While the English east of the Alleghany mountains were adopting active, but secret measures, to stop the progress of French colonization on the banks of the Mississippi river, their traders were meeting the French traders every where among the southern Indians, and their mutual animosity and competition causing frequent quarrels, oft terminating in collisions, in which the unfortunate Indians always became involved on the one or the other side. But the French, at an; early day had excited the animosity of the Chickasaws by failing to protect a band of their warriors who had solicited an escort from Mobile to their homes through the Choctaw Nation, with, whom they were then at war; but in passing; through the Choctaw Nation, though under a French escort, they were slain to a man by the Choctaws. The Chickasaws, believing it was done through the connivance of the French, never forgave them; and in all the quarrels between the French and English traders they took sides with the latter and “finally became the firm and undeviating friends, and allies of the English, and the most bitter” enemies of the French, giving them more trouble than all the other southern tribes, and whom they regarded as the most dreaded enemies among all the Indians in the Mississippi valley.
Their territory lay exactly between the French settlements in Louisiana and Illinois and thus made all intercourse extremely dangerous. The high point upon which, Memphis, Tennessee, is located, then known as the Chickasaw Bluffs, was a favorite spot selected by the shrewd and wily Chickasaw warriors from which to make their attacks upon the French boats ascending and descending the river. Bienville, then governor and commander of the French colonies in the Mississippi valley, adopted every possible method to retaliate upon that brave Nation, and too often succeeded in arraigning the Choctaws, his allies, against the Chickasaws much to his great joy and satisfaction, but greatly to the injury of the two injudicious and misguided tribes. In 1719 he succeeded in influencing the Choctaws to declare war against them, and in which they, by the assistance of Bienville in the way of arms and ammunition, defeated the Chickasaws in several hard contested battles, and so weakened them that they for awhile ceased their attacks upon the French, though retaining, to the fullest extent, their hatred and animosity toward them. Bienville, in one of his Betters regarding this fratricidal war he had so effectually brought about between those two kindred and warlike Nations, exultingly said: “The Choctaws, whom I have set in motion against the Chickasaws, have destroyed entirely three villages of this ferocious Nation, which disturbed our commerce on the river. They have raised about four hundred scalps, and made one hundred prisoners. Considering this state of things, it is a most important advantage, which we have obtained, the more so, that it has not cost one drop of French blood, “through the care I took of opposing those barbarians to one another. Their self-destruction operated in this manner is the sole efficacious means of insuring tranquility to the colony.”
It now seems almost incredible that such a crazed infatuation should-possess the Choctaws as to so utterly blind them from comprehending the dark designs of Bienville when arraigning them against their own race, and especially against their kindred Chickasaw brethren.
In July 1720, the English traders among the Chickasaws involved them in turn in a war with the French, by influencing them to kill Serigney, a French officer, whom Bienville had sent among induce them to withdraw from the English and give; their trade to the French. Thus did the English, and French use the inconsiderate and misguided Native Americans to advance their own interests, and sacrifice them upon the altar of their avarice in settling their disputes and quarrels. Unfortunate race! Too credulous that perfidy could not dwell in the hearts of such professed white friends!
In 1731, after the destruction of the Natchez as a Nation, a few of whom had fled to the brave and generous Chickasaws for protection, Governor Perier, who had been appointed commander of the colony in the place of Bienville, then deposed and recalled to France, sent orders to the Chickasaws to drive the Natchez fugitives out of their territories, if they did not wish to secure his animosity; to this insolent command, they heroically replied: We neither respect you as a friend, nor fear you as an enemy. We have extended the hand of friendship and safety to the unfortunate Natchez, and how to protect them.” This heroic but defiant message caused the conceited little French governor to foam with rage; and he at once resolved upon immediate war upon “those insolent savages” but a Nation of heroes, and, as an introductory to his designs, adopted measures without delay to again array the Choctaws in hostilities against them, but evidently not without just apprehensions of success; for a letter written “at this time to his government by Beauchamp, the commander at Mobile, he said: “The Choctaws are not friendly disposed to wards us, which is greatly to be regretted; for should this tribe declare against us, we should be compelled to abandon the colony. The Natchez war principally endangered the traders on the Mississippi River, but a Chickasaw war would cause apprehension throughout the whole colony. They have already sent three emissaries to seek the alliance of the Illinois Indians against us, who, however fell into our hands, and Governor Perier intends ordering them burnt.”
