BOOK SEVEN:  French Louisiana 



BOOK ONE:        French Acadia

BOOK TWO:        British Nova Scotia

BOOK THREE:     Families, Migration, and the Acadian "Begats"

BOOK FOUR:      The French Maritimes

BOOK FIVE:        The Great Upheaval

BOOK SIX:          The Acadian Immigrants of Louisiana

BOOK EIGHT:      A New Acadia

BOOK NINE:        The Bayou State

BOOK TEN:          The Louisiana Acadian "Begats"

BOOK ELEVEN:   The Non-Acadian "Cajun" Families of South Louisiana

BOOK TWELVE:  Acadians in Gray


Iberville and his party enter the mouth of the Mississippi, March 1799 ...01b

The Canadians, 1673-1702

The Spanish were the first Europeans to go there, but they did not remain.  In June 1519, Alonso Álavarez de Pineda, exploring the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, sailed into Bahía del Espíritu Santo, today's Mobile Bay, and explored as far up as the Alabama River in a land he called Amichel.  Though he sailed along the coast of today's South Louisiana, he did not penetrate inland.  Nine years later, in 1527-28, an expedition from Spain via Santo Domingo led by Pánfilo de Narváez also explored the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico and were the first Europeans to sight the Mississippi.  Soon after reaching Hispanola in August 1527, the expedition met with one disaster after another before landing north of today's Tampa, Florida, in April 1528.  After an equally disastrous overland expedition from Tampa north to Apalachee Bay during which their ships abandoned them, Narváez and the remainder of his expedition, 242 men, in five improvised boats, sailed westward along the northern Gulf Coast and passed the mouth of the Mississippi sometime in September.  They, too, sailed along the coast of today's South Louisiana but did not travel inland.  In November, a hurricane drove them onto a barren island, likely today's Galveston.  Only 80 of Narváez's men survived the ordeal; Narváez was not one of them.  Under the leadership of the expedition's second in command, Álvar Núnez Cabeza da Vaca, the Spaniards wandered through today's southeast Texas, northern Mexico, and the southwestern United States before finding refuge in central Mexico in July 1536.  Only four of them survived the eight-year ordeal; Cabeza de Vaca was one of them.  He returned to Spain and "gave a glowing description of the wealth" of the country through which he and his companions had wandered.  The Spanish, still seeking precious minerals and a passage to Asia, returned to the region in the early 1540s, under Hernando de Soto.  Inspired by the account of Cabeza da Vaca but determined to become another Pizarro, under whom he had served in Peru, de Soto, beginning in May 1539, explored much of today's southeastern United States from his base on the Gulf coast of Florida.  In May 1541, de Soto's expedition reached the Mississippi River near present-day Memphis and dubbed it Rio Grande.  After crossing the wide stream, they explored much of today's Arkansas before returning to the west bank of the river.  A year after reaching the Mississippi, de Soto died of a fever either in southeastern Arkansas or northeastern Louisiana in May 1542.  His second in command, Luis de Moscoso Alvarado, was determined to lead his men to Mexico City.  Spurning a water route to the Gulf, Moscoso led the expedition overland into northeastern Texas.  When the number of Native villages to plunder for food became too sparse to support the expedition, the Spaniards returned to the Mississippi valley, where food was more plentiful.  Moscoso ordered his men to construct seven boats for the perilous journey to Mexico.  They began their descent of the river in July, two months after de Soto's death.  The trip downriver was one long battle against hostile Natives.  After entering the Gulf via the western-most pass, they continued westward along the coast of today's South Louisiana, again not venturing inland.  They did, however, note the strong freshwater current from today's Lower Atchafalaya River flowing out into the Gulf.  Continuing westward and then southward along the barren coast, they managed to steer their vessels close to shore for hundreds of miles without mishap.  After two months of effort, they reached Rio Pánuco in Mexico and made their way overland to Mexico City.  When the viceroy asked them if they were ready to return to La Florida, few of them volunteered.  "The discouraging results" of these explorations, J. Preston Moore reminds us, "gave Spaniards little appetite for more forays, and they concentrated on exploiting the mineral wealth of Peru and Mexico."01e

Not for another century and a half did Europeans return to the lower Mississippi valley, and they came not from the Spanish West Indies but from the western posts of Canada.  In its beginning, in fact, French Louisiana was as Canadian as it was French.  It was claimed for France by a Frenchman who had made his fortune in Canada, named by the same fellow, thoroughly explored by Canadians, settled by Canadians, and, during its first dozen years of existence, struggled under two Canadian leaders who happened to be brothers.  The first governor of Louisiana to hold the title was a native of France, but he had been summoned to Louisiana from Détroit, then in Canada.  Louisiana's first missionaries were from Canada, and when its first church parish was established in 1703, its priests answered to the Bishop of Québec.  In fact, all of its secular priests answered to the Bishop of Québec for as long as Louisiana remained a French possession.01c 

The story of Louisiana, then, begins in Canada, where in the mid-1530s and early 1540s Jacques Cartier spent two winters.  Beginning in the late 1570s, the French monarchy granted a series of monopolies to well-placed nobles to settle what the French were calling La Nouvelle France.  In 1605, Pierre Dugua, sieur de Mons, in possession of a 10-year monopoly, established Port-Royal not in Canada but on the North Atlantic coast, in La Cadie.  Not until July 1608 did Samuel de Champlain, under orders from de Mons, erect a trading post at Québec on the St. Lawrence River.  Here was the unprepossessing start of what would prove to be the most enduring French colony in North America.  In the year of Québec's founding, de Mons's habitation at Port-Royal, 300 miles to the east, no longer was functioning as an outpost; the walled-in structure had been abandoned the previous summer, watched over, now, by a band of Mi'kmaq under the bearded sagamore Membertou.  Although the sieur de Poutrincourt, another associate of de Mons, would resurrect Port-Royal and the Acadian venture in the spring of 1610, Champlain's post at Québec, despite conflict with the Iroquois, intense commercial rivalries, and anemic immigration, would endure without interruption

The survival of Champlain's Canadian foothold depended largely on control of the region's fur trade.  Born of the cod fishery in the early 1500s, the northern fur trade, in the beginning, was practiced with the same laissez-faire abandon as the North American fishing trade.  During the late 1580s, court officials attempted to control the trade by awarding monopolies to favored petitioners, beginning with the heirs of Jacques Cartier.  Henri IV continued the practice throughout his reign (1589-1610), also with limited success.  Québec was founded during the sieur de Mons's second monopoly, granted to him for only a year in 1607, after he had lost his original 10-year concession, which resulted in the temporary abandonment of the Acadian venture.  When de Mons's second concession expired in 1609, it was not renewed.  Subsequent monopolies, however, though awarded to influential merchants and noblemen, including two princes of the blood, failed to organize New-French commerce, and the chaos of free trade persisted.  Nevertheless, by the late 1620s, the fur-trade network in New France "was immense and far-reaching.  In Acadia, the French," that is to say, the young sieur de Biencourt and his associates, "had made a firm alliance with the Indians, thereby gaining access to the trade routes of the St John River, the Ste Croix River, the Pentagouët," now the Penobscot River, "and (although in competition with the English) the Kennebec," Marcel Trudel informs us.  "The compass of these routes was fairly narrow, but in the St Lawrence the extent of the network was practically unlimited.  Furs arrived at Tadoussac through the Montagnais from the nations of the north, and there was as yet no one in the upper reaches of the continent to draw off this supply; at Trois Rivières and at Cap de Victorie (the more important of the two meeting places) the great trading nations kept an annual rendezvous, Montagnais of the St Lawrence, Algonquins of the Ottawa River, Nipissings and Hurons.  Through the Hurons in particular, with their position on the Great Lakes at the hub of the commercial routes of the interior, the French could count on a virtually inexhaustible supply of furs."  In 1627, Cardinal Richelieu, chief minister of Louis XIII, created the Company of the Hundred Associates.  All of New France, including Champlain's Québec and the fur-trading network, was brought under the control of this company and its many subsidiaries.  Richelieu's Company also resurrected a lasting French presence in Acadia, where European families finally came to stay beginning in the late 1630s. 

Permanent settlement in Canada also had been a precarious thing, most likely because the fur trade "needed only Indian labour" to succeed.  In the early 1610s, Champlain attempted, but failed, to establish another settlement near the St.-Louis falls above present-day Montréal.  With too few settlers at his disposal, the best he could manage there was a storehouse for furs the Indians were bringing down the St. Lawrence.  He also failed to coax the Montagnais and other nations into guiding him into the fur-rich wilderness north of the St. Lawrence.  In 1615, in hopes of bringing the Indians to submission, he lured four Récollet friars to Canada, and they re-established the Church in New France.  By year's end, one of the Récollets had established the first French mission among the Huron, who largely controlled the interior fur trade.  Two years later, with the reluctant approval of the company which then controlled the colony, Champlain lured apothecary Louis Hébert and his family from Paris to Québec--the first French family to remain in America.  Hébert had gone to Acadia with Poutrincourt in 1606 and had greatly impressed Champlain, who had been the Acadian colony's unofficial geographer during the first three years of its existence.  In 1618, Champlain submitted to the French Chamber of Commerce and then to the King a bold plan of settlement for Canada.  Official enthusiasm for the plan, which called for 300 settlers and 300 soldiers to establish a solid French presence in the region, was not followed by actual funds committed to the venture, nor were conditions placed on the company of merchants which then held the monopoly on Canadian commerce.  Two years after Champlain's proposal, in fact, Tadoussac still served as the colony's seaport, with few, if any ships, venturing upriver to the outpost at Québec.  New France, in the words of Marcel Trudel, "was still only a trading post." 

Despite official indifference towards settlement (Champlain was replaced as head of the colony in 1619, but a succeeding company restored him to power the following year), by August 1621 enough Frenchmen were residing at Québec to allow an impromptu colonial assembly to draw up a petition of grievances addressed to the King.  Soon after the assembly convened, Champlain issued the first ordinances for the colony.  In 1622, Champlain sought peace with the Iroquois in hopes of luring them away from the Dutch.  The following year, the viceroy of New France, the duc de Montmorency, awarded Louis Hébert "in perpetuity the land he occupied" on Cap-Diamant, overlooking Québec--the beginning of a seigneurial system of land distribution that gave promise of luring more settlers to Canada and keeping them there.  That same year, Champlain laid out a vacharie, or cattle ranch, at Cap-Tourmente below Québec, on a fief the viceroy had granted to Guillaume de Caën, a Huguenot.  With his relatives Ézéchiel and Émery de Caën, also of Rouen but Catholic, Guillaume controlled the company that held the colony's fur monopoly.  Champlain also made improvements to Fort St.-Louis, the construction of which he had begun in 1620 on the heights of Cap-Diamant.  In 1623, Champlain sent the young French interpreter Étienne Brûlé into the pays d'en haut, or upper country, to open the region to French commerce as far west as present-day Lake Superior.  The following year, Champlain constructed a new habitation at Québec, of stone not wood, "complete with turrets."  Soon after, at the insistence of the duc de Ventadour, the new viceroy, the Jesuits joined the Récollets in Canada.  With the Récollets, they, too, exerted pressure on King and Court to remove Huguenots from the colony, even the concession-holder Guillaume de Caën, whom they respected but whose religion they could not abide.  This time the King, under the influence of Cardinal Richelieu, agreed with the missionaries.  In 1626, though banned from the colony because of his faith, Guillaume de Caën ordered the construction of a dwelling at Île Miscou on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where all of the workers fell ill that winter "'from the land sickness'"--scurvy.  During the same year, the duc de Ventadour "raised the domain of Louis Hébert on Cape Diamond to the status of noble fief and accorded him another noble fief on the St Charles River upstream from the Récollet convent."  In 1627, "the first plough" since the days of Cartier and Roberval appeared on the St. Lawrence and was employed behind a team of oxen on one of the Hébert farms.

When war with England erupted in the year of the plough, only 55 settlers were living at Québec and only a hand full on the vacharie at Cap-Tourmente, but none lived at Matane, Tadoussac, or Île Miscou--compared to 270 Dutchmen in New Netherland, 300 at Plymouth in New England, and at least 2,000 in faraway Virginia.  There were, in fact, as many Scotsmen living in Nova Scotia in 1629 as there were Frenchmen at Québec.  In July of that year, Champlain was compelled to surrender his outpost to the Kirke brothers, French-born privateers from Dieppe who were sailing under the flag of England.  Despite Champlain's entreaties, most of the settlers returned to the mother country, and French presence in America nearly disappeared.  Louis Hébert had died in January 1627, but his family, at least, remained on their farms at Québec.  Not until July 1632 did England return Canada to France and abandon the Scots settlement in Nova Scotia.  The directors of Richelieu's Company, ignoring the cardinal's wishes, allowed Champlain to return in May 1633 with three ships carrying 150 colonists.  Richelieu barred the Récollets, along with Huguenots, from the colony but allowed the Jesuits to return.  Until 1657, when the Capuchins arrived, the Jesuits, pursuing their "Chinese Rites," were the only missionaries left in Canada.  Champlain rebuilt the burned out habitation at Québec, and in the summer of 1634 he sent colonists to Trois-Rivières, the first major new settlement to be founded in Canada since 1608.  He did what he could to keep trade open with the Huron despite Algonquin attempts to block passage through the pays d'en haut.  Also in 1634, he sent interpreter Jean Nicollet, well known among the Indians, to Green Bay on the far shore of Lake Michigan to secure an alliance with the fur-trading nations there and to seek the elusive route to the Asian Sea--the beginning of French influence in the far western regions.  But before Champlain was able to open the upper country to French commerce or create more Canadian settlements, he died at Québec on Christmas Day 1635 from the effects of a stroke.  

Champlain's successors, called governors-general after 1663, oversaw a steady expansion of the colony up and down the Fleuve St.-Laurent by emulating the seigneurial system put into place at Cap-Diamant during the early 1620s.  A small settlement on a major seigneurie arose at Ville-Marie, now Montréal, in 1642, six years after Richelieu's Company brought the first permanent families to a resurrected French Acadia.  Though a religious center in the beginning, Montréal's location at the edge of the pays d'en haut, or upper country, transformed it into Canada's major fur-trading entrepôt.  Champlain's successors did what they could to resurrect the fur trade, trying mightily, and unsuccessfully, to prevent the English and the Dutch from selling alcohol and firearms to the Natives.  In 1647, as the colony's population approached 2,000, King Louis XIV authorized the creation of a council of settlers at Québec.  In 1663, when Canada became a royal colony, the council of settlers at Québec morphed into the Conceil Souverain, or Sovereign Council, for all of New France.  The year 1665 saw the arrival of an intendant--Jean Talon--to oversee the civil administration of New France, which, after 1670, included Acadia as well as Canada.  In 1658, Pope Alexander VII had authorized an apostolic vicariate for Canada and appointed François-Xavier de Montmorency-Laval of Perce as the colony's first vicar apostolic.  Sixteen years later, in 1674, Québec became the seat of a far-flung diocese, and Laval was elevated to the office of bishop.  Meanwhile, the so-called Beaver Wars raged in the pays d'en haut, west and south of the St. Lawrence valley.  Iroquois from the south, especially the Mohawk, allies of the Dutch, fought the Iroquois-speaking Huron, Erie, and Neutrals, as well as several Algonquin-speaking nations, allies of the French, for control of the region's commerce.  By the early 1660s, the Iroquois had defeated the Huron, Erie, and Neutral nations, forcing the Canadians to enlist their remaining allies in the fight to protect their settlements as well as the fur trade.  Learning of a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Mohawk, Louis XIV, in 1665, dispatched the brown-coated Carignan-Salières Regiment--the first French professional soldiers sent to America.  They followed the King's viceroy, Alexandre de Prouville, marquis de Tracy, in a second invasion of the Iroquois country.  By late 1666, the Mohawk and their fellow Iroquois, decimated by smallpox and seeing their villages destroyed, begged the viceroy for a treaty of peace.  The Canadians and their French superiors welcomed it.  Here, for the Iroquois, was an opportunity to rebuild their villages before turning their attention to other nations farther to the west.  By then, some Canadian families were in their second and even third generations.  On their long-lot habitations and seigneuries along the banks of the St. Lawrence between Québec and Montréal, they were creating a unique culture at the frozen edge of the North American wilderness.  Led by "colonizing" seigneurs such as Robert Giffard, Jean Juchereau de Maur, Charles Le Moyne, and their sturdy sons and grandsons, many of whom became army and navy officers, a new créole elite was determined to exploit the resources of that wilderness.01d   

By 1670, the year Britain returned Acadia to France, Champlain's colony had long transcended its shaky beginnings.  With the coming of peace, Québec was secure, as was Trois-Rivières, Montréal, and a dozen other settlements along the Fleuve St.-Laurent.  But security, always fleeting, was never quite enough for these restless Europeans.  French priests from Québec and Montréal, especially the black-robed Jesuits, continued to establish missions among the nations of the region to the farthest limits of the pays d'en haut.  Coureurs de bois and voyageurs, in uneasy step with the black robes and Canadian entrepreneurs, pushed the fur trade farther into the wilderness, above, below, and even beyond the Great Lakes, into terra incognito.  In June 1671, Simon-François Daumont de Saint-Lusson, whom Intendant Talon sent to the pays d'en haut to find mineral deposits along Lake Superior, staged a "dramatic ceremony of possession" at Sault Ste.-Marie, where Lake Superior tumbles into Lake Huron.  Jesuit Father Claude Allouez and interpreter Nicolas Perrot addressed the assembled Natives in their own languages.  In the minds of the French, they now "possessed," in the name of King Louis XIV, all of that "immense territory, discovered and yet to be discovered, which stretched from the seas of the north and west to that of the south."  Saint-Lusson did find copper mines in the area, but his other goal--a northwest passage across the continent--eluded him. 

Perhaps the elusive passage lay somewhere to the south, out of reach of Saint-Lusson's northern expedition.  "From the Indians," Joe Gray Taylor informs us, "the French heard of a great river to the west," at the southwestern edge of the pays d'en haut.  The Jesuit Relations of 1669-70, repeating what the missionaries had heard from their Native charges, described "a beautiful River, large, wide, deep, and worthy of comparison ... with our great river St. Lawrence," a stream the Ojibwe called Misi-ziibi--Great River.  Champlain and the others had learned long ago that the River of Canada drained the Great Lakes region, but, despite its unquestionable magnificence, the Fleuve St.-Laurent was not the northwest passage long sought by Europeans.  Was the beautiful river of Indian lore a direct route across the continent to Asia?  Those who had seen the Great River of the Ojibwe did not know.  Though they could describe its upper reaches as it wound its way southward from the land of the northern people, what lay beyond, even the direction of its flow, none could say with certainty.  Nothing in the collective European mind connected the final resting place of Hernando de Soto with a magnificent river at the western edge of the pays d'en haut.  As with most things European, one of their kind must go there to see for themselves.01a


In 1672, Intendant Talon, with the approbation of Governor-General Louis de Buade, comte de Pallau et de Frontenac, chose a 26-year-old voyageur to learn the truth about the western river.  Louis Jolliet, born at Québec but raised on Île d'Orléans below the city, had attended a Jesuit school at Québec but spurned the priesthood for a secular life.  Jolliet could speak several European languages--French, English, Spanish, Latin--and perhaps several Native tongues as well, which stood him in good stead as he pursued the fur trade.  His command of languages, the intendant believed, was an excellent qualification for an explorer.  Talon had sent him to search for copper mines on Lake Superior in 1671.  Jolliet's next mission was to determine where the Mississippi flowed--into the Mexican Gulf or into the Mer Vermeille, the French name for the Gulf of California.  If the river flowed into the Vermilion Sea, the French would be able to flank the Spanish settlements in Mexico and establish a direct route to the markets of Asia. 

The intendant informed the young explorer that New France could not spare funds for the voyage, so Jolliet was compelled to form a fur-trading partnership and raise money on his own--an age-old characteristic of French exploitation.  This delayed the voyage of discovery until the following spring.  In the winter of 1672, Jolliet, on orders from the Jesuit superior of New France, took on a partner of a different kind.  Père Jacques Marquette, a native of Laon, France, who had come to Québec in September 1666, wasa typical Jesuit--fluent in half a dozen Native languages and eager to spread the One True Faith to more nations of the pays d'en haut.  In May 1673, Jolliet, with two birch bark canoes manned by Father Marquette and five other voyageurs, at least four of them Jolliet's trading partners, followed the Indian route via lake, bay, river, and portage from the Jesuit mission of St.-Ignace at Michilimackinac to where Rivière Meskousing, today's Wisconsin River, flows into the Mississippi at present-day Prairie du Chien.  It was already summer when they got there, and they had no plans to winter on the Mississippi. 

They floated down the Great River for hundreds of miles, following its many turns, passing its many tributaries, greeting many nations, including more bands of the friendly Illinois.  They saw, and experienced, many natural wonders, traveling not west but south, always southward.  They could not have failed to notice the mouth of the muddy Missouri on the Mississippi's west bank.  Farther down, on the east bank, a few miles from the river, they likely did not notice the oddly-shaped grass-covered hills of what later would be called Cahokia.  Here, hundreds of years ago, the temporal and spiritual capital of a people long forgotten stood dominant over much of the Mississippi valley--"probably the largest city that existed north of Mexico before the late eighteenth century," Daniel Richter tells us.  "In its heyday it was home to more than twenty thousand people.  Towering a hundred feet above a fifty-acre artificial plaza, its main temple mound covered sixteen acres at its base and contained twenty-two million cubic feet of hand-deposited earth.  Surrounding the temple and plaza, at least a hundred smaller mounds supported ceremonial structures or covered the accumulated burials of generations of the city's elite residents."  Had Jolliet and Marquette come to this place half a millennium earlier, such marvels would have shaken, but not broken, their sense of superiority over America's Native people.  But the great city was gone now, lost even to memory.  Only the colossal grass-covered mounds remained.  None of the people the voyagers encountered would have mentioned the Forgotten Ones.  None were moundbuilders.  None were ruled by a bejeweled "Great Sun" who may, or may not, have granted the Frenchmen permission to resume their journey. 

Farther down, near the mouth of a large tributary flowing from the west, the party of canoes came upon the Quapaw, also called the Arkansas, who showed them Spanish trade goods.  Jolliet and Marquette were now convinced that the Mississippi flowed into the Mexican Gulf, not into the Vermilion Sea.  Though Jolliet had promised Frontenac that "he would see the mouth of the river," and the Quapaw informed him that he and his companions were only 50 leagues from the sea, Joliet knew that the Spanish would not be pleased to see a French exploring party in that country.  Moreover, their stock of provisions was running out.  So, in late July, the adventurers turned their canoes around and fought the mighty current that had hurried them down so swiftly.  Heeding the advice of friendly Indians, they followed a shorter route back to the Great Lakes via the Illinois River, the Chicago portage, Lake Michigan, and the Sturgeon Bay portage, to the mission of St.-François-Xavier, today's Green Bay, Wisconsin, which they reached in mid-October.  Marquette resumed his mission work at St.-François-Xavier and later among the Illinois at their grand village near present-day Peoria, along with Father Claude Allouez.  On 18 May 1675, while on his way from the Illinois villages to St.-Ignace at Michilimackinac, Father Marquette died of dysentery at the mouth of today's Pere Marquette River, near present-day Ludington, Michigan.  He was only 38 years old. 

Louis Jolliet, meanwhile, spent the winter of 1673-74 at Sault Ste.-Marie, where he carefully compiled his maps and reports and left copies with the Jesuits.  He then headed back to Québec to report to the intendant.  An accident at the St.-Louis rapids above Montréal led to the death of three of his companions, including his Indian slave, and nearly drowned the explorer himself.  His maps and reports were lost to the St. Lawrence, and, later, their copies were consumed in a fire at the Sault Ste.-Marie mission.

Though they did not follow the Great River down to its mouth or presume to claim its valley for King Louis XIV, the discoveries of Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette contributed much to the geography of the pays d'en haut.  Just as importantly, they inspired others to explore Rivière Colbert, Frontenac's name for the Mississippi.02


Less than a decade later, Jolliet and Marquette's efforts on the Mississippi were brought to fruition by one of the most interesting characters in Canadian history.  René-Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, unlike Louis Jolliet, was not a native of New France, but he made his reputation and his fortune there.  Born at Rouen into a wealthy bourgeois family on 24 November 1643, La Salle spent his youth as a student of the Jesuits and then as a Jesuit noviate.  He yearned to become a missionary, but his superiors did not think he was mature enough to pursue that difficult avocation.  They were especially troubled by the young novice's tendency to become easily bored with his studies.  Frustrated, La Salle had himself released from his priestly vows and left the Jesuit convent at age 24, determined to make his way in the secular world.  His vow of poverty having denied him access to his father's patrimony, La Salle followed a brother and an uncle to New France to seek his fortune there.  He arrived at Québec in the fall of 1667, only a few months after abandoning his religious studies.  Probably through the influence of his older brother Jean, a Sulpician priest at Montréal, the young bachelor received a seigneurie at Côte St.-Sulpice on Île Montréal.03

Bored with his life as a Canadian seigneur, La Salle's youthful desire to become a great explorer took hold of him.  In January 1669, he sold the major part of his seigneurie, for which he had paid nothing to the priests, and kept only the house there for his fur-trading interests.  He was determined to move deep into the pays d'en haut and explore the distant Ohio, described as another belle rivière, stories of which he had heard from local Indians.  Perhaps that river, and not the Mississippi, was the way to the Vermilion Sea and China.  Despite his complete lack of experience as an explorer, he received permission from Intendant Talon to lead an expedition to la belle rivière.  None of La Salle's companions, including two Sulpicians, spoke the language of the Iroquois, through whose territory they would pass, nor were any of them, including La Salle himself, competent in cartography or celestial navigation.  La Salle managed to secure the services of a Dutch interpreter, but, sadly, the Dutchman could speak little French.  In nine canoes, the band of misfits set off for Lake Ontario in early July and, after much trial and error, reached the great lake in early August.  The Iroquois, being apprised of the Frenchmen's intentions, invited La Salle and his party to the great Seneca village in present-day western New York, where the wily natives delayed their further progress towards the land of their enemies.  Finally, an Iroquois wanderer agreed to lead La Salle and his party deeper into the western country, and they followed him and other guides overland to the shores of Lake Erie, which the natives assured them was a more efficient route to the headwaters of the Ohio.  By then, however, La Salle had fallen ill and become bored with the venture, so he left the Sulpicians to minister to the Ottawa and abandoned his fantasy to explore the Ohio.

Despite the failure, the French used La Salle's putative expedition to lay claim to the Ohio country.  Nothing came of it, however, until the establishment of a French presence on another, more magnificient belle rivière into which the Ohio flowed. 

As for the budding explorer, La Salle had powerful friends in France who, throughout the 1670s, touted his "discovery" not only of the Ohio, but also of the Mississippi!  By then, La Salle, in both France and Canada, had become a champion of the anti-Jesuit party.  In 1673, during a dispute between the governor of Montréal and Governor-General Frontenac, La Salle ingratiated himself to the governor-general, who also distrusted the Jesuits.  Back in France in 1674-75, La Salle secured with the help of an even more powerful patron not only a title of nobility, but also the trading concession at Catararcoui, which he promptly renamed Fort Frontenac.  The post, built by Frontenac a few years earlier, lay on the north shore of Lake Ontario where it fell into the upper St. Lawrence and held every promise of making La Salle a wealthy man.  Built to check Iroquois aggression in the region, Catararcoui was perfectly positioned for further exploration of the pays d'en haut, an ambition La Salle still embraced.03a

But it was not enough.  Hungry for more concessions and preferment, La Salle returned to France in 1677 and lobbied for authorization from the Court "to construct, at his own expense, 'two establishments ... one at the entrance to Lake Erie, the other at the exit from the Lac des Illinois (Michigan); to become seigneur of the lands that he might discover and populate. ...,'" as well as the office of governor of the new territory.  Amazingly, La Salle received much of what he sought, including permission, from King Louis XIV himself, "to reconnoitre the western part of North America between New France, Florida, and Mexico."  La Salle would receive his western seigneurie, along with its governorship, "provided his enterprise was accomplished within five years."04

Evidently the young nobleman envisioned nothing less than a string of French forts and Récollet missions from the St. Lawrence through the Great Lakes, on into the Illinois country, and down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.  By the late 1670s, the English had established colonies along the Atlantic littoral from Maine, much of which was still claimed by the French, all the way down to Spanish Florida.  From La Salle's forts, the French could project power and influence not only into the western lands to overawe more Indian nations, but also south into Spanish Mexico with its gold and silver mines, and east to the mountains behind the English, hemming them in against the sea.  Strategic interests predominated in his vision of western settlement, but economic interests also fueled his ambitious scheme.  France--that is to say, La Salle--would dominate the lucrative fur trade in the Great Lakes region as well as the Mississippi valley.  On a global scale, Joe Gray Taylor tells us, "La Salle's ambitions complemented the mercantilist policies of Louis XIV's government," especially the vision of his finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert.04a 

La Salle returned to Québec in September 1678.  With him aboard the St.-Honoré were 30 craftsmen, seamen, and gentlemen to help him secure his western domain.  Among his new associates was Henri de Tonty, also spelled Tonti, who, despite his exotic name, was as French as the others.  Tonty's parents had fled his native Naples, then controlled by the Spanish, when Henri was a boy.  He grew up in France, was educated there, and joined the French army as a cadet in his late teens.  Promoted to midshipman by the early 1670s, he served aboard French galleys and warships out of Toulon and Marseille in seven campaigns against the Spanish during what historians call the Franco-Dutch War.  In Sicily, as a captain-lieutenant, he lost the use of his right hand in a grenade explosion at Libisso, was captured, and endured six months as a Spanish prisoner at Metasse.  After being exchanged for the Spanish governor's son, he returned to France, where the King awarded him 300 livres.  The war with Spain and Holland still on, Tonty returned to the Mediterranean galleys as a volunteer.  When the war ended in 1678, he returned to Paris "but was unable to obtain employment at court."  After befriending Cabart de Villermont, King's counselor at Court and an acquaintance of La Salle, Tonty signed on with the young seigneur's expedition and accompanied La Salle to Québec.  Now in his late 20s, the valorous young Neapolitan soon would become La Salle's most trusted lieutenant. 

In early December 1678, La Salle and his men, including Tonty and Récollet Father Louis Hennepin, were among the first Europeans to visit Niagara Falls.  By late summer of 1679, under Tonty's supervision, La Salle's men had constructed a fort below the great falls, on the east bank of the Niagara near where it flows into Lake Ontario.  La Salle called it Fort Conti.  Above the falls, on the Lake Erie shore, under Tonty's supervision, they also constructed a 70-foot, 45-ton barque, the Griffon, "so called in honour of Frontenac's coat of arms."  Launched on August 7, here was a sturdy vessel La Salle could use to explore the upper Great Lakes and secure, if he could, an all-water route to the Straits of Mackinac and the entrance to Lake Superior at Sault Ste.-Marie.  To see for himself if this route was possible, La Salle sailed the Griffon through Lake Erie, past Détroit, into Lake St.-Claire, and up Rivière St.-Claire into Lake Huron, where he rendezvoused with Tonty.  He had sent the trusted lieutenant ahead to round up a party of men who had gone to the Illinois country and should have reported to Fort Frontenac months earlier with a season's worth of valuable furs.  La Salle and Tonty moved on to the mission of St.-Ignace at Michilimackinac, which they reached on August 27.  Here was "the cross-roads of all the southwestern fur trade," one of Tonty's biographers informs us.  This 20-day voyage alone would have secured La Salle's reputation as a significant explorer, but he could not stop there.  He found some of the stragglers at Michilimackinac, but six others had deserted "with at least 4,000 livres of merchandise and were believed to be at Sault Ste Marie."  On August 29, La Salle sent Tonty north to the Sault to round up the deserters, and then he continued westward through the Straits of Mackinac into Lake Michigan and down its western shore into the Baie des Puants, now Green Bay, first visited by Jean Nicollet in 1635 and which La Salle reached in early October.  Ignoring the King's dictum that he refrain from trading with the western tribes who provided fur for the merchant-priests at Montréal, La Salle filled the Griffon with pelts from the western edge of the pays d'en haut and sent the sturdy little ship back to Niagara via Michilimackinac.05

Back at Michilimackinac, La Salle, with 14 men in four canoes, headed south into Lake Michigan and rendezvoused with Tonty at the mouth of Rivière-des-Miami, on the lower eastern shore of the lake, at the beginning of November.  Impressed with the site, La Salle ordered the construction of a palisade--Fort St.-Joseph, also called Fort Miami--and ordered the Griffon to rendezvous with him there instead of returning to Niagara.  Tonty, fresh from Michilimackinac, informed him that the Griffon was nowhere to be found.  Determined to sacrifice no momentum in his western explorations, the restless La Salle left 10 men at the new fort.  With Tonty, 40 men, and three Récollet friars, he canoed up Rivière-des-Miami, portaged to the Kankakee, followed that stream to the river of the Illinois, which he called Rivière Seignelay, and reached the site of the main Illinois village near present-day Peoria in early January 1680.  No one could accuse him now of lacking knowledge and experience.  Having penetrated fifteen hundred miles into the wilderness, he now was a voyageur of the pays d'en haut, as good as the best of that hardy breed.  

La Salle asked permission from the Illinois to build a fort on their river.  He also revealed his plan to build a barque there, which he would use to complete the exploration of the Mississippi River.  Negotiations went well with the Illinois chiefs until a visiting chief from the Mascouten appeared at the village and accused the Frenchman of being an ally of their common enemy, the Iroquois.  La Salle openly confronted the Mascouten, and good relations were restored with the Illinois.  They nevertheless related tales to their guests about the perils of navigating the great river.  Some of La Salle's men took the Indians' tales to heart and deserted the enterprise at the first opportunity, but La Salle, aware of Jolliet and Marquette's experience, ignored the warnings and refused to give up his plan to build a fort in the area.  He ordered his men to build a palisade at a prudent distance below the Illinois village and named it Fort Crèvecoeur.  Construction of the "broken hearted" fort began on January 15 on the south bank of the Illinois near present-day Pekin, a few miles south of Peoria.  It also would serve as a mission for the Récollets who had accompanied La Salle to the Illinois valley:  Fathers Louis Hennepin, Zénobe Membré, and Jacques Gabriel.  These more conservative missioners would compete for souls at the Illinois villages with the Jesuits who had ministered there since 1675.

In late February 1680, La Salle sent Father Hennepin with two voyageurs, including Michel Accault, to scout the Illinois to its confluence with the Mississippi and then explore the larger river's upper reaches.  Fathers Membré and Gabriel remained at Crèvecoeur.  On March 1, La Salle placed Tonty in charge of Fort Crèvecoeur and set out with a small party in search of the Griffon.  At Fort Miami, La Salle heard nothing of the fate of his vessel.  He sent word back to Tonty to move up the Illinois and survey the location for another fort he hoped to build at Le Rocher, or Starved Rock, on the site of an abandoned Kaskaskia village at the head of the river's navigation.  Determined to return to Niagara, he and his men set out across country and, after a difficult trek, reached Fort Conti in April.  But La Salle's difficulties had only begun.  The Niagara fort had burned, and, worse yet, he learned that a ship from France bringing him a large load of goods for his western seigneurie had been lost in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  He pressed on to Fort Frontenac, which he reached in May, completing one of the most remarkable journeys in the history of New France.  He returned to Montréal to settle some financial matters and returned to Fort Frontenac "more in debt than ever."  In July, he received a message from Tonty informing him that the men he had left at Fort Crèvecoeur, "dismayed by rumours of La Salle's financial difficulties," had sacked and abandoned the post that spring.  Ominously, some of them were coming cross country to finish him off, destroying all they could find that belonged to him.  Undaunted, La Salle and some of his trustworthy associates waited in ambush and captured the miscreants as they approached Fort Frontenac.06

La Salle wasted no time returning to Illinois.  Soon after capturing the Crèvecoeur deserters, he set out in mid-August with 25 trusty men in canoes and, following a Native route to Georgian Bay, appeared at Sault Ste.-Marie in mid-September before moving down to Michilimackinac.  On the way, he inquired about the fate of his Griffon and was convinced by the time he reached the Sault that his precious vessel had been lost.  He was especially anxious to learn the fate of the trusted Tonty, who he heard was living at an Illinois village with the few Frenchmen who had remained faithful to him.  Learning nothing more at Michilimackinac, he pressed on to Fort Miami and then to the Illinois to assess the damage to Fort Crèvecoeur.  Reaching the upper stretches of the river, he found villages destroyed by the marauding Iroquois.  He searched among the mutilated corpses for his one-armed lieutenant but found no trace of him.  At Crèvecoeur, he found more destruction, including the remains of his unfinished barque.  He moved on to the Mississippi, seeing more signs of slaughter on the way but still no trace of Tonty.  At the confluence of the Illinois and the Mississippi, he laid eyes on the great river for the first time, but he could not linger there.  He retraced his steps to Fort Miami, which he reached in January 1681. 

It had been a maddening year for him, but he did not give up.  He sent a letter to Michilimackinac in case Tonty appeared there and encouraged the remnants of the Miami and Illinois nations to unite against the Iroquois.  Only by defeating their mutual enemy and returning to their villages could there be peace enough in the pays d'en haut for La Salle to pursue his interests there.  Finally, in March, he received word of Tonty.  His single-handed friend had barely survived the Iroquois onslaught the previous autumn.  Failing to dissuade the invaders from continuing on the war path, Tonty and the few men he could trust retreated to Michilimackinac via the upper Illinois and the Chicago portage used by Jolliet and Marquette eight years earlier.  While paddling up the western shore of Lake Michigan towards the Stinking Bay, Tonty and his party wrecked their canoe and nearly starved, but a band of Potawatomi took them in.  Rejoicing in the survival of his trusted lieutenant, La Salle arranged via messenger to rendezvous with him at Michilimackinac. 

After his reunion with Tonty at Michilimackinac in June 1681, La Salle hurried back to Montréal, having been summoned there by Frontenac.  Determined to return to the dangers of the western country and to assuage his creditors, he drew up a will in August, but his return to the pays d'en haut was delayed.  The new intendant, Jacques Duchesneau, no friend of the seigneur, accused him of trading illegally with the Ottawa (which was true) and of stirring up the Iroquois against the Illinois (which was pure fabrication).  La Salle was back at Fort Miami in late December, so Frontenac must have deflected the intendant's charges.  La Salle was determined this time to see it through:  he would push on to the mouth of the Mississippi and claim the great valley for France before his five-year patent expired.

Tonty had accompanied La Salle part way back to Montréal but headed back to Fort Miami in August.  In late December, with most of the men La Salle had recruited for the western venture, Tonty reached the Chicago portage and headed for the upper Illinois.  On 6 January 1682, he rendezvoused with La Salle a day's journey east of Rivière-des-Plains, and they reached Crèvecoeur later in the month.  By early February, they were camping on the Mississippi.  With La Salle and Tonty, waiting for the ice to break up on the upper Mississippi, were 23 other Frenchmen, including Récollet Father Membré; and 18 Natives, including 10 women and three children.  In the middle of February, they headed downriver.  On the first night of their voyage, they camped on the right bank of the Mississippi near the mouth of the Missouri.  La Salle and his companions "noted the disturbances" the muddy Missouri "caused in the Mississippi's flow."  The river bed was now "characterized by its mobility; its meanders, cut off by the stream; its crumbling banks; and the short-lived islands, anchored by willows, which obstructed the channel."  After five days of travel below the Missouri, they encountered, on the opposite bank, the mouth of the Ohio--the other belle-rivière that had eluded La Salle a dozen years earlier, though he likely did not associate that river with the one he saw flowing into the Mississippi.  Farther down, they camped at the Chickasaw Bluffs, near the site of the future city of Memphis.  Here they were delayed for 10 days while searching for a crew member, gunsmith Pierre Prud'homme, who had become lost during a hunting expedition.  Unable to remain idle, La Salle ordered the construction of a palisade there, which he called Fort Prud'homme after the hapless hunter, who they "found starving and drifting downstream on a piece of wood" following his hunting mishap.  Aniticpating more travel up and down the river, La Salle built the palisade as "a resting place for his countrymen navigating the river."  He then treated with the Chickasaw, one of the larger nations in the region, who acquiesced to his leaving a small garrison at Fort Prud'homme under command of the rescued gunsmith.  In mid-March, La Salle and his party reached the country of the Arkansas, who were alarmed at their approach, but, as he had done with the other nations he had encountered along the river, La Salle reassured them his intentions were peaceful.  They smoked the pipe of peace, after which the Arkansas supplied the Frenchmen "sumptuously."  One of La Salle's biographers continues:  "La Salle, with all the customary ceremonies, took possession of the territory in the name of the king of France."  The Arkansas also provided them with guides to aid their descent.07

Later in March, they reached the mouth of the Arkansas River, where Jolliet and Marquette had turned back nine years earlier.  "The otter country was now giving way to the crocodile country," La Salle's biographer quips.  La Salle also noted that here was "the true limit in the lower course of the Mississippi."  He "perceived the rise that the rainfall there caused in the floods of the river and its tributaries.  The aquatic vegetation became thicker, the temperature more and more sultry," and, of course, the first "alligators made their appearance."  Farther down, they were greeted by the Koroa and their cousins the Tunica at the mouth of the Yazoo, and then the Taensa, whom Tonty described as virtually civilized.  The Natchez, who had fought so fiercely against De Soto's Spaniards 140 years earlier, welcomed the Frenchmen and informed them that they were only 10 days away from the sea.  Other than the Choctaw, who lived north and east of them, the Natchez were the most powerful nation in the region.  Like the long-forgotten ones of the Mississippi valley, the Natchez were ruled by a powerful elite headed by a "Great Sun" or Grand Soleil.  They built no great mounds like the Forgotten Ones, and their villages were unprepossessing, but they were greatly favored by the Native's Three Sisters--maize, squash, and beans.  La Salle waited until Easter to push on, lingering, most likely with the Natchez, with whom he was much impressed.  After spending time also with the Houma near the mouth of today's Red River, they passed the final bluff fronting the Mississippi near the site of present-day Baton Rouge.  In early April, they briefly explored the natural levee where New Orleans stands today.  The delay almost cost them dearly.  When La Salle and his companions offered the calumet to local Natives, the warriors they encountered, belonging to the Quinapisa nation, fired arrows at them, hurrying the Frenchmen on their way.08 

Finally, on 6 April 1682, they caught sight of the open sea.  For the next few days they explored the Mississippi's birdfoot delta, including petrified tree trunks resembling giant rocks that had lodged in the narrow passes.  On April 9, "probably near the place now called Venice," though one of Tonty's biographers places it near present-day Boothville, a bit farther up the delta, La Salle "took solemn possession of Louisiana"--La Louisiane--the name La Salle had already bestowed on the entire Mississippi valley.  The explorer's biographer continues:  "La Salle, clad in scarlet trimmed in gold--where did the splendour of the Great Century not manage to intrude itself!--to the sound of triumphant hymns and salvoes of musketry, erected a cross and a column bearing the arms of His Most Christian Majesty, and buried a copper plate engraved with inscriptions.  In ringing tones he delivered the record of the territories that thus passed under the rule of the French crown.  Finally the document was countersigned by twelve of the persons present," including the redoubtable Tonty.09

Far to the northeast, in French Acadia, habitants from Port-Royal, led by Pierre Melanson and Pierre Thériot, were building new settlements along the Bassin-des-Mines.  One suspects it was done without ceremony.09a 

After the impressive rite, La Salle attempted to make peace with the Quinapisa so that he and his party could secure supplies for their voyage back upriver.  This was, after all, an exploration party.  A French settlement in the area would have to come later.  After securing a supply of maize, which they had to steal from the inhospitable Natives, they began their return voyage in mid-April, carrying Quinapisa scalps with them.  Suspecting the Quinapisa were allied with other nations on the lower river, especially the powerful Natchez, once friendly but now hostile, La Salle and his party hurried up to Taensa, where they were welcomed as before.  Back in their canoes in early May, La Salle pushed ahead to the Arkansas, leaving Tonty behind to command the main party.  The sieur had fallen ill and was recuperating at Fort Prud'homme, among the Chickasaw, when Tonty and the main party caught up with him in late May.  La Salle sent Tonty ahead to Fort Miami with instructions to report to Frontenac the details of their adventure.  Not until mid-June was La Salle well enough to resume the upriver journey.  He was back at Crèvecoeur in July.  Still convalescing, he did not return to Michilimackinac via Fort Miami and Lake Michigan until September.  Tonty was waiting for him there.  La Salle was too frail to return to Québec and sail on to France to report his discoveries.  He handed that mission to Father Membré and remained at Michilimackinac to compile his report and send out dispatches.  Frontenac had been replaced by a new governor-general, Joseph-Antoine Le Febvre de La Barre, so La Salle was not ready to return to the pays d'en bas just yet.  After he recovered his health in December, he returned, instead, to Illinois, where Tonty was building a new fort on the east bank of the river atop Starved Rock, half way between Crèvecoeur and the Chicago portage.  Tonty coaxed the Illinois to resettle there, so La Salle had plenty of company at his new western headquarters.10

Fort St.-Louis-des-Illinois was completed in May 1683.  Only then was La Salle ready to return to Fort Frontenac.  He left in August, leaving Tonty in command of the new headquarters.  On his way back to the St. Lawrence, La Salle was accosted by the Chevalier Louis-Henri de Baugy, who had been sent out by the new governor-general to hustle La Salle back to Québec to answer more charges against him.  De Baugy also carried orders to take command of Fort St.-Louis, which he did in September.  On the pretext of abandonment, La Barre already had seized Fort Frontenac from La Salle associate François Dauphin de La Forest and awarded it to two of his own favorites.  La Salle was now persona non grata in the colony he had helped so much to expand.  La Barre, the new intendant Jacques de Meulles, La Salle's creditors, and, of course, the Jesuits, were all in league against him.  La Salle, in a fit of paranoia, accused La Barre and the others of plotting to have him murdered.  The agitated nobleman, with La Barre's approbation, took the first opportunity to sail back to France.10a 


No one had extended the reach, the glory, the influence of New France farther into the western realms than René-Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle.  Yet he was not welcomed in Canada, at least not in the established communities along the St. Lawrence.  Tonty and his trusted associates, all of whom La Barre had ousted from the western forts, remained in New France, waiting for their leader's return. 

Nor did La Salle seem to be much welcomed in old France.  He sailed from Québec aboard St.-Honoré and reached La Rochelle shortly before Christmas of 1683.  The King had written Governor-General La Barre the previous August "that the Sieur de La Salle's discovery is completely useless (and that) such undertakings must in future be prevented."  This convinced La Salle that his days in Canada were at an end.  He had hoped to use his new fort on the Illinois as a base from which to establish a French settlement among the Taensa on the lower Mississippi.  The King's dictum to La Barre made this impossible, though white-collar missionaries, La Salle believed, soon would venture down into the Mississippi valley to spread the Gospel among the natives there. 

La Salle's discoveries nevertheless had inspired powerful advocates in France who clamored for the creation of a colony from which French forces could invade New Spain and seize gold and silver mines there.  Abbé Claude Bernou, a favorite at Court, had befriended a Spanish nobleman, Comte Diego de Penalosa, who had deserted his post in Mexico and now worked for France.  The priest and the comte, with associate Nicolas Thoynard, concocted a scheme to establish a colony at the mouth of today's Rio Grande even before word of La Salle's expedition had reached Versailles.  Bernou, evidently with La Salle's assistance, created a map for presentation to the Court that showed the mouth of the Mississippi not where La Salle actually had found it but 250 leagues farther to the west, closer to the mines of Mexico!11

Bernou's and La Salles's misdirections and schemes succeeded at Court.  The King and his new Minister of Marine, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Colbert, marquis de Seignelay, Jean-Baptiste Colbert's son, approved the venture.  To ensure no interference from his minions in New France, the King restored to La Salle control of the western country.  In April 1684, Louis XIV ordered La Barre to restore Fort Frontenac to La Salle and then granted La Salle "a commission to command in all the territory lying between Fort Saint-Louis-des-Illinois and New Biscay," a Spanish territory in today's northeastern Mexico.  This gave La Salle control not only of the lower Mississippi valley, but also the northwestern shore of the Gulf of Mexico.  He would need the concessions as much as the title:  "La Salle received the authority he sought," Joe Gray Taylor reminds us, "though he was to pay most of the expenses of the effort from his own fortune."12 

The King's largesse went only so far.

La Salle would have his colony on the Mississippi, but not via Canada.  Preparations began promptly at Rochefort for an expedition to the Gulf of Mexico.  Four ships, including a warship, the Joly, would sail with their crews of officers and sailors; 100 soldiers; eight military officers; 40 or so indentured servants, including a dozen families with women and children, among them Lucien Talon, his wife Isabelle Planteau, and their sons Pierre, Jean, and Robert, the latter a newborn named for his godfather, the Sieur de La Salle; six priests, including Récollet Fathers Anastase Douay and Zénobe Membré, the latter a veteran of La Salle's descent of the Mississippi; an engineer; and nine volunteers, among them La Salle's older brother Jean, the priest; two of their nephews, including the hot-headed Crevel de Moranget; 14-year-old Pierre, son of Louis Meunier, sieur de Previtte; brothers Pierre and Dominique Duhaut; and Henri Joutel of Rouen, who La Salle would come to trust as much as he had trusted Henri de Tonty.  Unfortunately, La Salle clashed immediately with the captain of the Joly, Taneguy Le Gallois de Beaujeu, who refused to take orders from a landsman, especially one as volatile as the Sieur de La Salle.  It did not help that La Salle refused to impart to his captain the exact location of the planned colony.  Nor did it help that La Salle overloaded the Joly with supplies and settlers, forcing the sailors to sleep on the vessel's top deck, in the sun, wind, and rain. 

The flotilla left Rochefort in late July 1684, but only two days out the Joly broke its bowsprit.  A return to the Île d'Aix delayed departure for an ocean crossing already plagued by problems.  From Île d'Aix, the flotilla sailed southwest to Cape Finisterre and then on to the Madeiras off the coast of North Africa.  When they crossed the Equator, the prickly La Salle refused to take part in the traditional burlesque, which did not endear him to the sailors.  Approaching the Indies, La Salle and dozens of others took sick, so Beaujeu made for French St.-Domingue, the gateway to the Gulf, as swiftly as the Joly's sails allowed.  They landed not at Port-de-Paix, the agreed-upon rendezvous on St.-Domingues's north shore, but at Petit-Gouâve along the southwestern coast near today's Port-au-Prince.  Soon after landing, La Salle took sick again.  Days later, two of the other ships in La Salle's flotilla--the Aimable, a frigate, and the Belle, a barque--finally arrived, but the fourth ship, the supply ketch St.-François, failed to appear.  In late October, they learned of the fate of the slow-sailing St.-François--it had been captured by Spanish privateers.  Not only did the expedition lose most of its supplies, but the Spanish were now aware of La Salle's intentions.  The sieur blamed the loss on Captain Beaujeu, which only worsened their relationship. 

With the help of the governor of Île de la Tortue they were able to stockpile enough supplies to begin the new settlement.  The expedition left St.-Domingue much diminished in size.  La Salle not only had lost to capture the officers, crew, and passengers aboard the St.-François, but also a number of deserters who had jumped ship in St.-Domingue.  La Salle himself had become incapacitated by illness.  Moreover, "many of his people, yielding to the incitement of a warm climate, favoured by the want of occupation, became the victims of intemperance and consequent disease; and several died."  Likely blaming Beaujeu for the fatal delay, La Salle elected to travel aboard the smaller vessel Aimable, and by late November they were on their way. 

Hugging the south coast of Cuba, Beaujeu managed to elude the Spanish and reach the Gulf of Mexico by the middle of December.  Late that month, they "noticed the white colour of the sea, and the soundings revealed a sea bed of 'fine, greyish and muddy sand,'" a certain sign that they were near the mouth of a great river.  And then La Salle made his fatal mistake.  Instead of trusting his intuition and following the mud, he followed, instead, the faulty Spanish charts and graphs he had taken with him; the advice from learned scholars he had consulted in Paris; and, most ironic of all, his own (inaccurate) calculations of longitude from his triumphal discovery of 1682.  He reasoned that the flotilla had drifted too far eastward, that they were looking at mud from Apalachee Bay, not from the mouth of the Mississippi. 

During the first week of January 1685, amidst heavy fog, he signaled to Beaujeu, farther out to sea, to turn the ships westward, towards "the hypothetical Baie du Saint-Esprit," today's Mobile Bay, beyond which he expected to find the mouth of the Mississippi again.  Ironically, during his careful exploration of the sandy, wooded coast, La Salle came upon a stretch of littoral that "appeared lined with battures and breakers"--most likely one of the passes into the Mississippi delta.  He attempted a landing in two of the ship's boats, but contrary winds and fog drove him back to the ships.  From what he could make of the coastline and the readings from his instruments, La Salle was not convinced he had found the Mississippi but that it still lay off to the westward.  On January 13, perhaps at today's Atchafalaya Bay, he anchored the two ships half a league out from the beach and prepared to send a party ashore to find fresh water.  A small group of natives soon appeared.  Even gestures of friendship on the part of the Indians failed to lure the Frenchmen ashore.  Making use of a log, the Indians swam out to the ships instead, but La Salle could not understand their words or gestures.  He gave them presents, which "seemed to gratify them much," they swam back to shore, and then they were gone.  Determined to find the river by an overland march and to replenish their stores of fresh water, La Salle led a dozen men ashore, but the weather refused to cooperate.  Returning to their vessels later in the day, La Salle resumed his exploration of the bleak, sandy coast.  Beaujeu's Joly remained farther out to sea, while the Aimable and the Belle sailed as close to the shore as they dared, searching for signs of the Mississippi.  As the coast turned gradually southward, La Salle must have realized he had missed the mouth of his river.13

The two smaller ships were anchored off the southwest tip of today's Matagorda Island when Beaujeau and the Joly caught up to them.  Needless to say, the commander and the captain "did not lose an admirable opportunity for a quarrel, with mutual accusations of desertion."  They spent the next few days hunting, fishing, and exploring the coast "without managing to acquire any certainty as to the exact place where they had landed."  La Salle was shaken, but he managed to convince himself that they had reached one of the outlets of the Mississippi.  In mid-February, he decided they would settle on what he called the Baie St.-Louis, later St.-Bernard, today's Matagorda Bay.  The channel leading into the bay was too narrow and too shallow to accommodate the larger hull of the Joly.  The Belle managed to negotiate the channel, but the Aimable, "either because of La Salle's rashness or because of a mistake on the pilot's part," ran aground, broke apart, and spilled its valuable contents onto the sandy shoal.  Local natives, alerted to the Frenchmen's presence, tried to make off with as much as they could.  The Frenchmen fired on them, and they fired back, resulting in two Frenchmen killed and two wounded, including La Salle's nephew, Crevel de Moranget, who was one of the wounded.14

In mid-March, Beaujeu could see his mission was complete.  He turned the Joly seaward and headed back to France.  With him went not only his officers and crew, but also the captain and most of the crew of the Aimable, as well as colonists and volunteers who already had their fill of La Salle's expedition.  Though Beaujeu left La Salle with a dozen cannon, he refused to unload the guns' cannon balls "on the pretense that they were in the bottom of his ship, and he could not unload her without risk."  For protection against the natives they had just abused, La Salle ordered the construction of a shelter from the wreckage of the Aimable.  The site was poorly chosen, and many became sick.  After further exploration of the coast, which turned up no trace of the Mississippi delta, La Salle turned to the mainland.  He ordered the construction of a more substantial settlement along the right bank of Rivière-aux-Boeufs, today's Garcitas Creek, at the head of Lavaca Bay.  The site of the new post, started in May, consisted of eight wood and mud structures without an enclosing palisade "protected" by eight ship's cannon.  This site, as it proved, also was poorly chosen.  The extra toil, as well as the unhealthiness of the site, caused more sickness among settlers and soldiers, and more of them died.  This, along with incessant Indian attacks and La Salle's autocratic leadership, damaged the morale of the soldiers and settlers despite the arrival of spring.  In La Salle's mind, the Rivière-aux-Boeufs settlement, though more substantial than the shelter on the coast, was only a temporary refuge for his colony until he could move it to its intended location on the lower Mississippi.15

In late October, leaving Joutel in command at Rivière-aux-Boeufs, La Salle, with his hot-headed nephew, Moranget, now recovered from his arrow wound, and half a dozen of his best men, took a canoe northward along the coast, determined to find the mouth of the Mississippi.  The remaining ship, the Belle, followed their progress as close as it could.  In mid-January 1686, a lone crewman from La Salle's canoe returned to the settlement, having become separated from the others because of the callousness of Moranget, who also soon appeared.  La Salle did not return until the end of March, empty-handed and alone.  The remaining men in his canoe had been killed by local natives, and the Belle also had disappeared.

Without a ship with which to search for the Mississippi delta, the settlement had little chance of survival.  Desperate to find the Mississippi and to seek help from his compatriots at Fort St.-Louis-des-Illinois, in late April 1686 La Salle took 20 men, including his brother Jean, Father Athanase Douay, and a nephew, and headed up the coast.  Meanwhile, survivors of the Belle, including the teenager Pierre Meunier, appeared at Rivière-aux-Boeufs with a tale of their own.  Their pilot had gotten drunk and run the barque aground.  Only five of the men aboard survived the disaster.  Unaware of the loss of the Belle, La Salle pushed on into the interior, sending exhausted men, including Dominique Duhaut, the younger of the two brothers, back to the settlement.  After trading with a number of friendly nations for food and other necessities, La Salle reached the village of the Caddoan Hasinai, where he traded what he could spare for five horses.  By then, only eight men remained in the party.  They had ventured 450 miles from their Gulf Coast settlement, but there were too few of them to continue on to Illinois.  La Salle and his companions, including his brother, Father Athanase, and his nephew, returned to Rivière-aux-Boeufs by the middle of October and learned that some of the men La Salle had sent back to the settlement, including Dominique Duhaut, had not returned.  The loss of the expedition's only remaining ship was an especially heavy blow to the colony.  Nevertheless, upon his return, La Salled found "a considerable tract of land cleared, and under cultivation.  Comfortable houses had been built, and gardens were to be seen near most of them; the settlement was in a flourishing condition, and the Indians, in the immediate neighbourhood, were friendly."15a 

In January 1687, La Salle, this time with 17 men and boys, including his brother, Joutel, Father Athanase, and nephew Moranget, started up the coast again, determined to get to the Illinois country.  Only 25 settlers, including Father Membré, seven women, and half a dozen or so children, remained at Rivière-aux-Boeufs.  This from the complement of about 180 soldiers and settlers who had chosen to remain with La Salle two years earlier.  Lieutenant Gabriel Minime, sieur de Barbier, who had a young wife and newborn, was left in command of the settlement. 

This latest jaunt up the coast proved to be La Salle's final adventure.  Retracing his route of the previous year, he, his brother, the nephew, and Father Anastase used the horses to carry personal baggage as well as "several church ornaments, even a dozen habits," a certain sign that even the wilderness could not overcome European class consciousness.  Just as troubling, La Salle treated the natives he encountered along the way more courteously than he did most of his men.  Alcée Fortier explains:  "It appears that the great explorer was a stern commander, not knowing how to make himself popular with men who could not understand his indomitable energy and courage."  It did not help that Father Athanase was a stickler for protocol in his relationship with others, and that Moranget was as arrogant as and even more violent than his uncle.16

By mid-March, with the help of coastal and inland natives, La Salle again made contact with the friendly Hasinai.  He and his party crossed Rivière-aux-Canots, today's Trinity River, 80 miles up the coast from Rivière-aux-Boeufs, on March 14.  Across the Trinity, La Salle sent on ahead a Shawnee hunter named Nika with several Frenchmen, including his servant, surgeon Pierre Duhaut, and teenager Pierre Meunier.  Their mission was to kill bison and dig up provisions La Salle had buried on his previous venture.  Two days later, La Salle sent his nephew Moranget and two companions with the horses to bring the provisions back to camp.  When Moranget came upon the hunting party smoking bison meat, he demanded the choicest portions.  This angered several of the men, especially Duhaut, who had never forgiven Moranget for previous slights, nor La Salle for causing the death of his younger bother Dominique.  That night, in league with four accomplishes, including the teenager Jean L'Archevêque, Duhaut axed to death La Salle's servant, the Shawnee, and Moranget, who were sleeping near the fire together.  Pierre Meunier was a witness to, but evidently not a participant in, the cold-blooded murder.

On the morning of 19 March 1687, La Salle was apprised of the treacherous deed.  Never one to retreat from a fight, he hurried to the scene of the murder with Father Athanase, intent on confronting Duhaut and his companions.  Duhaut anticipated the confrontation and hid in tall grass with his musket loaded.  La Salle confronted one of the murderers, Duhaut's servant, and demanded to know the whereabouts of his nephew.  The servant's answer angered the nobleman, who was in the act of striking the impudent fellow when Duhaut fired his musket from ambush, the ball striking La Salle in the head.  Not satisfied with killing the explorer, the conspirators "insulted the corpse," stripped it, "and left it naked in the thicket" for wild animals to devour.  They seized La Salle's personal belongings, including the famous scarlet cloak which had survived so many adventures.  "Some time later," La Salle's biographer tells us, "feeling the threat of impending justice, the conspirators, all but two [L'Archevêque and the leader, Duhaut], finished by killing one another off."  But there would never be a trial for the murderers. 

No matter, La Salle was no more.  He was 44 years old and still unmarried when he died in that coastal clearing.  Fleeing the murderers, Fathers Jean and Athanase, Routel, and their companions left one of the boys, Pierre Talon, in the care of the Hasinai.  The priests and Joutel then headed cross country to the Mississippi valley, arriving at Tonty's post at the mouth of the Arkansas in July.  After lingering there in the company of Tonty's trading partners, they reached Fort St.-Louis-des-Illinois in early September.17


In September 1683, on orders from Governor-General La Barre, Louis-Henri de Baugy replaced Tonty in command of Fort St.-Louis-des-Illinois.  Tonty remained at the fort and helped de Baugy repulse an Iroquois attack in the spring of 1684.  In May, Tonty headed back to Québec--his first visit to the St. Lawrence in six years.  There he learned that La Barre's confiscation of La Salle's properties was about to be reversed.  La Salle by then was back in France, drumming up support for a Gulf Coast venture.  Tonty and fellow associate François Dauphin de La Forest, who had commanded at Fort Frontenac since 1679, returned to the pays d'en haut to shore up defenses and to resurrect La Salle's fur-trading ventures.  Soon after Tonty's return to Illinois, the new governor-general, Jacques-René Brisay de Denonville, who replaced La Barre in 1685, summoned Tonty back to Montréal.  Denonville informed him that imminent war with the Iroquois required the protection of the Illinois country and ordered him to gather together a force of friendly Illinois and attack the Iroquois from the rear.  "Owing to an early freeze-up," however, Tonty could not return to Fort St.-Louis-des-Illinois until June 1685, by which time La Salle had reached the Gulf of Mexico, overshot the mouth of the Mississippi, and settled on the Mexican coast. 

