By a royal decree of the 10th of July, 1776, the government and intendancy of Louisiana had been ordered to be provisionally surrounded to Don Bernardo de Galvez, then colonel of the regiment of Louisiana. He entered on the duties of his office, as Unzaga's successor, on the 1st of February, 1777. He was then about twenty-one years old, and his talents, his energy and his activity would have secured him a brilliant career, even had he not possessed other means of success. But to these advantages he joined that of being as powerfully connected as any subject in Spain. His father, Don Mathias de Galvez, was viceroy of Mexico, and his uncle, Don Joseph de Galvez, was almost king of Spain, for he was secretary of state and president of the council of the Indies, and was, as such, next to the crowned heads, the man who wielded the greatest power in Europe.
In 1776, it had been stipulated between the courts of France and Spain that Louisiana should be permitted to trade with the French West India Islands, on condition that the articles which might be wanted from Louisiana for those islands should be purchased (in order to p106 prevent smuggling) by two commissioners appointed by the French government, who should reside in New Orleans. On the 12th of February, 1777, the two French commissioners, Villars and Favre d'Aunoy, arrived in Louisiana. It was through them that all the French vessels which should come to the colony were to get their cargoes. The appointment of Galvez was the signal of a considerable change in the commerce of the province. The English had enjoyed the monopoly of it under Unzaga's administration, but it now passed into the hands of the French. The commissioners of that nation soon obtained from Galvez the grant of more privileges than were conceded in the treaty, and the French vessels were authorized to load not only at New Orleans, but also at any point on the river, provided they brought to the governor a declaration from the planters specifying the articles which they had shipped. Another encouragement was given to the commerce of the province by reducing to one-half the duty of four per cent, which used to be collected on the exportation of its produce. The French paid for the articles they bought, either in specie, bills of exchange, or Guinea negroes; the introduction of those that were born in the colonies, or had remained long in them, having been prohibited. Vessels from Louisiana were permitted to bring European produce or goods from the island of Cuba, or from Campeachy.º On the 30th of March, 1777, the French commissioners, Villars and Favre d'Aunoy, wrote to their government: "The facilities granted by M. de Galvez to the trade between Louisiana and the French islands, and also the liberal interpretation given by him to the clauses of the treaty, have revived the industry and activity of the merchants and planters, and opened a brilliant prospect to the colony." On the 26th of April, the same commissioners informed their government p107 that Galvez had seized eleven English vessels, richly laden, which were trafficking with the planters on the banks of the Mississippi, and said that, if the governor persisted in the rigor with which he acted against the English, the French commerce in Louisiana would soon acquire a much greater extension.
The Spanish government sought also to give encouragement to agriculture, and informed the colonists that the king would, for the present, purchase tobacco to the amount of eight hundred thousand dollars, if they could raise so much of it, and that, for the future, he would buy their whole crop, however large it might be. A meeting of the planters was convened by the Governor, and they were invited to deliberate on the price at which they could afford to sell their tobacco. It was ultimately agreed to be seven livres a pound for leaf tobacco, and ten livres for tobacco in carots. The Spanish government had two objects in view, in thus fostering the cultivation of tobacco: 1o, — it was to draw from Louisiana, at a low price, all the tobacco necessary to the supply of its Mexican provinces, and thereby to raise its revenue, through the duty which it imposed on this article in those provinces; 2o, — it aimed at driving the English and the Dutch out of the French market, which they monopolized as to the tobacco trade.
"Enjoying a better climate than Maryland and Virginia," said Villars and d'Aunoy, in one of their despatches, "Louisiana, on account of its extent and fertility, could furnish the universe with tobacco. But its population, if not augmented, will not even permit the accomplishment of the wish entertained by his Catholic Majesty, to supply with its produce the wants of the Mexican market. It is calculated that, in a territory measuring •1500 miles in length, there are hardly 8000 negroes, and that the whites muster from 6000 to 7000 p108 souls only. The lands of Lower Louisiana, where is the great bulk of the population, are favorable to the lumber and timber trade, to the cultivation of rice, corn and indigo, but they are not adapted to tobacco. These considerations have not escaped the attention of the Spanish ministry. They have granted an annual sum of $40,000, to facilitate the establishment of the new colonists who may come to Louisiana, and it is ordered that concessions be made to them, in those parts where it may suit them to settle. But, as Spain herself is wanting in population, and as those of her subjects who come to America show that they have very little disposition to devote themselves to agriculture, her project is to draw here, either from France or from the French colonies, all the population which may be necessary to the execution of her views. The Spanish government acts in conformity with this plan, and requests our coasters to make the inhabitants of St. Domingo and the Windward islands acquainted with the advantages which await them in Louisiana. Considering that the tendency of this scheme, should it succeed, is to deprive France of a useful portion of her subjects engaged in the pursuit of agriculture, we hasten to inform you of it, in order that you may, should you think it advisable, put a stop to an emigration which cannot be but injurious to the interests of France. If it be Frenchmen who are to be relied upon for the cultivation of Louisiana, it seems to us more natural that his most Christian Majesty should resume the possession of this colony. France alone can raise it to that degree of prosperity to which it is entitled." Fully alive to the policy of giving more extension to the agriculture of Louisiana, the Court of Madrid issued a decree permitting the introduction of negroes into that province by French vessels, from whatever ports they might come.
p109 In the mean time, the struggle which was going on between England and her American colonies was watched with intense interest by the Governor of Louisiana, and by the Spanish court, which sent several orders to afford secret assistance to the insurgents. In consequence of the favorable dispositions of Spain, which were conveyed to some of the leaders of the Americans in the West, several large boats had come this year, 1777, from Fort Pitt to New Orleans, where munitions had been collected by Oliver Pollock, with the occult aid of Galvez, for the use of the thirteen United States. "Captain Willing, of Philadelphia, who came in one of those boats," says Judge Martin in his History of Louisiana, "visited the British settlements on the Mississippi, and some of his companions crossed the lakes to Mobile, with the view to induce the inhabitants to raise the striped banner, and join their countrymen in the struggle for freedom. The people of both the Floridas, however, remained steadfast in their attachment to the royal cause. Perhaps those on the Mississippi and in Mobile, who remembered the fate of Lafrénière and his companions at New Orleans, were deterred from rising by the recollection of this late tragedy. The thin and sparse population of both the Floridas, their distance from the provinces engaged in the war, and the consequent difficulty of receiving any assistance from them, had also its influence on the conduct of the inhabitants."
Galvez kept up an active correspondence with Colonel George Morgan, who was in command of Fort Pitt, and who, in a letter of the 22d of April, gave the Spanish Governor a very able and lucid history of all the events which had occurred since the beginning of the Revolution. "Should we be able," said the colonel, "to procure transports in New Orleans, I think that we could easily surprise Mobile and Pensacola, destroy their fortifications, p110 and possess ourselves of all their munitions, unless these ports be better fortified and defended than we imagine. I would pay liberally to have a plan of the fortifications, and correct information as to the garrisons and naval forces which protect these places. If one thousand men were sufficient for the contemplated expedition, and if we could, in New Orleans, purchase or charter vessels, and procure artillery, on as short notice as possible, we could strike the most successful blow in a quarter where it is least expected. But we shall never proceed to any action on the subject, before having previously obtained the permission and co-operation of your excellency, and before having secured all the transports, provisions, &c., of which we may stand in need. If we cannot, however, expect so much at your hands, we flatter ourselves that you will at least permit us to trade freely with New Orleans, and I beg your excellency to inform me by an express messenger of your decision, and this, of course, at my expense."
But Galvez had no idea, for obvious reasons, of permitting the Americans to set their foot, in military array, on the soil of Louisiana, and eluded to give any positive answer to Morgan's proposed plan of attack against the British possessions. He wrote to his government that, considering the turn which the war was taking, he feared the inconveniences which might result from the passage of the belligerents through the neutral territory of Louisiana, and he informed the court of Madrid that, in order to endeavor to protect the Spanish interests on the river, he had caused to be built four boats, carrying, each, one 24 or 18 pounder. "These gunboats," said he, in a despatch of the 2d of June, "will be more useful in the river than two frigates, because, as they will be propelled by wind and oar, they will be more than a match for any vessel of war that may enter the passes of the p111 Mississippi, considering that those vessels of war, on account of the shallowness of the water, cannot be of a large size, and that their guns must be of a small calibre, such as twelve pounders at most; so that it will always be in our power to choose our position and distance, and to do much injury without receiving any, on account of the wider range of our guns. All agree that one of those gun‑boats will be able to sink any vessel of war lying at anchor, or becalmed, which must be the case, almost at every moment, when a vessel comes up the river, on account of the rapidity of the current, and because the wind, which is favorable at one bend of the river, becomes necessarily adverse beyond that point."
On the 10th of July, Galvez sent to his government a minute statement of the fortifications, the garrison, and the other means of defence of Pensacola and Mobile, and of the naval forces attached to these two points. He also informed his government that the Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws, who, he said, formed a population of 25,000 souls, including women and children, had declared that they would remain neutrals in the war between the English and Americans, and would prevent the latter from violating their territory to attack any of the English possessions.
On the 15th of August (1777) the Spanish government informed Galvez: that in case the American colonists should seize the British settlements on the Mississippi, and should be disposed to deliver them up to his Catholic Majesty, he, Galvez, was authorized to receive them in trust or deposit, always taking care that this should not provoke any violent measures on the part of the English, which might be avoided by giving them to understand, that it must be more advantageous for them that those settlements should be, as a deposit, under the domination of the king, than in the possession of the p112 insurgents. But this was anticipating the happening of an event which was not likely to occur, for the Americans would have been very little disposed to avail themselves of the officious proposition of the king of Spain to relieve them from the burden of keeping any of their acquisitions, and they would certainly have been inclined, and would probably have thought themselves able, to retain possession of their conquests, should they have made any.
Some of their incursions in the territory acknowledging the sway of Great Britain, west of the Ohio, and on the banks of the Mississippi, had proved highly successful, and the militia of Virginia had possessed themselves of Kaskaskia, and of some other posts on that river. By an act of the Legislature, the region which Virginia had thus acquired was erected into a county called Illinois, and a regiment of infantry and a troop of horse were raised for its protection, under the command of Colonel Clark. It will be recollected that, by the last treaty of peace between Great Britain and France, the Mississippi had been given to North Carolina as its western limit. But George III had forbidden any settlement of white people to the west of the mountains of North Carolina. Notwithstanding this prohibition, a considerable number of emigrants from that province had removed to the banks of the Watauga, one of the branches of the Holston. "They had increased to such a degree," says Judge Martin in History of Louisiana, "that, in 1776, their claim to representation in the convention that framed the constitution was admitted. In 1777, they were formed into a county which had the Mississippi for its western boundary." Thus, at the early period of their history, had the United States extended their dominion and carried their flag and their laws to the banks of that mighty stream over which they were destined to p113 exercise, in the short space of less than forty years, an exclusive jurisdiction.
