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Terrible Massacre At Natchez
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The colony of Louisiana was now in a flourishing condition; its fields were cultivated by more than two thousand Negroes; cotton, indigo, tobacco and grain were produced; skins and furs of all descriptions were obtained in a traffic with the Indians; and lumber was extensively exported to the West India islands. The province was protected by eight hundred troops of the line; but the bloody massacre of the French population of Fort Rosalie, at the Natchez, arrested these rapid strides of prosperity, and shrouded all things in sadness and gloom. Our library contains many accounts of this horrible affair, which harmonize very well with each other; but in reference to the causes which led to it, more particularly, we propose to introduce the statement of Le Page Du Pratz, who was residing in Louisiana at the time. We give his account, in his own faithful style:
“Chopart had been commandant of the post of the Natchez, from which he was removed on account of some act of injustice. Governor Perrier, but lately arrived, suffered himself to be prepossessed in his favor, on his telling him that he had commanded that post with applause, and thus he obtained the command from Perrier, who was unacquainted with his character. This new commandant, on taking possession of his post, projected the forming of one of the most eminent settlements of the whole colony. For this purpose he examined all the grounds unoccupied by the French, but could not find anything that came up to the grandeur of his views. Nothing but the village of the White Apple, a square league, at least, in extent, could give him the satisfaction, and there he resolved immediately to settle. This ground was distant from the fort about two leagues.1 Conceited with the beauty of his project, the commandant sent for the Sun of that village, to come to the fort; upon his arrival, he told him, without ceremony, that he must look out for another ground to build his village of the Apple, and that he must directly close the huts and retire somewhere else. The better to cover his design, he gave out that it was necessary for the French to settle on the banks of the rivulet, where stood the great village and the abode of the Great Sun. The commandant, doubtless, supposed that he was speaking to a slave, whom we may command in a tone of absolute authority. But he knew not that the natives of Louisiana are such enemies to a state of slavery, that they prefer death itself; above all, the suns, accustomed to govern despotically, have still a greater aversion to it.
“The Sun of the Apple made answer, that his ancestors had lived in that village for as many years as there were hairs in his double cue, and, therefore, it was good they should continue there. Scarce had the interpreter explained this answer to the commandant, when the latter fell into a passion, and, threateningly, told the Sun, that if he did not quit his village, in a few days, he might repent it. The Sun replied: ‘When the French came to ask us for land, to settle on, they told us there was land enough still unoccupied for them, and that the same Sun would enlighten them all, and all would walk in the same path.’ He wanted to proceed further, in justification of what he alleged, but the commandant, in a passion, said he was resolved to be obeyed. The Sun, without discovering any emotion or passion, then withdrew, only observing that he was going to assemble the old men of his village to hold a council upon the affair.
“In this council it was resolved to represent to the commandant, that the corn of all the people of their village was already shot a little out of the earth, and that all their hens were laying their eggs. That if they quitted their village now, the chicken and corn would be lost both to the French and now, the chicken and corn would be lost both to the French and to themselves. ——– The commandant turned a deaf ear to these views, and threatened to chastise the Chiefs if they did not comply with his orders, in a very short time, which he named. The Sun reported this answer to his council, who debated the question. But the policy of the old men was, that they should be allowed to stay in their village until harvest, and until they had time to dry their corn and shake out the grain. In consideration of this privilege, they each proposed to pay the commandant, in so many moons, a basket of corn and a fowl. ———- The cupidity of the commandant made him accept the proposition with joy, and blinded him with regard to the consequences of his tyranny. He, however, pretended that he agreed to the offer out of favor, to do a pleasure to a nation so beloved, and who had ever been good friends of the French. The Sun appeared highly satisfied to have obtained a delay sufficient for taking the precautions necessary to the security of the nation, for he was by no means the dupe of the feigned benevolence of the commander.
“The Sun, upon his return, again caused the council to be assembled. ———- He stated to them that it was necessary to avail themselves of this time, in order to withdraw themselves from this proposed payment and tyrannical domination of the French, who grew dangerous in proportion as they multiplied. That the Natchez ought to remember the war made upon them, in violation of the peace concluded between them. That this war, having been made upon their village alone, they ought to consider of the surest means to take a just and bloody vengeance. That this enterprise being of the utmost importance, it called for much secrecy, for solid measures, and for much policy. That it was proper to cajole the French chief more than ever, and that the affair required reflection before it was proposed to the Grand Sun.
