These headings of the author's are used here as local links to text on this webpage.
Arrival of the Casket Girls — Royal Ordinance relative to the Concessions of Lands — Manner of settling the Succession of Frenchmen married to Indian Women — French Husbands — Indian Wives — History of Madame Dubois, an Indian Squaw — Conspiracy of the Natchez against the French — Massacre of the French at Natchez in 1729 — Massacre of the French at the Yazoo Settlement in 1730 — Attack of the Natchez against the French Settlement at Natchitochesº — They are beaten by St. Denis — The French and Choctaws attack the Natchez — Daring and Death of Navarre and of some of his Companions — Siege of the Natchez Forts — Flight of the Natchez — Cruel Treatment of Natchez Prisoners by Governor Perier — Desperation of the Natchez — The Chickasaws grant an Asylum to the Natchez — Conspiracy of the Banbara Negroes — List of the Principal Officers in the Colony in 1730.
In the beginning of 1728, there came a vessel of the company with a considerable number of young girls, who had not been taken, like their predecessors, from houses of correction. The company had given to each of them a casket containing some articles of dress. From that circumstance, they became known in the colony under the nickname of the "filles à la cassette," or "the casket girls." The Ursulines were requested to take care of them until they should be provided with suitable husbands. Subsequently, it became a matter of importance in the colony to derive one's origin from the casket girls, rather than the correction girls. What distinctions, however slim they may be, will not be eagerly sought after by human pride?
With great propriety, Governor Périer turned his attention to the encouragement of the agriculture of the country, and by words and deeds excited the colonists p391 to draw out of the fertile soil on which they dwelt, the wealth which was concealed within its bosom. Rice, tobacco, and indigo were cultivated with success by the two thousand six hundred negroes who had been imported, and the fig and orange trees, lately introduced, were thriving everywhere, and ornamenting almost every garden. Land was rising in value, and as surveys had been carelessly made, limits fixed in a very loose or arbitrary manner, and titles of property mostly incomplete from negligence, indifference, or from some other cause, a royal ordinance, in order to check anticipated lawsuits, and to prevent future confusion, was issued on the 10th of August, 1728, and declared:
"That all the orders of concession addressed, before the 30th of December, 1723, by the India Company in France, to its directors in Louisiana, if not as yet presented to said directors for confirmation, or if not as yet followed by the possession and improvement stipulated in the acts of concession, were null and void."
In obedience to this ordinance, every landholder was bound to show his titles to the Superior Council, within a specified time, and to designate the quantity of land he claimed and had cultivated, under the penalty of a fine of 1000 livres, and of the loss of the conceded land, which, in that case, would escheat to the company.
Every concession of land situated on both sides of the Mississippi, below Manchac, was to be reduced to •twenty acres, fronting on the river, except it should be proved that a greater number of acres was under cultivation.
The depth of every concession was to vary thirty-seven meters',WIDTH,150)" onMouseOut="nd();">•from between one hundred feet and one hundred and twenty feet,º according to the nature of the locality.
The company was authorized to raise a tax of one p392 cent for every acre, cultivated or not, and of five livres for every slave. The revenue arising from this tax was to be consecrated to the building of churches and hospitals.
The expenses of the colonial administration had continued to be very great, and had amounted, this year, to 486,051 livres.
The year 1729 dawned on the colony under favorable auspices. Through the harmonious and joint administration of Périer and De la Chaise, tranquillity had been established in the country, which, for the first time, was free from the evils produced by the jealousies and quarrels of the governor, and of the king's commissaries. Unchecked in the exercise of the high authority with which he was clothed, De la Chaise turned his attention to the jurisprudence of the country, and to the settling of the disputes and juridical conflicts among the inhabitants. A case presented itself, in which he used his influence much to the satisfaction of the colonists. Father de la Vente, the bigoted curate of Mobile, had demanded that the French be authorized by the government to take Indian wives. This demand had been opposed by the governor, Lamothe Cadillac, and the king's commissary, Duclos. The government had neither sanctioned, nor actually prohibited such marriages, but had merely recommended that they be discouraged as much as possible. However, the church had thought differently, and consecrated a great many alliances of that kind. It was, no doubt, very correct, in a moral point of view, but it gave rise to legal difficulties. Thus, on the death of French husbands, their Indian wives claimed, according to the customs of the Viscounty of Paris, half of their succession: and if they died without issue, the property acquired during marriage went to the Indian heirs of the wife in preference p393 to the French heirs of the husband. These Indian heirs frequently ran away with what was left by the deceased, and it was next to an impossibility to force them to pay the debts of the succession, and to subject them to the observance of those formalities required by, and inherent to, the laws of succession. The French were therefore clamorous to prevent Indian wives from enjoying the benefit of the custom of Paris, and they urged that, to deviate from it in such cases, would be nothing but an act of justice and of sound policy, on the ground that what had been acquired by the French should remain to the French, and not go to the huts of barbarians, who were their enemies. Taking these complaints into consideration, and on the recommendation of De la Chaise, the Superior Council decreed that, for the future, on the death of a Frenchman married to an Indian woman, the property left by the deceased should be administered, if there were minor children, by a tutor, and if there were none, by a curator to vacant estates, who should pay annually to the widow one third of the revenue of the estate, provided that this pension should cease in case she returned to dwell among her tribe. The expenses of preserving from deterioration, and of keeping up the goods, chattels, and movable or immovable property of the succession, were to be at the charge of the children, or of the other heirs.
The fact is, that the conduct of the Indian wives toward their French husbands was not such as to entitle them to much respect or sympathy, and adultery was one of the frequent offenses of which they became guilty. When brought into the society of the white race, it seems that they lost those qualities which they possessed when pursuing the savage and primitive life of their ancestors, and on the other hand, they acquired none of the virtues and blandishments of civilization. One instance in support of this assertion, among many others which might be cited, will be sufficient.
In the district of the Illinois, in 1720, the French had built a fort, and were living in good intelligence with the Indians, when the commander, or governor of the district, no doubt with the intention of producing a deep impression on those barbarians by the sight of the number, the resources, and the power of the French nation, undertook to induce some of them to pay a visit to the Great French village across the big salt lake. He talked so much about the marvelous things to be seen in his own country, that he persuaded twelve of the Indians to follow him to France. One of them was the daughter of the chief of the Illinois, and she is said to have been the paramour of the governor. That officer, leaving the command of his fort to his lieutenant, descended the Mississippi with his twelve Indian attendants, and a sergeant named Dubois, and arrived safely at New Orleans, where they embarked for France. There, they were conducted to Versailles, introduced at court, and presented to the king, as a sample of his red subjects in Louisiana. They amused the élite of the aristocracy, by hunting a deer in the Bois de Boulogne, according to the Indian fashion; and the women, particularly the daughter of the chief of the Illinois, who was beautiful, were caressed and petted for a week by duchesses and such high-born dames. They even appeared on the flower of the Italian opera in Paris, to perform Indian dances, and they had the honor of being the flitting wonder of a few days. The Indian princess was converted to Christianity, baptized in the splendid gothic cathedral of Notre Dame with great pomp and ceremony, and then married to Sergeant Dubois, who, p395 in consideration of this distinguished alliance, was raised by the king to the rank of captain, and commander of the Illinois District. She received handsome presents from the ladies of the court, and from the king himself. Her companions were not forgotten, and came in for their share of petticoats, shining blue coats, and cocked hats lined with gold. They were, of course, very much pleased with their reception by their white allies, and after having seen every thing, and having been exhibited to every body, they left Paris and Versailles, to return to their distant home, and departed in high glee for Lorient, where they took ship. With regard to the officer who had brought them to France, he remained in his native country, gave up forever all thoughts of returning to Louisiana and to Indian paramours, and married a rich widow, who, like Desdemona, had loved him for the dangers he had passed, among
"Cannibals that each other eat,
The anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders."
The Indians, when they arrived at New Orleans, were entertained in that city at the expense of the India Company. They were also supplied with boats and rowers, and with an escort of soldiers, and thus transported back to the Illinois. Great were the rejoicings among those people, who had long thought they had lost some of their most important and most cherished members. Dubois took possession of the fort as the commander of the district, and there lived for a short time in the full enjoyment of power and peace. His wife, however, used to pay to her relations among her tribe, more frequent visits than he liked. One day, she helped her people to surprise the fort, and Dubois and the whole garrison were butchered without mercy. Madame Dubois p396 then renounced Christianity, stripped herself of her cumbersome French dress, and returned to the worship of her old idols, to her early habits, and to the savage life which, it seemed, had lost in her eyes none of its primitive attractions. So much for the attempt to tame lions and tigers!
Périer, on his arrival in the colony, had been struck with its defenseless condition, and with the necessity of fortifying the distant settlements. He had made frequent remonstrances on the subject to the company, and had solicited an additional force of two or three hundred men. But his fears were treated as chimerical, and his motives misunderstood. It was thought that, by asking for more troops, his intention was to give more importance to his command, and to engage in some war in order to display military talents. But subsequent events justified Périer's apprehensions.