Such rough measures and cruel punishment inflicted upon the Indians, without any just cause whatsoever, from that day to this, by those who professed and taught the humane and pacific principles of Christianity, drove them to justly abhor the white race, and to justly retaliate them sixty fold, if justice can be found in retaliation anywhere.
But Perier was disappointed in carrying out his warlike designs against the Chickasaws and thus avenging the imagined insult offered to the governor of an obscure little French Colony somewhere in the wilds of America; for in 1733, Bienville after an absence of eight years, was rein stated as governor in the place of Perier. It was at this lime the king of France fully determined to firmly establish his supreme authority throughout the entire valley of the Mississippi, then called Louisiana. But that little, yet seemingly indomitable, Chickasaw Nation, stood in the path, as did the Iroquois years before at the Great Lakes of the North; and though the French openly derided the Chickasaws, yet they secretly dreaded them, and not without just cause. It was they, who had influenced and encouraged the Natchez to attack and destroy the French at Fort Rosalie, November 28th, 1729, which however, ultimately resulted in the overthrow and annihilation of the unfortunate Natchez themselves. It was they who had successfully debarred all communication between the French colonies at Kaskaskia and New Orleans, by sustaining their independence, thus weakening the French upon the continent by a division of their possessions; while the English traders from Virginia and the Carolinas the uncompromising rivals and inveterate enemies of the French in securing a foot-hold by which to establish their permanency upon the territories of the southern Indians were welcomed by the Chickasaws in all their towns and villages and throughout their entire territory. Therefore to speedily secure and successfully retain the eastern valley of the Mississippi for the French, it was necessary to first overthrow the Chickasaws; and, either by titter annihilation or reducing them to abject subjection, destroy the power of that defiant and seemingly unconquerable people. They must be wiped out was the fiat of the French, and thus were they made an object for extermination by as formidable combination of enemies as ever sought the destruction of a single Nation; yet, over that seemingly irresistible combination, as will be fully shown, they successfully and gloriously triumphed, after a long and fearful struggle of eighteen consecutive years, alone and unaided except by a few Natchez refugees.
After Bienville was reinstated, he at once resolved to put into execution the hostile measures of Perier against the Chickasaws, and spent the whole year (1734) in futile at tempts to induce the Choctaws to make war upon that still resolute and defiant people; but at this juncture of affairs, a Choctaw chief by the name of Shulush Humma (shoes red; appeared upon the stage amid those vacillating scenes of strife and carnage, who proved to be as shrewd a diploma test as he was a brave and consummate warrior; and well understood how to shuffle his cards to the best advantage, as he oscillated between the assumed humble solicitations of the English and the French for the favor of his coveted alliance, with a skill that would have done credit to, and elicted the admiration and praise of the greatest statesmen of civilized Nations. But the French proved unsuccessful; for Bienville induced Shulush Humma to undertake a war expedition with a thousand warriors against the Chickasaws, with whom Bienville also sent Lesuer, a French officer, with thirty soldiers. But the ever vigilant Chickasaws had learned of the whole proceedings, and at once sent a delegation under a white flag to meet them and buy them off with English goods of which they had a large amount; in this they happily succeeded, and the war party returned home, without attempting any further demonstrations of hostilities, except Shulush Humma, who, for no other apparent reason than that of shame to return to Bienville with out having made some demonstration, attacked a little Chickasaw village with a few of his warriors as he was on his way home; but was at once repulsed with a loss of four of the attacking party.