“In the meantime, the old men had come to the determination, not only to revenge themselves, but to engage in the entire destruction of all the French in the province. When, therefore, the council again met, the most venerable man rose and delivered the following speech:
” ‘We have a long time been sensible that the neighborhood of the old French is a greater prejudice that benefit to us. We, who are old, see this — the young see it not. The wares of the French yield pleasure to the youth, but to what papoose is it, except to debauch the young women, and taint the blood of the nation, and make them vain and idle? The young men are in the same condition — they must work themselves to death to maintain their families and please their children. Before the French came among us, we were men, content with what we had, and walked with boldness every path. Now we go groping about, afraid of meeting briars. We walk like slaves, which we shall soon be, since the French already treat us as if we were such. When they are sufficiently strong, they will no longer dissemble. For the least fault of our young people they will then tie them to a post and whip them. Have they not already done so to one of our young men, and is not death preferable to slavery? What wait we for? Shall we suffer the French to multiply till we are no longer in a condition to oppose them? What will the other nations say of the Natchez, who are admitted to be the greatest of all Red men? Let us set ourselves at liberty.
“From this very day let our women get provisions ready, without telling them the reason. Go and carry the pipe of peace to all the nations of this country. Tell them that the French, being stronger here than elsewhere, enslave us the more; but when they spread out they will treat all nations in like manner. That it is their interest to join us to prevent so great a misfortune. That they have only to join us to cut off the French to a man in one day and in one hour!’ “
Here the speaker continued his address and exhorted them to be prepared to fall upon the French at none o’clock, on the morning of the day when they were to deliver to the commandant the corn and chickens, and that the warriors were to carry with them their arms, as if going to a hunt. They unanimously approved his views, and ledged themselves to carry them out. Du Pratz continues:
“Notwithstanding the profound secrecy observed by the Natchez, the council held by the Suns and aged nobles gave the people great uneasiness, unable, as they were, to penetrate into the matter. The female Suns had alone, in this nation, the right to demand why they were kept in the dark in this affair. The young grand female Sun was a princess scarce eighteen. None but the Stung Arm, a woman of great wit, and no less sensible of it, could be offended that nothing was disclosed to her. In effect, she made known to her son her displeasure at this reserve with respect to herself. He replied that the several deputations were made in order to renew their good intelligence with the other nations, to whom they had not, in a long time, sent an embassy, and who might imagine themselves slighted by such neglect. This feigned excuse seemed to appease the princess, but not quite to rid her of all her uneasiness, which, on the contrary was heightened upon the return of the embassies, when she saw the Suns assemble in secret council together. She was filled with rage, which would have broken out, if her prudence had not set bounds to it. Happy it is for the French that she imagined herself neglected. I am persuaded that the colony owes its preservation to the vexation of this woman, rather than to any affection, which she entertained for the French, as she was now far advanced in years, and her French gallant long since dead. On order to get to the bottom of the secret, she prevailed on her son to accompany her on a visit to a relation that lay sick at the village of the Meal, and leading him the most distant and retired route, took occasion to reproach him with the secrecy he and the other Suns observed with regard to her. She insisted on her right, as a mother, and her privilege as a princess, adding, that although the world and herself, too, had told him he was a son of a Frenchman, yet her own blood was much dearer to her than that of strangers; that she need not apprehend she would ever betray him to the French against whom, she said, you are plotting.
“The son, stung with these reproaches, told her it was unusual to reveal what the old men of the council had once resolved upon, and as he was Grand Sun, he ought to set a good example in this respect; but seeing you have guessed the whole affair, I need not inform you further. You know as much as I do myself, only hold your tongue.”
“She replied that she was in no pain to know, against whom he had taken his measures aright, in order to surprise them, as they were a people of great penetration, although their commandant had none. Her son told her that she had nothing to apprehend as to the measures taken; that all her nations had heard and approved their project, and promised to fall upon the French in their neighborhood on the same day with all the Natchez; that the Choctaws had resolved to destroy all the French lower down and along the Mississippi, up as far as the Tonicas, to which last people, he said we did not send, as they and the Oumas are too much wedded to the French. He at last told her that the bundle of rods2 lay in the temple, on the flat timber. The Stung Arm, being informed of the whole design, pretended to approve it, and leaving her son at ease, henceforward was only solicitous how she might defeat this barbarous design. The time was pressing, and the term fixed for the execution was almost expired. Unwilling to see the French cut off to a man in one day, she resolved to apprise them of the conspiracy through some young woman who loved them, enjoining them never to tell from whom they had their information.3 She desired a soldier whom she met to tell the commandant that the Natchez had lost their senses, and to desire him upon his guard. The soldier faithfully performed his commission, but the commandant treated him as a coward and a visionary, — caused him to be placed in irons, and declared he would never take any steps towards repairing the fort, as the Natchez would then imagine he was a man of no resolution. The Stung Arm fearing a discovery, notwithstanding her precaution and the secrecy she enjoined, repaired to the temple and pulled some rods out of the fatal bundle. Her design was to hasten the time fixed, to the end that such Frenchman as escaped the massacre might apprise their countrymen, many of whom had informed the commandant, who placed seven of them in irons. The female Sun, seeing the time approaching, and many of those punished whom he had charged to acquaint the governor, resolved to speak to the under-lieutenant, but to better purpose. Notwithstanding all these warnings, the commandant went out into the night before on a party of pleasure, with some other Frenchmen, to the grand village of the Natchez, without returning to the fort till the break of day, where he had no sooner arrived than he was admonished to be upon his guard. Still stimulated with his last night’s debauch, he added impudence to neglect, and dispatched his interpreter to demand of the Grand Sun, though but a young man knew how to dissemble, and spoke in such a manner to the interpreter as to allay his suspicions and fears.4
We propose now to introduce the statement of Father Le Petit, who at the time of its occurrence was residing in New Orleans, respecting the massacre itself. He was a learned and pious Jesuit priest. The following is his letter to Father D ‘Avaugour, procurator of the missions in North America:
“AT NEW ORLEANS, 12th July, 1730.
