These headings of the author's are used here as local links to text on this webpage.
Expedition of Perier against the Natchez — He goes up Red River and Black River in pursuit of them — Siege of their Fort — Most of them are taken Prisoners and sold as Slaves — Continuation of the Natchez War — The India Company surrenders its Charter — Ordinances on the Currency of the Country — Bienville reappointed Governor — Situation of the Colony at that time — The Natchez take Refuge among the Chickasaws — Great Rise of the Mississippi and General Inundation — Extraordinary Number of Mad Dogs — Expedition of Bienville against the Chickasaws — He attacks three Villages — Battle of Ackia — Daring Exploit of the black man, Simon — Bienville is beaten and forced to retreat — Expedition of D'Artaguette against the Chickasaws — His Defeat and Death — History of John Philip Grondel — Other Events and Facts from 1729 to 1736.
The French had at last taken possession of all the ancient domains of the Natchez; but Governor Périer, considering the depredations still committed by that indomitable tribe, came to the conclusion that their complete destruction was indispensable to the prosperity and safety of the colony. Accordingly, he departed for Mobile, to renew treaties of alliance which the French had with the Choctaws, and to take all the measures necessary to secure their neutrality, while he would be engaged in the prosecution of the war of extermination he had determined to carry against the Natchez. The Choctaws were so much pleased with the presents made to them by Périer, that they offered to join him in the new expedition he meditated against the Natchez. But Périer refused, because he thought it good policy to show the Choctaws that the French could, contrary to the belief of these barbarians, do very well without their aid.
p443 On the 13th of November, 1730, Périer returned to New Orleans, where he found that his brother Salverte had almost completed all the preparations necessary for the contemplated expedition. On the 9th of December, Salverte departed with two battalions of marines he had taken from a ship of the line, with instructions to wait for the governor at the village of Carlestin, where he was joined, on the 13th, by that high functionary, with all the ammunition, provisions, &c., which were required, and all the troops of the colony which could be spared.
Before proceeding farther, Périer received the grateful intelligence that the Indian nations on the northern frontiers had remained faithful to the French, and were waging vigorous war against the nation of the Foxes, the hereditary foes of the Illinois, whose friendship to the French had made them valuable allies on all occasions. Périer was officially informed that a great battle had taken place between the Foxes and the Illinois, headed by some Frenchmen; and that the Foxes had been so completely routed, that they had lost from eleven to twelve hundred men. It was one of the fiercest Indian battles which was ever put on record.
On the 14th, Governor Périer proceeded to Bayagoulas, where he stopped four days to wait for the division of planters commanded by Benac, and for the larger boats which contained the provisions, and which were so unwieldy that they could not keep up with the army. The governor had divided his army into three corps, in order to prevent conflicts and to produce emulation. The first, composed of one hundred and fifty marines and forty sailors, was commanded by his brother Salverte. The second, consisting of the troops of the colony, was under the Baron of Cresnay; and the third, the militia, was headed by Benac. This last corps p444joined the rest, only at Bayagoulas, on the 19th; the whole army moved forward on the 22d, and on the same day encamped at Manchac for the night. There, Périer left the army, and hastened to the Tunicas, in order to accelerate the movements of such of the warriors of that tribe as had survived the defeat they had suffered from the Natchez. On the 27th, Salverte, to whom Périer had left the command of the army, joined his brother at the Tunicas.
On the 29th, the army began its march for the mouth of the Red River, where was the general rendezvous, and where the ship, Prince of Conti, had been sent with most of the articles necessary for the campaign. Périer remained until the 3d of January, 1731, with the Tunicas, where his presence was required to make them join the expedition; which they were loth to do, because they were afraid to leave their village, their women and children, exposed to the fury of some of the marauding parties of the Natchez. They had indeed good reasons for apprehension, having just been informed that De Coulanges, whom Périer had sent in a boat, with some Frenchmen and a crew of twenty men composed of Indians and free blacks, to the fort lately built at Natchez, with orders to proceed as high up the river as the Arkansas, had been attacked, and that half of his companions had been killed or wounded. De la Touche, Beaulieu, and Cochart were among the former, and De Coulanges had received two severe wounds. This bold attack on the part of the Natchez had frightened all the small nations, and Périer could not gather round him more than one hundred and fifty of their warriors, but they were of the bravest.
On the 4th of January, 1731, Périer joined the army at the mouth of Red River, where he found all his forces united. The difficulty then was to discover the p445stronghold where the Natchez had concealed themselves in those unknown regions. The French ascended Red River, went into Black River, from Black River into a stream they called Silver River, and from that stream into a small lake, not far from which they had been told the Natchez were. It is not improbable that the stream which is here mentioned is no other than the one now set down on the map as the Ouachita, and that the lake alluded to is the small one which is at a short distance from Trinity, in the parish of Catahoula. The French arrived at that lake on the 19th of January, after having met on that day a party of Natchez, of whom they killed two men and one woman. There, the French had happened to come very close to the stronghold of the Natchez, without as yet being aware of it. But on the 20th, they captured a Natchez boy, who was fishing, and who, under the influence of threats and promises of reward, showed the French the path which led to the Indian fort. Governor Périer sent forward French and Indian scouts and marksmen, supported by two companies of regulars commanded by De Lusser and De la Girouardiere. He next followed with the rest of the army, after having left behind the Baron of Cresnay with one hundred men, to protect the French camp and boats.
Governor Périer had hardly given the order to march, when he heard a brisk fire of musketry kept up between the fort and the skirmishers. After having marched an hour, the army came in sight of the fort. The Tunicas attacked some fortified houses which seemed to be intended as outposts, and drove the Natchez out of them. On the 21st, when the fort was completely invested, Périer ordered the Baron of Cresnay to join him. He then sent a flag to the Natchez, and summoned them to give up the negroes who remained in their possession. p446The Natchez fired at the flag, crying out that the French were dogs, and that they would have nothing to do with them. On this answer, the French began to cast grenades into the fort, and had succeeded in producing considerable effect, when the two mortars which they used, being of wood, bursted, and wounded those who worked them. At half-past five in the evening, the Natchez made a sally, in which they killed a negro, a grenadier of the marines, and wounded a sergeant and De Laye, one of the militia officers. At eight o'clock the same evening, although the weather was very stormy, the French began to mine, and kept up their firing with muskets, one field-piece, and one mortar, which was their last one, and for which they had sent to the boats. The Natchez still retained possession of a fortified outpost, which enfiladed the French workmen engaged in the trenches. On the 22d, Périer ordered it to be attacked by twelve grenadiers and twelve sappers. But on their being repulsed, he sent his brother, who carried it in a quarter of an hour, after a vigorous defense made by the Indians.
On the 23d, the French, under the protection of the redoubt they had taken from the Natchez, pushed on their trenches with more vigor, and approached more closely to the fort.
On the 24th, the Natchez, perceiving that the French were preparing to storm the fort, and fearing the result, made propositions of peace. Périer answered that he would hold no communication with them, unless they did, as a preliminary proceeding, deliver up all the black slaves they had in their possession, and unless their chiefs came out to have a personal interview with him, midway between the fort and the camp. The Natchez immediately gave up nineteen negroes and one negress, and said that there remained only six negroes, who had p447gone out on a hunting excursion with some of their people. After much hesitation, founded on misgivings which proved to be correct, it was also agreed that Périer's other demand should be complied with; and the Great Sun, the Little Sun, and the chief of the Corn Village came out, at four o'clock in the afternoon, to meet the French chief. After the usual exchange of mutual salutations had taken place, as it began to rain, Périer proposed to the Indian chiefs to enter into a cabin close by, which seemed to be deserted, but as soon as they crossed its threshold, they were surrounded by armed soldiers, and made prisoners. Night came on, the bad weather increased, and, at twelve o'clock, had become a frightful tempest. The chief of the Corn Village availed himself of that circumstance, and, although shut up in a tent under the guard of twelve men, contrived to escape, without being hurt by the shots which were aimed at him.
On the 25th, the storm continued to rage, and interfered very much with the evacuation of the fort, and the complete surrender of the Natchez, which at last had been agreed upon. However, in the course of the day, forty-five men, and four hundred and fifty women and children were, at different intervals, delivered up to the French, with all their baggage and effects. But night having set in, the rest of the Natchez made a sudden sally, and taking the French by surprise, made their escape without one shot being fired at them, so dark the night was, so deluge-like the rain, and so little disposed were the French, and even their red allies, to move from their quarters, and to expose themselves to the pitiless fury of the elements. The next morning, only two sick men and one woman were found in the fort. Périer says, in one of his dispatches, that the party that thus eluded his vigilance and effected p448such a successful retreat, in front of such overwhelming odds, consisted only of sixteen men and four women. But this was a willful misrepresentation of the truth, the object of which was to conceal his humiliation, and to impress his government with the belief that his success had been greater than it really was. It is not at all probable that the place where the Great Sun had taken refuge with so many women and children, was defended only, according to Périer's statement, by about sixty warriors. Other accounts inform us, that the number of warriors who thus baffled him, and slipped from his grasp, exceeded one hundred and fifty. Périer having, the next morning, sent his Indian allies in pursuit, they killed one Natchez, and took two whom they burned at the stake.
On the 26th and 27th, the army was employed in demolishing the fort, with its fortified outposts, and in burning all their materials. On the 28th, the French began their retrograde march, and encamped on the bank of Silver Bayou, or river. On the 29th, they embarked to return to the Mississippi, through Black River and Red River. In one of his dispatches, Périer bestows much praise on the conduct of all the men he had under his orders, and speaks in high terms of the emulation which existed among the several corps. But he skips very lightly over the manner in which he made the Indian chiefs prisoners. He, no doubt, felt that it was a shameful breach of faith, the mention of which would make him blush, and provoke indignation. However, he was a man of no half-way measures, and at least not over-scrupulous in his dealings with the Indians. As soon as he reached New Orleans, he sent the Great Sun, the Little Sun, the forty-five other male prisoners and the four hundred and fifty women and children to St. Domingo, where they were sold as slaves. p449Among them was the princess "Bras piqué," who related all the circumstances of the conspiracy of the Natchez, in which she acted a part so friendly to the French.
