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Bienville, probably the greatest colonizer ever sent from the Old World to the New, remained Governor of the Louisiana-Mississippi Territory until his struggling colony was well established and on its way toward prosperity and independence.
It is proposed to make this marker a monument to the valor of both the Chickasaws and the French, as was done in honoring Wolfe and Montcalme in the erection of a monument to them on the Plains of Abraham.
When this matter was brought before the Military Affairs Committee, the War Department sent Lt. Col. H. L. Landers to investigate the history of this battlefield and make a report. He did so, and we insert at this point that part of his report which relates to the Battle of Ackia.
HISTORY OF THE CAMPAIGN OF THE FRENCH AGAINST THE CHICKASAWS in 1736
The progress of civilization in the valley of the Mississippi blossomed into a magnificient growth during the first half of the eighteenth century, under the leadership of two notable sons of Charles Le Moyne, one of the grand seigniors of La Nouvelle France, that vast domain which encompassed all the lands that drain into the St. Lawrence. The names of Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur de Iberville, and Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, bring to mind an empire in the Mississippi Valley of such grandeur that its superiority in magnitude and wealth stands unchallenged in our country. To follow the footsteps of these versatile adventurers, explorers, legislators, and administrators from their home in Montreal through New France and later into the basin of the great river is to engage in a venture fraught with the heroic lust of conquest and the patriotic desire to promote the political and commercial interests of one's own government. For more than 40 years did one member of this family fight, conquer, govern, and build; and no name in the early history of our country is more widely and everlastingly wrought into its soil than is that of Bienville. From Fort Toulouse t, Fort Tombecbee in Alabama, thence down to the settlements established at Mobile, Biloxi, New Orleans, Natchez, and Natchitoches, the fame of this soldier of fortune and crusader for France warms the heart with pride that it was such men as he who created this Nation.
The prize of empire in America was eagerly sought by three great countries of Europe, and their many wars at home were reflected and reenacted in the new America. There was almost perpetual strife and conflict in some portions of the wide and deep savannas and broad forests stretching from the Floridas to Texas, for it was in this region that the oversea possessions of England, France, and Spain met or overlapped. Warfare made up in bitterness and sanguinariness what it lacked in numbers of white troops engaged. Alliances, more frequently unholy than holy, were made with the aboriginal occupants of the soil, for without the accretion of such allies an army of inferior strength would suffer defeat. Slaves were armed, and these black warriors occasionally gave feeble aid in the contest. They did learn the lust of slaughter, which sometimes was directed in wild outbreaks against their masters.
The prosperity of the transplanted colonists depended upon food and trade. Those nearest the frontiers of the red man found their existence interwoven with his. Close trade relations were followed by close alliances for war. Additional strength in war was sought from the red man, later to be dispossessed of his heritage by his white ally. Indeed, this dependence upon the Indians reached a most unfortunate climax during the second war with Great Britain, when Tecumseh and the Prophet were used by that nation to build a barrier of carnage against the United States from the Lakes to the Gulf.
Nature endowed the Indian with many noble qualities. In their own environments, before the coming of the whites, the human equation of races and individuals made some Indians better, some worse. With the coming of paleface peoples from Europe, the simple minds of these forest-and-stream people were subjected to strains, the results of which were evident in their increased savagery, while the causations remained obscure. Difficult enough the problem would have been had but one nation of whites imposed its civilization, business ethics, morality, and religion upon the red nations, but these difficulties were intensified many times when three European nations sought to dominate the same, or contiguous, nations of aborigines.
The simple mind of the red man was observant of more than could understand. He learned the artifices of diplomacy, suspicion, broken promises, and treachery. His mind could not cleave a way through the maze set up by conflicting demands of nations of whites, each bidding, in deadly rivalry with the others, for his temporary friendship and alliance. He had not the mental faculty to judge which group of whites offered the most favorable proposition, uor the capacity to choose it had he known. He could not understand, and soon his lack of comprehension led him to distrust, to become vengeful; then his latent qualities for violence led him into orgies of slaughter to sicken the world. The Indian, in war, was actuated by emotional violence to commit deeds of barbarity that were repugnant to the civilized mind. It is true that the whites, in retaliation, sometimes committed equally diabolical acts, with the result that the history of Indian warfare in our country is a motley picture of heroism and savagery, wanton cruelty with but rare compassion for the wounded, a lust to kill that not only exterminates life, but horribly mutilate the body from which the soul has fled.
