Bushy Run Battlefield Blog 2: Pontiac’s Rebellion

The Origins:

In the spring of 1763, following the conclusion of the French and Indian War, the peace established by the Treaty of Paris was disrupted by a significant event known as Pontiac’s Rebellion or Pontiac’s War. This uprising was a response to the aftermath of the British victory in the war. In 1763, the governor-general in North America decided to halt trading with the Native Americans. This action created a sense of betrayal among the Native American tribes and was perceived as severing any potential future alliances between the two groups. Governor General Jeffery Amherst’s disdainful remark about the Native Americans as “the vilest race of beings that ever infested the Earth” added further fuel to the already brewing tensions.

Around the same time, a pivotal religious figure among the Native Americans, Neolin, experienced a profound vision. In this significant vision, Neolin conversed with the Master of Life, who emphasized the importance of rejecting colonial societies and returning to the traditional native way of living. This spiritual message had a profound impact on an Ottawa chief, Pontiac. Inspired by Neolin’s vision, Pontiac took a momentous step and formed a Native American coalition, joining forces with nearby tribes in a united front against the encroaching British authority.

Pontiac Begins his Siege:

            In the second week of May 1763, Pontiac, an Ottawa war chief, spearheaded a coalition of Native American warriors in a series of synchronized sieges against the British forts in the Ohio River Valley. This offensive included Pontiac’s siege of Fort Detroit, along with coordinated attacks by other warrior groups that extended into Western Pennsylvania, reaching beyond the Alleghenies.

The initial phase of these assaults yielded considerable success for the Native American warriors, inflicting substantial casualties on the British forces and putting General Jeffrey Amherst on the defensive. Pontiac’s forces’ coordinated tactics posed a formidable challenge to the British presence in the region.

However, as the summer of 1763 progressed, the impetus of the Native American campaign began to diminish. On August 5th and 6th of that year, a contingent comprising Shawnee, Delaware, Mingo, Huron, and Ottawa forces ambushed Colonel Henry Bouquet at Bushy Run. This resulted in a two-day conflict at Bushy Run, culminating in the successful breach of the Native American garrison by Bouquet and his troops. Following the Battle of Bushy Run, Colonel Bouquet and his contingent proceeded to Fort Pitt, delivering vital provisions to the impoverished civilians.

The Battle of Bushy Run is recognized as the culminating engagement between the British and Native Americans during Pontiac’s Rebellion, marking the conclusion of a significant phase in the conflict.

The End of Pontiac’s Rebellion:

After significant defeats at the hands of the British at Bushy Run, the situation at Fort Detroit in Michigan shifted for Pontiac and his allies. Pontiac faced numerous challenges in maintaining cohesion within his coalition, ultimately leading him to abandon the siege and withdraw with his men. Following the abandonment of Fort Detroit, Jeffery Amherst dispatched Colonel Henry Bouquet and Colonel John Bradstreet in the fall of 1764 to initiate peace negotiations with the Native American tribes. These diplomatic efforts successfully ended Pontiac’s Rebellion and its repercussions.

Five years after the conclusion of the Pontiac Rebellion, a significant event in Native American and colonial history, Pontiac, a prominent leader of the Ottawa people, was tragically assassinated by a Peoria brave in the Illinois Country. Despite his efforts to distance himself from the British following the rebellion, Pontiac’s life ended merely a few years after the uprising concluded.

Written by Michael McCready

Museum Intern

Waynesburg University

Bushy Run Battlefield Blog: Andrew Byerly

The history of the Bushy Run Battlefield is deeply intertwined with the story of Andrew Byerly. He was born in Germany in 1715 and later became the owner of Bushy Run Station. This station played a crucial role in the events leading up to the Battle of Bushy Run. When Colonel Henry Bouquet and his four hundred men were en route to Fort Pitt, they sought rest and provisions at Bushy Run Station, located just a mile away from where the famous battle took place.

On August 5th and 6th, 1763, the Byerly family had a remarkable encounter with a friendly Native American. This encounter proved to be a pivotal moment as the Native American warned Mrs. Byerly about the impending danger of an attack. This warning prompted Mrs. Byerly to evacuate her family from their home, ultimately ensuring their safety amidst the tumultuous times. Andrew Byerly’s legacy and the crucial role his family played in this historic event continue to be remembered and honored for generations to come.