Not until November 1685 did Tonty learn that La Salle had gone to the Gulf of Mexico.  On 16 February 1686, determined to rendezvous with his chief, he left Illinois for the lower Mississippi with 25 Frenchmen and 10 Indians and reached the river's mouth between April 8 and 13.  He and his companions found no trace of the colony, only the cross from the ceremony of four years earlier "thrown down by the driftwood."  They dutifully planted another cross with the King's arms attached and went about the business of finding their fellow Frenchmen.  Tonty sent canoes both east and west through the marshes and bayous.  One party ventured 25 leagues towards Florida, the other 30 leagues towards Mexico, but they turned up nothing before they were forced to return for lack of fresh water.  Meanwhile, local natives told Tonty they "had seen him [La Salle] set sail and proceed southward," perhaps witnesses to La Salle's turning away from the mouth of the Mississippi a year and a half earlier.  Tonty was so determined to find La Salle he proposed to follow the coast "as far as Menade (Manhattan), and by this means" return to Montréal, but his men were opposed to such a foolhardy venture.  So they headed back upriver.  Seven leagues above the ceremonial site, Tonty planted another cross with the King's arms attached and left for La Salle "a letter in a tree near by, in a hole on the other side, with a sign above."  At the first major village above the mouth of the river, that of the Quinipisa, now friendly towards the French, Tonty left a copy of the message, dated 20 April 1686, and told the natives to give it to another Frenchman who would come to them by sea.  He returned to Fort St.-Louis-des-Illinois in May.18   

Tonty was away from Fort St.-Louis-des-Illinois when Father Jean Cavelier and his companions arrived there in September 1687.  Determined to collect the furs and money owed to his brother, Father Jean had impressed on his companions the need to keep La Salle's death a secret until he could complete the family's business.  Agreeing to the subterfuge, the fugitives told Tonty's men that La Salle was still back at the settlement on the Gulf of Mexico!  Father Jean and his remaining nephew, with Father Athanase, continued via Michilimackinac to Montréal, which they did not reach until July 1688.  Sailing from Québec in late August, they arrived at La Rochelle in early October, a year and a half after La Salle's death.  The family's business evidently incomplete, Father Jean waited a few more weeks before revealing to French authorities the fate of his brother and the existence of the hapless colony on the Gulf of Mexico. 

Tonty did not learn of La Salle's murder until September 1689, when trading partner Jean Couture returned from the post at Arkansas and related the sad news.  In December, the gallant lieutenant hurried down the Mississippi to the Taensa village and then, with four Frenchmen, a Shawnee, and two slaves, hurried overland to Natchitoches.  They lingered on Red River until February 1690 to negotiate a peace between the Natchitoches and the Taensa before pushing on into the country beyond the Red to do what they could for the settlers on Baie St.-Louis.  Tonty was, according to a biographer, "the only person who lifted a finger to help these unfortunate people, but the ordeal of the journey proved too much for him."  He got as far as the Hasinai before turning back, too late to have saved his fellow Frenchmen.19 

Not for many years did Joutel, Abbé Jean, and the others learn the fate of their fellow colonists.  In the middle of January 1689, several months after Father Jean Cavelier had returned to France, coastal natives, likely the Karankawa, who had once befriended Cabeza da Vaca, massacred the remaining men and women, including Father Membré, at Rivière-aux-Beoufs.  The native women spared the children, including the infant Barbier, but when the men returned to their village, one of them killed the infant, sparing only the older children.  Three of the Talon children--Jean-Baptiste, Robert, and a sister--were among those spared.  Rescued by a Spanish expedition soon after their capture, it was Jean-Baptiste Talon who, in the late 1690s, revealed to the world the fate of his fellow colonists on that terrible winter day.20


Could La Salle's scheme have worked?  "What if" is not history, but questions must be asked.  What if, when he came upon the milky water off the mouth of the Mississippi, the explorer had trusted his intuition and signaled Captain Beajeu to follow the Aimable to the source of the mud?  What if, having found one of the mouths of the river, the three ships, or at least their boats, could have maneuvered around the petrified tree trunks La Salle had encountered two and a half years earlier?  What if, having reached the main channel of the lower Mississippi, La Salle had chosen a settlment site at today's New Orleans or atop the bluff at Baton Rouge?  La Salle would have had his Mississippi colony, with swift communication to Illinois above and to the Gulf of Mexico below.  As long as he kept the natives happy, and the Spanish remained in Mexico, his colony would have enjoyed every promise of success.  Knowing La Salle, it would have been only the first of a string of fortified settlements from the lower Mississippi up to Illinois.  France would have had its western empire decades before it actually existed, and La Salle's scheme of confining the English to the Atlantic seaboard might have succeeded.

But that is not what happened.  Even if the settlers and soldiers at Rivière-aux-Boeufs could have remained friendly with the local natives, the Spanish would have visited the place in force, as they did in the early 1690s, when they burned the eight structures erected by the French, buried La Salle's eight cannon, and rescued the Talon children from the Karankawa.  La Salle's actual settlement, and with it his plans for a western empire, could not have survived so far away from its base on the Illinois.20f


La Salle was gone, but his vision had worked its way deeply into the minds of his fellow Frenchmen.  After his descent of the Mississippi, others, especially the ubiquitous coureurs de bois, followed him and Tonty into the western domain to exploit the resources there.  "Their presence safeguarded the right of French occupation," Marcel Giraud informs us. "Any accurate account of the explorations of these coureurs de bois or the direction of their movements is impossible.  They were said to be in the lands of the Sioux and the Illinois in variable numbers, sometimes isolated, sometimes in groups containing as many as sixty men.  Some had come there because of the vicissitudes of the war with the Iroquois ... and had been held there by the lure of a life easier than that in St. Lawrence Valley."  Traders appeared in the western country with the wherewithal to build temporary fortifications behind which they could protect their precious wares.  Pierre-Charles Le Sueur, such a coureur with means, reached the upper Mississippi in 1683, a year after La Salle's descent, and explored even farther west, into the Missouri valley.  From the Sioux, with whom he lived for a time, he learned of the presence of mineral deposits in the region.  In 1695, Le Sueur built Fort Bon Secours at Lac Pépin on the upper Mississippi between present-day St. Paul, Minnesota, and La Crosse, Wisconsin, "to keep peace between the Sioux and the Saulteux."  La Sueur soon abandoned Bon Secours and built another fort "beyond the Falls of St. Anthony, where the river 'falls straight down from sixty feet high,'" at present-day Minneapolis.  He was as determined to find mineral deposits on the upper Mississippi and its tributaries as he was to secure new sources of furs, especially after trapping in the pays d'en haut was "officially forbidden" in 1696.  He discovered "traces of copper and lead" on the Blue Earth River, a tributary of the Minnesota which in turn was a tributary of the upper Mississippi, and looked for an opportunity to exploit the discovery.20c 

The coureurs de bois were followed into the western domain by another type of adventurer, searching not for furs and minerals but for souls.  They turned their attention westward to the fringes of the pays d'en haut, where black-robed Jesuits like Father Jacques Marquette had established a mission on the Illinois River near today's Peoria in 1675.  But since the days of Father Marquette, the Jesuits had penetrated the western country no farther than their mission at Peoria.  Three Récollets came to the Illinois with the Sieur de La Salle in 1680, but their mission did not last.  The Jesuits, sanctioned by Bishop Saint-Vallier in December 1690, remained to minister to this important nation.  During the late 1690s, white-collared missionaries from the Québec Seminary, also sanctioned by Bishop de Saint-Vallier, sought to widen the scope of their "evangelistic actions," which up to that time had been exercised "only in Acadia."  The Seminarians were determined to push on into the Mississippi valley, where natives aplenty, especially the Arkansas, waited to be saved.  In May 1698, Bishop de Saint-Vallier sent four of them to the Illinois valley, where one of them established a mission among the Tamaroa, part of the Illinois confederacy, "on the east bank of the Mississippi downstream of the confluence of the Missouri."  In December 1698, escorted by Henri de Tonty, two of them descended the Mississippi to Arkansas, from whence they moved even farther downriver, to Yazoo, Tunica, and Taensa.  In 1699, the Jesuits, refusing to be ousted from the region, established a mission of their own among the Cahokia at Tamaroa.  The following year, Jesuit superior Father Gabriel Marest founded a mission for other Illinois tribes, including the Kaskaskia, across and slightly downriver from Tamaroa, near the site of present-day St. Louis, Missouri.  Jesuits also moved down to the lower river.20d

This was all well and good for French interests at the southwestern edge of the pays d'en haut, but what of La Salle's efforts to establish a French presence on the Gulf of Mexico?  Following the death of the Marquis de Seignelay in November 1690, Louis Phélypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain, became Louis XIV's Minister of Marine and Colonies.  This was early in the war against William III and his Grand Alliance against the Sun King and also the year in which Port-Royal in Acadia fell to a force of New Englishmen.  Pontchartrain had not been in charge of colonies when La Salle had secured his settlement scheme in 1685, but the new minister pondered the idea of colonizing the Gulf of Mexico in spite of La Salle's failure there.  It was Pontchartrain who ordered the interrogation of Jean-Baptiste Talon about the fate of La Salle's colonists after learning of the young man's return to France; Pontchartrain who evaluated plans submitted by Tonty, Jean Cavelier, and Gabriel Argoud to complete La Salle's work on the Gulf of Mexico; Pontchartrain who interviewed two of La Salle's Canadian associates about the geography of the Mississippi valley; Pontchartrain who would gauge the extent of the English threat from their enclaves east of the Appalachians; and for Pontchartrain that Abbé Jean-Baptiste Dubos, one of the leading scientists of his day, along with noted cartographers Claude and Guillaume de L'Isle, gathered all the information available about the peculiar geography of the Gulf of Mexico.  Of course, any new adventure on the lower Mississippi would have to wait for the end of the war against William and his Grand Alliance.  This came finally in the autumn of 1697--the year Henri de Tonty's La Salle's Discoveries in America was published in France.20b

In the year of the treaty and Tonty's publication, several prominent merchants, including Antoine-Alexandre de Rémonville, a former La Salle associate with knowledge of the Mississippi valley, endorsed Gabriel Argoud's grandiose plan to colonize the region.  Rémonville and other merchants offered to create a joint-stock company to finance the endeavor.  Anticipating vociferous opposition from England and Spain, however, they soon turned to the ministry of Marine and Colonies for assistance:  they expected Pontchartrain to provide 400 troupes de la marine to provide security for the 700 or 800 colonists, including black slaves, they hoped send to the lower Mississippi.  Argoud's scheme, like La Salle's in the early 1680s, emphasized the threat of the English via the Appalachian passes and its effect on French commerce in North America, but, considering the state of the treasury after the nine-year war with England and Holland, the plan was too impractical to come to fruition.  And then there was the larger question of French willingness to create yet another colony.  "By the end of the seventeenth century," Jo Ann Carrigan reminds us, "French imperialism, having already passed its peak of maturity, was definitely on the wane, characterized by stagnation and slow decay.  Few Frenchmen felt any real interest in further colonization; no longer could the religious impulse, nor patriotism, nor even the profit motive serve as an effective stimulus to expansion.  The French middle class preferred the certain income derived from loans to the government, lucrative public offices acquired by purchase, and investment in real estate.  They were extremely reluctant to engage in speculative colonial enterprise, a form of investment considered far too risky to be attractive."20e

When contemplating who might lead the next French effort in the Gulf of Mexico, Ponchartrain certainly considered La Salle's chief lieutenant, who turned 48 in 1698.  After La Salle left for France in 1683, Tonty had remained in New France to look after his and La Salle's interests there.  During his search for La Salle in 1686, Tonty lingered at Arkansas, where La Salle had granted him a seigneurie, and built a palisade at the mouth of the river--"the first French post on the lower Mississippi."  Back in Illinois, he contacted the Jesuit superior of New France to send a missionary to his Arkansas post, where he promised to build a house and chapel on land he would donate to the order.  Evidently no Jesuit was sent there; Fort St.-Louis-des-Illinois, in fact, remained "the extreme outpost of the Jesuits" in the pays d'en haut until the 1690s.  After the confirmation of La Salle's death, Tonty was awarded a half share, along with François Dauphin de La Forest, in La Salle's trade concession in Illinois.  During the winter of 1691, Tonty built a new fort at Pimitoui on the Illinois a league above Crèvecoeur and downriver from Fort St.-Louis.  By 1693, La Forest had sold his half of the trade concession to Michel Accault, who had accompanied Father Hennepin to the Sioux country a dozen years earlier.  "Tonty spent the next two years exploiting his license to trade in the Illinois valley and towards the southwest," one of his biographers relates.  During that time, he "tried to persuade the authorities in France that he should resurrect La Salle's old concept of siphoning off the wealth of the Mississippi basin through the Mississippi's mouth.  Understandably," the biographer continues, "this ambition was vigorously opposed by the Montreal traders and merchants."  Their Mississippi ambitions thwarted, Tonty and his partners abandoned the Arkansas post, as well as La Salle's "temporary warehouse" at Fort Prud'homme, by the late 1690sMeanwhile, Tonty's "stature with the natives grew to legendary proportions, due in part to the iron hook he wore to replace his lost hand," the biographer reminds us.  The natives called him Bras de Fer--"Iron Hand."  His fellow Frenchmen also were impressed with the one-handed warrior.  Father Jean-François Buisson de Saint-Cosme, a missionary who would know Tonty years later on the lower Mississippi, said of him:  "He 'is the man who knows this country the best.  He has been to the sea twice, he has been twice into the depth of the lands of the most faraway nations, he is everywhere feared and esteemed.'"  During King William's War, which had begun in 1689 and lingered until 1697, business took Tonty as far north as the country of the Assiniboine, south of Hudson Bay.  At the end of June 1696, while still in the northern country, he could report to authorities at Québec that Pierre Le Moyne, sieur d'Iberville, a Canadian naval officer, had captured Port Nelson from the English and now controlled Hudson Bay.  By then, the beaver glut in Canada had compelled the King to heed the complaints of Montréal merchants and curtail the fur trade in the pays d'en haut.  This brought Tonty and his partners "gradually to ruin," so he turned his attention southward again.  By 1698, after the publication of his Discoveries, Tonty's efforts in "trying to convince the court to continue La Salle's Louisiana enterprise" came to fruition:  "... the court had decided to counter English and Spanish designs on North America by resurrecting and modifying La Salle's original plan for a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi."20a 

But the King and his Minister did not choose Tonty to lead the new Mississippi enterprise.

Ponchartrain recommended, instead, the naval captain whom Tonty had touted on Hudson Bay two years earlier--37-year-old Pierre Le Moyne, sieur d'Iberville, a native of Montréal.  Pierre's father, Charles, son of Pierre Le Moyne, an innkeeper, and Judith Duchesne of Dieppe, had made his fortune in Canada.  In 1641, with the assistance of an uncle, Adrien Duchesne, a surgeon in New France, Charles, age 15, and his brother Jacques, emigrated to Canada.  Charles served first in the pays d'en haut as an indentured servant in the Jesuit mission to the Huron on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay.  Here, in Huronia, he learned a number of native languages and grew to sturdy manhood.  His assocation with the Jesuits made him a life-long devotee of the order, which he passed on to his children.  After completing his service with the black robes, Charles worked as a storekeeper and interpreter at Trois-Rivières but settled at Ville-Marie, the future Montréal, in 1646.  During wartime, he served in the militia against Iroquois raiders.  His many exploits made him "a hero among heroes."  During peacetime, he served as an interpreter for and emissary to the natives of the pays d'en haut.  For his services, Charles received a large seigneurie, Longueuil, south of Montréal and, in 1668, a title of nobility--sieur de Longueuil et de Châteauguay.  Most importantly for his future happiness, he married well.  Catherine Thierry, adopted daughter of Antoine Primot and the redoubtable Martine Messier of Montréal, gave Charles 14 children, two daughters and 12 sons, most of whom became prominent members of the colony's créole elite.  Charles, of course, was active in the western fur trade.  In 1682, he helped form the Compagnie du Nord, which sought to control the trade in the Hudson Bay region.  When Charles died at Montréal in February 1685 at age 58, he was one of the wealthiest men in Canada.21

Pierre, baptized at Ville-Marie in July 1661, was his parents' third son.  His formal education was limited.  He preferred the deck of his father's ship than the discipline of a classroom.  He evidently showed promise as a seaman at an early age.  In 1683, Pierre met the Sieur de La Salle probably at Montréal soon after the explorer had returned from his trip down the Mississippi.  La Salle shared with the eager young sailor "some useful hints about soundings in the delta."  In that same year, Governor-General La Barre entrusted Pierre, only in his early 20s, with the important task of transporting government dispatches to the King's Court.  It is likely that Pierre and La Salle sailed to La Rochelle together aboard the St.-Honoré.  Pierre's fighting career began in 1686 in an expedition to the southern region of Hudson Bay, about the same time he was accused of seducing and impregnating a young woman back in Canada.  Not even his family's substantial influence, the personal intervention of the governor-general, and his service in James Bay, could save him from the judgment of the Superior Council.  They found him guilty of the embarrassing offense and ordered him to support his "natural" daughter until she turned 15.  The council, however, did not force him to marry the young woman.  Like his father, when Pierre did choose a wife, he married well.  Marie-Thérèse Pollet de La Combe-Pocatière was the daughter of an officer in the Carignan-Salières Regiment, which had come to Canada in 1665 to fight the Iroquois.  Marie-Thérèse's mother was Marie-Anne, daughter of colonial shaker and mover Nicolas Juchereau de Saint-Denis.  Pierre and Marie-Thérèse married in October 1693 after a long courtship, the ceremony likely delayed by Pierre's service in King William's War.22

It was Pierre's impressive service in the war against England that caught the attention of the King and his Minister.  During the eight-year struggle, the young Canadian participated in numerous maritime campaigns in Hudson Bay and along the coasts of Maine and Acadia, as well as in overland campaigns in New York and Newfoundland that did great damage to English interests in the region.  During the war, as a reward for his military exploits, Pierre received a seigneurie on the Baie des Chaleurs in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which he promptly sold for a handsome profit.22a 

Iberville or d'Iberville, as Pierre Le Moyne is known to history, proved to be a solid choice for commander of the Gulf Coast venture.  He was, from the beginning, enthusiastic about colonizing the lower Mississippi valley as well as denying English access to Canada's backdoor.  No doubt mentioning his conversations with La Salle 15 years earlier, Iberville communicated freely with Pontchartrain's son, Jérôme Phélypeaux, who, like his father, not only supported Gulf Coast colonization, but also had been tasked with organizing the effort.  It was the younger Pontchartrain who, in evaluating La Salle's failure in the Gulf of Mexico, realized that command should be given to an experienced sailor who could find the mouth of the Mississippi and navigate its channel.  Word had reached France that the English, as well as the Spanish, were interested in establishing their own presence on the northern shore of the Mexican Gulf, so whoever led the French force on the lower Mississippi needed to be a battle-tested commander as well.  The new Mississippi effort would be first and foremost a strategic venture; economic, including colonizing, interests would be secondary.  Hence Pontchartrain's choice of Iberville, the hero of Newfoundland and Hudson Bay.23

Iberville was chosen by mid-February 1698, when preparations for the Gulf Coast expedition began in earnest.  They remained secret until June, when the Ministry of Marine openly recruited men "for the 'voyage of Mississippi.'"  The English, meanwhile, did what they could to learn details of the French expedition while they prepared a Mississippi venture of their own.  "The aim of the promoter, Daniel Coxe," Marcel Giraud informs us, "was to form a company which would transport a contingent of French Protestants, to whom would be added later, perhaps, other Huguenots from Germany and Holland" and settle them on the lower Mississippi.  French spies in London soon learned of the plan and quickly informed the Minister of Marine.  Here was evidence "enough to convince Pontchartrain of the necessity for acting rapidly, while maintaining the earlier secrecy."  Iberville's contribution to the subterfuge was to suggest to the Court that they "announce that his expedition was destined for the Amazon River or Acadia...," but the English were not fooled.  After several months of close observation and the hectic exchange of intelligence, sometime that autumn, a few weeks ahead of the French, Coxe's expedition, under Captain Lewis Banks, sailed for Charles Town, Carolina, the jumping off place for their Mississippi venture.23a

Iberville would command the 30-gun frigate Badine, refitted at Rochefort.  The other frigate, Le Marin, also 30 guns, commanded by the Chevalier Grande de Surgères, had been refitted at Port-Louis, near Lorient.  One reason the expedition suffered so many delays was the need to transform the two supply vessels, called traversiers and named Précieuse and Biscayenne, into ships that were seaworthy enough to meet Iberville's strict requirements.  With the expedition were several notables, including the chaplain of the Marin, Récollet Father Anastase Douay, who had witnessed La Salle's murder and had participated in the conspiracy of silence following the explorer's death; the wealthy poet and soldier Sauvole de la Villantray, eager for another adventure, who carried the rank of ensign; Canadian Charles Levasseur dit Ruessavel, who "had 'formerly served with M. de La Salle'"; and draftsman Sieur Remy, "who was put in charge of drawing a summary map of the shore." 

Also aboard was Iberville's 19-year-old brother, Jean-Baptiste, eighth of his parents' sons.  In 1691, Jean-Baptiste had received his landed title, de Bienville, from older brother François, who had been killed in a skirmish with the Iroquois early in King William's War.  A year later, at age 12, Jean-Baptiste began his military career as a naval cadet.  He fought beside his older brothers for the rest of the war, leading a small raiding party across Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, in November 1696, at age 16.  He accompanied Iberville on his brother's final foray into Hudson Bay.  In action aboard the Pélican in September 1697, Bienville suffered a wound that "would plague him off and on for the rest of his life."  He now served as an officer aboard the Badine.

Not aboard any of Iberville's vessels was Henri Joutel, La Salle's associate and one of the survivors of the Texas venture.  Pontchartrain had hoped Joutel would accompany Iberville back to the Gulf, but, not wishing "to run the risk of another exploration," Joutel chose to remain at Rouen.  He did, however, provide Pontchartrain with a copy his Relation, which the Minister forwarded to Iberville.  Also stowed safely inside Iberville's sea chest were written reports compiled from interviews of other La Salle companions, the journals of Father Zénobe Membré, and scientific data compiled by Abbé Jean-Baptiste Dubos.  Iberville also carried detailed instructions from Pontchartrain on where to go, what to do, and who would assist him.  "As far as the minister of the navy was concerned," Marcel Giraud relates, "the only purpose of the enterprise was to prevent the English occupation of the river's mouth and to begin an elementary reconnaissance of the country.  He had ordered d'Iberville to leave 'a few people' there, in a position well chosen and easy to defend; the king would express himself later on, when the information gathered by the small garrison would enable him to decide whether a colony should be established."  Mindful of the fiasco of 1684, Iberville also placed aboard his vessels Spanish-speaking sailors who could act as interpreters if his flotilla landed on the Spanish coast.  A contingent of Canadians, most of them veterans of Iberville's Arctic campaign, came along to serve as soldiers and potential colonists.  Unlike La Salle's venture 14 years earlier, no women or children accompanied this expedition.

After the usual delays, including time for the new commander to recuperate from an annoying illness and for his officers to replace deserters from the ships' crews, Iberville sailed his flotilla from La Rochelle to Brest in early September.  After more delays, Iberville sailed from Brest on 24 October 1698, but his flotilla did not sail alone.  Two days before Iberville headed out into the open sea, Charles Joubert de la Bastide, marquis de Châteaumorant, aboard the 52-gun François, escorting the Wesp, which had participated in Iberville's last Hudson Bay campaign, sailed from France with a cargo of munitions for the governor of French St.-Domingue.  Following his mission at St.-Domingue, the marquis's orders directed him to cruise with the François for a month through the West Indian islands before heading north to the Gulf of Mexico.  After finding Iberville's outpost, and keeping in mind that Europe was still at peace, the marquis would offer assistance against any other power that threatened the Mississippi venture.24 

During the first week of December, after the hurricane season had ended, most of Iberville's flotilla reached Cap-Français, called Le Cap, today's Cap Haitien, on the northern coast of French St.-Domingue.  One of the traversiers had become separated in a storm off the Madeiras but reached Le Cap 10 days later.  Châtreaumorant reached Le Cap a week after Iberville, and the younger officer tried to persuade the marquis to forgo his month-long cruise through the islands and accompany him to the Gulf of Mexico.  But the marquis insisted on following his orders.  Meanwhile, the governor of St.-Domingue, Jean-Baptiste du Casse, whose naval exploits during King Williams's War were as legendary as the Canadian's, ordered the replenishing of Iberville's vessels at Léogane, on the south shore of the island.  Iberville secured a pilot, Laurent de Graaf, a former Dutch buccaneer who was knowledgeable of West Indian waters.  De Graaf informed Iberville that four English ships had been spotted off Le Cap, destination unknown.  This persuaded the marquis to modify his orders.  He would follow Iberville into the Gulf of Mexico to add the François's firepower to the French expedition.  Iberville, with the governor's permission, hired a dozen or so St.-Domingue buccaneers as laborers.  Though intimatetly familiar with the islands of the Caribbean, none of these seagoing settlers had seen the Mississippi.  The reinforced expedition left Léogane at the end of December and rounded the western tip of Cuba in mid-January 1699. 


Far to the north, in Acadia, Pierre Thibodeau, Guillaume Blanchard, and dozens of their fellow Acadians were taking a winter's break from the toil and trouble of constructing new settlements on the western shore of the upper Bay of Fundy.  The first was called Chepoudy, for the estuary on which it lay, the others Petitcoudiac and Memramcook, for the rivers on which they were located.  The locals later called these settlements the trois-rivières


After passing Apalachee Bay, where the Florida coast turns from north to west, Iberville and the marquis reached one of the finest harbors along the entire Gulf Coast, today's Pensacola Bay.  It was the evening of January 26, three months after Iberville had sailed from Brest.  When the fog cleared, they saw three sailing ships riding at anchor in the lovely bay, perhaps the English flotilla De Graaf had spotted the month before.  In need of wood and water, Iberville sent Lieutenant Lescalette, along with brother Bienville, disguised as a sailor, in a ship's boat to treat with the ships' commander.  Under pretense of searching for escaped prisoners, the two officers also were tasked with inspecting the lay of the land as well as the warships, which proved to be Spanish, not English.  The flotilla's commander, Andrés de Arriola, whose ships included frigates of 18 and 20 guns apiece, treated his visitors cordially.  There, on a well-positioned site along the north shore of the bay, stood the Presidio Santa María de Gálvez.  Arriola informed his visitors that, despite the season, his men were busy constructing a sturdy stone edifice, Fort San Carlos de Austria.  The post had been established the year before, while Iberville and his officiers were still in France.24b 

It should have been no surprise to Iberville and the marquis that the Spanish had gotten there first.  Following the collapse of La Salle's colony in the late 1680s and Tonty's sudden appearance in East Texas, the Spanish had established two missions near the Hasinai but abandoned them by 1693.  When they heard rumors that the French were returning to the Gulf, and the English were heading there, too, they had no choice but to establish another post in La Florida.  The site they chose, named Bahia de Santa Maria de Gálvez in 1693, "commanded the route of the galleons," Marcel Giraud informs us.  "[I]f it fell into the hands of the French, it could become a base of attack against the northern provinces of New Spain."  Here, in fact, was one of the few "natural harbors" on the entire northern littoral of the Gulf of Mexico.  "Only the bay of Pensacola, protected by reefs of sand covered over on the high mud ridge at its entrance by water more than twenty feet deep, had an easily accessible opening," Professor Giraud explains.  "Consequently, the occupation of the bay was decided upon as soon as the Spanish learned of d'Iberville's expedition."  Having the inside track in the region in time as well as geography--Cuba had been theirs since the time of Columbus, and they had re-visited the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico in 1686-88--the Spanish could exploit the superb harbor at Pensacola before Iberville, or the English, could get to it.24c

Arriola also informed the French officers that his orders would not allow foreign vessels to enter the harbor, but they were welcomed to take shelter in the outer bay.  Spurning the offer, Iberville continued sailing westward along the much-explored coast, keeping an eye out for English ships, making careful soundings, and never losing sight of the low-lying shore.  At the end of January, a month out of Léogane, the flotilla came upon the mouth of a large bay only 50 miles west of Pensacola, the fabled Bahía del Espíritu Santo, today's Mobile Bay.  The weather turning foul, they anchored for three days near an island at the entrance to the bay.  They called it Île Massacre for the dozens of human skeletons protruding from a burial mound.  Iberville was convinced the mouth of the Mississippi was near, but he was determined to explore the area just to be certain he was not already there.  The two traversiers, the larger one commanded by Bienville, explored the bay.  Heavy wind and rain made it difficult to sound the entrance to the bay, so they failed to discover the deep water that lay off the eastern end of Massacre Island.  While two feluccas from Châteaumorant's vessel sailed west along the mainland searching for the Mississippi, Iberville led a party overland along the bay's western shore, approaching the site of the present city.  From the vantage point of a tall tree standing along the shore, Iberville concluded, correctly, that a large, muddy river flowing into the wide estuary was not La Salle's Mississippi.24a

Back in their vessels, the Le Moynes sailed carefully westward along the south shore of Île Massacre and came upon a smaller wooded island, which they called Petit Bois.  They next approached a larger island, later named Horn because, the story goes, someone left a power horn there.  They could see that these sandy islands, perhaps once connected, formed a line of sand barriers protecting the coast, important in this land of sudden, devastating storms.  It was only the first of February, but they could see a storm brewing off to the south.  Hurricane season already was upon them!  Iberville turned south and then southwest, passed a long chain of small islands which he called Chandeleur, after Candelmas, because it was February 2, and then reversed his course to the shorter chain of islands he had passed along the northern coast.  Between the islands and the mainland lay a long stretch of open water, today's Mississippi Sound.  Iberville anchored off the windward side of a smaller island that seemed more substantial than the rest.  They would call it Île Mouillage, Anchorage Island, later Île-des-Vaisseaux, Island of the Vessels, today's Ship Island.  On February 6, Iberville sent Lescalette and Bienville in long boats to find an inlet deep enough to allow the larger vessels to find shelter inside the sound.  Lescalette found no channel east of Île Mouillage in the direction of Horn Island, but Bienville found a good channel between Île Mouillage and the t-shaped island just to the west of it, later dubbed Cat Island for all the raccoons they would find there.  The next morning, with Iberville leading in the Badine, the three ships followed Bienville's channel into the sound.  Turning east when the soundings allowed it, they soon dropped anchor in the lee of Île Mouillage

His flotilla secured by February 8, Iberville was determined to explore the area once the weather cleared.  According to his charts and calculations, he was "within striking distance of the Mississippi," so he hoped to make contact with the local natives and learn what he could about the river.  Sometime during the second week of February, Iberville, Father Douay, and a small party of Canadians in one of the longboats, with Bienville and two Canadians following in a canoe, journeyed across the sound to a spot on the mainland where they had seen a column of smoke.  On the sandy beach they found native tracks.  After building a quick shelter, they spent the night on the beach.  The next morning, after leaving gifts of two axes, a pipe, and some odds and ends, they followed the tracks, hoping to overtake the Indians.  As they approached the shore of a small bay, they spotted their quarry.  What Iberville did next revealed not only his courage and stamina, but also his knowledge of Native Americans.  When the party of Indians, probably from a nearby Biloxi village, saw Iberville and his men approaching them, they paddled furiously to the other side of the bay, putting water and time between themselves and the Europeans.  "Climbing hastily into the canoe he had brought with him," Nellis M. Crouse relates, "he started off in pursuit and caught up with the savages just as they drove their boats up on the beach.  Alarmed at the sight of their pursuers, the Indians rushed into the forest abandoning their canoes and property in their haste to escape from those they believed to be Spaniards.  But in their eagerness they had been obliged to leave behind an elderly chief stricken ill with a disease that was beyond cure.  Iberville treated the old man kindly, built him a hut, brought him food, and did everything to win his confidence, while Bienville and two Canadians set out in pursuit of the others."25 

Bienville and his companions returned with an elderly woman, who the Canadians also treated kindly.  Over the next two days, small groups of Biloxi approached the camp, passed the pipe of peace around, and brought enough food to prepare a feast.  Iberville coaxed three of them into coming with him aboard the Badine, leaving Bienville and two Canadians as hostages.  Iberville entertained the natives royally, giving them a tour of the ship, above and below decks.  He ordered his sailors to fire the ship's cannon to impress and amuse them, and they were very much pleased with all they saw and heard.  More importantly, a party of Bayougoula and Mugulasha, whose village lay on the lower Mississippi, happened to be hunting in the neighborhood.  When they heard the cannon fire, they rushed to the shore.  They, too, were much impressed with what they saw floating in the channel.  Back on the mainland, Iberville accepted their friendly greeting.  He led them to his tent, now pitched on the shore, smoked the pipe of peace with them, and joined them in a friendly feast of sagamité and prunes.  During the feast, Iberville gave the Bayougoula chief "a massive peace pipe shaped like a ship to cement the friendship between the French and all the local tribes."  He also gave them gifts of wine and whiskey, which, to the Canadians' amazement, these southern Indians drank in moderation.  The hunters informed Iberville that he was not far from a very great river on which they lived.  They "promised to return to the same place in four days' time when their hunt was over to feast the French and guide them to the great river."  Delighted, Iberville waited for them, but after the designated time they did not return.  Iberville sent his brother in search of them, but Bienville found only two women, who told him the hunting party had returned to the river to find more food for their village. 

With his ships anchored safely in the sound, Iberville, even without his guides, must now begin the next phase of his expedition--discovering the mouths of the Mississippi and exploring upriver for a suitable site on which to locate a future settlement.  Châteaumorant and his ship were no longer needed, so, on February 20, Iberville dined with the marquis aboard the Badine and explained his plan:  he would leave the two smaller frigates with Surgères at Île Mouillage to serve as a base of operations while he pushed on to the mouth of the Mississippi aboard the traversiers.  Châteaumorant agreed to leave Iberville the provisions he had secured at St.-Domingue, and Iberville promised to pay for them.  The marquis set sail from Île Mouillage the following day and returned to Léogane by the first of April.  He did not cruise the islands, as his orders had dictated, but sailed around to Cap-Français, where he overhauled the leaky François.  He left Le Cap on May 10 for France, which he reached after a six-week crossing.  His was the first report of Iberville's activities in what the French were calling La Louisiane. 

Iberville, meanwhile, prepared for his exploration of the lower Mississippi.  To secure his flank in the direction of Pensacola, he sent two naval ensigns to explore a river to the east, today's Pascagoula.  He left Surgères in command of the expedition's base at Île Mouillage, assigned Ensign Sauvole the command of one of the traversiers, with Père Athanase and 20 men aboard, and chose brother Bienville and a like number of Canadians and sailors to accompany him in the other traversier.  The two vessels, each loaded with 20 days worth of supplies, headed out on February 27.  With rain falling steadily, Iberville sailed around to the south side of Île Mouillage, past Cat Island, and then headed south into Chandeleur Sound, entering the archipelago of small islands he had seen a month earlier.  "For several days the little vessels threaded their way through this maze, beating against head winds or bowled along by following breezes, anchoring at sunset off some island to pass the night," Nellis M. Crouse relates.  Marcel Giraud offers compelling details of the inhospitable world the Canadians and Frenchmen had entered:  "The small craft, too light to face the high seas either under sail or at anchor but too heavy to navigate the shallow water near shore where they constantly risked running aground, made their way between the shore and the string of islets--mere masses of 'rubbish and grass,' or heaps of shifting sands easily inundated---which lay along it.  The surface of these islets where the ships landed at the end of the day was so wet that the men had to cover the floors of their huts with a thick layer of branches."  As they sailed along the coast, everyone kept a sharp eye southward and westward, looking for signs of the mouth of the great river.  Until the second day of March the weather was abysmal, including a northerly gale that threw waves above the gunwales and into the tightly stretched tarpaulins rigged around each vessel to keep the sea off the decks.  But the little coasting craft, designed for such labor, pressed on into the waves, sailing southward, steadily southward, into Breton Sound.  Iberville had been determined to stay close in to shore despite the danger of running aground, but the weather forced him to choose "the lesser of the two evils," and he turned eastward, towards the open sea.26 

This sudden turn away from the mainland proved to be a piece of "great good luck."  As darkness descended on March 2, at the end of their fourth day of effort, Iberville spotted to the southeast what appeared to be a line of rocks projecting from the coast.  It was almost dark when he spotted the imposing structure, but there was light enough to see "a ribbon of water" flowing "between two towering rocks," the opening perhaps wide enough to accommodate his vessels.  Despite the rapid current emanating from the break, Iberville put the lead traversier about, placed the wind behind him, and slid through the narrow channel into a dozen feet of water--"the first Europeans to enter the Mississippi from the open sea."  Sauvole's vessel followed without mishap.  Inside the rocks, the fading light allowed them to detect the same milky-colored water La Salle had seen from the deck of the Aimable 15 years earlier.  They tasted the milky water.  It was fresh and did not mix well with the salt water of the Gulf, which was blue, not grayish-white.  At first light, Iberville and his party could see clearly the true nature of the surrounding rock formations.  They were actually "masses of petrified logs and driftwood piled up by the current for generations until, blackened by age and cemented together by fluvial sediment, ... resembled a rocky palisade":  the Spanish Palissada or Cabo de Lodo found on some of his charts.  "Mud Lumps" they are called today.27 

Iberville knew from his reports that La Salle had described such formations during his exploration of the Mississippi.  But was the Spanish Cape Mud the mouth of La Salle's river?  What proof was there, other than Father Athanase's opinion or their intuition, that this was indeed Rivière Colbert--the Indians' Meact-Chassipi?  Iberville took a latitude reading--28 degrees, 50 minutes.  This, too, suggested he had found the Mississippi.  But, keeping in mind the critics at home, he would not be satisfied until he had dispelled all doubts about the river's identity.  On March 3, Shrove Tuesday, they headed upriver to find Iberville's proof.  Two and a half leagues upward, they came upon what appeared to be the river's main channel and could see that it separated into three distinct branches, the middle one as large as the one they had entered--more proof, based on what La Salle had described, of the identity of the river.  As they ascended the main channel, they noticed that the river widened to over a thousand feet above where the channels parted and narrowed to half that width as they continued upward.  Farther up, Iberville, who was in excellent shape for a man in his late 30s, climbed another tall tree and gazed upon a wide, flat landscape of canes and rushes stretching as far as the eye could see.  To attract the attention of local Indians, and perhaps as part of a brief Mardi Gras celebration, Iberville ordered the ships' guns to be fired, but no natives appeared.  He was determined to press on to the Bayougoula village while keeping a sharp look out for the natives, especially the ones who had attacked La Salle on his downriver voyage.28

The wind had died down, so the sailors had to resort to their vessels' oars, which made little progress against the river's current.  At night, they camped on one of the river's natural levees, formed by hundreds of years of annual spring flooding, their fires visible for miles around.  In the morning, they set up a cross to mark their presence and fired their guns to attract the Indians, but none appeared.  Rounding the first prominent bend in the river, they could see off to the northeast the waters of a large lake, today's Lake Borgne.  But where were the Indians?  Provisions would need to be replenished, and the land seemed to offer no supplements to their diet.  There were no fruit trees or berry bushes or wild grains in sight.  Deer and other wild game was scarce, but the Canadians managed to corner and kill a wild steer, perhaps on the site of today's Bayou Terre-aux-Beoufs. 

Not until March 7 did they spot an Indian.  It was still morning when they came upon a canoe with two Natives hurrying back towards the river bank, but the Indians fled into the woods before anyone in the party could give the sign of friendship.  A bit farther up, they came upon five more Natives, who also fled, but one of them succumbed to curiosity and was showered with gifts from the Frenchmen in exchange for some beef and fried bear meat.  Satisfied by the friendliness of the Europeans, the Indian summoned his companions from hiding, and they, too, received gifts and signs of friendship.  They belonged to a band associated with the Bayougoula and were in the area to hunt for their village.  Iberville asked them if the Bayougoula with whom he had feasted on the coast were back in the area.  The Natives said they were, that they had taken a short cut to their village, which, they said, was five more days travel upriver.  This news discouraged Iberville and the others, who hoped the Bayougoula could replenish their supplies sooner than that.  Iberville beseeched the Indians to guide them to the Bayougoula village, but the hunters demurred.  They were there to hunt, not to be tour guides for Europeans.  Iberville managed to convince one of them to remain with the party, and the expedition got an early start the following day.  Evidently the spring thaw upriver had already begun, because, when the wind did not cooperate, the sailors had to row harder and harder to make headway against the powerful current.  The land, at least, became more interesting.  The canes and rushes gave way to forests, and the river banks, especially at the outside of the turns, rose higher from the river's edge.

About a hundred miles above the river's mouth, at the head of a graceful crescent, a village of the Quinapisa stood on the east bank atop a prominent natural levee, a good place to linger for a day or two.  While exploring the surrounding terrain, the Indian guide, perhaps a resident of the place, led Iberville and some of his men to a well-worn path along a wooded ridge lying perpendicular to the curve of the levee.  Running northwestward through woods bordered by moss-draped back swamps then turning westward along another ridge lying parallel to the river, the two-mile trail ended at a stream that flowed northward though a vast coastal marsh.  The muddy little stream, the guide assured them, continued on to an arm of the sea where they had told him their ships were anchored.  Iberville and his men knew instantly what the Native was showing them:  the upper end of a lake-to-river portage not unlike the ones they had used back in Canada.29 

Somewhere in the vicinity of the Quinapisa village, the party suffered its first serious mishap.  Two Breton sailors went hunting in the woods and did not return before dark.  Iberville ordered the firing of muskets to attract the attention of the missing sailors.  Night passed and morning came, but the sailors did not return.  Iberville sent parties in all directions to find the missing Frenchmen.  He ordered them not to return to the camping site until they heard a cannon shot.  Meanwhile, the two boats searched up and down the wooded river bank in case the sailors had returned to the water's edge at a distance from the camp.  Late in the afternoon, Iberville ordered a cannon fired, and the search parties returned.  Forced to give the sailors up for lost, they continued upriver, determined to get to the Bayougoula village before their food ran out. 

Farther up, along the east side of the river, "they saw a wide stretch of water in both directions, where there were many water fowl, quite possibly brown pelicans."  The place came to be called Ance-aux-Outardes, or Bustard Bay, and also Lake Outardes.  It may have been here, on the east bank of the river, that their Indian guide revealed to them another portage site even shorter in length than the one farther down.  Farther up, they passed the mouth of a small distributary that ran through a break in the natural levee along the west bank of the river.  They named it Rivière-des-Chitimacha, after one of the nations living on its upper reaches, and also the Fork, today's Bayou Lafourche.  Finally, on March 13, they approached the Bayougoula village, which also lay on the west bank of the river.  When they reached the landing in front of the village complex, a Mugulasha chief, serving as an ambassador for the village, greeted them from a canoe paddled by three warriors.  The chief carried a yard-long calumet, shared the pipe with Iberville and the other expedition leaders, and escorted them up to the village.  Iberville was surprised to see prominently displayed on the path to the village the boat-shaped peace pipe he had given to the Bayougoula chief during the feast at Biloxi.  The pipe was mounted on two forked sticks and guarded by a warrior--a sign of good relations.  By now, the Frenchmen were famished.  They devoured the "rather unpalatable concoction of sagamité, beans, and Indian corn, cooked in bear grease" the Bayougoula and Mugulasha proffered to them.  Iberville broke out whiskey, which he mixed with water, but even that was too strong for Native taste.  Iberville gave out the usual gifts, and the young people of the village danced for them.30

During the festivities, Iberville and Bienville, who had picked up some of the local dialect, secured the attention of the Bayougoula chief, who was strutting about in a blue coat given to him many years earlier by Henri de Tonty.  The chief related much information to them about the other nations in the area, including the Acolapissa, who lived on another river eight days to the northeast.  Iberville asked about a fork in the lower river La Salle and Father Membré had mentioned in their accounts of the downriver voyage.  The chief assured him he knew of no such place, that Tonty, who had come back down river four years after La Salle's descent, mentioned no such fork in the river either. 

This placed Iberville in a quandary.  La Salle's and Father Membré's accounts of the lower fork were well known in France, and Father Hennepin's account of his descent of the river (which had not yet been proven to be false) also mentioned a lower fork.  Most troubling, Iberville could see that he had stumbled into the middle of a major Native rivalry, that between the Bayougoula and the Houma, the next nation upriver.  He feared the Bayougoula chief was lying about the fork to dissuade him from continuing up to the village of the Houma, who Iberville hoped would be more knowledgeable--and forthright--about the geography of the river above their village.  The Bayougoula could not keep him from going to the village of their enemy, which Iberville was determined to do, but there was something else Iberville had to consider.  Before leaving Île Mouillage at the end of February, he had given Surgères instructions to wait six weeks, that is, until the middle of April, for his return.  If he or any of his companions did not return by then, Surgères was to take the frigates back to France, which would leave Iberville vulnerable to attacks from the Spanish or the English.  He had only a month left to complete his survey of the river and get back to the ships.  He had no idea how far upriver La Salle's fork lay, or if it existed.  He was determined to avoid any question back home about his having found the Mississippi, so he had little time to dally at Bayougoula. 

Iberville remained at the village until the morning of the 16th.  There were more feasts and dancing, more exchanging of gifts, even a tour of the village and its sacred temple.  None of what he saw, either human or material, impressed the haughty Canadian, but, wisely, he hid his true feelings behind a façade of smiles and gestures of amicability.  He was anxious to move up to the Houma village, where he hoped they would be met with more smiles and handshakes.  They took with them a canoe full of Bayougoula guides.  Passing another distributary lying on the west bank of the river--today's Bayou Plaquemine, named after the persimmons the French found growing along its banks--his guides likely told him here was a way into a great inland swamp--today's Atchafalaya Basin.  A bit farther up, they entered another sharp bend in the river that swung them eastward.   When they came upon the mouth of yet another small distributary, this one a break in the trees along the east bank of the river, their guides told them that Ascantia, as they called the cluttered little stream, today's Bayou Manchac, was another short cut to where their ships had been anchored.  It was, in fact, the route they usually took to and from the coastal hunting grounds where Iberville had found them the month before.

On the 17th, as they moved farther up through the territory of the Bayougoula, Iberville and the others saw atop a bluff on the river's east bank a small village with a painted pole that the Houma had erected as a boundary marker, separating their land from the Bayougoula.  The Indians called the pole and the place where it stood Iti Houma or Istrouma, but the Frenchmen, evidently more fascinated with its color than its name, called the boundary marker bâton rouge--"red stick."  There, Iberville and his men could see for themselves what de Soto's men and then LaSalle and Tonty had seen on their respective descents of the river:  that the place of the red stick marks the first--or last--of the high loess bluffs, or écores, of the Mississippi valley.  South of the red pole stretched the river's lower flood plain, where the only "high" ground were the natural levees like the ones on which they had pitched their shelters when they stopped for the night.  Iberville likely surmised that the bluffs continued far upriver, but there was no time on this expedition to see for himself.31  

The following day, the 18th, they sailed past an island in the river--today's Profit Island--the first they had seen.  Next, they observed "one of those topographical peculiarities of the Mississippi formed by the river swinging around in a loop, almost in a circle, in such a way as to bring the banks close together.  In the course of time erosion eats away the banks and the river takes a short cut, forming a new channel, and the erstwhile loop remains by itself separated from the waters of the river in what is known as an ox-bow-cut-off."  They had reached the portage of Pointe Coupée.  The Indians insisted that they could save a day's journey if they dragged their canoes across the neck of land there.  Iberville ordered it done, sending the traversiers the long way around via the main channel.  But a huge log jam rising 30 feet blocked the trail to a small bayou that led back to the main channel.  Undaunted, the Frenchmen cleared a path through the obstacle wider than canoes, dragged them through the raft of logs and into the bayou, and soon they were back in the river's channel, the traversiers waiting for them.32

On March 20, they reached the landing that led to the Houma village two or three leagues inland, near present-day Angola.  A Houma delegation was at the landing to greet them.  By now, Iberville had learned the Houma were a branch of the Choctaw nation who spoke a different language from the Muskogean-speaking Bayougoula, Mugulasha, and Quinapisa.  But what the Bayougoula had told him of the Houma, he understood, came from the prejudiced mind of an enemy.  No matter, Iberville had to make peace with the powerful Houma and learn from them the geography of the river above where he had no time to go.  Iberville left most of the party at the landing and, with his Bayougoula guides and a few companions, followed the Houma delegation to their village, where Iberville and the others endured the usual native hospitality, including a dance by the brightly-painted, scantily-clad youth that lasted three long hours.  After the usual feast, this time only of sagamité, the dancing resumed until midnight. 

Iberville remained at the Houma village the following day, exchanging gifts as well as long speeches and, more importantly, securing a promise of peace between the Houma and the Bayougoula.  The most prized exchange was a generous supply of grain for their return downriver.  And then there was the question of the fork in the river.  The Houma knew nothing of it.  Tonty had stayed with them five days, they said, and also had said nothing of it.  Iberville saw no choice but to continue upriver until he either found the fork or found enough evidence to prove it did not exist.  He remembered that Father Membré's account had placed the site of the fork 15 leagues below the Koroa, who lived farther up on the Yazoo. 

Pushing upriver on the 22nd, his time running short, Iberville took with him a half dozen Houma guides as well as a Taensa chief.  With no Houma around, he asked the chief to draw a map of the upper river.  The Taensa complied, but his drawing showed no fork in the river.  It did show a large river flowing in from the west divided into two channels--today's Red River, which joined the Mississippi just above and opposite the Houma landing.  The chief also listed the nations who dwelled at various points on his map, including distances between them.  Iberville took from his baggage a published account of the river's geography based on Father Membré's journal.  He compared the chief's handiwork with the published account, especially the distances, and was chagrined to see that one of his principal sources varied widely from what the Taensa chief had shown him.  If the published accounts were so wrong about the distances, they also could be wrong about the existence of the fork.  Not a single Indian had mentioned the fork.  And then a Bayougoula recalled something Iberville had not heard.  Back at their village, in the possession of the chief of the Mugulasha, was a document Tonty had left with the Quinipisa years ago to give "to a man who should come there from the sea."  The letter obviously had been left for La Salle during Tonty's 1686 descent.  Now everything came clear to Iberville.  What he was seeing around him, what the Indians had told him, not what he had found in written reports, convinced him that this was La Salle's Rivière Colbert, that for the last three weeks he and his men had been traveling up the Mississippi.33

Convinced that he was exploring the lower Mississippi, Iberville turned back downriver to begin the next phase of his Louisiana venture.  At the landing for the Houma village, there was no one waiting for him.  He had left some of his Bayougoula guides at the village, so he sent Bienville and two Canadians to retrieve them.  Bienville's hasty return to the landing upset the Houma, who feared they had angered the Canadians.  To win their favor, the Houma staged an elaborate procession down to the landing, where Iberville waited.  Seeing his opportunity, he asked them for more food, which they retrieved for him, and he rewarded them with the usual trinkets.  The next morning, March 23, he and his party began the downriver trek in earnest.33b 

The current, once their enemy, now was their friend.  They did not bother with the Pointe Coupée portage, but they did stop at the mouth of the Ascantia to test that shortcut to the Gulf.  A brief reconnaissance down the cluttered stream revealed water too shallow for the traversiers.  Leaving the sturdy vessels with Sauvole and Bienville to return to Île Mouillage via the mouth of the river, Iberville joined four of his men and a Mugulasha guide in a canoe and headed down what the French would call Rivière Iberville--Bayou Manchac. 

The Manchac shortcut was a disappointment.  Stretches of water not even deep enough for a canoe, masses of fallen trees, and huge nests of sodden brushwood rendered the lower part of the stream virtually impassable.  Ten portages the first day and 50 the next considerably slowed their progress.  On the second day, the Mugulasha guide deserted, the poor Indian frightened off perhaps more by the Canadians' curses than the difficulty of the passage.  Iberville had to choose between returning to the river and catching up to the boats, or pressing ahead into an uncharted wilderness without the benefit of a local guide.  These were sons of Canada!  They pressed on, determined to show the "savages" what Frenchmen could do. 

The gamble paid off.  Bayou Manchac took them into a proper river, wide and peaceful, flanked by reed-choked marshes and dark, foreboding swamps filled with majestic cypress.  The Manchac had flowed eastward.  This river, today's Amite, turned them southeastward.  There were no more portages to slow them, only the question of which branch of the river they should follow.  Game was plentiful; they even fired at a herd of wild cattle in the distance, so food was not a problem.  Alligators, which they had seen in the river and had easily avoided, were in great abundance here. 

After three days of travel, they entered a shallow body of water, today's Lake Maurepas.  Iberville knew from what the Natives had told him that there were two shallow lakes they would have to cross, the second one larger than the first.  They crossed Maurepas swiftly, found its outlet, which they called Pass Manchac, and soon they were on the shore of a much larger body of water, today's Lake Pontchartrain.  They chose to follow the big lake's southern shore, which proved to be the long way around to its outlet.  As they paddled along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, they passed the mouth of the little bayou the Indian had described to them at the portage site on the beautiful river crescent.  A Native guide likely would made them aware of it. 

After two days of effort, they found the big lake's outlet on its far eastern end, its water brackish, its channel deep--the Rigolets, they called it.  Soon they were paddling along the shore of Lake Borgne, having returned to the Gulf of Mexico.  They followed the sandy coast eastward, past the entrance to a small bay Iberville named St.-Louis, hoping that here was quickest way back to their ships.  On the evening of the 30th, they lit a bonfire at a point of land on which they had stopped to camp, hoping to attract the attention of a lookout aboard one of the frigates.  The next morning, they paddled their canoe across the sound.  Half way across, they met two ship's boats coming to investigate the fire, and soon Iberville stood on the deck of his flagship Badine

He and his Canadians returned to the ships only two hours ahead of Sauvole and Bienville.  Until the distributary could be cleared of fallen trees and more water from the river could be diverted into it, Ascantia would remain a short cut only in distance, not in time.

Sauvole and Bienville had much to relate about their week-long passage down the river.  From Ascantia, they had floated back down to Bayougoula, where, to their utter amazement, they found the two sailors who had gotten lost in the woods two weeks earlier.  While resting at the village, an incident occurred that soured relations between the Frenchmen and the Indians.  Father Douay had been keeping a journal in his breviary, and he suddenly realized the book and other personal belongings had disappeared.  He blamed one of the Bayougoula guides who had shown interest in the little book.  The chief called the people together and asked them to produce the priest's possessions.  No one obliged.  Father Douay lost his dignity and wept like a child about the loss of his precious treasures.  To assuage the distraut Récollet, the sailors and Canadians searched the Indians' houses, insulting their hosts.  The Bayougoula chief angrily refused to provide the Frenchmen with anymore food.  Sauvole intervened and, with a gift of trinkets, managed to calm the chief and his villagers enough to secure supplies for the downriver voyage.  It was during the search of the native dwellings that Bienville found the letter from Tonty to La Salle, as well as a Spanish helmet from the time of de Soto--solid proof that they had found the Mississippi.  But Father Douay's breviary "remained undiscovered, 'which left him inconsolable.'"33a


Iberville had explored the great river to the 31st parallel and was convinced it was the Mississippi.  He had surveyed the coast from the river's mouth east to Mobile Bay, visited two major Native villages, and treated with members of half a dozen nations, all of them friendly.  Soon the two frigates must return to France for repair and refitting.  Iberville would return with them, not only to report to Pontchartrain, but also to organize a relief expedition that would return to Louisiana the following spring.  But first he had to find a suitable place for the men he would leave behind. 

The chosen site had to be defensible.  It had to have ready access to the sound via a channel deep enough to accommodate the traversiers when they were fully loaded.  It had to be close enough to friendly Native villages so that members of the garrison could trade for food.  Conferring with Sauvole, Bienville, and Surgères, three possible sites emerged, none on the lower Mississippi and certainly not at the river's  mouth, where "the mud flats and wet lands ... inhibited human habitation."  His exploration of the lower river had revealed to him that "the river banks were too low, and the land behind them too swampy.  He was afraid that large ships would not be able to cross the mudbanks and sand bars at the mouth of the river, and he figured that a fort on the coast would let France control the river's mouth while also helping to hold the entire northern Gulf shore."34

The coastal sites Iberville and the others seriously considered were Biloxi, Pascagoula, and the Rigolets.  Having passed through the Rigolets only a few days earlier, Iberville had sounded its channel and was astonished to find it 36 feet deep.  While Iberville was exploring the Mississippi, Surgères, as Iberville had directed, sent officers to sound the Pascagoula estuary, and they had reported an acceptable depth there as well, but the entrance to the river "was obstructed by oyster reefs."  Back from the Mississippi, Iberville took a party of his own to Pascagoula but was disappointed with his soundings.  He explored Baie St.-Louis on April 12 but "found little water there."  Surgère's officers were not impressed with the channel at Biloxi, but Iberville went there, too.  On the first toss of the lead line at the entrance to the bay, he found a seven-foot channel, deep enough for the traversiers, though the frigates had to remain in the lee of Île Mouillage, two leagues from the shore.  The island "afforded the ships a suitable harbor, and it contained two small ponds which provided the necessary fresh water" for their crews.  Iberville did not consider Mobile Bay as a potential settlement site because it was too close to the Spanish at Pensacola, and none of his officers had discovered the deep anchorage at the east end of Massacre Island.34a 

Iberville chose Biloxi for the site of his fortified post on the Gulf.  The new fort would stand atop a bluff on the east shore of Biloxi Bay at present-day Ocean Springs, Mississippi.  Protected from the sea wind by Deer Island, which stood at the entrance to the bay, the fort would block access into the meandering estuary that flowed into the bay.  Eschewing a simple palisade common in Illinois and the pays d'en haut, Iberville insisted on constructing "a regulation affair, square in shape with four bastions, made of oak, with which the region abounded."  Along double palisade walls and behind wooden parapets standing atop the bastions, a dozen guns would point in every direction.  Most of the guns, however, would be trained on the narrow channel lying between the fort and Deer Island.  Iberville was confident the fort could repulse an attack by land as well as by sea.  The local Natives--Biloxi, Pascagoula, Moctoby--seemed friendly enough, but he had no idea of Spanish intentions at Pensacola.  Though France and England were still at peace, one never knew when the English might appear, either overland from Carolina or by sea from Jamaica or the islands they controlled in the eastern Caribbean.  And then there were the pirates who ventured into the Gulf, some of them brazen enough to attack a fortified position.35 

Work began on the walls of the new structure, Fort Maurepas, on April 8.  Despite foul weather and broken axes, "the sound of saw and hammer resounded in the wilderness as the fort began to take shape."  Iberville chose 70 men and six boys to remain at the fort under Ensign Sauvole; Bienville would serve as his second in command and Levasseur dit Ruessavel as major.  Some of Iberville's sturdy Canadians would buttress the garrison of soldiers, sailors, and buccaneers.  When the fort's storehouse was completed, four months worth of supplies were brought ashore, including livestock from the holds of the frigates, but Iberville insisted that his men clear the sandy soil behind the fort and plant peas and beans to supplement their diet. 

While Iberville's men labored on the fort, five Spanish deserters appeared, stopping on their way to Mexico.  They eagerly provided Iberville with valuable information on the garrison at Pensacola.  They had come from Vera Cruz, they said, about 300 of them, mostly slaves and at least 40 convicts whom the Spanish were not reluctant to work to death.  Food ran low, the commander sailed to Havana to secure provisions, and the remainder began to starve.  Many deserted to the Indians, and soon only 50 of them remained in the stone presidio.  The deserters confirmed what Iberville had suspected all along--that Pensacola was founded only to prevent the French and the English from settling on the coast.  After choosing Pensacola as his base of operations, the Spanish commander had not bothered to explore the other bays and inlets, so they had no idea where the French might settle.  If Fort Maurepas could hold out until he could return with reinforcements, Iberville would hold the upper hand on the northern shore of the Gulf, which was, after all, his primary mission, that and controlling the lower Mississippi.

In late April, on the eve of his departure, Iberville inspected the fort, including its oaken walls, and the placement of the cannon.  He sent parties out to explore the surrounding countryside, looking out especially for villages in the area and the potential there for agricultural settlement.  What they found was disappointing.  "The sandy coast of Biloxi is as sterile as the deserts of Arabia," François-Xavier Martin quips.  "The land was marshy and frequently hidden in fog, and d'Iberville admitted that it would be good only for lumber and some cattle raising," Marcel Giraud relates.  "But beyond the bay was a beautiful country of pine forests and wild vines, alternating with meadows.  Not far from there, on the Pascagoula River, was a series three Indian villages whose people appeared to be friendly."  On Île Mouillage, two fresh-water lagoons from which the ships' crews replenished their water supply also could serve the fort's garrison. 

A last-minute inspection of the fort's provisions turned up many articles that had spoiled in the high humidity.  Seeing no choice, Iberville hurried one of the traversiers back to St.-Domingue to obtain supplies from Governor Du Casse.  Iberville, though he favored the Jesuits, had hoped Father Douay would remain at Biloxi to serve as chaplain for the garrison.  Iberville also hoped the Récollet would establish a mission among the local natives, but Father Douay, who was done with the frontier experience, insisted on returning to France, where he could "live for the rest of his life in his convent."  Determined to provide a cleric for Fort Maurepas, Iberville left the chaplain of the Badine, Father Bordenave, to minister to the post until he could return to Louisiana with a missionary priest.  He also left Sauvole both of the traversiers.  "Farewells were said," and on May 4 the Badine and the Marin, which Surgères still commanded, "raised their anchors and set sail for home."  Other than the usual separations in fog and storm, the voyage back to France was uneventful.  The Badine dropped anchor at Rochefort on July 2, and the Marin appeared a few days later.36 


At Rochefort, Iberville assured Michel Bégon, the intendant there, "of his satisfaction with the reconnaissance," though, in a moment of candor, he may have expressed some reservations about the enterprise.  He nonetheless took to Paris a lengthy report for the King in which he "concluded that the country was worth colonizing because of its natural qualities, presume resources, and relative salubrity."  At Court, he encountered the usual intrigues, including criticism from the director of the Missions Étrangères, rival of the Jesuits, for his having "disparaged the Mississippi upon his arrival in France, just as he had Hudson Bay and Acadia, with the idea of eliminating all competition in the new colony" for native souls--a hint that the rivalry between the two orders then raging on the upper Mississippi would metastasize to whatever the Crown would establish south of Illinois.  Du Casse of St.-Domingue, who had assisted Iberville in the recent expedition, had communicated his views to Pontchartrain on the Louisiana venture, all of them negative.  Aware of the limited resources in France for support of its existing colonies, including his own, Du Casse saw no reason for another French settlement near the Caribbean Basin.  He emphasized the might of Spain in Mexico and Cuba and the vulnerability of a remote new colony on the lower Mississippi.  Then came word from the new governor-general in Québec that the English and the Dutch were gathering forces not only to establish themselves on the Gulf of Mexico, but also to seize Illinois from France! 