In the month of January, 1778, Captain Willing returned to New Orleans for the second time, to enter into communication and concert with Oliver Pollock who, with the permission and support of Galvez, had now openly assumed the character of an agent for the insurgents. The Court of Spain had gradually become less timid in its manifestation of hostility towards Great Britain; and Galvez, encouraged by his government, had gone so far as to give assistance to the Americans in arms, ammunition, provisions, &c., to the amount of seventy thousand dollars. By these means, the posts occupied by the militia of Virginia on the Mississippi had been strengthened, and the frontier inhabitants of Pennsylvania had received material aid and comfort. Under such encouraging circumstances, Willing had not hesitated to increase in New Orleans the crew of his boats; and with most of those same companions who had come down with him, and who were about fifty in number, he engaged in foraging and predatory excursions against the British planters on the Mississippi. This troop captured a small vessel which was at anchor near the mouth of Bayou Manchac,a and took possession of the fort, which was evacuated by its garrison of about fifty or sixty men, who crossed the Mississippi and sought refuge on the Spanish side. In the very vessel of which they had possessed themselves, the Americans proceeded up the river to Baton Rouge, stopping at the several plantations on the way, burning all the houses and other buildings, and carrying off the negroes.
A good many of the British planters, on hearing of the approach of these unwelcome visitors, crossed the Mississippi with their most valuable effects and slaves, and sheltered themselves under the Spanish flag, which p114 floated on the right side of the Mississippi. The inhabitants on the left bank were scattered about, they were few in number, and therefore could not make any effective resistance. The invaders continued up as far as Natchez their course of devastation, laying waste the plantations, destroying the stock, applying the torch of the incendiary to the edifices, and carrying off such slaves as had not followed their masters in their flight. At least the sympathies of the people of Louisiana were in favor of the Americans; "but," says Judge Martin in his history, "this cruel, wanton and unprovoked conduct towards a helpless community was viewed with great indignation and horror, much increased by the circumstance of Willing's having been hospitably received and entertained, the preceding year, in several houses which he now committed to the flames." It must also be added, that most of the sufferers by these acts of vandalism were well known in New Orleans, where they used to resort to supply their wants, or for social intercourse; and that all of them had more or less extensive relations with the Spanish portion of Louisiana, in whose families some of them had married. This contributed to draw from those inhabitants a keener reprobation of the conduct of Captain Willing, who was looked upon as having acted more like an Indian warrior than a civilized enemy.
The Americans, however, did not choose to attempt retaining possession of these post, or of any portion of the territory they had thus devastated. In connection with these events, Villars and Favre D'Aunoy, the French commissioners at New Orleans, wrote to their government: "The Spaniards here see with regret these conquests, because it cuts off their hope of executing them on their own account, and of thereby securing for themselves the exclusive possession of the Gulf of Mexico. Besides, they feel that the mildness and the other advantages of the p115 climate of Louisiana may seduce the Americans, and attract them to a region, from which the communication with the Gulf of Mexico begins to be better and more practically known, presenting but trifling difficulties, &c. Therefore, it is the interest of Spain that France should recover the possession of Louisiana."
Such was not, however, the opinion of the Spanish government, which, to increase the prosperity of the colony, and to bring relief to the distresses from which it was suffering, was disposed to relax the severity of the commercial restrictions under which it was placed. In accordance with this more judicious policy, which was, at last, forcing itself upon the councils of Spain, Galvez, by a proclamation of the 20th of April, 1778, in order to facilitate the sale of the produce of the colony, permitted its exportation to any of the ports of France. This proclamation had been preceded by one issued on the 17th, which granted a similar privilege of trading with any part of the United States.
By a royal order of the 4th of May, 1778, the indemnity to be paid to owners of slaves sentenced to death, perpetual labor and transport, or of runaway slaves killed in the attempt made to arrest them, was fixed at two hundred dollars a head; but, in this latter case,1 the indemnity was due only to those who had previously consented to pay a proportion of the price of the slaves thus killed, which proportion was to be deducted from the indemnity.
The province was reviving under the healthful influence of the extension of its commercial franchises, when it received a considerable accession to its population by the arrival of a number of families, transported to Louisiana from the Canary Islands, at the king's expense. p116 Some of them, under the command of Marigny de Mandeville, settled at Terre aux Boeufs, on a tract of land now included in the parish of St. Bernard; others, under the guidance of St. Maxent, located themselves near Bayou Manchac, at •about twenty-four miles from the town of Baton Rouge, where they established a village which they called Galvezton; the rest formed that of Venezuela, on Bayou Lafourche. The government carried its parental solicitude so far as to build a house for each family, and a church for each settlement. These emigrants were very poor, and were supplied with cattle, fowls and farming utensils; rations were furnished them for a period of four years, out of the king's stores, and considerable pecuniary assistance was afforded to them.2 Their descendants are now known under the name of Islingues, which is derived from the Spanish word, Isleños, meaning islanders.
It must not be forgotten that, by an ordinance promulgated when Spain took possession of Louisiana, in 1766, vessels from New Orleans were restricted to sail to six Spanish ports only. Persisting in the new and wiser course of policy into which he had lately entered, the king put Louisiana on the same footing with his more favored colonies, and opened to her vessels any of the ports of the Peninsula to which the commerce of the Indies was permitted. Furthermore, the exportation of furs and peltries from Louisiana was, at the same time, encouraged by an exemption from duty for a period of ten years, and it was only on their re-exportation from Spain that the ordinary duty was to be paid.
This was a step towards liberality, but what seemed to the colonists to be a departure from it was the prohibition of the introduction and reading of a French book, p117 written by Mercier, and entitled: "The year two thousand four hundred and forty."b The Governor was instructed to proceed to the destruction of every copy of it which might be found in the province. Another book reprobated by the royal decree was Robertson's History of America. The formidable tribunal of the Inquisition had condemned Mercier's book; and the king, or rather his all-powerful minister, Joseph Galvez, president of the council of the Indies, thought that he had good reasons to prevent his Majesty's subjects from reading certain remarks, or statements of facts, which were contained in Robertson's History, and which he deemed to be false and slanderous. At this time, not only was the king considerate enough to wish that the minds of his subjects should not be contaminated by the perusal of dangerous books, but also was he anxious to secure the allegiance even of the foreigners who resided in his dominions. Thus, a considerable number of individuals from the United States, from West and West Florida, and from other parts, who had settled in New Orleans, were required to depart, or to take an oath of fidelity to his Catholic Majesty. In such a dilemma, the great majority of them chose to swear as they were desired.
For many years, the English had not fared so badly in Louisiana. Now, their trade with the colony was entirely ruined. "The British flag," say Villars and Favre d'Aunoy, in a despatch dated on the 18th of July, 1778, "has not appeared in this river for more than three months, or at least, it is only to be seen flying at the mast-head of a frigate destined to protect the Manchac settlement. The duties to be paid by our ships, on their coming here, are reduced every day, because the Spaniards are made more tractable by the need in which p118 they stand of our commerce. Finally, the whole trade of the Mississippi is now in our hands."
On the 20th of August, Villars, one of the French commissioners, wrote a despatch in which he informed his government of the steps he had taken, to obtain the reversal of the decree by which the Spanish government had confiscated the property of the brother of Noyan, one of the unfortunate colonists who had been shot by O'Reilly's order. This brother, who was called Bienville after his uncle, the founder of New Orleans, had taken a part in the conspiracy against the Spaniards, and had been sent, as an emissary, to the English commander at Pensacola, to propose, in the name of the insurgents, that the colony be put under the protection of the English as an independent republic. On the death of his elder brother, he assumed the name and title of Chevalier de Noyan. Villars' despatch on the subject is as follows:
"The Chevalier de Noyan, lieutenant of a ship of the line, died in the month of March last, at St. Domingo, where he had gone into copartnership with the Baron de Breteuil. As he was one of the instigators of the revolution of 1768, General O'Reilly, who was clothed with the most extensive powers, ordered the sequestration of his property; but, as it was not sold, and as its revenues were merely deposited in the king's treasury, without being appropriated by him to the royal domain, it was inferred that the object of his Majesty was to deprive the Chevalier de Noyan, for some years, of his income, and thereby to cut him off from the means of living in comfort, but with the reserved intention of putting an end to the punishment by restoring the culprit, on a future day, to the possession of his property. Viewing the case in this light, the Duke de Duras, the Count de p119 Vergennes, and the Baron de Breteuil, as the kinsmen, the protectors and the friends of the Chevalier de Noyan, repeatedly addressed to the court of Spain, through our ambassador, the Marquis d'Ossun, the most pressing solicitations to obtain a decree raising the sequestration. But these gentlemen pursued, I believe, an impolitic course. They grounded their application on Noyan's innocence, which they could not establish without calling into question the justice of Count O'Reilly, and of the king, who had ratified the conduct of his agent. Therefore did the court of Spain refuse to grant their request. Now that M. de Noyan is dead, is the moment, or never, of making a last effort in the interest of his widow and children. I have prepared for the president of the council of Indies a memorial, which Governor Galvez will forward and will support to the utmost of his power."
This shows that it was then known in the colony, although this knowledge appears to have since faded away, that O'Reilly had come to Louisiana with the most extensive powers, and that the king had approved the judicial tragedy of which this officer was the author. This despatch, with many other authentic documents, emphatically contradicts the tradition that Count O'Reilly,º by putting to death Lafrénière and his companions, had incurred the displeasure of his royal master — which popular belief, like most traditions, is not supported by the unyielding and uncompromising facts which it is the duty of history to record.
In the beginning of the year, 1779, Don Juan Dorotheo del Portege succeeded Don Cecilio Odoardo in the office of auditor of war and assessor of government.
In a despatch of the 15th of January, Galvez informed his government of another accession to the population of Louisiana, by the arrival of 499 individuals from the p120 Canary Islands, who had come to the colony at the king's expense. They received as favorable a treatment, at least, as their predecessors; nay, greater advantages were granted to them, for it appears that some of the emigrant families, besides the lands, the cattle, rations, pecuniary and other aid given to them, received the splendid donation of between three and four thousand dollars. This certainly was a very handsome beginning at the time, in a new country, offering so many resources. According to the government's direction, these people were transported to the district of the Attakapas, under the command of Bouligny, and formed, on Bayou Teche, a settlement then called New Iberia. They attempted the cultivation of flax and hemp, but without success; and most of them abandoned agricultural pursuits, to confine their industry entirely to the raising of cattle, to which they were naturally invited by the luxuriant and boundless prairies that surrounded them on every side.
Almost at the same time, there came to the province, for its spiritual relief, by the order and at the charge of the king, six capuchin friars, one of whom, named Antonio de Sedella, lived to extreme old age in Louisiana, and died in 1829, leaving behind him a spotless reputation and an honored memory.c
One of the most serious afflictions of the colony, in this year, as in the preceding ones, was the small pox, which proved very fatal in New Orleans, and on the plantations above and below. It appears to have been, for many years, in Louisiana, the disease most prevalent and most feared. Hurricanes seem also to have been one of its chief scourges, and their frequency was really astonishing. Galvez, in a despatch of the 15th of January, 1779, speaks of one which had raged from the 7th to the 10th of October, 1778, with such violence, p121 that the sea rose higher than it had ever been known to do before, destroying entirely all the establishments at the Balize, Bayou St. John, and Tigouyou.