FRENCH SETTLEMENTS IN AMERICA
The discoveries made by Columbus in the New World became known throughout Europe during the last years of the fifteenth century, and within a brief period thereafter the eastern coast line of the new continent, from the far north down to the Equator, was explored by the hardy adventurers of England and Spain. The participation of the French Government in the partition of this new empire was belated, restricting its activities, when it did seek some of this territory, to the far north, where its settlements along the St. Lawrence River and in Acadia, in the seventeenth century, were given the name La Nouvelle, France. New France acquired a population of 25,000 inhabitants before La Louisiana, the name applied to the vast empire drained by the Mississippi, had begun to outgrow the tribulations attendant upon the establishment of new settlements. In 1539 the Spaniard, De Soto, began a tour of exploration that lasted 3 years, which for venturesome hardihood stands unrivaled in the history of America. Landing at Tampa Bay at the head of a large army, he wintered in 1539-40 at Apalachen. In the spring he started on his great voyage of discovery, passing from Florida to the Carolinas by way of the Savannah River, thence back to the Mobile River where he ruthlessly killed thousands of the aboriginal inhabitants at Mauvila, and from there across the Mississippi into Arkansas and Oklahoma, thence back to the Mississippi where in 1542 he died. For more than a century following the explorations of De Soto, no serious attempt was made_to investigate the middle and upper portions of the Mississippi Valley until Frontenac, Governor of New France, in 1673 sent the trader Joliet and the missionary Marquette westward to the headwaters of the Mississippi to explore its course and outlet. These voyagers descended this stream to the mouth of the Arkansas, but feared to continue further lest they fall into the hands of the Spaniards. Nine years later, in 1682, La Salle crossed from the St. Lawrence to the Mississippi and descended that river to its mouth. In 1687 he lost his life in an attempt to plant a French colony on its borders.
During the war of the Palatinate, Louis XIV showed little desire to develop La Salle's scheme to plant a colony near the mouth of the Mississippi, but after the treaty of Ryswick was signed in 1697, the French Government determined to send an expedition to the Gulf of Mexico to forestall the English, who were reported about to take possession of the mouth of that river. The command of this expedition was entrusted to Iberville, who had already established his fame as a military leader of great energy. In January of 1699, Iberville's fleet appeared before the harbor of Pensacola, which had been fortified by Spain & few months previous, and demanded admission. The request was refused and the expedition proceeded to what is now Dauphine Island, at the mouth of Mobile Bay, where it tarried a short time. From thence the voyagers continued their way westward, exploring the outlets and main body of the Mississippi, and finally turning back to a bay on the eastern extremity of which a settlement was established and named Biloxi, from the Indians dwelling nearby.
THE BEGINNING OF THE PROVINCE OF LOUISIANA It was the intention of Iberville to fix the principal establishment of the colony at this point, and a fort with four bastions was completed in May of the same year. The armament of the fort, when the census of 1704 was taken,
consisted of 16 iron cannon of 12 and 8 pounds caliber. With the completion of the fort, Iberville returned to France, leaving Sauvole and Bienville, the latter 19 years of age, in charge of the colony.
Upon Iberville's return to the Province in January 1700 he brought a commission appointing Sauvole governor of the colony. Early that year Iberville ascended the Mississippi as far as the Natchez settlement, and there decided upon a location which he viewed as most suitable for the capital of the new Province. He selected a site for a town, to which he gave the name of La Ville de Rosalie aux Natchez, and then returned to the fort at Biloxi. Iberville once more returned to France, toward the last of May 1700, leaving Sauvole to govern the Province, assisted by Bienville. Sauvole fell a victim to an epidemic of fever on August 21, 1701, and Bienville took control of the colony as acting governor, removing from a fort in the Mississippi which he had occupied, to the capital at Biloxi. Parties of the Choctaw and Mobile Indians came to visit him a few days after his arrival, their object being to solicit his aid against the Chickasaws. Bienville considered his colony too weak to become embroiled in the quarrels of the Indian tribes nearby, and declined to form an alliance, but instead sent an officer and a few Canadians to afford the Choctaws his good offices as mediator.
In December of 1701 Iberville arrived with supplies and reinforcements of troops, and in pursuance of the king's instructions moved the headquarters of the colony to the western bank of the Mobile River the following year, making settlements near the present city of Mobile and on Dauphin Island. Later, in the same year, Iberville again returned to France with the fleet, leaving Bienville in control of the Province as governor.
The situation which arose in Europe following the death, in 1700, of Charles II of Spain, without issue, resulted in another period of prolonged hostilities, which became known as the War of the Spanish Succession (1703-13). The war areas in America were much more extensive than were those in Europe, despite the fact that most of the European nations were embroiled. In the southern part of America the West Indies, the frontiers of the Carolinas, Florida, and Louisiana, and in the northern part the New England border, Acadia, Newfoundland, and Hudson Bay were the scenes of conflict. The English in the Carolinas sent emissaries to prevail upon the Chickasaws to send war chiefs among the Indians in the vicinity of the French settlements on the Gulf, to induce them to form an alliance with England. The English commandant of the fort at Albany prevailed upon the Iroquois to attack the frontier settlers in Canada. The historian Martin says, referring to one of the phases of the prolonged Indian warfare which ensued, "The Choctaws had scarcely returned home, when their country was invaded by 2,000 Cherokees, commanded by an English officer from Carolina. Several of their villages were destroyed and 300 of their women and children led away into slavery."