So what did Louis XIV make of all of this?  His actions spoke volumes.  After evaluating the dispatches from St.-Domingue and Canada, as well as Iberville's report on the Louisiana venture, on 25 August 1699 he named the Canadian a chevalier de Ordre royal et militaire de St.-Louis and awarded him command of a new 560-ton, 46-gun frigate, the Renommée, recently built at Bayonne.  The new ship would carry a cargo full of fresh provisions for the King's new outpost on the Gulf of Mexico.  Iberville also would take with him 60 more Canadians.  They had been brought to France by another of his brothers, Joseph Le Moyne, sieur de Sérigny et de Loire, the sixth of his father's sons.  On orders from Pontchartrain, Intendant Bégon retained them at Rochefort before sending them on to La Rochelle, where they remained "on reduced peacetime pay."  Joseph, also a battle-tested seaman, had served under older brother Pierre in the Hudson Bay campaigns.  The Canadians would accompany Iberville to Louisiana to serve as scouts and guides, but Sérigny, for now, would remain in France.37

Supporting the King's actions were not only the Pontchartrains, but also the redoubtable Sébastien Le Prestre, marquis de Vauban, considered to be one of the greatest military minds of his day.  Despite his "continentalism" and his initial opposition to the Mississippi scheme, Vauban was an enthusiast for French colonial expansion, which, to his mind, meant securing what France already possessed.  Vauban insisted that if the colonization of Louisiana was to be pursued in earnest, Biloxi, and any other post Iberville might establish, must be properly fortified, reinforced, and maintained, or the Spanish, the English, even the Dutch, would make short work of it.  The heart of New France had always been Canada, not Acadia or Newfoundland or Hudson Bay.  Fortifying Louisiana secured the approach to Illinois, where priests and traders were establishing missions and posts while Iberville was setting up the outpost at Biloxi.  Illinois secured the western approach to Canada.  The Louisiana venture, then, and Iberville's role in it, was sanctioned now at the highest levels of royal policy making.38

Iberville's report had extolled not only Louisiana's geography, topography, and climate, but also its grand-strategic value.  As a devoted son of Canada, he was aware of the importance of the Gulf and the Mississippi to the survival of his native province.  He emphasized the English threat, especially from its Atlantic colonies, to long-term French interests in North America.  He, too, had heard that the previous autumn the English had sent a colonizing expedition to North America and could even name the captain who commanded the venture--Captain Lewis Banks, whom Iberville had encountered on Hudson Bay.  Rumor had it that a second expedition waited in the Thames to sail as soon as the first returned.  Among the colonists, supposedly, were French Huguenots who, it was widely believed, would gladly settle in a French colony as long as they were granted freedom of conscience, something the King, and Iberville, were not disposed to do. 

And then there was the King's obsession with finding valuable mineral mines in La Salle's Louisiana.  He reminded Iberville that if such mines were found, they would belong to the Crown.  The King also had heard accounts of mulberry trees growing wild in the region, perhaps the foundation for a silk industry there.  And what about the furry cattle out on the plains, and the accounts of huge deer herds in the Louisiana forests?  Could this wool and deerskin trade do for Louisiana what the beaver fur trade had done for Canada? 

Although he was enthusiastic about returning to Biloxi with his new warship and fresh provisions, and the King and Minister urged him to hurry back to their outpost on the Mexican Gulf, Iberville delayed his departure until October.  There was much to do to guarantee the success of his next expedition, not to mention that his wife and two sons, one of them an infant, were living at Iberville's estate near La Rochelle.  The Renommée would not be the only ship Iberville would take with him.  A 700-ton flute, the Gironde, and two feluccas for use on the Mississippi, also would come along.  Iberville offered command of the Gironde to Surgères, whose rank allowed him to command a larger vessel.  Surgères, who had received the Order of St.-Louis with Iberville, magnanimously accepted command of the fluke, which said much about his character as well as his view of Iberville as a leader.  Another reason for delay was the protection of the Renommée and the Gironde from the marine worms that had nearly ruined the hulls of the Badine and the Marin during their months of exposure to tropical waters. 

Before sailing, Iberville submitted his plan of action to the Minister of Marine.  He would sail not to St.-Domingue but directly to the Gulf (one wonders if Du Casse's attitude about Louisiana influenced this decision).  After replenishing Fort Maurepas, he would send Bienville with 50 Canadians in the feluccas and canoes up the Mississippi to the mouth of Red River, which they would explore up to the village of the Caddo.  From Caddo, leaving the feluccas behind, Bienville would send detachments as far as Hasinai--the Indians who had been so friendly to La Salle and his companions--and then push his main party overland to the coast.  Meanwhile, Iberville would sail to Baie St.-Louis--Spain's Matagorda Bay--inspect the site of La Salle's ill-fated settlement, and rendezvous there with Bienville.  White waiting for Bienville, Iberville would survey the coast down towards the Rio Grande, being careful not to approach too closely to any Spanish settlements in the area.  Having rendezvoused with Bienville and the Canadians, he would send them with the ships back to Fort Maurepas while he and a small party would return overland to the Caddo villages, retrieve the feluccas, drift down the Red to the Mississippi, return to his ships, and continue on to France. 

The elaborateness of Iberville's plan of action may have been prompted by Pontchartrain's withholding "announcement on the actual future of the colony," Marcel Giraud explains.  Despite the thoroughness of Iberville's report to the King, Pontchartrain "thought the data that d'Iberville had gathered on the country were insufficient," so he postponed his final decision on the fate of the venture "until after this second voyage.  Only then, with more information at hand, would he be able to say whether the position should be held or abandoned."  Ignoring the cynicism of Taneguy Le Gallois de Beaujeu, who had assisted in the demise of La Salle's expedition and predicted the same fate for Iberville's efforts, Pontchartrain did whatever he could to insure the success of the Louisiana enterprise:  he would pay Sérigny's Canadians before the flotilla set sail; purchase gifts for the Indians; double the size of the garrison at Fort Maurepas; confirm Sauvole's and Bienville's appointments as commander and second-in-command of the fort; add a mining mission to the expedition, widening "the scope of the enterprise towards" the upper Mississippi basin; and send a scrivener to Louisiana, providing "a basic administrative machinery at Biloxi" which anticipated a certain permanency for the colony. 

With approval of his plan by the King and Minister, Iberville set sail from La Rochelle on 17 October 1699.  Aboard his flotilla were a few veterans of his first expedition, but most of the personnel for this second trip had not been to Louisiana.  Crassé, a scrivener, would serve as a King's commissary at Biloxi.  Four of Iberville's relatives, one of them a brother, also came along.  Each of them would contribute substantially to the colony's development:  Antoine Le Moyne, sieur de Châteauguay, only 16 years old, was among the Canadians detained at Rochefort and sent on to La Rochelle; he would be the third Le Moyne brother to serve in Louisiana.  Louis Juchereau de Saint-Denis, a 22-year-old cousin and in-law, educated in Paris, who hailed from two of Canada's leading families.  Canadian cousin Pierre-Sidrac Dugué de Boisbriant, age 24, was a naval ensign who had fought with the Le Moynes in Newfoundland.  Pierre-Charles Le Sueur, a 43-year-old coureur de bois and his nation's pre-eminent authority on the natives of the western country, also was a relative.  Le Sueur, who had discovered mineral deposits in the pays d'en haut during his latest round of exploration there, would lead the all-important search for mines.  With him was a party of eight indentured prospectors recruited in Paris, St.-Jean-d'Angely, Langres, and Arras, each to serve the mining operation for three years.  One of them, André-Joseph Pénigaut, a ship's carpenter, would write a memoir that would make him famous.  Le Sueur and his men, along with some of Sérigny's Canadians, would accompany Iberville up the Mississippi, searching for mineral deposits along the way.  After continuing up to the Sioux country, they would mine the blue copper ore Le Sueur had found on a tributary of the upper Mississippi.  Ensign Louis Denys de La Ronde, age 25, a fellow Canadian though not a relative, had served with Iberville in Hudson Bay and would serve now aboard the Renommée. Canadian powdermaker François-Xavier Lemay dit Poudrier, who left his wife and two children in France, also had served with Iberville in Hudson Bay.  Jean Le Caën, also married, was a metal worker and master locksmith.  Brothers Jacques Chauvin dit Mondon and Joseph Chauvin dit Léry, the first a sailor, the second a voyageur, were among the Canadians ordered to accompany the expedition.  Pierre and Jean-Baptiste Talon, survivors of La Salle's disaster on the Gulf, also had been detained at La Rochelle and would accompany Iberville to Louisiana.  Father Paul du Ru, a young Jesuit, not a Seminarian, would serve as Iberville's chaplain and set up a mission on the lower river.  Happily for future historians, the black robe kept a diary.39

Despite his determination to sail directly to the Gulf of Mexico, Iberville made for Cap-Français, which he reached on December 11.  Many of the men aboard his vessels had fallen ill, some of them before they had left La Rochelle.  Not until 8 January 1700 did Iberville's flotilla round Île Mouillage and anchor in front of Biloxi Bay.  There, according to a census conducted the month before, Iberville would have found "5 officers, at least 2 of whom were Canadians, 5 petty officers, 4 sailors, 19 Canadians, ... 10 laborers, 6 cabin boys, and 20 soldiers"--fewer than 70 men and boys.  Thirteen "pirates from the Caribbean," likely the buccaneers, may have left Biloxi before Iberville's return.  "So overjoyed were the inhabitants of the outpost at seeing the relief ship," Ross Phares tells us, "that 'all the guns and musketry of the fort' had been fired to salute the vessel."  Sauvole and Bienville hurried aboard the Renommée and reported what had happened since the previous spring.  Iberville, no doubt smiling broadly, presented these two valued officers with commissions from the King:  Sauvole was now officially commandant of the post, and Bienville the King's lieutenant, or second in command.  Others of lesser rank, "Ragged, rheumatic, pallid men," also insisted on relating to their commandant what they had endured during their nine long months in the wilderness.  "They ranted about the cold and miserably damp winter, of an isolation that was maddening, of the eternal watch against the Indians, of the desperate struggle just to keep warm and partly fed, of reptiles and insects that plagued them endlessly, of the despondency of embittered, homesick men looking out constantly toward the sea for a relief ship." 

Iberville no doubt sympathized with his men's doleful stories, especially those of brother Bienville, barely out of his teens.  The proud commandant may have wondered "if he had oversold the king on the practicability of immediate colonization; if Louisiana was yet an unconquerable waste; if the simultaneous struggles against the swampland, wild natives, and jealous rivals were too much for France to meet."  But the leader in him would have been most interested in the larger events that had burdened his men during his sojourn in France.39a


After Iberville's departure in early May 1699, Sauvole had set about preparing the post for the rigors of life on the edge of civilization.  This included the construction of a warehouse, a chapel, and a hospital building and the removal of trees around the fort to provide open fields of fire.  It did not take long for discipline to lapse among the men.  Sauvole's solution was to have Father Bordenave celebrate mass every day!  Meanwhile, on May 17, a small Bayougoula hunting party visited the fort.  Sauvole "ordered the soldiers to present arms, and he gave presents to the savages.  The next morning," Alcée Fortier relates, the Bayougoula chief informed Sauvole that "their wives were not far distant and would like to see the fort.  When the squaws appeared, the chief claimed for his wife the same honors as for himself.  This gallantry astonished the French commander, and although he complied with the request, he took care to let his guest know that he and his men feared nobody." 

The Bayougoula chief then offered to lead the Frenchmen to the village of the Acolapissa, who lived up a river--today's Pearl--that flowed into the Gulf not far from the Rigolets, four days journey by land from Biloxi.  When Bienville and his party came upon the village, the Acolapissa emerged armed for battle!  Bienville was there to negotiate, not to fight.  He wisely retreated and allowed the Bayougoula chief "to find out what the hostile display was all about."  The Acolapissa, it turned out, had mistaken Bienville and his Canadians for Englishmen.  Once the Acolapissa realized that these Europeans were enemies of the English, they told Bienville that a party of 200 Chickasaw, whose territory lay many leagues to the north, recently attacked their village.  The Acolapissa insisted the Chickasaw had been "headed by two Englishmen" probably from distant Carolina--alarming news for Bienville and his Canadians.  That English traders accompanied a large force of Indians so far from their coastal colony was manifestation of a disturbing trend:  the enslavement of natives, along with West Africans, to provide labor for their burgeoning plantation economy.  The Carolina traders provided firearms to powerful nations of the interior, such as the Chickasaw, Marcel Giraud explains.  They then offered "high prices ... to pay for prisoners to be sold as slaves....  For the purposes of capturing slaves, the Chickasaws directed their increasingly murderous attacks against the defenseless peoples of the coast," disrupting the peace of the entire region.  "These were the first tidings which the French had of their old rivals," Charles Gayarré relates, a "harbinger of the incessant struggle which was to continue for more than a century between the two races."  Bienville, of course, took advantage of this terrible circumstance.  After the Acolapissa put away their weapons, he spoke of peace, offered them gifts, and "cemented an alliance with yet another nation."39b

In June, Sauvole ordered a more thorough exploration of Pascagoula and Mobile in hopes of finding another good anchorage and making contact with more local natives.  Bienville and his Canadians ascended the Pascagoula for seven leagues before they reached a village of about 20 houses.  The natives, Bienville reported, "were all very poor."  Again, Bienville and his party failed to discover the sizable anchorage lying east of Massacre Island.  Bienville then ventured to Pensacola, 60 miles to the east, to see if the Spanish were still there.  He found them working diligently on "enlarging their fort." 

With summer came an intense heat exacerbated by a coastal humidity experienced only by those who had lived in the tropics.  Sauvole noted "the numberless alligators and snakes around the fort, and the barrenness of the land."  More ominously for their survival, "[f]reshly sown crops, which had initially shown great promise, began to wither and die on the vine ..., and borers ate away at the keels of the boats," Philomena Hauck relates.  "To make matters worse, the supply of fresh water dwindled to a trickle, and if a spring had not eventually been found a few miles from the fort, the men surely would have been laid low with fever.  As it was, several of them did become weak and ill.  With lethargy came depression and indiscipline.  Cooped up in their little pocket fort, day in and day out, the motley group of sailors, soldiers, Canadians, and buccaneers made a habit of hoarding their ration of brandy and then going on a drunken binge."

Despite the tropical heat and dangerous reptiles, Sauvole insisted on a more thorough survey of the region's geography, this time westward towards the lower Mississippi.  Turning his attention westward, on August 24 he sent Bienville with a party of five men in two canoes through the Rigolets to survey the shores of lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas for suitable settlement sites.  They also were charged with exploring the southern shore of Lake Pontchartrain to find the mouth of the little bayou flowing into the lake that led to the portage site on the lower Mississippi.  Once back on the lower Mississippi, they would explore the two distributaries on the west bank of the river they had encountered with Iberville the previous spring. 

Bienville and his men did not disappoint.  He sent one canoe full of men to sound lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas, where they saw for themselves what Iberville had seen during his exploration of the Bayou Manchac "short cut"--lakes too shallow and shores too marshy for any kind of settlement along them.  At a promontory called Pointe-aux-Herbes, Bienville and the men in the second canoe found what the Natives called Choupicatcha, which they assured them would lead to the Mississippi.  The Frenchmen ascended the bayouque, as the Natives called such watercourses, through miles of coastal marsh stretching to the horizon.  They named the stream after Bienville's patron saint, calling it Bayou St.-Jean.  Finding a trail near its muddy upper reaches, they lugged the canoe up a natural ridge and then hauled it along another ridge that stood above back swamps draped in moss.  Soon they reached the levee above the river crescent where they had camped for two days back in March.  Further exploration of the area revealed that the levee above the crescent was "the widest swath of relatively dry land within one hundred miles of the Mississippi's mouth ...."  Most importantly, the Bayou St.-Jean portage shortened communication between the lower river and Fort Maurepas.40

From the portage site, Bienville and his companions went up to visit the Quinapisa and the Bayougoula and to inspect the mouth of today's Bayou Plaquemine.  To their chagrin, when they arrived at the Bayouguola village they were informed that war had broken out between that nation and the Houma.  Bienville the peacemaker did what he could to dissuade the Bayougoula from retaliating, "assuring his hosts that the French would see that the Houmas made amends."  The Bayougoula agreed to the offer, and Bienville and his Canadians headed back downriver.  They took time to explore the "fork of the Chitimacha," which they had passed on the upriver voyage in March, and then headed back to Biloxi via the river's mouth, searching for more shortcuts to Île Mouillage. 

On September 16, at the head of a sweeping bend 28 leagues above the river's mouth, they came upon a sight they had long dreaded:  a corvette carrying a dozen guns and flying the red and white flag of England.  In command of the English vessel, the Carolina Galley, manned mostly by French Huguenots, was Captain Lewis Banks, an old antagonist.  Bienville, as a lad, had confronted this very Englishman in faraway Hudson Bay, and here was Banks on the lower Mississippi, skulking about in French territory.  Iberville's intelligence had been largely correct.  The English captain, in the employ of London adventurer Dr. Daniel Coxe, who was determined to establish "Carolana" between the 30th and 36th parallels in North America, had crossed from London, wintered in Carolina, sent one of his ships back to England, and, "with a view to establishing himself on the Mississippi," took two ships--the corvette and a larger vessel--around Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico, only a few months after Iberville had established Fort Maurepas.  Banks sailed past the mouth of the Mississippi, cruised a hundred leagues or so to the west, doubled back to the river's mouth, and, leaving the larger ship in the Gulf's deeper waters, maneuvered the corvette into the river's channel.  Although England and France were still at peace, here was the opportunity for an international incident that could complicate matters between the imperial powers.  The young Canadian in the canoe informed the Englishman in his warship that France already had possession of this river, which was not the Mississippi; that was farther to the west.  Continuing his game of bluff, Bienville warned the Englishman that nearby was a much larger force of his fellow Frenchmen who possessed the wherewithal to defend the river.  Bienville, from the confines of his canoe, was able to interact with some of the ship's crew, which included French-speaking Huguenots banished from France 14 years earlier.  Some of them expressed a desire to join their fellow Frenchmen, but Bienville, aware of the King's policy towards Protestants, likely ignored them.  Choosing not to test the Canadian's claim of a larger force waiting upriver, Banks hoisted anchor and turned his vessel about, but not before uttering "dire threats that he would return in greater force to found a settlement on the river, which, he said, the English had discovered fifty years before."  Bienville named the spot Détour-des-Anglais--English Turn, its name to this day.41

Also, Sauvole related to Iberville, the English had reappeared in another quarter, this one as troubling as a ship on the lower river.  During Bienville's explorations, he had learned that English traders from Carolina had pushed as far west as the Chickasaw villages, which the French considered to be part of their Louisiana domain; one of the Chickasaw villages, in fact, lay on a point of the Mississippi "which enabled them to command the way to Illinois."  Via a growing network of trading paths, the Carolinians had reached the lower Mississippi before Iberville had appeared on the scene.  These trading routes they dubbed the Lower and Upper paths.  The Lower Path ran from Carolina west along the southern slopes of the Appalachian highlands to the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers, which formed the river of the Alibamons.  Here, one branch of the Lower Path continued west to the villages of the Choctaw, while another swung north to the Chickasaw lands, which, as the French had known since La Salle's expedition, bordered on the Mississippi south of Illinois.  From the lower reaches of the Tallapoosa, Carolina traders, returning home with pack trains loaded with skins and pelts, would have turned east to the headwaters of the Chattahoochee and then northeast to a junction with the Upper Path.  The Upper Path ran from the Mississippi "east through the heart of the Chickasaw territory" to the upper Coosa.  Joining the Lower Path at the upper Ogeechee west of the Savannah, a single route continued east "to the well-stocked warehouses of Charleston."  Word also had come down the Mississippi that coureurs de bois from Illinois were working for the English and that one of them was Jean Couture, Henri de Tonty's former trading partner.  Iberville vowed to capture these interlopers or drive them away. 

Sauvole had good news and also more bad news from the Mississippi front.  Two missionaries, Seminarians François Jolliet de Montigny and Albert Davion, who had been living with the Taensa and the Tunica, had visited Biloxi during Iberville's absence--the post's first contact with Illinois and Canada, from whence the priests had come.  Their welcomed visit was short in duration but long on good cheer, though Bienville, doubtlessly holding his tongue, would not have been happy with the possibility that Seminarians, not Jesuits, would open missions even lower down the river or here on the Gulf.  Unfortunately, soon after Iberville's return, word reached Biloxi that Father de Montigny had been murdered by the Natchez, the powerful nation residing on the Mississippi between the Houma and the Taensa.  In the eyes of the other Indians, this would have been an act of war.  The Natchez and their allies could cut communication between Biloxi and Illinois.  Iberville had no choice but to go to Natchez and make peace with that nation, but he also had to demand that they give him the heads of the missionary's killers.  It was essential for French dominion in the area "that the murder of a Frenchman should not go unpunished."  Here would be a test his skills as a diplomat as well as a warrior.42 

Hearing all this, Iberville postponed his region-wide tour of Red River and the Mexican coast.  However, he could not forgo an expedition to the Illinois country to search for mines and mulberry trees, as the King had ordered.  But what if Banks had not been bluffing about returning to the Mississippi with a larger force?  What if the Spanish appeared on the river with an armed expedition to drive the French away from the gateway to Mexico?  He would first have to turn his attention to more pressing problems on the lower Mississippi, among them the construction of an outpost there to control access to the river.  Meanwhile, Sauvole would use carpenters from the Renommée to reinforce the bastions of Fort Maurepas, atop which more cannon would be mounted.42a

Before he left for the Mississippi, Iberville endured a strange but significant encounter with local Indian chiefs.  The scene was recorded by one of Le Sueur's men, André-Joseph Pénicault:  "... after a fort had been built at Biloxi, several chiefs came to see Iberville and honored him greatly. They presented the calumet for him to smoke, then they rubbed his face with white earth.  For three days they danced and sang three times a day.  On the third day they planted a post before the fort, and went to get Iberville.  One of the Indians took him on his back, while another held up his feet, and they carried him to the post to the sound of their chichicois.  These were gouards filled with pebbles, with which a strange noice was produced.  The commander was placed on a deerskin, and a chief put his hands on his shoulders from behind and rocked him as if he were a baby going to sleep.  Then the savages struck the post one after another with a wooded hatchet, relating each time their heroic deeds,--and 'even more,' adds Pénicaut.  Presents were given to them, and they were much astonished at the noise made by the firing of the guns."42b


Iberville's expedition set out in the middle of January 1700.  Instead of heading back to the mouth of the Mississippi, he sailed through the Rigolets with two feluccas and three canoes and searched the south shore of Lake Ponchartrain for the bayou named for his brother.  With Bienville's assistance, he found it, but he likely was not impressed.  As Bienville doubtlessly had informed him, the bayou channel was so narrow only the canoes could get into it.  The head of the bayou was a muddy slough, and the portage was a league in length.  For half of that distance, Iberville and his companions had to slog through knee-deep mud until they finally reached the back of the natural levee Iberville had passed the year before.  Once atop the levee, however, the view of the river was so magnificent their exertions were all but forgotten.  Iberville set up camp on the levee and spent two days surveying the surrounding terrain, even planting some sugar cane he had picked up at Cap-Français in hopes that it would grow to maturity there.42c

Bienville, meanwhile, with the three canoes and 11 men, pushed on to Bayougoula to inform the natives of Iberville's return and to hear the latest news about the other nations.  Bienville also was tasked with finding a suitable site for a downriver fort.  At Bayougoula, Bienville found a chief from a local nation who claimed to know the river well.  The chief agreed to help him find a suitable place for a fort.  Below English Turn, the river veered southward and then southeastward, the banks on both sides lined with sea marsh.  The turns here were gentle, the river almost straight in places.  About 18 leagues above the river's mouth, on the right, or west, bank of the channel, the old man pointed to a natural levee that he assured them would not be inundated even when the river overflowed its banks.  Bienville inspected the spot, sent a canoe back upriver to alert Iberville, and then waited for his brother. 

After his inspection of the portage site, Iberville had returned to the ships via Bayou St.-Jean and awaited word from brother Bienville.  Receiving it, he prepared to return to the river, this time via the driftwood-clotted mouth he had endured exactly a year before.  Sauvole, meanwhile, would remain at Biloxi to look after the larger ships.  On February 1, Iberville sailed southward with a traversier and the two feluccas, carrying 80 men and "'everything required for a settlement.'"  Among the company were Father du Ru, Saint-Denis, and Châteauguay.  It took as many days to reach the river's mouth via Chandeleur and Breton sounds as it had taken Iberville to get there the year before.  After negotiating the debris at the mouth of the river and fighting the current along its wide lower stretches, he and his flotilla rendezvoused with Bienville on the night of the 4th.  The following day, Bienville led them to the fort site.  Iberville inspected his brother's choice, pronounced it "to be one of the most attractive in the region," and then everyone at hand--Canadians, sailors, officers, even Father du Ru--set about constructing the fort "which was to stand as mute witness to the French claims of dominion."  Consisting of a two-story blockhouse made of red cypress, surrounded by a 12-foot-wide moat, Fort de La Boulaye, more commonly called Fort de Mississippi, was Iberville's response to Banks's threat of returning to the river with more Englishmen.  Iberville's men also built a primitive warehouse of reeds and palmetto leaves and sited a cemetery while Father du Ru improvised an altar for worship.  The blockhouse and its armament--four 4-pounders and two 18-pounders placed on "an elevated bank" and trained on the channel--would be garrisoned by Iberville's Canadians.  Iberville awarded command of the new post first to the Sieur de Maltot and then to Ensign Louis Denys de La Ronde of the Renommée while Iberville remained in the colony.  After his departure, Bienville would assume command, with Saint-Denis as his second.  Unfortunately, the old Indian and the Frenchmen underestimated the river's ability to flood the place, and the mosquitoes and other critters in the surrounding marshes rendered the place a living hell.  "The buz and sting of the mosquitoes, the hissing of the snakes, the croakings of the frogs, and the cries of the alligators, incessantly asserted," François Xavier Martin quipped a century and a quarter later, "that the lease the God of nature had given these reptiles ... had still a few centuries to run."  Moreover, Marcel Giraud informs us, "The post offered no other advantage than that of having direct access to the shore by a network of waterways and lakes which led into the Rivière aux Chênes," or River of the Oaks--a tentative connection to the waters of the Gulf that would prove difficult to find much less maintain.43 

In truth, Iberville already had found the best alternate passage from the lower river to the anchorage at Biloxi.  Saint-Denis was tasked with maintaining a presence at the St.-Jean portage a dozen leagues farther upriver, which Iberville planned to use regularly when traveling by portable vessel.  Later, after Bienville moved to Biloxi and Saint-Denis assumed command at Fort de Mississippi, Saint-Denis coaxed the friendly Biloxi into moving from their coastal domain to Bayou St.-Jean to provide the posts on the lower Mississippi "some measure of native support."  The Quinapisa, now a  friendly nation, also lived near enough to offer assistance to either post.43b 

Having determined on another upriver expedition, this time as far as Illinois, Iberville sent a party of six men with axes under Denys de La Ronde to a grove of cedars lying two leagues above the new fort.  There, Indian style, and probably with help from local Natives, they fashioned a dozen dugout canoes, called pirogues, "from thirty to thirty-five feet long," to navigate shallow water where the larger vessels could not go.  Iberville also dispatched to the portage site a felucca loaded with provisions to meet a party coming from Fort Maurepas via Lake Pontchartrain led by cousin Boisbriant.  With him would be 10 soldiers, eight Canadians, and Le Sueur and his miners.  After replenishing their supplies at the portage site, Boisbriant, Le Sueur, and the others would continue up to Bayougoula, where they would wait for Iberville and the larger party.43a 

Iberville was about to resume his upriver journey when, on February 15, a welcomed visitor appeared at the fort.  Henri de Tonty, La Salle's trusted lieutenant, now age 50, stepped out of a canoe and, with his one good hand, greeted Iberville and his officers.  Since his return to the lower river 14 years earlier searching in vain for La Salle, Tonty had pursued the troubled western fur trade from his base on the Illinois.  When Iberville had received the command of the new Louisiana venture in 1698, Tonty had been ordered to co-operate fully.  In December 1799, as Iberville was making his way from Cap-Français back to Biloxi, Tonty had guided a party of Jesuits to his post at the mouth of the Arkansas and arrived there around Christmas.  He spent the winter at Pimitoui on the Illinois and at Michilimackinac, where he learned of Iberville's venture on the Gulf of Mexico.  After turning over the Illinois operation to cousin Pierre de Liette, Tonty, with 20 Canadian traders, hurried down to the lower Mississippi, and here he was.  If Iberville had worried about Tonty's attitude towards a venture the Neapolitan had hoped to command, seeing the hearty old fellow dispelled all doubts.  Tonty was there to do his part in maintaining French presence in the Mississippi valley.  Never losing sight of La Salle's vision, he had irked the fur buyers in Montréal by merely suggesting the pelts from the western country be shipped to France via Illinois and the Mississippi, not via the longer route back to the lower St. Lawrence.  Tonty's arrival at Iberville's fort was a fulfillment of sorts of La Salle's great scheme.  "'Great salvos, great clamor, great joy" greeted him, Father Du Ru related.44 


Tonty brought good news from upriver.  Father de Montigny, supposedly murdered by the Natchez, was still very much alive.  Iberville now could treat with that powerful nation living above the Houma without the stigma of murder hovering above them.  Iberville informed Tonty of his plans to explore the Red River and then move on to Illinois to fulfill the King's wishes.  What better guide could there be than the man who knew so much about the western country.  With Tonty's Canadians also coming along, Iberville could leave some of his soldiers at Fort de La Boulaye, where the sick roll was growing longer.  

And then the weather turned against them.  By mid-February, ice had formed in the streams, promising to delay any travel upriver.  Modifying his plans, Iberville left the Sieur de Maltot with 14 men at the fort, including those too ill to travel, and sent Bienville and Saint-Denis with a small party ahead "to prepare the way" to Bayougoula.  Boisbriant, with Châteauguay, Denys de La Ronde, Father du Ru, and a large detachment in a felucca and two wooden pirogues, would follow Bienville and Saint-Denis to Bayougoula, while Le Sueur and his miners would wait for Iberville at the portage site.  They all would rendezvous at Bayougoula as soon as Iberville and Le Sueur could reach them. 

The advance party's trip upriver was plagued by abysmal weather, but when the storm broke as they paddled furiously against the current, the scene along the river, as described by Father du Ru, was beautiful and exotic, as well as foreboding:  "... at times the sun would break through the low rain clouds and penetrate the swampy mist.  Then it would be noted that 'there was always a fine hedge of green cane and occasionally willows standing out' along the river's edge, against a background of more cane and tall trees that struggled to rise above the swamps.  Myriads of wild ducks and other fowls rose from the water's edge, their wet wings flinging sparkling sprays into the sunlight.  There were parakeets 'by the thousands,' birds of strange noises and grotesquely gorgeous hues.  They enlivened the drab, rain-drenched forest."  The Bayougoula landing was nothing more than a sea of mud when Bienville and the others finally got there, but the residents of the nearby village turned out in all their finery and welcomed them with songs of peace and friendship. 

On February 17, Iberville started up from the fort with Tonty and his Canadians, the weather still inhospitable, the current bearing down on them.  It took them five days to reach the portage site, where they rendezvoused with Le Sueur and his men.  Iberville, Tonty, and Le Sueur pushed on to the Bayougoula landing, which they reached on February 26.  "French beards were trimmed and fresh linen put out" as they prepared to enter the village with the proper formality that such occasions demanded. 

After the usual day-long festivities, which Father du Ru recorded in his diary, Iberville gathered his officers together and made plans for the next leg of the upriver journey.  He sent a messenger to Surgères on the Renommée, instructing him to leave a month's provisions at Fort Maurepas and then hurry back to France with a report of what Iberville had accomplished, and hoped to accomplish, on this second expedition to Louisiana.  Iberville gave Tonty the assignment of heading back upriver to lure English traders, reported to be arming the Chickasaw, into the hands of Denys de La Ronde, who would hold them as prisoners.  Bienville, with a hand full of men, would precede the main party to their next stop, the Houma village.  Saint-Denis, who despite his youth was proving his worth, would command a vanguard of hunters to keep the upriver expedition supplied with fresh meat.  Boisbriant would remain at Bayougoula to wait for a squad of his men who had gone down to the fort to look after a comrade who was enduring emergency surgery. 

Iberville began his expedition in earnest on March 1 with 58 men in the three upriver parties.  He caught up to Bienville and Saint-Denis on the second day out, and on the morning of the third day reached the Houma landing, where he erected a cross at a nearby portage site.  He instructed the Houma not to remove the sacred symbol and named the place Portage of the Cross.  With too many men to burden the Houma, who were suffering from the effects of a recent malady, he led most of his party up and around a long, sharp bend, today's Raccouri Island, where they would wait at a landing above the mouth of Rivière Rouge while he and a handpicked few, including six Canadians and six Bayougoula, took the short portage back down to the Houma village to endure the usual festivities.44a 

It was important that he take the Bayougoula along, for, despite the peace he had brokered the previous March, war had erupted between the two old enemies soon after he had left them.  This would not do.  The English were attempting to penetrate the Mississippi valley via an alliance with the Chickasaw, whose territory lay athwart the communication route between Biloxi and Illinois.  Communication meant trade, and so the threat to French interests in the region was an existential one.  Iberville needed peace among the nations friendly to the French--"to make allies out of neighboring enemies" if necessary--in order to form "a pro-French confederacy" to thwart the English challenge.  During a council that followed the festivities at the Houma village, both sides blamed the other for the outbreak of war, but both sides also welcomed Iberville's help in restoring peace.  The Houma agreed to release Bayougoula prisoners, and the Bayougoula proffered the appropriate gifts to ransom them.44b 

Peace was restored on the lower river. 

At the Houma village were warriors from the Little Taensa village, located three days journey to the westward.  The year before, members of this nation had related to Iberville the wonders of the Red River valley.  Prompted by Iberville, they described the complex river system in the region in more detail.  The Red River once ran parallel to the Mississippi, their ancestors likely told them, each stream finding its own way down to the sea.  Over the centuries, a bend of the more powerful Mississippi, the one on which they stood, had worked its way westward, slowly but surely, into the swampy lowlands between the two rivers.  Sometime in the century before the Spanish came, the Mississippi captured the Red.  The upper Red now was a tributary, the lower Red a distributary of the great river.  This gave the Mississippi two channels--an eastern one, down which most of its waters flowed, and a western one that captured part of its flow, especially during springtime floods.  This western channel, "choked with debris and matted with logs, upon which vegetation flourished," the Indians called Atchafalaya, Choctaw for "long river."  The Taensa also may had described the swampy basin through which the Atchafalaya ran. 

Iberville was intrigued by what they told him.  He asked them to guide him up Red River as far as the lower Caddo villages, from which he could continue to Hasinai, which La Salle and Tonty had visited nearly two decades earlier.  Iberville had learned that a Spanish force from Mexico had reached the valley of the Red, so the sooner he befriended the Caddoan nations, the stronger his native alliance would become.  Upon hearing his plans, the Taensa demurred.  At this season, they explained, there was not enough water in Red River for his larger vessels.  Moreover, "a great log raft had been formed by a mass of tangled logs, which clogged the Red River from bank to bank for miles and made passage by boat impossible."  Without competent guides, Iberville knew better than to ascend an uncharted river, especially if the report about the Spaniards was true.  The Taensa suggested he continue up to the Big Taensa village, above and on opposite shore from the Natchez, and send a party from there overland to Caddo.  The overland party could then see for themselves the wonders of the upper valley. 

From the landing near the mouth of Red River, Iberville sent 10 men in a pirogue back to Fort de Mississippi with equipment he no longer needed and, on March 9, resumed the journey upriver, now entering a part of the Mississippi he had not yet seen.  In two days he reached the main village of the Natchez at the site of the present city.  "Situated upon a high, picturesque bluff, beautifully landscaped with magnificent trees, the place looked like a strange fairyland," Ross Phares insists.  "The peach and plum trees were in bloom, and in the March wind the waiving patches of white and pink gave animation and delicate color to the landscape." 

Upon their arrival, the usual greeting ceremony followed, in which the Natchez chief, the Grand Soleil, showed all due respect to the French commander in spite of the chief's illness.  After "gifts were exchanged and friendship acknowledged," the chief handed to Iberville a letter from Father de Montigny which informed him that he was returning to his post at Taensa after staying among the Natchez.  The missive contained many details about the priest's impressions of his supposed murderers.  Two things impressed the French at Natchez:  the large number of people who lived there--perhaps 3,000--and the quality of the soil in the area, which produced substantial harvests of maize.  To learn more about this important new partner in his Mississippi valley alliance, Iberville left two boys with the Natchez to learn their language and customs.45 

On the morning of March 12, Iberville pushed on in a single canoe with only six men to Taensa, leaving Bienville at Natchez to gather supplies for an overland trek to the Red River valley.  At Taensa landing, which he reached in two days, Iberville left two men to guard the canoe and pushed inland with the others to the Taensa village.  Their guides became lost, so Iberville lost nearly a day getting to the village.  There, to his great joy, he found Father de Montigny, alive and ministering to the friendly Taensa.  The Seminarian, having resided in the village for a number of years now, had built a house and was about to construct a chapel there.  Iberville learned from the priest that the Taensa once had been a great nation, but disease had reduced their numbers to only 300 warriors living on the shore of an ox-bow lake.  The Taensa had traditionally practiced human sacrifice, not unlike the cultures of ancient Europe, but de Montigny thought he had convinced them to halt the practice.  However, their old chief had died recently, and a bolt of lightning had destroyed their stick-and-mud temple.  The village medicine man, to assuage an angry deity, demanded a sacrifice.  In a frenzy of fright, five women surrendered their newborns.  With the astonished Frenchmen looking on, the medicine man flung the infants into a fire.  According to a witness's account, more women would have sacrificed their infant children had the French not intervened.46 

Through Father de Montigny's efforts, Iberville secured a Taensa guide to lead his party overland to the Caddo villages, from whence they would continue to Hasinai--a modification of the regional tour he had described to Pontchartrain.  But Iberville himself would go no farther than Taensa.  "And now for the first time," Nellis M. Crouse relates, "the commander, who had undergone so many hardships and overcome so many obstacles, found himself incapacitated by a violent pain in the knee--possibly a touch of rheumatism, the result of constant exposure--which prevented him from walking and compelled him to abandon his plans for an overland journey...."  Iberville was not yet 39.  He had no choice but to travel as much as possible by water, which meant someone else would have to make the overland exploration.  He sent Boisbriant ahead to Biloxi via Fort de Mississippi to announce his return.  The overland venture he left to Bienville, who had just turned 20, and to Saint-Denis, who was 23.47 

On March 22, Bienville, Saint-Denis, 21 Canadians, six Taensa, and a Ouachita set off overland for the Red River valley.  Their mission was to locate mines, encounter new nations, and report back to Iberville before he left for France.  The foul weather that had plagued the upriver journey had inundated much of the country the exploring party was forced to traverse.  "More often the men swam or waded the streams, pushing their baggage before them on improvised rafts, and firing their guns to frighten the alligators away," Ross Phares relates.  Disinclined to "walking naked through cold water," the Taensa guides deserted on the third day.  "Bienville himself," Phares continues, "lamented upon the disadvantages of wading for a man of medium height in such circumstances, and he envied the tall St. Denis."  On the 27th, the flux struck two of the Canadians.  A third Canadian was left to look after them, and the rest of the party pushed on.  On the 28th, they reached the Ouachita village, where they secured a guide to Natchitoches.  Pushing westward, the weather remained abysmal as their food supply dwindled, and days turned into weeks.  They did not reach Natchitoches, on an island in the Red River, until May 6.  After the appropriate greetings and ceremonies, Bienville and Saint-Denis added that nation to the French alliance before moving on.  A Natchitoches guide led them upriver to the villages of the Nakasi and Yatasi, who, like the Ouachita and Natchitoches, were Caddoan speakers.  At Yatasi, the Canadians found visitors from the upper Caddo villages.  They informed them that their village lay 10 more days' travel up the log-jammed river.  The Caddo also described to the Canadians "a Spanish settlement five and a half leagues to the west of their village, 'where there are white, black, and mulatto men, women, and children engaged in cultivating the land.'"  The Caddo could not say if the Spanish there were miners as well as farmers.  Having lingered so long in "the flooded country" and unsure if more Spaniards lay ahead, Bienville decided to return to the Mississippi and report to Iberville, wherever he might be.47b

Father de Montigny, meanwhile, accompanied Iberville back down to Natchez, where the priest remained to found another mission.  Just above the Houma village, Iberville met Le Sueur, coming up with his miners.  Iberville gave them a large canoe and a guide for their journey upriver to the Sioux country.  Tonty and Denys de La Ronde, alerted by Boisbriant, were at the Houma village, waiting for Iberville.  Denys de La Ronde joined Iberville on his way down to Bayougoula.  Tonty, carrying presents for the Tunica and Chickasaw, continued up to Illinois.  Iberville instructed him to tell the leaders of those two nations that the French were now the indisputable power in the region.  They could please the French by ending their war with the Natchez and other nations.  If not, Iberville would give firearms to his allies and consider their enemies to be his enemies as well.47a  

On March 16, Iberville returned to Bayougoula, where he met a contingent of Canadian coureurs de bois who had come downriver to trade their beaver pelts; the Louisiana-Illinois trade connection already was bearing fruit.  Father du Ru remained at Bayougoula to found a Jesuit mission there.  Iberville continued down to Fort de Mississippi, which he reached with brother Châteauguay the following evening, "having covered forty-two leagues in thirty-four hours."  There he met Boisbriant.  Iberville was disappointed with the progress on the fort--fever had already overtaken many of the men there--but he was pleased to see a crop of wheat and peas planted beside a small bayou that flowed behind the site.  Determined to avoid the open-sea passage back to Biloxi via the river's mouth, Iberville sent one of the officers with three men and a canoe into the maze of bayous east of the fort, hoping to find a shortcut to Lake Borgne.  Not surprisingly, they became lost and were back at the fort three days later.  Iberville, with two companions, went two leagues above the fort where there supposedly was a portage, but the way proved to be impassable.  Back at the fort, Iberville suffered a fever, probably malaria, that laid him low for several days.  On March 31, a traversier and a felucca arrived from Île Mouillage via the river's mouth with livestock for the fort.  The trip had been made in only 36 hours, proving that the all-water route from Biloxi to Fort de Mississippi could be faster than the portage via Bayou St.-Jean.48 

The men aboard the relief boats had a strange tale to tell.  While Iberville was still upriver, the Spanish governor at Pensacola, Andrés de Arriola, had appeared at Île Mouillage with a small fleet of ships, including a 24-gun frigate, and a force of 140 men.  Determined to enforce strict Spanish mercantilist policy, the viceroy of New Spain had ordered him to drive the French away if they represented a private trading company.  Surgères, perhaps having not yet received orders from Iberville to return to France, along with Sauvole, assured the Spaniard that they were not a private concern, that they were there with the sanction of King Louis XIV.  The governor chided them for seizing territory that belonged to the King of Spain and demanded that they build no new settlements.  With that, the Frenchmen, for four days, wined and dined the governor, who admitted in his cups that the viceroy maintained the post at Pensacola only because the French were at Biloxi.  And then the governor and his officers continued on their way "as pompously" as they had arrived.  A week later, to the astonishment of the Frenchmen at Biloxi, a ship's boat carrying three Spaniards pulled up to the beach, and the governor fell exhausted onto the wet sand.  Arriola related that soon after he had left them, a sudden gale came up and drove his ships onto the Chandeleur islands.  The French immediately notified Pensacola of the governor's disaster and sent out a rescue party to retrieve the stranded Spaniards.  The French gave them new clothing and fresh provisions and, after they had recovered, escorted them back to Pensacola.  

Iberville lingered at Fort de Mississippi for two more weeks, enduring heavy spring rains.  The Indian who had recommended the site had known his business:  though the high water swelled the river and overflowed its banks, the spot on which the blockhouse stood remained above the flood, at least for now. 

On April 13, Denys de La Ronde arrived from Bayougoula.  Iberville, well enough now, turned the fort over to him and continued on to Biloxi.  His trip through the sounds was uneventful, and soon he landed at Fort Maurepas.  Despite his delicate health, he was determined to do what he could to learn more about the surrounding area.  He returned to the Pascagoula to inspect the estuary, hoping to find a channel through the sand bar blocking its entrance, behind which he hoped to anchor his vessels.  For two days, he explored up the river as far as Bienville had gone the previous summer.  Iberville noted the condition of the banks and the few villages he encountered.  Evidently an epidemic had swept through the valley and devastated the population.  The villages, and the people, were in sorry condition.  When he learned that the Mobilian lived three days' journey to the northeast, he sent two men there with an invitation to visit Biloxi. 

On May 18, Bienville and Saint-Denis, back at Fort Maurepas from their Red River venture, reported the results to Iberville and brought troubling news from the Mississippi.  After failing to turn their linguistic kin, the Mugulasha and Quinapisa, against their old enemy the Houma, the Bayougoula had turned on the remnants of the two nations and killed many of them.  The following day, Fathers de Montigny and Davion appeared at Biloxi with several Natchez and Tunica warriors.  English traders, they reported, were still stirring up trouble among the natives, especially the Chickasaw, on the upper Mississippi.  Father de Montigny elected to return to France, but Father Davion returned to his mission at Tunica.  Iberville was well into his preparations for departure when the Seminarians appeared, so Sauvole, again, would have to deal with the problems developing along the river.  Iberville instructed him to continue exploration of the surrounding country, especially Mobile Bay, while keeping an eye out for natural resources, especially minerals.  Saint-Denis, replacing Denys de La Ronde in command at Fort de Mississippi, would survey the land west of the Mississippi, including the Red River valley above the Yatasi, "with a view to locating mines."  However, the young Canadian must be sure "to acquire land only in the King's name and to send mineral samples to France for analysis."  Though the imperial powers were still at peace, Iberville authorized Sauvole to use force "if peaceful persuasion had no effect" and to repel "nationals of other countries who might cause trouble."  Meanwhile, Bienville, still King's lieutenant, would command on the river, where he, too, was encouraged to continue exploration and maintain peaceful relations with the Natives.49 


Iberville, with Denys de La Ronde in tow, weighed anchor on 28 May 1700 and steered the Renommée out to sea.   Instead of sailing directly back to La Rochelle, he turned north after clearing the Florida Keys and sailed all the way up to the entrance to New York harbor, still controlled by the English.  He believed, like many Frenchmen, especially his fellow Canadians, that war with England was imminent.  The next war, they hoped, would break the English stranglehold on North America.  An attack against New York, by land and sea, likely would be part of that cherished dream.  So, in late June, Iberville made careful soundings at Sandy Hook and other points at the harbor's entrance, and, after taking on a New Jersey pilot, sailed through the Narrows and on up to Manhattan, ostensibly to take on water and wood.  England and France were still at peace, but the arrival of a French warship in the heart of English North America alarmed colonial officials.  Edward Hyde, the Viscount Cornbury, governor of New York and New Jersey, ordered a barge to shadow the movements of the French vessel.  Rumors spread through Manhattan and the rest of New York colony that King James II, who had been dethroned 11 years earlier, had given the colony to the King of France!  Was this the beginning of the new French occupation?  Were the Canadians about to attack the place and make New York a part of Canada?  The governor ordered the immediate strengthening of the colony's fortifications, especially the forts protecting New York harbor. 

From New York, Iberville sailed on to La Rochelle, where a recurrence of the fever, probably malaria, that had felled him in Louisiana kept him from continuing on to Versailles.  He did not recover enough to go to Paris until January 1701.  By then, Louis XIV had overseen the placement on the vacant Hapsburg throne of Spain his grandson, Philippe, duc d'Anjou, now Philip V of Spain.  The Bourbon dynasty now ruled much of Europe and most of the Americas as well.  The old Dutchman, William III, still occupied the thrown of England.  The question of the Spanish succession, and its unhappy result, likely would lead Louis XIV's old antagonist to create a new English-Dutch alliance, this time with Hapsburg Austria. 

Another war was imminent.  

The Minister of Marine tasked Iberville with concocting a plan to unite French and Spanish interests in the Gulf of Mexico against English interference there, especially from the Atlantic colonies.  Iberville now must view his Louisiana "creation" in the context of a French-Spanish alliance.  The report he presented to Pontchartrain was a perceptive analysis of North American geography, both physical and human, as perhaps only a well-educated, well-traveled Canadian could give.  He had no illusions about the extent of English colonization along the Atlantic seaboard.  He was especially troubled by the amazing differences in English and French populations in North America.  He could report to Pontchartrain that the English colonists could not be confined by the Appalachians to their coastal domains, that they in fact already were extending their commercial interests, if not their settlements, through and around the mountains, west to the Mississippi.  That settlers would follow he had no doubt, and they would be Englishmen so aggressive, so hungry for land, they would overawe the Indians between the mountains and the Mississippi before moving west into the Spanish domains.  They would be especially dangerous if they could form alliances with the nations west of the Appalachians, especially the powerful Choctaw.  Only a strong French presence on the Mississippi, anchored to a stronger presence along the upper Gulf Coast, could hope to contain the English menace--an echo of La Salle's strategic vision.  What Spain already had established in the Gulf Coast region--presidios at Apalachicola and Pensacola on the Florida coast and at Matagorda Bay on the Mexican coast, which still existed in 1701, and a presidio among the Hasinai farther north, which they had abandoned in the 1690s--was not enough to protect the approaches to Mexico.  Iberville had been to the Florida-coast presidios and insisted he was unimpressed with their strategic value; Pensacola, for instance, despite its superb harbor, possessed no riverine connection into the North American interior.  Not so the new French settlements on the Gulf of Mexico.  Thanks to his own efforts, they were well-placed, but they were only a beginning.  Control of the major rivers flowing into the Gulf--the Apalachicola, the Mobile, the Alabama, the Tombigbee, the Pascagoula, the Pearl, as well as the Mississippi--and cooperation of the Natives who lived on or near these waters, was essential for controlling the vast region between Carolina, Florida, and the Mississippi--that is, Louisiana.  With the addition of a fortified settlement at the head of Mobile Bay, coupled with Spanish cession of Pensacola and Apalachicola to the French, the Bourbon allies would be very well positioned to increase their influence throughout the region.  To justify cession, he wrote a stinging critique of the garrison at Pensacola but admitted that the site had such possibilities the English might be tempted to seize it.  Better France than England should control that harbor, too. 

The King and his ministers were impressed enough by Iberville's reasoning to send a copy of the report to Philip V of Spain.  Philip gave the plan to his Junta of War and the Indies, who, true to the spirit of royal bureaucracy, set it aside for future consideration.  In truth, notes Philomena Hauck, "Iberville's proposal only served to antagonize the Spanish junta; to their way of thinking, the French themselves were interlopers on territory granted to Spain by Pope Alexander VI back in 1493."49a

Iberville's star, meanwhile, rose higher in French royal circles.  According to Nellis M. Crouse, the Canadian now was seen as a statesman as well as a explorer and founder of colonies.  Pontchartrain welcomed Iberville's advice on all matters pertaining to French colonial interests.  No Canadian of his day was held in higher esteem.  Iberville responded with frequent communications to the Minister, submitting treatise after treatise that revealed not only wide experience, but also solid research on the grand-strategic picture for France in North America.  Iberville felt comfortable enough with his new status to give advice on where the French should attack the English when the next war came, including an overland assault against Boston from French-controlled Maine.  Yet, the King "set aside the idea of 'forming a great establishment'" on the Gulf of Mexico and, perhaps annoyed by the cost of such an enterprise, "announced his intention of sending d'Iberville to Louisiana less often." 

Iberville nevertheless addressed complications that had arisen in New France as a result of his Louisiana venture.  His fellow Canadians, especially the merchants of his native Montréal, were up in arms about the Illinois-Mississippi-Gulf Coast route and its effect on the always precarious western fur trade.  Iberville himself had witnessed the arrival of unlicensed Canadian coureurs de bois in the lower Mississippi villages as well as at Fort Maurepas.  What now was a trickle could become a flood.  The governor-general of New France, Louis-Hector de Callière, former governor of Montréal, requested that Louisiana be placed under his authority so that he could extend his control over the fur trade, still suffering in Canada.  But nothing could have guaranteed more the marginalization of Louisiana.  Despite their concerns about the fur trade, the King and Minister rejected Callière's proposal.  Louisiana would remain a royal colony, "governed directly from Versailles."  Though conceived and nurtured by Canadians, Louisiana was safe from Canadian interference, at least for now.50


Back in Louisiana, neglect and poor decisions began to take their toll on the colony, such as it was.  In December 1700, Jesuit Father Jacques Gravier from Illinois, no doubt alerted by Father du Ru's presence at Bayougoula, visited Fort de Mississippi on his downriver voyage.  He was not impressed by what he saw.  "The Commandant, Monsieur de Bienville," the black robe related, "has a very small and very neat house.  I observed on arriving that the men were commencing to suffer from hunger, and that the flour was beginning to fail....  If the Mississippi country be settled, the fort will be transported to ... the Bayogoulas ... for the high waters flood the place to such an extent that the men spent four months in the water; and frequently had to wade mid-leg deep in it outside their cabins....  The wheat that had been sown was already quite high, when the inundation caused by a heavy sea in the month of August, carried it away.  The garden did not succeed any better; and besides there are a great number of black snakes that eat the lettuce and other vegetables down to the roots."  At Biloxi, Father Gravier would have found similar conditions plaguing the garrison there. 

Come spring, it was time for Sauvole and his officers to addresss the Court's obsession over mines in the region.  Bienville and Saint-Denis, with 20 Canadians, left Biloxi for the Red River valley when the weather allowed it.  Their mission was to explore as close to the Mexican frontier as possible, keeping an eye out for mineral deposits in what the Spanish called Tejas, north of Rio Grande, and to take possession of whatever mines they could discover in the name of the King.  They also were tasked with making peace with the natives they encountered and carefully mapping the country through which they traveled.  They returned to villages of the Natchitoches and the other Caddo above them, where they had gone the previous spring, but, again, they did not go as far as the Hasinai on Rio Neches.  Nor did Bienville "obtain the precise information he was seeking on the distance to the mines of Mexico.  He learned only that the Spanish had not been in the Cadodaquios' villages for a long time."

A re-supply finally reached Biloxi at the end of May 1701.  The fireship Enflammé, under 26-year-old Louis Denys de La Ronde, who had returned to France with Iberville the previous May, had left Rochefort in February.  Aboard the vessel was fellow Canadian Mathieu Sagean, who had hoodwinked the King and his ministers with a fake memoir "in which he pretended to have ascended the Missouri and discovered mines of gold...."  Sagean bore instructions from the Minister of Marine to resume "his alleged explorations as far as California."  Ignoring the limited resources of the colony, the Minister charged Sauvole with building 24 pirogues and placing 100 Canadians under Sagean's command, but the imposter had chosen the wrong place to resume his bogus explorations.  He "was well known to most of the Canadians in Louisiana, who were conscious he never had been on the Missouri," Françoix-Xavier Martin informs us.  Sauvole, "informed of the character of the man, did not hurry the intended expedition, although, in obedience to his instructions, he gave orders for the building of the pirogues."  After unloading supplies and his specious passenger, Denys de La Ronde headed back to France. 

In June, Sauvole sent a surveying party to Mobile Bay to explore the area, including the rivers that flowed into the bay.  It likely was during this exploration that 13 feet of water and a sizable anchorage were discovered off the eastern tip of Massacre Island--a potential port for defense as well as commerce.  Looking westward, Sauvole "probed the possibilities of communication between Biloxi and the Natchez by a land route.  But the water route was more frequently used." 

By summer, the Louisiana venture tottered on the edge of oblivion.  Sauvole could barely man the two forts, while the Native alliances on the river slowly unraveled.  Only peace with the Spanish at nearby Pensacola and the distance the English would have had to travel to get to the large nations living above them provided a respite for French presence on the Gulf of Mexico--a presence hardly more substantial now than it had been the year before.  Iberville, gone a year now, had not returned, so Sauvole, his officers, and men had to fend for themselves as best they could on what little the French authorities had sent them.  Compounding the problem were the many visitors to the Mississippi and Gulf Coast outposts, including Tonty, Seminarian Fathers de Montigny and Davion, Jesuit Fathers Gravier, Du Ru, and Joseph de Limoges, Le Sueur and his men, various coureurs de bois and voyageurs, some awaiting passage to France, as well as the frequent native visitors, all of whom had to be fed.  "Supplies of flour and bacon were perilously low and the wine had almost run out," Philomena Hauck relates.  "Without the Indian corn supplied by the neighboring tribes," which the Frenchmen detested, "the plight of the garrison would have been desperate indeed.  By summer when there was little or no hunting, a few of the precious cattle transported all the way from France had to be slaughtered to feed the sick."  The heat and humidity, poor food, and resulting illness, took its toll on the officers and men.  The Canadians became especially unruly, and even Father du Ru "came in for his share of criticism of impertenence" in Sauvole's report. 

In August, a hurricane slammed into that part of the coast, "partially destroyed" Île Mouillage, and transformed its fresh-water lagoons into "briny ponds."  In the intense heat following the hurricane's passing, an epidemic swept through the Biloxi encampment, and the commandant was one of its victims.  The gentleman-adventurer, probably well into middle age, died on August 22 and was buried in the soil of a strange new land he had known for only two and a half years.  The 21-year-old Bienville moved from Fort de Mississippi to take command at Biloxi, while Saint-Denis remained on the river.  Illness, famine, and sinking morale stalked the hapless garrisons into the fall and winter.50h


As Iberville prepared for his third expedition to Louisiana, the imminence of war limited royal resources for outfitting another Gulf Coast expedition.  Nonetheless, there would be one.  In late June 1701, the ministry of Marine published the list of officers who would serve on the Renommée and its consort, the Palmier, being refitted at Rochefort.  Iberville would command the Renommée, with Boisbriant as his second in command, who also would serve as his aide-major.  Brother Joseph Le Moyne, sieur de Sérigny et de Loire, like older brother Iberville a distinguished naval commander, was given the Palmier, which he had commanded in Hudson Bay.  (This time five Le Moyne brothers would serve in Louisiana--Bienville, already there, plus Iberville, Sérigny, Châteauguay, and Gabriel d'Assigny, one of the youngest, who signed on to try his luck in the new colony.  In fact, a sixth Le Moyne "brother" would serve in the colony:  Sub-lieutenant Pierre-Jacques Payen de Noyan, husband of their sister Catherine-Jeanne, was an officer aboard the Palmier.)  A traversier, the Espérance, under François-Alexandre Robinau de Bécancour, would accompany the flotilla.  Jesuit Father Pierre Dongé would supplement, or replace, Father Paul du Ru in the colony.  Representing the King's financial interests in Louisiana would be Nicolas de La Salle, the colony's new commissaire.  De La Salle, from a prominent Parisian family, was not a Cavelier and thus not a kinsman of the great explorer, but in 1682, as a young man, Nicolas had accompanied the Sieur de La Salle and Henri de Tonty on their famous journey to the mouth of the Mississippi.  "[S]o when word came out that a colony was about to be estabished in Louisiana," Philomena Hauck relates, De La Salle "felt that his experience entitled him to a position there."  Iberville did not invite him on the first or second expedition, but De La Salle pulled the right strings at Court, and here he was.  The new commissary, "an embittered man with a wife and family to support on starvation wages," would take his wife, Madeleine Chartroux, and young sons Nicolas, fils and Simon, to Louisiana.  Thanks to Iberville's largesse, three men already in the colony--metal worker and master locksmith Jean Le Caën, at Fort Maurepas since 1700, married to Madeleine Robert; Canadian powdermaker François-Xavier Lemay dit Poudrier, who also had come in 1700, married to Frenchwoman Angela Orsseau and father of two children; and Canadian Jacques Leméry--would reunite with their loved ones when the Renommée reached Louisiana. 

Here were the colony's first European families.50g 

And then came an annoying delay--the French had not received word from the Spanish about the status of Pensacola.  Iberville's plan of action called for the abandonment of Fort Maurepas, at least as the colony's headquarters; for strengthening Fort de Mississippi; for building a new post on Mobile Bay from which to treat with the Choctaw and the troublesome Chickasaw; and for rebuilding Pensacola to protect the flank of the new post, which would be a true colony, with families, marriageable young women for the woodsmen already there, and a proper hospital staffed by Grey Sisters from Rochefort.  The King authorized funds not only for an extensive trade with the Indians, including firearms to be given or sold to them, but also for a new fortification at either Mobile or Pensacola if the Spanish ceded the place.  July turned into August, with still no word from Spain.  Iberville had left his men at Biloxi with only six months worth of provisions 15 months ago!  Only a small re-supply aboard the fireship Enflammé, under Louis Denys de La Ronde, had succored the colony during that time.  The ship had left Rochefort in February and was expected to return in August.  Iberville was determined to set sail by the end of August regardless of word from Spain.

He left Rochefort on 27 August 1701 and made for St.-Domingue.  Soon after he left France, word arrived at Court from the Spanish Junta about that nation's plans for Pensacola.  They regretted to inform their esteemed allies that King Philip would not surrender Pensacola to them.  Not only that, but they were determined to build a new fortress at Pensacola, reinforced from Havana and Veracruz, to overawe any "foreign" challenge to their hegemony in the region.  The Junta registered their regret that the French had built a colony in territory long claimed by Spain.  No matter, the Spanish hoped to cooperate with the usurpers, now their allies, against their common enemy, the English. 

