Vaundreuil and the Chickasaws
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At this juncture of affairs, May 10th 1743, the marquis of Vaudreuil arrived at New Orleans, and assumed command of the colonies, Bienville having been again deposed. As soon as the Chickasaws learned that Bienville had been superceded by a new governor, they sent four of their chiefs, at the close of the year 1743, to sue for peace; but Vaudreuil informed them he would enter into no treaty with them, unless they would drive all English traders from their territories; and not even then would he treat with them unless in concert with the Choctaws. Thus again were the Chickasaws baffled in their efforts to make peace! The four chiefs then requested time to lay his terms of peace before their, people.
Early in the following year, the Chickasaws again sent an embassy to Vaudreuil and informed him they would accept his first proposition, if he would supply them with goods and ammunition as the English had done, but still Vaudreuil would take no action in the matter without first obtaining the sanction of the Choctaws. Great indeed was his surprise in learning that the Chickasaws and Choctaws were at that very time endeavoring to establish peace between himself, without his knowledge. Such a thing the French from the first had labored to prevent; therefore Vaudreuil determined at once to defeat the object, if possible, of all such negotiations between the two long hostile Nations, and immediately went to work for the accomplishment of that end; first, by postponing the making of a treaty himself with the Chickasaws; second, by using every means, right or wrong, to again revive the animosity so long existing between the two Nations, and to again put into renewed action their former hostilities, then temporarily slumbering.
Alas! He succeeded but too well in his nefarious designs against the interests and welfare of those two kindred tribes, who seemed deaf to the demands of their own national safety, prosperity and happiness, in not learning from sad experience long before that both the English and French desired nothing more of them than to see them waste away their national strength against each other. But, unfortunately for them, they seemed under the complete control of those two great foreign rivals, who, with jealousy, were con tending everywhere for the possession of the Indians territories from the Atlantic to the Pacific; and, therefore, continually led the inconsiderate, deceived and unfortunate North American Indians everywhere into suicidal hostilities against each other which tended so rapidly to their destruction and final extermination. But to the eternal condemnation before the tribunal of a just God, of both the English and French, they made every effort in this civil discord, not to conciliate, but to inflame the passions and strengthen the animosities of the Chickasaws and Choctaws by the most unjust and diabolical means that the corrupt heart of man could conceive.
But down to the year 1746, the undaunted and seemingly invincible Chickasaws were still maintaining their ground against fearful odds; while the Choctaws, now becoming weary with their long protracted wars against them, and also relenting in their continued hostility towards them, many of them became their friends and even allies; among the most prominent of whom stood the renowned Shulush Humma, who by his daring deeds had become a terror to the Chickasaws, and also Alabaman Mingo (a corruption of Ullabanoh Miko, the only child of a chief), who had long-been considered as a firm friend of the French; still, the French retained many friends among the Choctaws, who were now called “the French party”; and those who were disposed to be lenient to the Chickasaws and had extended to them the hand of peace and friendship were called “the English party.”
But now the judgments of God seemed about to be visited upon the Choctaws for their inconsiderate hostility towards, and cruel wars against, the Chickasaws, through the instigations alone of the covetous French, by sending upon them an infatuation more fatal to themselves than were their hostilities to the Chickasaws, which seemed for the time being must, and would, terminate in nothing less than their own destruction, for early in the year 1748 the animosity of the two parties arose to that degree that a civil war, fierce and bloody, was the actual result, to the infinite delight of both the French and English, who with great complacency, looked on and secretly exulted in the self-destruction of the foolish Choctaws, who seemed to have lost their reason. Each party formed themselves into small bands and made hostile excursions, the one against the other. Also, the English faction made excursions against the French, and the French faction against the English. A band of the English party made an attack upon a German settlement under the jurisdiction of the French, killed a German, wounded his wife and took captive their daughter. And the leader of the band was in turn killed by his own brother, who was also a leader of one of the bands of the French party; also a brother of Shulush Humma, who had been sent on an embassy to the Carolinas with a small party to solicit aid from the English settlements, was attacked by a company of the French party and had eight warriors slain.
On July 14th a French party rushed upon a village of an English party and slew thirteen, among whom were two noted chiefs, upon which the English party, maddened with the desire of retaliation, rushed upon a village of the French party, and there a fierce and desperate hand-to-hand fight with tomahawk and knife ensued, in which both sides lost grievously, but resulting in the defeat of the English party with a loss of eighty killed and an equal number wounded, whom they carried off in their retreat, but many of whom afterwards died. Many such fratricidal battles followed in quick succession, the English party always sustaining the greater loss. Such an insane warfare and foolish destruction of life, sapping the very foundation of their national existence, finally put the Choctaws to thinking, which soon brought them to their senses. Both parties mutually began to see that they were cutting each other’s throats for the sole benefit and the entire satisfaction and gratification of their worst enemies, the English and French pale-faces.