But the attention of the inhabitants was diverted from these calamities by stirring events, in which they were called to take a part. Thus, France, having recognised the independence of the United States, had concluded a treaty of alliance and commerce with them and afforded them considerable succor. England, very naturally, considered such proceedings as equivalent to a declaration of war, and hostilities had actually begun, when Spain offered her mediation, and made propositions tending to secure a general peace, which was to be agreed upon in a meeting of the ministers of the belligerent powers at Madrid, including those of the United States. But this was not palatable to the pride of England, and, on the rejection by the cabinet of St. James of the terms offered by Spain, the Catholic King determined to join his cousin of France in the coming struggle against Great Britain. His ambassador left London without taking leave, and the British government, acting with its customary energy and promptitude, immediately issued letters of marque against the ships and subjects of Spain.
On the 8th of May, the King of Spain published a formal declaration of war against Great Britain, and, on the 8th of July, authorized his subjects in America to take their share in the hostilities to be waged against the English and their possessions. No news could have been more welcome to Galvez. He was young, bold, energetic, and he felt that his talents were equal to the career which was opening before him. Availing himself of the occasion with alacrity, he immediately planned an attack against the neighboring English possessions, and submitted it to a council of war. It was composed of p122 men of a less fiery spirit, who rejected his proposition, and recommended that all offensive action be suspended until reinforcements be received from Havana. They also advised that, in the mean time, Galvez should confine all his exertions to the execution of the best measures that might be devised for the defence of the colony.
Galvez' mind was not so constituted as to induce him to submit implicitly to the decision of his advisers, and he acted as men of his temperament usually do in similar circumstances. He had convened a council of war, in the hope that it would agree with him, but as it did not, he resolved to act on his own responsibility. He had discovered by intercepted letters from Natchez, that the English intended to surprise New Orleans,3 and he concluded to ward off the blow by being the first to attack, when he was thought to be hardly capable of defence. He labored under the apprehension that, if the English once possessed themselves of both banks of the river down to its mouth, they might then find themselves in a situation to carry the war into New Mexico and the other provinces of New Spain. These were strong considerations, which weighed on his mind, and which stimulated his zeal. Under the pretext of preparing for defence, he proceeded with indefatigable activity to prepare for carrying into execution his secret designs, which he intrusted only to Don Juan Antonio Gayarre, whom he appointed commissary of war for the projected expedition. He had proposed to march against the enemy on the 22nd of August, resolving to call together, previously, on the 20th, all the inhabitants who were at hand, and whom he intended to invite to follow him. But, on the 18th, a hurricane, that well-known visiter of p123 the country, suddenly burst out with such violence, that, in three hours, it destroyed a large number of houses in New Orleans, the greater part of the dwellings and improvements on the banks of the river, for •forty miles up and down, swept off like chaff all the crops, killed almost all the cattle, and spread general consternation throughout the province. All the vessels with Galvez had in readiness for the expedition went to the bottom of the Mississippi, with the exception of the frigate, El Volante, which was saved by the intrepidity and skill of its commander, Luis Lorenzo de Terrazas.
This was a sad and unexpected reverse, disconcerting all the measures of the Governor. But reflecting that if, in the state of prostration in which the colony was, time was given to the English, whose establishments had not suffered from the hurricane, they could, by calling the Indians to their assistance, take the field with fifteen hundred men, and secure the conquest of the Spanish possessions, he made up his mind to persevere in his original intentions, and ordered the commissary of war, Don Juan Antonio Gayarre, to renew his preparations. But in the exhausted state of the colony, it was not easy to provide all those various elements, the combination of which is necessary to secure the success of the invasion of an enemy's territory, and the commissary of war had to tax his energy and ability to the utmost to satisfy the impatience of his chief. He had to apply himself to his task, day and night, and allow himself no breathing time, until it was completed. Galvez, in order to induce the colonists to join him in the contemplated expedition, in spite of the circumstances of desolation in which the country then was, had recourse to an expedient, "to which," says the supplement to the Madrid Gazette of the 29th of August, 1780, "he was in part indebted for his final success."
p124 With the official communication of the declaration of war, Galvez, who was only governor ad interim, had received intelligence that the king had confirmed him in the government of Louisiana. But he had concealed this fact, in order that it should not be known that he had heard from Madrid. He now convened the inhabitants on the public square at New Orleans, discoursed on the miserable condition of the province, and regretted that, in such untoward circumstances, he had to inform them that war had been declared against Great Britain, and that he had received strict orders to put the colony in a state of defence, because an attack was anticipated. He then showed them his commission as governor of Louisiana under the royal patent. "Gentlemen," said he, addressing them with the energy of language and sentiment which was suited to the occasion, "I cannot avail myself of my commission, without previously swearing before the cabildo, that I shall defend the province; but, although I am disposed to shed the last drop of my blood for Louisiana and for my king, I cannot take an oath which I may be expected to violate, because I do not know whether you will help me in resisting the ambitious designs of the English. What do you say? Shall I take the oath of governor? Shall I swear to defend Louisiana? Will you stand by me, and conquer or die with your governor and for your king?" So saying, with the left hand he displayed the royal commission, under the broad seal of Spain, and, with the right, he drew his sword with an expression of heroic determination. An immense and enthusiastic acclamation was the answer. "Fear not taking your oath of office," cried the crowd, as if with one voice; "for the defence of Louisiana, and for the service of the king, we tender you our lives, and we would say our fortunes, if we had any remaining." On the spot, Galvez went p125 through the ceremony of his installation, amidst the increasing enthusiasm and shouts of the whole population, and, immediately after, hastened to accelerate his preparations, with the united assistance and efforts of the colonists.
Still concealing his real designs, the governor gave out that he was going to post his troops in those places to which he expected that the first attacks of the English would be directed. He ordered down to New Orleans all the boats which had been spared by the hurricane, at those points on the river where its violence had not been so much felt. One schooner and three gunboats were raised out of the river, into which they had sunk, and the provisions, ammunition and artillery were put in them. The artillery consisted of ten pieces, one twenty-four, five eighteen, and four four-pounders, under the command of Don Julien Alvarez, who, although his health was greatly impaired, took charge with alacrity of the trust reposed in him. This small fleet was to go up the river at the same time with the army, in order to supply its wants. On the 26th of August, Galvez gave the command of New Orleans and of the garrison which was left in it to Lieutenant Colonel Don Pedro Piernas, and delivered up the civil administration of the province, during his absence, to the contador, or controller, Don Martin Navarro. He appointed as second in command to himself, in the campaign which he was to undertake, Colonel Don Manuel Gonzales; next in rank came Don Estevan Miró, and Jacinto Panis, with the commissary of war, Don Juan Antonio Gayarré. These were to be under him the principal actors in the expedition.
On the 27th, these arrangements being made, the governor took his departure in the morning, to recruit at the German and Acadian Coasts all the men that he p126 might prevail upon to join him. On the same day, in the afternoon, his small army put itself in motion. It was composed of 170 veteran soldiers, 330 recruits, 20 carabiniers, 60 militiamen, and 80 free blacks and mulattoes, of Oliver Pollock, the agent of the American Congress, with nine of his countrymen, as volunteers — making a total of 670 men, without one single engineer among them, says the Supplement to the Madrid Gazette, which relates all the details of this expedition. They were reinforced on the way by 600 men of every condition and color, besides 160 Indians, who had been gathered up at the German Coast, at the Acadian Coast, at Opelousas, Attakapas and Pointe Coupée. These troops, when united, formed a body of fourteen hundred and thirty men. Although they were provided with no tents, and with none of those articles which are usually deemed necessary to an army entering upon a campaign, yet they marched on with unabated ardor, and much order, through the thick woods which, at that time, shaded a considerable portion of the banks of the river. With a view to guard against surprises, the colored men and the Indians were ordered to keep ahead of the main body of the troops, at a distance of •about three quarters of a mile, and closely to reconnoitre the woods. Next came the veteran troops, whose left was protected by the river and by the artillery of the boats, and whose right rested on the forest. The militia formed the rear guard.
On the 6th of September (1779) the Spaniards came in sight of Fort Manchac, situated at a distance of •about one hundred and fifteen miles from New Orleans. But disease and the fatigues of the journey had caused a diminution of more than one third in their number. It was only when he was •about a mile and a half from the fort, that Galvez informed his troops of the declaration p127 of war against the English, and of the positive instructions he had received to attack their establishments. This communication was responded to with demonstrations of joy; a general disposition was shown to come to close quarters with the enemy, and there was exhibited a patriotic emulation, as to which should distinguish himself most in the service of the king.
On the 7th, in the morning, the regulars were posted in an advantageous position, with the intention of opposing them to a body of four hundred Englishmen who were said to be coming with artillery and provisions to the relief of Manchac, and the assault was given to the fort by the militia, with complete success. Gilbert Antoine de St. Maxent, brother-in‑law to ex-Governor Unzaga, was the first who entered the fort through one of its embrasures. The garrison was composed of a captain, a first lieutenant and a second lieutenant, with twenty privates, of whom one was killed, and five escaped with one of the lieutenants. The rest remained prisoners of war. This certainly was no great exploit.
On the 8th, the inventory of the fort was made; six days of rest were allowed to the troops; and, on the 13th, they resumed their march for Baton Rouge, which is only •fifteen miles from Manchac. At •a mile and a half from Baton Rouge, the army took its quarters, and the artillery was landed from the boats. Already had Grand Pré, with all the forces which he had been able to bring with him from Pointe Coupée, occupied a position between Baton Rouge and Natchez, in order to interrupt all communication between these two places, as he actually did, after having possessed himself of two English posts, one of which was Thompson's Creek, and the other on the Amite, forcing their garrisons to surrender themselves prisoners of war.
p128 Governor Galvez, having, with some officers, reconnoitred the fort of Baton Rouge, saw that it would be impossible to carry it by storm, on account of its strength. This fort was surrounded by a ditch, •eighteen feet wide and nine in depth; it had, besides, very high walls, with a parapet protected with chevaux de frise, and a garrison of four hundred regulars and one hundred militiamen, and was supplied with thirteen pieces of heavy artillery. The governor also considered that the greater portion of his forces consisted of natives of the country, among whom there were many heads of families, and that a victory would be dearly bought by the blood which it would cost, and the desolation it would spread in the colony. Therefore, resisting the repeated and pressing solicitations of his troops to be led to the assault, he resolved to open trenches and establish batteries.
There was near the fort a wood which projected towards it in the shape of a triangle. This, at the first glance, seemed the most favorable spot from which to attack, and this the governor chose, to deceive the enemy, and to divert their attention from the point where he intended to carry on his works. Thither he sent a detachment of militia, supported by the colored companies and the Indians, in order that, under cover of the trees, and during the night, they should make as much noise as possible, and simulate an attack.
The English wasted and spent in vain their ammunition, by firing with ball and grape at that part of the wood from which they thought they would be assailed, whilst, in the meantime, the Spaniards, without being incommoded, were erecting their batteries within musket shot of the fort, behind a garden which concealed their operations. The English discovered the stratagem when p129 it was too late, and when the besiegers had succeeded in sheltering themselves from the shot of their enemies.