Iberville reached Cap-Français on November 7.  The Palmier, whose refitting had not pleased Iberville, had lost her mainmast in a storm.  At Le Cap, Iberville met the Enflammé, returned from Biloxi, evidently waiting for repairs before it could return to France.  Along with Iberville's dispatches, the Enflammé's commander, Louis Denys de La Ronde, took back to the Minister a memoir from Sauvole addressing the sad state of Fort de Mississippi.  Iberville then waited impatiently for repairs to the Palmier.  Mindful of conditions at his outposts, he sent a smack on ahead to the Mississippi fort to succor the garrison there.  The smack's captain, Jean-Robert Jousselin de Marigny, also would deliver orders to Sauvole to dismantle the post at Fort Maurepas and move down the coast to Massacre Island at the entrance to Mobile Bay.  In order to place the new settlement on a solid footing, Iberville took on more provisions at Le Cap, including livestock.  He was determined that Mobile would become a self-sufficient colony, not dependent on annual re-supplies from France or, worse, on the local Indians.  Before he left in mid-November, Iberville was disappointed when d'Assigny, not an adventurer like his older brothers, chose to remain at Cap-Français and accept a position on the local council.  Iberville agreed to ask the Minister of Marine to hurry his brother's appointment.  Sadly, the effort proved unnecessary.  D'Assigny died in St.-Domingue a few months later.  He was only 20 years old.50a  

Also before he left, Iberville took care of other personal business.  His share of the fur trade on Hudson Bay, plus his bonuses and salaries from the royal treasury, had made him a wealthy man, and he hoped to become even wealthier.  While waiting at Le Cap, he entered into a partnership to purchase a large cocoa and sugar plantation in French St.-Domingue.  Four years later, he would sell the plantation for a profit of nearly 14,000 livres.50b

The 20-day voyage from Le Cap to Pensacola, his next destination, was agony for Iberville.  He had felt a pain in his abdomen back at Cap-Français, but now it was a full blown abscess that required on-board surgery.  His surgeon, Pierre Clavery, did what he could for the commandant, whose suffering must have been unbearable when the Renommée entered the cold, choppy waters of the Gulf of Mexico.50c

Finally, on December 16, Iberville's flotilla arrived at Pensacola.  Evidently having received word from Versailles during his long stay at Le Cap, Iberville sent an officer ashore to ask permission to anchor inside the harbor.  The commander of the post, still Andrés de Arriola, had gone to Veracruz, but the second in command, Don Francisco de Córcoles y Martínez, sent a pilot to lead the French vessels through the channel.  When Martínez came aboard the Renommée, Iberville informed him of Philippe d'Anjou's accession to the Spanish throne as Philip V, replacing the Hapsburg Carlos II; the French and Spanish were now Bourbon allies.  Martínez seemed pleased with the news, but he had sad news for the ailing Canadian.  The trusty Sauvole had died at Fort Maurepas.  Fever, which struck others at the settlement, had taken the old adventurer less than a week before Iberville had sailed from Rochefort.  Iberville surmised that after Sauvole's death Bienville had taken command at Biloxi.  Iberville was not yet aware that Bienville and many of his men also were sick with whatever had killed Sauvole.50d 

Here was another motivation to move the colony's headquarters from Biloxi to Mobile.  "In a private conference," Iberville informed Martínez of the plans to fortify and settle Mobile Bay.  The proud Spaniard could not have been pleased with the news, but he took it calmly, at first.  Two weeks later, however, after watching the Frenchmen come and go, he protested verbally as well as in writing that Bahía Mobila belonged to Spain.  He beseeched Iberville to wait for a reply from his viceroy before continuing his activities in the bay.  He even asked Iberville to loan him a ship to send a messenger to Veracruz.  Iberville agreed to the loan of a vessel but added that he was duty bound to fortify Mobile.  His orders came from his King, he reminded Martínez, and he had only two months to complete them.  To assuage the Spaniard, he explained to him how a fort at Mobile would help unite the two nations against their mutual enemy.  He promised to help the Spanish in their common quest to defeat the designs of the Carolina English, who were turning area natives against them.  No surprise to Iberville, Martínez acquiesced in what the French were doing at Bahía Mobila.50e 

Lingering at Pensacola into January 1702, recuperating from his surgery, Iberville sent François Desjordy-Moreau de Cabanac in a felucca to Fort Maurepas to hurry Bienville and Jousselin de Marigny's movement to Massacre with what they could salvage from Biloxi.  Iberville instructed Desjordy-Moreau to tell Bienville to build on Massacre a storage warehouse for the King's property.  He then sent Sérigny and Châteauguay in a borrowed launch to rendezvous with their brother on the island.  Iberville next prepared a 45-ton ketch, the Dauphine, commanded by Canadian merchant-turned-sailor François Pillet dit Lajeunesse, to follow the brothers to Massacre with 80 hand-picked workers, building materials, and other paraphernalia he had brought from France.  Also aboard the ketch were Commissary de La Salle and his family.  Iberville, still recuperating from his surgery, was forced to remain aboard the Renommée at Pensacola.  On January 12, the Dauphine returned with the news that, after recuperating from his own illness, Bienville had reached Massacre on the 5th with 40 men, leaving Boisbriant at Biloxi with a token force of 20 men; rendezvoused with Sérigny, De La Salle, and the working party; and was building the storage warehouse.  The stores being unloaded onto Massacre Island were protected from the elements by the three large tents Iberville had purchased from a Canadian merchant.  Bienville, Sérigny, and Charles Levasseur dit Ruessavel headed up Mobile River on January 16, going as far as the Mobilian village.  While they surveyed the terrain along the river for the best possible settlement site, Châteauguay and the workers finished the warehouse at Massacre.50f 

After reading Bienville's report of the river survey and studying Levasseur's drawings, Iberville chose for the new settlement a bluff rising 21 feet above the water line along the west bank of the Mobile River, 16 leagues (approximately 60 miles) north of Massacre Island, at "the second bluff," today's Twenty-Seven-Mile Bluff.  The place commanded the head of the bay as well as the mouth of a major river that led deep into the interior where thousands of natives lived.  Bienville would guide the working party up to the site, and Sérigny would supervise construction.  The shallow waters of the bay, especially at its entrance, could not accommodate the larger vessels, so Iberville sent Jacques Le Roux of Rochefort, his master ship's carpenter, with mechanics and laborers to build a flat-bottomed pinnace with a shallow enough draft--four and a half feet--to move supplies from the island to the settlement and yet be seaworthy enough to navigate the sounds and even the open Gulf.  Levasseur, meanwhile, would oversee the construction of the fort, "an imposing structure of logs about 375 feet square, flanked by four bastions each thirty feet by twelve and each containing a battery of six guns.  Within the enclosure were four buildings used respectively as a chapel, a guardhouse and storehouse combined, a residence for the commander, and a residence for the officers.  Outside the palisade were the barracks, situated 150 feet north of the fort on the riverbank."  The defensive structure was named Fort Louis-de-la-Louisiane, and the entire complex, including an adjacent village, would come to be be called Mobile.51  

After three years of effort, here was a proper settlement.  Forts Maurepas and de Mississippi were simply garrisoned outposts.  Fort Louis would be that and something else:  a colony, with residents, not just soldiers; with families and a chapel.  Although the place would be abandoned nine years later and New Mobile would reappear farther downriver, here was a significant step in the Louisiana venture--a new colony for France in the American wilderness.51d  

Still on his sickbed at Pensacola, Iberville gave Henri de Tonty an important assignment.  He ordered the Neapolitan to gather a small force of voyageurs at Mobile and return to the Chickasaw villages.  To Iberville's dismay, the Chickasaw had chosen to remain staunch allies of the Carolina English.  Tonty was to use his considerable charm, in lieu of gifts, to lure the troublesome nation, as well as their neighbors the Choctaw, into an alliance with the French.  Mobile was well positioned, Iberville believed, for travel to and from the territories of the largest nations in the region--the Chickasaw in present-day northern Mississippi, the Choctaw south and east of them, and the Alibamon east of the Choctaw at the strategic junction of the Tallapoosa and Coosa rivers.  According to Iberville's grand scheme, in fact, "the pacification and unification of the principal Indian nations" in the region was second in importance only to the creation of the new settlement at Mobile.51b

Meanwhile, at Pensacola, the Spaniards had run dangerously low on supplies.  Martínez, still in charge there, and still waiting for his commander to return with provisions from Veracruz, beseeched Iberville for the loan of a vessel with which to send to Veracruz.  Iberville consented, not only out of a sense of humanity, but also out of the hard, cold fact that he could not afford to feed Pensacola as well as Mobile, which must depend on supply ships from France or St.-Domingue before the settlers there could raise enough food of their own.  The traversier Précieuse, which had been sailing Louisiana waters for three years now, was refitted for the benefit of the Spaniards.  Cousin Jean-Sidrac Dugué de Sainte-Thérèse, Boisbriant's brother, with 16 men would man the vessel; one of Martínez's officers would serve as pilot and messenger.  Iberville also gave Martínez 15 barrels of flour to help feed the Pensacola garrison until Sainte-Thérèse returned.51c 

Finally, on February 15, after two longs months of convalescing at Pensacola, Iberville was well enough to take the Palmier, now under command of brother-in-law Pierre-Jacques Payen de Noyan, to Massacre Island.  After three days of fighting heavy winds, the ship finally dropped anchor in the harbor at the island's eastern end.  Here, a few weeks earlier, Sérigny and De La Salle had found a flat, sandy bottom with 20 feet of water at low tide, deep enough for the largest vessels, including ships of 40 or 50 guns, and shelter from the area's prevailing winds.  Iberville pronounced it the finest harbor on the entire coast, large enough to accommodate up to 30 ships, and he called it Port Massacre.  To protect the harbor and the entrance to the bay, Iberville ordered the construction of a fort on the eastern tip of Massacre Island at a place later called Pointe-à-Guillory.  The new fort also would protect the King's warehouse, which would store provisions not only for Fort Louis, but also for the Mississippi garrison.  Unfortunately, when Iberville reached Massacre, Josselin de Marigny's smack was fast aground on a sandbar near the entrance to the bay.  Two days of hard work and the flowing tides could not free the vessel, so Iberville hired François Pillet's ketch, the Dauphine, to transport supplies and passengers to Fort de Mississippi.  There no longer was a garrison to feed at Biloxi.  Nearby Île Mouillage--Ship Island--could serve as an anchorage on Mississippi Sound, but Fort Maurepas would be no more.51a 

The Dauphine carried Jesuit Father Jacques Gravier, who had come down, again, from his post in Illinois.  Also aboard were Canadian voyageurs interested in establishing a trade connection for their furs and skins.  After the Dauphine departed Massacre, Marigny's smack came unstuck during an unusually high tide, and Iberville sent it to Biloxi to secure the remaining items at Fort Maurepas.  Amazingly, though its construction had been underway for several weeks, Iberville had not seen his new fort on the Mobile River.  He attempted to go up in late February, but foul weather turned him back to Massacre.51e 

On his return, Iberville learned that Commissary de La Salle, a proud, prickly Frenchman, whose job was to oversee the colony's stores, already was alienating some of the officers by interfering with their established commissary arrangements.  Iberville tried to head off more conflict by appointing a garde-magasin, or storekeeper, to run the King's warehouse on Massacre, with orders to issue munitions, provisions, even presents to the natives, only on written orders signed by the commissaire and the commandant or the King's lieutenant--a "bicephalous administration," typical in French colonies, that would haunt Louisiana for decades to come.52 

On his second attempt to visit Fort Louis, which began on February 28, Iberville informed Commissary de La Salle, who had taken up temporary residence at the Massacre storehouse, that he could follow with his family when another boat arrived.  Contrary winds delayed Iberville's arrival for several days, but, finally, on March 3, he reached the fort's landing, where he was greeted by his brothers and the other officers.  This would be his new headquarters until he returned to the Renommée.52b

Always the explorer, Iberville ordered a more thorough survey of the Mobile Bay area.  He was interested not only in the waters, but also the banks and the surrounding territory.  Bienville, who started out on March 4 with Native guides, found many abandoned living sites and even some sacred places.  Among the latter was a small group of islands on which the Natives had erected five plaster figures which they considered to be idols; later, Iberville guessed, wrongly, that they were from the de Soto expedition of the 1540s.  The Natives believed these figures were sacred and that whoever profaned them would meet a terrible end.  Ever the Renaissance man, Bienville gathered them up to take to the fort to show the others.  The Natives were astonished that he did not suddenly drop dead.  After Bienville returned, Iberville went out to find a fresh water stream that could generate enough power to operate a sawmill and a tannery he hoped to build in the area.  The flat terrain provided no such flow of water, so the sawmill and the tannery remained only ideas.  And, of course, Iberville had to visit the local nations, including the Mobilian and the Tomeh, who lived farther up the Mobile River.  On his way up to and from the villages, he studied the river banks, noting the many abandoned Native sites, evidence that the area once supported a large population.  But he was more interested in the future than in the past, "trying to determine if the bluffs along the river were capable of supporting the plantations he envisioned."52a  

Back at Mobile, Iberville oversaw the laying out of the village behind the fort where the officers, administrators, artisans, and coureurs de bois soon would build their houses.  Iberville reserved two allotments for the priests who would live in or visit the village:  one for the Jesuits, the other for the Seminarians, the lots discreetly separated by two blocks of houses.  Iberville also found a letter from Martínez beseeching him for more supplies.  Iberville wasted no time complying with the Spaniard's request.  "The well-being of Fort San Carlo, he knew, would be beneficial to the success of Fort Louis during the early stages," Jay Higginbotham reminds us. Moreover, during "... the next few years, supply ships from Veracruz would be coming regularly to Pensacola.  No doubt they would arrive on numerous occasions when Fort Louis was lacking in supplies."  This time Iberville would not give the Spaniards barrels of flour from the Massacre warehouse.  Instead, he sent Desjordy-Moreau upriver to the Tomeh village to purchase maize from the natives and sent a felucca filled with corn on to Pensacola.52c

On Sunday, March 26, having taken a big step towards creating a Pax Gallica in the region, Tonty returned to Mobile with several Choctaw and Chickasaw chiefs, as well as chiefs from the nearby Mobilian and Tomeh villages.  Iberville welcomed the occasion to impress the Native leaders with the power and wealth of France.  His gifts to them must have made a large dent in the colony's stores:  "Two hundred pounds each of powder, shot, and musket balls, one hundred axes, twelve guns, 150 knives, and a miscellaneous collection of cooking utensils ...," placed at the feet of the awestruck chiefs.  "Never before had these bewildered natives seen such an array, and all was theirs for the taking."  Iberville, with brother Bienville interpreting, addressed the chiefs.  He praised them for the peace that existed between them but warned them about the machinations of the Carolina English, who were not above selling their people into slavery.  He reminded them of how the English weakened the nations living in their colonies not only with Indian slavery, but also with frequent warfare pitting nation against nation, until the Indians could no longer defend themselves.  He turned to the Chickasaw chiefs and threatened to arm the other nations in the region, even their arch-enemies, the Illinois, now allies of the French, if the Chickasaw did not turn away from the English and cease "their slave-driven attacks" against the Choctaw and the coastal nations.  Changing his tone, Iberville promised to cajole the Illinois into releasing their Chickasaw captives and to broker a peace between the two nations.  He promised to build in the territory between the Chickasaw and Choctaw villages a trading post filled with high-quality goods, and he promised reasonable prices for their furs and skins.  He also agreed to send among the Chickasaw a French youth named Saint-Michel, who would learn their language and customs and teach them the ways of the French.  After smoking the calumet and hearing the chiefs' promises that they would expel the English from their territories, Iberville and the chiefs negotiated prices. 

The regional Pax Gallica had been sealed.53 

After the conference, which Iberville intended to be an annual affair, including exchange of presents, he asked the Choctaw and Chickasaw chiefs to estimate for him the number of their people, including warriors.  He was told the Chickasaw could send 2,000 men into the field, and the Choctaw an astonishing 3,800, perhaps as many as 4,000.  It would take years, if not decades, if ever, for the French to be able to gather such a force in the region.  Diplomacy, for now and well into the future, would have to take precedence over force.  It was important, then, that Iberville keep his promises.  He sent five Canadians up the Mobile River to build the trading post.  Three of them would continue to Illinois to secure the release of the Chickasaw prisoners.  They would then continue on to the St. Lawrence valley with letters from Iberville to the vicar-general of the Seminary in Québec and the superior of the Jesuits, asking for more missionaries for his native allies, especially the Choctaw and Chickasaw.  He also sent messages to the white-collar missionaries already serving the Louisiana nations, including Fathers Albert Davion, still among the Tunica; Nicolas Foucault with the Arkansas; and Jean-François Buisson de Saint-Cosme with the Natchez.  They must inform their charges of the new alliance and dissuade them from further conflict.53a 


His work accomplished, Iberville prepared to leave Louisiana for the third time.  He could not know it, but when he bid farewell to the colonists at Mobile on 27 March 1702, the founder of Louisiana would never see his handiwork again.  With him went brothers Sérigny and Châteauguay; also kinsman Le Sueur, who had come back downriver the previous spring with a load of green and blue ore he had found in the Sioux country.  Jesuit Father Paul du Ru, in the colony since January 1700, also was returning to France.  Bienville, who had come to Louisiana in January 1699 and had stayed each time Iberville sailed away, would remain in the colony once again and command at Fort Louis.53b 

On March 31, after waiting several days for a favorable wind, Iberville left Port Massacre and sailed the Palmier back to the Renommée, still anchored at Pensacola, which he reached in a day.  He was chagrined to learn that his traversier, the Précieuse, so important for the Louisiana colonists, had not returned from Veracruz.  As a result, the Pensacola garrison was still short of food.  Moreover, Iberville was anxious to know how the Spanish in Mexico were reacting to his presence on the Gulf of Mexico.  He also was forced to wait for Pillet's ketch, supposedly carrying a cargo of pelts and skins from the lower Mississippi; he had promised the Canadians to take their goods to France and seek a market for them there.  The Précieuse returned from Veracruz on April 13 but carried only a month's supply of food.  The Dauphine returned from the Mississippi on April 19, laden with furs and skins.  Iberville sent another traversier, the Espérance, under trusted lieutenant Robinau de Bécancour, back to Veracruz to purchase more supplies.53c

Iberville's final task before departing Pensacola was the completion of a long memorandum addressed to Bienville in which he detailed what he wanted his brother to accomplish before he returned the following year.  Determined to placate his native allies, Iberville prohibited Indian slavery in the colony.  He instructed Bienville to send Tonty and a party of Canadians to the Tombigbee River, above the Mobile, to construct the trading post he had promised the Choctaw and Chickasaw.  He encouraged Bienville to establish amicable relations with the strategically-located Alibamon, who lived east of the Choctaw.  To assuage an important nation on the lower Mississippi and to mitigate the damage from floods, Iberville suggested that Bienville abandon Fort de Mississippi and relocate to the Bayou St.-Jean portage site, near where a small Biloxi village now stood.  Bienville, with the help of the Spanish, must complete the overland route from Fort Louis to Pensacola to improve communication between the two posts, and Iberville suggested that "'cart roads'" be built from Fort Louis to the Tomeh and Mobilian villages above.53e

On April 28, Iberville set sail for Havana, where he hoped to communicate with veteran French naval squadron leader, François-Louis Rousselet de Châteaurenault, about improving trade with Veracruz and other Spanish ports.  Unfortunately, when Iberville reached Havana during the first week of May, Châteaurenault had already moved on to Veracruz.  Iberville lingered at Havana for 10 days, waiting for Châteaurenault to return, but yellow fever broke out in the city, so he wisely turned his ships out to sea.  Following an uneventful crossing, the flotilla reached La Rochelle by late June.53f

A month before Iberville's return to France, England, under its new queen, Anne, had declared war against the Bourbon powers and their continental allies.  After only five years of relative peace, war had returned to Europe, and it soon would spread to America as well.53d 

At Rochefort, Iberville arranged for the re-supply of his colony via the ship Loire commanded by Dugué de Sainte-Thérèse, Boisbriant's older brother.  Iberville also recommended La Sueur for appointment as minister of justice at Mobile.  He arranged to send more colonists to Louisiana, including skilled craftsmen and marriageable women, but, pessimistically, he did not recommend sending a midwife along with them.  Iberville had the temerity to ask permission for the Loire, on its return to France, to transport the produce of his new sugar plantation in St.-Domingue.  The Minister refused.  The King expected the colonists at Mobile to fill the Loire's hold with lumber, skins, and other products of Louisiana, not the commandant's personal goods.  The Loire sailed in March 1703 with only 17 passengers but no maidens aboard and arrived at Port Massacre the following August. 

Iberville now was at the height of his career.  Soon after his return to France in the summer of 1702, the King promoted him from capitaine de frégate to capitaine de vaisseau, or captain of ships-of-the-line, which would ensure for him a major role in the coming war.  No one, not even the governor-general of New France, knew more about North America--its geography, its ethnography, its grand-strategic complexities--than France's new capitaine de vaisseau.  Iberville took full advantage of his heightened esteem by submitting to the King and Pontchartrain a bold proposal to shift the balance of power in North America and give France control, once and for all, of the continent's still valuable western fur trade.   First, Mobile, with its riverine access into the interior, something that Pensacola lacked, would become the headquarters of an expanded colony consisting of Louisiana, Illinois, and the Ohio country.  New posts would be erected on the Arkansas, Ohio, and Missouri rivers to supplement the post near the mouth of the Mississippi.   New colonists, including families, would be sent not only to Mobile, but also to the new upriver posts and even to Indian villages strategically played around the region.  This would discourage the settlers from becoming coureurs de bois and taking up Indian wives.  Once these family-oriented settlements were established, Natives living near English settlements and those that had fallen under English influence would be moved to the vicinity of Mobile.  Meanwhile, the Illinois would be induced to move down to the Ohio and settle there.  Le Sueur would lure the Sioux from their prairie villages down to the Des Moines, bringing them deeper into the French orbit.  How would these nations be motivated to move to new hunting grounds?  The new colony would refuse to trade with them, and they would be forbidden to trade with Canada.  As a result, the western fur trade would flow south to Mobile, not east to Canada.  This accomplished, the far northern nations, the Cree and the Assiniboine, would be enticed to abandon their connections with the English on Hudson Bay and trade with the French from Louisiana.  Iberville, of course, would direct the expanded colony from a large land concession near Mobile, which he proposed to call the Comté d'Iberville.54 

The King and Minister were not pleased with the plan.  Not only was much of it impractical, especially the movement of entire Indian nations from their traditional  homelands, but Louis XIV and the comte de Pontchartrain refused to grant to a Canadian upstart so much power and influence.  Though parts of his scheme would come to fruition, Iberville, clearly, had overplayed his hand. 

And then his service to France took a different turn.  The new capitaine de vaisseau was needed on another front--the War of the Spanish Succession.  Iberville's fertile mind swirled with new ideas for attacking the English in Europe and North America.  Perhaps consumed by the new war and what it could do for his career, Iberville seemed to lose interest in Louisiana and hinted to the Minister that he might wish to be relieved of his command of the colony.  The Minister and the King ignored the suggestion and ordered him back to Louisiana.  He was expected to set sail with the new re-supply in September 1703, this time with the captured Dutch ship Pélican accompanying the Renommée and the Charente

But Iberville's health collapsed again, this time from recurring bouts of malaria.  His condition seemed so critical that his wife and brother Sérigny rushed from La Rochelle to his sickbed in Paris to look after him.  After months of delay, the Pélican, sans its powerful escorts but with 23 single women and Le Sueur aboard, sailed from Rochefort to La Rochelle and, finally, during the third week of April 1704, headed out to sea.  After an uneventful crossing in the middle of a war, the overloaded vessel arrived at Cap-Français in early June.  The ship's commander carried orders for a detour to Havana, which proved to be disastrous.54a 

Iberville, meanwhile, was still confined to his sickbed in Paris.  For the second time he had missed a re-supply to Louisiana.  The war ground on, disastrously for France, both in Europe and North America.  Not until August 1705 was the capitaine de vaisseau well enough to join the fray.  He received orders that month to outfit a fleet bound for Martinique, from which he would take on the English in the Caribbean.  He sailed from La Rochelle in January 1706, and that spring his force of a dozen vessels devastated the small island of Nevis, one of England's most important sugar colonies.  The campaign, though a military triumph for Iberville and his brother Sérigny, proved to be a personal embarrassment for the Le Moynes.  The brothers and other high-ranking officers were compelled by lack of royal funds to help defray costs for the expedition.  They borrowed heavily, and to recoup their investments and satisfy their creditors, they not only tolerated wanton looting after their men had seized the island, but also incurred "the suspicion of fraudulence" in outfitting the expedition and transporting illicit merchandise in the King's warships.55 

It proved to be the Canadian's capitaine's greatest, and final, campaign.  After his victory at Nevis, Iberville temporarily disbanded his fleet, sending four ships back to France with the regular troops.  He then sailed to Cap-Français in his flagship, the Juste, before moving on to Léogane, on the other side of St.-Domingue, where he rendezvoused with four of his vessels.  Determined to continue his depredations of the English in the region, including an attack on Carolina, he had first to sell French iron he was carrying on his flag ship, so he led his squadron on to Havana.  There, he sent Sérigny in one of the ships to Veracruz to sell more of the booty, and sent another frigate, along with a captured English vessel, to re-supply the Louisiana colony, which had not been sustained for two long years.  While waiting for Sérigny to return, Iberville contracted yellow fever, which, considering the state of his health, proved to be a death sentence.  He died aboard his flagship on 9 July 1706, only two weeks shy of his forty-fifth birthday.  After an elaborate funeral attended by Havana's elite, Iberville was laid to rest in the church of San Cristóbal, next to his kinsman, Pierre-Charles Le Sueur, who had died under similar circumstances two years earlier.56

Bienville in Charge, 1702-1713

When Iberville left Mobile in late March 1702, leaving his younger brother in charge of the colony, Bienville was only 22 years old and still unmarried.  His three years in the Louisiana wilderness had shaped him into a woodsman of the first order, and the responsibilities thrust upon him at an early age had transformed him into a distinguished officer of the King.  His natural leadership abilities, reinforced by an amazing stamina, common sense, a gift for languages, and a quiet ferocity, would make him, in time, a worthy successor to his older brother.  But, for now, his youthful inexperience in administrative matters would make him a poor fit for running an important military outpost.  His "unorthodox financial practices were a sore trial" for anyone serving beneath him or for his superiors in the ministry of Marine.  "His habit of juggling funds to meet pressing needs and his incompetence in filling out the necessary records were enough to drive a bookkeeper wild," especially the officious De La Salle.  "As a colonial administrator," Bienville "was obviously unqualified by virtue of training or experience," Jay Higginbotham reminds us.  "His family prestige, his predilection to lead, did not nearly begin to compensate for his youth, his small education or his lack of executive skills.  Nor was there any administrative machinery present upon which he could rely.  In these early days, Louisiana had no Conseil superiéur, no legislative body, not even a governor in absentia, in fact.  Iberville, as capitaine de frégate, had merely been the officer in charge of a particular enterprise who, having had to absent himself, had delegated his authority to a subordinate," first Sauvole and now his brother.  "Subordinate Bienville was merely a 'lieutenant du roi faisant les functions de commandant,'" that is, a King's lieutenant serving as acting commandant, "until Iberville's return.  His authority at this time came to him through Iberville whose authority flowed ultimately (though sometimes through indirect channels) from the minister of the marine."57

Bienville would need every skill he did possess to command the Louisiana colony.  His first task after Iberville left was the completion of the walls and redoubts at Fort Louis and the warehouses at Massacre and Dog River.  But he did not neglect the local Natives.  Soon after Iberville departed, a delegation of Alibamon chiefs arrived at the fort for their share of presents and to smoke the calumet of peace.  Bienville secured a promise from them not to war against their less numerous neighbors, especially the Mobilian, once their allies, and the Little Tomeh. 

Meanwhile, the craftsmen and Canadians began work on their private dwellings behind Fort Louis.  The dangerous drought of the previous year had given way to heavy rains in late winter and early spring, revealing a serious design flaw in the lay out of the settlement's housing lots.  Although the fort itself would "never" flood, "perhaps eighty percent of the private sites were now, and would continue to be, plagued with standing waters from two to eighteen inches during the rainy seasons."  The problem was not the river but the surrounding countryside, which was flat and poorly drained.  When the rains came, the small streams in the area, including the one that ran along the northern edge of the village, invariably ran over their banks.  This forced the residents living closest to the creek to construct their houses atop wooden pilings.  Ironically, the residents who were able to build their houses at ground level were plagued by termites and "wood rot."  Moreover, the residents constructed their houses using the most readily available timber, the younger and smaller pines that blanketed the area.  The magnificent stands of cypress and virgin pine, which would have provided better building material, were, in the first instance, too difficult to get at, and, in the second, too massive for their axes and saws.  Only after years of trial and error would these carpenters and their successors master the characteristics of indigenous species in withstanding the region's weather and insect pests.58

And then, in the King's lieutenant's view, there were pests of the human kind.  By early summer, the Spanish at Pensacola were starving ... again.  Their re-supply from Veracruz still had not arrived.  Following his brother's lead, Bienville threw himself into the task of replenishing the Spaniards' food supplies with what he could spare.  Having supervised the opening of the overland route to the Spanish garrison, Bienville was well aware of the problems at Pensacola, where 200 men, many of them servants and convicts, lived on the edge of mass starvation.  Looking at that outpost's limited resources--in arable land, in timber, and especially in the dearth of friendly Indian villages near Fort San Carlos--Bienville could take pride at what the French had selected for their principal settlement site.  He had learned from Commandant Martínez that a new viceroy, Francisco Fernández de la Cueva y Enriquez, Duque de Albuquerque, would take office at Veracruz the following autumn.  If Bienville could impress the new viceroy with his generosity towards his Bourbon allies, perhaps he could secure permission to trade with Veracruz, Havana, and San Agústín, each closer to him than Québec or Rochefort or even Cap-Français.59

And then there was a young lieutenant whose aggressive actions on the lower Mississippi jeopardized the hard-won Pax Gallica.   Louis Juchereau de Saint-Denis had come to the colony in January 1700 and, like Bienville, had remained there.  It was Saint-Denis who had accompanied Bienville on the difficult venture to Red River that year, and who had remained on the river when Bienville moved to Biloxi and then to Mobile to command the colony when Iberville was away.  In the summer of 1702, Saint-Denis and some of his fellow Canadians, with a few soldiers from his Mississippi garrison and a hand full of Quinapisa, launched an expedition on the lower river, seeking an alternative water route to Mexico.  While moving down Bayou Lafourche, they came upon a party of Chitimacha, who attacked them without warning.  Saint-Denis and his men drove off their attackers.  What they did next was the problem.  Instead of letting the miscreants go, they "vigorously pursued the fleeing Chitimacha, managing to capture a number of prisoners whom he [Saint-Denis] had ideas of selling into slavery."  Here was a clear violation of Iberville's proscription against Indian enslavement.  When Bienville heard of the incident, he was distressed by the actions of one of his most valued lieutenants.  He upbraided the proud Canadian for antagonizing a previously friendly nation and raising the specter of Indian slavery.  Saint-Denis did not take the censure well and remained estranged from Bienville for a number of years.60

And then there were the missionaries, some of whom proved to be as troublesome as termites and aggressive Canadians.  They were such an important part of the Pax Gallica that without them it would be difficult, if not impossible, to keep the regional nations securely in the French orbit.  In the beginning, there were never enough missionaries to serve lower Louisiana.  But more troubling was the ancient rivalry between the missionary orders that had plagued the Church for centuries.  Since the 1630s, however, the hottest controversy within the Roman Church centered on the so-called "Chinese Rites" of the Society of Jesus.  Reflecting the Jesuit ideal, taught by Ignatius Loyola himself, of "helping indigenous people to adopt Christianity on their own terms, and quite literally in their own terms," that is, via their own languages and customs, a missionary philosophy that in some ways conformed to French conversion policy but had long been unpopular with French officials.  Robert Michael Morrissey notes that "When competing Seminary priests and Recollect priests arrived in the Illinois Country, the resulting struggle [with the Jesuits] was no mere turf war.  Rather, it was a fight to determine on what terms, on whose terms, and to what purpose missions should be conducted.  Thus the Illinois Country," and, by extension, lower Louisiana, "became a front in a worldwide debate about missionary strategy that pitted the Jesuits against imperial authorities and competing missionary officials throughout the Atlantic world and beyond."  The more conservative orders, following official policy, sought to "Frenchify" Native peoples and incorporate them "into colonial French society, including by teaching them 'civilized' lifestyles and the French language"--a strict adherence to the policy of françisation.  This required close and prolonged contact with Native populations, such as at the Sieur de Cadillac's new settlement at Détroit.  The Jesuits favored more isolated missions, where the Natives, through persuasion in their own language, could come to Christianity gradually but inexorably.  Though they were the preeminent missioners of the Roman Church, the Jesuits, for a number of reasons, including their missionary philosophy, were roundly vilified in much of Christendom, including France.  The more conservative white-collar priests of the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères in Paris, called Foreign Missioners or Seminarians, favored by Bishop de Saint-Vallier at Québec, were dispatched to the western domains from the Seminary at Québec and were expected to counter the Jesuits at every opportunity.  The Le Moyne brothers, however, following their father's lead, were long-time friends of the Jesuits.  Iberville's personal chaplain had been Father Paul du Ru, S. J., who had come to the colony in 1700 and returned to France in 1702.  Father du Ru's departure, and the bishop's determination to oust the order from the colony, left only two Jesuits, Joseph de Limoges and Pierre Dongé, in lower Louisiana.  One suspects the Le Moynes favored the black robes because, among other things, the order's adherence to the "Chinese Rites" tended to create more stable relations between the French and Native peoples.  Among the Seminarians, who Tonty favored, were Father Davion among the Tunica; and Fathers Nicolas Foucault, Jean-François Buisson de Saint-Cosme, and Balthazar-Michel de Boutteville working with other nations along the river.  So which of them would go amongst the larger nations to extend French influence there? 

Bienville hoped it would be a Jesuit. 

He was still pondering the question when tragedy struck on the lower Mississippi.  Seminarian Father Foucault had been working among the Arkansas, doing his best to convert that proud nation to the One True Faith.  François Danbourné, an associate of Tonty's, had been sent to Illinois to coax the Arkansas into releasing their Chickasaw captives.  His mission completed, Danbourné, on his way downriver to report to Bienville, stopped at Arkansas.  Father Foucault, unhappy with his work there, decided to go downriver with Danbourné to consult with Father Davion about going among the Chickasaw.  Danbourné agreed to escort the priest down to Tunica, who were still on the lower Yazoo.  Unfortunately, Danbourné and some of his companions got sick on the way down.  They hired two Koroa warriors to paddle them at least to their village at the mouth of the Yazoo, from where they hoped to be able to go on without any help.  On 29 July 1702, while the party was resting on the river bank after a long day's journey, the two Koroa, determined to make off with the priests' possessions, attacked Danbourné, the two other Canadians, and Father Foucault as they slept, killing all four of them.  The bodies lay there for several days, until Father Davion, heading upriver to visit Foucault, came upon the horrible scene.  Father Davion hurried downriver, picked up Jesuit Father de Limoges at Houma, and they hurried to Mobile to report the murder.  Word of Father Foucault's death sent Father de Boutteville hurrying to Mobile.  Only Father de Saint-Cosme with the Natchez remained at his mission on the lower river.  Fathers Davion, de Boutteville, and de Limoges refused to return to their missions until Bienville chastised the Koroa, who reportedly were boasting about the murder.  Father Davion was especially vocal in urging the King's lieutenant to attack the errant nation.  Bienville knew that if he did nothing, the Natives would consider it a sign of weakness, but a failed campaign against an aggressive people would be even more disastrous for the French.  Diplomacy, not force, would have to be employed here, and so Bienville bided his time.  He was happy to see, at least, that the black robes and white collars taking refuge at Mobile managed to get along with one another.  Jesuit Father Pierre Dongé was the chaplain there, but he allowed the others, even the Seminarians, to use the fort's chapel.  One wonders if the King's lieutenant was aware of the white collars' hard feelings against him.  Father Davion was especially angry and hinted to his superiors "that it was not so much a lack of men as a lack of will, even a lack of courage, that stayed" Bienville's hand in avenging the death of Father Foucault.  "If priests were to be killed with impunity, Davion complained, they might as well go home."60a 

Meanwhile, in France and Rome, leaders of the two orders vied for exclusive jurisdiction in Illinois and lower Louisiana.  The King, the Minister of Marine, and even the Pope chose to step away from the struggle.  They deferred the matter to the Bishop of Québec, Jean-Baptiste de La Croix de Chevrières de Saint-Vallier, who ousted the Jesuits from the lower colony by 1702.  In July 1703, Bishop de Saint-Vallier, back in Paris, created a new parish for Mobile and appointed its first pastor:  50-year-old Father Henri Rouilleaux de La Vente of Bayeux in Calvados, who had served as a missionary on Île-de-Bourbon in the Indian Ocean.  Father de La Vente belonged to the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères; his appointment was tantamount to an official announcement by ecclesiastical authorities that the white collars of the Paris and Québec seminaries were triumphant over the black-robed Jesuits in the struggle for lower Louisiana.  Both Iberville and Bienville, still champions of the Jesuits, were disappointed with the bishop's decision, but Bienville decided to reserve judgment until he could meet the new curé.61

In early February 1703, a boatload of Canadians from Illinois arrived at Mobile.  They were associates of Louis Juchereau de Saint-Denis's older brother Charles, who had established a tannery and fur-trading enterprise near the mouth of the Ohio River the year before.  Juchereau's men were escaping an epidemic raging among the Mascouten, who lived north of the Illinois, and likely brought with them as many beaver pelts as their pirouge could carry.61a 

Later that month, for the first time in two years, the settlers at Mobile, both secular and religious, celebrated Mardi Gras.  There had been no time for it the previous winter when everyone was so busy preparing for the construction of the new fort and village.  That it was celebrated this year was a sign of harmony among the inhabitants of French Louisiana.  But the harmony did not last.  By spring, food was running low.  The re-supply, expected in late winter, had not arrived; they could not know that the Loire under Dugué de Sainte-Thérèse did not sail from Rochefort until March and would not get to them until August.  To preserve the food supply, Bienville sent some of the Canadians to live with the Mobilian and Little Tomeh.  In late May, the re-supply still not having arrived, Bienville sent Robinau de Bécancour in the Précieuse back to Veracruz, this time to purchase food for Mobile, not Pensacola.  Significantly, much of the money that Bécancour brought to the Mexican port came from the pockets of the colony's residents, not from its administrative funds.62

It was then, during the long, trying wait for the re-supply from France, that Bienville was plagued by his most persistent pest--Commissary Nicolas de La Salle.  Bienville, and Iberville before him, looked upon the prickly Frenchman as nothing more than a glorified supply clerk, but De La Salle saw his role in the colony's administration as something much more significant.  He considered himself, in rank if not in social stature, the equal of the young commander.  In social stature, he saw himself as eminently superior.  Here, writes a biographer of one of the men, was "the traditional hostility between the gens de plume such as La Salle and the gens d'épée such as Bienville"--not to mention the ancient antagonism between Frenchman and French colonist.  De La Salle scarcely hid his disdain for the Le Moynes and their fellow Canadians.  He insisted that he have a say in every transaction, no matter how seemingly minor, involving the King's storehouses.  Bienville, who had better things to do, wanted nothing more from his commissary than a signature on his written requisitions.  The problem with De La Salle had only worsened after garde-magasin Gerard, a Frenchman appointed by Iberville the previous year, died in late February 1703.  Gerard had generally supported De La Salle in keeping a tight reign on the King's storehouse.  Bienville, who, unlike De La Salle, had power of appointment, designated one of his Canadians, Jacques Leméry, "a volatile, hard-drinking former free-booter," as Gerard's temporary successor.  This infuriated De La Salle, who considered Leméry nothing more than a drunken lout.  De La Salle also complained about Bienville's maintaining a magasin at the fort for his own personal goods; having no access to the commander's warehouse, the commissary could only wonder which items in that little building belonged to the King's lieutenant and which belonged to the King.  The lean times of that spring and summer only made things worse for Bienville.  Malcontents blamed him for the colony's problems and formed around De La Salle a coterie of critics dissatisfied with the young commander.  Whoever Bienville disciplined, including fellow Canadians, joined De La Salle and his confederates against him.  Fathers Davion and de Boutteville, who Bienville had chastened for not returning to their missions, also sided with the Frenchman. 

Conditions at Mobile became even worse as summer approached.  Canadians from Le Sueur's Fort L'Huillier, far up on a tributary of the upper Mississippi, had been attacked by hostile natives the year before while Le Sueur was in France.  After abandoning Fort L'Huillier, Le Sueur's men sought refuge not in Canada but at Mobile.  Now more fearful than ever of the perfidy of the natives, Father Davion announced that he would go to Natchez to "rescue" his colleague, Father Saint-Cosme.  Then there would be no more priests among any of the tribes on the river below Natchez and in the vicinity of Mobile.63 

While waiting for the re-supply, Bienville sent hunters to Baie St.-Louis, west of Biloxi, to fish and hunt for game, and dispersed volunteers to Natchez, Bayougoula, and the Biloxi villages to ease pressure on the fort's food supply.  Relief came in early summer not from France but from Pensacola.  Andrés de Arriola had returned after years of absence, and three supply ships followed him from Veracruz.  Arriola notified Bienville that some of the supplies were for Mobile, repayment for what the French had provided.  Bienville sent Boisbriant to fetch the much-needed supplies.  A few weeks later, Robinau de Bécancour returned from Veracruz with the purchased supplies and a letter from the viceroy thanking the French for helping the Spanish against their common enemies, hunger and the English.63a

Meanwhile, the Loire arrived at Cap-Français and then sailed on to Havana, where its captain, Dugué de Sainte-Thérèse, was given a new command, before sending the ship on to Massacre Island.  The Loire reached Port Massacre in August 1703 with food, munitions, and 17 passengers, but no Iberville.  Moreover, several other colonial shakers and makers Bienville was expecting also did not cross on the Loire.  Châteauguay and Le Sueur were supposed to have recruited companies of infantry, as well as more artisans and families, for the colony, but they were not among the passengers.  Bienville was not happy about this, but he did welcome five new craftsmen to Mobile:  three brick makers and two amuriers.   The ship's officers passed on the good news of Iberville's promotion and shared the little they knew about the war against England and Holland.  The Loire lingered at Massacre until October and left under a new master, Nicolas Perrot.  Aboard were two of the missionaries, De Limoges the Jesuit, and De Boutteville the Seminarian.  Now only Fathers Davion and Dongé, the first a Seminarian, the second a Jesuit, remained at Mobile.  Perhaps the next re-supply would bring more priests, whenever that might be.63b 


Not until late autumn of 1702 had Bienville learned of the outbreak of another war with England and Holland, and he learned of it not via a ship from France but from the Spanish at Pensacola.  Even before war had broken out in May, the new governor of Carolina, James Moore, planned an attack against San Agústín on Florida's Atlantic coast, which he and militia Colonel Robert Daniel launched in late October.  The governor of San Agústín, Joseph de Zúniga y Cerda, was begging for assistance not only from Pensacola, but also from his allies at Mobile.  In late November, Commandant Martínez at Pensacola sent Ensign Diego de Florencia, recently arrived from San Agústín, on to Mobile.  It was the young ensign who informed Bienville and the residents of Mobile that they, too, were at war with England.  Diego de Florencia noted that the colony at Mobile was larger and in much better condition than the one at Pensacola.  However, influenza had spread from Pensacola to Mobile and had reached epidemic proportions at the French post.  Bienville apologized for not being able to spare any men for the relief of San Agústín, but he did promise to send to Pensacola a cache of materiel, including weapons, powder, and flint, to send on to the beleaguered Spaniards at distant Castillo de San Marco.  Ignoring Commissary de La Salle, who he knew would give him trouble about the loan, he secured signatures from Boisbriant, Levasseur, and Tonty to authorize the disbursement, and then sent the materiel on to Pensacola under Tonty's supervision.  He also promised to send one of his traversiers back to Veracruz to ask the viceroy for more support.64

Happily for the Spanish, as well as the French, San Agústín was relieved by a large Spanish force from Havana.  The Carolinians, forced to burn their ships, returned to Charles Towne, but not before burning the village at San Agústín.  Embarrassed by his defeat and aching for vengeance, in late 1703, Moore, with a large force of Yamasee, Tallapoosa, and Carolina militia, laid waste to the Spanish-controlled province of Apalache, between Pensacola and San Agústín, essentially ending Spanish control in the Apalache region.  Bienville was properly alarmed by these developments, but he was more concerned about their immediate impact on Mobile.  After the Carolina onslaught, the Choctaw remained quiet, and, more significantly, the Chickasaw seemed still disposed to remain at peace with the French. 

But what about the Alibamon, a coalition of Native bands who not only lived closer to Carolina, but also occupied one of the most strategic points in the entire Gulf Coast region?  The original Alibamon were Choctaw-speakers who for decades had lived in what is now south central Alabama.  After their numbers had been reduced by war with the Mobilian, they retreated northward.  Other Alibamon bands were related to the Cherokee of the eastern mountains.  During the 1680s, they moved westward into present-day northern Alabama to escape rival nations the Carolina traders set upon them to acquire slaves.  Other members of the Alibamon coalition were Muskogean-speakers, who had moved into northern Alabama to escape the interminable wars between the Chickasaw and the Choctaw.  This polyglot people, also called the Muscogulge or Muskogee and later the Creek, now occupied three villages--Koasati, Culasa, and Tawasa--around the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers, which formed Rivière-des-Alibamons.  In the early 1690s, before the French came upon the scene, Carolina traders reached these villages.  "With weapons they received from English traders," Philomena Hauck relates, these proud, warlike people "terrorized the smaller tribes in search of captives for the lucrative slave market at Charles Town."  Iberville had left Biloxi before he could establish a personal relationship with the Alibamon.  Naively, he suspected that they, like the Choctaw and Chickasaw, could easily be won over to the French.  (Years later, Bienville learned from an Alibamon chief that a hand full of his warriors had participated with the English in the siege of San Agústín.)   

Thanks to Bienville's affinity with Native peoples, relations between the French and the Alibamon had begun well enough.  A delegation of eight Alibamon chiefs had come to Mobile in April 1702, only a few weeks after Iberville had headed back to France.  Bienville plied them with gifts, though he gave them no firearms, powder, or flint, and secured from them the usual promise to stop making war on their neighbors.  Some 40 Alibamon returned in early October, smoked the calumet of peace, and again promised to live in harmony with the Chickasaw, Pensacola, and Apalache. 

By then, Carolina Governor Moore had gotten wind of these arrangements and acted decisively.  The Choctaw and the Chickasaw, and now the Alibamon, had smoked the pipe of peace with the Gulf-Coast French.  Continued good relations between these nations and the French would spell disaster for the English, not only for their trade in deerskins and slaves, but also for access to the Mississippi valley via the trade paths that ran through the territories of all three nations.  In May 1703, Alibamon appeared again at Mobile, this time under the leadership of a chief named Deerfoot.  By then, Mobile was in dire straits, short on food because the annual re-supply still had not come, and short on weapons and ammunition because of the loan to the Spanish the autumn before.  Deerfoot offered to trade for corn, which his people had enough to spare, he said.  Bienville, unaware that the English had corrupted the chief, agreed to the arrangment.  He sent five Canadians back to the Alibamon villages with Deerfoot and his warriors.  The leader of the Canadians, Jacques-Philippe Matou dit Le Brie, had served in Louisiana since early 1699 and had witnessed the massacre of his family up in Canada, so "he was no stranger to savage behavior...," Jay Higginbotham relates.  The party of Indians and Canadians traveled in three large pirogues and took 20 days to make the journey.  All seemed well until they reached the site of present-day Montgomery, Alabama, not far below Koasati.  As La Brie and his Canadians rested for the night before entering the village, a party of Alibamon, alerted by the treacherous Deerfoot, fell on the Canadians.  La Brie and two of his companions were killed outright, but two others, savagely wounded, managed to escape in one of the pirogues.  Deerfoot and his warriors, satisfied that the two Canadians were mortally wounded, did not pursue them. 

This proved to be a mistake.  After a grueling, pain-ridden journey, the wounded Canadians managed to return to Mobile by early June.  Only later did Bienville learn of the English machinations behind Deerfoot's treachery:  a Carolina official, Thomas Nairne, using a typical carrot-and-stick approach, had visited the Alibamon on the eve of Deerfoot's visit and coaxed them into making war against "these Gallic intruders."  Bienville, fully aware of the demands of "of frontier justice," had no choice but to launch a punitive expedition, but not just yet.  The Alibamon would be waiting for him, he was low on supplies, and he had not received permission from the Minister of Marine to launch such an expedition.  He hurried a letter to the Minister via a boat to Havana and patiently waited for the re-supply that he hoped would soon arrive from France.

The Loire arrived in late August and departed in mid-October, carrying another dispatch from Bienville to the Minister informing him that he would retaliate against the Alibamon.  His provisions replenished, Bienville was now ready to act, with or without permission from higher authority.  By the end of October, he had sent messages to the Mobilian, Pascagoula, Little Tomeh, and Choctaw, asking them to gather at the main Mobilian village by the first week of November "for an event of major importance."  Many of them came, as did 60 troupes de la marine, sailors, and Canadians, led by Saint-Denis and Tonty.  When the Frenchmen arrived at the Mobilian village, the Natives already had begun the boisterous festivities that always preceded a planned campaign.  Bienville became so caught up in the emotion-stirring ceremonies that he allowed the Natives to tattoo figures of snakes across his chest!  Bienville harangued the chiefs and warriors, promising guns and ammunition for Alibamon scalps, and they responded to his words with great enthusiasm.  After distributing weapons, building pirougues, and explaining his plan of action, Bienville led 280 French and Indians up Rivière-des-Alibamons.  Fifteen miles above the Mobilian village, they left their pirogues on the river bank and headed overland towards the Alibamon, 170 miles away. 

The campaign did not go well.  The Mobilian already were having second thoughts about provoking the Alibamon.  No Frenchman or Canadian, not even Tonty, had ever taken the back trails through this country.  Bienville was compelled to depend upon Mobilian guides, whose reliability he questioned as soon as he left their village.  Moreover, the main Mobilian party lagged behind the others, insisting that their slower progress was to protect the line of communication with their village and Fort Louis.  Several days into the overland journey, two Indians, unaccustomed to handling gunpowder weapons, stood too close to a fire.  The resulting explosions burned them so badly "they died two days later.  In the Indian belief system," Philomena Hauck explains, "this was a bad omen."  Meanwhile, more and more Frenchmen fell ill, as did the chief of the Little Tomeh, who returned to his village, taking all of his warriors with him.  With more and more Natives deserting the column, Bienville, Saint-Denis, and Tonty agreed that if they were ambushed in this uncharted wilderness there would be no viable defense left for the Louisiana colony.  After 18 days of effort, which proved fatal to some of the Frenchmen, they retraced their steps to Fort Louis, which they reached towards the end of November.

The King's lieutenant refused to admit defeat.  On the retreat to Fort Louis, Bienville already was planning a second expedition against the Alibamon, this time with no Native allies, especially the Mobilian, who he suspected were still friends of the Alibamon and had warned them of his approach.  In late December, he selected 48 men, including Saint-Denis and Tonty, and, using a survivor of the May massacre as their only guide, headed upriver towards the Alibamon villages.  They passed the main village of the Mobilian in the dead of night and made record time on their journey into enemy territory.  After reaching present-day Selma, Alabama, they traveled only at night.  By New Year's Eve they came upon an Alibamon hunting party, including women and children, not far from the bluff where they found the grisly remains of the three dead Canadians.  After careful reconnaissance, Bienville wanted to attack during daylight of the 2nd, but Saint-Denis and Tonty convinced him to wait until night, Indian fashion.  Bienville waited until dawn of the 3rd, determined to kill all of the Natives, including the women and children.  But the Alibamon warriors were too alert and the Frenchmen too clumsy.  All of the women and children escaped, covered by the retreating warriors.  When the firing ceased, the Frenchmen found only four Native casualties, two of the warriors dead and two of them wounded.  Bienville allowed the wounded Alibamon to return to their villages to spread the word that the French were determined to exchange blood for blood.  One of his sailors had been killed in the initial assault, but Bienville and the others emerged unscathed. 

Bienville and his war party returned to Fort Louis on 11 January 1704.  The King's lieutenant promptly notified his Native allies of what he had done.  On the whole, they were impressed with the Canadian's actions.  They also remembered what he had promised them at the Mobilian village back in November.  By the middle of March, Chickasaw were bringing in Alibamon scalps to exchange for guns, powder, and lead.  "To the delight of the English," Ross Phares reminds us, Iberville's hope for peace with the Alibamon would, under Bienville, "consume nearly a decade of war."65


The year 1704 brought a special group of colonists to Louisiana, but it also was a year of suffering and death, more so than usual.  Though it had existed for two years now, Fort Louis-de-la-Louisiane was far from self-sufficient, far from being an actual colony.  It was, in fact, nothing more than a glorified outpost, different from Biloxi and de Mississippi only in size and the number of mouths the commander had to feed.  The war against England and its Atlantic colonies promised only to stifle what little progress had been made.  In its fifth year of existence, France's Louisiana venture was not much more than a grand idea poorly realized. 

The re-supply of the previous August kept the colony "in good style" until late winter of 1704.  In early March, however, Bienville was compelled to send 6,000 pounds of flour to Pensacola to tide the Spaniards over until their next re-supply arrived from Veracruz.  Bienville now had to wonder if maintaining good relations with the Spanish was worth the diminution in his food supply, but what choice did he have:  "The Spanish had cash; the French did not."  And more than once they had shared what little they had with their distressed neighbors at Mobile.  As long as Bienville maintained good relations with Pensacola, trade with Veracruz was open to him.  In late May, in fact, he sent Robinau de Bécancour back to Veracruz in the Précieuse to secure more supplies for Mobile.  This time, however, the French could offer no cash to the merchants, only "credit" for having assisted their compatriots at Pensacola.  Not long after Bécancour departed, Arriola returned from Veracruz with a large re-supply and promptly shared it with his Bourbon neighbors.  There was no question the new Spanish viceroy, the Duque de Albuquerque, was friendly towards the French, as were Arriola and Martínez at Pensacola, so Bienville had no choice but to remain cordial with his Spanish allies.66

And then tragedy struck again.  The Précieuse did not return to Massacre until late July, two months after it had left for Veracruz.  Aboard were welcomed supplies--the food that Arriola had sent to Mobile two months before had largely been consumed by then--but the crew of the trusty traversier also brought tragic news.  While waiting at the Mexican port for the Spanish merchants and the viceroy's bureaucracy to approve the issuance of supplies to the French on the credit of the King, Bécancour had contracted a tropical fever--the Spanish called it the vómito negro--and died at Veracruz on July 4.  The colony had lost its "most able sea captain," who was only 40 years old at the time of his death.  Not until the second week of August, when the Précieuse finally returned to Mobile, did Bienville and the others learn of the captain's death.66a

Just as dangerous as the chronic shortage of food and the loss of a valuable officer was the continued English threat from Carolina.  In the spring of 1704, the Carolinians were still threatening what was left of Spain's Apalache district, putting more pressure on the Spanish at Pensacola, who in turn appealed to Bienville for help.  He sent more flour but also Tonty to help plan a defense of Pensacola in case the English and their native allies attacked it next.  Bienville, through Boisbriant, also shared with Arriola intelligence about the English he had gathered from the Indians.  During the summer, while Bienville was waiting for Bécancour's return, the acting governor at Pensacola, Joseph de Guzmán, sent word that the Carolinians and their Native allies had attacked the Apalache district again and requested assistance to repel the new invasion.  Not long afterwards, two Choctaw appeared at Mobile with news that four Carolinians had gone to the Chickasaw villages with packhorses full of merchandise to lure that nation away from the French.  Bienville, skeptical of the report, sent a party of Little Tomeh to see if the report was true.  Bienville could not help blaming Father Davion for this touchy situation; the white collar was still living comfortably at Fort Louis instead of ministering to the Chickasaw or some other tribe, where he could do more good for God and France. 

In truth, Father Davion's reluctance to go among the Chickasaw had nothing to do with that nation's slipping back into the arms of the English; not even the Jesuits of Illinois, whose missions were even closer to the Chickasaw, had bothered to minister to the nation.  The crisis stemmed, instead, from promises Iberville had made two years earlier which he and his brother could not fulfill.  After negotiating trade prices with the Choctaw and the Chickasaw during the conference at Mobile in March 1702, Iberville had promised to build a trading post near their territory.  Iberville departed for France before the post could be constructed, nor did Bienville possess the wherewithal to build one now.  Iberville, and then Bienville, had promised the Chickasaw "arms and gunpowder, which was of better quality than the English variety," Nhe natives believed.  But on their visits to Mobile the year before, "the Chickasaws could see for themselves that the French storehouses were empty of gunpowder and everything else.  Inevitablty," Philomena Hauck points out, the Chickasaw "returned to the Carolinians with whom they had been trading skins and slaves for several years."  Bienville was convinced that "they would prefer to do business with the French, if only the French had goods to offer.  Even the Carolinians themselves admitted that the Indians loved the French for their 'generosity and conversation.'"  But until a war-burdened Court provided more resources for the colony, "conversation was no match for trade goods."67 

At least Bienville and the other colonists could look forward to the next re-supply from France.  Certainly Le Sueur would return to them, as a judge as well as an explorer; other trusted officers would return; and surely there would be more priests.  Word had reached them that the ship also would be carrying a most precious cargo:  new wives for many of the bachelors serving in Louisiana, young women of virtue "who knew how to work," selected from respectable Paris families by the Bishop of Québec. 

The Pélican (not the frigate that had fought with Iberville on Hudson Bay, but a 600-ton ship captured from the Dutch and now carrying 58 guns), after a long delay, set sail from La Rochelle in late April without escort.  Miraculously, it reached Cap-Français on June 10 after an uneventful crossing and remained in the French port for a week.  Aboard were 21 French maidens with two older, unmarried women acting as chaperones; a midwife and her husband; and two nursing sisters, Marie Linant and Marie Grissot, who also served as escorts; two valuable officers returning to the colony, Le Sueur and Châteauguay; several priests, including Seminarian Fathers Alexandre Huvé and Henri Roulleaux de La Vente, the latter Mobile's new curé; and 75 reinforcements for Fort Louis.  The ship's commander, René-Hervé Guymont Ducoudray, well-known to Bienville, had orders to stop at Havana before sailing on to Mobile.  After scaring off two smaller English warships, the Pélican stopped at the old Spanish port of Baracoa on the eastern tip of Cuba.  There, Ducoudray was happy to hear that a rumor they had heard at Le Cap was entirely false:  the English had not taken Mobile; they were only threatening San Agústín again.  The Pélican left Baracoa at the end of June and, with a Spanish pilot, continued on to Havana.  As it sailed along the northern coast of Cuba, high wind and seas nearly capsized the vessel.  The Pélican arrived safely at Havana on July 7.  The sight of the old port excited both passengers and crew.  For the first time in three months, the maidens were allowed to leave the ship.  Their escorts and Father de La Vente led them to a local convent, the Collegium Virginium, and the Bishop of Cuba personally took them on a tour of his 200-year-old city.  Meanwhile, Ducoudray delivered messages to Spanish officials, took aboard a French prisoner named Artur, and, circumventing Spanish mercantilist policies, attempted to sell some extra flour he was carrying aboard his vessel.  Alert Spanish officials disrupted the exchange, jailing the two Spanish merchants involved, so Ducoudray decided it was time to move on to Mobile.  The Pélican left Havana on July 14, but not before disaster struck.  While in the hot, steamy port, one of the women and some of the officers and crew fell ill.  The sickest of the passengers, Pierre-Charles Le Sueur, was so weakened by his illness that he had to be left behind in port.  When the Pélican reached Port Massacre on July 22 after a brief stop at Pensacola, many more of its passengers and crew were suffering from fever.  Months later, they would learn that back in Havana the gallant Le Sueur, only 48 years old, had breathed his last on July 17.68 

Sadly, the Pélican brought an unwelcome visitor to Mobile--yellow fever.  A ship's officer had died on the crossing from Havana, and now more crewmembers as well as soldiers and passengers were dying from the mosquito-borne disease.  One of the young women, Louise-Françoise Lefebvre, died on August 2, the day after the maidens and most of the other passengers had reached Fort Louis.  Father Davion officiated at her burial.  After a week, two dozen sufferers, most of them young troupes de la marine recently recruited in France, succumbed to the fever, and the settlers were convinced that the malady had passed.  Bienville, meanwhile, found temporary housing for some of the "Pélican girls" among the more trustworthy settlers, and others were provided quarters in the empty houses of the Canadians still hunting at Baie St.-Louis or with Bécancour (now dead) at Veracruz.  During the following weeks, most of the girls chose their husbands among the eligible bachelors.  After the requisite courtship, document signing, and celebration, Fathers Davion and de La Vente married the couples in the roughhewn chapel--13 marriages by August 17, less than three weeks after the young women had reached the settlement.  One of the new grooms was Commissary Nicolas de La Salle, a widower for two years, who wed Jeanne-Catherine de Berenhardt, one of the older girls.  By the end of August, most of the remaining girls had found eager suitors, including bachelor Charles Levasseur and widower Henri de Tonty.69

And then the dreaded fever returned.  By the middle of August, those aboard ship who had become sick were either dead, dying, or recovered, but then settlers, none of whom had been sick when the Pélican arrived, began to show signs of the fever--flushed faces, chills, headache, jaundice, muscle ache, back pain, nausea, and, finally, the "black vomit."  Not for another 200 years would humanity understand how yellow fever spreads through a population.  We know now that the native Aedes aegypti females living in the stagnant water in and around the village had bitten infected passengers from the ship, and in two weeks these mosquitoes, also, had become vectors of the disease.  By the end of August, most of the town's residents had been infected.  Among the sickest were two of the young women (now married); Fathers Davion, de La Vente, and Huvé, the last two new arrivals; and two indispensable officers, Levasseur and Tonty.  Although there had been more engagements between the maidens and the bachelors, celebrations and weddings had to be postponed until the fever passed ... again.  Ducoudray, who had planned to sail back to France at the end of August, was unable to secure enough healthy men for his crew, so he had to postpone the Pélican's departure.70

While yellow fever was ravaging the colonists at Fort Louis, Bienville received visitors from the east.  A Spanish Franciscan and chiefs from two Apalache nations, the Chato and Talimali, came to confer with Bienville about moving among the French.  The Carolinians and their allies had driven them from their homeland.  They retreated westward before the onslaught, seeking refuge at Pensacola, but they could see that the Spanish garrison offered them little protection, nor was the land around the post suitable for them.  So they moved on to the eastern shore of Mobile Bay and were now beseeching the young French commander to provide them land and protection.  "Bienville received the emissaries with mixed emotions," Jay Higginbotham relates.  "His difficulties in Mobile were at the present vexing enough.  Moreover, though the storehouse was filled, another supply ship was not expected for nearly a year; certainly he could not arm them all.  Yet it was no small opportunity for the French, a chance for an alliance that Bienville actively sought.  The Apalache were known to be diligent workers and farmers.  The fact that they were already Christian might aid in furthering the gospel among the still-pagan Choctaw, Chickasaw and Tomeh.  Furthermore, since the English were their proven antagonists, in war as well as in religious faith, Bienville could be certain of their continued loyalty."  After consulting with his officers, at least those who were well enough to consult, Bienville agreed to assign lands to the Apalache refugees.  He sent the Chato to the mouth of the Mobile River at a place called Les Oignonets, or "the onion field."  A small band of Christianized Yamasee, former enemies of the Chato but now peaceful, settled below them.  Bienville sent the Talimali upriver to a site between the Mobilian village and the confluence of the Alibamon and Tombigbee rivers.  Other Talimali remained along the eastern shore of the bay.71

The timing of the Apalache arrival at Mobile could not have been worse for them.  By the first week of September, they, too, were suffering from the fever.  They brought their dying children to the fort to be baptized, taxing the strength and the patience of the three remaining priests, who themselves were suffering from the illness.  Fathers de La Vente and Huvé, in fact, were still too sick to minister to anyone, so Father Davion had to perform the sacramental rites.  There also was the language barrier.  No one at Mobile, including Bienville, understood the Muskogean dialect of the Apalache.  These Indians knew Spanish, of course, but the French priests, oddly enough, had not mastered that language (these were Seminary priests, not Jesuits).  Among the officers at Mobile, only Châteauguay spoke Spanish fluently.72

The fever also struck nearby nations long established on the Mobile River.  The Mobilian became sick, but the Tomeh, especially the Little Tomeh, suffered most from the epidemic.  And then, in early September, the fever struck down two of the most illustrious officers at Mobile.  Henry de Tonty, "who had survived so many hardships and voyages," died on September 4, age 54.  Charles Levasseur, companion of the sieur de La Salle and then of the Le Moynes, passed the following day.  This was devastating to the colony:  "With the passing of Tonti and Levasseur, Bienville had lost his two most experienced army officers," Jay Higginbotham reminds us.  "Within a period of only sixty days he had lost (not forgetting Bécancour in Veracruz) fully fifty percent of his high-ranking command."  Thirty of the new recruits also had perished, along with half of the crew of the Pélican.73

By late September, the fever had subsided.  Ducoudray, after weeks of delay, was ready to take the Pélican home.  Aboard were men recruited from the garrison to replace dead crewmembers.  Before the Pélican sailed, the residents of Fort Louis conducted an impressive, and long overdue, ceremony on September 28--the induction of Father Henri Roulleaux de La Vente as first pastor of Mobile's new parish.  Father Pierre Dongé, the last of the Jesuits in the lower colony, already had gone down to the Pélican, leaving Seminarian Father Huvé to serve as chaplain for the Fort Louis garrison.  The parish church the Bishop of Québec and Father de La Vente had expected to be built for him had not been erected, nor would it be built for several years.  Bienville and the remaining officers of rank--Boisbriant, Châteauguay, and De La Salle--occupied the front benches during the impressive ceremony held in the fort's humble chapel, Father Davion officiating.  Here was another important step for the frontier colony, the induction of its first curé.  Bienville could not know that the settlement's new pastor would become as troublesome a pest as De La Salle had become.74

The rest of the year was relatively uneventful for the settlers at Mobile.  Forty or more of them had died, but the great majority had survived, some of them, like the King's lieutenant, seemingly untouched by the fever.  On August 31, as the fever raged in the ragged little settlement, one of the officers, likely Commissary de La Salle, had taken an inventory of Fort Louis-de-la-Louisiane, including its population, both European and native:  "'180 men bearing arms; 27 French families, which have only 3 little girls and 7 young boys from 1 to 10 years; 6 young savage boys, slaves, from 12 to 18 years; 5 young savage girls, slaves, from 15 to 20 years; 4 ecclesiastics (1 Jesuit and 3 priests); 190 arpents of ground, which form the inclosure of the town; 80 wooden houses of one story, covered with palmetto leaves or straw, built on streets drawn with a tow-line; 9 oxen, of which 5 belong to the King; 14 cows; 4 bulls, of which 1 belongs to the King; 5 calves, 100 hogs, 3 goats, 400 chickens, which the commissary has preserved carefully for breeding."  This after five years of French effort in the region and two years of struggle at Mobile. 