In 1729, the French settlement at Natchez was under the command of an officer called Chopart, Chépart, or Etcheparre.a He was rapacious, haughty, and tyrannical, and by repeated acts of oppression and injustice, had made himself odious to those over whom he ruled. One day, he ordered a subordinate officer to be put in irons without cause. The officer, who was no other than Dumont, well known for the interesting historical memoirs he has left on Louisiana, having succeeded in escaping from his prison, fled to New Orleans, and laid his complaint before Governor Périer. Chopart was summoned to head-quarters, tried by his peers, and found guilty of an abuse of power. He would even have been broken, if pressing and powerful solicitors had not obtained his pardon from Governor Périer. But he was reinstated in his office, only on condition that he should change his conduct, and treat those under him with more justice and mildness.
p397 Having received a salutary lesson, Chopart, on his return to Natchez, acted toward the white population with more reserve, but made up for it by treating the Indians with insolence and cruelty. Acquainted, no doubt, with the instructions given to Périer by the company, and in which the wish was expressed that the Natchez, to prevent further collisions, should be induced, if possible, to remove farther off, he acted accordingly, and heaped every sort of outrage and insult upon that devoted race, to force them to abandon the spot they had occupied for so many centuries. Seeing that by such means he did not obtain the object he had in view, he went still further. One day, he summoned to his presence the Great Sun, and told that chief that he, Chopart, had received orders from Governor Périer to take possession of the beautiful village of the White Apple, which was situated •six miles from the French fort, and there to establish a plantation, and to construct certain buildings; wherefore it was necessary that the Natchez should remove to some other place, which they might occupy without prejudice to the French. This intimation was given in an abrupt manner, without the slightest attempt at conciliation. It was the tone of an eastern despot, speaking to a slave. The Great Sun looked at Chopart with a composed but inquisitive eye, and said:— "Surely, my white brother does not speak in earnest, but wishes only to try the fortitude of the red man. Does not my white brother know that the Natchez have lived in that village for more years than there are hairs in the twisted lock which hangs from the top of my head to my waist?" "Foolish barbarian!" exclaimed the French officer, with kindling ire and fierce contempt. "What ties of brotherhood can there be between thy race and mine? I have no explanations or apology to give to such as p398 thou. It is sufficient for thee to know that I obey superior orders — obey mine!"
In spite of the habitual command of an Indian over his muscles and features, and his aversion to any demonstration of his inward feelings, when such language fell on the ears of the Great Sun, his eyes flashed and his breast heaved up with emotion, but he replied with a calm voice: "Brother, we have not been used to such treatment. So far, the French have taken nothing from us by force. What they possess, we gave freely, or they purchased. Wishing to live in peace with thy nation, I say to thee: We have other lands that we can spare — take them! — can we do more? But, as to the village of the White Apple, leave it untouched in the hands of the Natchez. There we have a temple, and there the bones of our ancestors have slept since we came to dwell on the bank of the father of rivers." Chopart listened to this touching appeal with an ironical smile, and said:— "I will not bandy fine sentiments with thee, romantic Indian; but mark my word, and remember that I shall keep it. Toward the latter part of November, I expect a galley from New Orleans. If, when she arrives, the village of the White Apple is not delivered up to me, I will send thee bound hand and foot to our great chief in our great village down the river. Thou seest that I make short work of it. Go." "Good, I see," replied the Indian; "and I go home to lay thy communication before the old and wise men of the nation."
When all the magnates of the Natchez met in council, at the call of their sovereign, every one of them knew beforehand the subject of their future deliberations. The words of the French chief had been spoken publicly, and had spread like wildfire, causing the utmost indignation, and rousing the slumbering hatred which p399 had been pent up in more than one breast against the insolent intruders. But when what had happened was officially communicated by the Great Sun, there was in the assembly a fresh outburst of indignation, which was hushed up and gave place to profound silence, when the chief of the White Apple was seen to rise. Next to the Great Sun, he was the most influential man among the Natchez, on account of his exploits as a warrior, and of his eloquence as an orator. Majestically rising, he stood up, buried as it were in profound meditation, while all eyes were riveted on his noble form. After the lapse of a few minutes, he thus began:—
"Children of the Sun, old traditions and oracles have long informed us of the approaching doom that awaits our nation. We have had ancestors, but we are destined to be the ancestors of no human beings. If those traditions and oracles are true; nay, if portentous signs and appearances are to be believed, soon this nation, which once was so powerful, will cease to exist. We have been gradually shrinking up into a small and weak population, and our once broad domains, which it required so many moons to travel over, have fast escaped from our grasp, as water oozes through the fingers by which it is clutched. Diseases, frequent human sacrifices in honor of our dead chiefs, and long wars with some of the red tribes by which we are surrounded, had contributed to diminish our numbers, when, on a sudden, there came upon us this hostile race, the pale-faced warriors, who had been announced to us as our future destroyers. Bowing to the decree of the Great Spirit, and yielding to the superior powers which we recognized in these strange men, we tried to conciliate their good-will, and we granted them land and all sorts of supplies. What has been the consequence? Every year they have become more greedy, exacting, and overbearing. p400 Every year, between them and our people, quarrels have sprung up, in which blood was shed, and for which we had to make atonement, sometimes at the cost of the heads of our most illustrious warriors. The vicinage of these men has become at last an intolerable curse upon us. With their merchandise and new wares, they have issued new wants among our people, corrupted their morals, and changed particularly the manners of our young men, who now despise the rugged virtues of their forefathers to ape the frivolity of the French, and have become effeminate and worthless drunkards. As to our women, their heads have been turned by the silver tongue and the gaudy plumage of these loose strangers. What is the result? Why, that debauchery has crept into every bosom, and that the very blood of the Natchez is tainted in its source. Which of us is sure now of the affections and of the purity of his daughter or of his wife, when yonder thieves are prowling about our dwellings? Before the French settled near us, we were in the full enjoyment of the greatest of blessings — boundless freedom! What are we now? — hardly better than slaves! — are we not controlled in every thing, and dare we move without asking leave from that haughty chief who sits in yonder fort with the white flag? Are they not stripping us every day of the poor remains of our ancient liberty? Do they not frequently strike us with clubs, as they do with the black slaves? Depend upon it, they will soon seize upon us, put us in irons, force us to work for them in their fields, tie us to posts and apply the lash to our backs, as they do with the black faces. Shall we wait for that moment, or shall we not prefer to die before, but satiated with blood, and surfeited with revenge?"
Here a low and half-suppressed growl, forcing its way, p401 as it were, through clenched teeth, was heard running through that grim-visaged assembly, and some of the young warriors, giving way to their excitement, started up from their seats, and uttering a fierce shout, shook their tomahawks with wild fury. The orator looked round with a grave and rebuking glance, as if disapproving the undignified and premature display of feelings by which he had been interrupted, and waving his hand as if he commanded silence, he thus continued:— "Have we not met now to deliberate on a peremptory command which the French have ventured to send to us? Have we not before us a sample of their present audacity, and the harbinger of their future daring? Have they not ordered us to relinquish to them the harvests which grow around us, and which are the results of our labors? Do they not order us away from the village of the White Apple, to shift for ourselves in the woods like wild beasts? Will they not soon drive us out of the other villages? What then will become of the tombs of our ancestors and of the cradles of our children? The white faces will run their plows over the bones of our dead, and put their cattle in our temples. Shall we consent to such profanation? Are we not strong enough to prevent it? We are. Shall we wait until the French become so numerous that we shall not be able to resist oppression? For my part, I say — no! We can destroy them all, if we choose, and if we act with proper courage and skill. Should we be doomed in our turn to perish all, and leave none of our race behind, let it not be without having struck a blow worthy of the children of the Sun. Let us not be immolated like bleating sheep, without resistance, but let us die like warriors, after having done a deed that will make the name of the Natchez famous among all the red tribes, however distant they may be from our native p402 hills. I pause . . . . . to put this question: shall we yield our birth-place, our beautiful valleys, our temples, our sacred mounds, the tombs of our ancestors, and every thing that we hold dear, without a struggle? and shall we only utter impotent wailings like babes, when deprived of their playthings? Shall we move away like a nation of cowardly beggars, to steal from some weaker tribe the land that we shall want for our support? War or submission! — which do you choose? I wait for an answer."
A simultaneous war-cry announced the spontaneous decision of the assembly to the orator, who thus resumed his address, with a grim smile of exultation.
"I see with pride that the contact of the French has not yet turned the Natchez into mean-spirited women. Now, listen to what I propose for the full and secure accomplishment of our design. We have always been reputed to have more mind than the other red nations; let us show it on this occasion. All the Indians — the Yazoos, the Chickasaws, the Choctaws, and others, have equally suffered like us from French insolence, and must be tired of their oppressive domination. Let us invite them to forget our past hostilities, to join with us in a holy alliance against the common enemy, and to free our father-land with one blow from the hated presence of strangers. Let ambassadors be forthwith sent to them, to lay our proposition before their councils of wise men. If they adopt it, let bundles, made up an equal number of small sticks, be remitted to them, and let one stick be removed every day. The last remaining one will designate the day when this combined attack shall be made against the French, over the whole face of the country. Thus assailed by surprise, and isolated, cut off from the reciprocal succor which the several settlements would give to each other p403 if this plan be not adopted, the French must succumb under the vastly superior numbers that we shall bring against them. But, for the successful execution of this combination, we must gain time, and we must humbly entreat our august sovereign, the Great Sun, here present, to enter into negotiations with the hungry French wolf, the crocodile-heartedb chief in yonder fort, to obtain, by dint of presents, that our removal be postponed, and that the delay be sufficiently long to ripen to maturity the fruit of this day's deliberations. The chief of the White Apple, children of the Sun, has but one more recommendation to make, with a view to secure the success of our enterprise: that is, the observation of secrecy. You know that women are never to be trusted in any thing, much less with designs of importance. They are fickle and indiscreet, and they can no more keep a secret than a sieve will hold water. Besides, many of them love the French, and would certainly betray us. Therefore, let us swear before we separate, to keep our lips sealed, and not to say one word which might give to our women the slightest intimation of what we intend. The chief of the White Apple has done, children of the Sun, and waits for better advice."
The orator sat down amid a universal hum of applause, and all his propositions were accepted by acclamation.