“My Reverend Father–the Peace of our Lord be with you: —— ”
After having given you an imperfect idea of the character and customs of the Natchez Indians, I proceed, my reverend father, as I have promised you, to enter upon a detailed account of their perfidy and treason. It was on the second of December of the year 1729 that we learned they had surprised the French, and had massacred almost all of them. This sad news was first brought to us by one of the planters, who had escaped their fury. It was confirmed to us on the following day by other French fugitives and finally, some French women, whom they had made slaves, and were forced afterwards to restore, brought us all the particulars.
“At the first rumor of an event so sad, the alarm and consternation was general in New Orleans. Although the massacre had taken place more than a hundred leagues from here, you would have supposed that it happened under our eyes. Each one was mourning the loss of a relative — a friend — or some property; all were alarmed for their own lives, for there was reason for fear that the conspiracy of the Indians had been general. This unlooked for massacre began on Monday, the 28th of October, about nine o’clock in the morning. Some cause of dissatisfaction which the Natchez thought they had with the commander, and the arrival of a number of richly laden boats for the garrison and the colonists, determined them to hasten their enterprise, and to strike their blow sooner that they had agreed with the other confederate tribes.5 First they had divided themselves, and sent into the fort, into the village, and into the two grants, as many Indians as there were French in each of these places. Then they feigned that they were going out for a great hunt, and undertook to trade with the French for guns, powder and ball, offering to pay them as much, and even more, than was customary; and in truth, as there was no reason to suspect their fidelity, they made at the time, an exchange of their poultry and corn for some arms and ammunition, which they used advantageously against us. It is true that some expressed their distrust, but this was thought to have so little foundation that they were treated as cowards, who were frightened at their own shadows. They had been on their guard against the Choctaws; but as for the Natchez, they had never districted them, and they were so persuaded of their good faith that it increased their hardihood. Having thus posted themselves in different houses, provided with the arms obtained from us, they attacked, at the same time, each his man; and in less than two hours they massacred more than twohundred of the French. The best known are M. De Chopart, commander of the post; M. Du Codere, commander among the Yazoos; M. Des Ursins; Messieurs De Kolly, father and son; Messieurs De Longrays, Des Noyers, Bailly, etc.
“The Father Du Poisson had just performed the funeral rites of his associate, the brother Crucy, who had died very suddenly of a sunstroke; he was on his way to consult Governor Perrier, and to adopt with him proper measures to enable the Arkansas to descend the banks of the Mississippi, for the accommodation of the voyagers. He arrived among the Natchez on the 26th of November, that is, two days before the massacre. The next day which was the first Sunday of Advent, he said mass in the parish, and preached in the absence of the cure. He was to have returned in the afternoon to his mission among the Arkansas, but he was detained by some sick persons, to whom it was necessary to administer the sacraments. On Monday he was about to say mass, and to carry the holy sacrament to one of those sick persons whom he had confessed, the evening before, when the massacre began. A gigantic Chief, six feet in height, seized him, and having thrown him to the ground, cut off his head with blows of a hatchet. The father, in falling, only uttered these words: ‘Ah, my God! ah, my God!’ M. Du Codere drew his sword to defend him, when he was himself killed by a musket ball from another Indian, whom he did not perceive.