With such stakes in his hands, it would seem that Périer might have played a better game with the Natchez, and have induced them to emigrate far beyond the French settlements, as a condition of his restoring to them their sovereign, their women and children. It is likely that these would have been considerations sufficiently powerful, to make them subscribe to all the conditions which would have been deemed necessary to secure the future tranquillity of the colony.
However, a different course of policy was pursued, and entailed upon the French a long train of ever-reviving difficulties. The Natchez, driven by their losses to the last stage of despair, instead of being cowed, were nerved to frenzy by their misfortunes. They thought of nothing but revenge, cost what it might, and they committed more depredations than during the past. Diron d'Artaguette, in one of his dispatches, said that the Natchez, far from being destroyed as it had been represented, numbered still three hundred warriors, who had escaped from the grasp of the French, and who panted for their blood. After their last defeat near Black River, some of the scattered remnants of that tribe having incorporated themselves with the Chickasaws, were incessantly engaged in marauding expeditions directed against their white foes. In the month of April, 1731, they attacked four boats which Governor Périer had sent up to Arkansas. At the first fire from the Indians, the commanding officer had two of his men killed and two wounded, and although he had seventy men under his orders, so numerous were the Indians, that he was obliged to fall back, p450and to avoid the contest. Governor Périer having sent an emissary to the Chickasaws to demand of them, that they should dismiss the Natchez under pain of his displeasure, these Indians answered proudly that they would know how to protect those to whom the hospitality of their tribe had been tendered and pledged. Thus, a Chickasaw war had risen from the ashes of the Natchez war. Attempts were made to induce the Choctaws to pronounce themselves against the Chickasaws. "But," said Diron d'Artaguette on this subject, "how can we ever succeed, when we have nothing in our possession to tempt those Indians to become our allies, when we are without resources, without provisions, and have everything to fear."
Beauchamp, who commanded at Mobile, writing to his government on this matter, expressed himself thus: "The Choctaws are not disposed favorably, which is the more to be regretted from the fact that, should this nation declare itself against us, we should be obliged to abandon the colony, provided however we had time to do so. Since the departure of Bienville, all the Indians are spoiled. In spite of the augmentation of merchandise we have to supply them with, and of the reduction in the quantity of furs which they give us back in return, they are not satisfied. On the contrary, they are insolent and less tractable. Our war with the Natchez was a source of vexation and danger only to our traders on the Mississippi, but the Chickasaw war is a cause of uneasiness and apprehension to the whole colony. These Indians had sent three emissaries to the Illinois to urge them to side against us, but these emissaries have been delivered into our hands, and M. Périer intends to have them burnt."
To increase the troubles of the French, the Alibamons and Talapouches, at the instigation of the p451Chickasaws, who had gone over to the British interest, had been on the eve of declaring themselves against the Choctaws, who were the only allies whose assistance the French hoped to have. "If such an event had taken place," continues Beauchamp, "the colony would have been on fire. The English are evidently gaining ground upon us." He then goes on inveighing bitterly against Périer's administration, and the system of policy this officer had assumed toward the Indians. In conclusion, he says: "The evil is now without a remedy, unless M. de Bienville could come back. Perhaps he could succeed in changing the state of things, on account of the consideration which the Indians have always had for him, and of the service which he has rendered them, particularly to the Choctaws."
After a minute description of the situation of the colony, Beauchamp closes thus his remarks to the minister: "You see to what a state of things is reduced this colony, which has so long been groaning under a harsh command. The colonists are in a miserably wretched condition, and are ill supplied with the provisions and the merchandise they want. When flour is sent here, the heads of the colony take hold of it, as they do with all the brandy and cordials which are imported, and they do not part with these articles except at exorbitant prices. It is, after all, what they do for every sort of merchandise. The soldiers, also, have always had just causes of complaint against the company with regard to their food and clothing. I need not speak of the enormous profits made by the company on every thing of which it permitted the sale in the colony." This compendious but graphic description is sufficient to show the disease which preyed on the vitals of Louisiana, and which was keeping her in such a protracted state of consumptive languor. Beauchamp's p452comments on Périer's harshness were certainly deserved, so far at least as the dealings of this officer with the Indians are taken into consideration. His consigning them to the stake and fagot, or his selling them into bondage, were measures of no soothing character, and it is not astonishing that Beauchamp should have drawn the conclusion, that the return of the mild and humane Bienville, as governor, would be looked upon by the Indians as a boon of conciliation.
Such being the course of events in Louisiana, it is not to be wondered at that the great India Company, the creation of which had produced such a ferment on account of the prodigies it was expected to work in the production of wealth, drooping under the infliction of so many disappointments and the load of so many obligations, should have been anxious to waive the monopoly of trade, and all the other privileges it had obtained to colonize Louisiana. After receiving the melancholy intelligence of the Natchez massacre, the directors of the company and the stockholders, almost unanimously, came to the conclusion that they could no longer support the expenses which were necessary to keep up the colony, and on the 23d of January, 1731, they proposed to the king to return into his hands the charter which they at last found to be too onerous. They alledgedº in their petition that, in profitless attempts to carry this charter into execution, they had already spent twenty millions of livres, and that they would completely break down under the obligations they had assumed, if the government did not come to their relief. This proposition gave rise to a series of negotiations, and to various transactions between the government and the company, which are not of sufficient interest to be related. But the proposed retrocession became at last final, and the government must be considered p453as having entirely resumed the administration of the colony, on the 15th of November, when it issued several ordinances relative to the winding up of the affairs of the company. Two delegates, Bruslé and Bru, were appointed by the king to proceed to Louisiana, to liquidate and settle the accounts of the company with the government and with individuals; and the creditors of the company in the colony were ordered to present their claims there to the delegates, for examination, approbation, and payment, those creditors being prohibited from suing the company in Europe for any debt contracted in Louisiana.
The company had, in payment of its debts, emitted a considerable quantity of bonds, called "billets de caisse," which had gradually become part of the currency of the country, and which were in daily use. But on the 15th of November, Governor Périer and the commissary of marine, Salmon, issued an ordinance which declared that, considering that such a currency as the company's bonds or billets de caisse interfered with the intrinsic value of the king's coin, and that at the same time it being the wish of his majesty that the holders of these bonds should have the faculty to pay with them the debts contracted while they were the currency of the country, it was decreed that they might still be used during fifteen days from the date of the ordinance, after which time they should be null and void, and withdrawn from circulation. A fine of twenty livres was to be inflicted, for the first offense, on any person convicted of having dealt in these bonds as currency, after the time specified, and corporal punishment was to be the penalty for a second violation of the ordinance by the same person. The effect of this measure was to depreciate these bonds, and their sudden withdrawal from the money-market produced in p454the currency a vacuum which was sensibly felt. Hence a financial crisis which greatly added to the already existing distress of the colonists.
Thus did the India Company close her career after a laborious existence of fourteen years. She had failed as signally as her predecessor, Crozat, although, having superior means, she had accomplished more for the colony. She had founded New Orleans, which she had so named in compliment to her great patron, the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France, and she had made important settlements at Natchez, at the Tchoupitoulas, Cannes Brûlées, Baton Rouge, Manchac, and Pointe Coupée. She had taken Louisiana with a white population of about five hundred souls and twenty negroes, and she left it with a population of five thousand whites and about two thousand five hundred negroes. It is to be remembered, however, that, for the last ten years since 1721, the white population had remained stationary; the negroes alone had increased, their number being swollen from about six hundred to over two thousand. The fact is, that the financial schemes of John Law had given to the colonization of Louisiana by a company, an impetus which was destined to cease by the collapse of the bubbles from which the attempt had originated. Unfortunately, the colonization of Louisiana had not been a great national enterprise, undertaken by patriotism and carried on by enlightened statesmanship. It was a stock-jobbing operation, a mere money-making speculation, a bait thrown out to greedy stockholders, and, like most speculations of this kind, it ended in ruin. It had only the honor of being a splendid deception; it blazed out like a meteor, but to be soon swallowed up by obscurity.
The king having agreed to take on his own account all the property of the company in Louisiana, an inventory p455of what it possessed was made under the direction of Salmon, the king's commissary, and the estimate of what it was found to be worth was fixed at two hundred and sixty-three thousand livres. This property consisted of some merchandise, and of a brick kiln in front of the city, with two hundred and sixty slaves, fourteen horses, and eight thousand barrels of rice. The negroes were valued, on an average, at seven hundred livres a piece, the horses at fifty-seven livres, and the rice at three livres per hundred pounds.
The Superior Council of Louisiana was reorganized by letters patent of the 7th of May, 1732, and was composed in the following manner:— Governor Périer, Salmon, the king's commissary, Loubois and D'Artaguette, lieutenants de roi, or the king's lieutenant-governors, Major Benac, commander of New Orleans, Fazende, Bruslé, Bru, Lafreniere, Prat, Raguet, and Fleuriau, who had been reappointed attorney-general. It will be remembered that he had lost his office, in 1726, for having resisted the authority of De la Chaise, the king's commissary. Rossart was appointed secretary of the council.
In order to revive commerce, which had been completely destroyed by the monopoly conceded to the India Company, the king granted several privileges and advantages to such of his subjects as would send vessels to Louisiana. Thus, by an ordinance of the 13th of September, he exempted from duty the merchandise exported from France to Louisiana, and the produce of Louisiana imported into France.
