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Fort Toulouse, the Chitimachas and the Natchez Wars
Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Alabama,Military,Native American | No Comments
Another war between England and France began in 1718 – the War of the Quadruple Alliance. The French had succeeded in surrounding the British colonies in North America, except for the boundary with Florida. France seemed poised to have most of the Southeastern Indians as allies. These advanced Native American provinces represented the densest indigenous population north of Mexico. However, the British Navy had destroyed French coastal forts and shipping almost at will. France might control the coastline, but the British controlled the seas.
Anticipating more wars with Great Britain and desiring closer trade relations with the Muskogeans provinces, the French established Fort Toulouse on the Alabama River, at the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers. It was named after Alexandre de Bourbon, Comte de Toulouse. The nearby Alabama Indians called it Franka Choka Chula, which means “French pinewood house.” The combined fortification and trading post was more commonly called Fort des Alibamons by French colonists. Prior to 1763 the Alabama’s occupied most of southern Alabama.
The original post commander was Captain Jean Baptiste Louis DeCourtel Marchand. In 1720 he married Sehoy. She was the widowed daughter of the mikko of the Taskeke town of Otciapofa and a member of the Wind Clan. When she was born in 1702, French maps show the Taskeke still living on the Little Tennessee River in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and in what is now northwestern Georgia. She may have been born in either of those locations.
Conditions deteriorated rapidly at the fort due to lack of supplies from France. The enlisted men mutinied in 1722, killed Captain Marchand and tied up the other officers. The mutineers were later captured and punished at Fort Conde in Mobile.
The fort was garrisoned with 20 to 50 French marines. Many of the men eventually married Alabama or Creek women then established small farms near the fort. There was extensive trade between the local Muskogeans and their French in-laws. Relations were generally excellent between the two peoples in the immediate vicinity of the fort, who were on the way to becoming one hybrid population.
The French lacked the manufacturing and trans-Atlantic shipping capabilities of the British. This was their major handicap in securing full loyalties among the many tribes in the vast territory they claimed. The Muskogeans preferred to trade with the French marines at Fort Toulouse, but the marines were often under-supplied themselves. As a result, traders based in South Carolina and later in Georgia, were able to establish extensive trading zones for British goods, even through the territory was officially under the domain of the King of France
In 1718 Jean Baptiste Le Moyne sailed up the Saint Louis River (Mississippi) for 130 miles until he found dry land of sufficient size to build a fortified capital. It was at the head of a horseshoe bend where Indian war canoes could be seen coming from the north or British ships coming from the south. Large British ships of the line could not even navigate the waters, while the swamps surrounding the small tract of dry land protected it from large scale attacks. The site was chose purely for military reasons. Thus, the City of New Orleans was born.
The Chitimacha’s were one of several surviving remnants of the advanced Mississippian Culture societies that once characterized the region. Male children wore boards to flatten their foreheads, just as the ancient Zoque (Olmecs) had done and the Soque of South Carolina still did. The nobility spoke a different dialect than the commoners. The two classes could not intermarry. In their rigidly hierarchal world, commoners did what they were told to do.
Gov. Jacques-Baptiste Le Moyne probably could have given copper pots to all the wives of the nobility, and received all the free workers he needed. However, instead the French enslaved commoners and nobles alike. It was the greatest insult the French could have given the Chitimacha leaders.
The Chitimachas waged a war against the French based in Biloxi and Mobile from 1706 until 1718. The eastern band of the Chitimacha’s, living between Lake Pontchartrain and Biloxi, was virtually annihilated. Many of the western band members, who lived between the lake and the Mississippi River, were enslaved. It was perfect timing for Jacques-Baptiste LeMoyne. He needed hundreds of slave laborers to dig drainage ditches, level streets and build levees so that the site of New Orleans would become inhabitable. That New Orleans could be built at all was due initially to the toil of the Chitimacha slaves.