The Pélican finally left during the first week of October, having remained at Massacre Island for two long months.  Doucoudray returned to Havana, where Father Dongé died, but the settlers back at Mobile would not hear of the death of the popular priest for weeks.  Two more of the Pélican girls died in autumn, but most of them survived.  The colony's midwife, Catherine Moulois, wife of Laurent Closquinet, died in the epidemic.  She was replaced by Marie Grissot, one of the nursing sisters who had come on the Pélican.  On October 4, Madeleine Robert, wife of master locksmith Jean Le Caën, gave birth to a healthy boy--Jean-François--who was baptized in the chapel the following day--one of the first créoles born in French Louisiana.  Some of the Pélican girls were pregnant and were due to give birth the following spring. 

A few days before Christmas, a delegation of Tunica chiefs appeared at Fort Louis.  They were there to coax Father Davion back to his mission.  Bienville saw an opportunity to settle an old score.  Two and a half years earlier, the Koroa, who lived on the river above the Tunica, had murdered Seminarian Father François Foucault, but Bienville did not have the force at the time to chastise the murderous natives.  He suggested to the Tunica that they strike the Koroa and bring him the heads not only of the two murderers, but also of the English traders who encouraged the murders.  Bienville would not only arm the Tunica, but also send a force of Canadians under Saint-Denis from Fort de Mississippi to help them defeat the Koroa and their allies, the Yazoo.  Bienville told them that a large force of Canadians was coming downriver soon, and they, too, would help them fight the Koroa.  The Tunica agreed and rejoiced when they were told that Father Davion would join them in a few weeks.75


The new year did not begin well for the King's lieutenant.  In January 1705, Saint-Denis, likely still smarting from the dressing down Bienville had given him two and a half years earlier, appeared at Fort Louis.  The Tunica chiefs had gone on to Fort de Mississippi after they had left Fort Louis and apprised Saint-Denis of Bienville's scheme to punish their cousins the Koroa.  Saint-Denis, keenly aware of conditions on the lower river, urged Bienville to cancel the attack.  He had learned the English had nothing to do with the priest's murder, nor were the Koroa as a whole responsible for it, only the two treacherous warriors from their village who had committed the deed.  He informed Bienville that the miscreants already were dead, executed on the order of their own chiefs.  This they had done before Bienville had sent the Arkansas down to attack the Koroa.  Bienville, in other words, had treated an important nation unjustly.  Seeing his error, Bienville called off the attack, blaming his misjudgment on lack of information about conditions on the river.  Saint-Denis promptly returned to Fort de Mississippi, where the Tunica chiefs were waiting, and told them the order for the attack was revoked.  To assuage them, he brought along their beloved priest, Father Davion.  By late February, the aging white collar was back at his Tunica mission, where Bienville felt he belonged.76

Reluctant warrior or not, the restless Saint-Denis wasted no time doing what he loved best:  exploring unknown realms and interacting with the natives he encountered.  His exploration of the Red River with Bienville in the spring of 1700 and an incident with the Spanish a few years later had turned his eyes westward, to the Texas country, then largely unexplored.  In 1703, the commander at Pensacola, Francisco Martínez, had proposed to Bienville a joint expedition to the Baie de St.-Bernard on the coast of Texas to check out "reports of a European settlement near the site of Cavelier de La Salle's old post," Jay Higginbotham relates.  Martínez sent Felipe de Mendoza and two Spanish soldiers to Mobile to rendezvous with the Frenchmen.  Not wishing to spare any men from his post (this was about the time the Alibamon had massacred two Canadians on Rivière-des-Alibamons), Bienville sent the Spaniards on to Fort de Mississippi with instructions for Saint-Denis "to provide three men" for the venture "from that garrison."  One of Spaniards became ill and remained with Saint-Denis, but Mendoza, the other Spaniard, and three Frenchmen "proceeded up the Mississippi to a large tributary, which they followed to the west, eventually making their way back to the coast."  And then the venture turned tragic.  "When Mendoza's Spanish comrade attempted to break away from the main party to make his own reconnaissance, the French pursued and killed him.  Mendoza, believing his own life in danger, then stole away himself, several months later reaching the Spanish Mission of San Juan Bautista" across from today's Eagle Pass, Texas, on the Rio Grande.  One account insists that, while he and his two companions were exploring the Sabine River, one of the Frenchmen was killed and eaten by Atakapas. 

This venture may have motivated Saint-Denis to try his own luck in exploring Spanish Texas.  According to Ross Phares, in 1705, after visiting the Choctaw and Natchez villages perhaps as a roving ambassador for Bienville, Saint-Denis headed cross country to Natchitoches.  After a short stay on the Red River, he continued on to the village of the Tejas, the Spanish name for the Hasinai.  From there, he ventured southwestward towards Mexico, going as far as San Juan Bautista before returning to his post on the lower Mississippi.  No one, not even Bienville, had a larger view of the geographical contrasts of lower Louisiana.  Saint-Denis certainly discerned the differences between the native economies of the region--the balance of hunting and agriculture.  He would have noticed these differences were, according to Marcel Giraud, largely "due to unequal hunting possibilities on the two banks of the river.  Hunting resources to the west of the Mississippi remained considerable in the plains which stretched from the Arkansas River to the coast.  They diminished, however, on the east bank:  there were animals here, all the way to the coast, on the Mobile River, around Bay St. Louis and the bay of Biloxi, and on Lake Ponchartrain, but they were less numerous and unevenly distributed.  They tended to be concentrated farther inland, in the areas some distance from the great alluvial arteries, like the territory of the Natchez.  In the areas subject to flooding they were seen only intermittently, and hunting there, besides being only seasonal (November to February), was most precarious because the animals were frequently driven out by the floods."  This of course affected the quality of hunting around the settlement at Mobile.  Were the French to establish a substantial settlement on the lower river or on one of its western tributaries--something much greater than the pathetic blockhouse at Fort de Mississippi--the resources of the western half of the Mississippi valley could enhance the viability of the Louisiana venture.76a

Meanwhile, in the wilderness north of Mobile, chaos, not peace, had become the norm.  Bienville had not been able to keep his promises to the Chickasaw, and, by early 1705, there were more signs that Carolina traders were back in the Chickasaw villages.  This alarmed the Choctaw, who, though more numerous than their former enemies, would not be able to withstand an onslaught of Chickasaw armed with English weapons.  The Carolinians were hungry for Indian slaves and evidently had coaxed a few Chickasaw warriors to bring in Choctaw captives.  In February, a large delegation of 70 Chickasaw, including women and children, appeared at Fort Louis to beseech the French commander to keep his promises.  They had taken a roundabout route, around the Choctaw villages, to avoid retaliation for the slave raids.  Bienville had not been able to build the fort between the Chickasaw and Choctaw towns, nor did he have any presents to give the Chickasaw, nor a priest to send among them.  He was angry with his superiors in France for not sending him what he needed, but his missives to the Minister had gone unanswered, and he had heard nothing from brother Iberville.  Bienville promised the Chickasaw, again, to build the fortified trading post between their villages and the Choctaw, but he refused to let them return to their villages the way they had come.  He ordered his most trusted lieutenant, Aide-major Boisbriant, and 25 Canadians to escort the Chickasaw back to their village through Choctaw territory.  Here was a calculated risk to demonstrate French determination to maintain peace between their allies.  At the main Choctaw village, the grand chief warned Boisbriant of Chickasaw--and English--treachery, insisting that this "band of traitors" had burned to death the young French interpreter Saint-Michel three years earlier.  The Chickasaw denied the terrible rumor and agreed to remain as hostages at the Choctaw village until the young Frenchman could be brought there alive.  Boisbriant, unfortunately, agreed to the proposal, which required a long wait among the Choctaw.  The Choctaw chief, in fact, had sent two of his warriors to kill the two Chickasaw couriers who had hurried ahead to retrieve the boy.  At the end of February, the Choctaw chief, knowing that Saint-Michel was still alive but not having heard that the couriers were dead, ordered his warriors to turn on the Chickasaw, their French escort be damned.  Boisbriant and his Canadians tried to intervene, but the Choctaw were much too numerous.  Sparing the women and children, they butchered all of the Chickasaw men, including the chief, after a spirited fight.  They also inadvertently wounded Boisbriant in the struggle.  The Choctaw now had their revenge, but at what cost?  Fearful of having alienated the French, the Choctaw chief ordered his warriors to place the seriously wounded Boisbriant on a stretcher and sent 300 of them to escort the aide-major and the Canadians back to Fort Louis.77

Bienville was stunned by what happened at the Choctaw village.  But what could he do?  The Choctaw, sad to say, were still among his most trusted Indian allies.  They were spurning the English traders, bringing in Alibamon scalps, begging him for a priest, and refraining from war against the smaller nations.  The Chickasaw, on the other hand, seemed willing to return to the English orbit, and perhaps they had murdered the young interpreter.  What was certain was the end of the truce between the two powerful nations.  An imperial war was still raging, entering its third year, and Bienville was receiving word from a number of sources that the English were planning an attack in the region.  It was best to keep the Choctaw as allies despite their erratic behavior. 

When the wounded Boisbriant returned to him in early March, Bienville was still waiting word from brother Châteauguay, who, after returning from France aboard the Pélican, had been given command of the trusty Précieuse.  A fire had all but destroyed the Pensacola presidio the previous November, and Châteauguay had used the traversier to bring them aid.  Arriola had asked for the loan of a vessel to notify Veracruz of the disaster, so Châteauguay had taken the Précieuse to the Mexican port in late January.  What choice did Bienville have in these matters?  A well-fed, well-fortified Pensacola was essential for the defense of the Louisiana garrisons, along with a large force of Indians allies, including 3,800 to 4,000 Choctaw.78

And then the Spanish tried his patience as well.  Châteauguay returned from Veracruz on March 20 with the happy news that the viceroy had compensated the French for their assistance to Pensacola.  Unfortunately for the Spanish, the Pensacola garrison suffered another destructive fire in February, while Châteauguay was at sea.  Authorities at Veracruz sent a relief vessel to the stricken post as soon as they could, but significant help did not arrive until late summer, when the Nuestra Senora del Rosario under a vice-admiral arrived at Pensacola with six months supply of food, more arms and ammunition, and, just as importantly, reinforcements in soldiers and artisans.  Before the big ship could return to Veracruz with a shipload of masts, a September hurricane sank it in Pensacola Bay.  Bienville offered the Précieuse to send the vice-admiral back to Veracruz to inform the viceroy of the mishap, but the traversier, which had been in the Gulf since early 1699, was in serious need of another overhaul.  Bienville coaxed the Spanish into paying the cost of the repairs, which would be made at Pensacola, and allowing Châteauguay to remain in command of the vessel when it was seaworthy again.  Meanwhile, more of the Apalache, this time the Escambe, appeared at Fort Louis, asking to join their fellow Apalache on the bay.  Here was a first bone of contention between the Bourbon allies.  The Spanish was determined to restore control over the Apalache district, so they were not happy to see "their" Indians going over to the French.  In a report to the Minister, Bienville explained why the Apalache preferred to live near the French:  "... the French assisted their allies better than did the Spanish, the French furnishing more arms," Bienville insisted, "in addition to the fact that the natives were not masters of their own wives while among the Spaniards and that among the French they had no fear on that point."  And then there was the question of boundaries between the French and Spanish realms.  More than once the issue had arisen between the Le Moynes and the Spanish commanders at Pensacola, first Martínez then Arriola and now Guzmán, who reminded the Frenchmen that a Spaniard named Luna had settled at Bahía Mobila in 1560.  The Spanish reasoned that since a natural boundary was needed between their posts, the Mobile River would do just fine.  The French demurred, insisting that the entire bay, including its eastern shore, was part of French Louisiana.  But more pressing matters had always set the issue aside--until the fall of 1705.79

In September, after the hurricane passed, Châteauguay was returning to Île Massacre from Pensacola in a borrowed felucca when he came upon a small brigantine that had run aground near Mobile Point, not far from the entrance to the bay.  Châteauguay approached the vessel carefully, not sure if it was English.  Hearing voices calling out in French, he hurried aboard and found a Captain Maurice and 90 men who had survived the recent hurricane.  Their ship, the St.-Antoine, was a privateer out of Martinique heading home from a trip to Veracruz.  Châteauguay and his crew took the survivors aboard the Spanish felucca and hurried them on to Massacre before sending them up to Fort Louis.  Meanwhile, Governor Guzmán, hearing of the wreck, sent 60 men in two boats to salvage what they could from the wreck.  Châteauguay, of course, had the same thing in mind, so after seeing the privateers safe at Massacre, he returned with 25 Canadians to the St.-Antoine.  Encountering the Spanish, the young Canadian refused to allow them to board the stranded vessel.  The Spaniards prudently retreated, and the Canadians loaded their borrowed felucca with considerable plunder, including silver and gold.  Guzmán wisely let the matter rest ... for now.  They repaired the Précieuse as they had promised, and Châteauguay transported the vice-admiral to Veracruz.80

A few weeks after Boisbriant returned wounded to Fort Louis, another delegation of Chickasaw, 10 headmen this time, appeared at the fort.  They had gone to Tunica, where Father Davion had urged them to visit Bienville.  They assured the commander that "despite the recent massacre by the Choctaw they still desired peace."  They were saddened to learn that Bienville and Boisbriant would even question the well-being of Saint-Michel.  Hearing this, Bienville fully understood the treachery of the Choctaw.  He ordered the Chickasaw to bring Saint-Michel to Mobile so that he could use him to chastise the Choctaw chief.  The Chickasaw agreed and returned to their villages, leaving six of the chiefs as security for the life of the young Frenchman.81

Soon it was the Choctaws' turn to suffer at the hands of their enemies.  That August, unbeknownst to Bienville and his officers, three Carolina Indian agents met with the chiefs of several related nations living in the wilderness north of Mobile--the Alibamon, the Coweta, the Kashita, and the Okmulgee, who later would be called collectively the Creek--at Coweta Town.  The English drew up a proclamation, agreed to by the chiefs, declaring "all of the natives allied to the French as 'enemies to be attacked and annihilated.'"  This was no idle threat.  That autumn, spurred on by the English agents, 3,000 warriors from these nations, perhaps accompanied by hundreds of Cherokee, moved against the Choctaw.  Having been warned, the Choctaw abandoned their villages and retreated into the woods while the Alibamon and their allies devastated their homes and crops.  As the Alibamon withdrew, the Choctaw counterattacked, killing several hundred of the enemy.  The Choctaw victory spared Mobile and Pensacola from attack for now, but the Alibamon were still a dangerous presence in the wilderness above the two posts.82

Though no re-supply from France appeared in 1705, new settlers, mostly Canadian voyageurs, arrived via the upper Mississippi throughout the year.  In January came Gabriel-Philippe de Hautmesnil de Saint-Lambert and his younger brother François-Philippe de Hautmesnil de Marigny de Mandeville, both valuable officers, leading a contingent of "renegade Canadians" who had lost their trade concession on the Wabash.  Fifty voyageurs from Illinois came down later in the year; among them were two former residents of Fort Louis, Pierre Sauton and Joseph Guillet de Bellefeuille.  They praised the value of the Missouri country, where they had traded with Spaniards from Nueva Mexico and also had found mineral deposits.  They gave Bienville samples of what appeared to be copper and some unknown substance, but the commander, having given up hope of finding mines in Louisiana, was unimpressed with what he saw.  Bienville welcomed the Canadians, both high and low, and encouraged the best of them to remain in the colony.  They tended to serve well as ad hoc soldiers and even sailors whenever a crisis threatened.  But "[w]hat Louisiana needed most, as Bienville never tired of pointing out, was an influx of stalwart peasants," like the ones who had gone to Acadia and Canada, "who would be better able to cope with Louisiana conditions" than the human material the Marine had sent in its occasional re-supplies.  Unfortunately, Philomena Hauck reminds us, "it cost too much to send out farmers from France and set them up with animals and tools at a time when the French treasury was empty.  Besides, French peasants, poor as they were, were unwilling to risk the perils of an Atlantic crossing to come to an unknown wilderness, rumored to be full of swamps and alligators," not to mention swarms of mosquitoes, a hot, humid climate, hostile Natives, and colossal storms.  Bienville would have to make do with his trusty Canadians at least until the war with Britain finally ended.82b

An unusual disagreement between Bienville and a Canadian cousin later in the year revealed much about each man's character.  While recuperating from his wound, Boisbriant was nursed back to health by Marie-Françoise, called Françoise, de Boisrenaud de Roisneau, who had served as a "governess" for the Pélican girls.  Like the 30-year-old aide-major, the supérieur des filles was still unmarried, and some of the colonists duly noted that she and the King's lieutenant seemed to enjoy one another's company.  Bienville, however, would have preferred that she marry one of the Canadians and provide more healthy children for the colony.  He nonetheless appreciated her labors among the inhabitants, in which she devoted herself "to instructing the native women and children, attending to their baptisms and 'giving lessons to the habitants' daughters, showing them what they are capable of learning,'"  Jay Higginbotham relates.  But as the months went by and she remained unmarried, her disdain for Canadians, expressed in repeated declarations that they "were unsuitable to a woman of her noble background," annoyed the proud commander.  "Yet she had a large following, was popular in fact with several heterogeneous groups, and Bienville, in this time of civil discord, did not wish to antagonize her."  And then it happened:  "During the several months of Boisbriant's convalescence a romance began to blossom between the aide-major and the haughty spinster, culminating in Boisbriant's proposal of marriage."  By then, however, Mlle. de Boisrenaud had become close to Jeanne-Catherine de Berenhardt, now Mme. de La Salle, and joined her friend's husband the commissary in criticizing the colony's administration.  No power on earth could have stifled the woman's voice, but Bienville at least could prevent his kinsman and one of his staunchest supporters from falling into the hands of the "enemy."  "After repeated remonstrations by Bienville and Châteaugué, Boisbriant agreed to forgo the union."  Neither the aide-major nor the supérieur des filles ever married.  Despite his obvious disappointment, Boisbriant never wavered in his support of his kinsman, but Bienville had "forever alienated Mlle. Boisrenaud....  Henceforth, she would be one of De La Salle's most vigorous supporters and would complain bitterly that Bienville did not have the necessary qualities to govern the colony."82a

Towards the end of summer, an incident of a different sort occurred at Fort Louis.  Marguerite Messier, "slender blond wife" of Pierre-Charles Le Sueur and Bienville's kinswoman, arrived at the post with her young son and three young daughters, hoping to rendezvous with her husband.  At Kaskaskia in April, on the journey down, Marguerite had lost her brother and one of her daughters, and now she was told that her beloved husband had been dead for over a year!  Aware of the hazards of a return trip to Canada, the grieving widow chose to remain at Mobile.  She and her children occupied the house her husband had left her on the Rue de Ruessavel, after which she sent a message to Montréal requesting a merchant friend to sell her house and belongings there and forward the proceeds to her new home in Louisiana.83

The settlers at Fort Louis also welcomed new residents of a different kind.  The Pélican girls, now proper wives, began to give birth, the first of them that summer.  One of the newborns, Claude Joussette, would live to a ripe old age, dying at New Orleans in 1781, "having amassed a considerable estate."  Later in life, he would claim to have been the first-born Frenchman in Louisiana, even going to court to "prove" his claim.  In truth, he was not even the first child born at Fort Louis in 1705.  Sadly, but typical for a frontier community, many of the settlement's newborns did not survive the year.84

Newborn infants were not the only casualties of this troublesome year.  Fort Louis itself, now three years old, was literally rotting away.  Bienville beseeched the Minister of Marine to provide funds to construct a new fort, this one of brick and stone.  What had eluded Iberville and the others in 1702 was now manifest:  the village site was so poorly located that "after each rain several weeks were required for the standing water to drain."  The only agriculture attempted were house gardens, which barely supplemented the post's food rations.  Commissary de La Salle and others complained that the site was too far upriver; De La Salle, in fact, wanted the settlement relocated all the way down to Île Massacre.  Bienville refused.  To do so would be a poor reflection on Iberville, Levasseur, and himself.85 

Some of the more ambitious settlers believed, as Iberville had done, that up and down the river lay better drained and more fertile sites amenable to plantation agriculture.  With the proper means, they could become wealthy by supplying produce not only for Mobile, but also for the markets at Pensacola, Havana, and Veracruz.  Proper means would include the employment of slave labor, either Indian or, preferably, West African.  Many households at Mobile already employed domestic "slaves" and had done so from the first days of the settlement--young Natives, male and female, from the local villages whose parents had allowed them to live among the French in a sort of unofficial indentured servitude.  Some of the Indians were employed in outside work, but there were, and never would be, enough of them to sustain a large plantation.  The putative planters were constantly urging Bienville to import West Africans from St.-Domingue and Martinique.  The blacks would be purchased, not "borrowed"; they would, in a word, become chattel, essential for the backbreaking work in the fields of a new French socioeconomic elite.  Bienville, like Iberville before him, supported the importation of Africans, but the Minister in France "had considerable reservations," so, until he approved, it would not be done.  Nor was the timing right.  The war and its curtailment of ocean voyages had severely reduced the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  Slaves could more safely be brought in from the Antilles, but where would the colonists find the capital to pay for them?  Only a handful of merchants could purchase them outright.  The only alternative would be slave-trading--Indians for blacks, like the Carolinians were doing, the very thing the French had vowed to end in the Gulf Coast region.  But even if the settlers at Mobile could afford to purchase slaves, could they also afford to buy horses, oxen, and the necessary tools for their river-side establishments?  There were only 13 oxen and a single horse at Mobile in late 1705--not very promising for a plantation-based economy.  Nor was there a grist mill to grind any grain the colonists could produce.  The millstones were there, brought over from Rochefort on the Loire in 1703, but a mill for them had not been built. 

Until then, the colonists would have to grind by hand whatever grain they acquired from Pensacola or Veracruz.  Mostly they subsisted on maize grown by the local Indians, which the new wives from Paris, along with their husbands, found difficult to stomach.  Not even hunting provided a decent supplement to the colonists' diet.  "Contrary to what Pontchartrain was led to believe by some of his correspondents," Philomena Hauck relates, "game was not plentiful in the immediate vicinity of Mobile, and the great heat and scarcity of salt meant that the meat could not be preserved as it was in Canada.  Moreover, the Indian hunters who supplied the meat had to be paid in merchandise, which was always in scarce supply."  Seeking to escape this disagreeable circumstance, three enterprising Canadians--Pierre LeBoeuf, Claude Parent, and Charles Rochon--moved from Mobile down to the Oignonets, near the village of the Chato, and "were gamely trying to grow wheat and vegetables" on land for which they had no title.  In spite of these feeble efforts, an agricultural and commercial basis for the colony remained a chimera.86

Late in the year, the Chickasaw chiefs returned to Fort Louis with a very much alive Saint-Michel in tow.  Boisbriant, especially, was glad to see the young man still breathing.  Bienville sent an officer and two Tomeh guides to retrieve the Choctaw chief.  Bienville was determined to re-establish the Native alliance and put an end to the war between the old enemies.  First one and then several Choctaw chiefs, carrying more Alibamon scalps, appeared at the fort in January.  Choctaw and Chickasaw smoked the calumet of peace again, and Bienville was satisfied the alliance had been restored, though he insisted that Saint-Michel remain at Mobile.86a

Despite this potential triumph, by the end of the year, Bienville seriously considered returning to France.  He was only 25 years old, still a young man, but seven years in the wilderness had taken its toll on his body and mind.  In France, he could personally beard the Minister about what Louisiana sorely needed.  It had been a year and a half since the Pélican had re-supplied the colony.  Prices at Veracruz were exorbitant, even for merchandise of inferior quality.  But even that source of sustenance was in jeopardy.  Earlier in December, on a return voyage from Veracruz, the Précieuse had been caught in a storm and driven upon a sandbar south of Île Massacre.  Châteauguay managed to save the food and merchandise aboard the little vessel, but, after seven years of exemplary service, the Précieuse was no more.  Only the Espérance, now four years in the colony, remained to transport goods to the colony's two forts and to connect Louisiana to the outside world.87


By the spring of 1706, the colony was in dire straits.  The fort's bastions were so badly rotted the cannon could not be safely fired.  Commissary de La Salle resisted any proposal to repair or rebuild the fort, "blaming the Le Moyne brothers for their lack of foresight in locating it 'in the midst of the woods.'"  He insisted on abandoning the site and relocating the settlement to Massacre Island or to the Oignonets.  But the warehouses on Île Massacre and at Dog River, also four years old, were rotting away as well.  Even worse, the re-supply expected the previous summer had not arrived.  Soon it would be two long years since the fever-laden Pélican had reached Port Massacre.  Food was short, prices for everything were exorbitant, especially when purchased from the Spanish, and a crippling poverty permeated the settlement.  Bienville and Châteauguay, though deeply in debt, had cash reserves to make purchases (thanks, no doubt, to Châteauguay's salvage of the St.-Antoine), and skilled craftsmen like carpenter Jacques Le Compte and cooper Pierre Gagné could charge more for their valuable services.  But most of the colonists, especially the troupes de la marine, had to subsist on fixed incomes whose value steadily dwindled in the face of high, persistent inflation.  They had no specie--none officially had come to the colony since the Pélican--so nearly everyone was in debt to the King's treasury, a situation made worse by Bienville's policy of easy credit for the colonists.  De La Salle complained about the policy, but, having six mouths of his own to feed, he, too, was heavily indebted to the King's accounts.  This only worsened the relationship between the commander and the commissary, a cloud hanging over the colony for four years now.  Moreover, Bienville was forced to purchase food from Pensacola again, throwing out of balance the settlement of accounts he had recently made with Guzmán and his commissary.  Bienville, and now Châteauguay, were determined to return to France to address these serious matters in person.88

The Le Moynes--Iberville, Sérigny, Bienville, and Châteauguay--had long dominated the colony, but Iberville had not returned, Sérigny also was gone, and Châteauguay was at sea most of the time.  Moreover, in the two years since the Pélican arrived, the Canadians no longer outnumbered the continental French, which included the girls from Paris, the young troupes de la marine from Rochefort and La Rochelle, and the two new priests.  In his opposition to Bienville, Commissary de La Salle could depend on many of his fellow Frenchmen to join him in carping about the Canadians' policies.  And then, in the autumn of 1705, the petty incident of the soldiers' blankets pitted Bienville against the commissary's haughty wife, who did not bother to hide her disdain for "this skulking Canadian."  Although the commissary "apologized" for his wife's behavior, he could not forgive Bienville's high-handed manner in barring a pregnant Mme. de La Salle from chapel services.  From this day forward, De La Salle was determined to make note of the Canadians' every transgression and pass them on to the highest authority.  Not even the absent Iberville, once the commissary's champion, was exempt from De La Salle's stinging critiques.  Nor was the commissary averse to exaggeration in describing to the Minister Bienville's supposed malfeasance.  Bienville was just as diligent in reporting De La Salle's transgressions.  Bienville complained about the laziness of many of the Frenchmen, especially the women Bishop de Saint-Vallier had foisted on the colony.  Still at odds with Mlle. de Boisrenaud, whom he had prevented Boisbriant from marrying, Bienville tried his best to send her back to France, without success.89

What was sorely needed was Iberville's return, bringing food, guns, ammunition, presents for the natives, specie, tools, and hard-working artisans who could build a new grist mill and rebuild a rotting fort.  Bienville had been apprised of his older brother's promotion and his failing health and perhaps other reasons why a re-supply was taking so long.  He could have guessed that in the minds of the King and Minister the war was taking precedence over supplies and personnel for distant colonies.  He could not yet know that in January, Iberville and Sérigny, as well as other Le Moyne kinsmen, finally had set sail from La Rochelle with a powerful fleet of a dozen ships, that Iberville's orders, once again changed, were to attack English and Dutch sugar islands in the Caribbean, that in April Iberville and Sérigny had scored a dramatic victory against the English on Nevis and St. Christopher, and that they had looked the other way as their men looted the islands and filled the ships' holds with booty.  Bienville could not yet know that they had sailed up to St.-Domingue before moving on to Havana, from which Iberville would launch an offensive against the English in Carolina.  Nor could Bienville know that the original plan was for Sérigny to take the Coventry, a captured 48-gun English frigate, to Massacre Island with the colony's provisions, but that Sérigny had taken the vessel to Veracruz, instead, where he sold some of the captured booty, as well as the "excess" supplies from France--sustenance sorely needed by the colonists.90

To be sure, Iberville had not forgotten "his" Louisiana colony.  From Nevis, he sent a captured English brigantine, the Aventurier, to Mobile to supplement the Espérance as a transport.  At Havana, after removing from the Conventry most of the supplies intended for Mobile, Iberville sent one of his frigates, the 34-gun Aigle, 300 tons, half the size of the Conventry, and the Bienvenu, a smaller vessel captured from the English, on to Massacre.  Commanding the Aigle was the Le Moynes' brother-in-law, Pierre-Jacques Payen de Noyan, who had gone to Louisiana with Sérigny in 1702.  Bienville, meanwhile, learning of Iberville's presence in the West Indies, sent Châteauguay to Havana in the Espérance to hurry the supplies along.  With him were the survivors of the St.-Antoine, who had become a drain on the colony's food supply.  Châteauguay had not returned by early June, so Bienville and the hungry colonists had no choice but to wait.91

By then, conditions at Mobile had gone from bad to worse.  Clear factions had formed in the constant squabbling.  Among Commissary de La Salle's supporters were many of the women from Paris, who were not coping well with the poverty they were facing in a place they had believed would be a paradise in the wilderness.  Also taking sides in the squabble was the post's curé, Father de La Vente, and his fellow white collars.  Bienville, who had been disappointed from the first with the Seminarian's appointment, kept his distance from the pastor for the first year of their acquaintance, but the peace between them did not last.  By the time the conflict between Bienville and De La Salle erupted in full force, De La Vente clearly had taken sides.  He, in fact, became an even bigger thorn in the commander's side than the prickly commissary and his arrogant wife.  "As Bienville related," notes Philomena Hauck, "in an attempt to curry favor with the ordinary people and discredit him, [De] La Vente put out the word that the [acting] commandant was indifferent to their misery.  He followed up by distributing money to the soldiers, giving them to understand that he was continually calling Bienville's attention to their wretchedness but that he was not giving any heed to his pleas.  He also humiliated Bienville by writing to Pensacola for flour, charging that the [acting] commandant was killing him with starvation, although the flour was really to pay some workmen." 

One of the biggest bones of contention between the King's lieutenant and the curé was the question of European/Native marriage.  The King had granted Iberville permission to allow intermarriage in the colony "provided the Indian women were Christians."  De La Vente saw such marriages as a means to control the wantonness of the libertine Canadians and to increase the number of faithful in the colony.  He encouraged the missionaries in the Indian villages to perform such marriages and to baptize the resulting children.  Bienville, with his eye on social and military order, saw the practice in a very different light.  He was especially concerned about the rootless, undisciplined coureurs de bois, who had taken up with Native women back in Canada, to the detriment of relations with the nations there and, especially, to military discipline.  Bienville wanted these troublesome fellows to live at the posts, not among the Natives.  To be sure, when food was in short supply, which, sadly, occurred much too often, Bienville had no choice but to send the unmarried Canadians to live among the Indians, sometimes as far as Natchez and Taensa.  "It was not a move of which he thought well; it was a matter of simple necessity," Jay Higginbotham explains.  When enough food was acquired, either from France or from the Spanish, Bienville promptly called the Canadians back to their posts.  Sanctioning miscegenation, even in the guise of marriage, threatened control over a volatile element in the colony, something the King's lieutenant, and the colony, could ill afford.91b 

The conflict between Bienville and the white collars only worsened when Jesuit Father Jacques Gravier, an old friend of the Le Moynes who had served in Louisiana from 1700 to 1702, suddenly appeared at the fort.  Wounded grievously in the arm by a Peoria devotee back at his Illinois mission, the 55-year-old Gravier had come to Mobile in hopes of finding a surgeon there who could properly treat his wound.  Not since Father Dongé's departure two years earlier had a Jesuit appeared in the lower colony.  Father Gravier was disappointed in the medical care he found at Fort Louis, but, in spite of the proscription against Jesuits, and at Bienville's insistence, the black robe remained to recuperate from the long voyage down.  Bienville appointed Father Gravier as his personal chaplain, which infuriated the Seminarians.  Father Alexandre Huvé was the official chaplain at Fort Louis, but he preferred to spend time among the Indians rather than serving the officers and soldiers of the rag-tag garrison.  When Bienville reprimanded the young white collar "for dereliction of duty, he told Bienville that he was subordinate only to his curate"--Father de La Vente--"and that he would continue to go where he pleased."  Bienville complained to the Minister, and "Pontchartrain soon disabused Huvé of that idea.  If he wanted to be a military chaplain he had to take his orders from the commandant."  Bienville only made matters worse by allowing Father Gravier to minister to the garrison during Father Huvé's frequent absences.

Although the peace-loving Gravier urged Bienville to satisfy De La Vente's demands for a parish church, the fussy curé could not have been happy with the result.  The new church, a primitive wooden structure standing on its long-allotted place at the edge of the village, was hastily constructed and measured only 40 feet by 26 feet, slightly larger than the post chapel.  Father de La Vente complained about the small size of his parish seat, to which Bienville responded that the curé had been begging for a larger church, and so he had one.  His dignity assaulted, Father de La Vente refused to hold mass in the structure and was even more incensed when Bienville proposed to appoint Father Gravier as chaplain of the fort, replete with chaplain's pay.  The heated exchange led to the curé forbidding "the Jesuit to give the soldiers their Easter communion," followed by a threat of excommunication for Bienville and interdiction for Father Gravier.  A message to the Minister of Marine, dated 28 July 1706, summed up Bienville's feeling towards the officious Seminarian:  "'I do not believe, Monseigneur,'" the King's lieutenant fumed, "'that there could be found a man on the face of this earth more violent, more hot-headed, more two-faced or one who has a blacker soul.'"91a 

And then there were the Indians.  In late January, to fulfill a promise to his allies, Bienville had sent Boisbriant, now fully healed, and Hautmesnil de Saint-Lambert with 50 fellow Canadians on a raid into the Alibamon country.  They stumbled upon an Alibamon war party on the river just below present-day Selma, fought a lively skirmish, killing two warriors and capturing a woman, before the Alibamon retreated.  Having lost the element of surprise, they returned to Fort Louis, their female captive in tow.  "Bienville sold the prisoner to one of the colony's families and the woman went quietly to serve her owners (with whom she remained for many years)," Jay Higginbotham relates.  During the spring, the Choctaw returned to complain about the Chickasaw, who had seemed so eager for peace only a few months earlier.  A party of Chickasaw, under the influence of Carolina trader Thomas Welch, had attacked a Choctaw village and carried off 150 captives, who they promptly sold to the English.  "Bienville could only hang his head in despair:  without missionaries or close surveillance of the villages, it was impossible to place any reliance on the conduct of the natives."  The Choctaw asked for powder and lead to defend themselves, and Bienville gave them what they needed.  He may not have won over the Chickasaw, but the Choctaw remained his most valuable ally.92

Conditions on the lower river were even more troubling and promised only to get worse.  The Chickasaw, Alibamon, and Yazoo, spurred on by the English, attacked not only the Choctaw, who were more than a match for them, but also the Tunica on the lower Yazoo, who took refuge with the Houma farther downriver.  Unfortunately for the French alliance on the lower river, "the Tunica turned upon their hosts and, for unknown reasons, massacred more than half of the Houma tribe.  The Houma survivors evidently fled initially to the banks of Bayou St. John in present-day New Orleans, but by 1709 they had migrated to a new village site" near Lafourche--the Fork--where they remained for decades.  Meanwhile, during the summer of 1706, the Taensa, also under pressure from the English-allied nations, abandoned their village site at Lake St.-Joseph and moved downriver to Bayougoula.  But as soon as they settled there "they betrayed the trust of their hosts:  wishing to appropriate the site, they slaughtered a majority of the Bayougoula, then quickly drove the survivors into the forest."  The remnants of the Bayougoula took refuge with their old enemies the Houma and the few Quinapisa the Bayougoula had spared in their massacre of that nation six years earlier.  "Despite a shortage of supplies," Ross Phares relates, "St. Denis provided a place for the Bayougoula to erect new cabins" near Fort de Mississippi "and gave them provisions he could spare."  Fearing retaliation not only from those nations, but also from the French, the Taensa decided to flee from Bayougoula.  Before they left, however, they invited Chitimacha and Yakne Chitto families in the area to join them in a feast.  When only a small number of Chitimacha appeared, the Taensa took them captive and sold them into slavery.  This enraged the Chitimacha, who blamed the French for Taensa treachery.  Coureurs de bois, who answered to no one, especially to distant commanders or feckless missionaries, had been harassing the Natives along the river, murdering, raping, kidnapping, even selling some of them into slavery, all with impunity.  The Chitimacha may have been among the victims of these Canadian miscreants.  They certainly remembered their confrontation with Saint-Denis six years earlier and how Bienville had mistreated the Koroa after the death of the priest from Arkansas.  So they looked for a chance to get their revenge on the arrogant white men who had invaded their country.92b


Finally, on 13 June 1706, the lookouts on Île Massacre spotted two sails on the southeastern horizon.  Brother-in-law Payen de Noyan's Aigle and the Bienvenu, now under Châteauguay, had finally arrived.  The colonists were expecting a larger ship to make up for their not having been re-supplied for two difficult years.  The Coventry would have been that ship--at 670 tons burthen, it was 70 tons greater than the Pélican and 170 tons larger than the Loire--but here was a French-built frigate at least, plus a smaller English vessel.  Payen de Noyan, who had helped found the settlement at Mobile four years earlier, was chagrined to see the King's warehouse at Massacre in such disrepair.  He also was surprised to see the rest of the island still so bare.  After he dropped anchor at Port Massacre, he hurried a boat up to Fort Louis to apprise the colonists of his arrival.  Among the passengers who disembarked at Massacre was Claude Allemand, a brother of the warehouse keeper at Fort Louis; Allemand was there to look after Iberville's personal merchandise, which the commandant hoped to sell for a profit.  Another passenger was 31-year-old Seminarian Father François Le Maire, whose romantic notions of ministering to Louisiana's natives was shattered by the long, grueling voyage and the sight of the barren island that lay before him.  Another welcomed passenger was Valentin Barraud, the colony's long-awaited chirurgien-major.93 

Payen de Noyan did not begin unloading the Aigle until the day after his arrival.  By then, Bienville had been notified of the ships' coming and made careful plans for the re-supply's disposal.  He sent Châteauguay in the Aventurier with a load of merchandise to sell to the Spanish at Pensacola, who always had coin.  Bienville had a ready response to De La Salle's inevitable complaint:  the French, he reminded the commissary, were still in debt to the Spanish.  But De La Salle suspected it was only an excuse to engage in personal commerce.  Bienville, in fact, had arranged the unloading and redistribution of the goods from the Aigle and the Bienvenu so cleverly that the commissary quickly lost control of the King's accounts.  Bienville insisted that De La Salle remain at Fort Louis and send an assistant to Massacre.  Some of the goods had been promptly loaded into the Massacre warehouse, some of it was still aboard ship, some of it was sent on to Pensacola, and some of it up to Fort Louis.  Meanwhile, colonists with means were purchasing the choicest items from whoever was temporarily in control of the goods:  a barrel of brandy, shoes and stockings, linen, clothes, more brandy, more linen, thread, more brandy.  De La Salle could not be in four places at once, and transactions were being made without paperwork.  Payen de Noyan handed De La Salle two letters, one from Iberville, the other from the Minister.  Iberville's instructions were threatening in tone as well as confusing; the absentee commandant's feelings towards his commissary obviously had been poisoned by Bienville's personal letters and official correspondence.  Ironically, the letter from the Minister instructed De La Salle, among other things, to "'take great care of the foodstuffs and munitions and to take the necessary measures to have them used according to His Majesty's intentions.'"94

But the King's lieutenant also was chagrined by what the paperwork was telling him.  Inspecting the bill of lading Payen de Noyan had given De La Salle, Bienville could not reconcile what the document said he should be receiving and what he actually found aboard the two vessels.  He knew instantly what his brothers had done with the missing merchandise, and he was not pleased.  Where were Iberville and Sérigny to explain this to him?  Thanks to their clever machinations, the colony would be in trouble again long before the next re-supply, which, as the Minister's instructions hinted, "would be even fewer and farther between."  Bienville had expected more recruits for his two companies of infantry, but only 16 boys, untrained, poorly clad, and very ill, stumbled off the ships.  He had expected several missionaries, two for certain to send among the Choctaw and Chickasaw.  Reading the Minister's instructions, he could see that two priests were supposed to have come, but here was only one.  Father Le Maire informed him that the other Seminarian, a young man of promise, had chosen to remain in France.  Back at Fort Louis, Bienville looked for a silver lining around this cloud of disappointment.  Châteauguay told him Sérigny was still at Veracruz or somewhere in the Gulf, and Iberville was at Havana.  Perhaps before they headed back into the Atlantic to attack the English colonies, or, more likely, after they had made a successful attack against Carolina or Virginia, they might see fit to send some of the booty to their brothers in Louisiana.95

Bienville decided not to wait for his brothers' largesse.  He ordered Châteauguay to send the Bienvenu back to Havana and purchase more supplies.  Whoever commanded the vessel was authorized also to purchase African slaves Iberville had promised for the more well-to-do colonists.  These blacks would serve as domestics for now, but perhaps soon they would be working in colonial fields.  To ensure that the affluent colonists would have "less trouble holding onto their slaves," on July 28 Bienville proposed to the King and Minister "a swap with the French West Indies:  two Panis," a word used in New France for Indian slaves in general, "would be sent to the islands for every black who was sent back."  Bienville made the same proposal two years later, so the authorities in France must have ignored him.95a 

Bienville also had to address another problem, this one caused by the misers in France.  Despite De La Salle's constant reminders that the Minister of Marine had ordered Bienville to end support of the Canadians at Fort Louis, the King's lieutenant decided to retain most of them on the King's rolls for now.  The reason was simple:  The Canadians could live without the colony, but the colony could not survive without them.  "Taken as a whole," Bienville knew, "the Canadians were the colony's most valuable asset and, as far as [he] was concerned, the colony could support them as far as possible."  Without them, Bienville also knew, his base of support at Mobile probably would disappear The few Canadians Bienville had removed from the rolls generally had become affluent enough to support themselves without a government subsidy, but some of them complained anyway, becoming potential allies of the commissary and the curé.96 

Sadly, the Aigle also brought yellow fever to the colony, but this time there were few fatalities.  A victim of the fever, however, was one of Bienville's most important officers.  Canadian Gabriel-Philippe de Hautmesnil de Saint-Lambert of Montréal had come to the colony from Illinois in January 1705, and Bienville made him an ensign in one of his infantry companies.  Saint-Lambert died of the fever in mid-July 1706, and Bienville chose the ensign's younger brother, François-Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville, age 23, to replace him.  Commissary de La Salle promptly protested the appointment.  He demanded that Bienville appoint his son, Nicolas, fils, only 13 years old, to succeed the dead Saint-Lambert!  De La Salle, who lied about the boy's age, saying he was 16, insisted that Nicolas, fils was bright, fluent in native languages, a competent woodsman, and big for his age.  Bienville refused to change the appointment, and the commissary recorded another complaint against the commander.97

On the first of August, as the Aigle still lay at anchor off Île Massacre, Bienville and De La Salle signed a document intended for the ministry of Marine:  a census of Mobile.  An inventory of the colony taken at the end of August 1704 had counted "27 French families" at Fort Louis, but it provided no names nor a break down of the settlers by age or gender.  The August 1706 census was much more specific:  here were the names of all the family heads, as well as the number of their dependents, living at the outpost--the First Families of Louisiana.   At the head of the list was the census taker, Commissary M. de La Salle, his wife, and four children; this was De La Salle's second wife, Jeanne-Catherine de Berenhardt, who had arrived on the Pélican and whom he had married at Fort Louis two summers ago; most, if not all, of his children, including son Nicholas, fils, were from his first wife.  Guillaume Broutin, actually Boutin, was counted with his wife.   Jean Roy was listed with his wife and two children, including son Jacques.  Jean La Loire's household included his wife and a child.  Jean Le Camp, probably Le Caën, had no wife, only a young son, Jean-François, called by the commissary "the first male child born in Louisiana"; this meant, of course, that Jean-François Le Camp was the first French male child born in Louisiana.  François May was listed with a wife and two children.  Canadian Nicolas Chauvin dit Lafrénière was still a bachelor.  Étienne Bruille was counted with his wife and child.  François Trudeau lived with his wife and a child.  Marguerite Messier, widow of Pierre-Charles Le Sueur, had come to the Mobile the summer before and was still there, with her 10-year-old son, Jean-Paul, and three daughters.  Mlle. Boissenaud, actually Marie-Françoise de Boisrenaud de Roisneau, who had arrived on the Pélican, was still unmarried and, to Bienville's chagrin, still in the colony.  Gabrielle Bonnot or Bonnet, whom the commissary called "crazy," was another Pélican "girl"; La Salle also noted that she had been deserted by her husband the year before.  Michel Risbé lived alone.  Laurent Clostiney, actually Closquinet, still a widower, lived with one child, son Henri.  The Sieur Barran lived with his wife.  André Renaud lived with his wife and a child.  Gilbert Dardenne lived with his wife and child.  Pierre Brossard lived with his wife and child.  Pierre Alin, also called Alain, lived with his wife and child.  Jean Bonobonnoire lived with his wife and child.  Antoine Rinarre, actually Rivard, also lived with his wife and child.  Claude Trepanié, actually Trépanier, lived with his wife and child.  Jean Coulomb lived with his wife and two children.  Joseph Penigaud was counted with his wife.  Jean Sossié, actually Jean-Baptiste Saucier, a Canadian soldier, lived with his wife and two children.  Marie Mercier remained unmarried.  Marie Crisot, the settlement's midwife, evidently lived alone.  Jean-Louis Minuity, probably Minuit, lived with his wife and two children.  Anne Perro, a widow, lived with her four children.  Here were 23 men, 25 women, and 34 children--only 83 settlers at Mobile, over half of whom were on the King's payroll.  Evidently De La Salle did not include in his census settlers who were living in other parts of the colony, such as Pierre LeBoeuf, Claude Parent, and Charles Rochon, who had moved from Mobile down to the Oignonets the year before, or the hand full of habitants on Île Massacre, including François Derbanne and Jean-Baptiste Baudreau dit Graveline, all on land they did not officially own.  The commissary did count the livestock at Mobile:  35 cows, "including 12 heifers"; five bulls; and six oxen, "of which 4 belong to the King"--a sad commentary on the resources of the King's Louisiana colony.97b

In early August, after two months in port, Payen de Noyan prepared to return to Havana.  He set sail on August 14 with a load of furs brought down from Canada.  Father Jacques Gravier, S. J., was one of his passengers.  Also aboard were Canadians François Derbanne, Jean-Baptiste Baudreau dit Graveline, Nicolas Chauvin dit Lafrénière, and Pierre Babin dit La Source, who were going to La Rochelle "to establish a commercial venture between the Gulf Coast merchants and the continent."  Sailing with the Aigle was Châteauguay in the Aventurier, who would retrieve his traversier, the Espérance, still at Havana, and inquire into the delayed return of the BienvenuNo one at Mobile knew of Iberville's fate, which had been sealed the month before.97a 

Before the Aigle sailed, Commissary de La Salle hurried down to Port Massacre to give Payen de Noyan his dispatches to the Minister, including a long complaint against Bienville.  He also was there to prevent the Bienvillists from making off with more of the colony's merchandise to sell for personal gain.  Back at the fort, De La Salle penned several more letters of complaint against Bienville and his associates.  By the time he finished them in early October, the Aigle had sailed.  Fearing that Bienville was intercepting the mail, a serious offense, De La Salle sent his letters, including duplicates, by every means he could.  Father de La Vente also sent letters of complaint to his superiors in France.  The bureaucrat and the priest were determined to ruin the King's lieutenant.98

Fate also seemed to set itself against the young Canadian.  Bienville expected Châteauguay's return sometime in September, but even when October came, he had received no word from his younger brother.  Finally, on October 19, Châteauguay reached Massacre with the Aventurier and the Espérance and a very sad story to tell:  brother Iberville was dead!  He had died in Havana over three months earlier of the dreaded yellow fever.  Sérigny had not reached Havana from Veracruz until three days after Iberville's death and had found the Espérance and the Bienvenu still in port, watched over by the Spanish.  Most of the Bienvenu's crew had deserted.  This was the vessel Sérigny had loaned to Bienville earlier in the summer and which he still considered his property.  Determined to make as much profit as he could out of his sojourn in the West Indies, Sérigny sold the Bienvenu to the Spanish.  Most of Iberville's squadron of 13 ships had returned to France.  Iberville and then his successor, Jacques Lefebvre, had tried to enlist the help of the Spanish at Havana for the attack on Carolina, but the new governor of Havana had died of yellow fever the day before Iberville.  His replacement could promise only token assistance, and the viceroy offered no help at all.  Refusing to give up, Lefebvre sailed to San Agústín.  The new governor there, Don Francisco de Córcoles y Martínez, formerly of Pensacola, agreed to help, and Lefebvre and the Spanish attacked Charles Towne harbor on September 9.  The result was a disaster for the French and their allies, including a party of Indians:  at Holybush Plantation on Sullivan's Island, Lefebvre lost 30 men dead and over 300 captured, along with his 72-gun ship of the line, the Brilliant.  Meanwhile, Payen de Noyan and Châteauguay reached Havana from Massacre in late August.  Only then did they learn of Iberville's death and Sérigny's sale of the Bienvenu.  Châteauguay remained at Havana through September and into October, rounding up crewmembers and purchasing what he could, including a few black domestic servants Iberville had promised to send to the colony.  Before taking the Coventry to St.-Domingue to complete his commercial transactions, Sérigny informed brother Châteauguay that he and Bienville could keep the Aventurier in exchange for the Bienvenu.  Châteauguay departed Havana with his two ships in mid-October, and Payen de Noyan took the Aigle on to Léogane and then to Martinique.99

Bienville and most of the colonists were deeply saddened by the news of Iberville's death.  "Unaware for the most part of Iberville's and Sérigny's fraudulent commerce which had acted to the detriment of the colony, the inhabitants deeply mourned his passing," Jay Higginbotham relates.  "Despite his long absence, he had still been considered by the majority of the officers and townfolk as being their chief voice in Europe, who more than any other had been responsible for what concessions were wrung from the purse of the court."  Many of the Canadians had served under the gallant commandant since the beginning of the Louisiana venture, and some of the officers could recall their service with Iberville as far back as Newfoundland and Hudson Bay.  And then there were his brothers, cousins, and in-laws, many of them still serving in the colony.100 


Not everyone in French Louisiana mourned the commandant's death.  De La Salle, De La Vente, and the young Huvé kept their own council of course, but they knew that Bienville was more vulnerable now without his brother to protect him.  De La Vente, in fact, referred to Iberville as Bienville's "'chief and only parton.'"  Earlier in October, before he had learned of his brother's death, Bienville, long aware of Iberville's diminished interest in the affairs of the colony, had sent a message to the Minister of Marine, reminding him that "for seven years I have had the honor of commanding in this colony, and I beg you to grant me the governorship of this land,'" but it would be months before he received a reply.  After he learned of his brother's death, "the normally sanguine Bienville was very discouraged," Philomena Hauck relates.  "All his hard work and vigilance had brough him very little in the way of material gain and recognition, he told the minister.  On the contrary, his ... years in the colony had retarded his normal advancement in the navy; and his salary of 1,200 livres a year was hardly enough to keep him for three months.  He ended his letter by asking for a year's leave of absence because the hardships of the country and the inclemency of the air had impaired his health." 

Though the Minister had no intention of allowing the King's lieutenant to take a leave of absence in France, Bienville's request to be made governor was based on solid reasoning:  the Court's neglect and his brother's sudden passing placed him, and the colony, in a difficult position.  "Part of the problem," Hauck explains, "was the colony's primitive administrative structure.  As yet, Louisiana had none of the governing apparatus found in older colonies--no governor embodying the dignity of the king, no intendant responsible for civil affairs, no Sovereign Council to act as a court of justice.  Bienville had all the responsibilities of a governor, but not the magic title which would have enhanced his standing in the eyes of the inhabitants.  The fact that he had no patronage to dispense as a governor usually did, and no authority to make land concessions also put him at a disadvantage and contributed to the general feeling of uncertainty about his position."  As to De La Salle, despite his elevated social position, "he was merely a scrivener performing the fuction of a commissary," Dr. Hauck points out--a far cry from a commissaire-ordonnateur, much less an intendant:  It was Bienville "who authorized all expenditures and regulated consumption of supplies," she explains.  "In times of extreme want," which were often, "he lowered the official prices, or dipped into one fund to ease the burden somewhere else; and when the worst came to the worst, he issued notes on the paymaster of the navy to pay the salaried workers, all of which threw [De] La Salle's records into confusion and gave rise to some lively arguments.  His administration of justice also came under fire.  Differences between the inhabitants were decided by a military court composed of Bienville and the officers; and since none of the men knew much about the law, the decisions arrived at were not necessarily equitable.  As a result, ink flowed very freely to Pontchartrain, complaining about the unfairness of it all." 

In other words, the King's lieutenant acted like a governor ... an intendant ... an attorney-general, but he was none of these things.  That the Louisiana venture functioned at all was in spite of the imperial, bureaucratic mess Bienville had inherited from his brother.  "In theory," Dr. Hauck explains, "Bienville's sphere of action was quite limited.  He was expected to send detailed dispatched to Pontchartrain, informing him about conditions in the colony and he could suggest a course of action.  All policy decisions were made in France through the navy ministry and he was supposed to follow them, except in emergencies"--a mandate similar to what Iberville had possessed as the colony's commandant.  "The trouble was that emergencies requiring immediate action were forever occurring.  To await a decision from France would often have been the height of folly, so Bienville frequently acted on his own and justified his actions after the event, which earned him many a sharp rap on the knuckles from Pontchartrain.  A bureaucrat in Versailles simply could not understand what Bienville faced."  And all the while, the persistent complaints of his enemies at Mobile, combined with questions about his brothers' chicanery, were stirring debate among powerful men whose judgments would decide the fate of the King's lieutenant.  They also would determine the course of the Louisiana venture to which he had devoted so many years.101


The year 1707, which would be the ninth in Louisiana's history, began on an especially troubling note.  Yet another tragedy shook the colony, again on the lower Mississippi. 

