The Revolt of Pontiac and the American Invasion

Guerilla Warfare along the American Border

A Return To Earlier Methods

Officer, Royal Regiment of Artillery, 1778

Caption: Officer, Royal Regiment of Artillery, 1778

Maintaining a garrison sufficiently strong to ensure Canada's security was not enough, however. It was equally important from then on to keep the Americans on the defensive, to discourage any attempts at a new invasion.

The solution was to follow the earlier methods of New France: launch surprise attacks by sending groups of soldiers and Amerindians to sow confusion and disarray along the American borders. But this time, instead of Canadians it was the Loyalist refugees who carried out these raids, supported by those Iroquois who had also remained loyal to the British. Like most Amerindians, the Iroquois were not fond of the Americans. Even before the hostilities began, a great deal of pressure had been placed on them by the Americans; in the Susquehanna Valley many colonists had even moved into their traditional territories. From the very beginning of this new phase in the conflict, the British easily rallied the Iroquois to their cause, especially since a remarkable chief whose allegiance was clear had been emerging as leader within their nation: Thayendanegea, better known under the name of Joseph Brant.

At Niagara in the fall of 1777, the Loyalist Major John Butler, with the help of his son, Walter, recruited the eight companies of Butler's Rangers, a new colonial light infantry corps consisting of refugees primarily from areas bordering western New York State and Pennsylvania. These men wanted revenge against the neighbours who had chased them from their native provinces. At the end of summer 1778, the Wyoming, Scholarie and Susquehanna valleys were virtually devastated by their many raids, which the American troops had been unable to stop. In November, Butler's Rangers and a group of Iroquois successfully attacked Cherry Valley, even though there was an American regiment there. It suffered heavy losses and was forced to take refuge in the small forts, unable to fend off the attackers.