Bienville could scarcely restrain his feelings of bitter disappointment at the unexpected turn of affairs; and though greatly disconcerted, he appeared indifferent so far as to renew the former treaties of alliance with the Choctaws, as he well knew the salvation of the French colony depended wholly upon the friendship and the aid of that then powerful tribe of skillful and fearless warriors. But during the interval of those protracted negotiations, the Choctaws, through some unknown cause, became divided into two parties, or factions, one in favor of the English, the other of the French, both of whom had been making, for many years, the most indefatigable efforts to secure to their respective and exclusive interests that, then, justly dreaded Nation of Indian warriors.
But the ever watchful Chickasaws, aided alone by the avenging Natchez refugees, were not idle during the slow and dubious negotiations of the French with the Choctaws to secure and retain their alliance, but boldly attacked the French whenever and wherever an opportunity presented itself; and especially the Natchez, enraged with a burning sense of their long series of wrongs, outages and misfortunes at the hands of the French, sought everywhere to avenge their nation s destruction, and deeply felt:
“What though the fields be lost
All is not lost the unconquerable will
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield,
And what is else not to be overcome.”
But the Choctaws evidently cherished a desire for peace for having captured three Frenchmen, an officer named DuCader, a sergeant, and a private soldier, they requested; DuCader to write to Bienville and inform him that they desired peace; and as a manifestation of their sincerity, they made the soldier the bearer of the letter to Bienville, requesting him to also confirm the statements set forth therein. The soldier arrived safely in New Orleans, and delivered the letter to Bienville, informing him also of the desires of the Chickasaws. But Bienville at once wrote back to DuCader, that he would not make peace with the Chickasaws; nor would he sacrifice the interests of the French Nation to the safety of two men; therefore he and the sergeant must make the best of their misfortune by escaping, other wise suffer the consequences. DuCader and the sergeant, under the disguise of securing peace, did eventually outwit the Chickasaws and made their escape, returning safely to New Orleans.
It was now plainly evident that Bienville had determined not to accept any terms of peace with the Chickasaws, but had fully resolved to prosecute the war of extermination which he had inaugurated against them, until that brave little Nation of patriotic heroes was totally and forever blotted out. A resolution afterwards adopted by the English, the successors of the French, against all Indians; and when they, in turn, handed over the scepter of power on the North American continent, Canada excepted, to the United States they also bequeathed to them, as a sacred legacy, the in junction, “Extermination of the North American Indians”; and how faithfully they have persisted to the accomplishment of that desired object, with unwavering diligence and unfaltering resolution, unsurpassed in the annals of the world, the feeble little remnant of that once free and happy people still left sufficiently testify.
Bienville immediately wrote to the French Minister of Marine earnestly asking for four additional companies of, troops to be added to his forces, then amounting to only two-hundred men; and with which he did not feel justified in risking the “glory and honor of the French arms” in a battle with the Chickasaw who could call into the field four hundred and fifty warriors.” His appeal was acknowledged by the arrival, soon after, of more troops; and Bienville, without further delay commenced his preparations for an exterminating expedition against the still resolute and defiant Chickasaws with an avowed determination to wipe them out as a Nation and take possession of their territory. Elated with the flattering prospect of the complete success of his plans, he organized two armies, one in Mobile, then in & the Choctaw Nation; the other in Illinois; the former to be commanded by himself, the bitter by D’Artaguette, then governor of the Illinois district. The two were to form a junction by the 31st of March, 1736, in the Chickasaw Territory at the village, where, 196 years before, DeSoto had” wintered, and had received a just rebuke to his folly in regarding that people to be a race of “savage cowards. Bienville had instructed D’Artaguette to meet him with all the French troops he could possibly collect, and also with as; many warriors of his Indian allies as he could get. This invasion, with the avowed purpose of exterminating the Chickasaws was planned and undertaken by the direction of the French government, “whose solicitude was anxiously turned; to it with high anticipations of a successful result.”