August 1st, 1763: The Warning

On the morning of August 1st, 1763, Andrew Byerly awoke in his home at Bushy Run Station to the sight of a small group of Native Americans quietly approaching. Three members of the group politely requested Andrew’s assistance in burying a deceased member of their tribe. Without hesitation, Andrew agreed to help them, and together they solemnly laid their companion to rest.

Following Andrew’s previous encounter, another member of the indigenous group, who had built a strong rapport with the Byerly family through trade and shared experiences, visited the Byerly home. The purpose of the visit was to urgently warn Andrew’s wife, Phoebe Byerly, about an impending threat. This friendly Native American, with whom the Byerly family had established a bond through the exchange of goods and warm gestures, felt a deep sense of responsibility to inform them of the danger.

Given the grave nature of the warning and her recent childbirth, Phoebe was deeply troubled about the safety of her children and herself. After careful consideration, she made the challenging decision to swiftly depart for the protective refuge of Fort Ligonier. Before leaving, she penned a poignant note for Andrew, expressing her earnest desire for his safe return and their eventual reunion.

Returning home from assisting the friendly Native Americans, Andrew was shocked to find his family gone and a note left on the door. Determined to protect his home and loved ones, Andrew quickly joined forces with Colonel Henry Bouquet and his men to face the impending danger and defend their land in the intense Battle of Bushy Run.

August 5th, 1763: The First Day of Battle

Following a grueling day of conflict with Native Americans at Bushy Run Battlefield, located a mere mile away from the Bushy Run way station, the British troops regrouped and retreated to the summit of Edge Hill. There, amidst the turmoil, they hastily established a semicircular fort made of flour bags to safeguard themselves. Perched atop Edge Hill, Henry Bouquet’s men, weary from the day’s intense battles and long journey, faced a pressing shortage of water. Unfamiliar with the area, many were unsure of where to find water without risking another attack from the Native Americans. This dire situation took a turn for the better when one of the men, Andrew Byerly, revealed his deep familiarity with the terrain around Bushy Run. Later that fateful night, as the troops grappled with a critical shortage of water, Andrew Byerly exhibited remarkable courage by braving the perilous surroundings. He embarked on a dangerous mission, skillfully evading any potential threats from the Native Americans to reach a nearby stream. There, in an extraordinary display of resourcefulness, he used his hat to collect much-needed water, which he then carried back to Edge Hill to aid the wounded soldiers at Bushy Run. The spring from which Andrew Byerly sourced the water is now officially recognized on maps as Byerly Spring, serving as a lasting tribute to his extraordinary courage and selflessness on August 5th, 1763.

August 6th, 1763: The Second Day of Battle

On the morning of August 6th, 1763, during the Battle of Bushy Run, the Native Americans launched a fierce attack on Henry Bouquet and his men. The assaults commenced at dawn and continued throughout the day, escalating into a brutal and relentless battle. Initially, the Natives seemed to gain the upper hand, posing a significant threat to Bouquet’s forces. However, amidst the chaos of battle, Henry Bouquet devised a brilliant and critical plan to outmaneuver the Native Americans.

Bouquet strategically arranged his men into two lines, giving the appearance of a tactical retreat, luring the Native Americans into pursuit. Once the Natives were drawn into the chase, Bouquet’s hidden third line of men swiftly executed a devastating crossfire, followed by a decisive counter-charge wielding bayonets. This surprise maneuver caught the Natives off guard and resulted in a swift shift of the momentum in favor of Bouquet’s forces. The precision and execution of Bouquet’s tactical plan proved to be highly effective, forcing the Native Americans to retreat into the woods, marking the end of the Battle of Bushy Run.

Henry Bouquet’s exceptional leadership, ingenuity, and strategic prowess during this pivotal battle exemplify his remarkable skill as a military commander.

Byerly after Bushy Run:

After the Battle of Bushy Run, Andrew Byerly returned to his land at Bushy Run and undertook the arduous task of rebuilding his home, which had been intentionally burnt down prior to the Battle. Despite being born in Germany, Andrew Byerly’s life was marked by extensive travels, reflecting a spirit of adventure and curiosity. Tragically, while on his way to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he succumbed to illness and passed away. The Byerly family continued to reside at the restored Bushy Run home until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. Even in Andrew Byerly’s absence, his legacy and contributions continue to be honored at the historic Bushy Run Battlefield.

Written by Michael McCready

Museum Intern

Waynesburg University