The next day, the Great Sun called at the French fort, and representing to Chopart how ill prepared they were to move so suddenly, without having selected the place whither they could transport their effects, he obtained that the fulfillment of the order of expulsion should be postponed until the latter part of December, provided that the Natchez should pay to Chopart, in the interval, a contribution consisting of one barrel of corn, and a certain quantity of fowls, furs, and bear's p404 oil, for each and every cabin of the White Apple village: which was a pretty considerable and valuable contribution, considering that there were eighty cabins in the village. The Great Sun and the French officer parted, both equally satisfied with the bargain they had made. The one had gratified his appetite for gain, and the other thought that he had secured his revenge.
After some time, the ambassadors of the Natchez returned, and brought back the information, that all the Indian nations to which they had been sent, had eagerly embraced the proposition made to them, and had entered into the league against the French, whom they would attack on the day fixed. Thus, the whole colony was threatened with total destruction, through the imprudence of an avaricious and tyrannical subaltern officer. It is evident that the Indians could, at any time, if united, have crushed the French without much effort, if we believe a statement made by Diron d'Artaguette, in a dispatch dated on the 9th of December, 1728, and in which he estimated that the Indians settled on the banks of the principal rivers of Louisiana could set on foot seventeen thousand men, and said that, with regard to the inland nations, one of them alone, the nation of the Choctaws, could bring into the field ten thousand warriors.
All the movements which I have related, had not taken place among the Natchez without exciting the suspicions of the women; and with that eager curiosity which is said to characterize their sex, they went to work to discover what was in the wind. The Great Sun, whose intended suicide, on the death of his brother Stung Serpent, had been prevented by the French, had since died, and had been succeeded by a young Sun, his nephew, the same who had struggled with the Great Sun, to take possession of the gun with p405 which that prince wanted to blow out his brains. The mother of the new sovereign was a woman distinguished for her intellect. She had a great deal of partiality for the French, and it was even reported that her son was the offspring of an amour she had carried on with a French officer. Disquieted by the observations she had made, she inquired of her son what was the motive of the recent meetings of the nobles and of the embassies which had sped in every direction. He answered her, that the object of these missions was merely to renew the alliances of the Natchez with the other nations, and to smoke with them the calumet of peace. She appeared satisfied with the answer: but when, on the return of the ambassadors, she saw that instead of receiving them publicly, as was the old custom, the nobles met in secret session to listen to their communication, which was not afterward made known to the people, all her fears revived, and she resolved to penetrate into such mysterious proceedings.
She requested the Great Sun to accompany her to a village called the Corn Village, where she pretended to have a female relation extremely sick, who required her assistance. On her son complying with her wish, she departed with him, and took the least frequented path, under the pretext that it was the most shady, and the most agreeable. When they arrived at a spot which the princess, from its solitary appearance, thought the most free from unexpected intrusion, and therefore most favorable for the accomplishment of her design, she pleaded fatigue, and begged her son to sit down by her. She then addressed him thus:
"The weariness of my old limbs is not the only cause why I stop here, my son. I wished for an opportunity to speak to thee in private, and without fear of interruption. Open thy ears to admit my words into thy p406 brain, because they are weighty. I have always taught thee to avoid a lie as the most disgraceful of sins, and I have always told thee that a liar did not deserve to be looked upon as a man, much less as a warrior. But were a Sun, and particularly a chief of the Suns, to tell a lie, he would fall even beneath the contempt of women. How can I doubt, therefore, but that thou wilt speak the truth to thy mother? Are not all the Suns bound together with fraternal ties, whether they be males or females? Are not their interests the same? Are they not but one family? And if there be some shadow an excuse for not trusting one or two young and giddy-headed female Suns, does the same reason exist for the age and trust-worthy, and, above all, for the gray-haired mother of the sovereign of the Natchez? I have discovered that there is a secret at work in the bosom of the Suns; and yet that secret is kept concealed from me, as if my lips had been cut wide apart, and could no longer be sealed! Do I deserve such treatment? Does it not reflect shame and disgrace on thee? The contempt shown to a mother taints the son through skin, flesh, and bones. Dost thou know me to be vile, and capable of betraying thee and my tribe? Thou dost not dare to harbor the thought that I can intentionally commit such a crime! Well then! Didst thou ever know me to be talking in my sleep? Why therefore am I not trusted, as it is my right? Why am I spat upon by my tribe, and by my son? Where is the cause of such heart-bruising contumely? What! hast thou not come of my womb? Whence dost thou draw thy blood but from my veins? Whence did flow the milk which fed thy infant lips but from my breast? Wouldst thou be a Sun — nay, the Great Sun, wert thou not my child? Without the tender nursing with which I surrounded thy cradle where wouldst thou be? p407 By me, and through me, thou art every thing, and to me thou art the most precious and most beloved thing I possess. Yet I stand now by thy side, without being even looked at, and no more noticed by thee, than if I were a worthless cur! Why dost thou not drive me away with thy foot, or thy whip? Is it because in our nation, a son has never been guilty of such an outrage toward his mother? Nay then — why dost thou insult me, in a different, it is true, but no less mortifying manner? To conceal from me, the oldest female Sun, me, the mother of the sovereign of the Natchez, a great national resolution taken by our nobles, what is it but an affront equivalent to a blow? When the womb of the whole nation is heaving up with the conception of a big design, could such throes escape my motherly penetration? Am I a fool? Am I an idiot? Was it becoming in thee to wait until I should descend to an inquiry? And shouldst thou not, before this time, have opened thy mind to thy mother? Didst thou think that I have lived so long without having acquired sagacity enough to look into thy heart with as much facility as into any of our wells of pure water? The Natchez meditate to rise upon the French. — Is it not the truth? Is not my finger on the sore? Nay; why dost thou start, and why this bewildered look? None of the pale faces listen to us, and dost thou fear that I shall sell thee in bondage to them? What dost thou imagine they could give me, me whose body is bent with age, and whose feet are sprinkled with the dust of death, in exchange, or as a full price for a son's blood? And now," said she, rising with solemn dignity, and speaking with the deepest emphasis, "farewell forever! The earth refuses to bear the burden of the mother who is despised by her son: — the blessed air which drops from heaven is profaned by entering her lungs. p408 Dig my grave: for the sight of thy dishonored mother shall not, to‑morrow, disgrace any longer the ancestral rays of yonder God, from whom we draw our origin."
Warm tears gushed from the eyes of the young prince when he heard reproaches which racked his heart, but he preserved his composure, and whatever might have been his inward emotion, he calmly rose, and raising his mother by the arm, he generally forced her to resume her seat. Then, several minutes elapsed, when he seemed to be buried in reflection, and to be struggling against the opposite influences of affection and of prince. At last he said, mournfully and respectfully:— "Mother, thy reproaches are poisoned arrows which pierce my heart. These reproaches are not deserved. I have never repulsed nor despised thee. But hast thou ever heard that it was permitted to reveal what had been resolved by the wise men of the nation in secret council? Am I not the Great Sun? Must I not set the good example? Wouldst thou persuade thy son to do a base thing? Am I not more bound to secrecy than any body else, from one peculiar circumstance? Is it not darkly rumored" (Looking fixedly at his mother) "that my father was a Frenchman? And might I not be suspected of partiality toward them, although the Great Spirit knows that I hate them worse than any red foe our nation ever had! But since thou hast guessed all, what more shall I say? Thou knowest as much as I do. Therefore, close thy lips."
"I approve thy resentment against the oppressors of our race, my son," continued the princess, "but I tremble lest the Natchez should not have taken sufficient precautions to secure their revenge, without exposing our whole nation to destruction. We can not succeed, unless we take the French by surprise. Although their chief has lost his mind, they are wary and brave; if p409 they discover that we meditate aught against them, they have plenty of merchandise to tempt all the other nations to rise against us. If you were painting your bodies in the colors of war to march against a red nation, my sleep would not be disturbed, and I would not have made to thy feelings the appeal which has disquieted them so much. But the pale faces are a fearful race. They know infinitely more than we do, and they have resources that we dream not of. It is not for myself that I tremble; it is for thee; it is for our nation. Old as I am, what care I how soon or how I die? What is it to me whether I am killed by an Indian or a French warrior? But there is more caution in woman than in man, and I may detect some flaw in the net you have spread around the French, and give good advice. For instance, one thing above all strikes me at first sight. Granting you all the success that you may anticipate, and supposing that you destroy every Frenchman, woman, and child that live in the neighborhood of our villages; admitting also that you take possession of yonder thundering fort, would not their countrymen come from their big village down below, with innumerable red allies, and overwhelm us in complete destruction? What would signify our short-lived triumph?"
Thus she artfully went on until she gradually drew from him the whole plot, and she appeared tranquilized when she knew all the details of the conspiracy, which she confessed to have been conducted with the utmost prudence and skill, her son having give her the most positive assurance that all the French in the colony would be destroyed at one blow and on the same day, all the Indian nations having joined the league, with the exception of the Tunicas and the Oumas, who had not been spoken to, because they were known to be too friendly to the French. Therefore the destruction of p410 these two tribes had also been resolved upon. "But," said the old princess, "how can you be sure that among so many distant nations, there will not be some mistake as to the day on which the blow is to be struck." "There can be none," answered her son, who then told her all about the bundles of sticks, and informed her that the bundle reserved by the Natchez was preserved in the Great Temple of the principal village.
The princess, whose name was "Bras Piqué", or Pricked Arm, was greatly alarmed at the extent of the danger which threatened her friends, the French, but she carefully concealed her feelings from her son, and appeared to enter warmly into the conspiracy. In the mean time, she thought of nothing else but of putting the French on their guard, without exposing the safety of her son and of her nation. She acted under the supposition, that if the suspicions of the French were once aroused, they would assume an attitude and take precautions which would check the Natchez, and prevent the breaking out which they meditated. Thus, by words which she let fall from her lips, as it were carelessly, she excited the fear of some Indian women whom she knew to be attached to the French by more than one tender tie, and who communicated their information to their lovers. The old Bras Piqué, or Pricked Arm, did more; seeing no sign of precaution taken by the French, notwithstanding the warning she had caused to be given, she one day stopped a French soldier whom she accidentally met, and told him to inform the French chief that the Natchez had lost their minds, and that he had better be on the look out, and increase the strength of his fort.