But, as precursive of failure, Bienville was unable to leave Mobile with his army until the 4th of April; and slowly; ascending the devious windings of the Tombigbee River, the troops reached Fort Tombigbee on the 23rd, which had been; built 250 miles above Mobile on the western bank of the, river by a party sent forward for that purpose. At this fort Bienville secured the aid of 600 Choctaw warriors (his old friends and allies) by presents and promised rewards for each and every Chickasaw scalp, which increased his force to twelve hundred men. Thus prepared to wreak his long cherished vengeance, Bienville again began his tedious way up the windings of that crooked stream to a point then called “Tunmuntucche (Where the bow was strung)” corruption of the Choctaw word Tumuhushi, signifying village; and afterwards known as Cotton Gin Port, twenty-one miles southeast of the famous great village of the Chickasaws then called Chickashha, but afterwards the “Chickasaw Old Fields,” which he reached on the 22nd of May, and there landing his army, he threw up a temporary fortification, in which he placed his artillery, and sent out Choctaw scouts to obtain information of D’Artaguette. On the 25th of May, with sanguine expectations of soon honoring the French arms: by successfully defeating and exterminating that little Nation of heroic patriots, Bienville, leaving a strong guard to protect his boats, took up his line of march toward Chikasahha, and arrived within three miles of it the same day, and there encamped for the night, during which the Choctaw scouts returned, but without having, ascertained anything concerning D’Artaguette. Bienville at once despairing of all hopes of D’Artaguette’s cooperation, resolved to risk an attack alone being numerically as three to one of the Chickasaws; therefore, before daylight on the morning of the 26th, he stealthily marched upon what he expected to; find a village of unsuspecting and sleeping inhabitants; a plan so judiciously adopted and successfully executed by the modern Sherman and Sheridan style of “military heroes” whose military fame rested alone upon their skill in pouncing upon sleeping Indians and butchering them regardless of age or sex.
But Bienville’s disappointment in not finding D’Artaguette in waiting was only surpassed by finding the ever vigilant Chickasaw warriors, who had kept themselves well posted in all his imagined secret movements, calmly waiting for him, fully prepared and ready to extend to him the hearty, lively and entertaining reception due him as the representative of the “honor of the French arms” (upon whose escutcheon they read “Extermination, root and branch, to all Chickasaws“) from behind the strong fortifications with which they had encircled their ancient and honored city over which the British flag also waved in flaunting defiance, while here and there within the fortifications were seen a few prodigal sons of Old England, as they, like specters, flitted with hurried steps from side to side.
The Chickasaws had protected their favorite city with five forts, each well provided with loop-holes; also a larger one constructed of logs placed upright and firmly in the ground in near and convenient proximity to the five smaller parts, and in addition to this they had strongly fortified houses. During the first day Bienville made two unsuccessful efforts to storm this Chickasaw log and dirt citadel, but was quickly driven back, with great loss; for upon both charges the innumerable loop-holes that studded the fortifications seemed a zone of lire and a hail-storm of leaden bullets swept the ranks of the besiegers. For three successive days did the French attempt to scale the log and dirt walls of that little fort, but to meet with defeat, for the Chickasaw warriors met them at every point and heroically disputed every inch of ground. Thus for three days in seemingly “doubtful scale the battle hung”; each charge meeting with repulse, and forcing the assailants back beyond the reach of the rifles whose messengers of death were directed by the keen eyes and steady nerves of as brave and resolute patriots as ever defended home and native land from the usurping footsteps of tyranny and oppression. It is stated, the French soldiers had provided them selves with wooden breastplates as a protection from the Chickasaw arrows, which it was believed would be the only weapon with which they would have to contend. No wonder their astonishment was great, when, instead of a shower of arrows to rebound from their breast-plates, a hailstorm of leaden bullets greeted them, against which their wooden shields were as gossamer.