“The barbarians spared but two of the French, a tailor and a carpenter, who were able to serve their wants. They did not treat badly, either the Negro slaves or the Indians who were willing to give themselves up; but they ripped up the abdomen of every pregnant woman, and killed almost all those who were nursing their children, because they were disturbed by their cries and tears. They did not kill the other women, but made them their slaves, and treated them with every indignity during the two or three months that they were their masters. The least miserable were those who knew how to sew, because they kept them busy in making shirts, dresses, etc. The others were employed in cutting and carrying wood for cooking, and in pounding the corn of which they made their sagamite. But two things, above all, aggravated the grief and hardness of their slavery; it was, in the first place, to have for masters those same persons whom they had seen dipping their cruel hands in the blood of their husbands; and in the second place, to hear them continually saying that the French had been treated in the same manner at all the other posts, and that the country was now entirely freed from them.
“During the massacre, the Sun, or the Great Chief of the Natchez, was seated quietly under the tobacco shed of the company. His warriors brought to his feet the head of the commander, about which they ranged those of the principal French of the post, leaving their bodies a prey of the dogs, the buzzards, and other carnivorous birds.6 When they were assured that no other Frenchmen remained at the post, they applied themselves to plunder the houses, the magazines of the Indian company, and all the boats which were still loaded by the banks of the river. They employed the Negroes to transport the merchandise, which they divided among themselves, with the exception of the munitions of war, which they placed, for security, in a separate cabin. While the brandy lasted, of which they found a good supply, they passed their days and nights in drinking, singing, dancing, and insulting, in the most barbarous manner, the dead bodies and the memory of the French. The Choctaws and the other Indians being engaged in the plot with them, they felt at their ease, and did not at all fear that they would draw on themselves the vengeance which was merited by their cruelty and perfidy. One night, when they were plunged in drunkenness and sleep, Madame Des Noyers wished to make use of the Negroes to revenge the death of her husband and the French, but she was betrayed by the person to whom she confided her design, and came very near being burned alive.
“Some of the French escaped the fury of the Indians by taking refuge in the woods, where they suffered extremely from hunger and the effects of the weather.7 One of them, on arriving here, relieved us of a little disquietude we felt in regard to the post we occupy among the Yazoos, which is not more than forty or fifty leagues above the Natchez by water and only fifteen or twenty by land. Not being able to endure the extreme cold from which he suffered, he left the woods under cover of the night, to go and warm himself in the house of a Frenchman. When he was near it he heard the voices of Indians, and deliberated whether he should enter. He determined, however, to do so, preferring rather to perish by the hands of these barbarians than to die of famine and cold. He was agreeably surprised when he found these savages ready to render him a service, to heap kindness upon him, to commiserate him, to console him, to furnish him with provisions, clothes and a boat to make his escape to New Orleans. These were the Yazoos, who were returning from chanting the calumet, at Oumas. The Chief charged him to say to M. Perrier that he had nothing to fear on the part of the Yazoos, that ‘they would not lose their spirit,’ — that is, that they would always remain attached to the French, and that he would be constantly on the watch with his tribe, to warn the French boats that were descending the river, to be on their guard against the Natchez.
“We believed, for a long time, that the promises of this Chief were very sincere, and feared no more Indian perfidy for our post among the Yazoos. But learn, my reverend father, the disposition of these Indians, and how little one is able to trust their words, even when accompanied by the greatest demonstrations of friendship. Scarcely had they returned to their own village, when loaded with presents they received from the Natchez, they followed their example and imitated their treachery. United with the Corroys, they agreed together to exterminate the French. They began with Father Souel, the missionary of both tribes, who was then living in the midst of them, in their own village. On the 11th of December, Father Souel was returning in the evening from visiting the Chief, and while in a ravine, received many musket balls, and fell dead on the spot. The Indian immediately rushed to his cabin to plunder it. His Negro, who composed all his family and all his defense, armed himself with a wood-cutter’s knife to prevent the pillage, and even wounded one of the savages. This zealous action cost him his life, but happily less than a month before he had received baptism, and was living in a most Christian manner.
“These Indians, who even to that time seemed sensible of the affection which their missionary bore them, reproached themselves for his death, as soon as they were capable of reflection; but returning again to their natural ferocity, they adopted the resolution of putting a finishing stroke to their crime, by the destruction of the whole French post. ‘Since the Black Chief is dead,’ said they, ‘it is the same as if all the French were dead; let us not spare any.’ The next day they executed their barbarous plan. They repaired, early in the morning, to the fort, which was not more than a league distant, and whose occupants supposed, on their arrival, that the Indians wished to chant the calumet to the Chevalier des Roches, who commanded that post, in the absence of M. de Codere. He had but seventeen men with him, who had no suspicion of any evil design on the part of the savages, and were, therefore, all massacred, not one escaping their fury. They, however, spared the lives of four women and five children, whom they found there, and whom they made slaves. One of the Yazoos having stripped the missionary, clothed himself in his garments, and shortly after announced to the Natchez that his nation had redeemed their pledge, and that the French, settled among them, were all massacred. In this city, there was no longer any doubt on that point, as soon as they learned what came near being the fate of Father Doutreleau. This missionary had availed himself of the time when the Indians were engaged in their winter occupations, to come and see us, for the purpose of regulating some matters relating to his mission. He set out on the first of this year, 1730, and not expecting to arrive at the residence of Father Souel, of whose fate he was ignorant, in time, to say mass, he determined to say it at the mouth of the Little Yazoo river, where his party had cabined.
