Are you for armed guards at schools?|
Story Archives: Acadians refuse to settle at Concordia fort; appeal to Ulloa; wonder of cypress
- 2013 - 290 articles
- 2012 - 856 articles
- 2011 - 635 articles
- 2010 - 1276 articles
- 2009 - 1591 articles
- 2008 - 1763 articles
|Acadians refuse to settle at Concordia fort; appeal to Ulloa; wonder of cypress|
ACADIANS IN CONCORDIA
(Fourth in a Series)
At 7 a.m., Sunday, March 20, 1768, three boats docked at a Spanish fort about three miles below Vidalia with 149 Acadians on board as well as a few sailors and two Spanish commanders.
For the past month, the flotilla had journeyed up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Concordia where the Acadians were to settle, build homes, plant crops, raise livestock and help populate Spanish territory in Louisiana, opposite Natchez, which was held by the British.
Lt. Pedro Piernas, the Spanish commander at the fort who left Spain months earlier for the opportunity to advance in the military in the vast territory of Louisiana, was at wit's end. The Acadians, who came from Maryland after having been exiled from Canada years earlier, had hoped to settle with relatives and friends at other Acadian settlements along the Mississippi from Pointe Coupee southward to New Orleans. But Antonio Ulloa, the Spanish governor, refused the Acadian's pleas time after time.
Now that they were at the Concordia fort, they initially refused to settle and demanded another audience with Ulloa. Piernas had a situation on his hands. "Even if this country were paradise on earth," fumed Piernas, the Acadians would refuse to settle.
Nicolas Verret, co-commander of a Spanish fort down river, who joined Piernas as a tour guide to the Acadians on the journey to Concordia, wrote Ulloa that the Acadians "refuse to remain here...Sir...I have done everything possible..."
Shortly after arrival, Verret had taken the Acadians "on a surveying tour of the land...I found the land quite suitable for settlement....They all agree that the land is suitable, but too isolated." The Acadians felt their "wives and children would be exposed to Indian harassment, and they themselves would live in constant fear. This would, of course, hamper their settlement there."
The Acadians also worried that Spanish Bayou, located below the fort where their proposed settlement was located, would dry out when the Mississippi River's stage fell to normal levels. The river was high at the time, and Piernas told Ulloa that "the adverse weather and cold winds and rains.....made us waste nine traveling days" in the journey to the fort.
If the bayou did dry out, said Piernas, he would allow the Acadians to seek other locations to settle above or below the fort. But if they settled too far from the fort, the Acadians said, they would be deprived of its protection. Piernas countered that he would settle some above the fort and some below so that no one would be too far away.
They complained that they did not have enough time to inspect the land, but Piernas said on the journey up river the boats "landed six or seven times a day for breakfast, to eat, and to smoke a pipe, giving them more time than is customary." They were allowed time "in the afternoons before sunset, so that they could camp out more comfortably and scrutinize the land...." which, said Piernas, was ideal for growing crops on the Louisiana side from Point Coupee to Concordia.
The widows with children and the orphans needed assistance, said the Acadians, and had "not been given anything." This would be worked out, said the commander.
ACADIANS TO FARM WHEAT & TOBACCO
Both Piernas and Verret tried to persuade the Acadians to give the settlement a chance, adding that they would enjoy "preferential treatment as far as care and prompt assistance is concerned...." Piernas also said that during the short time at the fort they were able "to see for themselves the abundance of meat that the country produces. Every day they have seen Indians and hunters from the colony come to provide the fort with meat, grease, lard, etc. and furthermore (they have) seen the profusion of fish, because the Acadian who had dedicated himself to fishing has caught them in abundance."
No question, Concordia's rich soil, as the years to follow would prove, would nourish fine crops. No doubt that the fishing was ideal and wild game abundant.
But the Acadians weren't interested in making a home in the wilderness. Their problem with Concordia was simple -- there were no other Acadians here. Exiled from Nova Scotia in 1755, and mistreated in the colonies, Acadian families had been separated for a decade -- husbands from wives, brothers from sisters, uncles from nephews.