Father Jean-François Buisson de Saint-Cosme, a priest from the Missions Éstrangères at Québec, had been serving on the river for half a dozen years, but his first assignment when he left the Québec seminary had been nowhere near the Mississippi.  In 1692, two years after his ordination, he was assigned to the parish of St.-Charles-des-Mines at Grand-Pré, where his arrogance and hypocrisy only fueled Acadian anti-clericalism.  After leaving Grand-Pré in 1698, Father de Saint-Cosme "was chosen nonetheless to become one of the pioneers in the missionary work carried on by the seminary of Quebec in the Mississippi Valley."  In May and July 1698, the bishop of Québec, de Saint-Vallier, issued letters patent to the Seminarians authorizing them to create a mission on the Mississippi among the Illinois and sent four of them there.  In April 1699, while Iberville was building Fort Maurepas at Biloxi, Father de Saint-Cosme arrived at the village of the Tamaroa on the east bank of the Mississippi, across from the mouth of the Missouri, and founded a mission dedicated to the Holy Family.  The Tamaroa and their cousins the Cahokia, part of the Illinois confederacy, had been friendly with the French since the days of the Sieur de La Salle.  The Québec Seminary also had established missions among the Tunica and Taensa on the lower Mississippi.  Tamaroa served as a link between the lower missions and the Seminary at Québec.  No sooner had Father de Saint-Cosme established himself at Tamaroa than he was visited by Jesuit Father Julien Binneteau of the Peoria mission, in company with the Seminarian vicar-general, Father François Jolliet de Montigny.  After the vicar-general continued downriver to Taensa, Father Binneteau informed Father de Saint-Cosme that he and his fellow Seminarians were trespassing on Jesuit territory awarded to the order by Bishop de Saint-Vallier in 1690.  The Seminarian, aware of the bishop's true feelings, refused to yield, and so the Jesuit set himself up with the nearby Cahokia and competed for their souls.  Not even intimidation at the hands of Jesuit superior Father Jacques Gravier, who "forbade him expressly to exercise any ministry, among either the French or the Indians," could dissuade the Seminarian to be on his way.  In July 1700, the new Seminarian vicar-general, Louis-Marc Bergier, replaced Father de Saint-Cosme at Tamaroa and resumed the fight with the Jesuits (Father Binneteau returned to his Peoria mission and was replaced in 1700 by Father Pierre-François Pinet).  Father de Saint-Cosme, meanwhile, moved downriver to replace Father François de Montigny among the Natchez.101a

For several years, Father de Saint-Cosme had been the only missionary on the lower river who had remained at his post.  In six years of ministering to the Natchez, however, he had little to show for his efforts.  The Natchez were widely dispersed in several villages, "and their customs ... made them ill disposed to receiving the message of the gospel."  Unwisely, the priest built his chapel at the Grand Village near the Great Sun and his sister, which limited "access to the mass of population because it was too far away."  More than once, Father de Saint-Cosme complained, he had been forced to use physical violence to protect his person against angry natives, and in all the time he had served in the village he had failed to master the Natchez language.  In a letter to his superiors he begged for servants "who were 'capable of standing up to the most wicked Indian,' for, he said, 'it is awkward for a missionary to have to punch an Indian.'"  The Natchez evidently thought little of him, especially when they heard rumors that the good priest "had been the lover of the ... woman who ruled over them."  It was also rumored that Saint-Cosme was the father of one of the priestess's sons, who took the name Saint-Cosme!101b 

Unhappy with his position, and perhaps urged to leave by his disgruntled charges, in late November 1706 Father de Saint-Cosme, escorted by three Canadians and a young Natchez slave, journeyed downriver on his way to Mobile to confer with his superior, Curé de La Vente.  The timing, as well as the direction of their travel, could not have been more ill conceived.  Still smarting from the treachery of the Taensa earlier in the year, and still willing to blame the French, especially the Canadian coureurs, for their many troubles, the Chitimacha were looking for an opportunity to vent their frustrations.  After two days of travel down the wide, twisting river, Father de Saint-Cosme and his companions stopped to rest near Lafourche.  While they were sleeping, a party of Chitimacha fell upon them and hacked them to death.  Only the Natchez slave escaped, perhaps spared by the attackers because of his ethnicity.  Instead of returning to his village, the slave hurried downriver to relate to the French the terrible thing he had witnessed.101c

Saint-Denis was entertaining a visitor at Fort de Mississippi when the Natchez appeared to report the priest's death.  Abbé Marc Bergier, long-time missionary at Tamaroa and vicar-general of the Bishop of Québec for the Mississippi valley missions, had come downriver a few weeks earlier and had spent time at Natchez with Father de Saint-Cosme before moving on to Mobile to procure supplies for his missions.  Hearing the Indian's account, Saint-Denis placed his men on full alert and sent word of the incident to Bienville via the vicar-general.  Abbé Bergier, accompanied by the Natchez slave, reached Fort Louis on New Year's Day 1707, and now Bienville had to address another crisis that threatened the fragile colony.102

A message he would send to the Minister in France in late February summed up the commander's view of why the Indians in the region did not respect the French, and why the colony was still so vulnerable to native depredations:  "All the savages of these lands are thoroughly treacherous," he wrote, reflecting the typical European attitude towards natives in every corner of the New World.  "They have already committed many assassinations and there is reason to believe they may commit more because of the small fear that they have of the French.  They have such a low opinion of us that recently the Choctaw and Chickasaw chiefs asked me in great seriousness if there were really as many people in France as there were here or whether there were very many more.  I tried to make them see the truth of the matter by striking comparisons, but it was impossible for me to make them understand although I know their language very well.  They retorted that if there were really as many people as I claim, some of them would come here to avenge the deaths of the Frenchmen, 'else you have no courage at all,' they said to me:  'You have been here for six years.  Instead of increasing, you are diminishing.  The strong men are dying and only children come in their places.'"  The Choctaw and Chickasaw chiefs were spending the winter at Fort Louis and were not impressed with what they saw.  Nor had Bienville kept their promises to him:  there still was no trading post between the territories, nor had he given the Choctaw a missionary.  "All these Indians belong to the English only by necessity and interest," he rationalized to the Minister.  "They naturally like the French.  I have at present two Choctaw and Chickasaw chiefs with me to whom I am showing great friendship, making them hope that we shall go to them (to build the fort) as soon as the vessels from France have come."103

But he first must address the crisis on the river.  His next action was clear:  he would have to use whatever "strong men" he had left in the colony to demonstrate to the "savages" French power and resolve.  But where were those "strong men"?  The chiefs were right:  he had been given nothing but boys to fill the ranks of his companies.  After deaths and desertions, Bienville commanded only 45 soldiers in these two "companies"!  One of the company commanders, François Juchereau de Vaulezard, a kinsman of Saint-Denis, refused to leave France.  The other company commander, brother Châteauguay, was the colony's principal navigator and seldom was around to lead his men.  Bienville was forced, again, to rely on the very men he was purging from the King's payroll--his trusty Canadians.104

The punitive expedition began soon after Bienville was apprised of Father de Saint-Cosme's murder.  In early January, he sent the Espérance with 20 Canadians, guns, and ammunition to Saint-Denis at Fort de Mississippi.  Also aboard were presents for the friendly local nations--the Biloxi, Houma, Chawasha, Washa, and the remnants of the Bayougoula--to secure an alliance against the Chitimacha.  Saint-Denis managed to cobble together a force of 80 warriors, including four from a band of the Natchitoches who had moved from the flood-ravaged Red River valley to the shores of Lake Ponchartrain.  Saint-Denis led his 100 men in pirogues to the Fork and headed down Rivière-des-Chitimacha to the nearest village.  They attacked the suspecting Chitimacha at night, scattering the survivors.  Four warriors lay dead, and a number of men, women, and children were captured.  Satisfied, Saint-Denis returned to Fort de Mississippi and sent the captives in shackles, under careful escort, to Bienville.105

Bienville was happy to see that among the captives brought back to Fort Louis in irons was the warrior who had boasted of "having put six arrows" through Father Saint-Cosme.  Here was an opportunity to mete out justice and impress the "savages" with French resolve.  "On Bienville's orders, this prisoner was taken to the fort and tied to a stake in the center of the square.  After conferring with his officers, Bienville decided the mode of execution for the confessed murderer:  he was forthwith bludgeoned to death with a heavy stone weapon.  His skull broken, he was then scalped and his body thrown into the river.  'I did not do it,' Bienville later wrote [to the Minister],'without knowing the good effect that it would produce in the villages of the other nations.  It is the custom in all these nations, not only in this province but also of those of Canada to kill as many of the men of their enemies as they have lost on their side; otherwise it is disgraceful among them to speak of reconciliation if they have not got vengeance man for man.'"106

Saint-Denis's offensive against the Chitimacha had been a success in more ways than one.  Not only were Natives in the region taught a valuable lesson, but the Canadians were well-paid for their enterprise, and the colonists at Mobile also secured slaves for their households.  But the enterprise had its costs.  There were no French casualties in the expedition, but the Espérance, on its way back to Mobile, was lost in a squall at Port Massacre.  This left only the Aventurier, in need of a thorough refitting, to re-supply and communicate with Fort de Mississippi, which also was in need of serious repair.  Bienville did not have enough men to hold the Mississippi post, especially with a hostile nation in the vicinity.  So, sometime in the spring, he ordered the abandonment of Iberville's fort and instructed Saint-Denis to move up to the Bayou St.-Jean portage, which Iberville had urged five years earlier.  Bienville planned, as Iberville had wished, to build a fortification at the portage as soon as he could find the wherewithal to do it.  After tearing down the old Mississippi fort, Saint-Denis and the few Canadians he was allowed to retain moved up to the Biloxi village.107

Meanwhile, Abbé Bergier brought a breath of fresh air to the poisoned atmosphere of Fort Louis.  If Curé de La Vente assumed the vicar-general would take his side in the dispute with Bienville, he was sorely disappointed.  The abbé was a true ascetic, which greatly impressed the Indians but which chagrined the portly French curé.  Nor was the abbé a fan of interdiction, a priestly power which the curé had not only threatened but had used against his detractors at Fort Louis.  De La Vente had complained of the noise outside of the post chapel when he held mass there during Bienville's Sunday drills.  The King's lieutenant refused to drill his men at another time or another place, so the curé imposed an interdict on the fort's chapel and returned to the ramshackle parish "church" to conduct holy services.  After a storm destroyed the dilapidated structure, which had "stood" for less than a year, De La Vente resorted to holding services in his kitchen!  Needless to say, the inhabitants and the soldiers were most unhappy with this arrangement, made worse by the persistent flooding around De La Vente's "rectory," located inconveniently at the edge of town.  Bergier listened patiently to his worldly colleague but could not approve of his actions.  He lifted the interdict on the chapel, coaxing Bienville into restoring the recently-arrived Father Le Maire as post chaplain, and found a house in the middle of the village in which De La Vente could conduct holy services; the house would serve as the parish "church" for the rest of the village's existence.108

Abbé Bergier's original purpose in coming to Mobile was to secure supplies for his missions upriver.  By early 1707, however, Bienville had nothing to give.  Materiel from the re-supply of the previous June had long run out.  Bienville prepared to send his remaining ship, the brigantine Aventurier, to Veracruz and asked the abbé to remain until Easter.  Short on sailors, Bienville had to ask his trusty Canadians to man the vessel.  Châteauguay, of course, would command the expedition.  With messages in hand from both Bienville and De La Salle to the Spanish viceroy, Châteauguay and his Canadians set sail in late February on what to the young Le Moyne must have been a routine voyage and reached the Mexican port on March 13.  Châteauguay had penned his own letter to the viceroy in hopes of expediting what usually was a long, trying effort in the face of Spanish bureaucracy.  The missives worked, but it was not until the second week of April that Châteauguay could turn his overloaded vessel back towards Port Massacre, which he reached on May 9.  The colony now had provisions for half a year or so.  A boat from Pensacola had re-supplied Mobile while he had gone, and Châteauguay was happy to send word to the Spanish benefactors that a large re-supply under Governor Arriola was on its way to them.  But Châteauguay had some bad news for his kinsmen and most of his fellow colonists:  Pierre-Jacques Payen de Noyan, his and Bienville's brother-in-law, who had first come to the colony in 1702, had died en route to Martinique aboard the Aigle several months earlier, not long after Iberville's passing.109

Despite the sad news, morale in the colony was lifted.  Thanks to Spanish largesse and Châteauguay's efforts, there was plenty of food ... for now.  Though Bienville and most of the colonists hated to see him go, Abbé Bringier headed back to his mission at Tamaroa with two pirogues full of supplies.  Thanks to the abbé's calming effect and the successful re-supply, the Le Moynes were popular with the colonists again, probably to the annoyance of De La Salle and De La Vente.  But the curé and the commissary were often too busy to pursue their offensive against the King's lieutenant.  Church records reveal that Father de La Vente performed at least 22 baptisms in 1707.  He also performed the usual burials and an occasional marriage.  De La Salle, meanwhile, had to make certain all of the supplies from Veracruz and Pensacola were properly recorded, stored, and distributed.110

Although the saintly missionary from Tamaroa smoothed the feathers of the colony's highest officials, a major subject of discord remained:  location of the colony's headquarters.  Now five years old, Fort Louis-de-la-Louisiane was rotting away.  Bienville's solution was to remain at the present location and to rebuild the fort out of brick or stone, otherwise a rebuilt wooden structure also would soon rot away.  De La Salle and De La Vente, on the other hand, continued to advocate moving the post down to Massacre Island, or at least to the mouth of the Mobile River at the Oignonets.  Bienville reminded the Minister of Marine of why the present site had been selected in the first place:  Iberville wanted the fort to serve as protection for the numerous plantations he expected to see established on the river bluffs above and below the fort.  Bienville pointed out the many imagined defects of a site at the mouth of the river:  brackish water, nearby swamps, a general unhealthiness as evidenced by the number of deaths among the Chato living there.  He insisted that "all the habitants" at Mobile much preferred the present location, but his arguments were more defensive than logical.  In this debate, for once, the curé, not the commander, proved to be the champion of reason ... generally.  When De La Vente wrote to a superior that the Oignonets was "a spot where a city could be built much taller and larger than Paris," he was engaging in hyperbole of course, but otherwise his logic was solid.  The mouth of the river, he pointed out, was a better location by virtue of its being 26 miles closer to the colony's port at Massacre.  With only slight exaggeration, he noted that supplies sometimes took as long as six weeks to be moved from the port to the present location because of the distance and the winding nature of the river.  The Oignonets, he insisted, was naturally protected by the water that lay in front and behind it.  Bienville shrugged off the curé's arguments, admitting only that some day the French might build a city on the lower part of the river to serve as "a warehousing port."  He attempted to mollify Commissary de La Salle with compromise.  The storm that had destroyed the parish church also had damaged the fort's chapel.  Bienville suggested that after he rebuilt the chapel, a part of it would be devoted to extending the storage space at the fort.  He also agreed to build not only a new but a larger warehouse at Massacre Island.111

Despite these concessions to De La Salle, the conflict between the commander and the commissary continued.  There were heated words and even violence between them, and also emotion-filled correspondence to superiors in France.  The Minister and even the King would have to intervene soon, or their Louisiana colony would descend further into chaos.111a 

The new warehouse at Massacre, though an impressive structure, would have to remain empty for a while.  Bienville's only remaining ship, the English-built Aventurier, did not survive the year.  After Châteauguay brought her back from Veracruz, she lay idle at anchor in Port Massacre, food for marine worms and wood borers.  Soon she began to take on water, and then she sank.  Her rigging and equipment were salvaged and stored in the warehouse with the remains of the broken Espérance.  Sadly, the Aventurier "was the last of the vessels at Massacre Island capable of making voyages to Havana, Cap-français or Veracruz."  Until Bienville could secure another seagoing vessel, Mobile's communication with the outside world remained dangerously limited, nor could he build another fort on the lower Mississippi until he secured such a vessel.112

But the worse news, again, came from the east:  the English, according to many Indians sources, were planning an attack that summer against Pensacola and Mobile.  Bienville warned the Spanish at Pensacola, who thanked his messenger, but little was done to prepare Fort San Carlos for the coming attack.  The Carolinians and their Indian allies attacked suddenly in mid-August, first burning surrounding villages, ambushing small parties, and then, with at least 300 Indians, assaulting the fort itself.  The temporary governor, Sergeant-Major Sébastien de Moscoso, encouraged his hard-pressed Spaniards to fight for their lives.  After several days of bloody fighting, the enemy retreated back into the woods.  Among the dead at Pensacola was a Canadian from Fort Louis who was there to repair the ship San Joseph for Mobile's use.  Other Frenchmen inside the post were wounded in the fight.  During the third week of August, the English and the Indians struck again, this time burning the entire village.  Only the fort and its presidio were left standing, but they, too, lay in ruin.  For the next several months, Indian attacks continued.  All Bienville could do to help was to send a war party of friendly Tawasa and Chato to take more Koasati captives.  Back at Mobile, Bienville interrogated the Alibamon prisoners, who told of an impending attack against Pensacola by land and sea.  Among the attackers would be dozens of English and French Huguenots on horseback.  Bienville was confident Fort Louis was safe, but he feared for Île Massacre.  He led 80 of his best men and 30 Indians to the island with the dual mission of protecting it from an English assault and hurrying to Pensacola if the Spanish called for help.  In late November, after the English offered Moscoso terms but he refused to surrender, the English and their Indian allies assaulted the fort on three consecutive nights, but the Spaniards repulsed each attack.  The death of an important chief in the third assault demoralized the Indians, and at the end of November the English force retreated.  Bienville reached Pensacola on December 8, but by then the English had returned to Apalachicola.  Moscoso thanked Bienville for his good intentions and for leaving him several Chato scouts to prevent anymore surprises.113

The bloody siege of Pensacola taught the Spaniards a lesson in maintaining friendly relations with surrounding nations.  Moscoso offered the Chato elaborate bribes to return to Pensacola, but they and the other Apalache refused to leave Mobile; they remembered too well the darker side of living near the Spaniards.  Bienville had heard rumors that in the West Indies and other parts of the Gulf of Mexico the French and Spanish alliance was coming undone.  He was determined to maintain good relations with the Pensacola garrison, though not at the sacrifice of his Indian friends.  He returned to Fort Louis in mid-December, confident that his men and his Indian allies, along with enhanced defenses at Mobile, could resist whatever the English threw at them.114


Bienville did not know it yet, but his dispute with De La Salle and De La Vente, the investigations into the conduct of his older brothers, and his own misadministration, were bearing bitter fruit for him at Versailles and Paris.  Thanks to his brothers' financial misconduct, his being a Le Moyne was now a liability instead of an asset.  Father Gravier, his old ally among the Jesuits, still in France, was doing what he could for him, but it proved to be too little too late.  By the first of May 1707, the Minister of Marine, in his search for Iberville's successor, already had removed Bienville from his list of candidates for Louisiana's next "governor."  The young Le Moyne, Pontchartrain was certain, "could not be trusted to guide the colony again." 

More ominous, the King and Minister were contemplating the abandonment of the Gulf Coast outpost.  The King requested information "'as to the use it may be for the kingdom' because if it proves itself of little value, he would 'abandon the colony without committing any more resources.'"  The Minister added:  "'only in order to oppose English expansion and stop it, would the King go to the expense of maintaining Mobile.'"  But the outpost was not abandoned.  Evidently the original purpose for Louisiana, as well as future plans to box in the British, was enough to keep the venture alive ... for now.114a

The Minister chose as Louisiana's first governor 56-year-old Nicolas Daneau de Muy, a native of Picardy and recent recipient of the Cross of St.-Louis who had served the King well in Canada.  He was the same Daneau de Muy who had clashed with Iberville in Newfoundland during King William's War.  He recently had left Canada and taken his family back to France, where he hoped to secure a high position.  His timing was right, as were his associations.  He was a champion of neither the Jesuits nor the Seminarians, and, most importantly, he had no ties to any of the Le Moynes--if anything, they would have considered him an enemy.  As soon as the Minister made the choice, the King ordered Daneau de Muy, once he reached Louisiana, to launch a thorough investigation into the charges leveled against the King's lieutenant by De La Salle and De La Vente.  Written instructions from both the King and Minister ordered Daneau de Muy first to consult with Bienville on conditions in the colony, including an accounting of the colony's finances.  Once the new governor learned all that he could, he was to see that Bienville returned to France on the ship that brought Daneau de Muy to Louisiana.  The new governor also was tasked with suppressing the trade in beaver fur from Illinois through Louisiana.  The Minister sent Bienville written instructions repeating what the King had instructed Daneau de Muy.  Interestingly, the new governor's original instructions said nothing about sending Commissary de La Salle back to France.  In July, the Minister received more complaints from De La Salle, which prompted a modification of the King's instructions.  The Minister ordered Daneau de Muy to look into the fresh allegations against the King's lieutenant and, if he found any evidence of theft or malfeasance, to arrest the young Canadian and send him back to France.  If Daneau de Muy found no evidence of wrongdoing, he was to leave Bienville in Louisiana, though in what capacity the Minister did not say.  The Minister also notified Daneau de Muy that he would be accompanied by the chief commissary of Marine, Jean-Baptiste-Martin, called Martin, Dartaguiette d'Iron, who would audit Commissary De La Salle's financial records and help the governor investigate Bienville.  Only recently appointed to his high position, Dartaguiette was even younger than Bienville--age 24 to Bienville's 26.  Dartaguiette may have planned to bring along two of his younger brothers, Bernard, age 12, and Pierre, who was even younger.115

Then there was the question of Father de La Vente.  Complaints from Bienville, Boisbriant, Father Gravier, and others at Mobile painted a dark picture of the curé's conduct.  The Minister of Marine, weighing the evidence, was certain that the priest was a detriment to the colony.  The man who had appointed De La Vente, Bishop de Saint-Vallier, could not be consulted in the matter; he had been captured by the English on his way back to Canada and was still being held in England.  So the Minister had to consult with Abbé Brisacier, head of the Paris Seminary.  The abbé and De La Vente's other colleagues defended him passionately, but the Minister, having read too many accounts of the curé's surly behavior, preferred to have him recalled to France and urged the abbé to find a replacement.  Abbé Briscacier offered the Minister a compromise--the new Louisiana governor would investigate the pastor also, and if he found fault with his conduct, De La Vente would be recalled to France.  If exonerated, he would remain at his post.  The Minister agreed to the arrangement, deferring to Daneau de Muy's judgment.116

By late summer, two ships were being prepared at Rochefort to transport the new governor to Louisiana.  The Renommée, Iberville's former flagship, twice had journeyed to Mobile, in 1700 and 1701.  On this voyage, it would be accompanied by a smaller ship, the Indien.  Among the passengers aboard the Renommée was Father Jacques Gravier, S. J., who, despite the painful wound in his elbow, was determined to return to his mission in Illinois.  After the usual delays, the flotilla, including now a merchant ship, the Branche d'Olivier, which carried some of the reinforcements for Fort Louis, finally left Rochefort in late October, but the crossing was not an easy one.  A mid-November storm scattered the vessels, and by the time the Renommée and Indien reached Cap-Français, the merchant ship had not caught up to them.  Dartaguiette coaxed the governor of St.-Domingue into replacing the recruits that may have been lost at sea with troupes de la marine from St.-Domingue.  The flotilla then sailed on to Havana, where the Renommée's captain would make arrangements to pick up merchandise on the return trip to France.117

And then things changed dramatically.  On 25 January 1708, off the coast of Cuba, Nicolas Daneau de Muy suddenly fell ill and died aboard the Renommée.  At Havana, everyone looked to the young chief commissary for direction.  Dartaguiette studied De Muy's papers, which included letters from King and Minister, and decided that he would follow the dead governor's instructions as well as his own, except in the case of Father de La Vente.  Jean-Baptiste Du Casse, former governor of St.-Domingue and now générale des armées navales at Havana, also came into possession of Daneau de Muy's instructions.  An ally of the Le Moynes now, Du Casse likely alerted Bienville of what was on the way.  The Renommée left Havana on February 2 and anchored at Port Massacre nine days later.  The Renommée's captain, Henri-Joseph Beaumont d'Eschilais, informed Dartaguiette that he would remain at Mobile until March 1.  Dartaguiette's, and Daneau de Muy's, instructions stated that if Bienville was found guilty of any of the charges against him, he must be arrested and returned to France on the Renommée.  This gave the chief commissary precious little time to conduct his investigation.118

Dartaguiette had to wait two weeks at Port Massacre before the winds allowed him to sail up to Fort Louis.  Bienville and Châteauguay, who had come down to meet him, escorted the chief commissary up to the fort.  This gave them two more days in the company of the young nobleman.  Dartaguiette agreed to lodge with Châteauguay, still a bachelor, whose house was among the largest at Fort Louis, but first he must return to Île Massacre to supervise the unloading.  What he observed there was not theft or malfeasance but incompetence on the part of the warehouse clerk in recording the disposition of the King's property.  Bienville, meanwhile, realizing his fate was in the hands of the young nobleman, stayed close to Dartaguiette.  He showed him the letter from the Minister detailing the charges against him and offered to refrain from making anymore decisions without the chief commissary's approbation.  Dartaguiette was impressed with Bienville's cooperation and displays of humility. 

Back at the fort on February 23, Dartaguiette set himself up in De La Salle's office.  Following "the French criminal code of the day," he began his interrogations the following day.  He "selected eight witnesses whom he considered the most impartial and questioned them under oath about all they knew regarding the accusations of cruelty, profiteering, misuse of royal vessels, tampering with the mails, and the like."  Dartaguiette began with the habitants, as he called them, who seemed least involved in the quarrel between Bienville and De La Salle.  Most of the witnesses he called, he could not know, were, like the Chauvin brothers from Canada, staunch Bienvillists who praised the young Canadian's leadership and denied De La Salle's accusations.  Another witness, Father Le Maire, was instrumental in convincing Dartaguiette that Bienville was innocent of one of the most serious charges--intercepting the letters written by the commissary and the curé to their superiors in France.  Bienville "as the accused was not allowed to be present or to be represented at the hearings, although he had the right to challenge any and all of the witnesses for cause."  Several of Bienville's enemies--four men whom he had punished "for theft, desertion, insubordination, and other offenses"--were called to testify, and they were more than happy to traduce the King's lieutenant.  Only one of the hostile witnesses, however, offered what seemed to Dartaguiette to be creditable testimony. 

The Le Moynes, meanwhile, made use of Dartaguiette's dining arrangements to tell him their side of the story.  After four days of testimony, Dartaguiette prepared his preliminary report for the Minister of Marine.  He concluded "that the bulk of the charges against Bienville were too vague, too unsubstantiated to warrant an outright statement of guilt."  He also could see that the young commander "had done the best he could with the means at his disposal, and that he was popular with the colonists," at least most of them, "and with the Indians."  Dartaguiette observed that Bienville "knew perfectly the customs" of many of the nations "and spoke several Indian languages."  As to the conflict between Bienville and Commissary de La Salle, Dartaguiette observed that "Much of the difficulty in the colony ... stemmed from private quarrels between [the two officials] and there was little way to reconcile contentions of this nature."119

Though he believed himself exonerated, it was embarrassing to Bienville to be the subject of investigation while he still commanded the colony.  He demanded to return to France aboard the Renommée to explain himself to the Minister, but Captain Beaumont d'Eschilais "refused to take him on board because, De Muys having died, Bienville was still governor" of the colony.  De La Salle could not have been anything but embarrassed by the chief commissary's report.  Dartaguiette was displeased with the commissary's haphazard recordkeeping and lack of initiative, but, most damning of all, two of the charges De La Salle had leveled against Bienville proved to be lies.  Nor did it take the young nobleman long to see that De La Salle was indeed a prickly fellow, with all of the faults the Le Moynes and many of the habitants attributed to him.120

In the end, both Bienville and De La Salle would remain at their posts, with an important modification:  Dartaguiette would remain in Louisiana, where he would serve not only as co-commissary, but also as a kind of co-commander.121

The Renommée was not ready to sail on the first of March.  The unloading had taken much longer than Beaumont d'Eschilais had expected.  This gave De La Salle extra time to pen more complaints against Bienville.  But Father de La Vente, whose fate had been spared by the death of the new governor, was alarmed by Gravier's return to Louisiana and suspected the Jesuits were up to something.  Despite the perils of another sea crossing, the curé would return to France on the Renommée to make his case in person.  Bienville, glad to be rid of the troublesome priest, granted him permission to board the ship, but, after consulting with Gravier and realizing how much damage De La Vente could do in Paris, he changed his mind and refused to allow the pastor to abandon his parish.  De La Salle, in the meantime, would torment the Le Moynes with more ink and paper.122

When Dartaguiette began his inquiries, there were five ordained priests residing at the post--four Seminarians and a Jesuit.  Father de La Vente, irascible as ever, still served as pastor of the village parish.  Father Huvé, still sickly and ineffectual, spent most of his time in the Apalache villages, though he had made few converts there, and returned to the fort only when he needed someone to look after him during his frequent illnesses.  On Abbé Bringier's orders, Father Davion had left his post at Tunica to take charge of provisions destined for the Mississippi missions, expected to arrive on the next re-supply ship.  Father Le Maire, two years in the colony, was still disillusioned with Louisiana.  After Father Gravier had left on the Aigle in 1706, Bienville had appointed the young Seminarian as the garrison's chaplain, so he had not yet gone among the Indians.  And then there was the lone Jesuit, recently returned from France.  Father Gravier had failed to stir interest at Paris and Versailles for a return of the Jesuits to the lower Mississippi valley.  His intention had been to return to his mission at Peoria, but, at the urging of Bienville and Châteauguay, he decided to remain at Mobile until the Easter season.  He was determined to keep an eye on the truculent De La Vente, who was chagrined to see the old Jesuit at the fort again.  Father Gravier's frère coadjuteur, Brother Guillaume-Richard Fortin, also had come to Mobile on the Renommée.  Brother Fortin was exceedingly feeble, a victim of what was called the "quartan fever," but mostly he was a victim of advanced age.  Sadly, since Father Sainte-Cosme's murder over a year before, only Father Davion had been left to minister to the Natives of the lower colony, and now he, too, was living at the fort.

Father Gravier remained at Mobile through the Easter season, but he never returned to Peoria.  The season ended on April 8, and then Father Gravier left for Massacre Island, telling none of his fellow priests why he was going there.  Bienville probably knew:  the old Jesuit was hoping to establish a depot for the return of Jesuit missions to the area.  Father de La Vente had hoped "the instrument by which God punishes me," as he referred to the Jesuit, had finally quit the colony, but by the middle of April Father Gravier had returned, showing signs of having contracted a fever.  On the night of April 16, the curé visited Father Gravier in his quarters to comfort him, but the old Jesuit, in his delirium, roundly rebuked him.  The next morning, Father de La Vente returned to look after the sickly Jesuit and found that he had died quietly in the night.  Father de La Vente officiated at Father Gravier's funeral, and the curé's eulogy was filled with effusive praise.  The threat of the Jesuits' returning to the colony also was laid to rest, at least for now.122a

Meanwhile, on his second day back at the fort, Dartaguiette addressed what the Minister of Marine believed was a major problem in Louisiana:  Bienville's flagrant and persistent violation of orders to remove the Canadians from the King's payroll.  For two years, in spite of these orders, Bienville had kept as many Canadians as he could in the King's employ.  De La Salle was aware of these orders and complained mightily about their violation.  Bienville had a compelling reason for maintaining the Canadians on the rolls--the security of the colony itself!  The troupes de la marine the Minister had sent him to fill his companies were only boys, many of whom died before they had the chance to lay down their lives in defense of the colony.  "I admit to you, my lord," Bienville had written to the Minister of Marine the year before, "that I do not know what would become of this colony if I had dismissed the Canadians....  I could do so if I had one hundred and fifty good soldiers.  These Canadians are men suitable for everything, on whom one can count, whereas the soldiers and sailors that we are obliged to send to sea desert at the first Spanish land and we find ourselves obliged to employ men at exorbitant prices to bring back the vessels."

 But orders were orders.  With Bienville present, and with his reluctant consent, Dartaguiette assembled all of the Canadians still on the payroll and informed them that as of the first of March they no longer would be supported by the King.  The Canadians protested loudly.  The married ones had wives and even children to support.  The unmarried ones demanded to be allowed to live among the Indians and engage in the skin trade, or they would return to Canada or become coureurs de bois or even defect to Pensacola.  No longer on the King's rolls, they could not be charged with desertion if they quit the colony.  Dartaguiette saw immediately why Bienville had ignored the Minister's orders.  Dartaguiette promised them "The king would aid them as much as possible...."  The Canadians retorted that the King had not helped them at all even when they had been on his payroll.  As a war measure, no specie had come on the Aigle or the Renommée for fear of capture.  Not since the Loire had come to the colony three years earlier had the Minister sent any specie to pay the officers, soldiers, and Canadians at Mobile.  Bienville, despite De La Salle's objections, had "paid" the Canadians all these years with credit on supplies from the King's storehouse.  Bienville promised to extend them credit, which the Canadians could settle when the Crown finally sent specie to the colony.123 

And then Bienville, with Dartaguiette's approbation, offered the Canadians a bargain that held promise of enriching the colony as well as the Canadians themselves:  he would issue them axes, mattocks, handsaws, whatever was needed for them to work the soil on parcels of land in the colony.  Several Canadians, on their own initiative, already had left Fort Louis, where the soil was barren, and moved to the Oignonets to raise vegetables.  The Canadians were encouraged to move to Île Massacre and work the soil there as well.  Explorations of the bay had revealed a number of other places fertile enough to support agriculture.124

Most of the Canadians remained in the colony, and many of them embraced the offer to take up land.  Finally, after nine long years of being nothing more than a fortified outpost, Louisiana had the potential to become an actual colony, with real colonists working the land--nearly 300 of them counted that year.  Unfortunately, neither Bienville nor Dartaguiette possessed the power to grant the new habitants titles to the land.  The best the co-commanders could do was issue contrats des cession, or temporary grants, for small plots of ground, until a new governor could make the grants permanent and issue larger grants.  Guillaume Boutin and Nicolas Bodin moved to Rivière-aux-Poules, today's Fowl River, along the southwestern shore of the bay between Dog River and Cedar Point.  Two Carrière brothers settled at Bay Minette, east of Mobile Bay.  François Guillory and others, including Jean Roy, moved to Île Massacre, where Guillory took up land on the east end of the island at what became known as Pointe-à-Guillory.  Living on the island near Port Massacre also would provide opportunities for commerce when ships came to the bay.  By the end of the year, Philomena Hauck informs us, Louisiana colonists "owned about 2,000 poultry and 1500 pigs; and the gardens supplied beans, peas, and watermelons to supplement the daily diet."  At the Oignonets and especially on Île Massacre, the Canadians found what seemed to be an "unlimited supply of pasture" on which to raise cattle, "so the inhabitants were soon able to sell some dairy produce to the Spaniards at Pensacola." 

Here was evidence of subsistence, and perhaps the potential for sustained, agriculture in French Louisiana.125

The most promising land in the colony, Bienville believed, was not on Mobile Bay.  The Bayou St.-Jean portage had been used as a shortcut to and from the lower Mississippi for most of the colony's existence.  Bienville and others who had used the portage had noted the quality of the soil in the area.  Soon after Iberville had built Fort de Mississippi, Saint-Denis coaxed a band of friendly Biloxi to settle on the bayou as protection for the fort.  Later, he allowed a band of Natchitoches to settle there as well.  Iberville's fort no longer existed, but Saint-Denis and a few of his men had been living with the Biloxi to observe movement on the river.  "It was Saint-Denis who first reported to Bienville (and later to Dartaguiette) on the richness of these lands...," Jay Higginbotham notes.  Bienville went so far as to tell Dartaguiette, who had not yet visited the river, that the portage site, as Dartaguiette later reported, was "'the finest in the world for raising crops,'" that it could even be a place "'at which a large settlement could be made to carry on considerable commerce with New Spain and the West Indies.'"  In the spring of 1708, Bienville granted farm lots, four arpents wide and 36 arpents deep, where Bayou Tchoupitoulas joined Bayou St.-Jean, again without title.  Five Canadians, including Antoine Rivard de La Vigne, François Dugué, Jean-Baptiste Poitié, and Nicolas Delon, took "their few Indians slaves" with them, plus the necessary supplies and tools, and planted a crop of wheat along the bayou, using seed they had brought from Fort Louis.126

As a result of Bienville's leadership and Dartaguiette's wise decision to let him lead, a potential disaster was averted.  At the time, the co-commanders could see only that the volatile Canadians had been saved to the colony for now.  Until a mill could be constructed on one of the streams in the area, a locally-grown wheat industry could not succeed.  And until more marriageable women could be brought to Louisiana, there was little hope of keeping the Canadians there or luring more of them down from Illinois.127

In January, a month before the Renommée arrived, "a small French sailing vessel," its name lost to history, appeared at Port Massacre.  The ship had sailed from Havana and carried a cargo of "tobacco, bacon, and brandy," some of which was purchased by the more prosperous colonists.  "This was the first instance, ten years after the arrival of the French in Louisiana," François-Xavier Martin notes, "of a vessel coming to trade with them."  Several weeks later, an 80-ton vessel out of Nantes appeared, "bringing more vendibles."  Louisiana now was perceived as a market for French trade goods.  For years, Bienville had sent traversiers to Veracruz and Havana to engage in questionable commerce, but now legitimate commerce was coming to him.  Massacre was becoming a proper port, connected, at least, to the francophone world.128

But, sadly, it was a port without its own ship.  With the exception, perhaps, of Bienville and Châteauguay, the arrival of the Renommée was welcomed by everyone; the first re-supply in nearly two years.  Iberville's old ship brought few soldiers, no women, and only a single priest, but it did bring a plethora of food and provisions, the largest re-supply since the Pélican three and a half years earlier.  And therein lay the problem--there were no more traversiers or feluccas to move the supplies from the ship to the warehouse and then up to Fort Louis.  Every available canoe and pirogue converged on the ship, but this "resulted in heavy fees, as well as losses in time and merchandise"--a prolonged, inefficient, and chaotic transfer.129

The Minister of Marine had anticipated the need for a new vessel at Mobile.  One of the passengers aboard the Renommée was Jacques Le Roux, a shipbuilder--specifically, a second-master constructor--from Rochefort who specialized in building small craft.  Le Roux had come to the colony with Iberville in 1702 and had been ordered to build a flat-bottomed pinnance that was never finished and which had rotted on the ways.  He had returned to Rochefort, but now he was back, tasked with building another flat-bottomed barge, this one of 35 or 40 tons burden, "capable of transporting goods over the sometimes shallow bars between the fort and Massacre Island."  Dartaguiette's contract with Le Roux called for 15 workers, who would be mostly Canadians, and an outlay of 3,000 livres.  The barge would be constructed at the fort, "near the small hospital on the creek just north of town."  Le Roux began construction probably in the late winter, and the barge was ready by the first week of June.  The vessel was "constructed mostly of green oak to ward off the insects and wood borers...."  The final product was between 30 and 35 tons burden, slightly smaller than what the contract had called for, but, most importantly, the barge drew only a foot of water unloaded and only four feet when fully loaded.  It completed its maiden voyage down to Massacre in late summer, and the co-commanders were pleased with the vessel's performance.  They named it the Vierge de Grâce.130

Back at the fort, Commissary de La Salle continued his offensive against Bienville.  He was angered by Dartaugiette's obvious support of the Canadian.  And his bitterness towards Canadians in general continued unabated.  He was "especially bitter over Bienville's attempt to establish himself and the Canadians as the only men capable of conducting expeditions or carrying on commerce with the natives," though one suspects that their commercial activities were especially galling to him.  But he had had another reason to question the prowess of the Canadians.  "'The belief is exaggerated that it is imperative to have Canadians here or men who have served in Canada," he complained to the Minister.  "We do not lack interpreters; two of my sons know the Indian languages quite well."  He then went on to tout his own knowledge of the country based on long years of service there.  But most of De La Salle's complaints were centered on Bienville's supposed malfeasance, including theft of the King's powder.131 

Bienville would have to ignore for now De La Salle's unending complaints and concentrate his attention on a much more dangerous enemy:  the English were on the move again.  The war against England had been lingering for years, having begun only weeks after Fort Louis was established in the spring of 1702.  In those six years, the English and their Indians allies had attacked the Spanish at San Agústín and Pensacola, but not the French at Mobile.  However, Bienville was hearing from his Indian allies that Mobile was their next target.  Pensacola had been surprised in August 1707 because there were no Indian villages near the post to warn them of the enemy's approach.  Such was not the case at Mobile; no approach to the settlement was unguarded.  Using interior lines, allied Indians, after warning the French, could converge on Fort Louis faster than an enemy approaching along exterior lines.  Moreover, Bienville, now with sufficient supplies and Dartaguiette's approval, not only had begun repairs to the fort, but also redesigned the structure.  Using 20 Apalache workers because none of the Frenchmen volunteered their services, Bienville began the work in the heat of July.  The bastions were strengthened to hold more cannon, now seven per bastion instead of four, and the rotting curtains were repaired or rebuilt.  Bienville's new plan for the fort, which De La Salle opposed but Dartaguiette approved, called for the area within the palisade to be expanded to accommodate 500 to 600 friendly Indians as well as the 300-plus inhabitants and soldiers, recently counted by De La Salle, thus increasing the size of Fort Louis by a third.  Theoretically, then, Mobile, thanks to its periphery of Indian villages, could not be surprised, and it soon would be able to withstand a siege, at least long enough for the Choctaw and other friendly nations to hurry to its assistance.132

The repairs and improvements came none too soon.  That summer of 1708, reports were coming in that the English had gathered a force of 2,000 warriors for an attack on Fort Louis.  Bienville doubted the number, but the reports nevertheless "made him uneasy."  Bienville also had learned from his Indian spies that English officials had visited the Chickasaw and Choctaw towns, trying, again, to turn those nations against the French.  The Englishman who visited the Choctaw, Carolina Indian agent Thomas Nairne, was summarily turned away, but his companion, ubiquitous trader Thomas Welch, went on to Yazoo, Arkansas, Koroa, Taensa, Natchez, and Tunica, trying to stir up trouble among those Mississippi valley nations.  (Bienville knew that if the Englishman valued his scalp, he would stay clear of the Houma, Bayougoula, Biloxi, and Quinapisa on the lower river, though the Chitimacha, still on the Lafourche, likely would have welcomed a chance to fight the French.)  Canadians who had been living among some of the Natives above the Houma reported that the English planned to attack Mobile the following winter.  A delegation of Chickasaw came to the fort and pledged their loyalty to the French.  Knowing the Carolinians also had visited the Choctaw but uncertain of that nation's intentions, in late August Bienville assigned Châteauguay the dangerous mission of escorting the Chickasaw back to their villages through Choctaw country.  Châteauguay would take the opportunity to dissuade the Choctaw from following the English.  Bienville had no priests willing to live among the two nations, so he sent two young Frenchmen to live at their villages "to learn the respective languages and above all to keep [him] informed on the political and commercial activities of each nation."   Happily, Châteauguay and his party of 25 Canadians returned from the mission unscathed.133

By the time Châteauguay returned from Chickasaw, Bienville had received more reports about an impending attack.  By early autumn, the attack had not occurred, but Bienville and Dartaguiette used the alarm "to jolt some of the inhabitants from their lethargy" and push the work on the fort.  By mid-October, Bienville could report to the Minister of Marine that Fort Louis had been rebuilt and expanded and was ready to resist attack.  But the fort's garrison and munitions were not so ready.  At the end of September, the fort's two companies of boys and men numbered only 139 effectives.  And the supply of gunpowder was dangerously low.  Earlier in September, he had sent an envoy to Pensacola to ask for powder, but the Spanish were in no condition to assist him.  Guzmán was still absent in Mexico, and Moscoso still commanded at Fort San Carlos.  Arriola had helped him secure reinforcements (mostly hardened criminals) and the wherewithal to reconstruct the walls of the fort, which Moscoso had completed in February, but most of his men were still sleeping in the open; he did not have the resources to rebuild their burnt out barracks.  In the spring, Moscoso had asked Bienville for needed supplies, and the French had sent him what they could spare.  In early June, yellow fever broke out at Pensacola.  By early September, Moscoso had buried 22 of his men, and many of the others were too ill to fight.  Moscoso was in no condition to assist the French the time.  He did not have enough powder for his own depleted garrison, which he believed was still under seige.134

Having done what he could with the resources at hand, Bienville refused to wait for his enemies, or his fellow Frenchmen, to act.  In early October, a vessel from St.-Domingue arrived at Port Massacre in hopes of purchasing Indian slaves for the plantations back at home.  Bienville saw this as an opportunity to communicate with King and Minister.  He coaxed one of his most ambitious young officers, François-Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville, to take the merchant ship to Havana, from where he could sail on to France.  With Bienville's and Dartaguiette's recommendation in hand, Marigny de Mandeville might receive a deserved promotion.  But, more importantly for the colony, he would serve as a glorified messenger.  He would hand to the Minister a request for compensation for goods Bienville had loaned the Spanish during the siege of the previous summer but which they could not reimburse; a request to the Minister for a quick re-supply; and another proposal for a two-to-one swap of Indian slaves for Caribbean blacks to ease the shortage of labor in the colony.  While composing his message, Bienville may have had mixed feelings about sending it via messenger.  Were it not for an imminent threat to the colony, he may very well have sought to communicate with the Minister in person.  At Versailles, he could point out to the Minister that earlier, optimistic evaluations of the colony's self-sustainability were nothing more than delusion; that Louisiana had not yet become self-sufficient no matter how much the Minister wished it so; that Mobile still required assistance from France for even its most basic needs.  And he could make his case for being appointed Louisiana's next governor.  Instead, he remained at Mobile and prepared for the English attack.135

In November, word came down from Illinois that Father Bergier, who had lived at Mobile in the winter and spring of 1707, had died at his mission at Tamaroa the November after he had left the lower colony.  Such depressing news was mitigated only by more births and a few more marriages; the colony's population was growing, slowly but surely.  And, despite its small scale, the planting along the bay continued.  One colonist even raised a crop of tobacco, though its marketing was limited by the dearth of ships appearing at Port Massacre.  Despite Dartaguiette's optimism, the Canadians at Bayou St.-Jean had lost their first wheat crop, but they were determined to plant another one.  As soon as they succeeded, more colonists certainly would follow them to the bayou, or so the co-commanders hoped.  Louisiana would then have its breadbasket and a chance for self-sustainability.  A large wheat crop not only could feed the colony, but also provide a surplus for commerce with Pensacola, Veracruz, and Havana.  In late December, Dartaguiette pirogued to Bayou St.-Jean to see the place for himself.  The second crop of wheat appeared to be "'coming along very beautifully,'" he reported, "although the grain had not yet been harvested."  Unfortunately, even if this crop managed to survive, it would be months before the grain could be consumed by the starving colonists.136


For the colonists at Mobile, the winter of 1708-09 was "the most severe they had faced since coming to Louisiana."  Having received no fresh clothing or even cloth to fashion new garments for several years, the settlers, soldiers, and even some of the officers literally wore rags that winter.  Hunting was dismal.  None of the food crops had been harvested.  Although Jacques Le Roux had constructed a 12-ton pinnance capable of sailing the Gulf, conditions in the open waters at that time of year forbade a voyage to Havana or Veracruz until winter was over.137

Spring of 1709--the eleventh for the colony, the eighth at Mobile--came without attack and only a few internal conflicts.  More babies had been born over the winter and most survived, and the dreadful famine would soon be relieved not by a re-supply from France but by the harvesting of the wheat crop on Bayou St.-Jean and the vegetable crop down the bay.  Just as importantly, the colony gained a traversier for communication with the outside world.  In May, a sloop arrived at Port Massacre from St.-Domingue, and her master agreed to sell the vessel.  No individual colonist could afford the purchase price, so the co-commanders authorized a pool of officers to raise the funds.  Bienville promptly sent the sloop to Havana to purchase livestock.  He also sent a message to two French naval officers he hoped were still on station at Havana, requesting that they send to him a fresh supply of powder.138

And then, during the first week of May, the enemy finally appeared.  Shots were heard coming from upriver.  Bienville summoned the women and children into the fort and sent a scouting patrol upriver.  The scouts soon returned to report that a large force of hostile Indians had attacked the Mobilian village 13 miles upstream.  Bienville organized a relief force of 60 or 70 troupes de la marine and Canadians and, with Boisbriant and Châteauguay, hurried upriver.  They reached the Mobilian village about noon.  A party of Alibamon had attacked the Mobilians at dawn.  After burning the cabins and capturing over two dozen women and children, the Alibamon disappeared.  Bienville had warned the Mobilian the previous winter that an attack from that quarter was inevitable.  He had then given them arms and ammunition he could spare, so they were able to avoid a massacre.  The Mobilian, in fact, had inflicted more casualties on the large attacking force than they themselves suffered, but with the loss of so many women and children they were screaming for revenge.

Bienville faced a hard dilemma.  Boisbriant and Châteauguay reminded him that the protection of Fort Louis was their first priority; they advised him to return to the fort.  But the Mobilian were their closest ally, literally, and to spurn them now would alienate them perhaps permanently and make the fort more vulnerable.  The Alibamon probably were heading for the Little Tomeh village, to the homes of more trusted allies.  Bienville had no choice but to pursue them.139

After torturing and burning an Alibamon captive, the French-Indian force hurried upriver in their pirogues.  They met a force of Tomeh and Little Tomeh at the head of the Mobile River and paddled hard to catch the fleeing Alibamon, who still outnumbered them.  With only a few hours head start and so many prisoners filling their pirogues, the Alibamon would not be able to escape to their villages, so what happened next was inevitable.  The following morning, the pursuing party came upon a horrific scene on the right bank of the river.  The Alibamon had abandoned the water and taken to the woods, but not before destroying their pirogues and massacring all of the Mobilian women and children who had survived the upriver flight.  Though enraged by what he saw, Bienville now had to think of the safety of the fort, so he, Boisbriant, and the Canadians returned to the fort and left Châteauguay and the young troupes de la marine to join the Mobilian and the Tomeh in pursuing the Alibamon.  A week later, Châteauguay and the soldiers returned to the fort with 34 Alibamon scalps and five prisoners.  After torturing information out of the captives, Bienville, knowing better than to execute them at the fort, turned them over to the Mobilian, who brought them back to their village and roasted them over a slow-burning fire.140

Bienville learned from Châteauguay and the captive Alibamon that the English were planning another attack against the French the following autumn.  An Irishman who had fled from Carolina confirmed the reports, adding that the English had brought cannon to the Alibamon villages, evidence that they intended to attack Fort Louis as well as the allied nations, and that as many as 40 Carolinians and 2,500 warriors would comprise the attacking party.  Bienville beseeched the Minister for two more companies of troupes de la marine--there were only 70 effectives left at Mobile, he reported, "one-fourth of whom are only children."  He also asked for funds to fortify Île Massacre in case the English attacked from the sea.  But his biggest concern was lack of powder for muskets and cannon, not only at the fort, but also among his allies.  Stout new walls would do little good if there was no gunpowder to defend them.  Their biggest hope was that the anticipated vegetable and wheat crops, which would be harvested by late summer, could be bartered with the Spanish for a fresh supply of powder.  The fresh wheat also could be taken to Veracruz in the new traversier and exchanged for powder and other necessities.141

But, again, the wheat crop at Bayou St.-Jean failed.  "Although the wheat grew admirably on the stalk, just before harvest time it fell prey to the extreme heat and heavy humidity, the reddish brown fungus causing it to apparently 'rust' just before reaching maturity," Jay Higginbotham informs us.  The same thing had happened the year before, so it was not the fault of the farmers; the subtropical climate at Bayou St.-Jean could not support a wheat crop.  Two of the Canadians, Antoine Rivard and Jean-Baptiste Poitié, refused to plant a third crop along the bayou.  They asked, instead, for land grants farther upriver, at Natchez, which they insisted was "'the finest lands on this continent.'"  Bienville gave them permission to move, but, in 1710, after "an unusually desperate effort," they failed to produce a crop of wheat there as well.  Defeated and dispirited, Rivard and his fellow Canadians returned to Mobile.  "The dream of a breadbasket in lower Louisiana was shattered," Higginbotham concludes, "and the colony was forced to seek success with other crops were they to market food in Pensacola and Veracruz."142

In August, Bienville learned that Pensacola had no powder to spare anyway.  Moreover, there were still hostile Natives lurking about in the woods near Fort San Carlos, and the garrison was again on the verge of starvation, so Governor Guzmán could not help his French allies in any possible way.  Guzmán, in fact, asked to borrow the Vierge de Grâce to sail to Veracruz with a message to the viceroy.  Bienville sent Guzmán what extra food he could spare from the Massacre warehouse and would have let the Spaniard keep the ship as well, but Dartaguiette proposed that they hold on to the ship and send more food to tide the Spaniards over until the arrival of a re-supply from Veracruz.  Sure enough, in late August the viceroy's ship reached Pensacola with several months supply of food and 11,000 pounds of powder.  Hearing this, Bienville breathed a sigh of relief--the powder shortage at Mobile was finally over.  He asked Guzmán for a loan of 1,000 pounds of powder, but the Spaniard, still smarting over Dartaguiette's refusal of the ship, informed Bienville that there was no extra powder to lend, that what he did have was only enough to defend his own garrison.  Bienville was stunned by the refusal.  Did it reflect a change in Spanish policy towards their Bourbon allies?  He had detected a coolness in the viceroy's latest communications.  He had not heard anything from the French naval officers he had contacted at Havana.  Were the Spanish interfering with his communications?  As for Guzmán, his refusal to send him powder he considered an act of betrayal.143

By August it had been a year and a half since the last re-supply had come from France.  Still desperate for powder, Bienville sent the Vierge de Grâce to St.-Domingue to beg François-Joseph Choiseul, baron de Beaupré, the governor there, for 1,500 pounds of the precious substance.  However, the Vierge de Grâce did not make it to the French colony.  A storm forced the vessel to take refuge at San Carlos de Matanzas on the northwest coast of Cuba, and then it sailed on to Havana, where its crew secured a small amount of food from a French concessioner and four barrels of powder from the commander of the French fireship, the Nymphe.  The cost of the goods was prohibitive--2,451 livres--but their mission was accomplished.  At Havana they also heard the latest news of the world, including the fate of their sister vessel, the sloop the officers at Mobile had purchased in May:  an English patrol in the Gulf had captured the vessel on its way to Havana and exiled its crew along the Cuban shore.  The Vierge de Grâce returned safely to Mobile, so Bienville had his powder at least--enough, he hoped, until the long-awaited re-supply finally reached Port Massacre.  The news of the sloop's fate must have struck the fort's officers especially hard.  Even more troubling, "the colony was reduced to a single vessel again."144

That problem was solved when, late in the year, a French merchant vessel, the Marguerite, 35-40 tons burden, returned to Mobile from La Rochelle to trade for whatever goods the colony offered.  The vessel was owned by a consortium of Louisianans, including Jean-Baptiste Baudreau dit Graveline, François Derbanne, and the Chauvin brothers--Joseph dit Léry, Nicolas dit Lafrénière, and Louis dit Beaulieu--and had ventured to Port Massacre the year before.  Bienville and Dartaguiette saw the vessel's arrival as an opportunity to make up for the loss of the officers' sloop.  They offered to purchase the vessel for the colony's use.  Graveline, the ship's master, agreed to the sale, for 2,000 livres.  The co-commanders then "chartered [the Marguerite] to the king for fifteen hundred livres" and sent it on to Veracruz.  Graveline took up residence on Île Massacre, with plans of raising vegetables there as well as a herd of cattle.  Bienville appointed Derbanne garde-magasin at the island's storehouse.145


The new year--1710, the twelfth for the colony and the ninth for Mobile--brought momentous changes to Louisiana.  But first came a four-day visit by Don Joseph de Guzmán, governor of Pensacola, to Fort Louis.  Ordered by the viceroy, the duque de Alburquerque, to "'go and observe this settlement,'" Guzmán arrived on January 18 with his paymaster and a number of officers and men, and Bienville and his officers provided the distinguished visitor all the necessary pageantry.  The discharge of cannon and musketry resounded across the countryside, and Bienville treated the governor to a tour of his humble fort.  The following day, Guzmán discussed with Bienville, Châteauguay, and De La Salle the balance of trade between the two posts.  De La Salle assured the governor that "[t[he accounts were nearly balanced."  One suspects that Bienville did not bring up Guzmán's refusal the previous August to furnish the French with gunpowder, but he did request more of the precious substance, and the governor agreed to furnish 25 quintals--2,500 pounds.  Bienville avoided two potential conflicts--the question of boundaries and the relocation of the Apalache bands--by not mentioning the former and by assuring Guzmán that the Chato, Talimali, and other related nations living above and below Mobile could be enticed "to go wherever they chose," as long as they were not coerced.  Guzmán requested the use of French carpenters to help construct new buildings at the Pensacola presidio, and Bienville agreed to furnish two of his best--Jean Le Caën and François Trudeau--who already had worked at Pensacola.  After the January 19 conference, one of the local settlers, Guillaume Boutin, a Canadian carpenter who had worked at Pensacola and had befriended the governor, appeared at Fort Louis and asked his distinguished friend to stand as godfather to his newborn daughter.  Boutin was a long-time critic of Bienville whom the King's lieutenant preferred to keep at a distance, but he could not interfere in the carpenter's request.  The ceremony, officiated by the fort's chaplain, Father François Le Maire, "was conducted 'with all desirable pomp,'" André-Joseph Pénigaut observed.  After their four-day visit, Guzmán and his entourage, with more cannon and musket fire ringing in their ears, returned to Pensacola. 

Back at Mobile, Father de La Vente's stubbornness over the issue of European/native marriage irked the King's lieutenant once too often.  Bienville registered a complaint at Versailles, and the Minister of the Marine demanded the priest's recall.  Even more significantly for the future of the Louisiana venture, the Minister finally found a new governor for the troubled colony.  The appointment was made on May 5, and, to no one's surprise, at least in official circles, it was not Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville.146

Interestingly, the second man to hold the title of governor of Louisiana and the first to serve in that capacity was Acadian ... of sorts.  Born in Gascony in March 1658, the sieur de Cadillac, as he was known to his acquaintances, was baptized Antoine, son of Jean Laumet, "a humble provincial magistrate."  In c1683, in his mid-20s, Antoine emigrated to Acadia and settled at Port-Royal, where, in the late 1680s, he befriended the King's general representative for justice, Mathieu de Goutin, who offered Antoine a position at Port-Royal.  While at the Acadian capital, Antoine was a keen observer of the local settlers, especially their farming practices.  Not interested in farming for himself and likely bored with life in a provincial capital, he soon joined smuggler François Guyon, who operated along the New England coast.  During a visit to Beauport, near Québec, the young outlaw fell in love with his employer's niece, Marie-Thérèse, daughter of François's brother Denis Guyon.  Antoine married her at Québec in June 1687.  Their love may have been genuine, but the groom was a fraud; he claimed on his "marriage certificate to be son of Jean de la Mothe, seigneur de Cadillac, de Lassaye and de Semontel...," a fiction he likely adopted when he arrived in Acadia.  Antoine's marriage to Marie-Thérèse Guyon made him a brother-in-law of Sr. Joseph Guyon, whose wife Marguerite was a daughter of Acadians Martin Dugas and Marguerite Petitpas.  Antoine now was connected also to seigneur Louis D'Amours, sieur de Chaffours et de Jemseg, of Rivière St.-Jean, whose wife was a Guyon.  In July 1688, likely because of the Guyon connection, Governor-General Denonville and Intendant Champigny awarded the putative nobleman a 25-square-mile seigneurie on the coast of Maine, but evidently Cadillac, more adept at smuggling than colonizing, did not develop the holding.  To the consternation of Acadian governor Meneval, Cadillac engaged, instead, in a shady trading venture with the commandant of the Port-Royal garrison, Sr. Soulègre, and with Cadillac's friend, Mathieu de Goutin, a political enemy of Meneval.146a 

Then war came, and the smuggler became a warrior of note.  In October 1689, while still residing at Port-Royal, the 31-year-old seigneur, serving as a pilot, set sail aboard the frigate Embuscade on a reconnaissance mission to a familiar shore, the coast of New England.  Severe coastal storms prevented the vessel from fulfilling its mission or even returning to Acadia, and so the captain of the vessel, M. de la Caffinière, headed across the Atlantic to French naval headquarters at Rochefort.  This allowed Cadillac to hurry to Versailles, where he submitted a carefully-worded two-page report to the Marquis de Seignelay, the Minister of Marine and son of the great Colbert.  Claiming vast knowledge of the North Atlantic littoral, as well as the interior of the continent, the clever Gascon ingratiated himself not only with the Minister, but also with other shakers and movers in the ministry, including the commis des bureaux and the intendant du commerce.  Most amazingly, the Minister appointed him porte-parole, or spokesman, for the ministry of Marine in an attempt to "garner support for the Marine's colonial policies before members of the king's government who were unconvinced of New France's strategic importance."  When Seignelay died in November 1690, Cadillac latched on to Louis Phélypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain, Siegnelay's successor as Minister of Marine; he also may have met the new Minister's son, Jérôme, the future comte de Pontchartrain.  That Cadillac's fraudulent claim to nobility was not exposed during his year and a half at Court can be attributed either to remarkable luck or, more likely, to his ability to talk his way out of anything.  In the spring of 1691, Cadillac returned to New France with dispatches for the governor-general at Québec, Louis de Buade, comte de Palluau et de Frontenac, another shaker and mover he hoped to charm.  In Cadillac's possession was an order from Pontchartrain to Frontenac to commission the Gascon as a lieutenant in the troupes de la marine.146f

Meanwhile, in May 1690, during their expedition against Port-Royal, New England forces under Sir William Phips destroyed Cadillac's habitation on the coast of Maine, captured the Acadian capital, and destroyed "several other houses" belonging to Cadillac "in the vicinity of Port Royal."  If Cadillac's wife and children had been at Port-Royal when Phips's New Englanders got there, they likely retreated to Québec as soon as they could via the long inland portage up Rivière St.-Jean. 

Back from France by the summer of 1691, Cadillac, now devoid of his property, joined his family at Québec, where they likely lived with his in-laws.  Meneval, back in France after being held at Boston for a year, traduced Cadillac to French authorities, but the Gascon's friends at Court alerted Frontenac to the "Acadian's" knowledge of the New England coast.  The year before, Frontenac had defeated Phips's attack on Québec and was determined to take the war to the enemy.  The Gascon's knowledge of New-English vulnerabilities would be valuable in a counterattack against Boston or New York.  Frontenac, as ordered, appointed Cadillac a lieutenant in the troupes de la marine.  In 1692, the war still on, Cadillac joined another reconnaissance of the New England coast, in the company of cartographer Jean-Baptiste Franquelin.  The coastal weather cooperated this time, and Cadillac was able to submit an accurate report of the region's geography.  At the request of the King, Cadillac returned to France, aboard the Poli, and consulted with officials in the ministry of Marine on English vulnerabilities along the North Atlantic coast from Maine to Virginia.  His extensive reports included street maps of Boston and New York on which he noted the homes of colonial notables, such as William Phips of Boston.  For these efforts, in October 1693 he was promoted to captain of troupes de la marine

Back at Québec, Cadillac turned his attention westward.  Port-Royal and Acadia were too small, now, for the Gascon's towering ambitions.  Canada and the pays d'en haut, not vulnerable Acadia, would present more opportunities for him to retrieve his fortune.  In 1694, Frontenac sent him to command Fort de Buade at Michilimackinac, the rendezvous from which La Salle and Tonty had launched so many expeditions a dozen years earlier.  No post in the pays d'en haut was more important than this stockade, named for Frontenac, at the junction of lakes Huron and Michigan.  That Frontenac awarded command of such a place at such a dangerous time to an officer who had never served in the pays d'en haut speaks volumes about his faith in Cadillac, as well as the Gascon's ability to ingratiate himself with men of power and influence.  War with the Iroquois was still raging on the western frontier, so Cadillac's most important mission was to maintain the loyalty of the natives in the area and to keep them focused on fighting the Five Nations, not among themselves.  By the time he was recalled to Québec in 1697, Cadillac, by every measure of military and diplomatic success, had failed miserably at his post, yet he retained the favor of Frontenac and, just as importantly, of Minister and King.146b  

Though he had failed as a frontier commandant, Cadillac's tenure at Michilimackinac was an unqualified success in another realm of endeavor.  When he reached the post in late 1693, he was living only on his captain's pay of 1,080 livres annually.  When he left the post four years later, his wealth had increased exponentially.  The smuggler/geographer/officer of marine had discovered his true calling:  commerce; that is to say, illicit commerce, akin to latter-day organized crime.  He sold brandy to the natives in unlimited quantities at inflated prices, Jesuit protests be damned.  Most impressively, he bilked the region's coureurs de bois, underpaying them for their furs, when he paid them at all, and reselling the pelts at exorbitant prices.  The tough woodsmen knew better than to complain of such treatment at the hands of an officer so much favored by Frontenac.  Despite his success in shaking down the fur traders, Cadillac was compelled to return to the St. Lawrence valley.  On 21 May 1696, the King had issued a dictum which canceled all of the western fur-trading licenses (the so-called congés) and shut down all of the the western posts, including Fort de Buade--a drastic measure to halt the glut of Canadian furs pouring into France.  When Cadillac returned to Montréal in August 1697, he arrived at the head of a flotilla of canoes carrying 176,000 pounds of beaver pelts!  A Canadian official said of the 39-year-old commandant:  "Never has a man amassed so much wealth in so short a time and caused so much talk by the wrongs suffered by the individuals who advance funds to his sort of trading ventures."  After protests from Frontenac, Cadillac, and other New-French shakers and movers, Pontchartrain re-opened three of the western posts in 1697, including the one at Michilimackinac, but he could not convince the King to lift restrictions on the western fur trade.  Cadillac was not interested in returning to the western edge of the pays d'en haut if he could not make another fortune in furs.146c

In 1698, on the eve of Frontenac's passing, Cadillac returned to France to coax the King and Minister into sanctioning a new scheme--the settlement of a strategic chokepoint between two of the other lakes of the pays d'en haut, closer to the entrepôt at Montréal.  In late summer of 1679, La Salle and Tonty had sailed the Griffon through le détroit, the strait between lake Eries and St.-Claire, before sailing on into Lake Huron.  Cadillac proposed the erection on the western shore of le détroit, in the region the Ottawa called Bkejwanong, not just another trading post but a fortified colony with houses, a church, and a substantial French population--Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit.  More nations des lacs, Cadillac reasoned, could be pressured into relocating there, where missionaries from the Seminary at Québec could convert them to the One True Faith.  There they would be safe from the moral degeneracy of the coureurs de bois as well as the dangerous influence of the Jesuits.  Détroit's strategic position also would prevent the English from moving into the Great Lakes region.  Standing at the doorstep to the Iroquois country, the fortified colony could serve as a staging point from which to attack the Iroquois towns as well as Dutch and English settlements.  Moreover, combined "with Iberville's colony of Louisiana now securing the mouth of the Mississippi, Cadillac's new settlement could solidify French control over the main arteries of the continent."  Just as importantly, Détroit could become a new center from which to control the western fur trade, easing the glut on the market then threatening the French economy.  Pontchartrain was impressed with the proposal, but he was wise enough to turn the matter over to Louis-Hector de Callière, Frontenac's successor as governor-general, and the intendant of New France, Jean Bochart de Champigny.  Callière and Champigny were not impressed with the Gascon's scheme, especially with its naive expectations of native cooperation.  At the same time, Canadian merchants, especially at Montréal, protested loudly that a man like Cadillac should not control such an important point on the Great Lakes trade route.146d 

Cadillac returned to Canada in the spring of 1699, but, surprised by the strength of his opposition, he hurried back to France the following autumn.  At Versailles, he incurred the wrath of the younger Pontchartrain; the son had succeeded the father as Minister of Marine.  Swayed by Intendant Champigny's stinging reports on the Gascon's misrule in the pays d'en haut, the young Minister send Cadillac to the Bastille.  Using his substantial powers of persuasion, Cadillac overcame the younger Pontchartrain's hesitations, thus avoiding a stay in the notorious Paris prison.  The Gascon's dumb luck also played a part in the success of his western venture.  On 1 November 1700, King Carlos II, the last of the Hapsburg rulers of Spain, died without an heir.  On November 24, King Louis XIV proclaimed his grandson, Philippe, duc d'Anjou, King Philip V of Spain.  Louis's old antagonist, William III of England, now looked to a new English-Dutch alliance with Hapsburg Austria to oppose the machinations of the Sun King.  As a result, "the resumption of imperial warfare in the Americas was expected daily."  Taking advantage of these world-shaking developments, Cadillac was able to secure through Pontchartrain "a mémoire du roi ordering the foundation of Detroit." 

