The fall of Fort Michilimackinac was a stunning success. Late spring 1763 provided other spectacular military successes for the First Nation alliance. Most of the western British forts fell under First Nation assault. The others were put under siege.
Fort Sandusky was the first to fall. Ottawa and Wyandotte warriors were let into the fort on the pretense of friendship then opened fire on the garrison of 15 killing them all but Commandant Ensign Pawlee who was given to one of their widows to replace a husband killed in battle.
Fort Venango capitulated much in the same way a Michilimackinac. The western Seneca, who were also known to Sir William Johnson as the Chenussios and to the Americans as the Mingos entered the fort in the guise of friendship but once inside turned on the garrison. After killing all the British soldiers there they made the commandant write the reasons down for the attack in a dispatch.
The dispatch he wrote stated that there were two reasons for the war. First, for the past two years the scarcity of powder and its price, when it was available, as well as the cost of other necessities was far too high. When they complained about this they were ill-treated and never redressed. Second, When the British began to take over the posts from the French they began to increase their military presence which made them believe the British had designs of possessing all of their lands.
The dispatch was given to a party of warriors heading toward Fort Pitt in order to have it fall into the hands of the British. The commandant of Venango was then put to death and the fort was destroyed. The Seneca also took Fort LeBoeuf and its 16 men.
The fort at P’resqu Isle was commanded by Ensign John Christie and had 27 defenders. They lined the inside of their long two-story blockhouse to reinforce it, and laid in casks of drinking water. The only door was on the first floor leading inside the fort. The only openings in the walls were long slits for their muskets and the floor between the two stories was perforated so if forced to the second floor they could shoot down upon any intruders. They abandoned the fort, locked themselves inside the blockhouse and prepared for a siege.
The Seneca, supported by some Ottawa, Chippewa and Wyandotte warriors, shot flaming arrows at the roof of the blockhouse. The soldiers worked tirelessly tearing off the burning shingles dousing the roof with their drinking water. Meanwhile, some of them dug a tunnel to the well inside the fort which was under the First Nations’ control. They carried buckets of water back through the tunnel to replace their drinking water. The work was so laborious that they decided to surrender on the second day of the siege. On the 22nd of June they were taken prisoner and divided up between the four First Nations.
The Detroit Potawatomi arrived Fort St. Joseph saying they had come to visit their relatives. They informed the commandant, Ensign Schlosser, that they wished to come into the fort to which him a good morning. They seized Schlosser and attacked the fort. Their numbers were so great that they slaughtered all but three of the garrison in about two minutes. A Mr. Winston and a Mr. Hambough hid in the house a Frenchman named Louison Chivalie for four days before being discovered. They were taken prisoner and Hambough and a Mr. Chim were sent south to Illinois but Winston was kept at St. Joseph.
Fort Miami on the Miami River suffered the same fate as the other forts in the region. It was attacked on the 27th of May by the Miami and some Delaware. Fort Miami’s commandant, Ensign Holmes, had a Miami mistress but she betrayed him by luring him outside the fort and into a trap where he was killed. They then attacked the fort killing half the garrison. The other half was taken prisoner and shipped down the Wabash River to Fort Ouiatinon to be added to the prisoners there. Not one was killed at Ouiatinon as the whole garrison of 20 men surrendered after their commandant, Lieutenant Edward Jenkins, was also lured outside the fort where he was seized and threatened with death if the garrison did not surrender. Then all the prisoners were taken to Fort Chartre on the Mississippi River. This fort was still in French hands under the command of J. Neyeon de Villiere.
The forts that were closer in proximity to the colonies were better able to withstand the First Nation onslaught. Forts Ligonier and Bedford were able uito hold out against the siege tactics of the First Nations. The Delaware, who had joined the alliance in full, took over the siege from the Seneca and the Chippewa. They had even less luck.
Fort Pitt was commanded by a Swiss soldier of fortune who had joined the British army. Captain Simeon Ecuer had taken the words of General Amherst literally. Amherst, in responding to the upheaval, had said to Colonel Bouquet in June “that blankets should be infected with small pox and given to the Indians as presents.” Ecuer did just that. Small pox raged through the Delaware villages that summer.
If you happened to be English “Indian County” was not the place to be in the summer of 1763. Just before the fall of Fort Miami five Frenchmen, Miny Chain, Jacques Godfrey and Messrs. Beauban, Chavin and Labadee were with a band of Ottawa and Chippewa warriors at the mouth of the Miami River. They spotted John Welch, a trader from Fort Miami, on his way to Detroit with two boats loaded down with pelts.
The warriors hid in the forest while Chain beckoned Welsh and his party to shore. When they landed they were taken prisoner and their goods divided up. Chain and Godfrey took their prisoners to Fort Miami to be added to the prisoners there. The other three returned with their share, including Welch, to Detroit. When they arrived the Ottawa seized their plunder, killed Welch, and took the goods saying that all plunder belonged to the First Nations.
King Beaver, Shingas and four other friendly Delaware chiefs came to an English trader named Colhoun who was at their town of Tuscarora. They informed him of the British forts falling like autumn leaves. They also told him that a trader named Hugh Crawford and a boy were taken prisoner at the mouth of the Miami but six others were killed. Five English traders were also killed at Salt Lick Town on Salt Springs Creek. They warned him to remove himself and his men to a safer place as they saw tracks of a large war party heading their way.
Later they send Daniel, one of their chiefs, and two others to escort them safely to Fort Pitt. But these three were not friendly Delaware, but had joined the alliance. They refused to let them bring their weapons with them saying the three were sufficient to escort them safely. The next day as they were crossing Beaver Creek they were attacked by a war party. The three Delaware disappeared immediately and of Colhoun’s party of fourteen only Colhoun and two others escaped. Although they became lost they were eventually able to make it to Fort Pitt.
NEXT WEEK: The Beaver War 1763 – Part 4