The success of the settlement attempted in Louisiana not having answered the hopes of the court of France, it was determined to make a considerable change in the government of the colony. Iberville fell a victim to yellow fever and died at Habana July 9, 1706, and De Muys, an officer who had served with distinction in Canada, was appointed governor of Louisiana. The death of this official occurred during the passage to his new station. About this time Diron D'Artaguette was sent to the province as commissary general, with instructions to inquire into the conduct of the former administrators of the colony, and to make such changes as he deemed advisable. As the settlement near the fort on the Mobile suffered from the overflow of that river, he ordered this place to be abandoned and a new fort built.
LOUISIANA TURNED OVER TO ANTOINE CROZAT D'Artaguette returned to France in 1711, convinced that the slow progress of the colony could not be accelerated by Bienville with the feeble means at his command. Food supplies failed to mature, especially wheat, the raising of which was attempted a number of years. Women to make homes in this pioneer country were few in number. Many of the French soldiers and of the voyagers from Canada allied themselves with the Indian women and lost much of their natural ambition. Year after year famine stalked the colony and disease took toll of its numbers, until finally the king decided to rid himself of the tas on his purse of maintaining this puny offspring of the state. Accord ingly, the crown granted a charter dated September 14, 1712, to Antoine Crozat, a merchant, giving him the exclusive right to engage in commerce in the province for a term of 15 years. At this period there were, in Louisiana, 2 companies of infantry of 50 men each, and 75 Canadian volunteers in the king's pay. The
rest of the population consisted of 28 families and 20 negroes. These, with the king's officers and clergy, made an aggregate of about 380 persons. This small number of individuals was dispersed throughout a vast extent of territory, divided “by the sea, by lakes, and by wide rivers." Five forts had been erected for their protection—at Mobile, Dauphine Island, Biloxi, Ship Island, and in the Mississippi. The population of La Nouvelle France and Acadia reached 25,000 at this time.
The ship carrying Crozat and Duclos, the new commissary general, arrived at Habana, in May 1713, and on the 5th of the following month anchored at Port Dauphine. A third person of importance was aboard, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, who had been notified several years previous of his appointment as governor of this province, and only now succeeded in joining. This latter officer had served with distinction in Canada, having established the post of Detroit in 1701, which he commanded for 3 years. His arrival, in company with the owner of the concessions and his chief business investigator, was at an unfortunate time. In the previous year the harvest of corn and other grains failed throughout the province, and Bienville had been obliged to send the entire garrison into the woods 30 leagues to seek a living among the Indians by hunting.
After surveying conditions in the colony for 4 months, Duclos wrote from Fort Louis on October 9 to Pontchartrain, Minister of Marine and Colonies, declaring "that the country is not now sufficiently populated or considerable enough, since there are now not more than 35, both at Fort Louis and on Dauphine Island, to need & governor. “So I think”, he continued, “that a commandant would be sufficient here. M. Bienville, the King's lieutenant, who has been commandant here for a long time, has all the qualities and all the knowledge necessary for him to be continued in this post. He possesses more than any other person in the world the art of governing the Indians and doing what he wishes with them by means of the long acquaintance that he has with them, and because of the fact that he understands and speaks their language perfectly. This tribute to Bienville was deserved at the time, and as additional decades passed his value to the province increased to an immeasurable degree. His method of handling the Indians was practical and efficient. He first applied himself to becoming acquainted with the most powerful Indian nations and the ones that could be the most useful, or do the greatest harm to the colony. He took care to send young men to them to learn their language and to inform him of every happening. He endeavored to satisfy their warlike cravings by encouraging embroilments between his nearby allies and the more distant hostile tribes. His payments for services rendered by his allies were in keeping with his promises.
When peace was concluded in 1713 by the treaty of Utrecht, the British in Carolina became energetic in extending their trade among the Indian nations on their frontiers. The Choctaws, whose towns were near Mobile, were generally favorably disposed to their neighbors, the French. North of the Choctaws were the Chickasaws, whose towns were on the ridges dividing the waters of the Tombigbee from those of the Tallahatchie. This tribe was closely allied with the Cherokees, and both came under the influence of British traders from the Carolinas, who passed through the lands of the Alibamons to reach the Chickasaws. These traders erected storehouses as far as the Natchez and Yazous. The Chickasaws from time to time made treaties with the French, but none of any endurance. They seemed better satisfied with the terms which they made with the English settlers.
