Military Occupation Of The Illinois Country
Plans to occupy the Illinois country.—By the end of 1761 British troops had taken possession of all the lake posts from Niagara to Green Bay, besides Venango, Miamis, and Ouiatanon further south. In July, 1763, orders were sent by the Governor of Louisiana for the evacuation of the Illinois posts, and boats were prepared at Fort Pitt for sending four hundred English troops to relieve the French garrisons. But the conspiracy of Pontiac delayed the complete transfer of this region for nearly three years.
The conspiracy of Pontiac.—Early in the war the tribes north of the Ohio had ravaged the Virginia and Pennsylvania frontiers, but after 1758 they had been quiet, although they did not like the English. They feared eviction from their lands, English traders had proved arrogant and dishonest, and General Amherst was attempting a policy of economy in presents, in spite of the criticism of the better informed Indian agents. Pontiac, head chief of the Ottawas, organized a general revolt, embracing the Algonquins, some of the tribes of the lower Mississippi, and some of the Iroquois. By a simultaneous assault in May, 1763, all but three northwestern posts—Detroit, Fort Pitt, and Niagara—fell almost without a blow. At Presq'Isle, Le Boeuf, Venango, Mackinac, Sandusky, St. Josephs, and Ouiatanon, there were massacres, and the garrison fled from Green Bay.
Failure of the Loftus expedition.—It being impracticable now to send troops to the Illinois country by way of the Ohio, this was attempted by an expedition up the Mississippi Major Loftus was sent from Mobile with three hundred and fifty men to occupy Fort Massac, Kaskaskia, and Fort Chartres. In February, 1764, he left New Orleans, but when two hundred and forty miles up the river, at Rocher à Davion, he was attacked by Tunica Indians, whereupon he abandoned the expedition and returned to Mobile.
Peace.—While Colonel Bradstreet reoccupied the Lakes, General Gage, Amherst's successor, resorted to conciliation, and a series of peace embassies were sent to the Illinois country from Mobile and from the northern garrisons. The submission of the Ohio tribes, failure of hopes for aid from New Orleans, and news of the transfer of western Louisiana to Spain, led Pontiac to negotiate at Ouiatanon in 1765 with George Croghan. At Detroit Croghan secured peace with all the western tribes. Thomas Stirling then descended the Ohio with a detachment and in October occupied Fort Chartres. "Thus, after nearly three years of fighting and negotiating, British forces were in possession of the last of the French posts in the West."
Establishment of government.—In accordance with the Treaty of Paris a proclamation of General Gage guaranteed the inhabitants the free exercise of the Catholic religion. Settlers were allowed to sell their lands and emigrate, or to become British subjects on taking the oath of allegiance. The inhabitants of Kaskaskia and other places asked and received an extension of the time for decision to March, 1766. Many of them emigrated to St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve, or to New Orleans. The Proclamation of 1763 made no provision for civil government in the Indian reserve, and local administration was left to the military authorities and Indian agents. The French people were dissatisfied, and many misunderstandings arose between them and the English settlers and officers. By 1770 the complaint took the form of a demand for civil government, which was provided in 1774 by the Quebec Act.
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