Digital Paxton: Digital Collection, Critical Edition, and Teaching Platform

Pontiac's War and the Paxton Boys

Pontiac's War (1763-66), a conflict between Native Americans and the British Empire, began in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions but had important ramifications for Philadelphians as panic in the Pennsylvania backcountry sent refugees to the city. The arrival of the "Paxton Boys," who were determined to seek revenge against Indians, sparked a political crisis with lasting consequences.   

The immediate catalyst for the war was the French surrender of its North American territories at the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763, which left Native peoples bereft of an important ally with which to check British imperial claims on their lands. Historians in the past referred to the war as an "uprising," but the term is misleading. An uprising implies rebellion against an established authority; most Indians involved in the conflict were far beyond British imperial control. Pontiac (c. 1720-69), the Ottawa warrior whom the war is named after, was only one among many Indian leaders coordinating attacks on British forts and settlers. Pontiac's treaty with the British at Fort Ontario in 1766 ended his part in the war, but Indians east of the Mississippi continued to fight British, then American expansionism in the decades that followed.


To access Michael Goode's complete essay on "Pontiac's War and the Paxton Boys," visit the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.

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