This was, at last, taking one step in the right path, and doing what ought to have been done long before, instead of allowing to one man, or one company, in violation of all the rules of common sense and justice, a monopoly which did not even benefit the grantees. p456But as soon as it was known that the trade with Louisiana was open to competition, the merchants of St. Malo, of Bordeaux, of Marseilles, and of the Cap Français began to make preparations to try this new market.
The government fixed the number of regulars to be maintained in the colony at eight hundred men, and, by several ordinances, attempted to prevent the many fluctuations to which the metallic currency of the colony was subject.
Bienville was reappointed governor of Louisiana in the place of Périer, who was subsequently raised to the rank of lieutenant-general as a reward for his services, and his brother Salverte shared the same promotion. Périer had been over six years governor of the colony, and retired with the reputation of a man of integrity and talent, but of stern disposition, and of manners somewhat bordering on roughness. There was at the bottom of his character a fund of harshness from which the Indians had but too much to suffer, and which made itself felt even by his French subordinates.
Bienville, much to his own satisfaction and to the gratification of the colonists, returned to Louisiana in 1733, after an absence of eight years. The surrender of the company's charter, the resumption of the administration of the colony by the king, and the return of Bienville, were circumstances which gladdened their hearts, and inspired them with high hopes of approaching and permanent prosperity.
On the 18th of March, an ordinance of the king fixed the price at which the farmers-general in France were bound to receive the tobacco from Louisiana. The rates were:— 35 livres per hundred pounds for 1733; 30 livres for 1734 and 1735; 27 livres for 1736 and 1737; and 25 livres for 1738. Thus the government reserved to itself the right of being the sole purchaser p457of the tobacco raised in Louisiana, and to pay no more than what it thought proper to give, whatever might be the cost of producing the article, and its intrinsic value in the market. Such was one of the thousand absurdities and flagrant injustices of the suicidal system applied by France to her colonies! The blasting influence which it had on Louisiana can be easily conceived; and it is not astonishing that Diron d'Artaguette, who had gone to France and had returned in company with Bienville, should have found the colony in the situation which he thus describes, in a dispatch of the 23d of April from Mobile. "I have found on my arrival at this place," says he, "two contagious diseases: first, the small-pox, which has carried off and is still killing, every day, a considerable number of persons of both sexes and of every age; and next, a general dearth of provisions, from which every body is suffering, and which has been the result of the destruction of the late crop by a hurricane. Our planters and mechanics here are dying of hunger, and those at New Orleans are in no better situation. Some are clamorous for returning to France; others secretly run away to the Spaniards at Pensacola. The colony is on the eve of being depopulated." Such was the situation of the colony thirty-four years after its foundation, in a country blessed with such fertility as Louisiana! From the very first days of its existence it had continued to struggle against the chilling grasp of famine, and complaints of starvation had been wafted across the ocean by every wind which blew in the direction of the mother country. Such a state of things denotes a profound, a radical vice in the organization and administration of the colony. Active, indeed, must have been the worm concealed in the roots of the tree which had been transported into such a luxuriant soil, and which, instead of p458growing to its natural size and to maturity, instead of embellishing and enriching the country with its flowers and fruits, could hardly feed its puny trunk with sufficient sap to continue to live in sickly vegetation. It requires, however, no very sagacious eye to discover that what it wanted was the atmosphere of Liberty, which was pumped away by the pneumatic engine of a despotic and imbecile government.
On the 12th of May, Bienville and Salmon, the king's commissary, sent to France a joint dispatch in which they informed the government, that the colonists were very dilatory in producing their titles of concession in order to have them confirmed, as required by the ordinance issued on the 30th of December, 1723, and they recommended that new titles be granted in the name of the king, not only to those who claimed under concessions from the company, but also to those whose claims rested on nothing else but possession. "The country is good," they wrote, "but, like all new countries, is liable to sudden atmospherical changes, and to some confusion of seasons. Besides, the colonists lack experience, and are not sufficiently well settled on their plantations, which are not as yet properly organized. They are in want of negroes, and they complain of their being obliged to pay for the goods they need, two hundred per cent above what those articles cost the traders. They also complain of the number of useless vagabonds who have been sent here by the company." Speaking of the Ursuline nuns, they said:— "They are very industrious and disinterested; they are much occupied, and live on little." So minute were the details which they went into, that they informed the government that the first child born in the colony, and consequently "the first Creole," was named Claude Jousset, and was p459the son of a Canadian who carried on a small trading business at Mobile.
From a long dispatch which Bienville wrote on the 15th of May, on the situation and disposition in which he found the Indians, it seems that all the tribes in Louisiana were very much disaffected, not excepting even those over whom St. Denis exercised so much influence. "The commander of the fort at Natchitoches,"º said he, " informs me that the Indians have shown an inclination to rebel, and have compelled him to keep himself shut up during six months, and that, although they show themselves more peaceably disposed, yet he still keeps on his guard. In a word it seems that the colony is threatened on every side, and it is, in fact, the custom of the Indian tribes to become hostile in imitation of one another. I hope, however, to restore in Louisiana that tranquillity which she enjoyed when I left her in 1725. Since my arrival, the Natchez have attempted nothing against the French nor against their allies; but they are not destroyed, although we are ignorant of their numbers. The Tunicas have assured me that these indefatigable enemies of the French are divided into three bands: one, the least numerous, has retired into an impracticable country, a little above their ancient villages; the second, which is more considerable, dwells on the banks of the Mississippi, near the Ouatchitas, and opposite the Yazoo River; the third, which is the most numerous, has been received among the Chickasaws, who have granted to these refugees lands on which to build a village. I shall take care that they be constantly attacked and harassed by our Indian allies."
With regard to the Chickasaws, he wrote: 'If we can not gain over this nation, it will be necessary to drive it away from the territory of the colony." True p460to this policy, he induced the Choctaws to set up an expedition against the Chickasaws, and after informing his government of this fact in a communication dated the 26th of July, he added: "It would have been proper to join a body of French troops to the Indians, in order to attack the forts of the Chickasaws, and to achieve some glorious feat, which is an indispensable thing to restore in the colony that healthy tone and self-reliance which it has lost. But we are too poor and without forces, and we must not expose ourselves to fail a second time in any enterprise of the kind. The colony is in such a state of indigence, that, last year, the people were obliged during more than three months to live on the seeds and grains of reeds. Much to my regret, therefore, I am condemned to inaction." It is hardly possible to conceive how the country could have been reduced to such a pitch of misery, and such representations can not but be suspected of gross exaggeration. The seeds and grains of reeds, of which Bienville speaks, must have been figurative expressions.
On the 10th of August, Bienville informed the French government, that the Natchez who were on the banks of the Mississippi, and who composed the two bands of which it has been spoken, were so effectually harassed by incessant attacks from the Indians he had set upon them, that they were all retreating toward the Chickasaws, to join the third band which had there found shelter and protection.
The whole year 1734 was spent in fruitless negotiations, to induce the Choctaws to make a serious attack upon the Chickasaws, and the dispatches of the time frequently mention a Choctaw chief, called the Red Shoe, who acted a conspicuous part in all these transactions, and who, it seems, was constantly oscillating between the French and the English, playing off one p461interest against the other, selling himself to the highest bidder, and shuffling his cards to his best advantage, in a manner which would have elicited the approbation of Machiavel himself.
Diron d'Artaguette, who commanded at Mobile, asked leave of Bienville to muster one hundred Frenchmen, and with them to put himself at the head of the Choctaws, to march against the Chickasaws; he was greatly irritated at Bienville's refusal on the ground of the want of arms and provisions, and because such forces were too weak to insure success, considering also that the disposition of the Choctaws was doubtful, and therefore that they might prove traitors. It was vainly represented to D'Artaguette, that with such a deficiency of means she would endanger his reputation and that of the French arms. He remained convinced that a feeling of jealousy was at the bottom of this non-compliance with his demand. This conviction was increased when he saw Lesueur, at the head of thirty Frenchmen and one thousand Choctaws, depart to wage war upon the Chickasaws. But Bienville answered his complaints by observing, that if this expedition was defeated, it would bring no discredit or shame on the French, as there were so very few of them engaged in it. The Choctaws had obtained considerable presents from the French to march, and when they arrived in front of the forts of the Chickasaws, being bribed off by those they came to attack, they marched back without striking a blow, with the exception of Red Shoe, who showed some conscience, and who, having been paid by the French to fight, resolved to gain his money. At the head of a small band of trusty followers, he stealthily approached one of the villages, and poured a volley of bullets into the cabins. But he was immediately attacked by forces immensely superior to his p462own, and closely pursued by about two hundred men, the distance of •twenty miles. He escaped, however, after having lost four men, among whom was the brother of the great chief of the Choctaws.
On hearing of the unsuccessful termination of this expedition, Bienville convened a meeting of the Choctaws at Mobile, and upbraided them for their want of faith. They all apologized in humble terms for their conduct, with the exception of Red Shoe, who spoke with arrogance, and exalted too much what he had done. Bienville affected to be highly displeased at his presumption, and reprimanded him roughly. However, he made to the chiefs some presents, which were necessarily small on account of the penury in which he was, and he renewed with them the old treaties of alliance. The conditions on which merchandise was to be furnished to the Choctaws were agreed upon, and they, in their turn, solemnly promised to hold no communication with the English. It was exceedingly important for the French to secure the support of this powerful tribe, which Bienville represents as owning fifty-two large villages scattered over a circumference of •three hundred miles. Hence Bienville bitterly and incessantly complained of not being supplied with sufficient means to command, by the required presents, the allegiance of these Indians.
