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Manchac, "strait" or pass." Designation of a small bayou leading off from the Mississippi river in a southeast direction connecting with the Amite river, Lakes Maurepas, Pontchartrain and the Gulf. First used, it is said, by d'Iberville on his descent from his earliest exploration voyage up the Mississippi, March 24, 1699. Pennicut, his historian, says:
"It was very narrow and some five feet deep in low water. Was full of logs, so that in many places we were obliged to make portages. After awhile it connected with other streams and the navigation became good."
The term as used by some of the early geographers designated only the bayou connecting the lakes of Maurepas and Pontchartrain, the Amite being called "ou riv' d'Iberville" and the bayou connecting it with the Mississippi, "Akankia." On this same tour of exploration d'Iberville gave names to the local waters, "Amite" — in token of the friendship of the neighboring Indians, "Maurepas" and "Pontchartrain" after two noted French ministers. Because of shortened distance and directness the route by way of Manchac was largely used by the earlier French in going from their settlements on the Gulf to the posts on the upper Mississippi, — the "Illinois."
By the dismemberment of Louisiana at the close of the French and Indian war all of the Gulf region from the Atlantic to the Mississippi p128 was given England except the "Isle of Orleans," — the region inclosed between the Manchac and the Mississippi River, — and it was organized into two provinces, East and West Florida, with separate governors and capitals at St. Augustine and Pensacola. West Florida according to the King's proclamation was bounded on the north by a line drawn from the mouth of the Yazoo river to the Chattahoochy.
At once both Spain and England sought to protect their new possessions by the erecting of forts at the mouth of the Manchac, Spain building on the Mississippi just below the entrance of the bayou and England on the east side of the bayou near its entrance.
This English fortification, — a small stockade, — was erected by the 21st Regiment, "Scotch Fusileers," in 1766, and was called Fort Bute, — in honor of the Earl of Bute, Prime Minister of England.
Around it there grew up a considerable village, which became an important trading station, representatives of large English firms being located here who carried on an extensive trade, much of it illicit. In those days there was heard much about New Orleans a proverbial expression, — "by way of the little Manchac," which was used to designate anything of illicit and smuggling trade, especially with reference to the trade by the English at Manchac with the French planters in Guinea negroes, which the Spanish authorities tried to prohibit.
Fort Bute was evacuated and demolished by the English in Dec. 1768,a but the way of Manchac continued to be the highway of communication between Pensacola and Natchez during the occupancy of the Province of West Florida, which was lost to the English during the Revolution by capture of the Spanish under Galvez, 1779‑1781.
Bartram, who visited this region in 1777, found the trading station at Manchac still quite a business situation and describes it as follows:
"Ascending the Amite to the west fork where the Iberville (Bayou Manchac) comes in on the left hand, and proceeding briskly, we soon came to the landing where there are warehouses for depositing merchandise, this being the head of the schooner navigation. From this point to Manchac on the Mississippi just above the outlet of the bayou is nine miles by land, the road straight and level and passing through a grand forest. The buildings established by the English, particularly those of Swanson & Co., Indian traders, are spacious and commodious. Over Fort Bute floats the British flag, while just across the bayou, on the bank of the river, is a Spanish post. There is a foot-bridge between the two fortresses."
The importance of this location practically ended when Gen. Jackson closed the route through the Manchac in 1814 to prevent British occupation, and it has never since been re-opened.
(French Hist. Collec. of La., Vol. III, p15. Claiborne's Miss. As a Province etc., p105. Houck's Spanish Regime, Vol. I, p3 n. 8. Cuming's Tour, p359. D'Anville's "Carte de la Louisiane". Windsor's Mississippi Basin, p49. Monette's Valley of the Mississippi p77. Pittman's "Mississippi Settlements," pp64‑71.)
a But see Gayarré IV.113, who states that it was still garrisoned by the British in January, 1778; and later on in the same chapter, pp126‑127, reporting its final fall to the Spanish only on Sept. 7, 1779.
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Page updated: 5 Jun 17