At once a council of the old and wise men of the Nation was convened to deliberate upon the unhappy state of affairs and to devise measures to bring about a cessation of hostilities and restore peace and friendship among their people. After a few days of calm and solemn deliberation, the chief cause of the unfortunate state of affairs was traced to Shulush Humma, and the immediate verdict of the council was death to him; and in accordance thereto, that noted chief and consummate warrior was slain by a deputation, appointed for that purpose, while returning one day to his home with a company loaded with English goods. It was hoped that the death of Shulush Humma would be effective in restoring peace and harmony to the Nation, and it would have been had not the English, still desiring to weaken as much as possible their old enemies, the Choctaws, determined that peace should not be made between the two contending factions if it was possible to prevent it; therefore they clandestinely secured the appointment of a brother of Shulush Humma to the chieftaincy of that renowned chief s party, and thus thwarted the good designs of the council and protricidal war, during which the English were diligent in extending their own selfish interests to the serious injury of their unfortunate dupes, the contending Choctaws, who continued the devastating strife until 1750, when it terminated with the advantage on the part of the French faction, at which time only two of the thirty-two villages still adhered to the interests of the English; who, having lost 130 of their warriors in a terrible battle that shortly afterwards ensued, now sought peace of the French, who granted it with this humiliating proviso: “That the punishment of death should be inflicted on any and every Choctaw who should kill a Frenchman, be he chief or common warrior; and if any one or more Choctaws should attempt to rescue the guilty party, or parties, from the punishment of this sentence, then the entire Choctaw Nation should unite, assist and inflict death also on all those who attempted to rescue the guilty party, or parties; and also that death should be inflicted upon any Choctaw who should lead an Englishmen into his village; nor in such a case, should retaliation for his death be sought by any one of his Nation; and also they should put to death the Englishman thus introduced; and also the Choctaws should continue hostilities against the Chickasaws so long as they existed as a Nation.”
The humiliating terms were accepted and peace among the Choctaws once more assumed her pacific sway, but too late; learning what miserable dupes they had been made by the wiles of the perfidious French and English; and only to realize to what a humiliating extremity they had reduced themselves by destroying each other and those of their own race the Chickasaws and Natchez to secure the friend ship of the pale-faces, who never felt an emotion of that noble principle for them or any of their race.
Alas! What Christian heart but weeps over the misfortunes of the North American Indians, and sympathizes with them in their mistakes in the selection of friends, since they were totally ignorant of the duplicity and incapable of comprehending the avarice of the white men s hearts, and thereby unfortunately judged them from the stand-point of their own honest and truthful hearts which had never felt the gnawing of avarice, nor knew deceit when dealing with supposed friends.
The Chickasaws, now also reduced to the verge of destruction by their long struggle with the combined forces of the French and the inconsiderate Choctaws, once more sued for peace with the French; but to their solicitation, Vaudreuil coolly replied, “That he would consider the matter.” But the truth is, he did not want to treat with the Chickasaws upon any terms of peace whatever; for he still hoped to be able to execute his former resolution, imbibed from Bienville, against them, nothing more nor less than absolute extermination. Therefore in a letter written shortly after to his government, he stated: “With regard to the Chickasaws, we must postpone all action, and patiently wait until, we can organize and make another expedition against them”; and assigns his reasons for acting with such vindictive cruelty and base injustice against that peace soliciting and peace desiring Nation of noble patriots, that, “By the failure of the expeditions undertaken against them between the years 1735 and 1740, the Indians have arrived at the conclusion that we cannot conquer or destroy them; and until we erase from their minds the impression of our inability to subdue them, by giving full retaliation for our unsuccessful operations against them, the honor of our arms will re main tarnished.”
But after two years of consideration on the solicitation, of the Chickasaws for peace, Vaudreuil, instead of giving them a reply pro or con, spent the intervening time in the organization of another war expedition against them, lest “the honor of our arms remain tarnished;” and, in 1752, he started with 700 French soldiers and a large body of Indian warriors to exterminate that brave and heroic nation of people, fully believing that it had fallen to his good fortune “to erase from their minds the impression of our inability to subdue them.” But alas, for his anticipated good fortune! His expedition proved as complete a failure as the previous three, for the Chickasaw heroes, at Chikasahha, where they had repulsed D’Artaguette and Bienville seventeen years before, also, whipped Vaudreuil, and he, too, sought safety and found it in an inglorious retreat, without erasing from the minds of those indomitable Chickasaw warriors “the impression of our inability to subdue them;” and also postponed “giving full retaliation for our unsuccessful operations against them,” lest “the honor of our arms will remain tarnished,” to some more propitious time in the future, as Bienville had done, but which never came. Yet he was blest with the consoling reflection that he had done something, at least, in the way of “giving full retaliation for our unsuccessful operations against them;” since he could state in his report that he had been enabled, though in full retreat, “to burn a few deserted Chickasaw villages, destroy a few fields of corn, and kill a few cattle of the enemy” neither Bienville nor D’Artaguette could say as much and “the honor of our arms will” not now “remain tarnished.” For the sake of humanity it is to be hoped so.