“As he was preparing for the sacred office, he saw a boat full of Indians landing; they demanded from them of what nation they were. ‘Yazoos, comrades of the French,’ they replied, making a thousand friendly demonstrations to the voyagers, who accompanied the missionary, and presenting them with provisions. While the father was preparing his altar, a flock of bustards passed, and the voyagers fired at them the only two guns they had, without thinking of reloading, as mass had already commenced. The Indians noted this, and placed themselves behind the voyagers, as if it was their intention to hear mass, although they were not Christians. At the time the father was saying the Kyrie Eleison, the Indians made their discharge; the missionary, seeing himself wounded in his right arm, and seeing one of the voyagers killed at his feet, and the four others fled, threw himself on his knees to receive the last fatal blow, which he regarded as inevitable. In this posture he received two or three discharges, but although the Indians fired while almost touching him, yet they did not inflict on him any new wounds. Finding himself then, as it were, miraculously escaped from so many mortal blows, he took to flight, having on still his priestly garments, and without any other defense than entire confidence in God, whose particular protection was given him, as the events proved. He threw himself into the water, and after advancing some steps gained the boat, in which two of the voyagers were making their escape. They had supposed him to be killed by some of the many balls which they had heard fired on him. In climbing up into the boat, and turning his head to see whether any one of his pursuers was following him too closely, he received in the mouth a discharge of small shot, the greater part of which was flattened against his teeth, though some of them entered his gums and remained there for a long time. I have myself seen two of them. Father Doutreleau, all wounded as he was, undertook the duty of steering the boat, while his two companions placed themselves at the oars; unfortunately one of them at setting out had his thigh broken by a musket ball, from the effects of which he has since remained a cripple. ——- As soon as they found themselves freed from their enemies, they dressed their wounds as well as they could, and for the purpose of aiding their flight from that fatal shore they threw into the river everything they had in their boat, preserving only some pieces of raw bacon for their nourishment. It had been their intention to stop in passing at the Natchez, but having seen that the houses of the French were either demolished or burned, they did not think it advisable to listen to the compliments of the Indians who, from the bank of the river, invited them to land. They placed a wide distance between them as soon as possible, and thus shunned the balls which were ineffectually fired at them. It was then that they began to distrust all the Indian nations and, therefore, resolved not to go near the land until they reached New Orleans; and supposing that the savages might have rendered themselves masters of it, to descend even to the Balize, where they hoped to find some French vessel provided to receive the wreck of this colony. ———– I cannot express to you, my reverend father, the great satisfaction I felt at seeing Father Doutreleau, his arm in a scarf, arrive (in New Orleans) after a voyage of more than four hundred leagues, all the clothes he had on having been borrowed, except his cassock. I placed him immediately in the hands of brother Parisel, who examined his wounds and who dressed them with great care and speedy success. The missionary was not yet entirely cured of his wounds when he departed to act as chaplain to the French army, as he had promised the officers, in accordance with their request.
“Knowing as you do, my reverend father, the vigilance and the oversight of our Governor, you can well imagine that he did not sleep in this sad crisis in which we found ourselves. We may say, without flattery, that he surpassed himself by the rapid movements he made, and by the wise measures he adopted to revenge the French blood which had been shed, and to prevent the evils with which almost all the posts of the colony were threatened. As soon as he was apprised of this unexpected attack by the Natchez Indians, he caused the news to be carried to all the posts, and even as far as the Illinois, not by the ordinary route of the river, which was closed, but on one side by the Natchitoches and the Arkansas, and the other by Mobile and the Chickasaw. He invited the neighbors, who were our allies, and particularly the Choctaws to avenge this outrage. He furnished arms and ammunition to all the houses of the city and to the plantations. He caused two ships, that is, the Duc de Bourbon and the Alexandre, to ascend the river as far as the Tonicas. These ships were like two good fortresses against the insults of the Indians, and in case of attack, two certain asylums for the women and children. He caused a ditch to be dug entirely around the city, and placed guard houses at the four extremities. He organized for its defense many companies of city militia, who mounted guard during the whole night. As there was more to fear in the grants and in the plantations than in the city, he fortified them with the most care. He had good forts erected at Chapitoulas, Cannes, Brûles, Altemands, Bayagoulas, and Pointe Coupee.