On the following day, the 21st of September, at day-break, the Spanish batteries, under the direction of Don Julien Alvarez, were plied with such accuracy and effect, that, notwithstanding the briskness of the fire of the besieged, the fort was so dismantled by half past three in the afternoon, that the English sent two officers with a flag of truce, to propose articles of capitulation. Galvez would assent to no terms but those he was willing to offer, which were — that the garrison should surrender at discretion, and, at the same time, that Fort Panmure, at Natchez, should be delivered up to him, with its garrison, composed of eighty grenadiers and their officers. The English accepted these conditions, and, after a delay of twenty-four hours which was granted to them (during which they were observed to be engaged in burying a considerable number of dead bodies), they came out with military honors, and marched five hundred paces from the fort, when they delivered up their arms and flags, and remained prisoners of war. The veteran troops, which thus surrendered, consisted of three hundred and seventy-five men. At the same time, Galvez despatched a captain with fifty men, to take possession of Fort Panmure, at Natchez, which is •about one hundred and thirty miles distant from Baton Rouge. This fort it would have been very difficult to carry by force, because it was situated on an elevated and steep hill, and was difficult of access. In these two forts of Baton Rouge and Natchez was found a considerable number of militiamen and free negroes, with arms in their hands. They were set free on account of the difficulty of keeping securely so many prisoners.
Whilst the expedition was meeting with so signal a p130 success, the fortune of war was also declaring itself in favor of the Spaniards in other parts of the province. On Lake Pontchartrain, an American schooner, which had been fitted up at New Orleans by an individual, named Pikle, boarded and captured an Antioch privateer, called the West Florida, and much superior in force to its antagonist. The Spanish gunboats also captured near Galvezton three schooners and a small brig which were returning to Pensacola, one schooner which they met on the Mississippi, and two cutters loaded with provisions, which were coming from Pensacola, through Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas, to the relief of the English establishments.
Another English cutter, says the Madrid Gazette from which I quote, was taken in a manner which deserves to be related. One Vincent Rieux, a native of New Orleans, had been put in command of a sloop of war, to cruise in the lakes. On his coming to Bayou Manchac, through which the English used to receive all their supplies from Pensacola, having been informed that one of their barques, well armed, and well laden with provisions and ammunition, was soon expected, he landed his guns, cut down a few trees to form a sort of intrenchment, and kept himself concealed with his crew. When he saw the English close under the muzzles of his guns, he suddenly blazed away at them, and raised with his companions such shouts and yells, that the enemy, persuaded that they had to deal with at least five hundred men, and fled below deck. Rieux, availing himself of their panic, rushed on board, closed the hatches, and captured every soul that was in the vessel. The prisoners were: one captain, one first lieutenant, two second lieutenants, fifty-four grenadiers of the Waldeck regiment, and from ten to twelve sailors. It would be difficult to describe their p131 surprise, when they found themselves the captives of fourteen men; these were, every one of them, creoles or natives of Louisiana.
In short, the results of this campaign were highly flattering to the Spanish arms. Eight vessels and three forts had been taken; five hundred and fifty-six regulars, besides a good many sailors, militiamen and free blacks had been made prisoners, among whom were Lieutenant-colonel Dickson and many other officers. Dickson was the commander general of all the British settlements on the Mississippi, and was in the fort of Baton Rouge, when it surrendered. These remarkable advantages had been obtained, hardly with the loss of any blood on the part of the Spaniards. The Louisiana militia4 behaved with extraordinary discipline and fortitude. It was found difficult to restrain their ardor, particularly that of the Acadians, who, at the sight of the British troops, being inflamed with rage at the recollection of their old injuries, were eager to rush on those who had desecrated their hearths, burned their paternal roofs to the ground, and driven them into exile like miserable outlaws and outcasts.
The companies5 of free blacks and mulattoes, who had been employed in all the false attacks, and who, as scouts or skirmishers, had proved exceedingly useful, were reported by Galvez to his government as having behaved p132 on all occasions, with as much valor and generosity as the whites.
It seems that even the Indians showed themselves, for the first time, alive to the voice of humanity, and abstained from doing the slightest injury to the fugitives whom they captured, although their immemorial custom was to treat prisoners with the most horrible cruelty6 — nay, they had improved so much as to carry in their arms to Galvez, with the most tender care, the children who taken refuge in the woods with their mothers. This change in their habits was due to the happy influence exercised over them by Santiago Tarascon and Joseph Sorelle, of Opeloussas, who were both well acquainted with their language, and under whose command they had been placed in this expedition.
Having accomplished his purposes, Galvez disbanded the militia and sent them to their homes, with the praises and the rewards which they deserved. Charles de Grand-Pré, brother-in‑law of the commissary of war, Don Juan Antonio Gayarre, was left in command of Baton Rouge, with jurisdiction over two officers placed, the one at Fort Bute, on the bank of Bayou Manchac, and the other at Fort Panmure, at Natchez. In order to occupy the posts which he had conquered, Galvez had to draw largely on his regulars, so that he had only fifty of them left in the capital to garrison it, and to watch over the numerous prisoners who had been taken, and over the several tribes of Indians who had come to New p133 Orleans to compliment the Spaniards on their victory. But although the prisoners had been permitted on parole to be free within the limits of the town, and although it was full of Indians belonging to different tribes, some of which were of the most warlike and haughty temper, there did not occur the slightest disorder in the course of more than twenty days, during which the Spaniards had to trust entirely to the good faith and honor of their Indian allies, and of their English prisoners. The respect which Galvez inspired by his character, talents, energy, and recent achievements was such, that he had no cause to repent of having acted, on this occasion, as he did, and with what might have turned out to be rash imprudence.
Towards the middle of October, there arrived at New Orleans from Natchez the garrison of Fort Panmure, and, at the same time, a reinforcement of Spanish troops from Havana. The Spanish court was liberal in granting honors and rewards to all those who had distinguished themselves in this expedition. Galvez was appointed brigadier-general, Colonel Don Manuel Gonzales was raised to the same grade, and was made Governor of the province of Cumanas; Lieutenant-colonel Mirò, Captain Don Pedro Piernas, and Don Jacinto Panis were promoted. The commissary of war, Don Juan Antonio Gayarré, was appointed Royal Comptroller or Contador for Acapulco, at that time a celebrated port from which the rich Spanish galleons took their departure to spread the wealth of the western over the eastern world.7
The achievements of Galvez fired the poetical vein of a gentleman, named Julien Poydras, who celebrated them in a small poem written in the French language, which was printed and circulated at the king's expense. This gentleman subsequently acquired immense wealth, p134 was delegated to the congress of the United States by Louisiana, served in its territorial and state legislatures, and, on his death, liberally founded and endowed, by his last testamentary dispositions, several charitable institutions. These acts of benevolence have secured to him more fame than his poetry, and his name has been given to one of the principal streets of New Orleans.
The congress of the Thirteen United Provinces of America saw with much satisfaction the rupture which had occurred between Great Britain and Spain, and availed themselves of this favorable circumstance to send to the court of Madrid a minister, whose instructions were to negotiate a treaty of alliance, and, particularly, to insist on their right to the navigation of the Mississippi to the sea. This right, however, the king of Spain was not willing to admit, and was supported by France in the view which he took of the question. "We are disposed," said in substance the ministers of the Catholic King to the United States, "to acknowledge your independence and to enter into a treaty of alliance and commerce with you; but, if you wish us to consent to your admission into the great family of nations, you must subscribe to the right of Spain to the exclusive navigation of the Mississippi, and consent to our taking possession of both the Floridas and of all the territory extending from the left bank of that river to the back settlements of the former British provinces, according to the proclamation of 1763. No part of this territory ever was included within your limits, and the whole of it, with the Floridas, may be legitimately conquered by his Catholic Majesty, without giving you any ground for remonstrance or complaint. We furthermore expect you to prohibit the inhabitants of your confederacy from making any attempt towards settling in or conquering any portion of the British territory to which we refer. p135 Considering that you have, beyond the mountains, no possessions except the post of Kaskaskia and a few others, which you have momentarily acquired from the British, and which you hold only by a very precarious tenure, what is the navigation of the Mississippi to you in comparison with the importance of your recognition by us as an independent nation, and of the advantages which you will derive from your relations with us, in consequence of a treaty of alliance and commerce?" This pretension was not palatable to the far-sighted policy of the new power which was budding into existence, and these negotiations were still pending at the beginning of the year 1780.
Hardly had Galvez returned to New Orleans after his conquests of Manchac, Baton Rouge and Natchez, when he planned another expedition destined against Mobile, and Don Juan Antonio Gayarré again acted as commissary of war on this occasion. All the preparations for this campaign were made with the greatest activity, and the colonists, who now had implicit faith in the talents and good luck of their governor, whom they thought invincible, assisted him with unremitting ardor, and showed themselves ready to peril their lives and fortunes on his behalf. On the 5th of February, Galvez sailed from the Balize with two thousand men, composed of regulars, of the militia of the colony, and of some companies of free blacks. In the gulf he was overtaken by a storm which crippled, or caused to be stranded on the coast some of his vessels, and greatly damaged his provisions and ammunition. The Governor and the whole expedition were in imminent danger of being wrecked and entirely lost. After some delays, however, and considerable exertions, Galvez succeeded in landing his army, artillery, military stores and provisions, on the eastern point of Mobile river. But this had been done with a p136 great deal of confusion, and with a want of concert which the war of the elements had rendered inevitable. Had General Campbell, who was at Pensacola, at the head of forces superior to the Spanish, marched immediately against them, and made a sudden and vigorous attack, he might have secured an easy victory. So conscious was Galvez of his danger that, notwithstanding his natural daring and his confidence in his own resources, his first impulse was to prepare himself for a retreat by land to New Orleans, leaving his baggage and artillery behind. But those he had sent to reconnoitre the country having brought back the intelligence that there was no appearance of any design on the part of the enemy to sally out of Pensacola, Galvez boldly determined to advance and to attack fort Charlotte, towards which he moved with rapidity, and which he invested without hesitation. Six batteries were immediately erected, and a breach having been made in the walls of the fort, its commander, to avoid an assault which he could not resist, capitulated in conformity with the terms offered by Galvez. This event took place on the 14th of March.
A few days later, General Campbell arrived with a force which would have been sufficient to prevent the capture of the fort, but which was not able to retake it from the Spaniards. He was, therefore, compelled to an inglorious retreat to Pensacola. In the month of May, the commissary of war, Don Juan Antonio Gayarré, returned to New Orleans, through the lakes, on which he was assailed by another storm, which very nearly proved fatal to him. His vessel was struck by lightning, and it was with considerable difficulty that she came into port. A short time after, he departed to take possession of the office of Royal Comptroller, at Acapulco, with which he had been intrusted, The history of this officer now ceases to be connected with Louisiana, but, on his p137 death, which happened in Mexico about the year 1787, his wife and his three sons, who were all natives of Louisiana, returned to the place of their birth. As to Galvez, he was rewarded for his success in the Mobile expedition by the grade of Major-General. He was then twenty-four years old, and therefore had no right to complain, as others frequently do, of the tardiness of promotion.
