On this day in 1763, Pontiac’s War (also known as Pontiac’s Conspiracy or Pontiac’s Rebellion) is launched by a loose confederation of Native American tribes, primarily from the Great Lakes region, the Illinois Country, and Ohio Country. Dissatisfied with British postwar policies in the Great Lakes region after the British victory in the French and Indian War, braves from numerous tribes joined the uprising in an effort to drive British soldiers and settlers out of the region. The war is named after the Odawa leader Pontiac, the most prominent of many native leaders in the conflict.
As to the assault on Fort Detroit, British commander Maj. Henry Gladwin foiled Pontiac’s attempt at a surprise attack; romantic lore holds that Gladwin’s Seneca mistress informed him of the western Indians’ plans for an uprising. When Pontiac arrived at the fort with his men, concealing weapons under their trading blankets, they discovered the Brits at the ready. Without the element of surprise, Pontiac withdrew and instead laid siege to the fort for the rest of the Summer.
Meanwhile, Pontiac’s allies successfully seized 10 of 13 British forts in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions by June 20; eight forts were destroyed, and hundreds of colonists were killed or captured, with many more fleeing the region.
The western Indians’ efforts to unite all Native Americans in an attempt to free themselves of addictions to European trade goods and alcohol, guided by their spiritual leader, a Delaware named Neolin, seemed to be succeeding. However, promised French forces failed to come to the Indians’ aid in driving the British back to the Atlantic as hoped; together with new British efforts to mollify the Native population, the rebellion died out in 1764.