Unfortunately for the colony, the misunderstanding which had broken out between Bienville and D'Artaguette became every day more marked and serious in its character. They were both, however, men of distinguished merit, and ought to have understood and appreciated each other. But it seemed, as for the past, that harmony could never exist long between the chiefs of the colony. Thus D'Artaguette, in one of his dispatches, of the 29th of April, 1735, assures his government, p463that if Bienville is displeased with and complains of him, it is because he, D'Artaguette, his made known the misconduct of Bienville's protégés, or favorites, Lesueur and the Jesuit, Father Beaudoin, who, to the great scandal of the Choctaws, seduce their women.
Be it for this cause, or for another, it is certain that, notwithstanding the treaty of alliance which had been recently renewed, and the presents they had received, the Choctaws were divided into two factions, one of which was hostile to the French, and the other in favor of the English, who, for many years, had been struggling to gain over that nation to their interest, and to trade with it exclusively of the French.
In the mean time, the Chickasaws and the Natchez, united in one body, were not inactive, and never failed to attack the French whenever the opportunity was favorable. The imagination may well be permitted to conceive, that the long series of misfortunes heaped upon the Natchez had produced some Hannibal of the wilderness, who sought everywhere for avengers of his nation's wrongs, and who thought that
"What though the field be lost,
All is not lost:— the unconquerable will
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield,
And what is else not to be overcome."
De Coulanges had been ordered up the river to carry ammunition to young D'Artaguette, who had so distinguished himself when the Natchez were besieged by Loubois, and who had since been intrusted with the command of the Illinois district. He had the imprudence not to obey strictly his orders, and to transport merchandise belonging to some officers, instead of a considerable quantity of powder, which he left behind to make room for the other article. Disappointed at p464not receiving the ammunition of which he stood much in need, D'Artaguette dispatched in quest of it an officer, named Du Coder, with ten men. Before reaching the Arkansas district, they were attacked by two hundred and forty Chickasaw and Natchez warriors, who killed eight of the soldiers, and made prisoners Du Coder, a sergeant, and a soldier. Speaking of this untoward event, Bienville said: "I have ordered D'Artaguette to imprison De Coulanges for six months in Fort Chartres, and I would have interdicted this officer, if I had not taken into consideration his past services, particularly in the last Natchez war. I hope that this example will be sufficient to moderate the avidity for gain, which some of our officers have imbibed in the service of the company."
It seems, however, that the Chickasaws had become anxious for peace, and they invited Du Coder, their prisoner, to write to that effect to Bienville: they also set free the soldier they had captured. He soon reached New Orleans, and informed Bienville that the Chickasaws had treated kindly their white prisoners, who had been conducted through the Indian villages with a white stick in their hands, and thoroughly washed in public from head to foot, as a token of life being granted to them. Through this soldier they again sued for peace, and begged to be protected against the marauding attacks of the Indian allies of the French. Bienville wrote back to Du Coder to try to escape1 with the sergeant his companion, because he could not grant peace to the Chickasaws, and could not sacrifice the glory and interests of the French nation to the safety of two men. Thus it is evident that he had taken the resolution, to come to no terms with the Chickasaws, and to drive them away from the colony. p465But though he had determined on a war of extermination, he was obliged to postpone all operations, and he wrote to the French minister of Marine: "I beg your excellency not to forget that I can hardly set on foot two hundred men, and that I can not rely on the Indians, who have given us so many proofs of their cowardice in the expeditions I have induced them to undertake against the Chickasaws. I dare not then, with such means as I have, expose the honor of our arms against a warlike nation, numbering, at least, four hundred and fifty warriors. I have learned from the soldier they sent me back, that they have five palisaded forts, and besides, for every ten cabins in their villages, one that is fortified with three lines or rows of stakes provided with loop-holes, and terraced in such a way as to be fire-proof. All these cabins are so situated as to protect one another. The Natchez, who still number one hundred and eighty warriors, have a village of their own contiguous to those of the Choctaws. Besides the fortified cabins and the five forts I have mentioned, the Chickasaws have a larger one with four bastions, which they have constructed with the trunks of trees stuck into the ground, in imitation of the one we had among the Natchez when they revolted. Such are the offensive and defensive means of our enemies. Hence you can judge what we can do. Were I to march against them with the whole colony at my heels, I could not hope for success. I can not therefore undertake any thing lightly. I request, again and forever, an augmentation of four companies. I will do however all I can, to continue to harass the Chickasaws with incursions from our red allies. But it is absolutely necessary that some bold and remarkable blow be struck, to impress the Indians with a proper sense of respect and duty toward us."
p466 At that time, it was reported that the British faction among the Choctaws had gained so much ground as to prevail upon that nation to make war upon the French, and to attack Mobile. This gave rise to great alarm in that settlement, where the inhabitants, under the apprehension of immediate danger, never went out of their houses without being well provided with arms, and even did not go to church to hear mass without having their guns on their shoulders, as stated in one of Bienville's dispatches. So intense became their fears, that they prepared to abandon the place, and to retire to New Orleans. But Bienville sent them positive orders not to leave their habitations, and assured them that they had nothing to fear. In one of his dispatches he accused Diron d'Artaguette of being the cause of the discontent which had spread among the Choctaws, by the harsh manner in which he had treated some warriors of that nation who had come to Mobile, to have their arms repaired and put in order.
A short time after, on the 16th of July, a smuggling vessel from Jamaica appeared in Mobile Bay, and anchored at •twelve miles from the fort. D'Artaguette ordered her to leave the bay, and on her captain delaying to obey, sent Lieutenant De Velles in an armed boat with thirty men, to take possession of the vessel, which had a very inoffensive look, but which, nevertheless, opened such an effective fire on the boat as she approached, that De Velles, having seventeen of his men killed or wounded in an instant, was obliged to retreat, and to allow his enemy to gain the open sea without further molestation. This circumstance again gave to Bienville an opportunity to tax D'Artaguette with gross imprudence and carelessness. In fact, a fierce war of angry accusations and recriminations was now kept up between these two antagonists, and had succeeded the p467intimacy which had existed between them during many years.
The settlement of the company's affairs in the colony proved to be of no small difficulty. The stockholders complained that the just debts due to the company could not be recovered, because the debtors were favored by the only judicial tribunal in the country, the members of the council, who themselves were indebted to the company. Considering this state of things, the king, by an ordinance of the 16th of October, 1733, appointed the royal commissary, Salmon, the sole judge to pronounce in the last resort between the company and its debtors or creditors in Louisiana.
Since 1723, when the company had introduced into the colony a paper currency, during the existence of which the dollar had risen in value to 35 livres, a bottle of brandy to 30 livres, a pair of shoes to 35 livres of that paper money, and so on in proportion for every other merchandise, a vast amount of debts had been contracted under that monetary system between the colonists, and between the company and individuals. Now that the government had withdrawn from circulation all the paper money of the company, by receiving it in payment of goods, debtors contended that their debts ought to be reduced to one half, considering that they were under the necessity of making their payments in a currency much more valuable than the one in existence when they had contracted their obligations. Individuals generally submitted to transactions of this kind, but the company, which was much more of a creditor than a debtor, refused to admit the justice and application of this rule. Salmon was in favor of the proposed reduction, but hesitated to enforce it, and was satisfied with making recommendations to compromise. Thus matters stood for some time.
p468 The French government thought it a heavy burden to provide for the expenses of the colony in hard coin, and, in 1734, consulted Bienville and Salmon on the emission of paper money (papier de cartes). They were opposed to it altogether, but not venturing to express the opinion that it ought not to be emitted at all, they advised that the measure be postponed for two years. In support of this opinion, they described the aversion which existed in the colony against this kind of currency, and the want of confidence with which it would be received; they represented that when the company surrendered its charter, its paper was depreciated to half its original value, and that such had been the fate of every paper currency in the colony since its foundation; that it would drive away the precious metals, make the dollar, as it had been seen once, rise up to 35 livres, and open the door again to the most disastrous stock-jobbing operations, and to the foulest demoralization, and that no more would be required to cause the desertion and total ruin of the country. "We have seen," said Bienville in one of his dispatches, "that one who has paper money in his pocket, will spend it more easily than hard coin, and that, when such is the currency of the country, every one consumes all he earns without any thought of to‑morrow." Bienville wrote this remarkable lines in 1734. True they were at that time, and that truth was still more energetically demonstrated by what occurred in Louisiana a century later, when it was her curse to be overflooded with a deluge of bank notes. It is easy, however, to conceive the anxiety which the government felt, in 1734, to pay its expenses in paper, when it is known that those expenses amounted, during that year, to 898,245 livres for this puny colony of five thousand souls.
p469 On the 15th of April, 1735, Bienville wrote, on the state of the colony: "One hundred thousand pounds of tobacco are made at Pointe Coupée; two women raise silk-worms for amusement, and succeed very well; eggs should be sent by the government to the Ursulines, who would teach this industry to the orphans whose education is intrusted to them. The cultivation of cotton is advantageous, but the planters experience great difficulty in clearing it from the seeds. Pitch and tar are made in some abundance. I neglect nothing to turn the attention of the inhabitants to agricultural pursuits, but in general they are worthless, lazy, dissolute, and most of them recoil from the labors necessary to improve the lands." To those inhabitants who were represented as lazy and dissolute, the year 1735 was not a favorable one, for Bienville and Salmon, in a joint dispatch of the 31st of August, say: "The mortality of cattle is frightful, the drought is excessive, and the heat is suffocating. Such hot weather has never been known since the foundation of the colony, and it has now lasted four months without any change. From Christmas to the St. John the waters were very high, so that many levees were broken. The one which is in front of the city gave way, and we were very near abandoning our houses and taking lodgings in boats. Then the drought came, and the river went down •fifteen feet — a circumstance which had never been seen before. Hence the mediocrity of our crops, our lands having been under water in the planting season."