Encouraged by his past success, Galvez determined to attack Pensacola.d But this place was well fortified, and had a very large garrison. His means were not adequate to the execution of his plan, and he had to solicit the Captain-general of Cuba for reinforcements, which were promised, but not sent. Impatient of delay, and mistrusting the intention of the Captain-general, Galvez sailed for Havana, in order to ask in person for what he desired. The son of the viceroy of Mexico, and the nephew of the president of the Council of the Indies, so well known to be the omnipotent minister of Charles III, was not easily to be refused, and Galvez, having obtained all the troops, ammunition and implements of war which he deemed necessary, sailed on the 16th of October from Havana for Pensacola, but encountered one of those hurricanes which were so frequent in those days. Some of his transports foundered, the rest were dispersed, and he returned to Havana on the 16th of November, having been one month in gathering and collecting the scattered remnants of his fleet, with a perseverance, humanity, and unflinching sense of duty which cannot be too highly commended.
Galvez was not the man to give up any project which he had once formed, and the 28th of February, 1781, found him at the head of a much more formidable expedition than the one which had been disabled by the storm. On that day, he left Havana for Pensacola,8 p138 with a ship of the line, two frigates, and several transports, on board of which were fourteen hundred soldiers, a competent train of artillery, and abundance of ammunition. The fleet was commanded by Don Jose Cabro de Irazabal.
On the 9th of March,9 Galvez landed his troops, ordnance and military stores on the island of St. Rose, and, on the next day, erected a battery to support the fleet when passing over the bar, which attempt was made on the 14th, but soon abandoned, because the admiral's ship got aground. The next day Galvez wrote to Irazabal: "I am uneasy at the risk which the fleet and transports will run, should they remain long exposed to the storms which so frequently prevail on this dangerous coast. Therefore I request you to call the captains of all the ships on board of yours, and to consult them as to the best means of getting the fleet over the bar, as speedily as possible." Irazabal complied with this request, and, in his answer to Galvez, said: "The officers have declared that they are unable to form an opinion on the probable success of a second attempt, as they are without a correct chart of the coast. They complain that the pilots on board of the fleet are incapable of affording any aid, because every account they have given of the soundings has proved erroneous. The officers further add, that, on the first attempt to cross over the bar, their ships nearly lost their rudders; and it is their belief that, if they had persisted in the undertaking, they would soon have come to a position which would have rendered all manoeuvres impossible. We had always anticipated that the artillery of the British fort could reach the channel, but now it is demonstrated that it commands, not only the channel over the bar, but p139 even the island of St. Rose. There are in the fort twenty-four pounders, the balls of which would rake, fore and aft, any of our vessels that should attempt to cross the bar, and the direction of the channel is such, that they would be obliged to present successively, as they moved on, their sides, poops and prows to the enemy's guns. Besides, the channel is so narrow, that should the first ship get aground, she would obstruct the passage for the rest, and the rapidity of the current preventing any quick manoeuvre, the ships would run foul of each other, before they could turn, even if that were possible. Considering, however, that you deem the crossing of the bar an object of vast importance to the king's service, we have come to the conclusion to send one or two officers, attended by three or four pilots, to sound the channel during the night, as far as Point Siguenza, a fire being ordered to be made on that Point, in order to ascertain the direction. After which a second trial to cross over the bar may be made. But my individual opinion is, that any attempt to attack the British by water would be fruitless, and that the land force ought to be considered by your Excellency as the best and most efficacious means to reduce the fort. Therefore, I beg leave to recommend that it be used without delay."
This answer of the Spanish admiral caused great displeasure to Galvez. He thought that it originated from that feeling of jealousy which but too often springs up between land and naval forces when they are destined to coöperate; and that the officers of the navy, who were his associates in this expedition, being under the impression that he would exclusively reap all the glory in case of success, were disposed rather to thwart than to forward his plans. He replied to Irazabal: "admitting the danger of losing a ship or two, from which, after all, in case of accident, all on board would be easily p140 saved, what would be such a loss in comparison with that of the whole fleet, which is likely to occur, should there be a storm! Therefore I desire that the captains be again called together, and invited to reconsider their former report." In the mean time, in order to rouse and stimulate those officers of the navy whose prudence was so little in accordance with his views, Galvez determined to attempt, with the naval means of which he had the absolute command, what seemed to be denied to him by his more timid associates.10
In compliance with his orders, the brig Galvezton, commanded by Rousseau, which had lately arrived from New Orleans with ordnance, cast anchor near the bar. Rousseau sounded the channel as far as Point Siguenza, during the night of the 15th to the 16th, and reported, the next morning, that there was water enough11 in the shallowest part of the channel for the largest ship in the fleet, with her full load. Notwithstanding Rousseau's declaration, the Spanish captains having, as Galvez desired, met on board of the admiral's ship, obstinately persisted in their former decision, and referred the Governor to it, greatly to that officer's indignation.
So stood matters, when Joseph de Espeleta arrived, on the 16th, from Mobile, with all the regulars which he could draw from that place and its neighborhood, and, on the next day, Don Estevan Mirò came from New Orleans with the Louisiana forces. They took their position on the western side of the Perdido.
In the critical situation in which he was placed by the refusal of the Spanish admiral to grant the required assistance, Galvez acted with his usual decision of character. Assuming the entire responsibility of his movements, p141 and casting aside all reliance on Irazabal, he resolved to act for himself, and independently of him. Without loss of time, he ordered the brig Galvezton, a schooner, and two gunboats, which constituted all the naval forces belonging to his government of Louisiana, and which, as such, were entirely at his disposal, to prepare for crossing the bar. Towards noon,12 Captain Rousseau, with his brig, the schooner and gunboats, cast anchor near the bar. At half-past two, the bay of Pensacola presented a stirring spectacle. On land, the Spanish forces were drawn up in battle array, and the beating of their drums, with the notes of other martial instruments, were wafted over the blue waves to the British fort, which echoed back fierce sounds of defiance, whilst that portion of its walls which faced the bay could be distinctly seen to be crowded with the military whom curiosity had gathered together, to watch the manoeuvres of the enemy. All being ready for action, Galvez, leaving his army, threw himself into a boat which took him on board of the brig. Hardly was he on deck, when, by his orders, the broad flag of Castile was proudly displayed at the main-mast, a salute was fired, all sails set, and the small fleet moved on gallantly. The fort, which seemed to have been patiently waiting for this signal, was immediately in a blaze, and pouring a heavy fire on the daring little vessels which were swiftly sweeping onward, and which, on their side, answered with a brisk cannonade. The aim of the British artillery was principally directed at the brig, on the deck of which stood up Galvez in the midst of a brilliant staff. The brig, the schooner and the gunboats passed by in rapid succession, without receiving much injury, except in their sails and rigging, and Galvez p142 safely landed at the bottom of the bay under a salute, and amid the enthusiastic acclamations of his troops.
Irazabal and his men had remained the motionless spectators of this bold undertaking. It was evident that he could no longer hesitate to follow this example, under the penalty of being dishonored, and therefore, the next day, he entered the bay, the frigate leading the way, and the convoy forming the rear. The fort kept up a brisk fire13 for upwards of an hour, until the hindmost vessel was out of its reach. Very little damage was done to the Spanish fleet, the whole of which thus joined Galvez, with the exception of the Admiral's ship, which that officer sent back to Havana, because she had just been reladen for her return. Whilst the Spanish fleet, under Irazabal, was crossing over the bar, Galvez advanced in an open boat to meet them, passed by the fort amidst a shower of balls which fell thick around him, and repassed it in the same way, at the head of the ships, whose commanders he had thus compelled to action by his heroism. He remained in the midst of the vessels until the last of them had anchored. This feat of Galvez excited the enthusiasm of his countrymen, and was even much admired by the British.
On the same day, at four o'clock in the afternoon, this indefatigable man, so distinguished for his activity and intrepidity, accompanied only by two of his aides, made an effort to cross the bar, to go and confer with Espeleta and Mirò, and devise with them a plan of attack. But he long struggled in vain against a strong adverse wind, and he returned to his camp, about midnight, without having been able to accomplish his purpose.
On the next day, the 20th, early in the morning, "he p143 sent," says Judge Martin in his History of Louisiana, "one of his aides to General Campbell, with a message, in which he informed him that, when the British came to Havana in 1762, their commander intimated to the Captain-General of the Catholic King, that, if any of the King's edifices, ships, or other property were destroyed, the Spaniards would be treated with all the rigor and severity of the laws of war; that the like intimation was now made to the General and all those it might concern, and under the same terms."
Campbell, on the following day, very early in the morning, returned his answer, through one of his officers, whom he sent to Galvez. "Sir," said Campbell to the Spanish general, "an enemy's threats can only be considered as a stratagem. I hope that, in the defence of Pensacola, I shall not forget myself so far as to resort to any measure not justified by the usages of war. I avail myself, however, of this opportunity to make my acknowledgments for the frank intimation I have received, and I give you the assurance that my conduct will be regulated by yours, with regard to the adoption or rejection of certain propositions I have to make in conjunction with the Governor of West Florida."
At noon, the propositions thus alluded to were made known to Galvez. An aide of Campbell's, accompanied by Lieutenant-colonel Dickson, who, it will be remembered, had been taken prisoner the preceding year, at Baton Rouge, and liberated on parole, came in a boat, bearing the flag of truce, and delivered to Galvez letters from Campbell and Governor Chester of West Florida.14 "Humanity," said Campbell, "requires as much as possible that inoffensive individuals be exempted from the disasters which are the necessary incidents of war. Considering, p144 therefore, that the garrison of Pensacola is unable to resist the force brought against it, without the total destruction of the town, and the consequent ruin of its inhabitants, and that its fate depends on that of the redoubt of marine and of Fort George which protect it, I propose that Pensacola shall remain neutral ground; that it shall be used by neither party for protecting itself or annoying its adversary, and that it shall continue to be the safe asylum of women and children, the aged and the infirm, during the siege of the redoubt of marine and Fort George, within which alone I mean to contend for the preservation of the province for the British Crown. This is to the interest of both parties, as it will preserve Pensacola for the victor, whoever he may be. But should this proposition be rejected, and should the Spaniards seek shelter in Pensacola, it will become my duty immediately to destroy that town. I further propose that the Spanish prisoners in my possession be liberated on parole, and on your Excellency's assurance that they shall not be employed in the military or civil service of the Catholic king, during the war, unless they are sooner exchanged."
Galvez, when he had heard of the approach of the British officers sent to him, had commanded his army to be drawn up in arms, in order that the messengers of Campbell and Chester should have a full view of his forces, and might report accordingly to their chiefs. His troops were numerous, fully equipped, well trained, provided with everything necessary to carry on the siege successfully, and he had calculated on the impression which this sight would produce. He received courteously the British officers, and sent them back, after having verbally declared to them that he was too much indisposed to prepare a written answer before the next day.
