The British Journey To The Western Forts
posted Wed Mar 06 2002
On September 8th, 1760 Govenor Vaudreull surrendered Canada. This included the Forts to the West, Fort Detroit, Fort St. Joseph, Fort Michilimackinac, Fort Ouiatenon and Fort Miamis. The British were now given the task of receiving the capitulation of these Forts. Major Rogers and his Rangers departed Montreal on September 13TH, 1760, with the task of receiving these Forts before winter. His Ranger force consisted of 2 Captains, 7 Lts., 2 Ensigns, 15 sgts, 171 Rangers all-traveling in 15 whaleboats. Lt. Brehme, an Assistant Engineer and Lt. Davis of the Royal Train of Artillery were also included to evaluate the western Forts. This would be a hazardous journey, as they would be carrying the news of the French surrender.
Traveling down the St. Lawrence, the Ranger flotilla entered Lake Ontario. Once upon the lake they traveled along the North shoreline. At night they would encamp in the forest. When upon the lake they traveled in a line, very close to each other in case assistance was needed.
Arriving at Fort Niagara, they would stay 1 day, long enough to repair and re-caulk their whaleboats. They loaded their boats with fresh supplies. The lateness of the season was making expedience the up most importance.
On departing the Rangers carried their whaleboats over the Niagara Portage and launched them on the other side of the falls, just above the cataract. Here Rogers would leave the group, for Fort Pitt with a small group of Rangers and dispatches for General Monckton. The Ranger flotilla commanded by Captains Waite and Brewer continued on. They now traveled the south shore of lake Erie. It was here they would loose some of their boats and supplies
Upon their arrival at Presque Isle, Major Rogers rejoined them. George Croghan, the Indian agent had accompanied him. Here a Captain Campbell and a company of Royal Americans also joined them. Campbell was to garrison Fort Detroit.
When they departed from Presque Isle Captain Brewer with a detachment of Rangers and Indianas herded a drove of some forty oxen along the south shore of lake Erie. Hardships continued, as a supply ship bound for Presque Isle with precious supplies for the detachment was lost. Captain Waite journeyed back to Fort Niagara for more supplies. Upon his return he was ordered to travel along the north shore of lake Erie in his whaleboats. Rogers and the rest of the detachment would travel along the southern shoreline always keeping the shoreline in site.
Four days after leaving Presque Isle, on November 7th, they arrived at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, the present day site of Cleveland. It was very rainy and it was decided to camp here until the weather changed. Soon after their arrival, they were visited by a group of Chiefs serving as messengers from Pontiac. They asked Rogers to remain there until Pontiac could arrive.
When he finally arrived he demanded to know the nature of their business. He rebuked them for entering his country without his permission. Rogers informed him of the French surrender of Canada. He also informed him of the purpose of their journey. He told him that they were to take possession of Detroit and the other Forts.
Pontiac after listening to Rogers would leave for the night, vowing to give his answer to Rogers in the morning. Fearing the worst, Rogers would post a strong guard for the night. Upon Pontiacs return the next day, he informed Rogers that he would live in peace with the English as long as they treated him with due respect. Pontiac, his Chiefs, Rogers and his Officers smoked the calumet.
A cold rainstorm set in and would force Rogers to stay longer. He would continue to have several visits with Pontiac.
On November 12th, the weather finally cleared and Rogers's expedition would continue. Within a few days they reached the eastern shore of Lake Erie. Here Rogers would learn from friendly Indians that the Indians of Detroit had planned an ambush for his expedition. He also learned that Pontiac had influenced them to detour from their plans.
Rogers would continue on and would soon arrive at Fort Detroit. But here Captain Belletre was resisting. He had become somewhat defiant. He had placed a wooden effigy of a mans head, which represented Major Rogers on the flagpole. He placed a crow, which he said represented himself upon it. He stated that he would scratch out Rogers Brains. He was trying to encourage the Indians and residents to rise up against Rogers. They showed no interest.
