- Never Come To Peace Again: Pontiac’s Uprising and the Fate of the British Empire in North America
THEY WERE NEVER CONQUERED BY ANY NATION
The Five Nations of Scioto, 1762
Professor John Luckacs, in his essay, Questions about Roosevelt and the Second World War, wrote, “Still history is not chemistry; and when the historian’s method is wanting, his experiment, unlike a chemist’s, may still result in a definite concoction. That concoction, then, may be palatable – palatable rather than useful-to other academics; but beyond their circle it is useless.”
While there continues a tradition in academe, among certain historians, to communicate only to the worthy, there has been (since the mid 1960’s) and effort to inculcate the great unwashed. Professor Luckacs, to his credit, has long been among the spearhead of learned historians who have sallied forth from fortress academe, and he has led the way for a new generation of young men and women who share his desire for a history that “is a form of thought integral to the nature and being of humanity.”
Among that cadre of young historians is a gentleman who teaches at Slippery Rock University. Slippery Rock is a small school located on the eastern edge of what was once known as Ohio-Alleghenia, and before that, in the time of the great blooding (1755-90), as the Ohio Country. The teacher in question, Dr. David Dixon, is a revisionist historian, and that is said with great approbation, for his revisionism is presented “in the large sense of that word.” Building on the work of Francis Parkman (he is criticized for engaging in “flawed research and racist approach”) and the indefatigable Howard Peckham who both wrote histories of “Pontiac’s Uprising.”
Dixon’s thesis is to reexamine the uprising while “drawing on interpretations of Indian cultural history and the mountain of primary source material that have surfaced since both Parkman and Peckham wrote their histories.” And, as a result of his studies, the author proffers “new insights into the causes and important consequences of that war (French and Indian).”
Dixon’s approach is both refreshing and accurate. He eschews the required kowtowing associated with ethnic minorities. The Indian nations, on their own volition, accorded themselves rather well in their death struggle with the British, and later the Americans.
The eastern woodland aboriginal nations, particularly the “five nations of Scioto (Ohio),” lost their struggle because they were eventually outnumbered, had no natural immunity to the “white man’s” diseases, and were, on too many occasions, seduced by Caribbean rum. Rum, in fact, may have been the most significant factor in their demise. They were rarely defeated in battle.
The Indian warrior fought with a skill, daring, and brutality that would make the Mujhadeen blush. In his old age, one warrior, a Delaware, I believe, commented that, “It was easier to kill a white farmer, than a rabbit.” And, we must remember that many of those Scots that farmed the frontier were refugees from the bitter Jacobite rising against England, which ended in the disastrous slaughter at Culloden in 1715. But these whites, leading a hardscrabble existence among the hills east of the Allegheny Mountains, in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, never experienced the horror the nations would bring down on them. And, it was this experience that developed in the whites a burning hatred for the Indians.
The white farmer was an easy victim while he worked. Typically, a group of five to twenty warriors would kill the husband while he labored in the fields, then rush the house. The family would be gathered together; the women were taken for slaves; old people were immediately tomahawked and scalped, as were infants, unless their mother could expeditiously carry them. If time permitted, teenagers, children, and women were raped or sodomized, the house plundered of all useful items, then burnt, along with the barn and other outbuildings. All of the livestock would be slaughtered.
While the main body moved on to the next farm, a couple of warriors led the captives back to the Indian towns (Kittanning) as quickly as possible. Anyone who delayed the march was immediately killed and scalped.
These circumstances, for the most part, were familiar to the settlers. It had happened to their people in Scotland, and Ireland, and Wales. The British soldiers had done it. But, what happened to them when they were taken to the Indian towns was different. The male captives were forced to “run the gauntlet,” if they survived, a few would be chosen for ritual slaughter. And, what was done to these unfortunates originated in hell.
Those captives that remained were dispersed among the families, some were treated as slaves, others were adopted in order to replace those that had died and they were treated humanely. Many, if not most, of the children quickly and happily adapted to the Indian lifestyle. There exist numerous reports of how these children grieved for their Indian families when they were repatriated.
David Dixon’s book not only touches on these depredations but he examines the sufferings and fears from the Indian perspective. Dixon’s understanding and explanation for the religious revival, initiated prior to the uprising and often passed over by historians, is an important key to understanding how the nations came so close to driving the whites back across the Allegheny Mountains. That religious element was in fact a spiritual awakening, first expressed by a Delaware sachem, Neolin, who lived among the Muskingham River towns.
Neolin was given a vision, by God, that his people must turn away from the white man’s corrupting culture: his rum, clothing, food, and weapons, and only by driving the whites back across the mountains could the people of the nations find their way to heaven. Neolin’s revival spread like wildfire among the “five nations of Scioto (Ohio),” among the Seneca, the Pays d’hut nations (the Great Lakes region), and the nations of Illinois. This religious awakening, along with inter-tribal marriages, acted to ameliorate centuries of internecine wars, inter-tribal hatred, and clan animosity. In the end, it almost succeeded; the nations came very close to driving the English away.
So poorly prepared both in their attitude toward the Indian, and in their preparations for empire, the British authorities came close to losing much of the lands they’d gained as a result of their defeat of the French.
Dixon explains the results of Pontiac’s Uprising; the animus spawned among the frontier settlers for the failures of the British authorities, as the “fissures that existed within the triumphant British Empire, that in the span of only a dozen years, led to the chaos of revolution.”
David Dixon’s, Never Come to Peace Again, is now the first source for those students, historians, and laymen interested in Pontiac’s Uprising and a complete understanding of the causes for the American Revolution.