During the following night, the English set fire to a p145 few houses near Fort St. George. This circumstance greatly irritated Galvez, who, in the morning, sent his promised answer to Campbell. "Sir," said he, "I consider as a departure from, or a violation of, your proposition conveyed to me yesterday, the burning of the houses which you destroyed last night. This occurrence, with others that have come to my knowledge since the departure of your aide and of Lieutenant-colonel Dickson, has convinced me that those who sent them had no other object than procrastination. I am ashamed of my having been thought fit object to practise deception upon, and of having confirmed by my credulity the impression which had been received of me. Therefore I make it known to your Excellency that I shall listen to no proposition but that of surrender; and that the conflagration of Pensacola, so long as it is not attributable to any fault of mine, will be contemplated with complete indifference."
Campbell rejoined, says Judge Martin in his history, that the haughty style assumed by the Spanish chief, far from its intended effect, would have that of exciting the utmost opposition to the ambitious views of Spain; that the officer commanding at Fort George had done nothing but his duty, in destroying a few houses near it which afforded protection to the enemy; and that, if the invaders sought to avail themselves of Pensacola, by seeking an asylum there, it would be immediately destroyed.
After a good deal of talking in imitation of Homer's heroes, both the British and Spanish chiefs began to think seriously of coming to blows. Campbell withdrew all his forces into the fort, and Galvez lost no time in tightening the iron belt which encircled it. He approached the British fortifications on one side, while his lieutenants, Mirò and Espeleta, did the same operation on the other. The Spaniards set to work in earnest to p146 erect their batteries, which they supplied with a good train of artillery.
In the beginning of April, all being ready on the part of the besiegers, a simultaneous attack was made by the fleet and by the land forces. The fire poured upon the British was really tremendous, and frequently drove them from their guns, to which they returned, however, with that bull-dog tenacity which is the well known characteristic of their nation. They had not been taken by surprise; and, as they had long expected a siege, they had provided themselves with an ample supply of ammunition and provisions. The fortifications were in an excellent state of repair, and defended by a numerous garrison, so that the Spaniards15 made but little impression. But, being much annoyed by the guns of the fleet, the English hastily erected a lower battery of heavy cannon, with which they soon drove the ships on the opposite side of the bay. Galvez was thus reduced to his land batteries, with which he did very little execution, and the result of the siege was beginning to be very doubtful, when there happened one of those accidents which so frequently determine the fortune of war. In the first week of May, a powder magazine in one of the advanced redoubts of the English, took fire from a shell and blew up. The redoubt was completely destroyed by the explosion, and a free passage was effected in the very walls of the fort. Galvez availed himself of this golden opportunity, and, by his order, Espeleta, with a strong detachment, immediately took possession of the smouldering ruins, and soon after, opened a brisk fire with four field pieces. At the same time, with Galvez at their head, all the Spanish forces were putting themselves in motion to storm the fort, when a white flag was hoisted p147 up by the British, and an officer came out to propose a capitulation.16
The terms being agreed on, the capitulation was signed on the 9th of May. More than eight hundred men who composed the garrison became prisoners, and the whole province of West Florida was surrendered to Spain. The honors of war, however, were allowed to the garrison. "They were permitted," says Martin, in his history, "to retain their baggage and private property, and were transported to their sovereign's dominions, under a stipulation that they should not serve against Spain or her allies, until duly exchanged. Arthur O'Neal, an Irish officer in the service of Spain, was left in command of Pensacola."
Whilst the Spaniards were meeting with so signal a success in Florida, they lost, at Natchez, Fort Panmure, which was taken by some British adherents who had settled in that neighborhood in 1775, under General Lyman. This officer was a native of Connecticut, and had risen to high rank in the service of the British. In 1755, he had been appointed by the king major-general and commander-in‑chief of the forces of his native province. In 1762, he was in command of all the colonial American troops which had joined the British expedition against Havana. After a stay of several years in England, whither he had gone to solicit the reward he deserved for his many services, he obtained large grants of land on the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, where, with a remarkable degree of enterprise and the true spirit of the pioneer, although his grey hairs seemed to unfit him for the undertaking, he had resolved to dare the influence of a climate so different from the one to which he had been accustomed, and to encounter the dangers of a p148 struggle with the wilderness, at so many hundred miles from the green valleys of the land of his birth. But, notwithstanding the difficulties which stared him in the face, the intrepid veteran shouldered his household gods, and with his eldest son and a few friends, departed, in 1775, for the banks of the Mississippi, on which he formed a settlement, near Fort Panmure, in the district of Natchez. He died a short time after, leaving his adherents in possession of his grants. These men had seen with much regret the British flag succeeded by the Spanish. When they heard that Galvez had dared invade Florida, their patriotism did not doubt of his defeat, and, in the excess of their zeal, they determined to give a proof of their loyalty to their sovereign. They secretly formed the plan of driving away the Spaniards, engaged most of the other inhabitants in the conspiracy, and secured the co‑operation of some of the neighboring Indians. On the 22d of April, 1781, they approached Fort Panmure in a body, and keeping out of reach of its guns, unfurled the British flag. During the night, they came nearer to the fort,17 and brought some artillery to bear upon it, but a heavy fire from the Spanish guns soon forced them to retire. From the 24th to the 28th, hostilities were kept up between the insurgents and the Spaniards, and some gunshots were exchanged, which killed a few men.
"On the 28th," says Martin, in his history, "the commandant of the fort sent one of his officers to the insurgents, to represent to them the danger to which they exposed themselves by a rebellion against their lawful sovereign, recommending to them, at the same time, to deliver up their leaders and disperse, and promising that, if they did so, the royal clemency should be extended p149 to them. They promised to send an answer the next day. Accordingly, in the morning, a planter came to the fort with a letter from M'Intosh, one of the most respectable inhabitants of the district, informing him that what the messenger would say could be relied on. This man, on being questioned, said the fort was undermined, and would be blown up on the following days. There was a deep valley at a very short distance from the fort, at which the Spaniards had noticed a considerable number of persons during the preceding days, a circumstance which gave some credit to the story. On the 29th, the men, according to the report of the commandant, being exhausted with fatigue and watching, and the provisions and ammunition being nearly consumed, the fort was surrendered, on the garrison being permitted to march to Baton Rouge."
The insurgents had been incited to their enterprise by the report of the appearance of a strong British fleet in the gulf, which, they thought, would cut off Galvez' return to Louisiana. But, soon after the taking of Fort Panmure, they were informed, to their utter dismay, that they had relied on an idle rumor, and their consternation was increased by the news that Pensacola had surrendered to Galvez. The punishment inflicted at New Orleans on Lafrénière and his companions, in 1769, was a recent occurrence with which the insurgents were well acquainted, and they became apprehensive of a similar fate. Resolving not to expose themselves to Spanish resentment, they determined to make the best of their way to Savannah in Georgia, which was the nearest point occupied by the British. It is not easy to conceive an enterprise attended with more difficulties. The fugitives had to cross an immense wilderness inhabited by hostile Indians, and, as they were loyalists, they had to p150 pursue a circuitous route, in order to avoid falling into the hands of the armed bands of the Americans who had shaken off the yoke of the mother country. But they were placed between a choice of evils, and they determined for the perils of the journey.
Numerous and indescribable, indeed, were the hardships encountered by this caravan.e They had to carve their way through almost interminable forests, to swim across an infinite number of streams, deep and broad, to scale steep and lofty mountains which seemed to stand up like impassable barriers before them, to risk their lives in the fording of innumerable marshes, to make long and tedious circuits round those through which they dared not go, to sleep in the rugged lap of the wilderness, to suffer from thirst, famine, disease, and the pelting of storms, and to be constantly on the alert against the Indian foe, who, they knew, was hovering around them. The mother's breast dried up under the parched lips of the plaintive infant, who drooped and fell like a withered leaf; the orphan sat weeping on the mother's grave, which he was soon to leave; the wife's wailings were heard for the husband's loss, and the husband's manly cheeks were seen furrowed by tears near the wife's corpse. The aged father gave his last blessing to the family, and sank to rise no more. Sorrowfully indeed journeyed this miserable band, some on horseback, and many, whose horses had died, on foot. The greedy buzzard during the day, and the howling wolf at night, seemed to be instinctively attracted towards them by the hope of anticipated prey. On reaching the limits of the State of Georgia, they separated into two bands. One had the bad luck of falling into the hands of the American insurgents, and the other, having crossed, on a raft, the Alatamaha at its mouth, p151 finally arrived at Savannah in the latter part of October. They had been travelling one hundred and thirty-one days.
Whilst these military operations had been going on, the commerce and agriculture of the province had been completely ruined, so that the inhabitants had been almost driven to despair. On the 24th of August, 1780, as if intended to be the last pound of weight wanting to break the camel's back, a hurricane, much more furious than the one which had prevailed, the year preceding, on the 18th of the same month, swept over the province, destroying all the crops, tearing down the buildings, and sinking every vessel or boat which was afloat on the Mississippi, or the lakes. The disasters were so extensive that, on the 29th, Don Martin Navarro, the Intendant, who, during the absence of the Governor, had been intrusted with the civil administration of Louisiana, addressed to the colonists a circular, which was printed by the king's printer, Antoine Boudousquié,f and in which patient fortitude was recommended to those whom the wrath of heaven and of man had afflicted so much. "So far as we are concerned," said he, "we are willing to stretch to the utmost what powers and means we may have, in order to render you effectual services, relieve your distresses, and remedy as much as possible the necessities of the public. In so doing, we are persuaded that we act in conformity with the intentions of his Majesty, to whom we send a faithful and exact description of this last and fatal event. His royal heart will participate in your miseries, and his paternal love will suggest the best means to give the assistance which you require. But,18 if in the course of one year and five p152 days you have experienced such a series of misfortunes, there remains yet one difficulty to overcome, it is to conquer those feelings which might be opposed to your resigning yourselves entirely to the will of God, and to your adopting the proper spirit of submission which the circumstances demand; for, nothing contributes more to level down difficulties, and to assuage the pains to which life is subjected, than the determination to conquer the former and bear the latter. All countries have their inconveniences; some suffer from the extreme cold or heat of their climate, and others are convulsed with earthquakes; this one is infested with wild beasts and insects; that one is exposed to inundations; and I know of none which are not occasionally devastated by the fury of storms and hurricanes. Let us put our faith in the divine providence, that will appease our alarms, and remedy the evils with which we are afflicted. Let us give a last proof of our loyalty to our sovereign, by not abandoning a country which we have conquered and preserved, in spite of human foes and of the elements themselves leagued against us. Let us give to God the proof of our perfect resignation, by saying with the holy man Job: 'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!' "
On the same day, the inhabitants of New Orleans and of its neighborhood returned an answer, in which they thanked Navarro for the consolation which he endeavored to minister to them, and bestowed much praise on p153 his administration, and that of Galvez. Then they went on reciting all the sufferings they had experienced in less than two years, from a combination of adverse circumstances, such as war, two hurricanes, inundation, contagion, a summer more rainy and a winter more rigorous than had ever been known, the stagnation of commerce, the ruin of agriculture, the want of capital, the prodigiously high price asked for all the necessities of life, and they depicted in the most vivid colors the indigence to which they were reduced. "But," said they in conclusion, "we shall endeavor to conform, as much as may be permitted by the frailties of human nature, to your pressing exhortations to patience, and, if we cannot rise to so high a degree, in the possession of this virtue, as the holy man, Job, who was singularly favored by Heaven in this respect, we dare assure you that we shall at least be his match in gratitude, as soon as, through the clouds of the threatening sky which lowers over our heads, we shall see shining forth the sign which will give us the pledge of future security and happiness."