“At first, our governor, listing only to the dictates of his own courage, adopted the design of placing himself at the head of the troops, but it was represented to him that he ought not to quit New Orleans, where his presence was absolutely necessary; that there was danger of the Choctaws determining to fall upon the city, if it should be deprived of its troops; and the Negroes, to free themselves from slavery, might join them, as some had done with the Natchez. Moreover, he could feel perfectly easy with regard to the conduct of the troops, as the Chevalier De Loubois, with whose experience and bravery he was well acquainted, had been appointed to command them. Whilst our little army was repairing to the Tonicas, seven hundred Choctaws, mustered and conducted by M. De Sueur, marched toward the Natchez. We were informed, by a party of these people that the Natchez were not at all on their guard, but passed all their nights in dancing. The Choctaws took them, therefore by surprise and made a descent on them, the 27th of January, at the break of day. In less than three hours they had delivered fifty-nine persons, both women and children, with the tailor and carpenter, and one hundred and six Negroes or Negro women, with their children. They made eighteen of the Natchez prisoners, and took sixty scalps. They would have taken more, if they had not been intent on freeing the slaves, as they had been directed. They had but two men killed and seven or eight wounded. The encamped, with their prizes at the grant of St. Catherine, in a mere park enclosed with stakes. The victory would have been complete if they had waited the arrival of the French army, as had been agreed upon by their deputies.8
“The Natchez, seeing themselves attacked by the formidable Choctaws regarded their defeat as certain, and shutting themselves up in two forts, passed the following nights in dancing their death dance. In their speeches, we heard them reproaching the Choctaws for their perfidy in declaring in favor of the French, contrary to the pledge they had given, to unite with them for our destruction. Three days before this action, the Sieur Mesplex landed at the Natchez with five other Frenchmen; they had volunteered to M. De Loubois, to carry to the Indians negotiations for peace, that they might be able, under this pretext, to gain information with regard to their force and their present situation. But, in descending from their boat, they encountered a party who, without giving them time to speak, killed three of their men and made the other three prisoners. The next day they sent one of these prisoners with a letter, in which they demanded, as hostages, the Sieur Broutin, who had formerly been commander among them, and the Chief of the Tonicas. Besides, they demanded, as the ransom for the women, children and slaves, two hundred guns, two hundred barrels of powder, two thousand gun flints, two hundred knives, two hundred hatchets, two hundred pickaxes, five hogsheads of brandy, twenty casks of wine, twenty barrels of vermillion, two hundred shirts, twenty pieces of limbourg, twenty pieces of cloth, twenty coats with lace on the seams, twenty hats bordered with plumes, and a hundred coats of a plainer kind. Their design was to massacre the French, who should bring these goods. On the very same day, with every refinement in cruelty, they burned the Sieur Mesplex and his companion.
“On the 8th of February, the French, with the Tonicas and some other small tribes from the lower end of the Mississippi, arrived at the Natchez, and seized their temple, dedicated to the Sun. The impatience and impartibility of the Choctaws, who, like all these Indians, are capable of striking only one blow and then disperse — the small number of French soldiers, who found themselves worn down by fatigues — the want of provisions, which the Indians stole from the French — the failure of ammunition, with which they were not able to satisfy the Choctaws, who wasted one part of it, and placed the other in reserve to be used in hunting — the resistance of the Natchez, who were well fortified, and who fought in desperation — all these things decided us to listen to the propositions which they besieged made, after the trenches had been opened for seven days. They threatened, if we persisted in the siege, to burn those of the French who remained; while, on the other hand, they offered to restore them, if we would withdraw our seven pieces of cannon. These, in reality, for want of a good gunner, and under present circumstance, were scarcely in a fit state to give them any fear.
“These propositions were accepted, and fulfilled on both sides. On the 25th of February, the besieged faithfully restored all that they had promised, while the besiegers retired with their cannon to a small fort which they had hastily built on the Escore, near the river, for the purpose of always keeping the Natchez in check, and ensuring a passage to the voyagers. Governor Perrier gave the command of it to M. D’Artaguette, as an acknowledgement of the intrepidity with which, during the siege, he had exposed himself to the greatest dangers, and everywhere braved death.
“Before the Choctaws had determined to fall upon the Natchez, they had been to them to convey the calumet, and were received in a very novel manner. They found them and their horses adorned with chasubles and drapery of the altars; many wore patterns about their necks, and drank, and gave to drink, of brandy in the chalices and pyx. And the Choctaws themselves, when they had gained these articles by pillaging our enemies, renewed this profane sacrilege, by making the same use of our ornaments and sacred vessels in their dances and sports. We were never able to recover more than a small portion of them.”9
Here Father Le Petit discontinues his detail of the Natchez war, and ends his letter with some remarks upon the character of the Illinois and several other tribes of Indians. He appears to have deemed it a very great outrage that the Natchez thus prostituted their holy vessels and priestly robes, yet he announces that the French army “arrived at the Natchez and seized their temple, dedicated to the Sun,” which they, no doubt, also destroyed. The religion of the Natchez was as sacred to the Natchez, as the religion of the Roman Catholics was to the good Father Le Petit.
