Colonel Henry Bouquet led an expedition into the Ohio country to put down a Native American uprising that later came to be called Pontiac's Rebellion.
In 1763, Pontiac, a leader of the Ottawa natives, successfully united many of the tribes in the Ohio Country. His goal was to drive British settlers, traders, and soldiers from the Ohio Country. Pontiac's Rebellion, as it became known, was a direct result of the French and Indian War. In 1763, after Britain's victory in the war, the British government acquired all of France's colonies in North America. This created fear among the Ohio natives, due to the large and increasing number of British colonists in North America. While the French were in North America, the Native Americans could count on them for military assistance against the British as well as a steady supply of guns and ammunition thanks to the fur trade. With the French gone from North America, the natives' situation had become precarious at best.
The first year of Pontiac's Rebellion went badly for the British. The Native Americans drove most British settlers from the Ohio Country. Britain's two most important fortresses west of the Appalachian Mountains, Fort Detroit and Fort Pitt, nearly fell. The Native Americans successfully captured Fort Sandusky and murdered the entire garrison. Hundreds of other British colonists either died or were captured.
In the autumn of 1764, the British military went on the offensive. Colonel Henry Bouquet, the commander of Fort Pitt, led a force of nearly 1,500 militiamen and regular soldiers from the fort into the heart of the Ohio Country in October. Bouquet's force moved westward slowly. He had no intention of surprising the natives. He hoped to avoid battle altogether by convincing the Native Americans that they had no chance against the sizable number of British soldiers. Bouquet had every intention of destroying the native villages, especially those of the Delaware natives and the Seneca-Cayuga natives, in eastern Ohio unless they surrendered and agreed to all of the colonel's demands.
On October 13, Bouquet's army reached the Tuscarawas River. Shortly thereafter the Shawnee natives, the Seneca natives, and the Delaware natives informed Bouquet that they were ready for peace. They promised to return all British captives in their possession if the British spared their villages. Bouquet initially rejected the offer but then agreed to consider it. On October 20, he informed the tribes that British citizens demanded vengeance for the natives' actions. He claimed that he would do all in his power to restrain them as long as the Native Americans returned all captives, including British and French men, women, and children, as well as any African Americans, within twelve days. They must also provide the freed prisoners with ample food, clothing, and horses to make the trek back to Fort Pitt. The natives agreed to all conditions, but fearing that they would renege on the agreement, Bouquet moved his army from the Tuscarawas River to the Muskingum River at modern-day Coshocton. This placed him in the heart of Native American territory and would allow him to quickly strike the natives' villages if they refused to cooperate.
Over the next several weeks, the Native Americans brought in their captives. Eventually more than two hundred were returned to Bouquet. Several of the now freed prisoners welcomed the opportunity to return to their past lives. But many had become so accustomed to native practices that they did everything in their power to escape Bouquet's grasp, including running away on the march back to Fort Pitt. Some even tried to return to the Ohio Country and Native American ways after returning to their white families. Bouquet promised not to destroy the natives' villages or seize any of their land. Bouquet's army left for Fort Pitt on November 18.
Bouquet's expedition showed how weak the Ohio Country natives were at this time. While they enjoyed some initial success in Pontiac's Rebellion, the sheer number of British colonists in North America and their more advanced weapons meant that the Native Americans faced quite difficult odds.
- Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.
- Smith, William. Historical Account of Bouquet's Expedition Against the Ohio Indians, in 1764: with preface by Francis Parkman and a translation of Dumas' biographical sketch of General Bouquet. Cincinnati, OH: R. Clarke, 1868.