The war with Great Britain, and the capture of the British forts on the Mississippi, had deprived, says Martin in his history, the planters of Louisiana of the great advantages they derived from the illicit trade carried on by British traders. On the representation of Galvez, considerable privileges were granted to the commerce of the province, on the 22d of January, 1782, by a schedule which was published in New Orleans in the spring.
"In the preamble of this document, the king states that his royal solicitude and wishes have been always to secure to his vassals the utmost felicity, and to enable them to enjoy the advantages of a free trade; that he had never lost sight of so important an object in the p154 regulations he had made for the commerce of his vast dominions in the Indies, being firmly persuaded that the protection of trade and industry has a great influence on the wealth and prosperity of a nation. His Majesty then adds, that the province of Louisiana has particularly merited his royal attention, since its annexation to his dominions. His paternal love for its inhabitants had induced him to give them repeated proofs that a change of government had not diminished their happiness. But, notwithstanding the favors and exemptions he had been pleased to grant them, on several occasions, particularly by the regulations of the commerce of the Indies, made on the 28th of October, 1778, experience had shown that the advantages he had contemplated were not realized; and the trade in peltries of that province with the numerous nations of Indians who surround it, and the articles of exportation to Europe which the country produces, demanded new regulations. Accordingly, and with the view of rewarding the zeal and fidelity of the colonists, during the late campaigns for the recovery of the territories lately possessed by Great Britain on the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico, the following favors and privileges are granted to the province of Louisiana:
"1o Permission is given, during a period of ten years, to be computed from the day on which peace may be proclaimed, to all vessels of the king's subjects in the province of Louisiana, bound to New Orleans or Pensacola, to sail directly with their cargoes from any of the ports of France in which a Spanish consul resides, and to return thereto with peltries, or the produce of Louisiana or West Florida (except specie, the exportation of which, in this way, is absolutely forbidden), under the express condition that a detailed invoice of all the merchandise on board, signed by the consul, shall be delivered by him, in a sealed cover, to the captain, to be p155 presented by the latter at the custom-house of the place of destination.
"2o In case of urgent necessity in the colony, the existence of which necessity is to be certified by the governor and the intendant, permission is given to the colonists to resort to any port in the French West India islands.
"3o To encourage the commerce of the province to the ports of the Peninsula to which it is allowed, permission is given to export from New Orleans and Pensacola any species of merchandise directly imported there from Spain, to be landed in any port within the king's American dominions to which trade is allowed, paying only the duty with which such merchandise would have been charged on its exportation from the Peninsula, according to the regulations of the 12th of October, 1778; but the exportation of foreign merchandise imported in Louisiana is forbidden.
"4o An exemption from duty is granted, during the same period, on negroes imported into Louisiana or West Florida, and permission is given to procure them in the colonies of neutral or allied powers, in exchange for produce or specie, paying only, for such produce and specie, the duties mentioned in the 7th article.
"5o In order that the colonists may fully enjoy the favors and privileges now granted, they are permitted during the term of two years, to be computed from the proclamation of peace in New Orleans, to purchase foreign vessels free from duty, and such vessels are to be considered as Spanish bottoms.
"6o The exportation of pipe and barrel staves from Louisiana to Spain is permitted free from duty.
"7o It being just that commerce should contribute to the charges of the colony and to the expenses it occasions, a duty of six per cent is laid on all merchandise exported p156 from, and imported by the king's subjects, in the Peninsula, Louisiana, and West Florida, according to a moderate assessment.
"8o Custom-houses are to be established in New Orleans and Pensacola."
Galvez, whose enlightened mind had not been slow in discovering what would soon have converted Louisiana into a populous and wealthy colony, had recommended that it be granted the privilege of free trade with all the ports of Europe and America.19 But neither the Court of Madrid, nor the spirit of the age, was disposed to go so far.
The conquest of Pensacola by the Governor of Louisiana was fully rewarded, He was promoted to the grade of Lieutenant-General, was decorated with the cross of knight pensioner of the royal and distinguished order of Charles III, was made a Count, and received the commission of Captain-general of the provinces of Louisiana and Florida.
Another individual, who had made himself conspicuous in a different field, under Unzaga's administration, was also promoted, about the same time. That was father Cirilo, the former antagonist and reviler of father Dagobert. He was created a bishop in partibus infidelium, for the see of the town of Tricali in Greece.g But he was appointed co-adjutor to his former patron, Don Jose Estecheveria, who still occupied the see of Cuba, and he was directed to exercise his episcopal functions20 in Louisiana.
A simultaneous attack of the French and Spaniards having been planned against the island of Jamaica, Galvez sailed for St. Domingo, where the combined forces were to assemble, and where he was to take the command of those of Spain. On his departure, he intrusted p157 provisionally, the government of Louisiana to Colonel Mirò.
But the preliminary articles of peace between Great Britain, France, and Spain, were signed at Paris on the 20th of January, 1783, and the definitive treaties between Great Britain, the United States and Spain, were signed at the same city, on the 3d of September of the same year. By this treaty, Spain gained the provinces of West and East Florida, which were ceded to her by Great Britain.
By the same treaty,21 Great Britain acknowledged the independence of the United States, and recognized, as their southern boundary, a line to be drawn due east from a point in the river Mississippi, in the latitude of 31 degrees north of the equator, to the middle of the river Apalachicola, or Cataouche; thence, along the middle thereof to its junction with Flint River; thence straight to the head of St. Mary's River; and thence down along the middle of St. Mary's river to the Atlantic ocean. This line became the dividing one between the possessions of Spain and the United States.
By the 8th article of the treaty, the navigation of the Mississippi, from its source to its mouth, was expressly declared to remain for ever free and open to the subjects of Great Britain and to the citizens of the United States. This stipulation was destined to give rise to endless discussions between the two former allies, Spain and the United States — involving the future destinies of Louisiana.
On the 1st of January, 1784, M'Gillivray, a half-breed Indian, who was one of the most influential chiefs of the Talapouches, wrote to Arthur O'Neil, the Spanish governor of Pensacola, to propose a treaty of alliance and p158 commerce with the Spaniards. He consequently represented in glowing colors the advantages which Spain would derive from it, and, what is curious, he hints at a scheme which was subsequently adopted by the Court of Madrid, and which was, to separate the Western territories from the rest of the United States.
"Having been informed a few days ago," said he, "by a letter received from St. Augustine, that the definitive treaty of peace between their Catholic and Britannic Majesties was ratified in Paris on the 3rd of September last, I take the liberty to congratulate with you on this fortunate event. As this treaty confirms Spain in the possession of both the Floridas, I solicit, in the name of the Talapouche nation, the beneficent protection of his Catholic Majesty for our persons, and for the land which we claim, and of which we are in actual possession. If the fortune of war has compelled his Britannic Majesty to withdraw from us his protection, nevertheless he had no right to transfer us away, with our property, to any power whatever against our will and inclination.
"Certainly, as a free people, we have the right to choose our protector, and we do not see any one who answers our purposes better than the Sovereign of the two Floridas. I will therefore lay before you a few reasons to demonstrate, that it would be sound policy on the part of Spain to grant us what we desire.
"Since the publication of the general treaty of peace, the American Congress has brought to light a situation of its affairs, showing the debts and revenues of the confederacy. By this statement it appears, that the debts contracted in Europe and America are estimated at more than forty-two millions of dollars, the interest of which is about two millions and a half. The Court of Versailles has urged upon the American Congress the necessity of paying the interest of the money due to p159 France. In order to raise the necessary funds to meet these claims, the Congress has imposed duties, taxes and contributions, striking alike the Thirteen United States. This expedient has produced so unfavorable an impression, that a good many of their citizens, in order to escape from the burden of taxation, have abandoned their dwellings for the woods,22 have marched towards the Mississippi, in order to unite with a certain number of disbanded soldiers, who are anxious to possess themselves of a considerable portion of the territory watered by this river, and they propose establishing what they call the Western Independence, throwing aside the authority of the American congress. The emigrants are so numerous that, in a short time, it is possible that they may find themselves strong enough to carry into execution their scheme of separation; and, if they once form settlements on the Mississippi, it will require much time, trouble and expense to dislodge them.
"I can assure you that the Americans in the South employ every means in their power to enlist the feelings of the Talapouches on their behalf, and to secure the support of this nation. Should they succeed, the result of their influence will be, that the Indians, instead of remaining the friends of Spain, will become very dangerous neighbors, and will assist the Americans in all the designs which they may form against Pensacola, Mobile, or any part of the adjacent Spanish dominions; and of all these things the Americans speak openly. I will now communicate my views as to the best course to be pursued to frustrate their designs." The course which he advocated was, in substance, to grant to the Talapouches p160 as many commercial advantages and other privileges as could be bestowed upon them.
Feeling how important it was to conciliate all the Indian nations, whose hostility or friendship was so intimately connected with the prosperity and safety of Louisiana, the Spaniards invited them to meet in what they called a congress, at Pensacola and Mobile, and it was resolved, in order to give more solemnity to the occasion, that this congress should be attended by the governor ad interim, Estevan Mirò, by the intendant Navarro, and by Arthur O'Neil, the commander of Pensacola.
On the 30th of May, 1784, the Indian congress was opened with great pomp and the usual ceremonies. The customary presents, with medals and other decorations, were given, and a treaty of alliance and commerce was sealed, much to the satisfaction of the parties. On the 6th of June, a liberal distribution of brandy, powder and every sort of ammunition was made, and after much feasting, McGillivrayh was dismissed with his Talapouches, who were delighted with their reception by the Spaniards. He had been appointed commissary-general of all the Talapouche tribes, with a monthly salary which was not to be less than fifty dollars.
On the 22d of the same month, Mirò presided, at Mobile, over another congress which was composed of the Chickasaws, the Alabamas, the Choctaws and the other smaller nations, who all came with their wives and children. This vast concourse of people was magnificently entertained at the expense of the Spanish government. Rich gifts were showered plentifully, chiefs cajoled — and finally, the same ceremonies which had been gone through at Pensacola, were reënacted at Mobile, only on a larger scale, and the same treaties of alliance and commerce were sworn to and signed.
p161 The 6th article of the treaty with the Talapouches, which was also inserted in all the treaties with the other nations, redounds much to the glory of Spain, on the score of humanity, for which, unjustly no doubt, she is not generally given much credit. This article deserves to be quoted, and reads as follows:
"In conformity23 with the humanity and the generous sentiments cherished by the Spanish nation, we (the Indians) renounce for ever the custom of raising scalps, and of making slaves of our white captives; and, in case of our taking any prisoners in consequence of the breaking out of any sudden war against the enemies of his Catholic Majesty, we bind ourselves to treat those prisoners with the kindness to which they are entitled, in imitation of the usages of civilized nations, reserving to ourselves the privilege of exchanging them against an equal number of Indians, or of receiving for them the quantity of goods which may be previously agreed upon, without making the slightest attempt against the lives of those captives."