The Natchez Chiefs proposed to surrender more than two hundred prisoners, if the French commander would remove his artillery and withdraw his forces, or else all the prisoners would be consumed by fire. Loubois, to save the lives of these miserable captives, consented, yet with the most secret intention of wreaking his vengeance upon the Indians as soon as the prisoners were in his possession. But he was sadly disappointed, for the Indians, suspecting treachery on his part, took advantage of the suspension of hostilities, and one night evacuated the fort, and succeeded in gaining the opposite shores of the Mississippi with all their women and children. The prisoners were found in the fort, agreeable to the treaty. Loubois was astonished at the dexterous maneuver, but he saw the folly of pursuing the foe, who had now secreted themselves in the vast swamps. He began the erection of a terraced fort upon the verge of the bluff, and leaving there a garrison of one hundred and twenty men, returned with his troops and the rescued prisoners to New Orleans.
The largest portion of the Natchez, conducted by the Great Sun, established themselves “upon the lower Washita, on the point between the Little River and the Washita, just below the mouth of Little River, where the Washita assumes the name of Black river.”10 Here the Natchez placed about four hundred acres of land in a state of defense by the erection of large and small mounds and extensive embankments. Other portions of this tribe sought an asylum among the Chickasaws, while others wandered still further east, and took up their abode upon a portion of the territory now embraced in Talladega county, Alabama. The English traders in Carolina, it is said, rejoiced to the destruction of the French, and many of them, then residing among the Chickasaws, urged those people and the refugee Natchez to engage in a vigorous warfare, and not only to defend their soil but to exterminate the French. In the meantime Governor Perrier made preparations to follow up the Natchez upon the Washita, but his exertions were to some extent defeated by a serious Negro insurrection, which occurred upon the plantations in the vicinity of New Orleans.
However, upon the 10th of August one of the company’s ships arrived at the Balize with some troops and supplies. Nov 15 1731: Although mortified that the reinforcement was so small, Perrier added them to the colonial troops, and, procuring a Choctaw force at Mobile, left New Orleans with an army of six hundred and fifty, which was increased on the way to one thousand by Indian allies. Reaching the mouth of Black river, they at length came in sight of the enemy stronghold. The troops were disembarked, the fort invested, and for three days the besieged made a spirited resistance, when they made propositions which Perrier rejected. At length the Indians consented to surrender the Great Sun and one War Chief, which the Governor refused. They then consented to surrender sixty-five men and about two hundred women and children, upon conditions that their lives be spared. Perrier once more opened his artillery upon them, but a heavy rain, which continued until night, silenced his batteries. When night set in the Natchez began to escape from their defenses, and make their way up the river in the midst of a tempest of wind and rain. The Indian allies went in pursuit, and returned with one hundred prisoners. The next day Perrier demolished the outworks of the fort and began his voyage to New Orleans, where he arrived in due time with four hundred and twenty-seven captives of the Natchez tribe. At the head of them were the Great Sun and several principal Chiefs. Soon afterwards they were all shipped to St. Domingo and sold as slaves.11 Those of the Natchez who escaped during the stormy night rallied again and collected in one body near the French settlements on Red river. They then marched and attacked the post in a most furious manner, but St. Denys, the commandant, the intrepid officer, repelled them with the loss of ninety-two braves, including all their Chiefs, The remnant escaped by flight. This was the closing scene in the Natchez drama, and ended the existence of these brave Indians as a distinct tribe.12
“The site of the White Apple village was about twelve miles south of the present city of Natchez, near the mouth of second creek, and three miles east of the Mississippi. The site was occupied by the plantation of Colonel Anthony Hutchens, an early emigrant to Florida. All vestiges of Indian industry have disappeared except some mounds in the vicinity.”–Monette’s History of the Valley of the Mississippi vol. 1 p. 258. ↩
By all ancient and modern Indians rods or sticks were used to assemble the nation together. A Chief was accustomed to send forth a warrior with a bundle of sticks, and as he journeyed towards the towns to which he was despatched he would throw away one of these sticks at the close of each day. When he gave them to the party to whom he was bearing them, the latter also continued, at the close of every day, to throw away a stick. The Chiefs who sent these sticks also kept a duplicate number, and each day threw way one, so that those at a distance and those at the council house would meet together on the same day, when the last stick had been thrown away. In modern times sending sticks was called “sending out the broken days,” ↩
“The Sieur de Mace, ensign of the garrison of the fort at Natchez, received advice by a young Indian girl who loved him. She told him, crying, that her nation was to massacre all the French. M. De Mace, amazed at this discourse, questioned his mistress. Her simple answers and her tender tears left him no room to doubt of the plot. He went immediately to give Chopart intelligence of it, who put him under arrest for giving false alarm.” Bossu’s Travels through Louisiana, letter 3, addressed to the Marquis de L’Estrade, vol. I, p. 62. London, 1771.