In 1753 Vaudreuil was appointed Governor of Canada, and Kerleree took the place of Vaudreuil as Governor of the Louisiana Colony; and shortly after, in a letter to his Government, August 20, 1753, he said: “I am satisfied with the Choctaws. I believe them true to their plighted word, and it is necessary that we should be the same to them. They are a people who reflect and reason more logically than it is generally supposed.” More truthful words could not have been uttered in regard to the North American Indians; yet a truth, which the White Race have ever been reluctant to admit.
After the appointment of Vaudreuil as Governor of Canada the French made no more “exterminating expeditions” against the Chickasaws. But Kerleree, shortly after he had taken the place of Vaudreuil, had an interview with several chiefs of the Arkansas tribes at New Orleans and whose good will he won by his affected generosity and seemingly great friendship and hospitality manifested towards them; nor was he unmindful of the “failure of the expeditions undertaken against the Chickasaws“; therefore, “lest “the honor of our arms remain tarnished,” he embraced the opportunity offered to induce the chiefs of the Arkansas tribes to make war upon the Chickasaws whom they, had been taught by bitter experience to fear, therefore still hated; for that indefatigable Nation still presented the same bold and defiant front to the French, though greatly reduced in numbers and strength. Kerleree also made strenuous efforts to induce those chiefs to make war upon the Cherokees, who had entailed the hatred and animosity of the French, because they had extended the hand of pity and protection, in connection with the Chickasaws, to the homeless and forlorn little band of Natchez, who had escaped the wholesale slaughter of their people by the hands of their common and unrelenting enemy, the French.
That the Choctaws were once a numerous and powerful people, even at the beginning of their hostilities with the French; and that their warriors were among the most sagacious and fearless men that ever went into battle, no stronger evidence is necessary than the fact, they stood alone and maintained their independence against the combined forces of the Canadian, Illinois and Louisiana colonies, together with the soldiers sent from France and their numerous Northern Indian allies, also the Choctaws, then the most dreaded nation of warriors, except the Chickasaws, among the North American Indians, from 1716 down the march of time France ceded her North American possessions to England in 1763; defeating four French armies, well organized and equipped, and their Indian allies, sent against them, each of which, in numbers and munitions of war, was superior to them as the ratio of three to one, and driving them from their territories; and though Roman states, in his “Barnard Roman’s Florida, page 571.” “In 1771, this once powerful and warlike tribe could not number over three hundred warriors,” yet the combined forces of their White and Red enemies failed to conquer them.
The following letter written by Governor Claiborne of Mississippi, in 1802, to Samuel Mitchell, United States Agent to the Chickasaws, expresses much truth in regard to the Indians:
“I am well pleased with your efforts to advance the happiness of our Chickasaw brethren. I hope, under your tutorage, that they will soon acquire the habits of civilization. Exert all your influence to induce the men to have fixed abodes, cultivate the soil, and encourage the women to habits of domestic life. Continue to supply them with wheels and cards, scissors, thimbles, needles and thread. Retain a competent weaver constantly in your employ and persuade a few young girls to learn the art from him. A competent man of undoubted morals must be procured who must take the necessary pains to teach them, and I will see him liberally compensated. It is desirable to place a few intelligent Indian lads with your wheelwright and blacksmith. In all cases it is my express injunction that the white mechanics, you are authorized to employ, shall be men of sober habits and of good character. They are to be there not only as artisans, but as teachers, to set an example to an untutored people, entrusted to my guardianship by their great Father, the President, and he demands that they shall be treated as his children, and not, in any instance, be exposed to the evil example of bad white men. Say to my old friend, Major Colbert, his wish to have his son educated in and by the United States shall be promptly recommended by me; and, I doubt not, will be so directed by the President. A trading house for the accommodation of the Chickasaws has been established at the Bluffs, and the factor has been instructed to sell at prices merely to cover cost and charges. Complaint of undue charges must be made through you to me. You did right to exert your influence for peace between the Chickasaws, Choctaws and Osages. The United States is bound by treaty to restrain the tribes within their limits from warring against tribes in the Spanish dominion.”
What if the noble, humane and Christian sentiments expressed in the above letter by Governor Claiborne had been adopted and truly carried out by the Government and people of the United States from the date of the above letter to the present, who now could justly describe the happy and prosperous condition of every Indian tribe within the jurisdiction of the United States?