By the last article of the treaty, it was stipulated in the name of the king, that he confirmed the Indian nations in the possession of the lands which they owned within his dominions, and that, in case they should be deprived of them by any of his enemies, he should then, in consequence of the love which he entertained for his Indian allies, grant them elsewhere, in some of the territories belonging to him, and as an equivalent for their p162 loss, the same extent of lands, presenting equal advantages.
In order to avoid all future discussions, and to prevent deceit as much as possible, a minute tariff was agreed upon, in relation to the price and quality of every article which they were to be furnished with, and for which they were to give in return a certain quantity of peltries. The most stringent regulations were also made by the Spanish Governor, to protect the Indians against the malpractices of the traders, who were to be permitted to introduce their merchandise in their villages. These regulations began with this declaration as a preamble: "The trade with the Indian nations is to be conducted on principles of good faith and equity; and those that engage in it shall take care so to demean themselves as to secure, by all the means in their power, the attainment of so important an object, without availing themselves, to avoid these obligations, of the despicable subterfuges of fraud and deceit."
A contract was passed, on the 24th of July, between the Spanish government and James Mather, a resident and merchant of New Orleans, by which this individual bound himself, on certain conditions, to employ two vessels to import all the goods and merchandise wanted for the Indian trade. These two vessels were to navigate under the Spanish flag, and one was to land its cargoes at Pensacola, the other at Mobile. Mather had reserved to himself the privilege of sending his vessels for the supplies he was to procure, either to the Dutch, Danish, or English islands, in America, or to one of the European ports belonging to these three nations. His return cargoes from Pensacola and Mobile were to consist of the productions of the colony.
The fortitude of the inhabitants of Louisiana, to whom the Intendant Navarro, in his circular of the 29th of p163 August, 1780, had recommended the patience of Job, was put to another trial by the prodigious rigor of the winter of 1784. The months of July and August of the preceding year had been so cool, that the colonists, to their great amazement, had to resort to their winter clothing. White frosts made their appearance in the beginning of September, and continued to be frequent to the 15th of November (1783) when the cold became intense.24 There was a constant succession of squalls, and the wind blew with unheard of violence, from the north and north-east, and then from the south, going almost through the whole round of the compass. With rapid transition, the keen northern blast froze the ground, and the warm breath of the southern breeze brought back the genial temperature of the spring. The variations of the weather were such, that, several times, in six hours, Reaumur's thermometer fell •from twenty degrees above the freezing point to two and three degrees below it, in a closed room where fire was kept up. On the 13th of February, 1784, the whole bed of the river, in front of New Orleans, was filled up with fragments of ice, the size of most of which was •from twelve to thirty feet, with a thickness of two to three. This mass of ice was so compact, that it formed a field of •four hundred yards in width, so that all communication was interrupted for five days between the two banks of the Mississippi. On the 19th, these lumps of ice were no longer to be seen. "The rapidity of the current being then at the rate of •two thousand and four hundred yards an hour," says Villars, "and the drifting of the ice by New Orleans having taken five days, it follows that it must have occupied in length a space of •about one hundred and twenty miles. These floating masses of ice were met by ships in the 28th degree of latitude."
p164 Another cause of distress for the poor colonists was the depreciation of the royal paper money, which had been issued at par to meet the expenses of the war, and which had fallen down fifty per cent of its original value. As if this was not enough, commerce was crippled by a decree of the Court of Spain, which was published in New Orleans, in the beginning of September, and which prohibited foreign vessels from entering the river under any pretext whatever, either stress of weather, or want of provisions, &c. The administration of the colony considered this decree as being a revocation of the schedule of 1776, in relation to the French Islands, and wrote to Spain to obtain further instructions as to the manner of carrying the new decree into execution.
In the beginning of the year, 1785, Galvez was appointed Captain-general of the island of Cuba, of the province of Louisiana, and of the two Floridas. But, on the death of his father, in the summer, he succeeded him in the viceroyalty of Mexico, and was allowed the privilege of retaining the captain-generalship of Louisiana and the Floridas.
Galvez was one of the most popular viceroys that Mexico ever had. He governed that extensive country nine years, with all the powers of absolute and despotic sovereignty; and his administration was so mild, so just and so enlightened, that he became the idol of the people. He had that nobleness of mien, that gracefulness of manner, that dignified, and, at the same time, easy affability for high and low, which, in persons of his rank, never fail to win the heart. He was a man of profuse magnificence in his habits, and the gorgeous displays which he used to make on public occasions, were much to the taste of all classes of the population.
Then, as I said, the Duke, great Bolingbroke —
His wife, who was a native of Louisiana, was of surpassing loveliness, and as charitable, gracious and intelligent as she was beautiful. She was literally adored by the Mexicans and Spaniards, and she greatly contributed to her husband's popularity.
Galvez had caused to be constructed, at a short distance from his capital, for himself and his successors, as he pretended, on the rock of Chapultepec, which has since become famous in the war of the United States against Mexico, a superb country seat, which had cost him immense sums. Surrounded by large and deep ditches, flanked with strong bastions well supplied with artillery on the side looking towards Mexico, and protected on the northern side by an immense forest, this edifice, whatever might be the name and the disguise given to it, looked more like a fortress than a peaceful seat of rural enjoyment. Immense subterraneous vaults, filled with provisions to last many months, and many underground ways, communicated from the castle both with the city and the forest. This pretended country seat was, in fact, an impregnable fortification, and as it could not be intended by Galvez against the people, whose idol he was, and to whom he would have been impolitic, under such circumstances, to show any distrust, it became an object of wondering comments, hints and p166 insinuations. It was even rumored that Galvez, who was the son of a viceroy, and who had succeeded his father in the same capacity, as it were by the regular laws of legitimate succession, was not disposed to relinquish, at the caprice of his sovereign, the power which he considered to be an hereditary heir-loom in his family, and that he was secretly aiming at occupying the throne of Mexico, not as the representative of the king of Spain, but in his own right. It is said that, owing to these vague and probably calumnious whisperings, the Court of Madrid was preparing to recall Galvez, when, in consequence of too much exposure and fatigue in hunting he died in August, 1794. He was then in the full meridian of life, being only thirty-eight years old. His death was felt to be a great public calamity, and was deplored as such by the whole population of the kingdom of Mexico.
1 Martin's History of Louisiana, vol. II, p43.
3 Supplemento á a Gazetta de Madrid de Viernes, 14 de Enero de 1780.
4 Las milicias se emplearon con indecible zelo en todos los trabajos, y en el servicio de la artilleria, dando constantes pruebas de una subordinacion sin limites; pues por ella dexaron muchas veces de arrojarse sobre los enemigos, especialmente las compañias de Acadianos, á quienes enardecia la memoria de las crueldades de los Ingleses en la guerra pasada que les obligaron á abandonar sus domicilios. — Sup. á la Gaz. de Madrid, 14 de Enero de 1780.
5 No merecen menos elogio las compañias de negros y mulatos libres que siempre estuvieron ocupados en las abanzadas, falsos ataques y descubiertas, escopeteandose con el enemigo, y portandose en todas ocasiones con tanto valor y generosidad como los blancos. — Sup. á la Gaz. de Madrid, 14 de Enero de 1780.
6 Finalmente los Indios dieron por la primera vez el noble exemplo de humanidad de no haber hecho el mas leve daño á los habitantes Ingleses fugitivos y desarmados, ó que aunque con armas se les rendian, á pesar de la general costumbre que tienen de tratar con la mas horrible crueldad á sus prisioneros; habiendo llegado hasta el extremo de traer entre sus brazos con agasajo para presentar al gobernador los niños que por temor de su inhumanidad se habian refugiado con sus madres á los montes. — Sup. á la Gaz. de Madrid, 14 de Enero de 1780.
7 Captain Hall.
8 Martin's History of Louisiana, vol. II, p54.
9 Martin's History of Louisiana, vol. II, p54.
10 Martin's History, vol. II, p56.
12 Martin's History, vol. II, p57.
13 Martin's History, vol. II, p57.
14 Martin's History of Louisiana, vol. II, p59.
15 Martin's History, vol. II, p61.
16 Martin's History, vol. II, p61.
17 Martin's History, vol. II, p63.
18 Si en el discurso de un año y cinco dias han experimentado ustedes tantos contratiempos y tantas adversidades, aun queda que vencer la mayor, que es de la conformidad y la paciencia, pues nada diminuye los trabajos como la constancia (p152)con que se sobrablevan. Todas la provincias tienen sus inconvenientes, unas el rigor del clima, otras el de los insectos, otras el de los tremblores de tierra, y todas expuestas a la furia de los uracanes. Esperemos en la divina providencia que calmara nuestras desgracias, demos la ultima prueba de nuestra lealtad al soberano en no abandonar un pays que hemos ayudado á conquistar, á pesar del enemigo comun y contra el torrente de los elementos, y a Dios la de la resignacion, diciendo con Job: Dios nos lo dío, Dios nos lo quitó. Su santissimoº nombre sea por siempre bendito y alabado.
19 Villars' despatch of the 20th of May, 1781.
20 Martin's History, vol. II, p68.
21 Martin's History, vol. II, p72.
22 Buscando nueva morada en los bosques, dirigiendo principalmente su viaje al Mississippi para unirse con porcion de vagos soldados que desean poseer gran parte de las tierras de este rio, y piensan establecer lo que ellos llaman, la independencia occidental, fuera de la autoridad del congreso.
23 En obsequio de la humanidad, y correspondiendo á los generosos sentimientos de la nacion Española, renunciamos paráº siempre la practica de levantar cabelleras, ni hacer esclavos á los blancos. Y en caso de que una inopinada guerra contra los enemigos de su Majestad Catolica nos ponga en el caso de hacer algun prisionero, lo trataremos con la hospitalidad que corresponde, á imitacion de las naciones civilizadas, cangeando lo despues con igual numero de Indios, ó recibiendo en su lugar la cantidad de generos, que privamente se stipulare,º sin cometer con ninguno de los expresados prisioneros de guerra el menor atentado á su vida.
24 Villars' despatch, 25th of February, 1784.
b Louis-Sébastien Mercier (1740‑1814): L'an deux mille quatre cent quarante. Rêve s'il en fût jamais. To judge from the only chapter of it I've been able to find online (at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France) it is a long utopian tract that, like many similar works, is really a thru-and‑thru critique of the political and religious system of its time.
c For four different takes on the career of Fr. Sedella, see Gayarré himself (pp269‑271), Grace King (New Orleans, The Place and the People, pp137‑138, 174‑177), John Kendall (History of New Orleans, pp 33, 79‑80), and Fray Antonio de Sedella — an Appreciation, an article by C. W. Bishpam in the Louisiana Historical Quarterly, Vol. II No. 1. (See also Maes' Life of Father Charles Nerinckx, p186, a viewpoint derived from Shea.).
e In a razor-straight line, the distance from Natchez to Savannah is 970 kilometers; and of course, as these men really walked it, several hundred more. This is one of the longest military marches in American history, if not exactly the most consequential.
h This is the first mention by Gayarré of the Cherokee-Scottish adventurer; see next chapter for the details of his career. Alexander McGillivray figures prominently in several other parts of this site as well: links to them, including the portrait of him by Trumbull, are collected in my note there.
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