As historian Richard E. Chandler wrote in a 1973 article in "Louisiana History," the Acadians experience during their exile had been "filled with despair, disease, hopelessness, death, frustration over broken promises, rejection, imprisonment and loss of nearly every possession."
While the Spanish didn't mistreat the Acadians physically, the mental anguish for these families on the journey up river was cruel. Time and again the travelers were allowed to visit family members along the river but not establish homes with or beside them. When one family attempted to stay with relatives, they were hunted down, and taken by force back to the flotilla. Piernas was following orders handed down by Ulloa, the Spanish governor.
Upon arrival, Piernas said the Acadians were provided "three rooms of the post's quarters where they were comfortably lodged. To make things easier for them, they were given the upper story (of the barracks), where they were sheltered from inclement weather. No one at the fort had better quarters. In addition to all of this, they were given another room to use as a kitchen, thus depriving the garrison of its use."
In the meantime, Piernas and Verret agreed to send three representatives of the Acadians back to New Orleans for another audience with Ulloa, who had provided careful and detail instructions for the Concordia settlement.
According to historian Chandler, Ulloa expressed "the intention of assisting the newcomers to establish themselves solidly in the colony, so that they may be useful to it as they profit from the land and help given to them. They were to cultivate wheat and tobacco and build causeways and dikes to protect their lands from high water. They were to construct light shelters first and later substantial houses in which to live; but until shelters were built they would be lodged in the fort. The resources of each individual were to be investigated, so as to ascertain which ones needed to given provisions and which ones could pay for them. All care was to be taken that the needy would be served, but the generosity of the king in supplying provisions would not be abused."
"The lands for raising tobacco and wheat should be high and adequate," said Ulloa. The Acadians, said the governor, should be given some time to prepare "the low lands for the planting of corn. When they have cleared sufficient area" for corn, "they shall clear off the high places, so that next year they begin the planting of wheat. And since the Acadians themselves have informed me that they brought with them a small amount of this grain an effort will be made to arrange for them to plant, toward the end of next month or the beginning of April, one third or one fourth of it, keeping the rest for the coming autumn. In this way, we will be certain of having new seed, and planting and harvest in the future will be more assured."
CONCORDIA, NATCHEZ, AMERICA IN 1768
The fort where the Acadians were lodging was laid out on May 27, 1767, the day the Spanish formally took possession. Just 14 days earlier, in London, King George signed a "royal mandamus" honoring Captain Amos Ogden of New Jersey with a patent for 25,000 acres of land along the Homochitto across the Mississippi River in the present day Kingston area of southern Adams County.
But Ogden and the New Jersey Settlers, led by Samuel and Richard Swayze, wouldn't be arriving in Natchez for another six years nor would Anthony Hutchins on Second Creek or Samuel Gibson -- Port Gibson's founder -- near Natchez. (Incidentally, the descendant's of the New Jersey Settlers will be holding their 70th annual reunion in Natchez and Kingston this weekend.)
Just nine months prior to Piernas' arrival at the site of the Concordia fort, 48 Scottish soldiers, including four officers, manned the Natchez fort (Rosalie/Panmure) for the British. Only four settlers, all living below the fort along the river, resided in Natchez.
Once the Acadians arrived in the spring of 1768, the population at the Concordia fort, coupled with the soldiers, sailors and government employees there, swelled to 200. For a brief period, Concordia's population may have been greater than that of what constitutes present day Adams County.
In the American colonies at this time, Samuel Adams, the future president of the United States, issued a statement attacking the British government's taxation of the colonies without representation. He urged other colonists to protest. Massachusetts's British governor responded quickly by dissolving the state legislature, which had endorsed Adams' statement. Soon, British troops occupied Boston.