After several exchanges between the two, Rogers demanded that Belletre surrender or he would attack. But Belletre, his two officers, 35 privates and a group of militia remained determined. Rogers, to show that he meant business, formed his detachment for battle just outside the walls.
On November 29th, after giving much thought about his situation, Belletre surrendered. He and his men were sent to Fort Pitt. A thousand or so Canadians would be allowed to stay and retain their property, providing they swore allegiance to King George. By a friendly Indian Rogers would send Pontiac a bottle of brandy.
On December 10th, Lt. Butler departed from Fort Detroit with a detachment of Rangers bound for Forts Miamis and Ouiatenon on the Wabash. In Burt Loeschers book, Genesis, he states that Butler's detachment included 1 Ensign, 2 Sgts., 18 Rangers, a French interpreter and 7 packhorses. But a letter found in the War Office, W.O. 34/90 PFF/9184B, from Butler to Amherst stating that he, 1 officer and 17 men departed for the forts.
In a letter from Campbell who was now in command at Fort Detroit, to Col. Henry Bouquet written December 11, 1760 we find: "As Mr Butler speaks French and seems very intelligent, he has got orders to maintain the post of Miamis if it be possible with a few men during the winter. It is of greatest importance to this place (Detroit).......We have given Mr. Butler a good Quantity of Ammunition and some Indian Goods."
In Burt Loeschers book on page 132, we find that 7 horses were purchased for Lt Butler to carry ammunition and supplies for his trip to Forts Miamis and Ouiatenon. Also on the same page we find a list of items that Croghan purchased for gifts to the Indians. They were as follows: Rum, wampum, vermilion, shirts, coats, double bed gowns, pieces of gimp and Stroud blankets. It is very possible that some of these items were what Butler carried.
This journey was one of uncertainty, especially with what Belletre had tried at Detroit. One thing for certain, Vincennes also on the Wabash, was not part of the Canadian province. The Post was not included in the surrender. This meant that they were still at war with England.
Butlers exact date of arrival at Miamis, we are not sure, but in a letter from Campbell to Amherst,WO 34 VOL 86, we find a statement that Ouiatenon was surrendered on Jan. 18, 1761. We know from Butler that the distance from Detroit was 80 leagues. According to Websters, a league is usually about 3 miles. Butler's detachment was the only one to complete their task. The other Forts would not be possessed until the following spring. Major Rogers detachment to Michilimackinac was forced back to Fort Detroit.
On arriving at Fort Miamis Butler describes the following, "at my arrival at Miamis I found 1 French officer, 1 sgt. And seven French regulars and twenty seven Canadians...........(he goes on)......the fort is a good stockaded fort of 120 feet square --- --- having 10 houses in it all of which the French officer informs me belonged to Mr. Betales except the guard house I found nothing there except 1 set of smith tools belonging to the king. The officer according to Campbells letter was an Ensign Richarville. In Burt Loeschers book there were also 13 English prisoners found there and sent to Detroit.
It is believed that Lt. Butler left Ensign Waite at Miamis with a few Rangers, while he pushed on to Ouiatenon. According to Butler, Ouiatenon was located 50 leagues from Miamis. He describes it as follows: "The ouiatenon fort I found well stockaded of 100 feet wide and 150 long on the side of the Wabash river...............this fort has fourteen houses in it all of which belong to a French merchant at Montreal except one. This Fort is.....on a low land and last spring the water in the fort was four feet deep. .....Opposite the fort is an Indian village on fine high land; in the fort I found 1 French sgt., 7 regulars and 19 Canadians....." Lt Butler would administer the oath of allegiance to the Canadians and send the sgt and 7 marines to Fort Miamis. According to Campbells letter, this was Capt. Du Bemnne's company of marine and the Sgts. name was Etiene Duchine. He would then himself depart and leave the post in the hands of the Canadians. He had learned that the Indians were invited to a great council at Vincenes in the spring.