In execution of the King's order Bienville, in 1714, assumed command of all the establishments on the Mississippi and the rivers flowing into it. As yet there was but one small fort on the Mississippi, located not far from the sea. He was instructed to erect two others, one among the Natchez and the other on the Wabash. The connection of Louisiana with Canada was a favorite project at court, and it had been very strongly recommended to both colonial governments. In execution of this purpose Bienville ascended the Mississippi to confer with the Natchez Indians, and in June 1714 a fort was built on the spot which Iberville had chosen for a town, and named Fort Rosalie. In the same year Fort Toulouse was built in the country of the upper Creeks, near the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, and a depot established where furs were bought from the Indians and floated down the Alabama River to Mobile.
De L'Epinay was appointed Governor of the Province on March 3, 1716, to succeed Cadillac, and served for a period of about 11 months. He arrived in Mobile Bay on March 9, 1717, accompanied by M. Hubert, the new commissary general. De L'Epinay soon became engaged in dissentions with Bienville, just as Cadillac had done before him, both being jealous of the superior position held by Bienville in the affections of the settlers and Indians. After about 5 years of operation Crozat, disappointed in the expectations he had entertained, surrendered his charter to the King on the 23d day of August 1717. In referring to this period in the life of the struggling settlements, Martin says that neither the commerce nor agriculture of the colony was increased. The troops sent out by the King, and the colonists who came from France, did not swell its population to more than 700 persons.
THE WESTERN CO. ACQUIRES CONTROL OF LOUISIANA A few days after the Crown accepted the surrender of Crozat's charter a new corporation, styled the Western Co., controlled largely by John Law, succeeded to its privileges. This company was granted the exclusive commerce of Louisiana for 25 years. On February 9, 1718, three vessels of the Western Co. arrived at Dauphine Island, bringing orders for the recall of De L'Epinay and the appointment of Bienville to succeed him. It was with heartfelt satisfaction that the troops and settlers saw the chief command of Louisiana once more restored to their well-beloved chief, who, after almost 20 years spent in the colony, knew more of its wants and resources than did any other individual. In 1718 Bienville visited the banks of the Mississippi to select a spot for the principal settlement of the Province, and the site on which New Orleans now stands was designated. He continued as Governor for 8 years, when in 1726 he was again replaced, this time by Perier, sent over from France by the company.
The Western Co. was no more successful in developing the colony as a speoulative enterprise than Crozat had been. Heavy financial losses were suffered, and the scandals and hardships which followed upon the failure of Law's bank brought the enterprise to a ruinous termination. Added to the financial burdens was the constant menace of hostile Indians, and the terrible inroads they made upon the population. One of their most diabolical orgies of slaughter occurred on the 28th of November 1729, when the Natchez Indians, under pretext of trade and friendly greetings with the settlers who had established a town in their midst, drew their knives and guns upon an unsuspecting populace and massacred 138 men, 35 women, and 56 children. A large number of women, children, and blacks were carried off into slavery. In retaliation for this barbarous act French troops drove the Natchez from their country. Some found shelter west of the Mississippi, while others sought refuge with the Chickasaws. The charter of the trading company was returned to the King in 1732. Its further prolongation seemed to offer no hope for success in consummating the company's plans. Perier proved a feeble administrator in dealing with the Choctaw and Natchez Indians, and they were constantly breaking promises and engaging in hostile acts. During the 14 years that the Western Co. controlled the Province of Louisiana the white population increased from 700 to upwards of 6,000, and the blacks from 20 to 2,000.
THE KING AND BIENVILLE AGAIN IN CONTROL
The sadly harassed settlers and garrisons welcomed once more their tried and able leader when again, in 1733, the governorship was restored to his hands. He found so much hostility on the part of some of the Indians that drastic action was necessary.
The Chickasaws belonged entirely to the English and the Choctaws were fast drifting the same way. The Natchez, who had found refuge among the Chickasaws, now resumed their predatory warfare on the distant settlements of the colony, and together with the Chickasaws greatly, obstructed communication by the Mississippi to the Illinois, the Wabash, and to Canada. As the province could enjoy no tranquillity as long as these outrages went unchallenged, Bien ville sent an officer to the principaz village of the Chickasaws to demand the surrender of the domiciled Natchez to the French Government. This emissary was informed that the Natchel could not be given up, as they had been received by the Chickasaws and now formed a part of that nation. When Bien ville learned of the attitude of the Chickasaw Nation, he decided that it was time to punish the Natchez and to make the Chickasaws understand that they could no longer obstruct the free passage of the French from the mouth of the Mississippi to the Great Lakes.
To insure the success of any campaign conducted against the Chickasaws, it was necessary to have the Choctaws as allies, as the total strength of the French troops in the Province was only 13 companies of from 35 to 40 men each. Of