Are you for armed guards at schools?|
Story Archives: Indian-French conflicts & Natchez Wars: 1715, 1722, 1729
- 2013 - 290 articles
- 2012 - 856 articles
- 2011 - 635 articles
- 2010 - 1276 articles
- 2009 - 1591 articles
- December 2009 - 147 articles
- November 2009 - 140 articles
- October 2009 - 168 articles
- September 2009 - 128 articles
- September 30th, 2009 (Wednesday) - 8 articles
- September 28th, 2009 (Monday) - 1 articles
- September 24th, 2009 (Thursday) - 23 articles
- September 23rd, 2009 (Wednesday) - 3 articles
- September 18th, 2009 (Friday) - 1 articles
- September 17th, 2009 (Thursday) - 12 articles
- September 16th, 2009 (Wednesday) - 17 articles
- September 10th, 2009 (Thursday) - 24 articles
- September 9th, 2009 (Wednesday) - 9 articles
- September 8th, 2009 (Tuesday) - 1 articles
- September 3rd, 2009 (Thursday) - 23 articles
- September 2nd, 2009 (Wednesday) - 6 articles
- August 2009 - 109 articles
- July 2009 - 144 articles
- June 2009 - 106 articles
- May 2009 - 115 articles
- April 2009 - 157 articles
- March 2009 - 126 articles
- February 2009 - 132 articles
- January 2009 - 119 articles
- 2008 - 1763 articles
|Indian-French conflicts & Natchez Wars: 1715, 1722, 1729|
(10th in a Series)
Historian Jack Elliott recounts this week the conflicts known as the Natchez Wars that led up to the Fort Rosalie massacre of 1729.
While the term "wars" is used, Elliott said most "of these would not qualify for what we usually call wars. Instead they were periods of heightened violence and hostility that invited military intervention."
Elliott, the storyteller in this series on the Natchez fort, earned a bachelors degree in anthropology from Mississippi State University in 1976, and a masters in geography there in 1982. Between 1982 and 1984 he began post-graduate work in geography at the University of Texas-Austin. Since 1985, Elliott has been involved in archaeology work, lecturing, writing and researching.
He has a particular interest in the historical geography of the Holy Land, a place he has visited many times to survey and excavate. Locally, he's the person who had the idea that led to the creation of the Natchez National Historical Park, property on which the historic Fort Rosalie site rests.
He works as a historical archaeologist with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and also lectures at Mississippi State on geography.
We have just about worked Jack to death the past weeks, but he has answered every question without complaint and has logged many hours of work on this series. We are all grateful, Jack! But we're not through yet.
At the beginning, as the two of us discussed the possibilities, we thought this would be a month's worth of weekly columns. But we were wrong. The idea has grown in depth and substance.
It is hard to believe that 300 years ago the harmonious sounds of laughter and chatter between the Natchez and the French drifted peacefully from corn fields and foot paths leading from cabin to cabin, village to village, farm to plantation, Grand Village to Fort Rosalie. It's just as hard to believe that these two cultures would clash so violently in the end -- both with the Natchez' bloody massacre of the French in 1729 and later with France's campaign to annihilate the tribe from the face of the earth.
The Natchez are long gone. And so are the French.
But the epic story happened right here on the ground we walk every day. Our journey, with Jack Elliott as our narrator, continues:
FRENCH FORTS & FORT ROSALIE
ELLIOTT: We need to first recall a basic principle by which the French located their forts: they were usually located in proximity of Indian settlements. This was done for strategic reasons and for related matters of conducting trade and feeding the troops. When forts, in specific, and French settlements, in general, were located near Indian settlements, the two were intended to function in a symbiotic, harmonious relationship based on trade that was mutually beneficial to both parties.
The Indians would trade food -- agricultural produce and meat from hunting along with deerskins -- in return for manufactured goods. The latter were not merely "trinkets," as often thought, but were a wide variety of goods which the Indians were unable to produce with their own technology, such as cloth, blankets, metal tools and utensils, guns, powder, and lead. Such items were desired and used, and the Indians quickly became dependent upon them. We can recall by way of comparison our own dependence on store purchases in lieu of producing the same goods at home.
Placing a fort near an Indian settlement meant that through trade the garrison could be fed and the Indians could obtain needed trade goods. This was often considered a desirable arrangement by both parties, which led to the strategic importance of the arrangement: by providing gifts and ready access to trade goods alliances could be established with the Indians. Forts were placed like pieces on a chess board to establish and maintain alliances with tribes thereby serving to control enormous areas within Louisiana.
This did not always work so well as with the case of the Natchez, who were divided into two factions -- pro-French and anti-French -- with the latter being influenced by English traders. This resulting situation was volatile. The Natchez needed to be brought into the French alliance, but there was always the potential for violence fomented by the anti-French faction and encouraged by interpersonal conflicts between the French and the Indians.
The French had been acquainted with the Natchez Indians for years before orders were received from France in 1715 to construct a fort to be named Rosalie at Natchez. The Commandant-general (Governor) at the time was Antoine de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, a man known for his arrogance and pomposity. He had been strapped with the onerous task of turning a vast wilderness into a productive colony using negligible financial and human resources.
Upon receiving the order to establish the fort he wavered, probably thinking of the costs involved, indicating to his second-in-command Bienville that only a small supply of troops should be used and instead of building a fort, to save money by simply housing the troops with the Indians. Bienville scoffed at this idea, noting that he knew the Natchez better than La Mothe, and he had little trust for them. During a trip up the Mississippi River, La Mothe worsened the situation by refusing to smoke the calumet and present the Indians with gifts. Although the latter was probably conceived to cut costs, yet in the long run it brought severe political costs.