But the six hundred Choctaw warriors regarding the French as nothing short of idiots to thus charge upon and shoot at logs instead of a visible enemy, remained at a commendable distance during the three days fight, calmly contemplating and discussing the apparent folly and seeming indiscretion of the French; and easily discerning the inevitable result of such a mode of proceeding, they at once bade the French and Chickasaws an informal adieu, and sought their distant homes by devious ways and means known to themselves alone. The morning of the 29th of May, 1735, found Bienville badly whipped and in inglorious retreat with his army for his boats, vigorously pursued by the victorious and exulting Chickasaws, who followed closely upon the heels of the retreating and disorganized soldiers, pouring into their unpadded backs volley after volley of leaden messengers of death; and thus terminated Bienville’s exterminating invasion of the Chickasaw country, a disastrous defeat with the loss of many men killed, wounded and captured.
On May 30th, Bienville, throwing his few pieces of light artillery into the river, hastily embarked with his army, and greatly humiliated and despondent in regard to the “honor of the French arms” entrusted to his care, paddled down the river, leaving the brave Chickasaws in quiet possession of their homes and country, and, on the last of June, landed his crest-fallen troops on the banks of the Bayou St. John. Thus was Bienville justly chastised, under a just providence, by the indomitable Chickasaws with a force less than one-half of their assailants fully confident of success yet de testable in the avowed use of there anticipated victory. Truly, if ever-gallant defense of country and homes merited the admiration and applause of mankind, those ancient Chickasaws did.
The cannons thrown into the river were found in its bed near Cotton Gin Port, during a low stage of the water, by the early settlers of the state of Mississippi, and were believed by the uninformed and credulous, to have belonged to DeSoto, and thus marked the spot where he crossed the Tombigbee river in his memorable raid through the Chickasaw territories in 1740 and 1741.
But what of D’Artaguette and his invading army from the Illinois district? Alas! Bienville learned the sad intelligence after he returned to New Orleans that D’Artaguette had arrived in the Chickasaw territory according to the time designated, hence many days in the advance of him, and when he had advanced close to Chikasahha he also, as Bienville afterwards did, sent out Indian scouts to obtain tidings of him who soon returned without gaining any information. But the next day a courier brought a letter to D’Artaguette informing him that Bienville would not be able to reach Chikasahha before the first of May, and also instructed him to govern his movements in accordance thereto, upon which D’Artaguette immediately called a council of his officers and Indian chiefs who at once, and unanimously, ad Wised an immediate attack; to which D’Artaguette yielded, and forthwith marched, on with-his army numbering 130. French soldiers and 350 Indian warriors, and made a bold stand fierce attack upon Chicksahha. But equal was their astonishment, with that of Bienville afterwards, when 500
Chickasaw warriors and 30 Englishmen suddenly made a furious charge upon them from behind a hill, near the mouth of a creek called Nita Bok (Bear Creek) and with such fear less impetuosity accompanied with the terrible Chickasaw hoyopatassuha (war-whoop) that the Indian allies lied promiscuously in wild dismay, though the French soldiers stood their ground and bravely fought until forty-five of their number were killed, then began a slow and orderly retreat, which was soon discovered by the Chickasaws who, with an exultant war-whoop, made a fearless charge upon them which at once destroyed all order among the soldiers and caused them to fly panic-stricken, terminating in a complete and disastrous rout. Shouting their wild and exulting war cry, the victorious Chickasaws pursued the frantic fugitives, killing fifty and wounding many others. At this juncture the hand of Providence seemed to be stretched out in behalf of the French fugitives; for a furious storm suddenly arose and raged with such terrific fury that further pursuit was stopped, or scarcely one would have survived to narrate the story of their utter destruction. The victory of the Chickasaws was complete, and the booty secured in the camp out fit of the French was highly prized, especially the guns and ammunition which amounted to 450 pounds of powder and 12,000 bullets, which they soon after brought into requisition in defeating Bienville. Also a large amount of provisions wore taken and many horses captured. But D’Artaguette was not as fortunate as Bienville. He and Vincennes, the second in command, and a Jesuit priest were taken prisoners and all were burned at the stake according to the North American Indian mode of revenge, and also in strict accordance with the example set before them in 1731 by Governor Perier, who had burned the three Chickasaw warriors sent by their Nation to seek the alliance of the Illinois Indians, but unfortunately fell into his hands while on their mission. If the seeking of aid from others merited death at the stake, how much more does seeking- the destruction of an entire Nation merit a similar fate. The Chickasaws but executed the old primitive law. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth in perfect harmony with their white foes when killing Indians.
