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Document Number: AJ-135
Title: Journal of Pontiac's Conspiracy, 1763
Source: Burton, Mary Agnes (editor). Journal of Pontiac's Conspiracy 1763. (Detroit: Published by Clarence Monroe Burton under the Auspices of the Michigan Society of the Colonial Wars, [1912]).
Pages/Illustrations: 245 / 3
Citable URL:

Author Note

The authorship of this journal is uncertain. It was written in French by one of the besieged captives inside the fort at Detroit in 1763. The editor of the 1912 edition suggested the author may have been one of the Catholic clergy stationed there; a later editor speculated it may have been a trader or other unlucky visitor caught up in these dramatic events.

Pontiacs Alliance and the Siege of Detroit

Throughout the middle decades of the eighteenth century, France, and England battled for control of North America. The French had settled the interior of the continent in a two-thousand-mile arc that stretched from Quebec in the northeast through the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi Valley to New Orleans. They wanted to convert the Indian inhabitants to Catholicism and trade with them for furs. The English, meanwhile, had colonized 1,500 miles of the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Georgia, and were on the verge of pushing across the Appalachian Mountains into Ohio and Kentucky. They wished to drive the Indian inhabitants further west and to build farming towns and plantations. Native American nations, from the Creeks and Cherokee in the south through the Delaware and Shawnee in the middle to the Iroquois and Ottawa in the north, were pressed between these two opposing forces. Some Indians sided with the French, some with the English, some switched sides as circumstances demanded, and many tried unsuccessfully to stay neutral.

The English won. After years of uninterrupted warfare, British forces captured Montreal in 1760 and the French surrendered Canada and the interior to England. French forts in the lakes and Mississippi Valley were handed over to the English officers, and French traders gave control of their businesses to British merchants.

The Indian nations west of New York had generally sided with the French and many saw no reason to accept English domination without a fight, especially since they were not represented at the peace treaty. Ottawa Chief Pontiac (1720?-1769) was the leading figure in a pan-tribal resistance that opposed the English, and by June 1763 had destroyed all the forts west of Niagara except Detroit. From June to November1763 superior Indian forces from across the region surrounded the outnumbered British soldiers and residents at the fort, cutting off communication and food. When, much to his disappointment, the French did not support Pontiac’s resistance, he withdrew. He moved west to Ohio and Illinois, where he was later killed by rival Indians. His accomplishments were celebrated in a popular English play in the late eighteenth century and in the widely read history, The Conspiracy of Pontiac, by Francis Parkman, during the nineteenth.

Document Note

The manuscript of this document is said to have been discovered in the early nineteenth century when an old house in Detroit was being torn down. It was given to the fledgling Michigan Historical Society in 1838, translated and published in 1854, and then disappeared again. It was re-discovered in 1905 on the floor of an abandoned home in Ecorse, Michigan, and bought by collector Clarence M. Burton. He gave it to the Detroit Public Library after overseeing the French and English edition presented here; only one hundred copies of this book were printed.

Other Internet and Reference Sources.

For a biography of Pontiac with leads to current scholarly sources, see the Houghton Mifflin Encyclopedia of North American Indians at na_030200_pontiac.htm. Another short biography, with hyperlinks to related articles, is at “Ohio History Central”: pontiac.shtml

For the larger context of Pontiacs actions, see the short article on the French and Indian War at “Ohio History Central”: frnchwar.shtml and the Massachusetts Historical Society's online exhibit, “Maps of the French and Indian War,” at

Additional primary sources are printed in Milo Quaife, ed., The Siege of Detroit in 1763, the Journal of Pontiacs Conspiracy and John Rutherford's Narrative of a Captivity (Chicago: Lakeside Press, 1958), and in volume viii (1886) of the Michigan State Pioneer Societys Collections. The best modern account is in Richard Whites The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region 1650-1815 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991).

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