James Smith, our young captive friend, went with his adoptive father Tecaughretanego and son Nungany to Detroit for trade in April of 1759. They stayed there until early summer then left for Caughnewaga near Montreal. While they were there he heard of a French ship that had British prisoners on it to be shipped overseas and held for exchange.
He stole away from Caughnewaga and placed himself aboard that ship. However, his plan didn’t go exactly as he had hoped. General Wolfe had the St. Lawrence River blockaded and the ship could not leave Montreal. So Smith and the prisoners were transferred to prison where he was held for four months. Sometime in November of that year they were all sent to Crown Point and exchanged. He finally arrived home early in the year 1760.
Wolfe and Montcalm faced off in one of the final gasps of the war in that famous battle on the Plains of Abraham and the fall of Quebec. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763 transferring all French holdings in North America to England. Both generals were killed at Quebec and General Jeffery Amherst was appointed Commander-in-Chief of all the British forces in America.
Amherst epitomised the height of British 18th century arrogance. The French had a policy of present giving to the First Nations which cemented friendships and alliances. Because of this policy the First Nations allowed them to build forts as trading posts on First Nations’ territories. It also gave the French safe passage to and from these posts. Amherst saw this policy as bribery. He wrote “Service must be rewarded; it has ever been a maxim with me. But to purchase the good behavior either of Indians or any others, is what I do not understand”
Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs George Crogan wrote to Amherst that the First Nations in those parts were uneasy with the cessation of what France considered their holdings to Great Britain. They felt the French had no right to give away their land. The British had taken over all the French forts and were increasing their arms. The First Nations couldn’t understand why since the French had been defeated and the war was over. Who were they arming against. All this had led to confusion on their part, so much so that it prevented them from bringing their prisoners as they had promised.
Amherst’s feeling toward the First Nations were well documented. He replied to Crogan that he was sorry that “the Indians should entertain such idle notions regarding the cessions made by the French Crown” and if they didn’t give up their prisoners as first promised he would be forced to use “harsh measures” to make them comply.
Amherst also wrote to Colonel Bouquet, “The Post of Fort Pitt, or any of the others commanded by officers can certainly never be in danger from such a wretched enemy as the Indians are…I am fully convinced the only true method of treating those savages is to keep them in proper subjection and punish without exception the transgressors…I wish there was there was not an Indian settlement within a thousand miles of our country; for they are only fit to live with the inhabitants of the woods, being more nearly allied to the brute than the human creation.”
The British traders were also far harder to deal with than the French had been. They no longer extended credit to the First Nations until after the fall hunt. Lack of credit could mean starvation. Amherst responded to First Nations complaints by extinguishing the policy of present giving. This included arms and ammunition which he said they had in abundance. This was untrue and only added to the threat of starvation.
The new policies of the British Department of Indian Affairs enacted by General Amherst only made the situation all the more fertile for hostilities. There was an Ottawa war chief from Detroit about to burst upon the scene and he brought with him the clouds of war. His name was Pontiac. Unfortunately Amherst failed to see the threat.
NEXT WEEK: The Beaver War 1763