Bossu also states that Chopart, becoming enraged at Dumont, the second in command, for remonstrating with him against his tyranny towards the Natchez in the commencement of the spring, placed that excellent officer and faithful historian in irons.–Vol. 1, p. 48. ↩
DuPratz’ Louisiana, pp. 79-90. In copying this author’s statement I have occasionally omitted some redundancies and uninteresting detail. ↩
Father Le Petit is mistaken as to the causes which hastened the massacre. It will be recollected that DuPratz told us that Stung Arm pulled out several sticks from the bundle, and it was this which brought on the time sooner. ↩
Dumont, in his “Memoires Historiques sur la Louisiane.” Tome 2, pp. 145-146, thus speaks of Chopart: “In the midst of this general massacre of all the French, Chopart revived, as if Providence had wished to reserve him as a witness of the destruction of so many inhabitants who would not have perished but for his folly. He recognized it, at last, but too late and raising himself from his seat, instead of taking his gun and placing himself on the defense, he fled to his garden, where he gave whistle, in order to call the soldiers of the garrison. But they were no more. He could see all around him, but the sides of the palisades, which enclosed his garden, the earth strewn with their carcasses. At the same time he was surrounded by the savages, who breathed nothing more than his death, while none of them wished to lay hands upon him. The considered him as a “dog,” unworthy of being killed by a brave man, and they made the chief stinking-man come, who killed him with the stroke of a club.” ↩
In a dispatch made by governor Perrier to the Minister of France, dated the 18th of March 1730, he says “A general assassination of the French ensued, which occupied but little time; one single attack terminated it with the exception of the house of M. la Loire des Ursins, in which there were eight men, six of whom were killed, and the remaining two escaped during the night, the Indians having been unable to seize them during the day. M. la Loire des Urains was mounted on a horse and when the attack commenced, and being unable to regain his house, he defended himself until he fell, having killed four Indians. Thus it has cost the Natchez only twelve men to destroy tow hundred and fifty of our people.” Gayarre’s Histoire de la Louisiane, vol. 1. pp. 242-243. ↩
Monette, Martin, and other modern authors, state that Le Seur advanced from the Tombigby, with six hundred warriors, and near Pearl river increased his force to twelve hundred. Arriving near Natchez, and learning the unguarded condition of the Indians of that place, the Choctaws fell upon them, in spite of the entreaties of Le Seur, who urged them to await the arrival of the French army. ↩
“The Early Jesuit Missions in North America,” compiled and translated from the letters of the French Jesuits, with notes by the Rev. Ingraham Kip M. A., Corresponding Member of the New York Historical Society. New York: 1846. See Part 2, pp. 256. ↩
Monette’s History of the Valley of the Mississippi, vol. 1, p. 267. 257 ↩
“The French army re-embarked and carried the Natchez as slaves to New Orleans where they were put in prison; but afterwards, to avoid the infection, the women and the children were disposed of on the King’s plantation and elsewhere. Among these women was the Female Sun, called the Stung Arm, who then told me all she had done in order to save the French. Some time after, these slaves were embarked to St. Domingo, in order to root out that nation in the colony; — and thus that nation, the most conspicuous in the colony and the most useful to the French, was destroyed.” — Du Pratz, p. 95. ↩
In relation to the massacre at Natchez, and the final defeat of those Indians, I have carefully consulted the following authorities: Du Pratz’s Louisiana: London 1774. Bossu’s Travels in Louisiana, vol. 1, London, 1771. Memoire Historique et Politique sur la Louisiane, par M. de Vergennes, Ministre de Louis XVI.; 8 Paris, 1802. Voyage a la Louisiane, par B /// D; Paris, 1802. Memoires Historique sur la Louisiane, par M. Dumont; a Paris, 1753. Kip’s Early Jesuit Missions; New York, 1846. Gayarre’s Histoire de la Louisiane. Martin’s History of Louisiana; New Orleans, 1827. Stoddart’s Sketches, Historical and Descriptive, of Louisiana; Philadelphia, 1812. Monette’s History of the Valley of the Mississippi; New York, 1846. ↩
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