A youth sixteen years of age, it is stated, led the survivors of that unfortunate battle safely back from their disastrous defeat to their homes in Illinois; and thus terminated the expedition of D’Artaguette to assist Bienville in the utter extermination of the Chickasaws. Many prisoners were also taken by the Chickasaws in the defeat and retreat of Bienville to his boats, all of who perished at the stake. During the fearful tragedy, a Jesuit Priest, also a prisoner, pro posed to his fellow prisoners, as they waited their inevitable doom, that they all march together into the fire and thus exhibit to the Choctaws how Frenchmen could die; to which all consented, provided he would lead the way. Then commending their souls to God, they together chanted the Miserere as the signal for starting, and all calmly and resolutely marched up and threw themselves into the flames and perished together. The Chickasaws were so astonished at this unexpected movement that they looked on the scene in silence and made no opposition whatever; and such was the finale of Bienville’s hopes to destroy the peace-seeking Chickasaws root and branch. Had he been taken prisoner by the Chickasaws and suffered death at the stake, instead of his soldiers, even mercy might have exclaimed: “He merited his fate.” But such personages, who will sacrifice the lives of thousands of their own people to gratify a revengeful spirit in seeking the destruction of the objects of their hate, are always endowed with that character of bravery and great presence of mind that enables them to bring “self” safely out of all danger, no matter how great, sufficient evidence of the advantage possessed over the common soldier in having a military education which so plainly inculcates the art of keeping before in all retreats from a pursuing-enemy.
Years afterward, the old Chickasaws oft rehearsed to the missionaries the traditional account of their two great victories over the French, and proudly displayed to their view, as trophies, many relics of the two battles which commemorated the defeat of D’Artaguette and Bienville.
There is a little incident connected with the battle in which D’Artaguette and his army were destroyed that merits a place in memory, while bordering on the romantic, yet tinged with melancholy and sadness. In the pursuit of the fugitives of D’Artaguette’s routed and fleeing army a young Chickasaw warrior named Hlikukhlo hosh (the humming bird) captured a little French girl 5 years of age, named Nancy. The chivalric young warrior spared the child, and, captivated by her wonderful beauty, there and then resolved, in the coming future, to make the pale-face maiden his wife. In accordance therewith The Humming Bird watched over his little captive protégé and prospective wife from innocent childhood to beautiful womanhood with zealous care, having her trained and educated in strict accordance with the most approved Chickasaw style of etiquette, while he ever manifested to her a proper reserve, attended with the greatest respect and devotion as she grew to womanhood. In the course of years his unwearied and undeviating devotion was reciprocated by French Nancy, as she was called, which being discovered by her attentive guardian and faithful lover, he at a proper time solicited the hand of his fair protégé in marriage, and was accepted. In due time the nuptial ceremony was performed in accordance to Chickasaw custom and usages, while the flowers and birds of the forest contributed their incense and music, and the Chickasaw maidens envied the bliss and good fortune of the strange but beautiful flower that had budded and bloomed as an exotic among them. French Nancy raised a family and lived to a great age. Rev. T. C. Stuart, the missionary, stated he saw her and made her acquaintance in 1821, at which time she was 91 years of age, according to the year she was captured (1735) by Hlikukhlo, at the age she was said to be at the time of her captivity. She remembered some of the circumstances of her capture and seemed to delight in narrating them. She still retained her European features, said Rev. T. C. Stuart, but in every other respect was Chickasaw. She was respected, honored and loved by the entire Chickasaw Nation, and regarded as a living monument of their victory over their inveterate enemies, the French. She died and was buried at Monroe, the old missionary station.