Back at Québec in 1700, Cadillac threw himself into the planning and execution of his western venture.  He arrived at Détroit in the summer of 1701 with lieutenant Alphonse de Tonty, the famous "Iron Hand"'s brother, and 100 men.  After the death of Callière in May 1703, Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil succeeded to the office of governor-general.  A proud member of the real French aristocracy, Vaudreuil soon clashed with the Gascon upstart, who continued to antagonize the Jesuits.  In 1704, Cadillac secured ownership of his post and asked Pontchartrain to make the area around Détroit a separate government.  Vaudreuil could see that Cadillac intended to make himself master of the pays d'en haut, and the governor-general would have none of it.  Cadillac saw Vaudreuil and the Jesuits as obstacles in his steady climb to greater power and wealth.  Cadillac courted Vaudreuil's most powerful enemies in Québec and even offered a bribe to Vaudreuil himself.  Vaudreuil did his best to convince Pontchartrain of the Gascon's nefarious schemes.146e 

One of Cadillac's most successful schemes was the deal he made with Iberville to allow furs from his western domain to be shipped to France via the Mississippi and the Gulf Coast.  Cadillac also made deals with the Natives, especially the Miami, to force immigrants traveling through the pays d'en haut to go no farther than the fort at Détroit.  His chief failure, however, was losing control of the Natives--Miami, Huron, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Ojibwa, Wyandot--he had lured to Détroit.  In June 1706, with the Iroquois no longer a common threat, these nations turned on one another in what was known as the Le Pesant Affair.  Worse yet, the migration of several nations from the upper Mississippi valley to Détroit--Meskwaki or Fox, Mascoutin, and Kickapoo--during the final days of Cadillac's reign, led to "the slaughter of nearly 1,000 men, women, and children" among those nations--"one of the most horrific episodes in the history of early America" that ignited three decades of frontier warfare.  Thanks to Cadillac's misrule, these conflicts in the pays d'en haut came close to destroying decades of French goodwill among the western nations.  Soon after Cadillac was summoned to Québec, Vaudreuil convinced the Minister of Marine to investigate the Gascon's mishandling of the Indians, as well as his commercial and political schemes at Détroit.  The report, written by François Clairambaut d'Aigremont and submitted in November 1708, "was a crushing indictment of Cadillac as a profiteer and of his policy as a menace to French control of the interior."  Like a modern-day organized crime lord, Cadillac had controlled an entire community, and almost an entire region, with calculated trickery and intimidation, using frustrated natives as his henchmen.147

This was the man Pontchartrain appointed governor of Louisiana in May 1710.  Realizing his mistake in supporting Cadillac for so long but unable to admit the mistake, the Minister had his reasons for choosing the man:  "Despite his shortcomings, Cadillac possessed certain traits that interested [the Minister]," Jay Higginbotham explains.  "Imaginative, persuasive, persistent--who else could better promote private investment in Louisiana?  Disregarding his pervasive reputation as a tyrant, his self-indulgent attitude, was he not a man who got things done?  With far fewer Frenchmen at Detroit than Mobile, did he not already have over three hundred acres under cultivation, in comparison with Bienville's meager achievement?  If he could do nothing more than cajole Mobile's inhabitants into planting, he would have accomplished far more than the Le Moyne brothers had done in a decade."  After "promoting" the Gascon to the governorship of the southern colony, the Minister could then attempt to undo the mess Cadillac had left at Détroit.148

The King's instructions to the new governor, seconded by Pontchartrain, contained the usual mandates to promote Catholicism, harmony, and moral conduct among the inhabitants and the natives.  As to the colony's moral conduct, the French government was coming around to "the position that marriages with Indians should be discouraged whenever possible and that girls would be sent from France."  Here was a reversal of the King's policy during Iberville's tenure as commandant, but, ironically, it was a vindication of Bienville's strongly-held views on intermarriage between his Canadians and the local natives.  What would have stood out most in the King's instructions, however, was the insistence that Cadillac "investigate commercial possibilities," especially in cowhides and lead mines in the Mississippi valley and the Gulf coast region, and "'to establish trade relations with Mexico.'"  Ever since the war began (like Mobile, it was in its eighth year) the Minister had been searching for an investor, or a company of investors, who would secure a commercial monopoly in Louisiana and relieve the Crown of the expense of sustaining the colony during the long struggle with Britain.  But no one had yet taken the bait.  Perhaps Cadillac was the man to transform Louisiana into the appearance, at least, of a successful commercial enterprise, while at the same time using his powers of persuasion to help reel in a wealthy investor.149

À la Daneau de Muy and Dartaguiette, the Minister instructed Cadillac to investigate the charges against Bienville as well as Father De La Vente.  There was nothing in the new governor's instructions that would spare the curé from recall; the Minister had concluded that De La Vente was a threat to good order and was determined to have him replaced.  As to Bienville's fate, that would depend, again, on the conclusion of yet another inquiry into his conduct as the King's lieutenant.  The Minister's instructions to Bienville contained a hint of what was in store for him:  "He [the King] desires that you stay on good terms with this governor and give this your greatest attention in order to deserve the favors His Majesty might grant you when you have vindicated yourself against all the charges that have been leveled against you."  Bienville had celebrated another birthday in February, again in Louisiana; one would suspect that after a dozen years of living and working in the colony, he felt older than his 30 years--much much older.150


Cadillac was appointed governor of Louisiana on 5 May 1710, but it would be months before he could receive notice of the new appointment, complete his affairs at Détroit, and, following Pontrchartrain's instructions, travel from there via the Mississippi to his new post at Mobile.  Cadillac, of course, did not care for this arrangement.  When he received word of the new assignment, he asked the Minister for permission to return to France.  Evidently Pontchartrain agreed, so now it would take a year or more for the new governor to reach Mobile.  Meanwhile, Bienville and Dartaguiette had to do what they could to keep the colony from starving or succumbing to attack.  About the time the Minister appointed Cadillac governor, Bienville ordered Châteauguay to prepare for another voyage to Veracruz.151 

Father de La Vente, still fuming at Bienville, went about his business, and Commissary de La Salle more or less minded his own.  By the spring of 1710, however, the curé had "suffered" enough.  He asked the King's lieutenant for permission to leave the colony aboard the next vessel arriving at Port Massacre and asked Father Davion to take his place as pastor at Mobile.  Bienville, with Dartaguiette approbation, agreed to the curé's request, happy to be rid of the troublesome priest.  The next re-supply, now more than a year late, was expected sometime that season.  By mid-June, however, the re-supply still had not come, but a bilander from Martinique arrived at Massacre, and Father de La Vente chose to take that vessel, instead, for the first leg of his return trip to France.  The ship departed on June 21, carrying not only the priest, but also a message from Bienville to Pontchartrain.  The frustrated commander had seized one last opportunity to traduce not only the former curé, but also the Paris Seminary from whence he had come.  With Father Davion no longer among the Tunica, Bienville informed the Minister, "the Foreign Missions do not have a single missionary in all this country."  Only three priests remained at Mobile--Seminarian Father Davion, who was unhappy with his new role as Mobile's pastor and preferred to return to his natives, and young Seminarians Huvé and Le Maire, who longed to return to France.152

Another epidemic struck Mobile during the summer, and dysentery struck again in early winter.  Few of the colonists died, but they buried a ghastly number of Indian slaves, especially children.153

And, in the eyes of the co-commanders, there was that other plague in human form who would not go away.  After his friend De La Vente quit the colony, Commissary de La Salle stood virtually alone against the hated Bienville, but he did not stand silently.  In May and June, he fired off letters to the Minister detailing more complaints against Bienville.  The Minister, having chosen a new governor, was weary of the controversy, but he nonetheless "... believed (or was trying desperately to believe) the worst" about Bienville.  He pushed Dartaguiette to dig farther into Bienville's actions, hoping to learn of new evidence or catch the Canadian off guard and finally be done with him and his brothers.  By 1710, however, the Minister could see in Dartaguiette's dispatches that Bienville had won him over.  Dartaguiette had found more evidence of Iberville's wrongdoing, but he insisted that De La Salle's charges against Bienville had no merit, that the younger Le Moyne "'works without ceasing in order to place this fort in a state of preparedness.'"154

Having lingered in the colony for two and a half years, Dartaguiette asked the Minister for permission to return to France so he could report to him in person.  The Minister might not welcome what the young nobleman would have to say about Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville:  "If Bienville was a sloven civil administrator, if he were an erratic military leader, if he were contentious, overweening, opportunistic, even a petty thief," Jay Higginbotham asks, "did it matter so much under such conditions" as the colony had been enduring?  "He could also be decisive, inventive, even inspirational.  He was, with all his faults, a leader and the man in whom at least a majority of the able-bodied inhabitants still had the most confidence.  More important, he commanded the undying respect of the two most influential groups in lower Louisiana--the Canadians and the Indians."  On the other hand, Dartaguiette could testify, Bienville's chief detractor was little more than a whining, overpaid clerk whose incessant complaints were doing no good for the colony.  Hearing this, the Minister could hope that the new governor he had appointed would take up the question of Bienville's competence, and perhaps this investigator would not succumb to the clever Le Moyne's considerable charms.155

No matter, De La Salle, like De La Vente, had to go.  By the time he had appointed Louisiana's new governor, the Minister had determined, for the sake of the colony, to replace the prickly commissary.  He consulted Michel Bégon, the intendant of New France, for De La Salle's replacement.  Evidently Bégon recommended one Sieur Jamin, who would go to Mobile "as a scrivener" aboard the Renommée.  The Minister, again, would defer to Dartaguiette about replacing De La Salle with the scrivener.156 

But fate chose another, darker path for the long-suffering commissary.  In early December, De La Salle's second wife, Jean-Catherine, died after a short illness, probably of influenza; his first wife, Madeleine, who had come with him to colony in 1702, had died eight years earlier.  Two years after Madeleine's death, he had lost his five-year-old son François.  Next, he lost his first son by his second wife, and then his only daughter in 1709.  "Yet, for the La Salle children, the worst was not over...," Jay Higginbotham laments.  De La Salle himself contracted influenza, could not shake off the malady, and died on 31 December 1710, probably in his late 40s.  The Renommée, by then, was on its way to Louisiana, the first re-supply in nearly three years.  The ship also was carrying orders for Nicolas de La Salle to return to France with his family and possessions.157

Despite the pitiful sight of De La Salle's orphaned sons, ranging in age from 17 to 2, Bienville must have breathed a sigh of relief each time he contemplated the commissary's death.  No man had done more to deny him promotion.   But, in the colony at least, De La Salle was the last of his influential enemies to stand in his way.  De La Salle's successor as commissary, Christophe Poirier, "would present no special problem."  The three Seminarians, none of whom cared much for him, had no powerful friends in France.  Hotheads like René Boyer and Guillaume Boutin he would see to in due time.  Dartaguiette would soon be gone, but he had become not an antagonist but a treasured friend.  Ironically, "[a]s the new year began," Jay Higginbotham relates, "Bienville could look forward to closer co-operation from his officials than at any time since the spring of 1702.  Perhaps, he hoped, the next ship from France would bring news of a promotion, an increase in salary, a cross of Saint-Louis--perhaps even the governorship itself."158


During the early autumn of 1710, while the colonists at Mobile waited impatiently for a re-supply that was more than a year overdue, at Port-Royal in faraway Acadia momentous events were about to change the history of that colony.  On September 24, New English General Francis Nicholson, at the head of 4,000 militiamen, Royal Marines, and Iroquois, sailed into the entrance of Port-Royal basin and landed his forces unopposed the following day.  After a desultory bombardment of the dilapidated old fort in the middle of the Acadian capital, the French governor, Daniel d'Auger de Subercase, asked Nicholson for terms.  Once more the golden Bourbon lilies came fluttering down the old fort's flagstaff, and the red-white-and-blue Union Jack went slowly up the pole as the victorious New Englanders drank to the health of their Queen.  No one could know it, but the fleurs-de-lys would never fly over Port-Royal again.  The conquerors even threw away the old capital's name; now it would be called Annapolis Royal.158a


As 1710 gave way to 1711 and the colony approached its thirteenth year, Louisiana was worse off than ever.  The promised re-supply still had not come and soon would be two years late.  The third Mississippi wheat crop, this one up at Natchez, failed as miserably as the two on Bayou St.-Jean.  Food, clothing, trade goods, all were in short supply.  Dartaguiette was so embarrassed by the rag-tag appearance of the colony's troupes de la marine he suggested taking a delegation of local chiefs on a boat ride to Havana to show them the power and glory of French and Spanish arms.  What the Natives saw at Fort Louis and Pensacola could only make them pity the hapless white men.  With the continuing shortage of marriageable French women in the colony--only one shipment of them had come, aboard the Pélican, over half a dozen years before--the single Canadians reverted to their old coureur-de-bois habits, and "libertinism" became the rule, not the exception, in the colony.159

As another new year dawned, the King and Minister seemed to be so focused on the lingering war against Britain they had lost all interest in the Gulf Coast colony.  Officials in faraway Canada, even if they could help, probably would not bother to assist the distant colony.  Nor had supplies come from fellow Frenchmen at St.-Domingue and Martinique, who certainly had to know of Mobile's pressing needs.  Only the Spanish, especially at Pensacola, seemed to care if Mobile lived or died.  "The Carolinians had for the moment," Jay Higginbotham quips, "driven the two Latin posts into each other's arms."160 

Pensacola, in such pitiful condition three years earlier, had not only survived but seemed to be thriving.  After the bloody siege of 1707, Spanish officials in Mexico and Cuba awakened to the necessity of sustaining the stricken outpost lest they lose "'the finest natural port on the gulf.'"  Reinforcements, re-supplies, and, for the first time, families had revived the Spanish outpost by 1710.  Bienville, remembering all the help he had given Pensacola over the years, expected a helping hand in return.  Ominously, though, Spanish attitude towards the French seemed to have cooled.  Unlike Arriola, Martínez, and Moscoso, the current governor, Joseph de Guzmán, seemed less inclined to aid the French, though Mobile was in as pitiable a condition now as Pensacola had been a few years earlier.  Perhaps Guzmán was still embarrassed by the Apalache having abandoned Pensacola and gone over to the French back in 1704, while Guzmán was commanding at Fort San Carlos.  In September 1705, it was Guzmán who had attempted to salvage the French privateer St.-Antoine, driven aground near Massacre Island, but Châteauguay and his Canadians had boarded the vessel instead.  It was Guzmán who insisted that the boundary between Mobile and Pensacola lay along the Mobile, not the Perdido, River and who was told by the viceroy to let the matter alone.  Evidently the governor was still fuming over Dartaguiette's refusal to lend him Mobile's only sea-going vessel back in August 1709.  Hoping to smooth relations with his erstwhile allies, Bienville invited Guzmán and his officers to visit Mobile, and the Spaniards complied the following January.  Bienville managed to finesse a supply of gunpowder from the governor, again on credit, and reassured him that he would not stand in the way of the Apalache returning to Pensacola, as long as force was not employed (though he was certain they would not go).  After Guzmán's visit, relations between the allies seemed normal again.  Bienville and Dartaguiette could not know it, but in the same month that the Minister of Marine appointed Cadillac as governor of Louisiana--May 1710--the Spanish Court appointed a new viceroy, Fernando de Alencastre, Norona y Silva, Duque de Linarès, and a new governor for Pensacola, Captain Gregorio de Salinas y Varona.  The viceroy would take his seat at Mexico City in November 1710, but the new Pensacola governor would take years to settle his affairs in Guatemala before moving on to his new post.  Most significantly, the appointments signaled a harder line in Spanish royal policy, especially over questions of boundary lines and the enforcement of mercantilist decrees.161

By December 1710, the re-supply still had not come, and the co-commanders had to concoct a desperate scheme to feed the colony:  "should a merchant ship arrive from Martinique or Cap-français they would purchase the entire shipload on credit, then attempt to sell or trade the merchandise at Veracruz for supplies for the colony; this is, provided the ship's captain were willing to hire his vessel out for the voyage."  They could not use force, only persuasion, to pull off the scheme.  And, like the angler, they must be patient.162

Their opportunity came in January 1711, when the Profond out of Fort St.-Pierre, Martinique, appeared at Massacre Island.  The bilander's captain, Jean Béranger, seeing profit in the proposal, agreed to it, but only if Bienville offered his personal guarantee that he would reimburse the captain and the ship's owner in Martinique if Veracruz officials seized the cargo.  Bienville, despite all that accusations of profiteering against him, had nothing except his 1,200-piastre annual salary to back up a cargo worth 10,747 livres.  Dartaguiette stepped forward and offered his personal guarantee, not imagining that the Spanish would confiscate the cargo and that his King would not stand behind his own colony.  While some of the wealthier colonists bought small items from the ship's cargo, Bienville and Dartaguiette penned a message to the viceroy detailing their proposal.  Béranger set sail for Veracruz on February 10 and reached the Mexican port on March 4.  The scheme soon unraveled.  Veracruz officials notified the new viceroy of the arrival of the French vessel and Bienville's proposal.  In an oily message filled with soft words and kind sentiments, Linarès informed the French commander that he had no choice but to obey the "specific orders of the King, my master, which I found to absolutely prohibit any commerce in foreign merchandise...."  The viceroy had no choice but to order the Veracruz officials to confiscate the cargo.  Aware, however, of the Louisiana colony's serious predicament, he would order the governor of Veracruz "to send you immediately and by the same ship at least the flour and foodstuffs for which you are asking."  He offered to supply them more food if they needed it and welcomed them to apply to the Courts at Madrid and Paris for restitution of the confiscated merchandise.  He also ordered the governor of Veracruz to send Bienville a small gift "to demonstrate the esteem I hold for your fine qualities and for all that concerns France."163

The officials at Veracruz took their time unloading the confiscated cargo.  When the Profond finally returned to Massacre Island in June, all the colonists had to show for their efforts was a hundred barrels of flour.  The re-supply still had not arrived, so the colony was not in much better shape than when the Profond had left for Veracruz in February.  Bienville was perplexed over what the new viceroy had done to them.  Dartaguiette, who had the most the lose in the venture, proclaimed that he was "ruined."  Both sent hard-worded messages to the Minister in France.  Both expressed their astonishment at what they considered nothing less than Spanish perfidy.  But messages were not enough.  Fearing that the re-supply ship had been lost or captured (the war against Britain was in its ninth year), Bienville and Dartaguiette resolved to charter a vessel that would take one of them to France to plead to the Minister and King in person.164

They could not know it, but the re-supply ship had been neither lost nor captured.  Its gross tardiness was the result of indifference on the part of French officials, high and low; the hopes and schemes of a wealthy French merchant; and the usual bureaucratic delays.  The Minister had not begun preparations for the next re-supply until April 1709, more than a year after Dartaguiette and the previous load of provisions had reached Port Massacre.  By then, he had turned the business over to merchant and former privateer Antoine-Alexandre de Rémonville, sieur de Rochebonne.  Now that Iberville was dead and the Le Moynes discredited, Rémonville was scheming to become the new governor of Louisiana, which he believed held "commercial possibilities."  By summer, Rémonville assured the Minister that the Renommée shortly would be on its way, or so the Minister notified Bienville.  The report was much too optimistic.  Rémonville soon realized that he could not afford to bear the full expense of the voyage, and the Minister, with the war against Britain still raging, insisted that the Crown had no funds to spare.  Both turned to the merchants of La Rochelle, who saw nothing in it for them.  "The primary objective of the voyage," in the Minister's view, "was to assist an impoverished colony and since most of the supplies aboard ship were destined for that purpose it did not leave a great deal of opportunity for private profit."  But the Minister also was concerned about the drain on the royal treasury.  As the ship was being outfitted, the Minister "haggled over the number of persons to be sent [to] Louisiana with rations, 'the food being too expensive to allow his Majesty to supply a large number,' and ordered the passenger's food cut back from a ration and a half to one ration only."164a

The Renommée still had not sailed by the end of the year; in February 1710, it would be two full years since the colony had been replenished.  Rémonville did what he could to secure partners in the venture, and in May 1710 the Renommée appeared ready to sail.  By then, however, Rémonville's funds had run out--he could not even pay the waiting ship's crew.  This eliminated him as a possible successor to Daneau du Muy, and the Minister appointed Cadillac to the post.  Rémonville, deep in debt, refused to give up and found a partner from Tonnay-Charente who would help fund the voyage, or at least provide for the ship's crew.  Rémonville was compelled to hire a new crew, and the Renommée needing a thorough refitting.  To save more expense, Rémonville chose to captain the ship himself, though his experience in oceanic navigation was limited.  The Court provided him with a competent navigator, Maximien Tivas de Gourville, as well as a shipboard council.  More months were devoted to finding officers for the ship as well as passengers, including former inhabitants who wished to return to Mobile.  One of them was François-Philippe Marigny de Mandeville, whom Bienville and Dartaguiette had sent to France via St.-Domingue in the fall of 1708 to plead the colony's case.  Another passenger would be François Juchereau de Vaulezard, a Saint-Denis cousin, whose company of infantry had been stationed at Mobile for half a dozen years but who had not bothered to go there to command his own men.  Several families would try their luck in the colony, but the number of artisans that Bienville and Dartaguiette had requested would be limited by the Minister's lack of funds to feed them on the voyage.  The outfitting of the Renommée suffered the usual delays, so the vessel was still not ready to sail in the summer of 1710--nearly two and a half years since the last re-supply.  In late September, the Minister informed the new intendant of Rochefort, François de Beauharnois de La Chaussaye, Baron de Beauville, that the Renommée was about to sail, but a month later the ship still floated at anchor at La Rochelle.  By then, Juchereau de Vaulezard was refusing to board the vessel; despite his orders, he was determined to remain in France.  Captain Rémonville became ill, and it was discovered that there was not enough room aboard the ship for two dozen new recruits being sent from La Rochelle to Fort Louis.  The Minister urged Intendant Beauharnois to hurry things along.

In early December 1710--only a few months shy of three years since the last re-supply had reached Mobile--the Renommée finally set sail, accompanied by the merchant ship Agathe.  But only a fraction of the new recruits left La Rochelle, and Juchereau de Vaulezard again had refused to board.  Despite the unconscionable delays in France, Rémonville, a merchant above all else, did not follow the usual route to Cap-Français.  The flotilla stopped in several Spanish mainland ports, including La Coruna, with the usual delays in each of the ports, before crossing the North Atlantic.  Rémonville was a privateer as well as a merchant--master, now, of a powerful French frigate of the "4ème rang."  He captured several prizes on the Atlantic crossing and did not reach the French West Indies until April 1711, more than three years since the last re-supply of Mobile!  One of the prizes, the Catherine, he refitted at Fort Royal, Martinique, to sell to the colonists at Mobile.  Meanwhile, the captain fought bitterly with some of his officers and passengers.  Navigator Tivas de Gourville excoriated the captain for the many delays since they had left La Rochelle nearly half a year earlier.  Through the summer, the Renommée lay at anchor in the port at Fort Royal while the colonists at Mobile waited desperately for her arrival.165


By then, Bienville and Dartaguiette had made a momentous decision that must have sent Nicolas de La Salle spinning in his grave.  

As 1710 gave way to a new year, the Louisiana colony could boast only one successful settlement in its prodigious expanse, and it was not Fort Louis-de-la-Louisiane.  Île Massacre had received its name in 1699 during Iberville's first exploration of the coast.  Nothing was done on the island until early 1702, when the commandant, back from another sojourn in France, decided to abandon Biloxi and build a new fort on the Mobile River.  At first, only a warehouse and a few huts stood on the island, at its eastern end, near what became Port Massacre.  No plans were made at first for the island's settlement, so only a warehouseman and a handful of troupes de la marine occupied the wind-swept place.  The commandant and then the King's lieutenant understood the island's vulnerability if a full-blown hurricane slammed into that part of the coast.  Port Massacre was essential to the colony's existence, but not the island itself. 

After Fort Louis proved to be a poorly chosen site for agricultural development, some of the colonists relocated to Massacre to try their hand at growing things in the island's sandy soil.  A hamlet soon emerged "near the seashore ..., a long unvaried line of houses" facing a lagoon.  The settlement's pilot, Simon Coussot, lived there with his wife and family; as did Jean Roy, now off the King's payroll, and his family.  They soon were joined by anti-Bienvillists Jacques Allemand and Guillaume Boutin and their families, Boutin having moved down from his habitation at Fowl River.  Each attempted to raise enough poultry and vegetables not only to feed themselves and their families, but also to trade with Fort Louis and Pensacola and generate a predictable income to replace what the King had taken from them.  Still on the island but not living at the village was François Guillory, also a Canadian formerly on the King's payroll.  The most important official living on the island was warehouse keeper François Guyon Des Prés Derbanne, also a former Canadian voyageur.  Derbanne had important family connections back in Canada; he was, in fact, first cousin of Marie-Thérèse Guyon, wife of Antoine la Mothe de Cadillac.  On Massacre, Derbanne took up with his Chitimacha slave, Jeanne de la Grande Terre, and she gave him a bastard son, Jean-Baptiste, whom Father Le Maire agreed to baptize on one of his pastoral visits to the island.  Derbanne later married his Indian concubine, and Jean-Baptiste Derbanne was a bastard no more. 

The most important settler on the island, however, was Canadian-voyageur-turned-merchant Jean-Baptiste Baudreau dit Graveline.  After returning to France aboard the Aigle in 1706, Graveline and his partners, including François Derbanne, purchased their own vessel, the Marguerite, which Graveline sailed twice to Mobile to trade with his former neighbors before selling the vessel to Bienville and Dartaguiette.  Like Derbanne, Graveline then took up residence on Massacre Island.  With him was wife Suzanne, who soon gave birth to their son, Jean-Baptiste, fils.  In his investigations of the island's possibilities for commercial development, Graveline had discovered a fine place "less than two miles to the northwest of the warehouse near the edge of a large, logy[sic] inlet (today called Graveline Bay) where the grasslands were abundant."  Here, with a fine bull he had purchased in Havana, he raised cattle as well as vegetables for the regional market.  At the cost of 2,000 livres, he constructed a two-story dwelling in the Canadian style--"'the finest private home in the colony.'"  Graveline's wife, who he had married in La Rochelle between his commercial ventures, was a Huguenot; and not the only one in the colony.  Unlike the other Protestants in Louisiana, however, she did not go about her business unobtrusively.  She refused to hide her religious affiliation and even instructed her servants in the Calvinist faith.  If the Seminarian priests were aware of Suzanne Baudreau's religion, they troubled no one about it.  One can only imagine how Jesuits would have treated a loud-mouthed heretic female living in their colony.  Also growing cattle on the island, but on a smaller scale, was Canadian André Renaud and his young son François, who also raised poultry and vegetables.166

By mid-1710, Bienville, Dartaguiette, and Commissary de La Salle agreed that Massacre Island had become "a fairly prosperous settlement" and that something needed to be done to protect the inhabitants there.  For years, first Iberville and De La Salle, then Bienville, and now Dartaguiette, had lobbied the Minister for funds to construct a proper fort on the island.  The Minister had not trusted Bienville's judgment in the matter, fearing that this Le Moyne, too, as Commissary de La Salle was warning, also might mishandle royal funds, but now the trusted Dartaguiette was urging the project.  Typical bureaucrat that he was, the Minister deferred the decision to the colony's new governor, who he naively thought would soon be there to settle the matter.  By late summer of 1710, unfortunately, there still was no fort, no cannon, no soldier, protecting Île Massacre.167

And then disaster struck the colony again, this time at the island.  On September 9, a brigantine appeared off shore, flying the French fleurs-de-lys.  The inhabitants gathered together and watched the ship, which soon fired two cannon shots.  The settlers feared that the vessel was in distress, perhaps lodged on a sand bar off Pelican Island, and was signaling for help.  Eventually, two ship's boats made their way to the beach, which they reached in half an hour.  Two "Frenchmen" stepped ashore and convinced warehouse keeper Derbanne and the lieutenant on duty, Philippe Blondel, to return with them to the ship.  Aboard the vessel, the two officers quickly realized their mistake--this was no French merchantman but a British corsair out of Jamaica under a Huguenot captain who had once visited the island on a merchantman out of Martinique.  The captain held Derbanne and Blondel as hostages while 30 or 40 of his heavily-armed pirates jumped into rowboats and hurried back to shore.  Still possessing the element of surprise, they took Port Massacre without firing a shot.  None of the villagers escaped to alert the fort.  The following day, the pirates brought Derbanne and Blondel back to the island because the warehouseman was the only person who knew the location of the warehouse key.  Having herded the inhabitants and the officers into one of the houses, the pirates spent the next two days loading booty into their rowboats and transporting it back to their ship.  Among the things they took was a supply of 71 barrels of flour that the colony could ill afford to lose.  At the end of the third day, having loaded everything of value that they could find, not only from the warehouse, but also from the houses and barns, the looters tortured the inhabitants who seemed affluent enough to possess cash or small valuables, and then they set fire to the warehouse, the barns, and all the houses except the one in which they held the captives.  The pirates then hurried back to their boats, satisfied that they had stripped the island bare.  Unfortunately for them, a Canadian voyageur had come to the island to visit his friend, André Renaud, who lived with his son François away from the village.  The visitor noticed the flames, hurried to the village, encountered a looter still looking for something to steal, and shot him dead.  The departing pirates heard the shot, paused for a moment, then, suspecting that a relief force had reached the island, rowed like demons back to their ship.  As darkness fell, Blondel sent two men in a canoe to alert the fort (several days' travel away), and the inhabitants hurried back to the beach, hoping to see the brigantine hoist its anchor and sail away.  The following morning, however, the inhabitants noticed that the ship had not departed but had moved to another part of the island, near the homestead of François Guillory.  Some of the islanders had noticed two days earlier that the looters had shown interest in Graveline's grazing cattle, especially his prized Spanish bull.  The pirates, meanwhile, having realized that one of their men was missing, showed every sign of caution as they maneuvered off the island.  To test whatever force might be waiting for them there, a boatload of pirates rowed to Pointe-â-Guillory, where Graveline, Guillory, and Renaud, whose outlying homes had escaped the pillaging, waited in ambush with Lieutenant Blondel and the visiting Canadian.  When a small party of pirates came ashore, Blondel and the Canadians opened fire from different positions.  The pirates took cover behind their boat, allowing the Canadians to move to other positions before continuing a steady fire.  Fooled into believing that a relief force had reached the island, the Jamaicans hoisted sail and hurried out to sea, leaving their fellows to the mercy of the islanders.168

Graveline's and Renaud's cattle, at least, were safe from the pirates, but the precious contents of the warehouse, the warehouse itself, and most of the island's buildings were a total loss.  Derbanne and the others began immediately to rebuild their dwellings, but now they, too, would be dependent on the colony's meager resources, made even smaller by a single ship from faraway Jamaica.  Every colonist who cared had to be astonished by how easily the Jamaicans had made off with their possessions.  What more could plague these hungry, weary colonists?  Bienville and Dartaguiette could count the ways:  Many of the troupes de la marine, having heard that the English had ordered their Indian allies not to torture or burn Frenchmen, were slipping away from the fort and heading to Carolina.  Even if an inhabitant bothered to plant some food, there was no guarantee it would grow in this accursed place, or that the land on which it was grown belonged to him who grew it, or that the harvest might not be confiscated for the good of the colony.  Some colonists planted maize, but only out of necessity.  It was the rare Frenchman, or even a Canadian, who could stomach the taste of Indian corn.  A rumor had reached Louisiana that the King was searching for a private investor to take over the colony.  Another rumor insisted the colony would soon be abandoned.  The most persistent rumor, likely applauded by Commissary de La Salle, was that the town would soon be moved to another location.169

And so it happened. 

Bienville fought the idea of moving the fort to another part of the bay from the moment its proponents introduced it.  None of them had the courage to beard Iberville about it during the few weeks he had spent there, but after the commandant's death in July 1706, first De La Salle and then De La Vente, who cared little for Bienville's leadership, agitated for the move with other disgruntled colonists who saw the place for what it was.  Bienville did not stand in the way when a hand full of Canadians, unhappy with the site, moved to other points along the bay.  In fact, after being forced to remove his Canadians from the King's payroll, he encouraged more such moves, especially to Massacre Island.  The troupes de la marine, however, along with the colony's officials, must remain at the fort, and most of the residents, for reasons of their own, chose to remain there.  Bienville clung tenaciously to his brother's reasoning behind locating the fort so far upriver:  it was closer to the major nations of the region which the French must win over; and, when the colony reached self-sustainability, it would become the center of a burgeoning plantation economy up and down the Mobile River.  Even after Mother Nature revealed that the site was poorly drained, something Bienville himself had not understood when he, Sérigny, and Levasseur had recommended the place to Iberville, Bienville refused to budge.  The rebuilding of the fort in 1708 with Dartaguiette's approbation was a certain sign that the King's lieutenant would not be moved.  But here it was, only two years later, and the fort was rotting away again.  The fort--a fort--would have to be rebuilt.  Advocates of the move, including Dartaguiette, who had never thought much of the site, used this circumstance to recommend a relocation, but Bienville would not be moved.

Then came the attack on Île Massacre in September 1710.  The port there was just as important to the colony as Iberville's upriver fort.  Would the Crown grant the wherewithal to build two forts--the old one upriver, and a new one at Massacre?  Would the Crown send another company of troupes de la marine to man the fort at Massacre?  No wonder a rumor was circulating that the colony might be abandoned.  Look how long it took the Crown to provide the money and manpower to rebuild the old fort, and now the colony needed a second one that would cost even more.  The new year had come, and the expected re-supply was now two years late.  What disaster could befall them next?  Could Bienville be moved?

Mother Nature again stepped in and washed away--almost literally--Bienville's arguments for rebuilding his brother's fort.  In April, the spring rains came and continued into May, more rain than the older residents had ever witnessed in the region.  So much rain fell that it kept "... swelling the little creek that ran behind and to the northwest of the fort; the overflowing waters, unable to escape, glutted the low places behind the bluff on which the fort stood.  By the end of the first week in May they had risen even higher than had the waters of 1707 and 1710.  Nearly two-thirds of the houses were completely flooded," Jay Higginbotham relates.  Dartaguiette was appalled by what he witnessed.  "'The waters have risen so greatly this spring, and with so much force,'" he informed the Minister, "'that most of the houses in this village were submerged to the ridgepole in five or six days; this lasted almost a month.'"  The inhabitants complained bitterly not to Bienville but to Dartaguiette this time.  They knew that the young chief commissary retained the ear of the King's lieutenant.  Perhaps through the sensible Dartaguiette they could convince the stubborn Bienville to abandon this accursed place.170

Bienville finally relented, but not without insisting that he had been considering the move since the flooding of the year before, which had destroyed the pitiful maize crop some of the colonists had planted.  However, he argued, he did not possess the power, nor the permission, to make a momentous decision such as relocating a fort.  Dartaguiette was ready for such an argument.  First, he informed Bienville, he knew the Minister's intent, as found in the discretionary orders given to Daneau du Muy four years earlier.  Secondly, in the case of emergency it was essential for a leader to use his own discretion in making such decisions.  Bienville, as well as Dartaguiette, possessed that discretion.  The correct decision was clear:  the fort must be moved. 171

The decision made, Bienville's moved immediately to implement the move.  First, the port at Massacre must be fortified, which would be done as soon as the re-supply arrived there.  As to the best site for a new town, there was only one wise choice:  the Oignonets at the mouth of the Mobile River.  By mid-May 1711, the co-commanders and a coterie of important officers--Châteauguay, Boisbriant, and Jacques Barbarzant de Pailloux, who had engineering experience--had journeyed down to the onion field to inspect it carefully.  The proposed new site was some eight leagues, or 26 miles, below Fort Louis, "near the vicinity where in 1700[sic] Charles Levasseur had planted his cross."  Their inspection was revealing:  "The land there was sandy, the soil not much different in fertility than the land at the present site," Jay Higginbotham relates.  "Moreover, the water was more brackish.  Yet overall it was a site much more desirable for a large town.  Though the small bluff back from the marsh along the riverbank was only half as high as the bluff on which Fort Louis stood, the plateau behind it was broad and expansive, extending several miles into the woods.  What was of greater importance, the new site did not seem likely to suffer from poor drainage and in fact those who were familiar with the area over a long period of time (the Mobilians and the Little Tomeh) had never known it to overflow."172 

The site already was occupied, another testament to its qualities.  A few hundred yards to the north of the chosen town site stood the village of the Chato, an Apalache nation who Bienville had given permission to settle there in the summer of 1704.  Since their village now would lay too close to the town site, Bienville decided the trusty Chato should move south to Dog River, their village to stand three quarters of a league above the site of the old warehouse where the river flowed into Mobile Bay.  Another Apalache tribe, the Talimali, who, like the Chato, had been granted permission to live near the French in the summer of 1704, would move from their present site on the river between the Little Tomeh and Fort Louis to a new site along the south bank of Rivière St.-Martin, today's Chickasaw Creek, just above the new town site.  Bienville had used Talimali labor to rebuild Fort Louis in 1708 and hoped to use them to help construct the new fort at the Oignonets.  Bienville would ask--he could not order--the Mobilian to abandon their ancient village at the fork of the Mobile and Tensas rivers and move downriver to a bluff just north of Fort Louis.172a

The new town site also was occupied by former residents of Fort Louis.  Three quarters of a league south of where the town would be rebuilt stood a small settlement of Canadians who had moved there in 1706.  The pioneer of the little settlement was Pierre-René Leboeuf, who had come to the colony with Iberville in 1701 and had remained on the King's payroll for five years.  He took with him to the Oignonets his Taensa slave, Marguerite, who soon would be baptized by Father Huvé; a year after her baptism, he would marry her, and a year after that she would give him a son they named Claude.  Leboeuf had been joined by Gilbert Dardenne, with his wife Marguerite Burelle, one of the Pélican girls, and their three children; Claude Parent, a master edge-tool maker from Québec; and Charles Rochon of Québec, a widower, who came there with a son and a man named Marchand in 1708.  Being Canadians, they would not be required to move their homes.  Bienville and Dartaguiette interviewed the Canadians at length to learn what they could about the characteristics of the new site.173

After their inspection, Bienville and Dartaguiette left the site in charge of Barbazant de Pailloux, who would lay out the town as he had been instructed.  The new fort would stand "just back from the edge of the marsh on the first rise of ground.  The town was to be more regularly shaped than the old town.  Except for larger lots given to Bienville and the Seminary priests, the new assignments were all practically the same size--approximately 80 by 160 feet, or about the size of some of the smaller lots at the old site...."174

The colonists back at Old Mobile were thrilled by the new development, especially with Bienville's decision that the move be made immediately.  Thanks to the spring floods, there was no crop to abandon.  It was too late in the year for a replanting at the new site, so the inhabitants would be able to devote their time to building their new dwellings.  Thanks to the Chato having lived near the new site for so many years, much of the land there already was cleared.  The new site was not a great distance away, and the movement from the old site would be thankfully downriver.  But therein lay the biggest problem in the move--the means of transportation.  The colony still had its flatboat, with its impressive cargo capacity, but, the French social order being what it was, the flatboat was reserved for the officials and the officers; the other inhabitants would have to provide their own transportation and labor.  They could always move their belongings via the old Indian path running down along the river, but it was seldom used and required several annoying stream crossings.  The river route always was more efficient if a reliable craft could be secured.  The clever Frenchmen and Canadians soon realized that it would be "more feasible to disassemble their houses, float them down to the new site, then reassemble them there than to fell and hew new timbers."  Some of the habitants owned their own canoes and pirogues and put them to good use as soon as they could.  From late May through June and into the heat of July, the inhabitants filled the river with their pirogues and canoes, some, heavily loaded, moving downriver, others, now empty, returning upstream.  By the third week of July "nearly half of the inhabitants had succeeded in transferring their dismantled dwellings," and Bienville could report to the Minister that New Mobile slowly but surely was being built.175

Only the inhabitants moved down to New Mobile in the summer of 1711.  Until a new wooden fort could be built there, the ragged troupes de la marine must remain at dilapidated Fort Louis.  The three priests still in the colony, all Seminarians, no longer would be living in one place.  Father Davion would have to follow his congregation to New Mobile, where he purchased an already existing dwelling, part of a duplex, next to Charles Rochon.  Father Huvé would move down to Massacre Island and minister there.  Father Le Maire, still the fort's chaplain, would have to remain at Fort Louis for now.176

Also remaining at the fort was a delegation of some 20 or 30 Chickasaw, who had come down to receive gifts from the French.  The re-supply had not yet come, so Bienville and Dartaguiette had nothing to give.  The Chickasaw reminded Bienville that he had not built the fortified trading post he and Iberville had promised them years ago, nor had he given them any presents for quite some time.  The King's lieutenant was perfectly aware of these failings.  He would report to the Minister in October that the French had given to their native allies 10,000 livres in presents over the previous ten years, while the English had been able to give their allies 300,000 livres worth of presents!  The Carolina traders were telling the Indians in the region that the French were a dying nation, that they were "merely the remnants of a civilization that the English had already virtually destroyed."  The English then persuaded a village of Chickasaw to attack a Choctaw village, and now Bienville would have to use presents to coax the Choctaw into choosing peace over war.  But none of this could be done until the re-supply arrived.  By the end of July, Bienville also was wondering if the rumor about the Renommée's capture was true.  If it was true, it might be many more years before they saw another ship from France, certainly not until the war ended, a war that had been sputtering on for nine long years.  Such a circumstance could lead to only one conclusion:  abandonment of the Louisiana colony.177

The re-supply by then was two and a half years late, so something must be done.  On July 29, Bienville sent Barbazant de Pailloux to Veracruz to finesse what he could from the authorities there.  With luck, the new viceroy would feel compassion for his starving Bourbon allies.  Meanwhile, Bienville worked out a system of precise signals--using gunshots and smoke in an unbroken relay from one point to another along the bay's west shore--to alert New Mobile of either friend or foe arriving at Port Massacre.  If the relay worked, Bienville could be apprised of a vessel's approach in less than an hour.  If the new arrival was foe, the King's lieutenant could dispatch a relief force to the island that very day.  If friend, the inhabitants could hurry down to Port Massacre to welcome the ship.178

Finally, in early September, gunshots rang out from the north shore of Massacre Island, 30 miles south of New Mobile, announcing the arrival of a most welcome visitor.  Vincent Alexandre, who owned the first house on the mainland above the island, relayed the message to Nicolas Bodin, who sent the signal to Guillaume Boutin, who alerted the village of Yamasee, who notified the Chato on Dog River, who signaled Charles Rochon, who alerted Claude Parent, and when his shots were heard by the residents of New Mobile, many of them hurried out of their dwellings, which were in various stages of reconstruction, and cheered and danced happily in the sandy streets.  Officials, including Bienville, and many of the colonists rushed to their boats and paddled furiously down the bay to Massacre Island and then along the north shore of the island around to Port Massacre.  There, at anchor, floated the Renommée, at the end of its fourth--and final--voyage to Louisiana.179

Bienville hurried aboard and greeted Captain Rémonville, who he likely did not know.  He also welcomed a number of officers he knew quite well.  The young Marigny de Mandeville was back, as well as Canadian Louis Bécart de Granville, who had lived briefly at Old Mobile in 1702.  Engineer Guillaume-Philbert Chevillot, who had come to help with construction of fortifications, was a new face to Bienville.  But where was Vaulezard, and nephew Jacques Le Moyne de Sainte-Hélène, fils, son of one of his older brothers?  Bienville learned that Sainte-Hélène was accompanying the Renommée in a smaller vessel from Martinique, had become separated in a storm, and was feared lost.  As to Vaulezard, he, too, was lost to the colony, so Rémonville offered the services of Bécart de Granville to command Vauzelard's company of troupes de la marine, to which Bienville consented.180

Elation at seeing brother Iberville's old ship, greeting old friends, and meeting new ones, gave way to disappointment when Bienville was apprised of what the ship had brought.  The re-supply was much smaller than he had expected, especially the load of flour.  Much of the merchandise had been damaged from poor packing.  The troupe de la marines' new gray uniforms were stained with rust from having been carelessly packed in kegs of iron nails.  Most disappointing, Rémonville had brought no specie with which to pay off the Canadians and other inhabitants to whom the King's account owed money.  But there also were things to cheer about.  The captured Catherine would be left with the colony to supplement the Marguerite and Le Roux's flat bottom barge--Bienville now had three ships again, two of them that could sail anywhere in the Gulf.  Rémonville offered the colony flour and other merchandise from his own store of supplies, which Bienville gladly accepted.  The captain also agreed to help finance the building of a church at New Mobile, handing over half of what he had pledged.  Most significantly, the fact that the re-supply was here, despite its being two and a half years late, demonstrated that the King and the Minister still cherished the colony.  Here was a sign that the Louisiana experiment would not be abandoned, that Bienville and the others could go on with their efforts of building a new settlement on Mobile Bay.181

While the supplies were being loaded into the rebuilt warehouse on Île Massacre, Barbazant de Pailloux returned from Veracruz with more supplies, mostly much-needed food.  Most of the gunpowder unloaded from the Renommée was destined for Pensacola to repay the Spanish for what they had loaned them, but then nephew Sainte-Hélène arrived after his brush with the storm, and Mobile had a ready supply of powder again.  Bienville gave the Chickasaw chiefs their presents and sent Châteauguay and a handful of men to escort them back home via the Choctaw country, where Châteauguay would explain the move to the new settlement site and do what he could to restore the peace.182

There remained one final task for Bienville to perform before the ship could sail, and it was not a happy one for him.  Dartaguiette had remained in the colony for three and a half years, and in that time, as far as Bienville was concerned, the young nobleman had become not only a friend, but also the colony's savior.  Without the young chief commissary of marine, Bienville could not have neutralized the threat to good order posed by De La Vente and De La Salle as effectively as he did.  Dartaguiette had set the colony's financial records straight and kept them that way.  Bienville could name no one in the colony who did not admire the young nobleman.  When the colony's morale was at its lowest ebb, it was Dartaguiette who had restored confidence in the colony's survival.  More than anyone, he had been responsible for moving the settlement to the mouth of the river, where it had a better chance to thrive.  Before he boarded the Renommée to return to France, Dartaguiette, evidently for the first time, handed to Bienville a copy of Nicolas Daneau de Muy's orders, now four years old.  Most of the dead governor's mandates largely had been carried out.  There was, however, one more task the Minister demanded.  The King had never cared much for the name "Mobile"; it lacked a sense of permanence, the monarch believed, so he tasked Daneau de Muy with renaming the settlement, as well as Massacre Island and Port Massacre.  Bienville and Dartaguiette decided upon the name "Immobile," first in jest and then as their official proposal.  Renaming the island was easier:  Île Massacre would be called Île Dauphine and Port Massacre Port Dauphine, "both after the new dauphine of France, news of whose recent ascendency[sic] had reached Saint-Domingue only shortly before the Renommée left Cap-français for Mobile."  This done, Bienville escorted his friend to Port Dauphine, and, on 20 October 1711, Jean-Baptiste-Martin Dartaguiette d'Iron sailed away.183 

Once again, Bienville remained in Louisiana, having come there nearly a dozen years before.  Reading the latest messages from the Minister of Marine, the most recent one dated 2 September 1710, he saw nothing about the appointment of a new governor for the colony, something the Minister had done 16 months earlier!  Although Rémonville had left La Rochelle seven months after Cadillac had been offered the position, the captain and the others aboard the Renommée had not been apprised of the development.  If Dartaguiette had read of it in his latest dispatches from France, he kept it to himself.  Confident that Dartaguiette's report to the Minister would help him receive a much-deserved promotion, the King's lieutenant could only wait patiently for the King's decision.184 

Dartaguiette was not the only solid officer Bienville "lost" that year.  Sometime between the abandonment of Fort de Mississippi in 1707 and Dartaguiette's departure in 1711, Louis Juchereau de Saint-Denis resigned his commission in the King's service and took up residence on Bayou St.-Jean to engage in the Indian trade.  At age 35, he was still unmarried, so no family encumbered his efforts.  Saint-Denis had proven himself to be a solid warrior, but his forte was exploration and relations with the natives, which would stand him in good stead in his new endeavors.  He had lived in the colony continually for 11 years, only a year short of Bienville himself.  Like Bienville, Saint-Denis was committed to Louisiana, come what may.184a

Bienville, Saint-Denis, and their fellow colonists could not know it but the governor-designee, now back in France, was preparing to work his magic on another powerful patron.  Financier Antoine Crozat, marquis du Châtel, was the Minister of Marine's latest hope for relieving the King of his Louisiana burden.  In the months ahead, "Cadillac presented Crozat with memorials which spoke of the gulf colony as a land of immense mineral wealth.  Like the minister of Marine ..., the millionaire entrepreneur could not keep himself from falling under the amazing Gascon's spell."   In September 1712, exactly a year after the Renommée reached Massacre Island, Crozat swallowed the tantalizing bait the Minister and the governor had dangled before him.  The financier, son of a peasant from Toulouse but now one of the wealthiest men in France, contributed 600,000 to 700,000 livres to a company recently formed "for the development of Louisiana...."  A new chapter was about to be written in the history of the colony, and, again, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, would play a major role in it.185

Bienville and the Company Men, 1713-1731

By 1712, the long war with Britain--in its tenth year now--finally was winding to an end.  After months of surreptitious communication, envoys from the contending powers met at Utrecht to cobble together another peace.  The first in a series of treaties was signed at the Belgium city in April 1713.  The House of Bourbon retained the throne of Spain.  Britain, the big winner in the lingering conflict, secured the asciento, long held by Spain.  Britain also won French and Spanish territory in the Americas, including peninsula Acadia, which the British called Nova Scotia.  France managed to hang on to Cape Breton Island off the northeast coast of Nova Scotia, as well as Île St.-Jean at the southern end of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  British attacks against San Agústín and Pensacola had been unsuccessful, so Spain kept Florida. 

As for Louisiana, neither the British nor their natives allies had attacked Old or New Mobile or any other French post in the region.  This bode well for French interests in the interior of North America:  their policy of containment, first postulated by Cavalier de La Salle in the early 1680s, now could be pursued with vigor.  During the late 1710s, at great expense, the new power in France, Philippe, duc d'Orléans, Regent for the boy King Louis XV, who had succeeded his great-grandfather in 1715, authorized the construction of a fortress at Havre-à-l'Anglois on Cape Breton Island, which the French renamed.  From their new fortress at Louisbourg on Île Royale a chain of fortifications would run from the Gulf of St. Lawrence all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, with important links at Québec, Trois-Rivières, and Montréal in Canada; Fort Frontenac, Détroit, Fort St.-Joseph-des-Miami, and Michilimackinac in the pays d'en haut; Forts St.-Louis-des-Illinois, Pimitoui, and Crèvecoeur on Rivière-des-Illinois; Cahokia, Kaskaskia, and Arkansas on the upper Mississippi; and Mobile on the Gulf of Mexico.  Links would soon be added all along the chain, including a new one on the lower Mississippi and two more on the rivers above Mobile.  The Regent and his ministers were dusting off La Salle's old scheme for French dominance of North America, something Iberville also had advocated after founding Louisiana.  "Because this strategic system would restrict the demographically expansive British colonists to the area east of the Appalachians by denying them access to the rivers that permitted trade and travel through the interior of the continent," Fred Anderson reminds us, "it held out the promise of rewards beyond America alone.  Once the encirclement was complete, French diplomats reasoned, the British would have to divert so much naval and military strength to protect their colonies that they would be hobbled in Europe."186


By the time the initial Treaty of Utrecht was signed in the spring of 1713, French Acadia belonged to Britain; and Louisiana, though retained by France, had become a different kind of colony.  It now "belonged" to Antoine Crozat, the wealthy financier of peasant stock who received proprietary rights there for 15 years.  To be sure, Crozat's proprietorship "did not include powers of government.  The Crozat charter provided for the application of French law in Louisiana and declared the colony subordinate to the government of New France," a clumsy arrangement but one on which the King would not budge.  "Appointments were still made by the crown, and Louisiana officials were responsible to the Ministry of Marine and Colonies," still the younger Pontchartrain. 

But Crozat would control the colony in every other way.  He was charged with sending at least two ships a year to "his" colony, with at least "two boys or girls" among the passengers in each voyage.  In return, all commerce within his proprietorship, both import and export, internal or external, would be his exclusively, free of duties.  He alone could trade with the natives living within the boundaries of Louisiana.  He would receive three-quarters of the gold and silver mined in the colony, nine-tenths of "all other minerals," and four-fifths of the "precious stones and pearls"--the rest of it reserved for the King.  He would be exempt from paying the officers and soldiers of the garrisons of Louisiana for the first nine years of his charter.  Meanwhile, goods in the colony could be purchased only in stores maintained by his agents.  The King's charter awarded Crozat an asciento of his own:  he could "send annually a vessel to Guineau, for negroes, whom he may sell in Louisiana, to the exclusion of all others."  Crozat naturally "saw Louisiana as an investment," Mathé Allain tells us.  "He had been convinced to assume the proprietorship by Cadillac who vaunted the mineral wealth of the region and the potential trade with Spanish colonies, displaying true Gascon eloquence and unabashed mendacity." 

In truth, the new governor of Crozat's proprietary colony, as well as the King and his ministers, had perpetrated on the new proprietor an elaborate fraud.  Had Crozat bothered to send scholar-agents to comb the archives and gather testimony on the real Louisiana since the first days of Iberville, the financier may have questioned his investment of 700,000 livres.  After diligent search, Le Sueur and his prospectors had found some kind of blue ore near the upper Mississippi, but he discovered no El Dorado on the Minnesota prairie.  No evidence of gold or silver had been found anywhere in Louisiana, upper or lower; copper perhaps, but no gold or silver.  In 1708, the French had sent an expedition to the Missouri valley in search of mines and found deposits of lead.  More French expeditions searching for precious metals or strategic minerals anywhere near the Spanish domain probably would strain the Bourbon alliance to the breaking point.  As for trade with Mexico, Cuba, and other parts of New Spain, the Spanish Court had not relented in its strict mercantilist policies other than to keep the colonists at Mobile from starving.  Even then, Jean Béranger's experience at Veracruz in March 1711 revealed how tough the Spanish could be if there was any hint of foreign trade at any of their ports.  From its establishment, the Spanish had viewed Louisiana as a violation of their long-established territorial claims along the entire Gulf Coast.  If Cavalier de La Salle's coastal settlement had survived Indian attack, the Spanish would have ended it soon enough.  They had protested the very presence of Iberville on the Gulf in 1699, and even more so the establishment of fortifications at Biloxi and Mobile.  They had tolerated the French presence only because Iberville and the French Court convinced them that their goal was to prevent the hated English from settling in the region.  What would the Spanish now think of a proprietary colony in the midst of their territorial claims, a French colony bent more towards commerce and its resulting profit than on regional defense?187

No matter, the deal was done.  The royal treasury, so depleted by continental wars, no longer would be burdened by the Louisiana succubus.  To sweeten the deal, Crozat's charter granted him economic hegemony not only over lower Louisiana, but also over upper Louisiana, which included Illinois.  This alarmed the Spanish, who claimed the west bank of the Mississippi up to and above that region.  It also angered officials in Canada, who since the founding of the Gulf Coast colony had attempted to bar Louisiana from the western fur trade.  In order "to favor the trade of Canada," Crozat's charter forbade him "to purchase beaver skins or to export them to France or elsewhere.  But what if the coureurs de bois or licensed beaver traders of the pays d'en haut chose to take their pelts not to Montréal via the much longer and more expensive route back to the St. Lawrence valley, but took them down to Mobile via Illinois and the lower Mississippi?  Crozat, as well as Cadillac, insisted the Illinois country ran all the way up the Mississippi as far as the river's purported source at Lake Winnipeg and that it also included the Ohio valley as far east as the Appalachians.  First "settled" by Seminarian and Jesuit missionaries in the late 1690s, upper Louisiana--Illinois--was as old as Iberville's outpost on the Gulf of Mexico.  By 1712, the upper-river enclave had evolved into a series of missions and small settlements dotting the east bank of the Mississippi between the mouths of the Illinois and Ohio rivers.  The first of the Illinois missions, founded by Seminarian Father de Saint-Cosme and dedicated to La Ste.-Famille, the Holy Family, appeared at Tamaroa, below the mouth of the Illinois, in the spring of 1699.  That same year, the Jesuits established a mission of their own among the Cahokia at Tamaroa.  In 1700, a Jesuit mission dedicated to the Immaculate Conception appeared on the west bank of the river and slightly down from Tamaroa, near the site of today's St. Louis, Missouri.  The first European settlement in the region, a short-lived trading post and tannery, erected by Canadian Charles Juchereau de Saint-Denis, appeared just above the mouth of the Ohio, then called the Wabash, in 1702.  Kaskasia, on the east bank of the Mississippi below Cahokia, was established in 1703 after the Jesuits relocated their west-bank mission.  Even in its earliest days, Marcel Giraud reminds us, "... it appeared that the villages of the interior [at Illinois] were destined for more direct relations with the colony of the Lower Mississippi than with Canada.  Connections with the St. Lawrence were less direct not only because of the portages and the irregular system of waterways, but also because contacts between the areas were reduced, at the time that France took possession of the Gulf of Mexico, by the official suppression of the course des bois[sic] and by the abandonment of French forts in the "upper country"--Michilimackinac, St. Joseph of the Miamis, and, after 1702, St. Louis of the Illinois.  The post of Detroit on the St. Clair River," established by Cadillac himself, "could not yet maintain steady relations with the missions of the Tamaroas and the Kaskaskias."  It made perfect sense, then, to link Illinois to Crozat's Louisiana politically as well as commercially.  Under Louisiana's proprietary jurisdiction, three other posts would arise along the east bank of the Mississippi in upper Louisiana:  Fort de Chartres between Cahokia and Kaskaskia in 1718-20, St.-Philippe above Kaskaskia in 1719, and nearby Prairie-du-Rocher in 1722.187a 

Having secured not only the governorship, but also a proprietor for "his" colony, Cadillac prepared to take his family to Louisiana.  He had expected to be Crozat's "principal representative" in the colony, but the Company and the Crown had other plans for Louisiana's administration.  Like Canada, the Gulf Coast colony would continue to function under a "bicephalous administration":  Cadillac would serve as governor and act as a kind of glorified commandant, but there also would be a commissaire-ordonnateur, or authorizing commissioner, not unlike a French or Canadian intendant, who would administer the colony's finances, supplies, and trade.  In the French colonial system of governance, the ordonnateur was equal in rank to, as well as independent of, the commandant or governor.  Crozat appointed Jean-Baptiste Du Bois Duclos as his ordonnateur.  One of Duclos's functions would be to prevent the governor, or any other colonial official, from enriching himself at the expense of proprietor and King.  He also was charged with the unenviable task of investigating Bienville.  "The laws, edicts and ordinances of the realm," as well as "the custom of Paris," Crozat's charter dictated, would be enforced throughout the colony by the ordonnateur as well as the governor.  The Court also imposed another institutiton on the colony that it believed had worked well in the rest of New France.  "In December of 1712, a royal edict established the first Superior Council for Louisiana," which, like its Canadian counterpart, would function "as a court of civil and criminal juridiction."  On it would sit the governor; the commissary-ordonnateur, who would serve as first councilor; the King's lieutenant; the attorney-general; two additional councilors; and a clerk.188 

But what about Bienville, who was still in charge at New Mobile?  Years before, Dartaguiette's investigation had more or less exonerated Bienville of malfeasance and misadministration, so it was unlikely he would be recalled.  No one knew the colony as well as he did, and, according to Dartaguiette, the natives respected no one as much as they did Bienville.  But the King and Pontchartrain, and now Pontchartrain and Crozat, had picked other men to run the colony.  Bienville "did not conceal the bitterness he felt in face of this latent distrust.  He saw no cause for it other than the ill will--inexplicable to him--of Pontchartrain toward Iberville, an ill will that he blamed for blocking his promotion, for keeping him stuck for years in a situation that did not correspond to the services he had rendered to the colony, and that had made the inhabitants and the natives believe that, being 'not held in esteem' by the court, he could be of no use to them 'in their establishments,'" Marcel Giraud explains.  The best Ponchartrain could do for now was retain Bienville in his traditional role as King's lieutenant.  Now 14 years in the colony, he would serve directly under the new governor as second in command, his chief function the maintenance of good relations with the region's natives.188c  

Cadillac and Duclos sailed on the 50-gun Baron de La Fauche, commanded by the Marquis de la Jonquere, on 6 February 1713 and reached Port Dauphine in late May or early June.  Also aboard were the colony's new comptroller, Pierre Derigoin, a Company director; brothers Marc-Antoine and Louis-Auguste de La Loire des Ursins of St.-Germain-en-Laye, who would serve as Company clerks; a M. Lebas or Le Bart; and "a very large stock of provisions and goods."  The crossing was not a happy one for the new officials.  It behooved Cadillac to maintain amicable relations with Duclos and the others, but even before he had reached the colony he alienated Crozat's ordonnateur.  During the crossing, Cadillac warned Duclos "that it would be dangerous to quarrel with him because he had a superior mind."  Duclos judged the governor's mind "to be quite mediocre except when his own interests were involved" and noted that Cadillac "was 'very troubled and very restless' and 'the most barefaced liar I had ever seen.'"188a 

Another mishap occurred aboard the Baron de La Fauche, this time a failing of Mme. Cadillac.  "Twelve girls crossed with Cadillac and his wife ..., but improperly supervised by Mme Cadillac, who spent more time quarreling with the officers than watching her wards, the young ladies landed in Louisiana with sadly besmirched reputations.  The Sieur de Richebourg, a colonial captain who crossed on the same ship, a man said to have married two women at the same time and debauched another, seduced some of the girls (some reports say all twelve), as well as Mme Cadillac's maid."  Things only spiraled downward after the ship reached Port Dauphine:  "The worst of it however, was that the poor girls were so unprepossessing, 'si laides et mal faittes,' that after taking one look, the colonial bachelors returned to the words, declaring that all things considered, they preferred Indians.  Du Clos, the ordonnateur who reports this fiasco, suggests that in the future it would behoove recruiters to 'seek looks rather than virtue,' for, he says, the Canadians 'who are all well-built men' are not too 'particular' about the girls' behavior before marriage."188b

As soon as he had stepped off the ship at Port Dauphine, Cadillac wasted no time the King's lieutenant.  The new governor's first impression of New Mobile could not have endeared him to Bienville or to the long-suffering colonists.  "The colony, he informed the Minister, was a 'wretched place' inhabited by 'gallows-birds with no respect for religion and addicted to vice.'"  From the moment he laid eyes on this "'monster without head or tail,'" as he described Louisiana, he hated the place, its people, and its government, and his opinion would not waver.  According to Bienville, his troubles with the new governor began when the 33-year-old bachelor refused to marry Cadillac's daughter, Marie-Madeleine.  "Thereafter," Bienville complained, Cadillac treated him "like a corporal.  On one occasion the assistant town major paid Bienville a visit to inform him in the governor's name that he was a 'dolt' and a 'fop.'"  Unlike De La Salle and De La Vente, whom he could overawe with rank and privilege, Bienville was subject to the orders of this strange new administrator.189

Unfortunately for the King's lieutenant, the Minister had ordered Cadillac and Ducros to investigate Bienville's conduct; the King and Minister had not been satisfied with Dartaguiette's conclusions.  Duclos, evidently impressed with Bienville, did not bother to investigate him.  Not so the officious governor.  But try as he might, Cadillac could find nothing incriminating against Bienville, though it did not stop him from humiliating the proud Canadian.  If Cadillac hoped to alienate Bienville farther from the King and Minister, he evidently failed.  In 1714, the Minister awarded Bienville military command of the Mississippi valley from the Ohio down to the Gulf.  This allowed the King's lieutenant to treat with more nations in the vast region and ensure the safety of the colony.  Only with the natives' favor could Louisiana have any chance of surviving much less rewarding the proprietor with a return on his investment.  Unfortunately, the governor "out of spite ... obstructed Bienville's work among the Indian tribes[,] and Louisiana's relations with the native populations sharply deteriorated."190

It did not take long for this circumstance to bear bitter fruit.  "The British of Carolina, after the peace of Utrect, gave a great extension to their commerce with the Indians near the back settlements of the province," François-Xavier Martin relates.  "Their traders had erected storehouses among the tribes, in alliance with the French, as far as the Natchez and the Yazous."  However, thanks to Bienville's efforts, "The Choctaws were so attached to the French, that they had heretofore refused to allow the British to trade among them.  In the spring, however, a party of the British, heading two thousand Indians of the Alibamons, Talapouches and Chickasaws, came among the Choctaws; they were received in thirty of the villages; two only refusing to admit them.  Violence being threatened against the minority, the Choctaws of these two villages, built a fort, in which they collected, bidding defiance to their countrymen, the British and their allies.  They held out for a considerable time:  at last, on the eve of being overwhelmed, they escaped during the night, and made their way to the French fort at Mobile, where they were cordially greeted."  According to Judge Martin, Bienville sent for the Choctaw chiefs "and upbraided them for their treachery; urging that the French were the only people, from whom they could conveniently get the goods they wanted, as the British were at a comparative great distance from their villages.  He prevailed on them to draw off all communication with them and the Indians in their alliance.  The Choctaws kept their word, and on their return drove off every British trader from their villages."190a

The most dangerous crisis with the Natives during Cadillac's tenure involved one of the largest nations along the river.  From early in their presence on the Gulf coast, the shakers and movers of French Louisiana saw the Natchez as an important pawn in their rivalry with England.  The nation, visited by Iberville and Bienville in March 1700, occupied a prominent position on the lower Mississippi athwart the primary route of communication with the rest of New France.  Although the Natchez were among the first nations on the lower river to welcome French missionaries (the first of them came in 1698), they refused to give up their old religion.  However, secularists like Bienville were less interested in souls than in natural resources; the French considered the site of the Natchez village to be "'the finest land on this continent.'"  In 1710, after twice failing to produce a wheat crop on Bayou St.-Jean, several Canadians, with permission from Bienville, had taken up land at Natchez, but they failed to produce a wheat crop there as well.191 

In 1713, soon after he reached Mobile, Cadillac sent the La Loire des Ursins brothers, Marc-Antoine and Louis-Auguste, Crozat Company clerks, with a dozen companions, including Antoine Pénicault, to establish a trading post at Natchez.  In a single stroke, Cadillac reasoned, he could "encourage Crozat's commercial enterprise and ... maintain good contact with the native."  Not long after the Frenchmen reached Natchez, a Carolinian named Price Hughes, one of the instigators among the Choctaw, appeared on the lower river with the intention of inducing the natives there to form an alliance with the English.  One of the La Loires and Pénicault followed Hughes and his interpreter down to Bayou Manchac.  After arresting the troublesome Englisman, they delivered him to Bienville at Mobile, who interrogated him and then "allowed him to proceed to Pensacola," from whence he could return to Carolina.  Hughes did not get far.  A party of Tomeh, long enemies of the English, murdered him on the trail to Charles Towne. 