While the planters were suffering from drought, after having suffered from inundation, the inhabitants of New Orleans were laboring under a strange kind of affliction. They could hardly venture out of their houses without being bit by mad dogs. These animals had increased to such an extent, that they had become an intolerable p470nuisance, and to remedy the evil, the royal commissary, Salmon, ordered them to be hunted down on certain days, from five o'clock until six in the morning. He also prohibited negroes and Indians from having dogs, under the penalty for the offender of being sentenced to wear an iron collar.
The colony had always undergone great inconvenience from the want of carpenters, cabinet-makers, tailors, shoemakers, and mechanics of every description. To obviate this difficulty, an ordinance was issued freeing from his military engagement any French or Swiss soldier, if he was a handicraftsman, provided he agreed to remain in the colony, and to exercise his calling.
The troops, which so far had not been supplied with suitable quarters, were, this year, comfortably lodged in barracks, which Bienville and Salmon had ordered, on the 12th of July, 1734, to be constructed on both sides of the public square in the city of New Orleans.
The latter part of 1735, and the beginning of 1736, were marked by great military preparations in the colony. The French government had sent to Bienville a few additional troops, and notwithstanding the doubts he had expressed on the final success of an expedition against the Chickasaws, except it be with such ample means as the government did not seem disposed to grant, had ordered him to undertake one, as soon as possible, against that nation, and to drive it away from the country. In obedience to these instructions, Bienville had sent word to the younger D'Artaguette, the commander of the Illinois district, to collect all the French and Indian forces he could muster, and to meet him on the 31st of March, 1736, at the Chickasaw villages. In the month of January of that year, Bienville drew from Natchez, Natchitoches, and the Balize all the officers and soldiers he could spare without weakening too p471much the garrisons stationed at those places. He formed a company of volunteers, composed of traders and transient persons then in New Orleans, and another company of unmarried men belonging to the city, and which was called the company of bachelors. A depot of ammunition, provisions, and all that was necessary for the intended campaign was established on the Tombekbee, at the distance of •two hundred and seventy miles from Mobile, where the several detachments of the army were successively sent through the Lakes, as fast as conveyances could be procured. Several large vessels containing provisions and utensils of every sort were dispatched down the Mississippi to Mobile, and on the 4th of March, Bienville departed from New Orleans, leaving behind him only four companies of regulars under Noyan, which were to follow him as soon as they could be transported. The boats having to struggle against adverse winds, the whole of the French forces did not reach Mobile before the 22d, and it was only on the 28th, that the last of the vessels carrying provisions entered the harbor, when it was discovered that her cargo had been much damaged by the sea. On the 1st of April, the expedition left Mobile, and it was only on the 23d that the army reached the Tombekbee depot, after having had to contend against currents, freshets, storms, and constant rains.
There, while waiting for the arrival of the Choctaws, Bienville reviewed his troops, which were found to consist of five hundred and forty-four white men, excluding the officers, and of forty-five negroes, commanded by free blacks, the balance being composed of Indians. The principal officers were De Léry, D'Hauterive, De Lusser, De Courtillas, Petit, Berthel, De Bombelles, Benac, Le Blanc, De Membrede, De Macarty, De St. Pierre, De Velles, De Bouillé, Des Marets, De Contre p472Coeur de St. Protais, Pontalba, Vanderek, Montbrun, and Noyan. At the head of the Swiss companies were Volant and Du Parc; Montmolin was their standard-bearer. The detachments of the militia were commanded by Lesueur and St. Martin.
The Choctaws, to the number of six hundred, having come at last, the army, after innumerable delays and difficulties, resumed its march, and on the 22rd of May encamped at •about twenty-seven miles from the Chickasaw villages. On the 23d, at daybreak, Bienville had a certain number of trees cut down to make stakes, and ordered the construction of fortifications for the protection of the boats. Leaving in those fortifications the general store-keeper, the captains of the boats, some sick men, and twenty soldiers under the command of Vanderek, on the 24th in the afternoon, and after having ordered the troops to take provisions for twelve days, he marched •six miles further, where he encamped for the night, which was very tempestuous. On the 25th, within the space of •twelve miles, the army had to cross successively three deep ravines running through a thick cane-brake, and had to wade through water rising up to the waist. The army then emerged on a beautiful and open prairie, on the edge of which they encamped, at the distance of six miles from the villages.
The intention of Bienville was to turn round those villages of the Chickasaws, to march upon the village of the Natchez, which was in the rear, and to attack first those whom he considered as the instigators of the Chickasaw war. But the Choctaws insisted with such pertinacity upon attacking the villages which were nearer, and which, they said, contained more provisions than that of the Natchez; and they represented with such warmth, that, in the needy condition in which they were, it was absolutely necessary they should take possession p473of these provisions, that Bienville yielded to their importunities. The prairie in which these villages were situated covered a space of •about six miles. The villages were small, and built in the shape of a triangle, on a hillock sloping down to a brook which was almost dry; further off was the main body of the Chickasaw villages, and the smaller ones seemed to be a sort of vanguard. The Choctaws having informed Bienville that he would find water nowhere else, he ordered the army to file off close to the wood which enclosed the prairie, in order to reach another hillock that was in sight. There the troops halted to rest and take nourishment. It was past twelve o'clock.
The Indian scouts whom Bienville had left in every direction to look for tidings of D'Artaguette, whom he had expected to operate his junction with him on this spot, had come back and brought no information. It was evident, therefore, that he could no longer hope for the co‑operation on which he had relied, and that he had to trust only to his own resources. It was impossible to wait; and immediate action was insisted upon by the Choctaws and the French officers, who thought that the three small villages which have been described, and which were the nearest to them, were not susceptible of much resistance. Bienville yielded to the solicitations of his allies and of his troops, and at two in the afternoon, ordered his nephew Noyan to begin the attack, and to put himself at the head of a column composed of a company of grenadiers, of detachments of fifteen men taken from each one of the eight companies of French regulars, of sixty-five men of the Swiss troops and forty-five volunteers.
The French had approached within carbine shot of the forts, and at that distance, could plainly distinguish Englishmen, who appeared to be very active in assisting p474the Chickasaws in preparing their defense, and who had hoisted up their flag on one of the forts. Bienville recommended that they should not be assailed if they thought proper to retire, and to give them time should they feel so disposed, he ordered to confine the attack to the village named Ackia, which was the most remote from the one under the English flag.
The order for the attack being given, the division commanded by Noyan moved briskly on, and under the protection of mantelets carried by the company of negroes, arrived safely at the foot of the hill on which the villages stood. But there, one of the negroes being killed, and another wounded, the rest flung down the mantelets, and took to their heels. The French pushed on, and penetrated into the village, with the company of grenadiers at their head. But being no longer under cover, and much exposed to the fire of the enemy, their losses were very heavy. The noble and brilliant Chevalier de Contre Coeur, a favorite in the army, was killed, and a number of soldiers shared his fate, or were disabled. However, three of the principal fortified cabins were carried by the impetuosity of the French, with several smaller ones which were burned. But as a pretty considerable intervening space remained to be gone over, to assail the chief fort and the other fortified cabins, when it became necessary to complete the success obtained, Noyan, who then headed the column of attack, turning round, saw that he had with him only the officers belonging to the head of the column, some grenadiers, and a dozen of volunteers. The troops had been dismayed by the death of Captain De Lusser, with many of his grenadiers, including a sergeant, who had fallen when they had attempted to cross the space separating the last cabin taken from the next p475to be taken. Seeking for shelter against the galling fire of the enemy, the French had clustered behind the cabins of which they had already taken possession, and it was impossible for the officers who commanded the tail of the column, to drive them away, either by threats, promises, or words of exhortation, from their secure position. Putting themselves at the head of a few of their best soldiers, in order to encourage the rest, the officers resolved to make a desperate attempt to storm the fortified blockhouse they had in front of them. But in an instant, their commander the Chevalier de Noyan, D'Hauterive, the captain of the grenadiers, Grondel, lieutenant of the Swiss, De Velles, Montbrun, and many other officers, were disabled. Still keeping his ground, De Noyan sent his aid-de‑camp, De Juzan, to encourage and bring up to him the wavering soldiers who had slunk behind the cabins. But, in making the effort, this officer was killed, and his death increased the panic of the troops.
Grondel, who had fallen near the walls of the enemy, had been abandoned, and a party of Indians was preparing to sally out to scalp him, when a sergeant of the grenadiers, ashamed of the cowardice which had left an officer in this perilous and defenseless position, took with him four of his men, and rushed to the rescue of Grondel, without being intimidated by bullets as thick as hail. These five intrepid men reached in safety the spot where Grondel lay, and were in the act of lifting him up to carry him away, when a general discharge from the fort prostrated every one of them dead by the side of him they had come to save. But this noble deed was not lost upon the army: the electrical stroke had been given, and was responded to by the flashing out of another bright spark of heroism. A grenadier named Régnisse, rather inflamed than dastardized p476by the fate of his companions, dashed out of the ranks of his company, ran headlong to the place where Grondel lay weltering in his blood from the five wounds he had received, took him on his athletic shoulders, and carried him away in triumph amid the general acclamations, and the enthusiastic bravos of those who witnessed the feat. To the astonishment of all, he had the good luck to pass unscathed through the fire which was poured upon him by the enemy, but the inanimate body of Grondel which he was transporting received a sixth wound. So generously saved from the Indian tomahawk, this officer slowly recovered, and was subsequently raised to a high rank in the French army.
