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|Acadians plight in Concordia more than just a footnote; fort, farms abandoned|
ACADIANS IN CONCORDIA: 1768-69
(Eight & final in a Series)
What happened to Joseph Braud and his family was the final straw for Acadians settled in Louisiana.
Braud was among the exiles forced by the Spanish to settle in 1768 at the fort known as San Luis de Natchez, located three miles below present day Vidalia in Concordia Parish. When the Acadians arrived at the fort in the winter, Braud along with others initially refused to settle there and ask for an audience with Gov. Antonio Ulloa in New Orleans.
Ulloa was 50 years old when he was appointed as Louisiana's first Spanish governor. He was a brilliant man, a scientist, a writer, a world traveler. He was part of a French astronomical expedition in 1748 that researched the shape of the earth. He wrote a book about his travels, about the Incas, about the earthquake of 1687.
With few soldiers, little financial support and limited help, Ulloa did the best he could to meet his goals of settling and defending Louisiana. But he wasn't a good governor and he wasn't a man of the people.
Louisiana's population was small, and mostly French. When the governor arrived, the census revealed 11,476 residents of which 5,940 were slaves. Both Africans and Indians were slaves in those days, while in the American colonies some white people were indentured.
The fort commander at Concordia, Lt. Pedro Piernas, wrote Ulloa: "I would like to point out that one of the three men by the name of Joseph Braud is quite obstinate and is inciting the others to refuse to settle."
Shortly after Ulloa learned of the problem at Concordia, he wrote commanders at other Spanish settlements in Louisiana warning them to accept no Acadians from Concordia. If any showed up, the governor instructed the commanders to arrest them and "send them to the city as prisoners...he who harbors them, contrary to my orders, will be expatriated from the colony with his family, regardless of the excuse."
AN EYE ON THE BRAUD FAMILY
Ulloa already had his eye on the Braud family. Joseph's Braud's cousins -- the brothers Alexis and Honore' Braud -- had fled New Orleans when they learned that the 149 men, women and children, more than two dozen Acadian families who recently arrived from Maryland, were being forced to settle at Concordia.
This group of Acadians was among several who came to Louisiana hoping to live at established Acadian settlements. But the Spanish, who gained Louisiana from the French following the Treaty of Paris in 1763, wanted the newly arrived Acadians to locate near Spanish forts established on the west side of the Mississippi opposite English forts on the east side.
Ulloa ordered a manhunt, but the Braud brothers fled into British Territory, on the east side of the Mississippi River at Manchac. By now, the governor was no longer sympathetic to the plight of the Acadians. When Joseph Braud arrived in New Orleans with two other Acadians with news that they weren't going to settle at Concordia, Ulloa drew a line.
Dr. Carl Brasseaux of Louisiana Studies in Lafayette, has published books and articles about the Acadians during the past years. In an article on the Concordia fort, he wrote:
"The resentment felt toward Ulloa by Acadians along the lower Mississippi was enhanced by his efforts to separate members of the Joseph Braud family. While en route to Natchez in March, 1768, Joseph, succeeding his cousins as one of the two chiefs of the...immigrants, had secured permission to leave his wife -- who had recently given birth to a son -- and three children at his father-in-law's St. Gabriel farm. Serving as a representative of the disgruntled (Concordia) Acadians in April, Braud sought gubernatorial permission to settle permanently next to his wife's family. Not only was his inopportune request rejected, but he was threatened with deportation unless he returned to San Luis (Concordia) with his family.
"Although Braud replied imprudently that he preferred expulsion to life at (Concordia), he soon relented, returning with his fellow representatives to Fort San Luis. Shortly thereafter he dutifully 'descended' to St. Gabriel to retrieve his family. Upon arrival at the lower river post, he discovered that his family had been stricken with an undetermined malady."
The commander there, "who feared that the illness was merely contrived, required Braud to secure a medical certificate and then, realizing that his departure would not take place immediately, ordered Braud in late June to secure a temporary stay of sentence from Ulloa.
"Though the outcome of Joseph Braud's subsequent petition to Ulloa is unknown, it is certain that the Spanish administration's persistent efforts to separate the reunited Braud family alienated the Acadian population through the lower Mississippi Valley. The exiles consequently were quite receptive to the anti-Spanish propaganda of a small, but powerful clique of established French colonists..."
ACADIANS JOIN REBELLION; ULLOA OUSTED
Most in Louisiana at this time made their livings in the cypress industry, the number one export product, as well in the trade of furs, tobacco, timber, indigo, pitch, tar, rice, maize, vegetables and cotton with the French Caribbean Islands. But in 1768, the year the Acadians were sent to Concordia, Spain, in a royal decree, according to historian John Hebron Moore in a "Louisiana History" article in 1983, "the trade of Louisiana was restricted to Seville, Barcelona, and four other ports in European Spain, and ships other than those owned and operated by Spanish nationals were prohibited from entering the ports of the mainland colony...Imposing the mercantilist system on Louisiana quickly brought the population close to the brink of ruin."
Historian Brasseau said the Acadians were then quite receptive "to the anti-Spanish propaganda of a small group of French colonists led by the Attorney General Nicolas Chauvin de Lafreniere."