The soldier repeated this admonition to Chopart, who, instead of inquiring into the causes of this strange piece of information, which was sent to him in such a vague p411 manner, but from such high authority, said that the princess was an old hag, called the soldier a coward and a visionary, put him in the stocks to punish him for spreading false reports, and declared that he would certainly abstain from repairing the fortifications, or from doing any thing which would give the Natchez to understand he was afraid of them, because the secret motive of all these warnings, as he pretended, was to frighten him out of his resolution to force them to evacuate the village of the White Apple.
Indefatigable in her exertions to save the French, Pricked Arm penetrated into the temple, and clandestinely withdrew some of the sticks from the bundle, in order to destroy the concert which had been agreed upon among the Indian tribes, and to bring on prematurely the day on which the attack was to be made by the Natchez. She hoped that some of the French, at least, would escape, and have time to put on their guard the rest of the colony. She also contrived to transmit indirect and anonymous warnings to several Frenchmen, who communicated to Chopart what they had learned. But he again branded them with the epithet of cowards, and put some of them under arrest. Pricked Arm, astounded at the result of her repeated attempts, and forgetting in her extreme anxiety the resolution she had taken not to expose to danger, by too positive information, her son and her whole nation, went so far as to address one Macé, a sub-lieutenant, and to tell him enough to remove all doubts from minds not unalterably bent on resisting the persuasion of the strongest evidence. She presumed that Macé, being an officer, would have more influence on the French commander. But she was deceived, and Chopart remained wedded to the same fatal incredulity. Bewildered at the sight of such infatuation, the old princess p412 was struck with superstitious awe, and very naturally came to the conclusion, that the French were doomed by the Great Spirit, and abandoned by the very God they worshiped. From that moment she became passive, and seemed to have accepted the decree of fate with the stoical indifference so common to Indians.
Time, however, was flying apace; and on the very eve of the contemplated attack, Chopart took a step which seemed to be the inspiration of some evil spirit determined to treat its victim to the last with mischievous mockery. In order to show in a signal manner his contempt for the alarming reports which had been made to him, and his determination to put a stop to them for the future, he went with several Frenchmen to the Great Village of the Natchez, and caroused with them the whole night. The Great Sun, to whom he communicated all the intelligence which, from time to time, had been laid before him, concerning the alledgedº conspiracy, behaved with great composure and profound dissimulation, notwithstanding his youth, and persuaded the infatuated man that the Natchez were his best friends, and that if he had enemies, it was among his own countrymen. "In confirmation of my declaration," he said, "my people will bring to thee to‑morrow more than the amount of the tribute for which thou hast granted us time for our removal, and will then put thee in possession of the White Apple Village." Chopart returned to the fort, late in the night, drunk with pride and the fumes of the potations in which he had freely indulged. Feeling the want of rest, he gave the most precise order that, under no pretext whatever, he should be waked up before nine in the morning.
When that morning came, which was on the 29th of November, the eve of St. Andrew's day, long before p413 the rising of the sun there was a great bustling in all the villages of the Natchez. The conspirators had taken their measures with such foresight and precision, that, at the same moment, within a radius of many miles, the house of every Frenchman, however remote it was, found itself full of Indians asking for something or other. Some begged for powder, shot, and brandy, to go on a hunting expedition, promising to make ample returns for the desired loan. Others had a present to make, or an old-remembered debt to pay, or some bargain or other to propose. Motives or excuses of infinite variety were not wanting to remove suspicion. At eight, the Great Sun was seen departing from his village at the head of his nobles and of a troop of warriors. The procession moved with a great noise of instruments, and carried, with as much show as possible, the stipulated tribute of fowls, corn, oil, and furs. The master of ceremonies, gorgeously dressed, and making himself conspicuous above the rest, twirled on high, and with fantastic gestures, the calumet of peace. With demonstrations of joy, they went several times round the fort, and entered the house of the French commander, who, waked up by the noise, made his appearance in his morning gown. Elated at the sight of the valuable presents which were laid before him, laughing in his heart at the credulity of those who had attempted to rouse suspicions in his mind as to the fidelity of his Indian friends, he ordered the givers of warnings, as he called them, to be released from their confinement, that they should come to see how futile were their cowardly fears. Then, the Indians began to dance, to sing, and to creep into the fort and everywhere. In the mean time, a chosen band of warriors glided down the hill to the back of the river, where the long-expected and richly-laden galley, which had arrived the p414 day previous, was moored. There, each warrior having leisurely picked his man and made his aim sure, a simultaneous discharge was heard.
This was the preconcerted signal, which was followed far and wide by discharges of firearms so close on each other, that they seemed to make but one volley. Let us listen to Governor Périer himself, relating that event in one of his dispatches: "Such being the dispositions of the Indians, and the hour having come," says he, "the general assassination of the French took so little time, that the execution of the deed and the preceding signal were almost but one and the same thing. One single discharge closed the whole affair, with the exception of the house of La Loire des Ursins, in which there were eight men, who defended themselves with desperation. They made the house good against the Indians during the whole day. Six of them were killed, and when night came, the remaining two escaped. When the attack began, La Loire des Ursins happened to be on horseback, and being cut off from his house by the intervening foes, he fought to death, and killed four Indians. The people who were shut up in his house had already killed eight. Thus it cost the Natchez only twelve men to destroy two hundred and fifty of ours, through the fault of the commanding officer, who alone deserved the fate which was shared by his unfortunate companions. It was easy for him, with the arms and the forces he had, to inflict on our enemies a severer blow than the one we have received, and which has brought this colony to within two inches of utter destruction."
It is said that Chopart had the grief of surviving all his countrymen. Such was the horror and contempt the Natchez had for him, that death inflicted by the hands of a warrior was thought too honorable for the p415 French chief. None of that class condescended to lay hands upon him, and the lowest among the stinking, or plebeians, was sent for, who beat him to death with a club, in his own garden, whither he had fled. A few Frenchmen escaped, as it were by miracle, from the general massacre: among others, Navarre, Couillard, Canterelle, Louette, and Ricard, who succeeded in reaching New Orleans after many perilous adventures. Two men only were spared by the Natchez, one wagoner, named Mayeux, to be employed by them in transporting all the goods, merchandise, and effects of the French to the public square, in front of which stood the palace of the Great Sun, and where that sovereign was to make a distribution of the spoils among his subjects. The other Frenchman, named Lebeau, was a tailor, and owed his life to that circumstance. As the Natchez stood in want of his craft, they preserved him to turn him to profitable account, and employed him in repairing, or reshaping the clothes of the dead, and in fitting them to the bodies of the new owners. Dumont relates that the Natchez were particularly pleased with the variegated, diversified, and highly-colored patches which he adapted to their vestments.
The women and children, with a few exceptions, were spared and destined to be slaves, their number amounting to about three hundred. Many of the blacks, to whom the Natchez had promised their freedom and a share in the booty, had been induced to join them in the conspiracy. Some of them, however, had the credit of remaining faithful to the French, and succeeded in making their way to New Orleans. The Natchez being under the impression that all the French were destroyed throughout the land, that they had no longer any thing to fear from such redoubtable foes, and finding themselves more wealthy than they had ever been, gave p416 themselves up to the wildest exhibitions of joy. They wound up that bloody day of the 29th of November, by a general carousal, and they kept dancing and singing until late at night, around pyramids of French heads, piled up as cannon-balls usually are in an arsenal. The agonies of wretched women and children who witnessed the slaughter of their husbands and fathers, and who, amid the demoniacal rejoicings which followed, had to bear outrages too horrific to be related, are more easily conceived than described! Long before the next day dawned upon them, the Natchez were in such a state of inebriation, that thirty well-determined Frenchmen, says Dumont, could have destroyed the whole nation.
The Natchez, when they came back to their senses, stationed warriors along the Mississippi, to watch for all canoes and barks navigating on that river, and a few days after the massacre, they descried some travelers coming down stream. They were French, and on being hailed, not suspecting what had happened, they came to landing. They were five in number, and hardly had they touched the bank of the river, when they were received with a discharge of muskets. Three were killed, the fourth fled to the woods, where he concealed himself, and he afterward had the good luck to reach the friendly village of the Tunicas. The fifth was taken prisoner, and carried to the great village of the Natchez, where he was tortured by them in one of the public exhibitions of the kind of which they were so fond, with all the refined ferocity peculiar to the Indians.
The Natchez set fire to all the habitations of the French, which were reduced to ashes, and after the first outburst of riotous excesses in which they indulged to celebrated their triumph, they set to work with intelligence p417 and activity, to avail themselves to the utmost of the success they had obtained. It appears that, for some reasons unknown, they had not communicated to the Yazoos the rising they meditated against the French. On the very day of the massacre, a deputation of Yazoos, who perhaps suspected what was going on, had arrived among the Natchez. They were present at the performance of that bloody drama, and being easily persuaded to attack the few French people who had settled on their territory, they departed with a certain number of Natchez warriors. The Yazoo settlement was distant •one hundred and twenty miles from the Natchez. This united band of Yazoos and Natchez ascended the Mississippi in boats, and, on their way up, discovered on the bank of the river, in a shady spot, some travelers assembled. They proved to be French, and were coming down the river with one of the Jesuit missionaries. When they were descried by the Indians, these people were engaged in the holy occupation of listening to a mass said by the priest. With that stealthy, cat-like step, so familiar to their race, the Indians approached without being observed, and poured upon them their fire at the very moment they were dropping on their knees, at the elevation of the Host; and they aimed particularly at the priest, whose sacerdotal habiliments were the objects most coveted by their cupidity. Strange to say, the murderous volley of balls proved harmless, and the French had time to fly to their boat. But the Indians had also time to reload their muskets, and fired again at the fugitives, who, being all clustered together in a boat, presented a mark which the most inexperienced shooters could hardly fail to hit. Yet, the only one among the French who was hurt, was the man who was pushing the boat from the bank. He received a ball in the p418 thigh, but succeeded in getting into the boat, and was subsequently cured at New Orleans. The French considered their escape as providential, and attribute it to the presence of God among them at the elevation of the host, when they were attacked by the savage heathens. For many years after, the priesthood often mentioned this fact in their preachings.
