning. This evening we had two soldiers killed and scalped at the saw-milL

May 30th — All the inhabitants moved into the fort. About 4 o'clock one Coulsoo
came in who had been a prisoner (at the lower) Shawanese town, and gave the folk>w-
ing account. We came to town with some traders, where an Indian arrived from the
Lakes with a belt to acquaint the Delawares that Detroit was taken, the post at San-
dusky burnt, and all the garrison put to death, except an officer whom they made pris-
oner. , Upon this news, the Beaver and Shingiss (the two chiefs of the Delawares, com-



•"History of Western Pennsylvania, etc.;" pp. 155-156.

•"Fort Pitt and Letters from the Frontier ." Darlington, p. 84, et seq.



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WHEN PONTIAC STRUCK 483

monly callpd King B and King S) came to acquaint Mr. Calhoon (the trader there)
with it, and desired him to move away from there as quick as possible, with all his
property, and that they sent three Indians to conduct him and the rest of the white
people safe to this post, and yesterday as they were crossing Beaver Creek, being four-
teen in number, they were fired on and he believes all were killed except himsdf .

31st. Two of Mr. Calhoon's men came in and confirmed the above account A
second express was despatched this night to the general.

The journal from the ist of June to the 9th contains mainly the news
brought by Calhoun, together with a message from the Delaware chiefs
on the Tuscarawas, Beaver, Shingiss and Wingenum, the message accom-
panied by a string of wampum. This message told of the slaughter and
capture of the traders in the western country, and that the fort at De-
troit had been taken and all the English there had been killed — ^''not one
left alive." The message had been given to Calhoun by the above-
named chiefs May 27th at 11 o'clock at night, he said. Detroit was still
safe, yet so sure were the Indians elsewhere that Pontiac had succeeded
there that they spread the news widely of the capture and massacre of
the people within the fort

The Delawares desired Calhoun to tell Croghan and ''all the great
men" that they must not ask them about the news they sent, as the Dela-
wares were not concerned in it; the nations they said that had taken up
the hatchet against the English were the Ottawas and Chippewas. When
the English first went to speak to these nations they did not consult the
Delawares and therefore Croghan and the ''great men" must not expect
that the Delawares were to account for any mischief these nations would
do. The word "mischief here again is significant in its mildness. All
Indian depredations were mischief only — generally done by their "young
men, who could not be restrained."

The order to pull down and bum the outhouses in the town was
issued by Ecuyer, June ist. These were the houses outside of the fort —
a hundred or more. Jtme 2d the second express sent out to Venangx!
returned, having proceeded only twenty miles when they fell in with a
party of Indians. While the men from the fort were burning the houses
on the hill, says Ecuyer, the Indians set fire to Thompson's house, about
a half mile from the fort. Thompson's location later was on the eastern
slope of Grant's Hill about Forbes and Boyd streets. It is presumed to
have been in that vicinity at the time of the siege. Thompson was a
tanner whose home is mentioned by Brackenridge. From Ecuyer's men-
tion of the houses on the hill, referring to Grant's Hill, there can be no
doubt that the number of houses enumerated by Bouquet in April, 1761,
had increased, and that cabins and little clearings extended well up to
Grant's Hill and had been built on the flat along the Allegheny and along
the fort side of the Monongahela. On the north side of the Allegheny
there were no houses until James Robinson built his cabin about 1786.
The wooded island opposite the fort, later known as Smoky Island, sub-
sequently two islands, the second called Nelson's, as old maps show,
was not inhabited. Post had spent a night there before General Forbes



Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 68 of 81)