The spectacle then presented to the sight was truly of an exciting character. The village attacked was enveloped in a thick smoke, through which might be seen to emerge occasionally, a body of soldiers carrying away some of their wounded. Inside of the smoke, concealed behind the heavy logs of which their forts and cabins were made up, the Indians, firing through their loopholes, were uttering such appalling whoops and shouts, such blood-freezing shrieks and fiendish yells, that one would have thought that thousands of demons were rioting in one of their favorite haunts in Pandemonium. To complete the illusion, the six hundred Choctaws, with the other red allies of the French, almost in a state of nakedness, and painted all over in the most frightful colors, as they do when they go to war, to make themselves more hideously terrific, kept hovering on both wings of the French, at a safe distance from the balls of the enemy, while they fired at random into the vacant air, emulating the Chickasaws in the production only of horrific and unearthly sounds, gesticulating wildly, running and jumping, as if they p477were delirious, and looking like maniac devils rather than men. One could have imagined that they were the rabble of hell, enraged and thrown into an insurrection, by being excluded from the feast prepared for their betters.
Noyan, seeing at last that he was exposing himself and his bravest companions in vain, and growing faint under the effects of his wound, ordered a retreat from the open field, and taking shelter in one of the cabins, sent word to Bienville, that he had lost about seventy men, of whom many were officers, and that if prompt relief was not afforded, no officer would be left standing on his feet, as they would all have to share the fate of those who had fallen: that himself, although from the nature of his wound in want of immediate assistance, would not venture to retire from the field of action, because he feared it would be the signal of a general scattering away.
On hearing this report, and on seeing the French and Swiss troops beginning to give ground, while demonstrations of an attack on their flank were visible in the direction of the great Indian villages which were further off at the extremity of the prairie, Bienville sent Beauchamp with a reserve of eighty men, to support the troops engaged, and to bring off the wounded and the dead. Beauchamp did not execute his orders without losing several men. One of his officers, by the name of Favrot, was wounded; and when Beauchamp reached the spot where the contest had been the fiercest, and which might, if the expression be allowed, be called the heart of the battle, he found all the officers nobly keeping their ground, and clustered in a solid mass, retaining possession with desperate energy of the foremost cabin they had gained, nearest to the fort of the enemy. Beauchamp gathered together all p478the men who still remained on that bloody field, and retreated in good order toward the French camp, but he could not prevent some of the dead bodies from falling into the hands of the Indians, who, much to the horror of the French, impaled the naked corpses on their palisades. The Choctaws, who, so far, had kept aside and left the French to shift for themselves, seeing them in full retreat, seemed disposed, out of bravado, to show to the white faces, that the red ones could do what the superior race had failed to execute, and marched upon the village as if determined to storm it. But as they approached, a general discharge from the enemy having brought down twenty-two of their men, they did not wait for another, and scampered away like whipped curs, much to the satisfaction and amusement of the French.
This engagement, which had begun at two o'clock in the afternoon, had lasted three hours. It had ceased for more than an hour and a half, when, on looking down on the lovely scene which then presented itself to the eye, one would have been struck with the contrast which it had offered not long before. To the well-known excitement, noise, turmoil, confusion, and incidents of a battle, had succeeded the most complete repose and the most absolute silence. The sun had gone down to rest behind the distant trees of the western horizon, and that portion of the sky through which he had lately trod, had remained gorgeously illuminated by the lingering rays which the easternº monarch had left behind him when he had disappeared. The richly dyed and variegated clouds, which rose up in a pyramid of splendor, looked as if they were the purple mantle and the other vestments which he had carelessly dropped from his shoulders when he had sought his repose. A sweet breeze was sighing and gently sweeping across p479the prairie as if lulling tired nature to sleep. In the distance, the villages of the Chickasaws produced rather a picturesque effect, and were for the eye an agreeable resting-point in the landscape. Not a sound was to be heard coming from that direction. The Indians seemed to have dropped asleep in the lap of victory, under the protection of the proud banner of England, which floated over their heads. There was but one spot where a hollow murmuring sound might have been noticed. It was in the French camp, situated on the outskirts of the prairie, in the vicinity of the smaller Indian villages which the French had met on entering it, and which seemed to stand sentries for the main body of the larger villages. Encouraged by the silence which had been reigning for two hours, herds of deer were to be seen gracefully stealing away through the prairie, and its feathered tenants, such as partridges, woodcocks, and other birds were heard uttering, in their usual notes, their last farewell to the departing light of day, while seeking their downy nests in the perfumed grass enameled with myriads of wild flowers. The cattle of the Indians, which, frightened by the musketry and the shouts of the combatants, had fled into the neighboring woods, had returned to the prairie, and were seen browsing far and wide over that broad expanse of pasture. Invited by silence and solitude, a troop of horses, headed by a beautiful white mare, which seemed their queen, came leisurely on, to drink at the brook running at the foot of the hill, on which stood the Indian villages. A soft glow hung over the prairie, and it looked like a beautiful picture, of which the dark foliaged woods far off were the appropriate frame.
Not unmindful of the attractions of this truly southern scenery of the North American continent, and reposing p480under the broad canopy of a gigantic oak which stood a little in front of the French camp, a large group of officers were discussing the events of the day. With them was Simon, a free black, the commander of the company of negroes who had thrown down the mantelets they were carrying to protect the French in their attempt to storm the village of Ackia. Simon, when his men had fled, had stood his ground, and had remained with the French officers at the spot the most exposed, until the retreat was sounded. He was a sort of privileged character, and he was sorely vexed at the cowardice displayed by those of his color. The French officers, who were amused at his chagrin, and at the comical expressions in which it was vented, kept bantering him without mercy on his light-footed companions. Stung to the heart, Simon exclaimed: "A negro is as brave as any body, and I will show it to you." Seizing a rope which was dangling from one of the tents, he rushed headlong toward the horses which were quietly slaking their thirst under the protection of the muskets of the Indian villages. To reach the white mare, to jump on her back with the agility of a tiger, and to twist round her head and mouth the rope with which to control and rein her, was the affair of an instant. But that instant was enough for the apparently sleeping village to show itself wide awake, and that dark mass was seen as if spontaneously girding itself with a zone of fire, so rapid and thick were the flashes from its innumerable loopholes. But away dashed Simon with the rapidity of lightning; frantic with affright, madly reared and plunged the conquered mare under the strong hand of Simon, who forced her to take the direction of the French camp, where he arrived safely amid the cheering acclamations of the troops, and without having received a scratch from the p481balls of the enemy. This noble feat silenced at once the jests of which Simon thought himself the victim.
The modest abnegation of the brave grenadier, Régnisse, who had so heroically saved Grondel, must not be omitted to be recorded also. When the battle was over, Bienville wanted to make him an officer on the spot, but Régnisse obstinately refused, saying that he did not know how to write, and that having no education, he was not worthy of the grade offered to him, and that every one of his brother grenadiers being capable of doing what he had done, he did not deserve and did not wish to be elevated above them; his scruples could not be overcome, but his comrades, joyfully admitting his superiority, insisted upon his name being put at the top of the roll of the company, and upon his taking the lead of them when under arms. On that day, he received from his companions the title of "the first of the grenadiers."
The prairie on which these events took place, was called "Strawberry Plain," on account of the quantity of the fruit of this name with which it was covered, and the battle was called "the Battle of Ackia," from the name of the village attacked.
After the severe repulse which the French had met with, nothing remained for them to do but to retreat. Writing on the causes of the failure of this expedition, and on the reasons which induced him not to renew the attack, Bienville said:— "What remains to add to the previous information given by me with regard to the fortifications which the Indians know how to make is, that after having surrounded their cabins with several rows of thick and large stakes, they dig the ground inside, and bury themselves up to the pit of their arms, which they keep free to fire through loopholes cut almost even with the ground. But they p482obtain more advantages from the natural situation of their cabins, which are at a distance from one another, and are so located as to cross their fires, than from any thing which English art can teach to make them stronger. The roof of these cabins is a thick covering of mud and wood, which is proof against firebrands or arrows and grenades, so that they could be penetrated through only by bombs. But we had neither cannon nor mortars. After all, when I saw the number of our wounded, I did not doubt but that I was obliged to give up the game, on account of the difficulty which I foresaw of transporting them. In fact, I had no choice, because I feared to be deserted by the Choctaws, who were famished. In that case, we should have been harassed in the woods, and attacked when crossing the ravines; our loss then might have been very great. What justified my fears, is, that I was obliged to divide with the Choctaws our provisions, to induce them to come with us."
On the 27th of May, the day following that of the battle, Bienville had litters made to transport the wounded; and at one in the afternoon, the army forming itself into two columns, which had been the order of marching when coming, began its retrograde movement. The soldiers, who were very much worn out by the fatigues they had undergone, and whose baggage was already a full load, had infinite pains in carrying on the wounded, and it was dark when the army had gone •four miles and a half through the woods. It having become necessary to encamp for the night, such slow marching disgusted the Choctaws; and Red Shoe, who nourished an old grudge against the French, with a few others, endeavored to prevail upon their people to abandon their white allies. In order to counteract their intrigues, Bienville sent for the great chief of the p483Choctaws, and expostulating with him, begged him to recollect that it was to please the Choctaws that he had attacked the Chickasaws, instead of going round their villages to assail the Natchez, as was his original intention, and that the Choctaws were, therefore, the causes of the defeat of the French, whom they ought to desert much less under such circumstances than under any other. The eloquence of Bienville touched the great chief, who ordered Red Shoe to desist from his designs. A violent altercation arose between them, and the great chief, drawing a pistol from his belt, was in the act of firing at Red Shoe, when his arm was arrested by Bienville. At last, all difficulties were settled, and it was agreed that every Indian chief would have one wounded Frenchman carried by his men. Alibamon Mengo, the chief who had been so useful to the French when they besieged the Natchez, and whose interference had induced the enemy to come to terms, gave the example, and had Bienville's nephew, Noyan, carried by his people. On the 29th, the French reached the place where they had left their boats, after having lost on the way two men, who died of their wounds.