The fort which the French had built among the Yazoos, was called St. Claude. Its commander, Du Coder, being on a visit to the French at Natchez, when they were butchered, shared their fate. The Yazoos had no difficulty in taking by surprise the fort of St. Claude, which had a garrison only of twenty men, whom they killed, together with the few families who had settled around, under the protection of the fort. The destruction of the French settlements at the Yazoos, took place on the first or second day of January, 1730.
At that time, St. Denis was commander of the Natchitoches,º where he had made himself so popular, that he led the life of a small, half barbaric, half civilized potentate. For hundreds of miles round that settlement, the Indians had submitted to his sway, and had readily acknowledged him as their great chief. He settled authoritatively all the disputes arising among the different tribes, and ruled over them as if he had been born an Indian, and been their natural sovereign. He had really become a powerful chieftain, and in case of need, with a sufficient allowance of time, might have set on foot from five to six thousand warriors. The Natchez feared him more than any thing else, and knowing his daring and indomitable energy, had no doubt but that, on his hearing of the slaughter of his countrymen, he would march against their assassins at the head of a considerable number of the formidable Texan warriors. Resolving, therefore, to anticipate his blow, and to fall p419 upon him when least expected, they sent one hundred and fifty warriors on that expedition. When these Indians arrived in the vicinity of the French fort at Natchitoches, perceiving that they were discovered by the spies of the vigilant St. Denis, they had recourse to this stratagem. They sent a deputation with the calumet of peace, to inform him that they had been so unfortunate as to have lately had some difficulties with the French settled in their neighborhood, that they wished to take him as arbitrator or umpire, and that they had brought with them a Frenchwoman, whom they wanted to set free, and to deliver to him in token of their good intentions.
St. Denis answered them, that he would accede to their proposition, provided they brought to him the Frenchwoman, with an escort only of ten warriors. The Natchez refused to do so, and insisted upon coming in a body. St. Denis then sent them word, that he saw plainly from their large number, and from their refusal to comply with his demand, that they were traitors and liars bent upon mischief; that he was disposed, however, to allow them to return quietly to their villages, provided they surrendered to him the Frenchwoman, for whom he would pay a ransom. Enraged at the answer of St. Denis, and at the bad result of their expedition, the Natchez burnt the Frenchwoman in sight of the French fort, and hastily intrenched themselves, so as to be protected against any attack from St. Denis, during the approaching night.
St. Denis had at his disposal only forty soldiers, and twenty settlers. But he was not the man to hesitate on any emergency of this kind:— and a little before daybreak, leaving twenty soldiers in the fort, he marched against the camp of the Natchez, at the head of forty Frenchmen, and forty select Natchitoches warriors. p420 He fell upon them so unexpectedly, and with such fury, that, in an instant, he routed them completely, and killed sixty, without having lost one of his men. Of the Natchez who fled, a good many died of their wounds; only a few reached their native hills, and were the bearers of a melancholy tale.
Ricard was the first fugitive from Natchez, who brought to New Orleans the information of the destruction of that important French settlement. He looked so haggard and so bewildered, that he was thought to be deranged in mind, and nobody would believe his statements. But Couillard and a few others reached New Orleans soon after, on the 3d of December, and left no room for doubt. Governor Périer then knew all the extent of the danger he had run, when he had prudently refused to receive the visit of the Choctaws, who, to the number of six hundred warriors, had arrived at the mouth of the Chefuncte River, in Lake Pontchartrain, on the 1st of December, and had sent a deputation to Périer, to ask leave to come and present him with the calumet of peace. Governor Périer thought that, whatever advantages might be derived from this visit, if really friendly, would be more than counterbalanced by the danger of admitting so many Indians in the capital, and sent them word, that he would receive their chief with thirty warriors only. Seeing that they were suspected, they returned to their villages, and contented themselves, on their way home, with killing and stealing some cattle which belonged to the Pascagoula settlement. Which circumstance shows clearly the evil intentions with which they were animated.
A short time after, the Choctaws sent a deputation to the Natchez, to smoke with them the calumet of peace, and to renew the treaty of alliance. But not p421 receiving as valuable presents as they expected from the rich spoils of the French, they upbraided the Natchez with their meanness and perfidy, reproaching them with having hastened prematurely the day of the attack upon the French, and with having, in this manner, robbed the other Indian nations of their chance of plundering their common enemy. They said that it was owing to the indiscreet haste of the Natchez, prompted by their uncontrollable avidity, that the Choctaw expedition against New Orleans had failed, the French having, no doubt, received at that time some information of what had happened at Natchez. The Choctaw deputation at last departed in great anger, after having told the Natchez that they were no better than dogs, and that they would be treated as such. Not long after, there came another Choctaw deputation, who were not better pleased with their reception than the first. Having been informed that the Natchez were still deliberating on the expediency of killing all their French prisoners, women and children, who, they thought, proved to be rather an expensive encumbrance, the Choctaws went in ceremony to the public square, struck at the warriors' red post, which stood there according to immemorial custom, and told the Natchez that the French were the allies of the Choctaws, who would march with all the forces of their numerous nation against the Natchez, if they dared to make away with a single one of their prisoners. This energetic demonstration produced great effect upon the Natchez, and probably saved the lives of the French captives. After having uttered these solemn threats, the Choctaw ambassadors departed, leaving the Natchez in a violent state of anxiety, which induced them to meet frequently in council, without being able to come to any conclusion, p422 as to what they would ultimately do in an emergency which looked so critical.
Governor Périer, on the very day that he was informed of the Natchez massacre, sent an officer with a detachment of men up the river in a boat, to put the planters on both sides of the river on their guard, and to order them to construct redoubts at certain convenient distances, wherein to take refuge in case of need, with their families, their goods, and their cattle. This order was complied with in a short time, and the whole coast, as it is called, from New Orleans to Natchez, in those parts where it was settled, was put in a state of defense. The same officer was instructed to look closely into what was going on among the small nations on the banks of the river, and to make sure of their fidelity. A courier was sent to two Choctaw chiefs who were shooting ducks on Lake Pontchartrain; and they were informed that Governor Périer wished to have a talk with them. The Choctaw nation was by far the most powerful of all the Indian tribes, and great and well-founded doubts existed as to their intended course of action in this dangerous crisis. It had become extremely important to secure their services, and in this way, to remove the exaggerated apprehensions of the colonists. The terror which prevailed was so intense, that Governor Périer, in one of his dispatches, said:
"I am extremely sorry to see, from the manifestation of such universal alarm, that there is less of French courage in Louisiana than anywhere else. Fear had assumed such uncontrollable domination over all, that the very insignificant nation of the Chouachas, a little above New Orleans, which was composed of thirty warriors, became a subject of terror to all our people. This induced me to have them destroyed by our negroes, who p423 executed this mission with as much promptitude as secrecy. This example, given by our negroes, kept in check all the small nations higher up the river. If I had been inclined to avail myself of the good dispositions of our negroes, I could have destroyed by them all those nations which are of no service to us, and which, on the contrary, may stimulate our blacks to revolt, as the Natchez have done. But certain prudential considerations prevented me, and in the situation in which I was, I felt that it was safe to trust none but the few French I had at hand. I therefore called a general meeting of them, and provided them with arms. I have raised one hundred and fifty men in New Orleans, and divided them into four companies, each commanded by a member of the council. I have chosen the lieutenants among trusty persons employed by the government. At the head of the companies which I have formed on the banks of the river, I have put the most influential planters, and I have ordered that a certain number of negroes be sent to make intrenchments around the city of New Orleans." It is probable that one of the reasons which prompted Périer to have the throats of the Chouachas cut by the negroes, was to produce a state of hostility between the red and black races, of which the whites were equally distrustful. It was an act of policy, cruel, it is true, but not without its logic.
On the 5th of January, 1730, Governor Périer sent a vessel to France to inform the government of the precarious situation of the colony, and to ask for the assistance which was so much required. He had also dispatched a detachment of soldiers and planters, under the engineer Broutin, to join Loubois, who commanded at Point Coupée, and these officers were requested to try, by a bold and sudden stroke, to carry off the p424 French women and children, the negroes and all the canoes the Natchez had in their possession. Captain de Lassus was sent, by the way of Mobile, to the Choctaws, to ascertain whether or not that nation was disposed to side with the French.
Every day there came to New Orleans the alarming report of some traveler being murdered on his way down the Mississippi. On the 8th of January, Father Doutreleau, a Jesuit, who, having been attacked at the mouth of Yazoo River, had received two wounds in the arm and lost three men, reached New Orleans. To prevent the recurrence of such events was extremely desirable; and on the 15th, Governor Périer dispatched a bark with twenty white men and six negroes, to carry ammunition to the Illinois settlement, and to pick up on the way, protect and escort to New Orleans, all the French travelers they might meet.