Passage by sea from New York to London took four weeks, the return trip six to eight weeks against the winds. On land, the very fastest a human being could travel was on a saddle, riding full gallop at the speed of a horse.
FORT CONSTRUCTION & THE CYPRESS TREE
The Acadians found the Concordia fort, known as San Luis de Natchez, a work in progress. The fort was laid out by engineers on the day of possession, the property marked and cleared, a vegetable garden established and lumber cut for a warehouse to store provisions transported by boat.
When the Acadians arrived, Piernas told Ulloa that construction "of the quarters for the officers and other individuals continues inside the fort. Those of the troops, sailors and workers are already complete. Each is large enough to be comfortable and to offer protection from the elements.
"The artillery has been transferred to the fort to be set up once the embrasures (opening in wall for guns) and esplanades (open space separating the fort from settlement), which we will soon begin, are finished. They have already dressed the wood with which the hatchdoors will be made."
Piernas said he had located "behind the fort on the other side of the small bayou, a cypress forest which...abounds in good cypress." He requested two pairs of oxen to "facilitate the transportation of wood, using one on each bank of said bayou, the fort could be built and completely enclosed with a cypress stockade...."
Ulloa told Piernas on "both sides and in back of the fort there is to be an area of 1200 yards where nothing permanent is to be built by anyone. This area is reserved for artillery fire from the fort and must be kept clear. Only orchards or gardens can be made here..."
He added that since "the higher lands are located some distance from the river bank and since these are the ones that are best suited for the crops of wheat and tobacco," the Acadians were to "be directed to build their homes at a proportionate distance from the river bank, 300 yards, for example..."
The governor said "the greatest care be taken in assisting and protecting these people, providing them with the means with which to live comfortably until they can establish themselves and can provide for themselves, giving help to the needy in modest terms, but without making great expenditures prejudicial to the royal treasury."
One thing the lower Mississippi Valley had plenty of at the beginning of the 18th Century was cypress forests and Concordia was richly blessed. Cypress would be used not only for the fort but for shelters, homes and warehouses. The French had first learned the value of cypress wood decades earlier.
Historian John Hebron Moore, in a 1983 article in "Louisiana History," wrote: "Although the French were not familiar with the merits of cypress as a building material when they arrived in Louisiana, they quietly discovered that it was a valuable wood. During 1709, tests were conducted on Dauphin Island in which ten different varieties of timber were immersed in sea water for several months. Upon completion of the experiment each of the specimens except one was found to be riddled with worms, and this single exception was cypress.
"Subsequent experience revealed also that this species of wood was resistance to rot as well as to insects, and its durability was a most important characteristic in a region where wooden buildings soon fell into disrepair. Carpenters learned to appreciate cypress lumber because it was 'easy to saw and to work, being very tender'...Furthermore, cypress was readily and cleanly rived (split) into shingles; yet, it did not tend to split along the grain or to warp even when used while still green."
As Piernas oversaw fort construction, visited with the Acadians and supervised all of the operations of the military post, he could look upriver about three to four miles and watch the landing below the British fort at Natchez. At his back was the wilderness of Concordia.
Virgin timber grew to the banks of the Mighty Mississippi and from the cypress brakes near the fort he occasionally heard the thunderous rapid-fire, tree-tapping of the now extinct avian giant known as the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.
(Editor's Note: Spanish Bayou and the Concordia fort known as San Luis de Natchez are depicted in a a 1774 map by British Major Dickson six years after the fort was abandoned. According to a cultural resource investigation of Concordia Parish in 2004 by Coastal Environments, Inc. for the Corps of Engineers, "Militarily...the fort would have provided a slack water harbor for ships on Spanish Bayou, provided clear views both up and down the Mississippi, and been protected by water on all sides. This location is also the highest piece of ground nearest the river in this region." Photos, maps, illustrations, etc., often included with Stanley Nelson's weekly column in The Concordia Sentinel, are not duplicated on website. To subscribe to Sentinel, call 318-757-3646.)
|Frank Morris Murder Series|