On his return to Fort Miamis, Butler would send Ensign Waite back to Detroit with the French prisoners. He would stay there at Fort miamis for the winter as ordered with his 2 sgts. and 10 Rangers. They were to be relieved in spring, but Campbell was unable to send their replacements until October 25th, 1761. He would send them more ammunition and supplies by canoe. He would have to make other arrangements in the summer because of the lack of water in the Wabash. They purchased corn and venison from the Indians. By May the corn was running out and had to subsist on hunting for venison. They would have to purchase salt from a local Frenchman by the name of Lorraiane. He would also be hired to provide the Fort with 170 cords of firewood.
The Indians in the area would deliver up more English prisoners, for which Butler had to give them presents. He would have to purchase sundry goods from the local inhabitants to do this. He would also have to eventually purchase food for the garrison from them also. All of this would be from his own pocket.
On October 25,1761 Lt. Butler and his detachment would depart after finally being relieved by Ensign Holmes of the 80th Regiment of Foot. He was himself a former Ranger. He had just arrived with 15 men of the 60th Royal Americans. After an eleven-month stay Butler and his twenty Rangers would be mustered out at New York on January 2, 1762. They would be paid until January 24th.
It is believed that on November 6th,1761 that Campbell sent Lt. Jenkins and 20 men all from the 60th Royal Americans to garrison Fort Ouiatenon. Ensign Francis Schlosser with another detachment of 60th Royal Americans would garrison Fort St. Joseph at present day Niles Michigan.
Peace would be short lived on the frontier. Pontiac was becoming restless and unhappy with the English. The French that lived at the outpost, were suspected of stirring up the tribes. It is thought that the French army would soon appear from down the Mississippi. In a letter sent by Lt. Jenkins at Ouiatenon to Fort Detroit on April 1763, stated that: " Mr. Hugh Crawford, the trader, acquainted me this morning that the Canadians that are here are eternally telling lies to the Indians and tells me likewise that the interpreter and one La Pointe told the Indians a few days ago that we should all be prisoners in a short time...".
All the garrisons were on their guard but on May 27th, 1763 Ensign Holmes at Miamis, was lured out of the Fort to attend to an ill Indian woman. Just as he entered the door of the wigwam, he was shot dead. His head was cut off and carried to the Fort. The rest of the garrison would then surrender. They were all captured but it is said that all but one were eventually tortured and killed. It would also be learned that Ensign Schlosser at St. Joseph, was captured and most of his garrison were killed.
But at Fort Ouiatenon, they would fair a little better. It would actually be a bit of Irony. Jenkins was very suspicious of the Canadians. But it would be because of the Canadians that his fate was different. On June 1st, Lt, Jenkins was lured outside of the Fort to visit one of the homes. He would be subdued and captured. The rest of the garrison was also captured. Jenkins would write a letter to Major Gladwin, the new commander at Detroit. He informed him of his situation And the unfortunate surrender. He and his men were treated very fairly and kept until August. They would then be delivered over to the French Garrison at Fort De Chartre for their safety. Pontiacs uprising was very costly to the English, but would eventually fail after Forts Detroit and Pitt would hold out. Fort Ouiatenon was never officially garrisoned by the English again.
Finally in May 15th, 1765, General Gage would send Indian Agent George Croghan to the west to make peace individually with the tribes. He would depart Fort Pitt with a small force and 2 boats. In 22 days he would reach the mouth of the Wabash. He was soon attacked and captured by Indians. On June 15th, he would arrive at Vincennes as a captive. The Piankeshaws refused to have anything to do with those that captured Croghan. He would depart on June 17th bound for Ouiatenon.
On June 23, 1765 he would reach the fort. He found fourteen French families in the stocked Fort. He would stay at Ouiatenon from June 23 to July 25. He would make several treaties of peace with the various tribes. On the 18th, he would begin talks with Pontiac at Fort Ouiatenon. Everything was finally worked out and the treaties of peace were confirmed. Croghan would depart Ouiatenon July 25th bound for Fort miamis to hold conferences with the tribes there. Peace would remain in affect until the Revolutionary War.
by Brian Wilson (revised 1/26/2002)