On the 16th, the governor received a piece of intelligence which removed a load of anxieties from his mind. It was, that the Choctaws, to the number of seven hundred warriors, commanded by a French officer named Le Sueur, had marched against Natchez, and that one hundred and fifty warriors of that nation had set off to throw themselves between the Natchez and the Yazoos, to prevent the former from sending away to the latter any portion of the French prisoners, or of the negroes, as it was reported they would do, if they were attacked.
The rendezvous-general of the French who were to operate against the Natchez was at the Tunicas, and that expedition was put under the command of Loubois. While the French were still gathering at that spot, it was deemed expedient to send five men to discover what was going on among the Natchez. They ascended the Mississippi in a boat, and landed, says Le Page du p425 Pratz, at •nine miles from the Great Village of the Natchez, at the mouth of a small stream on which that village was situated, and which discharged itself into the Mississippi at the foot of a hill, from which a canoe might be spied •six miles off. The French scouts were not seen, however, and they felt so secure, that after their having landed, night coming on, they went quietly to sleep, as if they were not in the very lap of danger. The next morning, they breakfasted merrily, and drank so much brandy, that their courage worked itself up to the highest pitch of boldness. Thus, they walked straight toward the Great Village of the Natchez, without making any attempt at concealment, and they were within •two miles of it, when, on a sudden, yelling Indians started up around them in every direction. The French, instead of crying out that they came with peaceful intentions, and of trying to impress the enemy with that persuasion, presumed to defend themselves against such overwhelming odds; and one of them by the name of Navarre, who had been one of the few that had escaped from the great massacre on the 29th of November, was the first to fire. The Indians, however, appeared disposed to keep altogether on the defensive, and summoned the French to surrender. But these madmen, throwing themselves into a ravine which presented the appearance of a natural intrenchment, continued their fire, which was at last returned by the Indians. Navarre was wounded, and became more furious: speaking the language of the Natchez, he taunted them with every sort of opprobrious epithet, and went on fighting until he was killed.
The four other Frenchmen, who seemed to have been entirely under the influence of Navarre, and who had been fighting also with great courage, surrendered as soon as he was dead. They were conducted to the p426 Great Sun, and Mesplais, or Mesplet, an officer of noble birth, of the province of Bearn, in France, who ought to have known how to control the imprudent temerity of such a man as Navarre, a mere soldier, destitute of education, was interrogated by the Indian prince. On his being asked what the object of his visit was, Mesplais answered that he had been sent by his chief as the bearer of propositions of peace. "But," observed the Great Sun, "how camest thou to fire at those who merely said to thee to surrender? one of thy companions is killed and thou art wounded, through his and thy own fault. Is this the conduct of peace-bearers?" Mesplais answered that Navarre had taken too much of the fire-liquor, and begged the Great Sun to remember that, on the death of this man, he, Mesplais, had ordered his companions to lay down their arms. The Great Sun appeared to be satisfied with this explanation, and ordered them to be released, but to be closely watched. He then sent for one of the female prisoners, a woman by the name of Desnoyers, and said to her: "Write to thy great war-chief, that if he wishes for peace, and desires that all the French prisoners and the negroes be restored to him, he must send me for every one of them so many casks of brandy, so many blankets, muskets, shirts, provisions, &c." . . . . . He wanted so many different things, and in such quantity, that it would have been impossible to find in the whole colony what he had the presumption to ask, even if it had been thought to be an act of expediency and of good policy to yield so much to these barbarians.
Desnoyers wrote down what she was told, and availed herself of this opportunity to inform Loubois of the miserable condition in which the French captives were, and of the dangers which threatened them. She did not fail to communicate all she knew about the preparations p427 the Natchez had made for defense, and to impart every other piece of intelligence she thought might be useful to the French.
The Great Sun delivered the letter to one of Mesplais' companions, and ordered him to carry it to the French chief at the Tunicas, and to inform him that if a favorable answer was not sent back in three days, the hostages whom the Natchez had in their possession, would abide the consequences of their anger and disappointment. Eagerly did the French emissary depart on his mission, and "even without looking back," says Le Page du Pratz. So active did he prove himself, that he arrived on that same day at the Tunicas, and handed the letter to Loubois, who vouchsafed no answer.
While the Natchez remained in the expectation of an answer, they treated their prisoners kindly, but on the fourth day after the departure of the French emissary, the Great Sun, having given up all hopes of his return, flew into a violent passion, and sentenced to death the three other Frenchmen. Two of them, one a common soldier, and the other an officer of education and birth, by the name of St. Amand, were killed instantly, without being exposed to much suffering. Unfortunately for Mesplais, he had made himself conspicuous in some of the preceding wars of the French against the Natchez, and he had been for the Indians an object of particular notice, on account of the long flowing hair which curled down on his shoulders, and which made it a very desirable scalp. They concentrated, therefore, the fury of their revenge on such a well-known warrior, and swore they would make him weep like a woman. He was tied to the celebrated Indian stake, exquisitely tortured during three days and three nights, and died at last, after having exhibited superhuman fortitude, and without having gratified his torturers by uttering p428 one word of complaint. All the Frenchwomen, prisoners among the Natchez were present, and kneeling round the miserable victim of savage ferocity, addressed loud prayers to heaven during all the time that the lingering execution lasted. The sufferer never shed a tear, nor allowed one groan to escape his lips, but, occasionally, would beg the Frenchwomen for water. That was a boon, however, which they were prevented from giving. It was a horrific spectacle, and a minute description of it would convey to us but a faint idea of the hideous reality, and of the appalling dangers to which our ancestors were exposed, when toiling so painfully to prepare for us the peaceful and glorious home which we now enjoy.
The Avoyelles, Tunicas, and other small nations, had declared themselves against the Natchez, and were harassing them by partial attacks and marauding expeditions. Not unmindful of the threats which the Choctaw delegation had made against them, the Natchez, coming gradually to a more correct appreciation of their situation, began to feel a real desire to accept, or to offer reasonable terms of peace. Thus, one night, when they had met in deliberation, they sent for a Frenchwoman who spoke their language well, and they interrogated her on the practicability of a peace with her nation. "Are not the French of a forgiving nature," said the Great Sun to her, "and do they not often embrace their enemies and eat with them, after having met them in battle?" The Frenchwoman, who was greatly frightened, answered that her countrymen were as mild as lambs, although of a pugnacious temperament; that they would frequently feast with their enemies before fighting, and feast again with them after fighting; that they were very fond of such alternate feastings and fightings, and were of all people the p429 most easily pacified. She was skillful enough thus to harp on the right cord, and the Indians, well pleased with her answers, dismissed her with courtesy from their presence.
In spite, or perhaps on account of their fears, and to lose sight of their anxieties, the Natchez had been carousing, almost every day, since the destruction of the French settlement. The temptation was too strong for them to resist, when they had in their possession so much liquor, and so many provisions taken from the French warehouses. On the 27th of January, they were feasting on the banks of St. Catherine's creek, when they were suddenly attacked by the Choctaws, headed by Le Sueur. Their defeat would have been complete, if those negroes who had joined the Natchez in the massacre of the French, had not fought with desperate valor, and, by their fierce resistance, had not given time to their Indian allies to retire within the two forts they had prepared, in anticipation of the expected war which they knew would soon burst upon them. But the Choctaws killed sixty of the Natchez, took from fifteen to twenty prisoners, rescued fifty-four French women and children, and recovered about one hundred of the negroes.
On the 8th of February, for of the French forces arrived at Natchez, and joined the Choctaws on St. Catherine's creek. On the 9th, they left the quarters of the Choctaws, and encamped at a certain distance nearer the Mississippi. The rest of the army came up on that day, which was spent in reconnoitering and skirmishing with the Indians. The 10th, 11th, and 12th were employed in carrying the artillery, ammunition, and provisions from the boats to the French camp. The 13th was consumed in fruitless parleying with the Indians, in approaching nearer to the forts, and in transporting p430 pieces of artillery on the mound on which stood the Great Temple, and which happened to command the two forts. The French protected that position with intrenchments.
On the 14th, at daybreak, the French opened against the forts their fire, which was answered briskly. The four pieces of artillery which the French had, were hardly fit for service, and were wretchedly managed. The Natchez had three pieces, which were still more clumsily handled. At night, the Natchez came through a cane-brake to dislodge the French from the temple. But some grape thrown among them forced them to retreat.
On the 15th, the French, at the distance of •five hundred and sixty yards, cannonaded the forts during six hours, without throwing down one single stake, and the Choctaws, to whom they had promised to make a breach in less than two hours, became discouraged, and hooted at the impotency of the French missiles.
On the 16th, a man by the name of Du Parc, was sent with a flag to summon the forts to surrender. He was received with a general discharge of musketry, which made him scamper away in such haste that he left behind him his flag. It would have fallen into the hands of the Indians, had not a soldier, known under the nickname of the Parisian, run to the spot and carried away the flag under a heavy fire from the enemy. He was immediately made a sergeant as a reward for his valor. At the very moment when the Parisian was rushing to rescue the flag, the Indians had opened their gates to make a sally to take it. Some Frenchwomen availed themselves of the circumstance to rush out pellmell with the Indians, and succeeded in gaining the French camp. But the Indians avenged themselves for their escape in the most atrocious manner. p431 The poor women had left children in the fort, hoping that they would be taken care of by their companions in captivity. The Indians seized these children, and impaled them on the stakes of the fort, to the great horror and rage of the French. On that day, an additional body of men arrived at the French camp, with four pieces of artillery quite as worthless as those the besiegers had already. Despairing to make with such artillery any impression on the forts, the French resolved to have recourse to mining, and went to work accordingly. Some, more impatient and more intrepid than the rest, offered to rush close to the walls and to fling grenades into the forts, but Loubois refused, under the apprehension of doing as much injury to the French captives as to the Indians.