The French found the river falling so fast, that they hastened to embark on that same day, and so low already was the water, that it became hard work in several places to push the boats through. From this circumstance, Bienville had cause to congratulate himself on the resolution he had taken to retreat, it being evident that, a few days later, he would have been obliged to set fire to his boats, and to return by land, which would have been attended with immense difficulties and dangers.
The French arrived at the Tombecbee settlement on the 2d of June, and the wounded were immediately sent forward with all the surgeons. On the 3d, Bienville p484departed from Tombecbee, where he left Captain De Berthel in command, with a garrison of thirty Frenchmen and twenty Swiss. They were supplied with provisions to last for the balance of the year, and with merchandise to trade with the Indians. Bienville drew the plan of the fortifications which he wished to be made, and instructed Berthel to have them erected as soon as possible on the spot he had designated.
On his return to New Orleans, Bienville wrote to the minister of the colonial department: "Your excellency will have seen by the accounts of this laborious campaign, which I have transmitted to the government, that in its conception and execution, and in the closing retreat, I made the best use I could of the means I had at my disposal, and you will also have remarked that, after having suffered in my preparations from delays which I could not anticipate, much less could I foresee the cowardice of the troops put under my orders. It is true that, considering the pitiful recruits of blackguards which are sent here, one ought never to entertain the flattering hope of making soldiers of them. What is worse, is the obligation under which I am with such troops, to hazard the reputation of the nation, and to expose our officers to the necessity of meeting death or dishonor. The recruits recently arrived by the Gironde are still inferior to the preceding ones. There are but one or two men among them whose size is above •five feet; as to the rest, they are under •four feet ten inches. With regard to their moral character, it is sufficient to state that, out of fifty-two who have lately been sent here, more than one half have already been whipped for larceny. In a word, these useless beings are not worth the food bestowed upon them: they are burdens to the colony, and from them no efficient military service is to be expected."
p485 It was only at New Orleans that Bienville learned that D'Artaguette had arrived before him at the Chickasaw villages, and had met with a signal defeat and a tragical death. In conformity with the instructions he had received, D'Artaguette had displayed considerable activity, and had reached, on the 4th of March, a place then called Ecores à Prudhomme, on the Mississippi, with thirty soldiers, one hundred volunteers, and almost all the Indians of the Kaskaskia village. There he was joined by De Vincennes with forty Iroquois, and all the Indians of the Wabash tribe. De Montcherval, with the Cahokias and the Mitchigamias, was daily expected. De Grandpré, who commanded at the Arkansas, had dispatched twenty-eight warriors of that tribe to ascertain whether D'Artaguette was at the Ecores à Prudhomme, and to come back to him with that information. These Indians, when they reached the spot, finding that D'Artaguette was moving away, followed him, and disregarded the instructions of Grandpré, who in vain waited for their return. D'Artaguette proceeded by short stages, in order to give time to Montcherval and Grandpré to join him. When he arrived on the territory of the Chickasaws, he sent scouts to discover tidings of Bienville's army. These scouts soon returned, and reported that in the neighborhood of the Chickasaw villages, there were no vestiges of the French forces.
On the day following the return of these spies, a courier brought to D'Artaguette a letter, in which he was informed that unexpected delays and obstacles in the preparations to be made, would prevent Bienville from being at the Chickasaws before the end of April, which would be the soonest, wherefore he was requested to take his measures accordingly. On the reception of this letter, D'Artaguette convened a council of war, p486composed of officers and of Indian chiefs. The Indians were for an immediate attack, representing that they had but few provisions, and therefore would be obliged to abandon the French in a short time; that their spies had reported that, at the extremity of the prairie where the Chickasaw villages were situated, there was an isolated one, (probably the village of the Natchez refugees) which had no more than thirty cabins, of which, no doubt, easy possession could be taken, and that the provisions they would find there would enable the whole army to wait comfortably for the arrival of Bienville, under the protection of fortifications which would be soon erected. Almost all of the French officers were of the same opinion, and the attack was resolved upon. At that moment, the allied forces were composed of one hundred and thirty Frenchmen and of three hundred and sixty-six Indians.
Having taken the determination to attack, the French marched on briskly, and came, without being discovered, as they thought, within the distance of •a mile from the isolated village, on Palm Sunday. Leaving all his baggage to the keeping of thirty men commanded by Frontigny, D'Artaguette marched on the village, which he attacked with great vigor. But hardly had the engagement begun, when four or five hundred Indians, who were headed by about thirty Englishmen, and who had kept themselves concealed behind a neighboring hill, fell upon the assailants with such impetuosity, and so unexpectedly, that the Miamis and the Illinois took to flight. Thirty-eight Iroquois, and the twenty-eight Arkansas sent by Grandpré, were the only Indians that stood by the French, who fought with desperate valor against the overwhelming odds they had to contend with. Lieutenant St. Ange was the first to fall, then the Ensigns De Coulanges, De la Gravière, and p487De Courtigny, with six of the militia officers. Still the French, hemmed in on every side, did not give way an inch. But soon, captain Des Essarts, Lieutenant Langlois, and Ensign Levieux, were shot down. Few officers remained on their legs, and the French, having lost forty-five out of one hundred that they were, thought that it was high time to operate a retreat toward their baggage, where they expected to be supported by the detachment of thirty men they had left there. But they were pursued with such obstinate fury by the Chickasaws, that, at last, they were completely routed in spite of the courage and discipline which they had displayed. D'Artaguette, who had performed prodigies of valor, had fallen covered with wounds, and was taken prisoner, with Father Sénac, a Jesuit, Du Tisné, an officer of regulars, Lalande, a militia captain, and five or six soldiers and militia privates, making nineteen in all.º The Chickasaws gave up the pursuit of the fugitives only after having killed fifty of them, and wounded many others. Not one man would have escaped, if a violent storm had not arisen, and checked the pursuers. The Chickasaws took possession of all the provisions and baggage of the French, with four hundred and fifty pounds of powder, twelve thousand bullets, and eleven horses. Their victory was as complete as possible, and the ammunition which fell into their hands was of great use to them, in helping them to resist the subsequent attack of Bienville.
D'Artaguette, Father Sénac, and fifteen others were burned alive, according to the usage of the Indians in festivals for victories obtained, and the remaining two captains were set aside, to be exchanged for a Chickasaw warrior who was in the hands of the French. This exchange effectually took place some time after.
The fugitives, on the second day of their flight, met p488Montcherval, who was following D'Artaguette with one hundred and sixty Indians, and fourteen Frenchmen. Montcherval gathered together the broken remnants of D'Artaguette's army, and fell back, after having dispatched a courier to Grandpré. The courier met this officer on Margot River, with all the warriors of the Arkansas tribe. He was waiting for the return of the emissary he had sent to bring him back tidings of D'Artaguette. On hearing of the defeat of the French, he returned to the settlement where he commanded.
The melancholy fate of D'Artaguette and his companions produced on the colony almost as painful an impression as the Natchez massacre; and the bad success of Bienville's expedition was another cause of humiliation, which contributed to increase the gloom hanging over the country. De Beauchamp, who, it will be recollected, had been sent by Bienville to support Noyan when attacking the village of Ackia, and to facilitate his retreat, writing on this expedition, says:— "To make an end of the Chickasaw war, it is necessary to have a detachment of workmen, of miners and bombardiers, with the implements and instruments necessary to ferret out those savages, who burrow like badgers in their cabins, which are very much like ovens. If fire is set to them, the straw with which they are thatched will be consumed, but the cabin itself, the roof and lateral walls of which are made of mud one foot thick, will not burn. Besides, these cabins which are fortified, are so situated that they defend one another. It is not enough to take three or four of them: all must be taken, or there is no security. The ground being of a nature easy to be worked, miners are necessary to drive those savages out of their cabins; otherwise we should be exposed to lose, in attacking them, a considerable number of men."
p489 The failure of this expedition seems to have been due to a want of concert and foresight. It is probable that if the forces commanded by Bienville, D'Artaguette, Montcherval, and Grandpré, had arrived at the same time, and attacked from different points, the result would have been favorable to the French. As it was, this campaign proved disastrous in the extreme. D'Artaguette's forces had been completely crushed, and Bienville had lost over one hundred and twenty men. The expenses also had been very great, and had turned out to be entirely fruitless. These losses were so many deductions to be made from the scanty resources of the colony.
Lieutenant John Philip Goujon de Grondel, who had been so severely wounded at the attack on the village of Ackia, was three years without being able to resume active service. He was born at Saverne,º in the French province of Alsatia, on the 27th of November, 1714, and was the son of Lieutenant-colonel Grondel, who served in the Swiss regiment called the Karrer regiment, from the name of its colonel, the Chevalier de Karrer. Grondel the father, and Karrer, were bound by the ties of the most intimate friendship; and Grondel, when his son had hardly attained the age of five years and a half, availing himself of the privilege granted to the sons of gentlemen engaged in the king's service, had him registered as Cadet2 on the roll of his friend Karrer. In November, 1731, young Grondel embarked for Louisiana with the Karrer regiment, in which he had become an officer, and arrived at last at New Orleans, after a laborious and tempestuous voyage of nearly four months. He was stationed for two years at Pointe Coupée, where he p490distinguished himself in several skirmishes against the Indians. In 1734, he was ordered to Mobile, where he made himself conspicuous by his duels, his gayety, the sociability of his manners, his gallantries, and his marauding excursions against the Indians, in which he displayed great daring. In 1736, Bienville was preparing for his expedition against the Chickasaws, and Grondel was at the Tombecbee depot, when it was discovered that a sergeant, by the name of Montfort, had seduced the small garrison of that settlement, and had prevailed upon them to rise upon their officers. It was Grondel who, by his rapidity of action, disconcerted the plan of the rebels, and who arrested Montfort with his own hands. It is already known how bravely he behaved at the siege of the Chickasaw villages. The minister of the colonial department, on being informed of his conduct in that engagement, in which he was also so dangerously wounded, sent him a gratuity of six hundred livres, with a promise of the cross of St. Louis.