The French soon found out, what the British already knew. Homegrown Native American slaves made very poor slaves. Unless maimed or kept in chains 24 hours a day, they would escape at the first opportunity. In the second year of New Orleans’ existence, a shipload of African slaves was delivered to the village. The French desperately needed large gangs of slaves to dig drainage ditches and collector canals. Much of the landscape was useless for Europeans unless it was altered from its original state. By 1721 the population of the fortified village of New Orleans was only 421 persons. Of those residents, approximately 140 were African slaves.
While French relations with the Alabama and Creek Indians were excellent, hostilities were almost incessant between the colonists along the Mississippi River and the Natives. The sources of conflict with the Natchez invariably involved dishonesty by French traders or theft of Natchez land by French planters. A town of the Natchez known as Pomme Blanche (White Apple) was invariably the location of the conflict. Interpersonal conflicts blew up into full scale wars four times in 14 years. These are known now as the First Natchez War (1716), the Second Natchez War (1722), the Third Natchez War (1723), and the Natchez Rebellion of 1729.
The 1729 Rebellion was by far the worst war because it drew in all the provinces of the Natchez and led to a war between the Chickasaw and the French that lasted for over a decade. In the first stage of the rebellion, the Pomme Blanche Natchez killed over 200 Frenchmen and took an even larger group of women, children and slaves prisoners. The French militia retaliated against Natchez villages that were not at war, which resulted in their men joining the rebellion. An army of approximately 500 Choctaws attacked the Natchez village where the French captives were held, freeing most of them. Several hundred Natchez were killed. The Choctaws kept the French women and children in captivity and demanded ransom their prisoners. Counter-attacks by French regulars caused hundreds of more Natchez casualties. The survivors took sanctuary with the Chickasaws, which then caused the French to attack the Chickasaws.
By 1731, a substantial percentage of the Natchez were either dead or headed to short brutal lives on French sugar plantations in the Caribbean. The survivors took refuge among the Chickasaws, Creeks and Cherokees. Small bands of Natchez also eventually settled on the Savannah River near Fort Moore and among the remaining Kusapa (Cusabo) in southern South Carolina. There are two state recognized Natchez tribes in South Carolina. Approximately 6,000 Natchez in Oklahoma now have dual citizenship in both the Natchez Nation and either the Cherokee or Muscogee-Creek Nation.
Throughout the 20th century there was much confusion among historians and archaeologists as to where the Natchez survivors relocated. The main cause of the confusion was scholars did not study colonial archives and maps. They assumed that the territories of the major Southeastern tribes in 1783 were the same as they were in 1731. The mistake was compounded by Protestant missionaries in the 1820s, who mistranslated the Cherokee word for Natchez as meaning “Pine Log.”
The majority of Natchez refugees ended up in northwest Georgia among the Apalachicola Creeks. Most remained in the Apalachicola territory at a location on Pine Log Creek about four miles west of Reinhardt University in northeastern Bartow County, GA. Some settled on Pine Log Creek in Clay County, NC about 7 miles north of Young Harris, GA. Smaller Natchez bands traveled to southern South Carolina and settled among the Edisto Creeks and the Kusa Creeks there. Small Natchez bands also settled in several Creek towns in Georgia and Alabama.
When Great Britain awarded the territory of the Kusa and Apalachicola Creeks in northwest Georgia to the Cherokees, apparently some Natchez elected to join with the Cherokees, while others moved southward to Muskogean lands. During the remainder of the 1700s, the Natchez-Creeks maintained a bi-cultural status and tended to congregate in certain Creek towns. Those who opted to remain among the Cherokees were in initially the region that was attacked most by Koweta Creek armies. As a result, the Cherokee-Natchez tended to move deeper in to the Cherokee country.
Over 800 Chickamauga Cherokees were killed in the Battle of Etowah Cliffs in 1793. Many of the survivors took refuge in Pine Log, GA. Among those refugees included the future leaders Major Ridge, James Vann, Charles Hicks and Sequoyah. Major Ridge was Natchez-Cherokee. His sister already lived in Pine Log. It was at Pine Log, GA where Sequoyah created the Cherokee Syllabary.
Part Six will discuss the many intertribal wars that flared across the Province of Louisianne between 1738 and 1755. Most involved Muskogean allies of the French against the Cherokees, who were British allies.
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