FIRST NATCHEZ WAR-1715
ELLIOTT: In late 1715 anti-French elements among the Natchez killed several French voyageurs on the river and subsequently looted the trading post at Natchez, effectively launching the First Natchez War. When word reached Mobile, then capital of Louisiana, Bienville began to throw together as large a force as he could manage given the fact that there were only about 150 troops in the colony. In early 1716 he departed with about 50 troops to face -- conceivably -- hundreds of warriors.
Departing Mobile, Bienville traveled westward along the coast in eight large canoes and probably entered the Mississippi via Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas and the Iberville River (Bayou Manchac) and finally set up camp on Bienville Island (later called Natchez Island) on April 24. The island was located on the west side of the river just down river from present day Vidalia. The product of alluvial deposition, it was low lying, subject to flooding, and separated from the west bank by only a narrow and shallow channel. In recent years the narrow channel has largely become filled in, so the island is now part of the west bank. On such a fairly inaccessible position, the French set upon camp, building a guardhouse, a weapons magazine, and a jail.
On May 8th a group of eight Natchez chiefs came to parley, but upon landing were locked in the jail and held hostage until they agreed to peace in exchange for their lives. The treaty entailed the beheading of the Indians that instigated the hostilities and the use of Indian labor to construct Fort Rosalie. A total of 2500 posts and 3000 pieces of bark were to be cut and hauled to the designated fort site.
The terms were finalized on June 7 by smoking the calumet. Within a few days work had begun on a site selected by Bienville's lieutenant, Jacques Barbazan de Pailloux, the builder of the fort and its first commandant. Fort Rosalie was completed August 3, 1716. For the next few years relations between the French and the Indians were peaceful.
SECOND NATCHEZ WAR-1722
ELLIOTT: In the years that followed dramatic changes occurred in Louisiana. The Company of the West (later known as the Company of the Indies) took control of the colony in 1717 and initiated efforts to build up the population, leading to shipments of Europeans and enslaved Africans arriving. Because of the natural fertility and its agricultural potential, many immigrants converged there to make a living.
Hundreds of additional people provided new potential for hostilities to resume as day-to-day interactions can generate quarrels that can grow into something bigger, much like the assassination of the Grand Duke Francis Ferdinand in 1914 led to World War I. With that being said, it must be pointed out that there were relationships between the French and Indians was usually amicable as indicated by the fact that many people, including soldiers lived in isolation from the fort and therefore away from protection. Nevertheless small incidents could turn into serious conflict.
On October 21 1722, such an incident occurred. During a heated dispute over a debt in corn owed by an Indian to a sergeant named La Fontaine, the latter called in fellow soldiers. As tempers flared two Indians were wounded, one fatally. The soldier received only a reprimand which didn't sit well with the Indians of the White Apple village, an anti-French faction from whence the injured parties hailed.
The Indians soon retaliated. About two hours later as M. Guenot was returning to the St. Catherine Concession where he was employed as inspector, he was shot in the right shoulder from ambush and subsequently died of gangrene. The following day the Indians fired on slaves cutting wood near the St. Catherine Concession. One named Du Bougou was killed, while his brother was wounded. That night they attacked the isolated home of a former soldier at the fort named La Rochelle. Entering his house while he slept, they killed and decapitated him and took his head as a trophy.
During the next few days attacks were carried on against the French while their livestock was killed and stolen; civilians occasionally had to take shelter in the fort. Retaliations were attempted, yet it was against an invisible force. After word reached Bienville in New Orleans, he sent the colony's Major-General Barbazan de Pailloux to Natchez with reinforcement troops. Having built Fort Rosalie and served as its first commandant, Pailloux wasn't new to Natchez. After his arrival he and the pro-French Tattooed Serpent were able to work out a peace treaty. According to Dumont, the Indians paid reparations in the form of a large number of chickens, bringing to an end the Second Natchez War.
However, M. Longrais, an official with the St. Catherine Concession, wasn't pleased with the lightness of the reparations and made it know to Pailloux in a heated exchange. He later observed prophetically: "it is to be feared . . . that we shall be the victims of a surprise attack and will be killed just as M. Guenot." Five years later Longrais died along with hundreds of others in the Natchez massacre.
THIRD NATCHEZ WAR-1729
ELLIOTT: In 1723 depredations of French livestock continued, largely by members of the White Apple village. Longrais reported that "wherever the stock goes the Indians follow them and take the strays. We are totally unable to recover them."
Following continued reports of hostile activities by the anti-French Indians, Bienville determined to retaliate once and for all in what would be known as the Third Natchez War. Departing from New Orleans on September 29, 1729, he led troops up the river and rendezvoused with his Tunica allies at Natchez.
About the first of November a combined force of French military and civilians and Tunicas set out on a scorched earth campaign against the anti-French White Apple, Grigra, and Jenzenaque villages. Over the next few days they managed to kill about 60 Indians and burn hamlets throughout the three village areas. But most of the enemy simply melted into the woods. During the campaign many civilians expended considerable effort attempting to catch individual Indians whom they hoped to make their slaves.
By the end of the month Bienville realized that he could never conquer such mobile targets. So he worked out a peace treaty, again via the Tattooed Serpent, which required that a few of the key trouble-makers be decapitated and their heads brought in as proof. Bienville departed and the situation quietened down. Despite a few disruptions matters remained quiet for the next six years.
The situation could have remained that way and the Natchez colony could have continued to grow. However, it was still ripe for trouble, where a random event or the actions of one person could ignite large scale trouble. And such it did in the fall of 1729, when one individual, Commandant Chepart, alone managed to provoke the Fourth Natchez War. It began with the murder of hundreds of French and culminated in the death, enslavement, and dispersion of the Natchez Indians.
|Frank Morris Murder Series|