Among the captured were Etherington and Leslye, who had been stripped and locked in the fort. When the Odawa arrived with Henry and his fellow captives, they allowed Etherington to send, by way of an Odawa canoe-courier, a plea for help to James Gorrell, commandant at the fort at what is now Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Odawa cooperation with Etherington wasn’t all about their anger at the Ojibwe—they probably calculated that a major would bring a nice ransom.
Gorrell, an astute officer who had won the alliance of the tribes around his fort, gathered 90 Indians and his small garrison, and paddled across Lake Michigan to negotiate Etherington’s release—with Langlade’s help. By mid-July Etherington, Leslye and the other prisoners were headed for Montreal, escorted by a brigade of Odawa.
After their departure, Fort Michilimackinac emptied except for a handful of French traders. Langlade, who was among them, assumed charge. The Indians had dissolved into the Northwoods, both to head to their winter hunting grounds and to hide from British retribution. Brilliant as it was, the Ojibwe coup at Fort Michilimackinac was an empty victory. Though they took the fort, the Indians never wanted it. Their goal, like Pontiac’s, was to drive the English and their settlements out of Native American hunting, fishing and trapping grounds—a defiant attempt to save their doomed lifestyle.
By the following June, 3,000 British troops were marching from Fort Niagara, New York, to Fort Detroit to secure victory over Pontiac and his tribes, whose siege had fizzled out the fall before. A detachment would then head to Fort Michilimackinac. After a harrowing year spent avoiding death through the grace of his adopted Indian family. Alexander Henry had finally made it to the safety of the fort in New York and joined the march to Detroit. With a British reclamation of the Straits virtually assured, Henry wanted to recover goods he’d left behind when he fled. In September the British detachment, Henry included, made it to Michilimackinac where they reclaimed the fort with no bloodshed.
That peace, of course, was only a pause in a much larger struggle for control of North America. By 1776, just thirteen years after the deadly game of baggatiway, the loyalties of Langlade, Madjeckewiss (Minweweh had died in another bloody struggle by then) and many of their French and Indian peers from the Great Lakes region had shifted dramatically. Now, they fought with the British in an alliance against their new, shared enemy. The Americans.
Alexander Henry’s memoirs are contained in Attack at Michilimackinac 1763, Mackinac State Historic Parks, edited by Dr. David Armour. mackinacparks.com
Dr. Todd Harburn has played the part of Major George Etherington at the Fort Michilimackinac Pageant for eight years—long enough to grow fascinated with the man in charge when the fort was attacked. His vignettes on the subject, The King’s Quiet Commandant at Michilimackinac (The Michilimackinac Society Press, 1999) and In Defense of the Red Ensign at Michilimackinac 1763 (The Michilimackinac Society Press, 2000), help round out Henry’s account of the massacre. [email protected].
For over 30 years the staff at Traverse Magazine has written about the history and natural world of our region. For the web series, Traverse Classics, we've reached into our archives to bring our favorites to our MyNorth.com audience.