From the 17th to the 22d of February, the French made scientific preparations to attack the forts, and were engaged in erecting gabions and in undermining. On the 22d, during the night, one hundred Natchez attacked the French works in front, and two hundred in the rear, under the protection of a wild cane-field through which they had approached. They broke through the mantelets, penetrated into the last trench or traverse, and assailed with fury the temple and the French battery. They fought with desperation during three quarters of an hour, and retired with considerable loss, but carrying away a good many blankets, spades, and other articles. The Choctaws came to the assistance of the French with great readiness.
On the 23d, the Choctaws threw the French into consternation by threatening to withdraw, if the siege was not carried on with more vigor. This representation had its effect, and on the 24th, a battery of four pieces of the caliber of four pounds was established at •three hundred and sixty yards from the forts, and the p432 French informed the Natchez that they were determined to blow them up at all hazards to the French captives, if they did not surrender. Intimidated by the more active preparations made by the French, the Natchez sent one of their female captives, Madame Desnoyers, of whom it has already been spoken, to make preparations of peace. But she remained in the French camp, and no answer was returned to the Natchez.
On the 25th, the Natchez hoisted a flag as a token that they wished to parley. Alibamon Mengo, one of the most famous Choctaw chiefs, growing impatient at all these parleyings which never had any result, approached one of the forts, and addressed this harangue to the Natchez: "Did you ever hear that such a numerous band of Indians as ours ever remained together two months encamped before forts? From this circumstance so foreign to our customs and habits, you may judge of our zeal and attachment for the French. It is therefore perfectly useless in you, who are but a handful of people, when compared to our nation, to persist in refusing to give up to the French their women, children, and negroes. So far, the French have treated you with more leniency than you deserve, considering the quantity of their blood which you have shed. As to us, Choctaws, we are determined to blockade you until you die of hunger." This speech had its effect, and the Natchez promised to deliver to the Choctaws all the captives, provided the French would remove to the bank of the river with their artillery. The French, whose numbers, as far as we can judge from conflicting statements, amounted to five hundred, lost fifteen men during that siege.
The cowardly and notorious Ecte-Actal acted as negotiator p433 between the French and the Indians, and it had been agreed through him that the French forces would, as I have already said, withdraw to the bank of the river, and that the Natchez, on surrendering to the Choctaws the French captives and spoils, would remain in quiet possession of their lands and forts. This treaty was nothing but the embodiment of mutual deceit. The French commander, thinking himself absolved from adherence to his word by the proverbial perfidy of the Indians, had resolved to recommence the siege, and to complete the destruction of the Natchez immediately after having got the French prisoners out of their hands; and the Natchez, in their turn, who did not trust the French, had made up their minds to fly with all the spoils they could carry. On the 27th, they delivered to the Choctaws all the French women, children, and negroes, and in the night of the 28th, they made their escape. On the morning of the 29th, the French, much to their surprise, saw the forts deserted, and found in them nothing but worthless rags. Thus finished this expedition, which reflects little credit on the French arms. It was evidently ill-concerted; the French ought certainly to have been as expeditious as the Choctaws, and to have arrived at the same time to strike a crushing blow with their united forces. On the contrary, the undisciplined Choctaws, who had to come by land •over three hundred miles, were the first in the field and on the spot, and there had to wait about fifteen days for their white allies, who, when they invested at last the forts of the Natchez, and attacked with pieces of light artillery, almost worthless it is true, and with five hundred men, could do nothing effective in twenty days. In the end, it was the intervention of the Choctaws which succeeded in bringing the Natchez to terms; it was to the Choctaws and not to the French, p434 that they consented to give up their prisoners; and then, eluding the vigilance of the French, or blinding them by the influence of bribery and corruption, they achieved their retreat with honor and without the slightest loss.
Diron d'Artaguette, one of the king's commissaries, reflects severely on the want of policy, of judgment, and of activity exhibited by Périer on this occasion. He also blames Loubois for having lost so many days at the Tunicas, where he stopped so long under the apprehension of a general conspiracy, which, if he moved forward, would, as he feared, have put him in the awkward position of having the Natchez in front and other hostile nations in the rear. He speaks in no measured terms of what he calls "the shameful conclusion of the siege;" and says, "the Choctaws, it is alledged, wanted to retire, but the truth is, that the French army was the first to give up; and strange stories are told about silver plate, and other valuable articles, which became the subjects of clandestine transactions." He thus goes on, intimating pretty broadly that the Natchez bribed the French into allowing them to escape.
Governor Périer says: "Several causes have prevented our capturing the whole Natchez nation. The first, the weakness of our troops, which were good for nothing; the second, the distrust in which we were of the Choctaws, whom we suspected of treason. This was not without foundation; for the Natchez, during the siege, reproached them a thousand times with their perfidy, after having joined in the general conspiracy of which the Natchez related the circumstances to us. They also boasted that the English and Chickasaws were coming to their rescue. All these circumstances, p435 which were not encouraging for men who had but little experience, forced Loubois, who had served with distinction, to be satisfied with the surrender of our women, children, and negroes. This was the essential point. D'Artaguette (a brother of the commissary of that name) has served with the most brilliant valor, and the planters, with credit, having D'Arensbourg and De Laye at their head. The creoles distinguished themselves particularly; all the officers have done their duty, with the exception of Renault d'Hauterive, De Mouy, and Villainville. Fifteen negroes, in whose hands we had put weapons, performed prodigies of valor. If the blacks did not cost so much, and if their labors were not so necessary to the colony, it would be better to turn them into soldiers, and to dismiss those we have, who are so bad and so cowardly that they seem to have been manufactured purposely for this colony."
The Natchez, on leaving their forts and native hills, crossed the Mississippi to take refuge among the Ouachitas. They were pursued by the chief of the Tunicas at the head of fifty warriors, who kept on their trail in the hope of picking up stragglers. On the territory thus abandoned the French began the erection of a brick fort, the command of which, with a garrison of one hundred men, was given to the Baron of Cresnay, who was also put at the head of all the troops in Louisiana, but who continued to act, however, in a subordinate capacity to Governor Périer. Loubois was rewarded for his successful campaign against the Natchez by being appointed Major and Commander of New Orleans.
When the French and their red allies came to the settlement of their accounts, it was found to be a matter of no small difficulty. The Choctaws proved to be p436 more exacting in their pretensions than the Natchez were, in relation to the delivery of the French women, children, and negroes. The negotiation waxed so hot, that the French and Indians were very near coming to blows. Harmony was at last restored between them, by the interference of the chief of the Tunicas. The French having given up almost every thing they could part with, and promised much more, the Choctaws delivered to them the captives, who were hastily sent down the river, to remove all further pretext for claim or altercation. The Choctaws, on the occasion of this war between the French and Natchez, behaved with consummate skill. They first dealt with the Natchez, and put up their alliance with them at the highest bid, and after playing them off for some time with this delusive hope, and extorting from them every thing they could, seeing that they had pumped the well dry, they turned toward the French, and listened to their overtures, of which they made the most to their own advantage. So that this war ruined the Natchez, empoverished the French, and enriched only the Choctaws. Thus it appears, that, in diplomacy at least, and in national egotism, they were not far behind the most civilized nations of modern times.
Governor Périer availed himself of the fears of the colonists, to push on with activity the enclosing of the city of New Orleans, — and between Natchez and New Orleans, he established eight small forts, as guarantees of protection, and places of refuge in case of need. He also took measures to cause all the small nations which dwelt between the Balize and Natchez, to remove within the year, with the exception of the Tunicas, who had given so many proofs of attachment to the French.
The poor victims of the Natchez massacre were received at New Orleans with great humanity, and entertained p437 at the public expense in the Charity Hospital, where they were nursed by the Ursulines with zeal. De la Chaise made a generous use of the extensive authority with which he was clothed, to satisfy all their wants. Many of the widows were soon married, and concessions of lands were made to them at Point Coupée, where most of them ultimately settled.
Forgetting, it seems, Chopart's provocations, Governor Périer, in his dispatches, and the other French officers, all agreed in taxing the English with having instigated and provoked the war of the Natchez. "The English know," says Périer, "that we are the only barriers between them and Mexico, and that their taking possession of the banks of the Mississippi would soon be followed by their occupation of the Spanish colonies." Thus what has happened one century later, was distinctly foreseen in 1730.
This year, the colony lost De la Chaise, one of the worthiest men it had yet possessed. He left a name deservedly popular among the people, for unflinching integrity, and for the impartiality with which he checked abuses of power, and punished delinquencies among those who hitherto had always been sure of impunity. His sudden death gave rise to some dark rumors of his having been poisoned by those who had cause to fear his investigations. These rumors were long rife in the colony. After having passed a panegyric on his virtues, Le Page du Pratz concludes by saying, "Those orphans and widows who escaped from the Natchez massacre, would be extremely ungrateful if they did not, during all their life, pray for the soul of that good and charitable man."
On the 1st of August, Governor Périer wrote: "Those of the Indians who had entered into the general conspiracy, have, since its failure, come back to us, p438 and now help us in daily harassing the Natchez, who have crossed the Mississippi, and retired into the interior of the country. Since their flight, I have succeeded in having fifty of them either killed or taken prisoners. Latterly, I burned here four men, and two women, and sent the rest to St. Domingo: — two hundred and fifty warriors of the friendly nations, have been dispatched by me, to watch and blockade the Natchez, until we receive more troops from France."