In 1740, Grondel was the hero of an anecdote which is characteristic of the man who is the subject of this biographical sketch, and of the manners of the time. It was night, one of those glorious nights which are so peculiar to the southern latitude of Louisiana; the sky seemed an ocean of soft liquid light, through which the full moon was serenely floating, when several officers, kept out of their beds by the beauty and the purity of the atmosphere, were promenading on the bank of the Mississippi, in front of the public square of the city of New Orleans. They had exhausted all subjects of conversation, and in spite of the buoyancy of their spirits, had become intolerably dull. One of them exclaimed, "What a pity we have no women at hand! We would dance. In the devil's name, what shall we do to amuse ourselves in such fine weather as this?" "In God's p491name," replied Grondel, "how can you be at a loss? Let us fight. It is the best way to kill time." No sooner said than done. At it they went, each one paired with another, and passes after passes were exchanged in the most jocose and friendly manner imaginable, until one of them received a slight thrust from Grondel, which put an end to this amicable entertainment.
In 1741, a more serious turn of mind seemed to have come upon Grondel, and he married the daughter of Captain Du Tisné, one of the most esteemed and efficient officers in Louisiana, whose son had perished in the ill-fated D'Artaguette expedition. From that time until 1750, when he became a captain of the Swiss grenadiers, he was employed in several military expeditions and diplomatic negotiations with the Indians, in which he acquitted himself with great credit to himself and to the satisfaction of his chiefs. In 1753, he was rewarded for his services by the decoration of the cross of St. Louis, which had long been promise to him. Shortly after, happening to be at Dauphine Island when a Spanish vessel was wrecked and went to pieces on that coast, Grondel flung himself into the sea, and being an expert swimmer, saved several of the victims of the storm who were struggling against death. His heroic example was followed with equal success by others, who would have felt ashamed of their inaction. In 1758, Grondel returned to New Orleans from Mobile, and having been enriched by an heritage which befell his wife, became a large planter and the lord of one hundred and fifty negroes. But in 1759, he became embroiled in a quarrel with Governor Kerlerec, who accused him of insubordination and of several other offenses, for which he was thrown into prison, where he remained three years. In the month of August, p4921762, he was put by the governor on board of a vessel, in company with the Intendant Rochemore and several other officers, whom the governor charged being engaged in a scheme of insurrection, and who were sent to France to be finally tried. In the Gulf of Mexico, after having run the risk of being wrecked, they were chased for a while by an English frigate, and escaped with difficulty by the chance favor of a dark night. The next day, at the entrance of the Bahama channel, they met an English privateer, who immediately ran upon them. The French vessel tried in vain to avoid her antagonist, than which she was considerably weaker. The French officers having met in council to deliberate on the propriety of surrendering without an ineffectual struggle, Grondel strenuously opposed any proposition of the kind, and affirmed that had the presentiment of victory. His ardor was communicative, and his companions unanimously resolved to fight. Grondel having taken the command of the quarter-deck, the engagement soon began, and the English ship became so crippled that she was obliged to drop away and to shrink from the contest. A few days later, Grondel who, by tacit consent, had taken the military command of the French vessel, attacked a large English merchantman, and after a short engagement, in which he disabled several of the crew of his enemy, took possession of the English vessel. He dismissed her after having forced her captain to give to the French all the provisions of which they stood in need, and a draft of forty thousand crowns, which was paid on presentation.
The danger of being taken by the masters of the sea, was not the only one the French had to run. During a voyage of ninety-four days, they were constantly beaten by storms, until at last they were driven into p493the port of La Coruña in Spain, on the 1st of November, 1762. After having rested three weeks in that city, Grondel departed with seven or eight of his companions, to go by land to Bordeaux. Rochemore, the intendant, with the rest of the passengers, re-embarked in their ship, which had been repaired. Grondel and his followers were all mounted on mules, and slowly pursued their way to the French frontiers. As it was very cold, he was wrapped up in a sort of Canadian morning gown made of very fine wool, and which, having a hood, resembled the gown of a Capuchin. He had appended to it his cross of St. Louis, and as he and his suite had a very respectable appearance, he was taken for a bishop by the peasants, who devoutly kneeled and crossed themselves as he passed. On these occasions, the faithful who courted Grondel's benediction, were blessed by him with a sanctimonious gravity which drew from his companions peals of laughter as soon as they were out of sight of the Spaniards. This was related by them as one of the most amusing incidents of their journey, and was in harmony with the levity of the time. After twenty-four days of painful traveling in an inclement season, Grondel arrived at Bayonne in France, where the Marquis d'Amon, who commanded in that city, and who was a friend of his colonel, received him with warm demonstrations of satisfaction and respect, and gave a public festival in his honor. At Bordeaux, the celebrated Duke of Richelieu, who was governor-general of the province of Guienne, treated him with the most gracious affability, and Grondel, though only a captain, was informed that a seat would be daily reserved for him at the marshal's table. From Bordeaux he went to visit at Rochefort the staff officers of his regiment, which had been recalled to France, and their joy at p494seeing him showed what a hold he had on their hearts.
On the 17th of January, 1763, Grondel arrived in Paris; the next day he went and presented his respects to the Count of Hallwill, his late colonel, recently promoted to the rank of general, and to whom he complained of the persecution of which he was the object from the governor of Louisiana. General Hallwill took him under his protection, and carried him to Versailles, where he presented him to the minister, the Duke of Choiseul, who promised him promotion, if, on his trial, he was found innocent of the charges preferred against him. Kerlerec, the governor of Louisiana, had also been summoned to France, to make good the very grave accusations he had brought against the intendant Rochemore and so many officers. Kerlerec was a kinsman of Marshal D'Estrées, and on his arrival in France, making use of the influence of this nobleman at court, obtained an order of arrest (lettre de cachet) against Grondel, who, on the 9th of April, 1765, was carried to the Bastile, and whose papers were seized at his domicil, and put under seal. On the tenth day of his incarceration, he was interrogated by M. de Sartines, the minister of police, on whom he produced so favorable an impression, that a few days after he was set at liberty. He immediately left Paris in company with the Duke of Aiguillon, a friend of his father, to visit at Port Louis that gentleman, who was then one hundred years old, and who reached the age of one hundred and seven.
After having remained eighteen days under the parental roof, Grondel returned to Paris to sue for justice in his conflict with the Governor of Louisiana. On the 11th of August, 1769, after long delays, a judgment was rendered in his favor, and soon after he was appointed p495lieutenant-colonel, with a gratuity of two thousand five hundred livres, and an annual pension of eighteen hundred livres. These favors were rendered more valuable by being accompanied with a letter from the minister of marine, Duke of Praslin, in which the duke informed Grondel that all these rewards had been granted as testimonials of the high sense which the king had of his services. In the mean time, Louisiana having been ceded to Spain, Grondel gave up all thoughts of returning to that colony, and was appointed, on the 30th of December, 1772, to the command of the city of Lorient. According to his instructions, Grondel's wife sold all his property in Louisiana, and joined him in 1776, with all his family, except two daughters, who had married in the colony. In 1788, Grondel had risen to the grade of brigadier-general, which was bestowed on him without any solicitations on his part. The great revolution which was to shatter to pieces the throne of Louis the XVIth, was moving forward with fearful rapidity, and General Grondel who, owing to his advanced age, ceased to be on active service, retired to Nemours to end his days in such peace as was compatible with the storm which shook the very foundations of the state.
In 1792, General Grondel was denounced as an aristocrat and thrown into prison, but after an incarceration of eight days, he was restored to his family and friends. Shortly after, on the 29th of April, he was unanimously elected by the inhabitants of Nemours commanding-general of the national guards of that city, and he discharged the duties of this elevated position until the 1st of September, 1793. While commander of the national guards of Nemours, two corps of troops that were passing through having come to blows, General Grondel had the merit of quelling the riot by p496throwing himself among the combatants, whom he awed into submission by his firmness and his venerable aspect; and the municipal authorities of Nemours voted him thanks for his noble conduct. In 1796, overwhelmed with grief at the horrors which had swept over France, he left Nemours, and retired to Salins, near Montereau. He was one of those who were most enthusiastic in favor of Bonaparte, when the future despot struck, on the 18th Brumaire, his celebrated blow against the legislative assemblies of France. On this occasion, Baudry de Lozieres relates that Grondel rapturously exclaimed: "I have lived long enough; France is saved and her wounds are closed: be it forever recorded, to the eternal glory of the God who has come down from heaven to confer upon us so many benefits! This great restorer is above the human species; for it does not belong to man to execute so many gigantic and immortal things, and to do so in such a short space of time."
So intense was Grondel's admiration for Bonaparte, that, on his being presented to the First Consul, the octogenarian veteran actually sobbed and shed tears on the hand of the youthful general who had become the master of France. The officer who, in 1732, had been fighting in Louisiana to secure that important colony to his country, can not but have felt deeply grateful, in 1802, to the hero who had wrested that rich possession from Spain, and reannexed it to the domains of France. But General Grondel's joy was not of long duration, and he lived to see Louisiana escape from the grasp of France to fall into the motherly lap of United States of America.
1 Du Coder took the advice, and escaped shortly after with his companion.
2 A Cadet is a person of gentle blood who serves as a volunteer, in expectation of a promised commission.
Images with borders lead to more information.
Gayarré's History of Louisiana
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
Page updated: 7 Apr 10