The Acadians had been exiled by the British from Nova Scotia in 1755 because of their French background as the French & Indian War began in North America, pitting Britain, their American colonies and Indian allies against the French and their Indian allies for control of North America. England won.
Exiled to the mainland of America and to Europe, the Acadian exile continued after the end of the war as many were forced from their homes in the colonies. By one estimate, 13,000 Arcadians were exiled to the colonies and Europe where they faced ostracism and economic ruin. Many died. They also faced separation from families and friends and under Ulloa, this Diaspora was continuing.
"Certain that they had been drawn to the colony under false pretenses," wrote Brasseaux, "the Acadians patiently awaited the opportunity to retaliate. The New Orleans rebels provided that chance in late October, 1768."
In the darkness of October 26 a number of Acadians settled near New Orleans were persuaded to join the rebels. The "Acadians marched unarmed into New Orleans. Upon arrival at the Crescent City early in the afternoon of October 28, five hundred Acadians and German Coast residents were led by insurrectionist Pierre Caresse...supplied with muskets and generous drafts of Bordeaux wine. Their fighting spirit bolstered by French liquor, the exiles assisted the rebels in ousting Ulloa and driving him from the colony."
By January, news reached Spain. The Cabinet of Ministers agreed that Louisiana was too important to lose to the rebels -- the colony served as a barrier to protect Spain's holdings to the west of the Mississippi, in Mexico and Central America.
Weeks later, fear spread throughout the region when the new Spanish governor, Lt.-Gen. Alexandro O'Reilly, arrived with a fighting force of 2,000 men on a flotilla of 21 ships armed with 46 cannons and plenty of weapons, ammunition, bombs and supplies.
O'Reilly, an Irishman who had earned respect on the battlefields of Europe, quickly weeded out the leaders of the revolt, executed some, exiled some and imprisoned others. Before panic set in, O'Reilly proceeded to become a quite effective military-minded reform governor.
No one else met retribution and in a short time he ceased operations of the fort in Concordia and approved the Concordia Acadians request to settle elsewhere. Most chose to settle with family members at other Louisiana settlements.
PIERRE GUIDRY AND THE FORT'S CLOSURE
Among them was Pierre Guidry, whose wife was among the estimated 75 Acadians, half of the settlement, who died at Concordia. He remarried and once O'Reilly allowed the exiles to settle wherever they wanted, he moved first to present day Ascension Parish, later to Opelousas and later still to Bayou Teche in St. Martin Parish in the 1790s.
On Nov. 4, 1825, Guidry noted in his will that he was a native of Nova Scotia, Canada, and "finding myself sick in bed but entirely of sound judgment, memory and understanding, fearing to be surprised by death in view of the uncertainty of life and wishing to put my temporal affairs in order, have dictated in a strong and audible voice...my last wishes..."
He asked for a Catholic burial, noted that he was in his third marriage, having lost his first two wives to death, and had 20 children. Guidry had become a wealthy men, he was a rancher and a farmer and had an estate at his death valued at $200,000.
At least one historian has called Guidry the "Patriarch of Grande Pointe (Cecilia, La.) and Lord of a Vast Domain."
Historian Brasseaux said the Concordia fort and settlement "appeared destined to be a forgotten footnote in Louisiana's colonial history, particularly after the British military threat quickly proved to be more illusory than real." The main reason Ulloa had established the fort there was to offset the British threat across the river at Natchez where 44 British soldiers and four officers were residing. But in 1768, the British abandoned the Natchez fort due to economics.
Wrote the Concordia commander on Sept. 18, 1768: "The English have just evacuated their post at Natchez. There are only three or four merchants and about the same number of settlers left there."
Yet the Concordia post, says Brasseaux, "played a pivotal role in bringing a violent end to Louisiana's first Spanish administration. Antonio de Ulloa's hard-line policy regarding the Acadians assigned to settle the swamplands near Fort San Luis de Natchez (in Concordia) caused widespread disaffection within the colony's large Acadian refugee population. The Acadians, who were initially content with Spanish rule, thus became willing recruits for the emerging effort by powerful and influential New Orleans-area interests to bring down the new Spanish regime, in the process making possible a North American insurrection that presaged the coming revolutions against European control over the continent."
For years, river travelers noticed the abandoned fort and the abandoned Acadian farm houses a few miles below. Mapmakers included the abandoned sites on late 18th Century maps.
Just a few years ago, archeologists found evidence of the fort site on Whitehall Plantation. Pieces of 18th Century earthenware confirmed the European presence there. Part of the fort site rests under the levee.
Archaeologists who studied the fort site, including Joanne Ryan with Coastal Environments of Baton Rouge, found coarse earthenware sherds, including four faience sherds and a sherd of lead-glazed redware, which she said is evidence of the Spanish colonial fortress.
Six miles down river is where the first Acadian farm house was located. Ryan said that the old Mississippi River bank in front of these farm houses has eroded away through the years.
But, she said, "We will not know for sure that the house sites have completely eroded away until someone does an intensive field survey of the current bank line to look for them."
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