The burning of two women and of four men was done, no doubt, in retaliation of Indian atrocities. But this imitation of their barbarous manners could do no good. It was not only an act of useless cruelty, but of exceedingly bad policy. It could not serve as a check, because it could not intimidate men who gloried in such practices. On the contrary, it must have looked, in the estimation of the Indians, as an approval of their national custom, by a people who pretended to be so much more enlightened, and therefore it must have operated as an incentive, or encouragement. But what is remarkable and characteristic is the cool, business-like indifference, and the matter of fact the one with which Governor Périer informs his government of the auto-da‑fé which has taken place by his orders. He writes on the burning of four men and two women with as much unconcern, as a cook would about the roasting a leg of mutton!
Although scattered about, the Natchez did not cease to make the French feel occasionally, that they were not all exterminated. One day, they fell on twenty Frenchmen, who were cutting timber in a cypress swamp, to be used in the fort they were constructing, and they killed nineteen, among whom was "the Parisian," who had so much distinguished himself during the siege. Another day, six Natchez warriors had the p439 hardihood to penetrate, under the garb of friendly Indians, into the fort itself, and while there, they rushed, with the fury of mad despair and revenge, on the French, of whom they killed five, and wounded many more. Five of these dare-devils were killed after a desperate fight, and the sixth, being taken prisoner, was burnt.
A few days later, the Tunicas carried to New Orleans a Natchez woman they had captured, and Governor Périer allowed them to burn her in great ceremony on a platform erected in front of the city, between the city and the Levee. I regret to relate that the whole population of New Orleans turned out to witness that Indian ceremony. The victim supported, with the most stoical fortitude, all the tortures which were inflicted upon her, and did not shed a tear, — on the contrary, she upbraided her tortures with their want of skill, flinging at them every opprobrious epithet she could think of, she prophesied their speedy destruction. Her prediction proved true:— the Tunicas had hardly returned home, when they were surprised by the Natchez, their village burnt, their old chief, the constant ally of the French, killed, and almost their whole nation destroyed.
These deeds of so much daring show the state of desperation to which the Indians had been reduced, and their thirst for revenge. They were executed by a part of that nation which had taken refuge among the Chickasaws, while the French had thought that the whole nation had crossed the Mississippi, and gone over to Black River.
The Chickasaws, having thus granted an asylum to the Natchez, foresaw that they would be attacked in their turn, and sought to anticipate the blow, by stirring up the Indian nations against the French, and by p440 exciting the blacks to revolt. Fortunately, the conspiracy of the blacks was discovered in time; one woman was hung, and eight men broken on the wheel, among whom was a negro of the name of Samba, who was at the head of the conspirators, and who was a man of the most desperate character. The majority of the negroes then in the colony were Banbaras, and they were the concocters of the rebellion. Their plan was, after having butchered the whites, to keep as their slaves all the blacks who were not of their nation, and to ruled the country under leaders periodically elected. It would have been a sort of Banbara republic.
All these events, crowding upon each other, had kept the colonists in a constant fever of fearful excitement. Their apprehensions were a little allayed by the arrival, on the 10th of August, of a small additional corps of troops, commanded by De Salverte, a brother of Périer; so that the forces of the colony could then be set down at about one thousand to twelve hundred regulars, and eight hundred militiamen. It would have been a pretty effective force, if it could have been kept concentrated, instead of being scattered in distant settlements.
The principal officers who were then in active service in Louisiana, were the following:—
p441 They were, all of them, aristocratic sons of noble houses, who had come to better their fortunes in Louisiana, and with the hope of more rapid advancement in their military career, on account of the dangers of the colonial service, in which, for that reason, years counted double for the army, either for promotion, or in support of an application for a retiring pension.
a The name Etchebarria is of Basque origin; a rather higher proportion of the early settlers of Louisiana were of Basque ancestry than one might expect — as was Charles Gayarré himself.
The following testimony to Basques in Louisiana appeared for several years on a website now superseded; in an e‑mail exchange with its contact person, no objection was made to my putting it online if their site was to go down. (The hoped-for Louisiana Basque organization did get founded in 2003 under the name of LABASCO, and is still going strong; for information, see its website.)
There are Basques living in all fifty states, with the highest concentrations being in the West. Recently we have received news of rumblings of the Basques in Louisiana getting together to perhaps form a club. One of the people working to bring this about is the author of this article, Mikelandoni Goitia-Nicolas. Here he gives us some background about Basques in Louisiana. Here's wishing them luck in getting a club going: suerte on izan!
The United States will be celebrating the momentous occasion of the Bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase, throughout the span of this year 2003. In December of 1802 through the months leading up to April of 1803, The Governments of Spain, France, and the United States were transacting the transference of rule that eventually led up to the "Greatest Real-estate Deal" this world has ever seen. For a little more than three cents an acre, the United States purchased the French claim of •over 800,000 square miles of land. This land eventually would make up all or part of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Montana.
Barely a generation old at this time, the Americans were suffering from a restriction of their unencumbered use of the Port of New Orleans. This restriction was imposed against them by a policy of the Spanish Government which disallowed their use of this port, one of the greatest and most strategic ports in the western hemisphere at the time. This Port of New Orleans, eventually, would become the second greatest port in the world, after Rotterdam's.
In December of 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte resumed French rule over the Louisiana territory, after an absence of French rule of almost forty years, in which time this territory was a province of Spain. The Spanish government had made New Orleans a prosperous city and Louisiana one of its most prosperous territories. Napoleon however saw no use for it, and with-in the same month that he gained rule over it, he decided to sell it to the United States. Napoleon, of course, had ambitions of territorial expansion in Europe and this sale helped to finance these.
In 1803, Thomas Jefferson sent as his Ambassador to France, James Monroe and Robert Livingston, as his Foreign Minister, to negotiate simply the purchase of the Port of New Orleans. Napoleon, meanwhile, had already decided to sell not only the port but the entire Louisiana Territory. Napoleon sent his Minister of the treasury, Marquis Barbe-Marbois to transact a sale. The purchase price $15 million.
Now the interesting "Basque" twist to this generally known history, as taught in all our public schools, is that several of the key figures involved in this moment in history were Basques, including the last Spanish Governor of the Louisiana Territory, Salcedo, who was born in Bilbao, and the last French Governor Laussat who was born in Pau. In fact many people in the Louisiana Territory at the time were Basques, and why not, here was one of the most prosperous (French, Spanish and eventually American) cities in the world at the time, growing quickly, with a world-class port, to attract Basque merchants, ship builders, sailors, pirates, fishermen, whalers, and clergy — the oldest Catholic Cathedral in America is here!
The Basques, here from even before the beginnings of the city in 1718, had come down from Canada, where the Basques were known to have been fishing cod and whale since the 16th century and perhaps before.
Basque names are found throughout the history of Louisiana, in fact the first historian of Louisiana was himself a Basque, Charles De Gayarre. It was here that the Basque inventor Daguerre had his invention the Daguerro-type (the Camera) first introduced to America. Here also Basques became very prosperous and successful. Several Louisiana plantations were built by Basques.
In the famous "Cajun" story of their exodus in the 1760s [the English expelled many French settlers after their victory in the French & Indian War] from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the Canadian eastern seaboard, we find that some of these "Cajuns" were actually Basques, or at least part Basque, has been omitted. In fact up to now, the fact that Basques had ever been in Louisiana has been omitted from recorded (published) history, even though they played a huge role in its history. They have been swallowed up in history as being just French, Spanish, Cajun, or Creole. The fact is, they were here and still are.
This Louisiana Basque community also has connections with the Basque diaspora of the western states. Some during the 1849 Gold Rush went out west, and settled the modern day Basque communities of Nevada, Idaho, California, Colorado, and Wyoming. Others returned to the Old World, and yet others went to Latin and French America, and still others failed to survive the many plagues of Yellow fever and Cholera that ravaged Louisiana in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Today Louisiana's need for spice is still supplied by a descendent of a Basque, Zatarain; its streets celebrate others like Sorapuru, Lafitte — the famous pirate, Navarre, Abbadie, Seguin, and Soule. Decendants of the Lesseps family, of the Suez Canal and Panama Canal fame, still live here, one of them became a New Orleans City Mayor. These families are here as well as those of the Errigo, Argote, Abaunza, Goyeneche, Echegarrua, Ajubita, Seguin, Aguirre, Aitztondo, Indurriaga, and many others are still around.
In fact, from my approximately two years of research, it would be safe to estimate that well over two thousand Basque family names have been found thus far, in the emigrant records of those entering the port of New Orleans during its existence. Since the earliest years names like Eugenain, Boblez, Arrio, Goyarte, Maza, Oizu and others appear. Others like Agustin De Cutanda-Hortz and his wife Elena Agapita De Bassa-Langia from Hondarrabia, Lorenzo De Meliandez-Latapie De Bayonne, Felix Monseguren-Naguilla of Ascain, leave no doubt that Basques were here from the very beginning. Basques have been here and they still are, and their story will finally be told. These families mentioned and others will be interviewed by me for a book to be completed in the future, titled Louisiana: It All Started With a Fish. I would appreciate any help of information, material, family history, anything that may aid me in adding to, and completing this project; anything that anyone might care to offer.
[Sources: The Port of Entry Records of the City of New Orleans, 1718‑1899, New Orleans Genesis, vols. I‑XL; Sacramental Records of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, vols. 1‑20; Jean Baptiste Benard de la Harpe, Historical Journal of the Establishment of the French in Louisiana; Bernard Lugan, Atlas of Louisiana Surnames: Origin of Louisiana Family Names; Louisiane Francaise, 1682‑1804; Herman de Bachelle-Seebold, Old Louisiana Plantation Homes and Family Trees; Charles de Gayarre, History of Louisiana.]
b Barring an acquaintance with Shakespeare or his sources in classical antiquity, no Indian could have possibly said this: crocodiles are Old World animals, and Gayarré should have written "alligator-hearted". The gentle reader may be excused, however, for feeling that the effect is somehow lost.
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History of Louisiana
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