Teach PA History
Bushy Run: A decisive battle of Pontiac's Rebellion
Background Information for Teachers

The time is May-August, 1763. The American Indians were angry. The English no longer needed to give presents to them to have them take their side instead of the French. They cut back on trade in rum, powder and lead. English settlers were constantly taking over Indian hunting grounds. The English announced that they were the sole owners of all of the land west of the Mississippi after signing a peace treaty with France. An Englishman was rarely punished for killing an Indian, but an Indian who killed a white man was tried and imprisoned or executed. Pontiac, the Ottawa chief, persuaded the western tribes to meet, settle their differences and launch an uprising. In May, 1763, 100 traders and at least 2,000 settlers were killed or captured from as far away as Carlisle. Eight of the fourteen frontier forts fell. Forts Detroit, Ligonier, Bedford, Niagara and Pitt held out. Colonel Bouquet wrote a letter to General Amherst stating that, "The desolation of so many families, reduced to the last extremity of want and misery; the despair of those who have lost their parents, relations, and friends, with the cries of distracted women and children who fill the streets – form a scene painful to humanity and impossible to decide." Attacks began around Pittsburgh at the end of May. Captain Simeon Ecuyer commanded Fort Pitt. He burned many of the several hundred houses and pulled down the others, using the material to build shelters for the refugees inside the fort. He fenced the cattle in a stockade at the edge of the fort and built a reinforced wall to fill a gap that had been made when a bastion on the Monongahela River side was washed away by a spring flood. By the end of May, he had 630 people in the fort. Of these, 104 were women, 196 children, 125 soldiers, 125 militia, and the rest were civilians.

The first general assault on Fort Pitt came on June 22. The Indians crouched along the riverbanks and shot fire arrows over the ramparts. The fires were contained, and the Indians were driven off.

Colonel Bouquet led his army of 460 men out of Carlisle on July 18. The 77th Regiment had just arrived from service in the West Indies. Many of the men had fevers and were so weak that they had to be carried in wagons. These men drove a herd of cattle and led a train of 340 packhorses carrying bags of grain. Bouquet's mission was to raise the siege of Fort Pitt, which had not been heard from in months. No one volunteered to leave their homes and march with Bouquet's sickly army. Bouquet wrote to Amherst from Carlisle, "I find the lack of support disgusting to the last degree. I find myself utterly abandoned by the very people I am ordered to protect." Bouquet arrived at Fort Ligonier on August 2nd and found that there was still no word from Fort Pitt. He decided to leave most of the wagons and oxen there. He could advance more quickly with the packhorses and a smaller herd of cattle. He would advance over the trail to Turtle Creek rather than Forbes Road. On August 4th, he camped less than 40 miles from Pittsburgh. By noon the next day, he had marched 17 more miles, almost to Bushy Run, a creek that flowed into Brush Run, a tributary to Turtle Creek.

Supplies at Fort Pitt were almost exhausted. It had fought off a fierce attack in July that lasted 5 days and nights. Smallpox had broken out in the fort. Two Indians approached with an offer to let the garrison go safely to the east. Captain Ecuyer had been wounded. He told the Indians of the large army that was on its way to the fort. He made them a present of two blankets and a handkerchief. On August 4th, the Indians left and a few of the men went outside to gather wheat. On August 5, the Indians reappeared with scalps stating that they had destroyed the English army.

Bouquet had been attacked that afternoon on a hill near Bushy Run. By nightfall, 50 of his men were dead or wounded. His wounded were put behind a shelter of piled-up flour sacks. The Indians attacked several times, and retreated. There was no water on the hill, no way to escape, and no hope of surviving.

Toward noon the next day, Bouquet decided to a new maneuver to trick his enemies. Two of his companies on the south slope of the hill began to pull back, slowly at first, then faster. The Indian forces believed this to be a retreat, and advanced quickly and fired. At the moment they thought they had succeeded, Major Campbell came over a hill they could not see and fell upon their right flank. The Indians could not repel the assault from the English. The Indian force's losses were so severe – over 60 dead, several of them chiefs – that they quit the battlefield, fled and abandoned the siege of Fort Pitt.

It took Bouquet and his men three days to cover the 21 miles to the fort. When they arrived, they were welcomed as the drums beat and the bagpipes played. British victory in last uprising of Native American forces on August 5 and 6, 1763, opened Western PA to settlement.

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