Not long after this incident, war broke out in South Carolina between the colonists and various nations in the region who were fed up with the Indian slave trade and the seizure of their territory.  The so-called Yamasee War began at Pocotaligo in April 1715 with the massacre of a delegation of Englishmen, including the redoubtable Thomas Nairne, who had come to negotiate a peace.  During the two-year struggle, hundreds of other colonists lost their lives and many settlements were left in ruin.  One of the earliest victims of the war was Jacques Le Moyne de Sainte-Hélène, fils, Bienville's nephew.  Disgruntled with Crozat's monopolitistic policies, the younger Le Moyne had established a clandestine Indian slave trade with the Carolinians and, along with some of his associates, even threatened to desert the colony.  On their way to Carolina to sell slaves to the English, a party of Alibamon fell upon them, and Sainte-Hélène was killed.  Ironically, the insurrection that led to his nephew's death proved beneficial to Bienville's policies; "he could now once again negotiate a general reconciliation among the tribes of the interior which would revive the coalition of forces around the colony that were indespensible to Mobile's defense."  He was especially successful in securing the French alliance with the Choctaw. 

Meanwhile, the French trading venture at Natchez had become "a base for bartering with the Indians."  Cadillac evidently coaxed from the Minister permission to build a fort near the trading post, not only to protect the commerce there, but also to keep the British away.  Bienville was given the task of building the fort, but he complained to the Minister that the governor "had assigned him only a few raw recruits and had allotted a minimum of supplies for the construction."  Bienville nevertheless made plans to go to Natchez and fulfill the Minister's wishes.192

It was about this time, in the fall of 1715, that Cadillac attempted to fulfill one of Crozat's dictums:  a grand tour of the Mississippi up to Illinois "in the search of mines" and the extension "of his commerce."  The year before, Claude-Charles Dutisné, out of Canada, had "discovered some silver mines" near Kaskaskia while exploring in the Illinois country.  Dutisné and his party continued down to New Mobile, where he reported the find to Cadillac.  The governor promptly took credit for it and was determined to find more.  And why not overawe the nations along the river while he was searching for minerals.  Cadillac did not bother to invite Bienville to come along, Saint-Denis was in Mexico, and evidently no other officer familiar with the colony was part of the governor's entourage.  Cadillac did find minerals on his tour--deposit of copper and lead in the Illinois country--but he found no silver there.  In fact, François-Xavier Martin relates, Cadillac "had the mortification to learn on his arrival that the pieces of ore which Dutigne[sic] had brought down, came from Mexico, and had been left as curiosities, by a Spaniard, with a gentleman at Illinois, from whom Dutigne had received them."  More troubling was Cadillac's treatment of the natives.  When the tour was finished, news of it "was circulating throughout the colony among both the white and the Indian populace.  Cadillac had apparently insulted all the tribes along the river during his journey northward.  He had quarreled with them, accepted their gifts without giving anything in return and had refused their hospitality.  'All of the nations are talking about it with very great scorn to the shame of the French,'" Bienville lamented to the Minister.  The Natchez were especially insulted by the governor's behavior.  "According to Bienville, when Cadillac had declined to smoke the calumet of peace on passing through the Natchez country, the Indians had been insulted by the Great Chief of the French.  Bienville learned that this refusal to accept the calumet, especially among the leaders, had been interpreted by the Natchez as a gesture of war."  This made them vulnerable to the entreaties of Carolina traders in the region, who were adept at bribing the natives into turning against the French, even in times of peace.  Word spread through the colony that the Natchez had killed four Canadians traders.  Unmoved by the news, Cadillac insisted that Bienville follow his orders and build the fort at Natchez.193

Bienville set out from Mobile in March 1716 with only 43 men.  After lingering at the village of Chawasha below New Orleans, he moved upriver in half a dozen "large pirougues" built by one of the La Loire brothers for the expedition.  At Tunica, below the mouth of Red River, he learned that the Natchez had killed another Canadian voyageur.  Forced, now, to deal with the crisis, Bienville lingered at Tunica to oversee the construction of a supply depot, a guardhouse, and a small prison.  He sent word ahead to the Natchez that he was in the area.  Here was the formidable Bienville, not the inscrutable Cadillac.  Three lower members of the Natchez nobility appeared at Tunica, offering the calumet of peace.  Bienville refused to smoke the pipe with them and insisted their chiefs come to him.  Soon, eight Suns appeared, replete with impressive retinues--28 warriors in all.  Bienville refused to smoke the pipe with them as well and demanded to know who had slain the Canadians and why.  "Receiving no answer, he had the suns put in chains."  Bienville then sent for the three highest Suns--Grand Soleil, Serpent-Pique, and Petit Soleil.  When they arrived, he chided them for what his people had done and made the usual threat of uniting all the other nations in the region against them.  The Petit Soleil hurried back to his village and returned with the severed heads of three warriors who he insisted had murdered the Canadians.  Bienville, still unsatisfied, rebuffed the act of appeasement and threw the Petit Soleil into the little prison with the other Suns.  Realizing the King's lieutenant would not be moved until they confessed the truth to him, the high Suns revealed that the Canadians were the victims of another power struggle within the nation, encouraged, if not instigated, by British agents, who awarded hefty bribes.  The guilty Sun, White Earth, had fled to the British before Bienville had reached Tunica.  Now satisfied that he had heard the truth, Bienville released Petit Soleil and allowed the two other high Suns to go.  The lesser Suns he retained as hostages.  He left the aide-major of Fort Louis, Jacques Pailloux de Barbezan, in command at Natchez and headed back to Mobile.  On the return trip, perhaps as soon as he left Natchez territory, Bienville tomahawked the hostages, included a bearded Sun, and continued on his way.194 

When Cadillac heard of the executions, he charged Bienville with committing an atrocity.  More important than the volatile governor's reaction, however, would be the Natchez response to Bienville's brutality.  A student of the incident reminds us:  "If ... the execution of the Natchez, whether in Tunica territory or in the Mobile country, had been poorly received by the tribe, it seems unlikely that the French could have built Fort Rosalie that summer with Natchez assistance."  The new fort, named after a daughter of the Minister of Marine, was built of logs Bienville had extracted from the Natchez.  Beginning in June, Pailloux supervised the pallisade's construction, and, with Bienville present, finished it in August.  Located a hundred and thirteen leagues above the mouth of the river but still accessible by small ocean-going vessels, Fort Rosalie stood atop a 200-foot bluff near the Grand Village of the Natchez, amidst some of the finest farm land in the province.195


Cadillac, with the assistance of a remarkable Canadian, made another enduring contribution to Louisiana history.  Unlike the venture at Natchez, however, the one at Natchitoches proved to be far more lasting. 

In 1700, the year Iberville had built Fort de Mississippi near the mouth of the river, the commandant had sent brother Bienville and cousin Louis Juchereau de Saint-Denis to explore the Red River as far up as a huge log jam that blocked further navigation, and Saint-Denis may have returned there in 1705.  In the spring of 1707, Bienville ordered Saint-Denis, still in command on the lower river, to abandon Fort de Mississippi and shift the French observation post on the lower river to the portage site near the head of Bayou St.-Jean.  Saint-Denis and a hand full of his Canadians took up residence with the Biloxi who Bienville had moved to the little bayou soon after Iberville had built Fort de Mississippi.  Saint-Denis, first as an officer and then as a private trader, was still living on the bayou when Cadillac reached Mobile. 

Cadillac set his sights for trade on a field much wider than the Mississippi valley.  His instructions from King and Minister had charged him with establishing commercial ties with the Spanish in Mexico.  Bienville no doubt apprised him of the debacle at Veracruz in March 1711.  Ever on the lookout for commercial possibilities, Cadillac turned his eyes to the interior of New Spain when an opportunity presented itself. 

After the sieur de La Salle's disaster on the Texas coast in the late 1680s, the Spanish established a small presidio on the site of the French settlement but had abandoned it by 1705.  Meanwhile, Spanish missionary Fray Francisco Hidalgo, following a Spanish entrada north of the Rio Grande, "brought the faith to the Indians of the Tejas" in the early 1690s, but the effort did not last.  Spanish indifference led to the withdrawal of the friars to northern Mexico in 1693, and an entrada under Fray Antonio de San Buenaventura Olivares in 1709 failed to re-establish missions north of Rio Grande.  Despairing of Spanish assistance in the conversion of the Texas Indians, Fray Francisco, from "'the outskirts of Coahuila,'" wrote a letter "to the governor of Louisiana" in January 1711, making two copies to be sent by different routes to insure a better chance it would reach its destination.  If the French elected to help him, the aging priest reasoned, this could wake up the Spanish to the necessity of establishing fortified missions in Texas.  It took two years for a copy of Fray Francisco's letter to reach Mobile, Texas historian Ross Phares avers.  Reading it, "Cadillac recognized his opportunity.  He would be glad to help the missionaries rebuild their churches.  It was as good a way as any to establish contact and, subsequently, trade."195a

In late September 1713, on orders from the governor, former army lieutenant Louis Juchereau de Saint-Denis led a party of Canadians and Indians back to Red River.  Saint-Denis's passport from Cadillac, dated September 12, grossly understated his true mission:  "'The Sieur de St. Denis is take twenty-four men and as many Indians as necessary and with them go in search of the mission of Father Francisco Hidalgo in response to his letter of January 17, 1711, and there to purchase horses and cattle for the province of Louisiana.'"  In truth, Saint-Denis was tasked with establishing a post in the Louisiana interior from which to trade not only with the Caddo and other friendly nations, but also with the Spanish, trade restrictions be damned. 

Leaving Mobile sometime in September, Saint-Denis and his party, likely in pirogues, made their way via Biloxi, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Bayou St.-Jean portage to the lower Mississippi, which they followed to the mouth of Red River.  On an island in a branch of the river, between Grand Écore and the raft of logs blocking the river above it, 266 miles above the mouth of the Mississippi, Saint-Denis located the seat of the Poste des Natchitoches, named after a local band of Caddo, in early 1714.  He had visited the place over a dozen years earlier with Bienville and a party of Canadians, and its virtues still impressed him.  After assembling the natives and distributing gifts, including seeds for them to plant, Saint-Denis assured them that they had nothing to fear from his fellow Canadians, who would protect them from their enemies.  Saint-Denis distributed "axes and other tools among the Indians, who cleared grounds and constructed houses of logs for the traders and their merchandise." 

To fulfill Cadillac's charge, Saint-Denis, after leaving 10 of his men to guard the merchandise at Natchitoches, headed cross country with most of his Canadians and a contingent of Natchitoches to find the Franciscan missionary.  Following "an old trail made by the buffalo on their winter migration from the plains to the river bottoms of Louisiana" across the upper Sabine, they pushed on to the villages of the Hasinai, where they found "horses and cattle in plenty" but no Fray Francisco.  They nonetheless engaged in a vigorous trade for "livestock and buffalo hides."  Thanks to the Franciscan's efforts, some of the Hasinai women spoke Spanish, in which Saint-Denis was fluent, so he soon mastered the dialect of this tribe as well.  "After several gainful and pleasant weeks," Saint-Denis left more of his men at Hasinai to make their way back to Mobile.  With only three of his Canadians--former ship's carpenter André-Joseph Pénigault, a native of La Rochelle who had come to Louisiana with La Sueur in 1700 and was an old acquaintance of Saint-Denis; Pierre Largen; and the indispensable Médard Jallot, Saint-Denis's surgeon, valet, and cook--Saint-Denis headed southwestward to Mexico in search of the elusive Franciscan.  With them went Hasinai chief Bernardino and 25 of his warriors, evidently intent on actually finding the priest.  South of Río Colorado, a large party of Indians--200 "hostiles," by one account--almost ended the cross-country venture.  They "swooped down upon the travelers from the hills with the 'furiosity of demons,'" Ross Phares relates.  "Had it not been for St. Denis' experience on the frontier and his understanding of Indian warfare, the attack might have become a massacre, and the future history of Texas might have changed on this spot.  Instead, the French commander so stationed his men with such speed that his meager forces won a decisive victory."  After the encounter with the unidentified natives (perhaps Comanche or Apache), Bernardino and 21 of his Hasinai returned to their village.  One of the Hasinai, victim of an arrow wound, remained in the care of Surgeon Jallot.  At an upper crossing of Río San Antonio, the travelers encountered a band of friendly natives.  Saint-Denis was so impressed with "the attractiveness and advantages of the spot," he "stated that surely one day it would become the location of a presidio.  His conjecture was prophetic.  He was standing upon the future site of San Antonio" de Béxar.  Finally, after trudging through "a shimmering world of cactus, sand, and mesquite" in the heat of summer, Saint-Denis, his three Canadians, "and a half-dozen ragged Indians," reached San Juan Bautista, which stood a few miles south of Río Grande.  For 14 years now, the presidio here had served as "the northern outpost" of New Spain. 

Though impressed with their victory near Río Colorado, as related by local natives, the gray-haired Spanish commandant, Don Diego Ramón, did not believe the Canadians' tale of searching for Fray Francisco.  When Saint-Denis confessed to his actual mission--opening commercial relations with the Spanish in the name of Governor Cadillac--Don Diego promptly but courteously arrested the Canadians and held them in the presidio's most comfortable quarters.  The commandant then hurried a message to his superiors, inquiring what to do with the wayward Frenchmen.  Letters also went out from Saint-Denis, Don Diego, and the local missionary to Fray Francisco in the interior of Coahuila.  The Franciscan's prayers seem to have been answered--here, in the person of this determined Frenchman, was an opportunity to establish missions north of Rio Grande.  Saint-Denis and his companions lingered at the presidio long enough to contrast the fascinations of the desert outpost with the sub-tropical splendor of coastal Louisiana.  Days became weeks and weeks became months as Don Diego patiently awaited word from his superiors.  During his "imprisonment" at San Juan Bautista, Saint-Denis also pursued a personal goal, the fulfillment of which, like his commercial aspirations, would profoundly affect Texas and Louisiana history. 

In mid-February 1715, seven months into his "captivity," Saint-Denis managed to send a series of letters to Cadillac cryptically explaining his efforts with the Spanish in Mexico.  Finally, in late March or early April, Don Diego received word from his immediate superior, Don Gaspardo Anya, governor of Coahuila, that an officer and 25 armed soldiers would escort "the captured French peddler" to the provincial capital at Monclava, where the governor could examine him.  The governor's officer informed the Frenchmen that only Saint-Denis was being summoned to Monclava, but Jallot insisted on accompanying him.  The Spaniards unceremoniously bound Saint-Denis in chains, hoisted him atop a sturdy horse, and hurried him and his valet southward into the desert of Coahuila.  Though "the governor's reception was courteous enough," Phares relates, he ordered the Canadians "locked in prison," where he attempted to dissuade Saint-Denis from pursuing the hand of a certain seniorita who may have been the governor's fiancée!  After a short, unpleasant stay at Monclava, Saint-Denis and Jallot were sent on to Mexico City, where the viceroy, still the Duque de Linarès, could decide what to do with them.  They reached the capital by the third week of June, and Saint-Denis wasted no time informing the Spanish authorities of his desire to marry Emanuela Maria Stefania Sánchez y Navarro, the 17-year-old step-granddaughter of Don Diego Ramón

Typically, the viceroy, via his spies at Pensacola, had been aware of Saint-Denis's mission to Mexico practically from the moment it began.  The duque already had informed Cadillac that French traders were not welcomed in "any territory that belonged to the King of Spain."  The viceroy then notified the Spanish Court of the brouhaha with the French and informed Cadillac that the matter of the wayward "peddler" had been referred to the highest authority.  He also intimated to the beleaguered French governor that Saint-Denis would be hanged at Mexico City or sent "in irons" to Spain.  Cadillac beseeched the Minister of Marine to intercede with the Spanish on the Canadian's behalf. 

Long before he was summoned before the Duque de Linarès, Saint-Denis's venture to the Río Grande had become an international incident.

Standing before the viceroy, Saint-Denis repeated his tale about searching through Texas for the beloved Fray Francisco, who had invited the French to come into the territory.  The viceroy, nonplussed by the simplicity of the story, ordered Saint-Denis to prepare a written declaration of his activities, including his passport and a map of his travels.  Only then, the viceroy reasoned, could the fiscal of New Spain, Joseph Antonio de Espinosa Ocampo y Cornejo, build a case against the clever Frenchman.  As prosecuting attorney, the fiscal would provide the viceroy the legal means to put an end to this embarrassment.  Saint-Denis penned his declaration on June 22, and it was delivered to the fiscal that very day.  The "dictum" Cornejo presented to the viceroy was a breathless summation of the dangers of allowing foreign traders into Texas and northern Mexico.  Cornejo was especially struck by Saint-Denis's map, which "showed a more accurate knowledge of the country between the Tejas and the Río Grande than that acquired by the Spaniards since the first entrada of the missionaries" in the 1690s.  The Frenchmen's "knowledge of the country would make illicit trade easy," the fiscal warned.  "In short, the commerce of the north was threatened with destruction, the mines were liable to immediate discovery, and Spanish possession of the province of Tejas was in imminent danger."  The fiscal recommended that the governors of the northern provinces exert every effort to keep Frenchmen such as Saint-Denis from their territories.  And most of all, Cornejo beseeched the viceroy, "missions must be established" north of the Río Grande "without delay."

On August 22, the viceroy called a junta general to discuss the fiscal's dictum.  The junta accepted Cornejo's recommendations wholeheartedly.  After discussions on the funding of another entrada, Fray Francisco and his fellow friars, overjoyed by this sudden turn of events, prepared to follow an armed escort of Spanish soldiers back across the Rio Grande.  The viceroy decreed that first one and then three additional missions would be established.  Not until the following spring would the Spanish launch their entrada into Tejas, nearly a quarter of a century after the previous one, but that it would happen there could be no doubt.

Fray Francisco's efforts soon would bear fruit.

As to the fate of the Frenchmen languishing in prison, the viceroy, inexplicably, granted them their freedom, after which the Spanish grandees of the Mexican capital, including the Duque de Linarès, toasted Saint-Denis in the vice-royal palace and tried to lure him into Spanish service with the gift of money and "a fine horse for his stable."  Saint-Denis, who had given up his commission as a French officer a few years before his venture to Mexico, was free to serve France's Bourbon ally, and so he did.  Under command of Captain Domingo Ramón, his future uncle-in-law, Saint-Denis served as conductor, or guide, in establishing a series of missions and presidios from the Río Grande to the Hasinai villages along El Camino Real de Los Tejas--the King's Highway through Texas.  He also assisted Don Diego Ramón in coaxing several bands of Indians into remaining near the walls of San Juan Bautista.  Late in 1715 or early in 1716, Don Luis, as the Spanish now called him, age 39, married Manuela Stefania Sánchez y Navarro, age 18, at the presidio on the Río Grande

Although the entrada which followed marked for the Spanish "the beginnings of Texas," the efforts of the conductor also fit nicely into French commercial plans, including his own.  In late summer of 1716, Saint-Denis hurried back to Mobile, taking with him his father-in-law, the younger Don Diego Ramón.  After consulting with Cadillac, who was delighted with his mission, Saint-Denis formed a partnership with other Canadians--Jean-Baptiste Baudreau dit Graveline, François Derbanne, and the three Chauvin brothers, Joseph dit Léry, Nicolas dit Lafrénière, and Louis dit Beaulieu--and purchased a consignment of goods worth 60,000 livres.  Some of the merchandise, with Cadillac's connivance, likely may have been the property of Crozat's Company.  Saint-Denis and his partners left Mobile in October and returned to Natchitoches by late November.  They reached the mission at Hasinai by Christmas Day and engaged in smuggling for the rest of the winter.  Saint-Denis offered to take his partners' goods on to Mexico, without the partners, but they refused, agreeing only to leave some of the merchandise with the friars at Hasinai in case the authorities in Mexico were bent on confiscation.   In March 1717, Saint-Denis, his father-in-law, another Spanish officer, and the partners pushed on to the Río Grande with a mule train loaded with goods.  At San Juan Bautista, Saint-Denis met his wife and his first-born child, daughter Luisa Margarita.  Meanwhile, the child's great-grandfather confiscated the Frenchmen's merchandise.  Feeling betrayed, the Chauvins and Saint-Denis's other partners sold what they could at unfavorable prices and hurried back to the safety of Hasinai.  By late October they had returned to Mobile, determined to keep clear of Saint-Denis and his relatives. 

Likely against the advice of his in-laws, Saint-Denis pushed on via Querétaro to Mexico City and reached the capital by mid-June, intent on securing his merchandise.  The new viceroy, Baltasar de Zúniga, the marquis de Valero, welcomed the Canadian courteously, but the viceroy's spies had done their work.  Unfortunately for the brash Canadian, the Duque de Linarès had been dismissed from his high office "with the charge of being 'lenient toward the French.'"  Worst of all, Don Martín de Alarcón, the new governor of Coahuila and the Province of Tejas, in league with Fray Antonio de Olivares, a  frustrated friar who had been denied participation in the entrada of 1716, traduced Saint-Denis and his in-laws to the viceroy and other officials.  On 12 July 1717, "St. Denis was back in the first quarters he had known in Mexico City--the national prison."   His fate now in the hands of Don Juan de Olivan, the King's investigator in New Spain, Saint-Denis was compelled to submit another declaration explaining his activities.  Again, he coaxed the authorities not only into releasing him, but also into returning the merchandise he had left at San Juan Baustista.  On November 22, he was released from prison but compelled to remain in the capital.  After dickering over compensation for his confiscated merchandise, he made "his final departure from Mexico City" on 5 September 1718.  He drifted back north, returning to his wife on the Río Grande before spending time "among the Indians and missionaries of East Texas."  He did not return to Natchitoches until 24 February 1719, his hopes of establishing trade between the outpost and Mexico dashed by Spain's mercantilistic mindset. 

Meanwhile, sometime in 1716, Bienville ordered the construction of Fort St.-Jean-Baptiste at Natchitoches and gave command of the new fort and the district it protected to a trusted lieutenant, Philippe Blondel.  Spanish mercantilist policy had long prohibited trade with foreigners, so they did not welcome a new French fortification among natives they hoped to dominate.  In January 1717, while Saint-Denis was engaged in trading with the Hasinai and his partners ventured towards the Rio Grande, Don Domingo Ramón, Saint-Denis's uncle-in-law and the Spanish commander in Tejas, countered Bienville's move at Natchitoches by establishing another mission post, this one along an extension of El Camino Real de Los Tejas near Arroyo Hondo, east of the Sabine.  Named San Miguel Arcangel de Linarès, after the current viceroy, the post was more commonly known as Los Adaes, after a local band of the Caddo nation.  Ramón, perhaps with assistance from his nephew-in-law, sited the new mission only 15 miles southwest of Natchitoches, near present-day Robeline.  Fort St.-Jean-Baptiste de Natchitoches, then, served not only as a trading post from which to win the favor of local natives, but also as a strategic point from which to observe the Spanish in East Texas.196


Yet, in spite of this extension of French influence in the region, in 1717, and after 18 years of effort, "No more than 500 soldiers and civilians inhabited the lower valley" and the Gulf Coast settlements, up from 339 nine years earlier!  The contrast between New Spain and this corner of New France could not have been more striking.  Notes Ross Phares:  "While the Spanish were successfully re-establishing their missions in Texas and occupying, in a manner, the vast province, stark failure was stalking the Louisiana colony at every turn:  Crozat's ships of merchandise sent to Mexico and Central America had been turned back" at the beginning of his proprietorship.  "The overland trade had failed, from an official standpoint.  The colonists were complaining and deserting," some to the English, "because they were forced to buy goods only from Crozat's stores at his price.  There were no other stores.  No vessels or goods except those of Crozat were allowed to enter the province, and the colonists were forbidden to own seagoing vessels.  Furs of the Canadian trappers were bought at prices fixed by Crozat's commissioners--which they considered insultingly low--and they were obliged to take their pay in merchandise at Crozat's own evaluation."  Here, many of the colonists rationalized, was a perfectly good excuse to engage in illicit trading.  No wonder, then, that "even with his monopoly Crozat could make no profit." 

Here was a lingering failure attributable not only to Crozat and his grasping agents, but also to the royal appointees who had governed the colony a dozen years before them.  In truth, it was a failure of France itself, of King Louis XIV, his ministers, and his successors, who had learned, or should have learned, that "Louisiana was an expensive colony that yielded few remunerative products, the essential function of overseas possessions."  And then there were the people themselves.  Following the recent war, Jo Ann Carrigan relates, the Minister of Marine "proposed that Louisiana's pitifully small population be augmented by transporting destitute families from France.  The Comptroller of Finance, however, refused to support this project; because the French population had been reduced by war, he said, further loss of population through emigration was deemed inadvisable.  Contrary to the Minister's expectations, few unemployed craftsmen, ex-soldiers, or poor families exhibited any inclination to move to the colonies in search of opportunity.  Those who did leave France usually went to the West Indies in preference to Louisiana."  As Marcel Giraud has noted:  "... 'Louisiana colony was the victim of the critical situation of France, of the state of mind of her population; it was a victim in a word of the period in which it was born.'"  For the present, at least, Louisiana was fulfilling its original purpose of keeping the British out of the Mississippi valley, but for the Crown and the French mercantilists who now controlled its destiny, the isolated colony was a bitter disappointment.  And so the search for a scapegoat began in earnest--an easy task for a frustrated financier.196a

By 1716, a year after the Sun King's passing, Crozat and the powers that be in France were thoroughly disillusioned with Cadillac.  In the eyes of the proprietor, the colony was a dismal failure; he, in fact, accused the Gascon of having concealed "Louisiana's real wealth in order to profit from it personally."  Cadillac, not to be outdone, accused Crozat of "breach of contract."  The Conseil de la Marine, the administrative entity for all French colonies created under the Regency of Philippe II, duc d'Orléans, ordered Cadillac's recall on 3 March 1716.  The Conseil also recalled Duclos, who was packed off to French St.-Domingue.  The disgraced governor was unable, or chose not, to sail from Mobile until the summer of 1717.  Again, Bienville served as acting governor until Cadillac's successor reached Mobile.  Bienville hoped, of course, that he would succeed the wily Gascon as governor, but the Conseil, aware of Bienville's sins, chose someone else.197

Jean-Michel, sieur de Lépinay et de Longueville, a native of Fougères, Brittany, was 15 years older than Bienville, who turned 36 in 1716.  Lépinay had become a naval midshipmen at Rochefort in 1683, when Bienville was still a toddler, and joined the French forces in Canada as an ensign in 1687.  He was promoted to lieutenant and, upon the request of Governor-General Frontenac, served as honorary port captain at Québec beginning in 1691.  Lépinay left Canada in 1695 to tend to family business in France and did not return to Québec.  He evidently remained at naval headquarters at Rochefort, where he was promoted to lieutenant-commander in November 1705.  By the 1710s, Lépinay had become a protégé of Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon, comte de Toulouse, Pontchartrain's successor as head of the Conseil de la Marine, and Crozat also admired the lieutenant-commander.  These connections likely secured his appointment as Cadillac's successor on 16 March 1716; Lépinay was 51 years old at the time.  "To attach Lespinay to his interests," one of the new governor's biographers relates, "Crozat granted him fairly extensive financial advantages, in particular two per cent interest on all products exported by the colony."  But Lépinay wanted more.  While waiting to sail to Mobile, he coaxed the Regency into awarding him the Cross of the Order of St.-Louis "out of concern ... for increasing his prestige in the eyes of the Indians," for the natives, he was certain, were very much aware "'that it is a mark of distinction among military men in France'"; the coveted cross was presented to him on October 21.  Lépinay left France on December 21 in command of two frigates, the Paon and the Ludlow, and the ship Peacock, "the largest number of ships that had visited" Louisiana "up to that time."  He reached Port Dauphine on 9 March 1717, almost exactly a year after his appointment as governor.  Cadillac did not return to France until August, so one can imagine the awkwardness Lépinay endured setting up his new regime at Mobile with his predecessor still around.198

Lépinay brought good news for Bienville, who doubtlessly was disappointed by the Breton's elevation.  The previous October, the young King had granted his lieutenant in Louisiana the concession of Horn Island in Mississippi Sound, between Ship Island and Île Petit-Bois.  Bienville had hoped he would be granted property in Louisiana en seigneurie, but the young King, through his Regency, followed the precedent established by Louis XIV, who had decreed that, unlike in Acadia and Canada, there would be no seigneurial titles attached to land concessions granted in Louisiana.  Bienville received his grant at Horn Island en roture, which would be typical of concessions in the southern colony.  (But he would not enjoy his grant for very long; on 7 November 1719, during the Law period, the King decreed that colonial leaders could no longer possess plantations in the colony, though they were "allowed to have vegetable-gardens.")  Bienville also had lobbied the Court to become a chevalier of the Order of St.-Louis, which the young King granted to him in September 1717.  And there was more.  That same year, the Regent, "acceding to a request from 'the Sieurs le Moine,' granted Iberville's brothers"--Sérigny, Bienville, Châteauguay--"confirmation of the letters of nobility of their father, Charles Le Moine de Longueil, which had until then been registered only with the Chambre des Comptes, and he allowed them to have these letters registered 'with the Parlement of Paris and Cour des Aides.'"  Moreover, "the Council of the Navy took measures to pay Bienville and Chateaugué their salaries for the war years, which had not yet been done."  As to his title and function under Lépinay, Bienville would continue to serve as the King's lieutenant, still in charge of Louisiana's military and native affairs.199

Lépinay's stay at Mobile was brief and undistinguished, but his 11-month tenure was beneficial to Louisiana at least in one respect:  his close relationship with the comte de Toulouse drew attention to the distant colony it seldom had enjoyed under the Le Moynes and Cadillac.  The comte and his fellow councilors on the Conseil de la Marine ordered the systematic mapping of Louisiana, not only of its extensive coast line, but also of its vast interior.  French intellectuals of the Académie des Sciences, in fact, were still obsessed over the existence of a "Western Sea" they hoped would link the western fringes of New France to the treasures of the Orient.  Seminarian Father François Le Maire, who had come to Louisiana aboard the Aigle in 1706, proved to be an intrepid explorer as well as a competent cartographer.  He also commented extensively on the biological, metallurgical, and anthropological assets of the colony.  One suspects that the new governor, along with the savants back in France, encouraged Father Le Maire to pursue his scientific inquiries, including the possibility of a journey to the Western Sea.  Preferring to focus his attention on matters closer to home, the priest had sage advice for the distant academics, the comte de Toulouse, and perhaps for the new governor as well:  "For Le Maire," Marcel Giraud informs us, searching for the elusive western passage to Asia "was a task of no practical interest, from which only science would gain. 'I find this matter,' he said, 'more curiosity than utility.'  France would gain little by establishing a link with Asia over a route which, starting from the sources of the Missouri, would cover 'some 1,440 leagues of land and sea,' without counting the distance from the Missouri to Dauphin Island, and from there to France.  Trade with the East Indies would be made neither easier nor less expensive, and Le Maire advised that the enterprise be put off until Louisiana had been solidly 'established' and its geography was better known."  Prompted perhaps by Father Le Maire's inquiries, not to mention the grasping nature of Crozat's interests, Lépiny encouraged the search for mines in the colony's interior, "but lack of funds slowed down exploration."200b

In the more practical realm, Lépinay wasted little time alienating almost everyone at Mobile.  No sooner had he arrived at his post than he superseded his already extensive powers by assuming "complete control over finance and justice."  This was the chief purview of the colony's new ordonnateur, Marc-Antoine-César-Anne Hubert, who had come to Mobile aboard one of the frigates with Lépinay and refused to give in to the imperious governor.  Hubert countered by traducing Lépinay to Crozat, questioning the governor's honesty and accusing him "of leading a scandalous life."  Bienville, typically, took sides in the conflict, generally supporting Hubert against Lépinay.  Colonists, both high and low, also turned on Lépinay.  "Complaints were soon voiced about his arrogance and his harshness towards the various groups in the population."  He "restricted the activities of the newly created Conseil Supérieur, forced it to sit at his personal domicile, and in actual fact stripped it of its judicial and administrative functions."  Perhaps most grievous in the eyes of the colonists was his banning the sale of brandy to the natives, which threatened a dependable source of revenue for many of them; like their compatriots in faraway Canada and Acadia, they, too, were developing a sense of independence inherent in the frontier experience.  One of the governor's most grievous mistakes, likely prompted by the cost-conscious Crozat as well as Lépinay's ignorance of native sensibilities, was an attempt to curtail "the practice of sending presents to the Indians.  This proved to be bad business as well as dangerous politics," Ross Phares explains, and it was another reason why Bienville included the new governor in his growing list of personal enemies.  "The Indians turned to the English for presents, and, consequently, for trade," Phares notes.  What had taken Iberville and Bienville years to accomplish in native-French relations, Lépinay destroyed in a matter of weeks.200


Lépinay's brief tenure did include a significant accomplishment that had eluded the Le Moynes.  In its final days, Crozat's Company, prompted by the Conseil de la Marine, founded the Poste des Alibamons near the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers, just above the Alibamon villages.  To protect the new district and its potential settlers, in 1717 the Crown approved the construction of Fort Toulouse, named for Lépinay's patron.  Daniel H. Thomas describes the strategic location of the fort, not only in relation to regional streams, but also to the network of trading paths running from the Mississippi to the Atlantic:  "It was some 170 miles northeast of Mobile, although much farther via the rivers which slowly wound their way through the south Alabama plains.  The particular site chosen was four miles above the head of the Alabama and the Coosa where this stream and the Tallapoosa approach within several hundred years of each other, then diverged to form the lower portion of the peninsula.  The post was placed on the high bank of the latter stream which is the larger.  It drains an immense area of northeast Alabama, northwestern Georgia, and eastern Tennessee.  The Tallapoosa flows through the area to the east of the Coosa basin having its headwaters in eastern Tennessee also.  They are separated by one of the southernmost ranges of the Appalachian highlands.  Thus the fort was just below the hill country.  It was athwart one of the two main routes taken by Charleston traders to this area.  This was the Lower Path which skirted the hills; it then divided, with one branch leading almost due west to Choctaw country, and another northwest into the Chickasaw lands.  The site was twenty-seven days distance from Charleston by packhorse, but only five days from Mobile, if going by boat."  The new fort was manned by troupes de la marine, who, despite the new uniforms authorized by the Conseil de la Marine, suffered from the usual neglect, including hunger, at the hands of indifferent officials. 

A new policy of Marine recruitment implemented during the Crozat regime also burdened the garrison of this far-flung post.  In late 1715, "at the instigation of Marshal d'Estrées," the Vice-admiral of France, "a batch of foundlings aged from fourteen to fifteen" were enrolled "each year in the overseas companies, so as to make up their numbers."  Worse yet, it became established policy "of posting to the colonial garrisons soldiers guilty of offences, or deserters who had been caught."  Of the 72 deserters sent out from Rochefort in July 1716, 16 were destined for Louisiana.  Influenced by eight recently-arrived deserters from Mobile, including three sergeants, and suffering accutely from a lack of provisions, the garrison at Fort Toulouse mutinied on 25 August 1721, during Bienville's tenure as commandant-general.  Two thirds of the men overpowered their officers, bound them, celebrated their victory, and, with stolen arms and supplies, headed for the Carolina settlements.  They did not get far.  The French officers, who the mutineers had released on their departure, beseeched the nearby Alibamon to help them stop the mutineers.  A force of 250 warriors caught up with the soldiers only 30 miles from the fort, ambushed them, killed 18, and captured the rest, but not without loss.  The sergeant most responsible for the mutiny was tomahawked on the spot, and the French officers escorted the remainder of the captives to Mobile, where they were tried and condemned to life in prison.  Four years later, another group of soldiers at Fort Toulouse deserted to the English.  Eventually, the troupes de la marine assigned there were allowed to bring their families to the fort.  As a result, though it remained one of the most isolated outposts in lower Louisiana, it evolved into a small agricultural settlement as well as a trading post, mission, and military establishment.200a

Also in 1717, construction began on a brick and stone fort at New Mobile to replace the wooden one built there earlier in the decade, which also had been named Fort Louis.  Renamed Fort Condé in 1724 in honor of Louis, Grand Condé, one of Louis XIV's favorite generals, the new structure was smaller but much more substantial than the fort it replaced.  So much so that, when finally completed, Fort Condé became "the strongest work on the French Gulf Coast."200c


Back in France, Crozat's honeymoon with the Regent and the Conseil de la Marine lasted only two short years.  The duc d'Orléans and his councilors appreciated, if they did not always heed, Crozat's series of memoranda in which he "sought to bring up afresh, with amplifications, the projects he had submitted to Pontchartrain at the end of the War of Spanish Secession."  Crozat postulated at length on the strategic and economic importance of the Mississippi valley colony.  He touted Cadillac's journey to Illinois in 1715 and the discovery of copper deposits there, as well as Saint-Denis's sojourn into Mexico and the opening of trade in Spanish Texas--both more fantasy than reality.  He even mentioned a recent "expedition of Ensign François du Tisné from Quebec to the Gulf of Mexico" which "had proved that linking Canada with Louisiana was feasible," though this had been established decades earlier by La Salle, Tonty, and Le Sueur.  Crozat reiterated the La Salle-Iberville thesis of the importance of Louisiana in denying British access to the Mississippi valley, thus guarding the back door to Canada.  This was especially urgent now that Britain controlled peninsula Acadia with its proximity to Canada's front door.  The financier was especially effusive about Louisiana's proven economic resources:  "Its buckskins would supply material for the footwear manufacture in France; the meat of its wild cattle would replace Irish beef in the West Indies market; and the production of raw silk, the cultivation of rice, tobacco, perhaps hemp, and the exploitation of the forests would make available to France a profusion of raw materials the diversity of which could not be rivaled by any other colony.  Moreover, commerce between France and Louisiana would stimulate shipping and thereby the training of crews for the navy."  And, again, Crozat boasted of the colony's mineral wealth, both real and imagined, claiming that the Illinois country contained deposits not only of copper and lead, but also of gold and silver.  To secure this wealth, as well as the colony's strategic advantages, Crozat urged not only the retention of Louisiana, but also an increase in the size and number of its garrisons.  "[I]t was necessary to reinforce Louisiana and to occupy the country solidly," he urged, "taking advantage of the years of peace from which nothing had so far been gained."  He asked for 400 more troupes de la marine, "which would bring the forces of Louisiana up to a total of twelve companies."  To assist in populating the colony with essential labor, a royal ordinance dated 16 November 1716 decreed that "'Vessels, leaving the kingdom for any of the King's American colonies," including Louisiana, "were directed to carry thither, if under sixty tons, four, and if above, six redemptioners," also known as indentured servants, "whose period of service was fixed at three years."  These redemptioners "were required to be able-bodied, between the ages of seventeen and forty, and in size not under four feet.  It was provided that the redemptioners, whom the captain might not sell, should be given by the governor to some of the planters who had not any, and who were to pay their passage.'"

Yet Louisiana produced more potential than actual profit for Crozat and Company.  By the end of 1716, the proprietor was begging the Regent and his councilors to release him from his charter.  He suggested that another company be formed for the colony's development, this one "with 500 shares at 3,000 livres each payable in state notes.  The company would take charge of development, the king would keep the responsibility of defense."  In January 1717, the Conseil de la Marine approved the organization of a new company for Louisiana, and Crozat surrendered his charter to the Regent the following August 23.  A monopoly that was to have lasted 15 years had stumbled along for less than five.201

The new company, called originally the Mississippi Company, was renamed Le Compagnie d'Occident, or the Company of the West, in 1717.  The letters patent for the joint-stock company's charter were approved by the Conseil de la Marine in August of that year, and the charter was issued on September 6, within days of the surrender of Crozat's charter.  The new Company's director was John Law, the nation's Controller General.  A native of Scotland and a survivor of small pox, which disfigured an otherwise handsome face, Law had been charged with murder in London, the result of a duel, when he escaped to Amsterdam in the 1690s.  There, he coaxed the Dutch into forming a national bank based on credit, not specie.  In the following decade, Law, now a published economist stressing the importance of currency and credit over specie, returned to his native Scotland, where his ideas were rejected.  He then gambled his way across much of Europe, to Flanders, Holland, Germany, Hungary, Venice, Genoa, and France, studying carefully the monetary systems of each of these places.  In the early 1710s, he remained in France to take advantage of an economy wrecked by Louis XIV.  Among Law's devotees were the duc de Vendôme; the prince de Conti; and, most importantly, Philippe II, duc d'Orléans, who became Law's patron.  Soon after assuming power as Regent to the boy King Louis XV, the duc d'Orléans appointed the Scotsman his Controller General.  In May 1716, with the Regent's approval, Law, with his brother William, formed the Banque Générale Privé, France's first national bank, which, again with the Regent's approval, became the Banque Royal in 1718.  Law had been a notorious gambler in his youth and made his fortune not only as an economist and financier, but also as a speculator.  His acceptance of the monopoly for Louisiana was simply another opportunity to enhance his considerable fortune as well as his power and influence.202

Law's economic scheme was not only elaborate, but also impressively modern:  "Louisiana with its vast agricultural and mineral potential was central to the development of Law's system." Mathé Allain explains.  "Settlers were to be brought to exploit the resources which would enrich the Company, the undertaking to be financed, of course, with state notes issued by the bank.  The Company was to enrich the state through trade and the retiring of the public debt; the bank would lend the Company the money it needed, and would issue notes to individuals that they might buy stock in the Company, the entire operation being sustained and fueled by the wealth from Louisiana."  But there was the catch:  convincing investors that Louisiana did have vast agricultural and mineral potential.  Law launched an effective marketing campaign to exaggerate the colony's potential, painting Louisiana as another El Dorado--the antithesis of its reputation back in France during most of its 18-year history.  To enhance the success of this marketing scheme, a high-profile Frenchman who had the temerity to challenge the Company's claims would have to be silenced.  Former governor Antoine La Mothe dit Cadillac, who had called Louisiana "a monstrous confusion," wasted no time protesting "publicly and loudly against the company's fanciful description.  Lest he jeopardize its entire publicity campaign it was deemed prudent to remove him from circulation for a few months."  In late September 1717, less than a month after he and his family returned to France, authorities arrested the ex-governor and his eldest son, Antoine, fils, and shunted them off to the Bastille in Paris, where they remained in close confinement until the following February.203

To govern Law's Louisiana and secure its defense, the Conseil de la Marine abolished the office of governor and created the position of commandant-general.  The holder of that title would not be Jean-Michel, sieur de Lépinay et de Longueville.  The Conceil recalled Lépinay in February 1718 and, like the colony's leaders before him, subjected his performance to intense investigation.  Louisiana's new commandant-general would be Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, to be assisted by his notorious older brother, Joseph Le Moyne, sieur de Sérigny et de Loire, now "rehabilitated."  Joseph was a dozen years older than Jean-Baptiste and could count on one hand the number of months he had spent in the colony.  Jean-Baptiste, on the other hand, had lived in Louisiana for 18 years, having never returned to France or even his native Canada.  They would answer not only to the Company's directors, but also to the Regent's council and, after 1723, to a new Minister of Marine--Jean-Frédéric, comte de Maurepas, son of Jérôme Phélypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain The colony also would have a new headquarters:  the Company's directors decreed that Mobile would give way to New Biloxi, to be built across the bay from where Iberville's Fort Maurepas once stood.  The commandant-general, like the governors before him, would have to cooperate with a commissaire-ordonnateur, who also would answer to the Company's directors.  The directors retained as ordonnateur Marc-Antoine Hubert, who had come to the colony with Lépinay.  Also present in the colony, with his own pretensions to power, was company director Charles Legac, who reached Mobile in early 1718.204 

A major innovation in colonial governance during the Crozat period continued under the Law regime.  The Conseil Supérieur, or Superior Council, responsible "for the colony's civil affairs of finance, administration, and justice," and still under the jurisdiction of the government at Québec, would continue to sit in the capital at Mobile.  The Council, as under Crozat, consisted of the governor, now the commandant-general, and the commissaire-ordonnateur, as well as councilors selected among the colonial elite.  The ordonnateur still oversaw Council sessions as premier conseilleur, or first judge.  In September 1719, Company directors, with the consent of Regent and King, reorganzied the Superior Council.  Its membership now included not only colonial leaders, but also Company agents assigned to the colony, who met in a separate committee to handle Company business, while the rest of the Council dealt with government matters.  The Law-period reorganization also provided for "inferior tribunals" to dispense justice in the colony's various settlements, with the Superior Council acting as a court of appeals for these local tribunals.  Even after its reorganization, the Superior Council exercised largely administrative and judicial functions, but by the mid-1730s, after it had moved to New Orleans, it would assume a quasi-legislative function as well.  As a result, the institution would play a major role in Louisiana politics for decades to come.204b

Someone as proud and independent-minded as Bienville could not have been happy with so many checks on his power and privileges.  But the Company's directors, including Bienville's old friend, Martin Dartaguiette d'Iron, serving as the Company's Receiver General of Finances, seemed willing to overlook Bienville's past indiscretions.  Taking advantage of his vast experience and his proven qualities as a leader, they would allow him to serve as the colony's governor in everything but name. 

The extent of territory to be controlled by Law's Company in New France was neither increased nor reduced from what Louis XIV had granted to Crozat.  The Company of the West could award land concessions from the Perdido River, bordering Spanish Florida, along the wide swatch of coast to Texas, though the boundary between French Louisiana and Spanish Texas, like the boundary between French Mobile and Spanish Pensacola, was still in dispute.  The Company also "possessed" all that territory in the interior of the Gulf Coast region from the Appalachians west to the Mississippi, including the Ohio valley.  Its most lucrative possession, of course, was the Mississippi watershed, which stretched as far westward as the headwaters of the Red, Arkansas, Missouri, and Des Moines rivers, as far eastward as the Appalachians, and up the great river to its still-undiscovered source, which the Company believed was Lake Winnipeg.  Thus, to the continued consternation of Canadian authorities, Illinois, which the King had granted to Crozat, would remain under the control of Law's regime.  Eventually, the Company divided this vast realm into nine districts:  New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, Alibamon, Natchez, Yazoo, Natichitoches, Arkansas, and Illinois.  In 1723, the Mobile and Biloxi districts were consolidated, and the ninth district became Wabash, a northern tributary of the Ohio.204c 

Law's Company received from the Regency a monopoly for commerce in Louisiana for 25 years, including control of the lucrative tobacco trade.  Unlike Crozat's Company, Law's Company was allowed to participate in the beaver trade of the pays d'en haut "in perpetuity," subject to royal regulation.  Inhabitants of Louisiana, both old and new, were allowed to trade among themselves and with the Natives, but their participation in the beaver trade would be controlled by the Company, which also would control the distribution of land in the colony, as under Crozat.  Unlike under Crozat, Law's Company was granted control of the mines it opened in the colony without sharing their output with the King.  The Company would maintain and erect posts and forts in the colony; to man these posts and forts, the Company could "levy troops and recruits even in the kingdom, procuring the King's commission for this purpose."  Unlike under Crozat, the Company would "nominate governors and the officers commanding the troops," commissioned by the King, of course, but subject to removal by the Company.  As under Crozat, the "custom of Paris," as interpreted by that city's parlement, would form the basis of civil law in the colony.  Only French vessels were allowed to carry commerce to and from the colony.  "Subjects of the King removing to Louisiana," Law's charter promised, "are to preserve their national character, and their children (and those of European parents professing the Roman Catholic religion) born there"--the colony's créoles--"are to be considered as natural-born subjects," what the French called régnicoles.  All Louisiana colonists were "exempted from any tax or imposition, and the Company's goods from duty."  The King would appoint the Company's directors "during the first years" of operation; later, the directors would be appointed triennially "by the stockholders."  The Company was charged with the building of churches and the recruitment of priests for those churches, all to remain under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Québec.  Most significantly for the future of a colony so long neglected by its mother country, the Company was required "to bring in, during its privilege, six thousand white persons and three thousand negroes" to supplement the few hundred colonists already there. 

Despite these grand expectations, the Company of the West seemed to thrive, at first.  It absorbed the Company of Senegal in December 1718 (giving it a monopoly on the West African slave trade from Cap Blanc to Sierre Leone), the Company of China and the East Indian Company in May 1719, and the Company of St.-Domingue and the Company of Guinea in September 1720, all with the approval of the Regent and his ministers.  Renamed the Perpetual Company of the Indies, with headquarters at Lorient in southwest Brittany, Law's company had become hydra-like in its control of French foreign trade.  At the same time, the Regent awarded Law control of tax collection and the minting of the kingdom's money, granting him, in other words, control of French national finances as well as foreign trade.  By 1719, Law was able to merge his Company with the Banque Royal, and he focused on eliminating the huge national debt created during the long reign of Louis XIV.  Meanwhile, Law's marketing campaign for Louisiana was too successful, raising more than a million livres for the royal treasury and creating what soon would be called the Mississippi Bubble.  Investors could see the potential for profit in buying and selling shares in Law's Company, and soon wild stock speculation engulfed not only France, but also much of Europe.  The French treasury, following Law's economic theories disparaging specie, printed paper currency, backed by shares in Law's Company, to increase the amount of money available for more investment.  A sharp inflation resulted, and the value of the Company's stock plummeted.  The Regent dismissed Law from his ministry in May 1720.  The inevitable crash came soon afterwards, in September.  Law was not the only leader responsible for the financial debacle, but he certainly was a convenient scapegoat for the bursting of the Bubble.  Reportedly disguised as a woman, he fled to Belgium in December 1720 and never returned to France.  In 1721, the Regent's government reorganized the Company of the Indies, transforming it into "a royal régie, under supervision by the Crown, which exercised its authority in the colony through directors," leaving the young King's subjects to pick up the financial pieces.203b

 In 1720, on the eve of the Company's reorganization, the directors sacked Marc-Antoine Hubert as commissaire-ordonnateur and replaced him with a M. Duvergier, who also held the offices of Company director and commandant of the Marine.  The directors retained Bienville as commandant-general and appointed two King's lieutenants to assist him, one for the upper colony--Boisbriant--and another for the lower settlements--Châteauguy.  Duvergier did not reach Louisiana until the middle of July 1721, bringing with him three coveted crosses of the Order of St.-Louis for Boisbriant, Châteauguy, and Saint-Denis.  Despite the honor, Châteauguay, a captain in the navy, was not eager to serve under the new commandant of the Marine.203c 


Still a shaker and mover in Louisiana, Bienville was determined to relocate colonial headquarters to the lower Mississippi, where he was certain the future of the colony lay.  For years he had kept his eye on the portage site he and brother Iberville had "discovered" in their first exploration of the lower Mississippi.  There, soon after Iberville had built Fort de Mississippi 30 miles farther down, Bienville had coaxed a band of friendly Biloxi to settle along the little bayou the French called St.-Jean.  After Bienville abandoned his brother's fort in 1707, the only French military presence on the lower river was an unfortified observation post near the Biloxi village.  In the spring of 1708, in hopes of creating a breadbasket for the colony, still headquartered at Old Mobile, Bienville had sent five Canadians to Bayou St.-Jean, where they planted two wheat crops.  In 1710, the Canadians abandoned the site and moved up to Natchez, where they also failed as wheat farmers.  Once again, only the Biloxi and a few French soldiers occupied the narrow swatch of land between the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain.  Bienville, however, refused to give up on establishing a fortified settlement at the portage site.  

Bienville must have been thrilled when he learned that in the final days of his proprietorship Crozat had recommended to the Conseil de la Marine the creation of new posts in Louisiana, including one at Bayou St.-Jean.  "[T]he point where a small stream runs from the Mississippi River into Lake Ponchartrain,'" Crozat wrote in one of his memoranda, "ought henceforth to have a regular garrison, which would enable it to command the lower course of the river and protect vessels coming from Dauphin Island which were entering the Mississippi via the short cut of Bayou St. John."  But when the Company of the West took over the colony, the St.-Jean portage remained unfortified. 

Earlier in the decade, Bienville had done the next best thing to garrisoning and fortifying the portage site:  he relocated several friendly nations--the so-called petite nations-- to the lower river above and below the site, and shifted two troublesome nations away from it.  In 1712, he moved the friendly Chawasha from Bayou Lafourche to the west bank of the Mississippi 75 miles above the river's mouth, near the bottom of English Turn.  The friendly Washa, kinsmen of the Chawasha, he moved from the Lafourche to a site on the west bank six miles above the Bayou St.-Jean portage in c1715.  A few miles above the Washa stood a village of the Taensa at another portage between the river and Lake Pontchartrain, this one at the head of Bayou La Sueur, which was more than twice as long as Bayou St.-Jean.  However, judging by what the Taensa had done to the Bayougoula and because of hostility with the Houma, Bienville removed some of them to upper Mobile Bay about the time he moved the Washa from the bayou to the river.  In 1716, he made a treaty with the Chitimacha, with whom he had been fighting, off and on, since they had murdered a French missionary ten years earlier.  The treaty stipulated that the Chitimacha would abandon their lands along Bayou Lafourche and return to the southern end of the Atchafalaya Basin and to lower Bayou Teche, their original homeland--far from any future French settlement along the river, or anywhere else the French cared to settle in the region.  Later in the decade, the Acolapissa, probably upon Bienville's urging, moved from their villages on the Pearl River to the lower Mississippi about 35 miles above the Bayou St.-Jean portage and a few miles above the Washa, near where the Taensa were still living.  These villages, combined with the friendly Biloxi on Bayou St.-Jean, could help the French oppose anyone who ascended the Mississippi or approached the lower river via the portages from Lake Pontchartrain.  The Houma, always reliable, now living on the river near the Lafourche, could reinforce the other friendly nations--an impressive defense in depth for what Bienville believed was the most important section of the lower Mississippi.203e

The next post founded on the lower river was even more distant from the Bayou St.-Jean portage than Iberville's Fort de Mississippi.  Interestingly, it was Bienville, then the King's lieutenant for the Crozat regime, who had sited the new garrison.  In the summer of 1716, native relations and the dictates of commerce led to the construction of Fort Rosalie, near the grand village of the powerful Natchez.  The soil around Fort Rosalie was fine and well-drained, and the post stood on a bluff above the river's flood plain, so Natchez, as the area came to be called, had potential for agricultural development.  The site also was at the southern end of a long, well-used trail running northeastward into the Indian country, later called the Natchez Trace.  One of the Law-period concessionaires at Natchez was Marc-Antoine Hubert, the colony's ordonnateur, who opposed the movement of colonial headquarters to anywhere but Natchez.  Despite being sacked in 1720 and replaced as ordonnateur by a M. Duvergier, Hubert remained an obstacle to Bienville's efforts

On 9 September 1717, while Bienville was still serving as the King's lieutenant, a Company of the West official recorded the following directive in a Company ledger:  "Resolved to establish, thirty leagues up the river, a burg which should be called Nouvelle Orléans," after Philippe II, duc d'Orléans, Louis XV's Regent, "where landing would be possible from either the river or Lake Pontchartrain."  Here was the Bayou St.-Jean portage site the Le Moynes had "discovered" 18 years earlier.  Bienville, meanwhile, applied to the Company for a land grant near the portage site.  Beginning in February 1718, he sent "...thirty workmen, all convicts; six carpenters and four Canadians...." to clear the thick canebrakes covering the natural levee at the south end of the portage before preparing a foundation for a settlement there.  Bienville inspected the site in August and evidently was pleased with what he found:  a ramshackle collection of thatched-roofed huts not much more different in appearance from the Quinapisa village he and his brother had visited there in 1699.204a

No matter, Bienville saw now what he had seen then--the potential of the place.  Here, on the lower river, not on the coast, lay the ideal location for the colony's new headquarters.  While his men were still clearing away the village foundation, the Conseil de la Marine appointed Bienville commandant-general, and he received title to his concession.  In spite of his impressive office, however, Bienville's powers were limited:  a momentous decision like moving a capital must be made by higher authority.  All Bienville could do was advise the authorities in Paris and Lorient and hope they would listen.  At first, they did not.  In April 1718, while Bienville's men were still clearing off the river end of the portage site, Company directors ordered a new post to be constructed along the lower Mississippi, this one "on the Manchac brook," which the French called Rivière d'Iberville.  Here, the directors believed, was the shortest route for trade between Canada and the Gulf of Mexico.  And there, at Bayou Manchac, navigated 19 years earlier by Iberville and four Canadians, was a possible alternative for the site of Nouvelle Orléans.  Then death intervened.  Sieur Perrier, the royal engineer who had been assigned to the Bayou Manchac project, died en route to the Mississippi.  Unfortunately for Bienville's plans, however, a freshet overtopped the river bank at the portage site, pointing to the need for expensive levees the Company directors might not agree to finance.  The village at the portage site nevertheless retained the Regent's name.  Meanwhile, Bienville had to cope with personal enemies who traduced him whenever they could.  "During his fight to transfer the capital and company headquarters to New Orleans," Jo Ann Carrigan relates, "his opponents suggested that he simply wanted to enhance the value of his newly-acquired property"--something even the commandant's supporters could not have denied. 

To be sure, Company directors focused on the colony's commercial health, not on Bienville's personal needs.  Prompted by a majority on the Superior Council, still sitting at Mobile, the directors were brought around to the "opinion that the sea-coast should not be abandoned."  So, in spite of Bienville's protests, "an establishment was made in December 1719, on the west shore of bay of Biloxi, at the entrance of the bay, on the point opposite Deer Island."  New Biloxi, as it was called, lay across the bay from the site of Iberville's old Fort Maurepas, abandoned 17 years earlier and only recently "accidentally burned to the ground."  Perrier's replacement, brigadier of engineers Louis-Pierre Le Blond de La Tour, reached Ship Island aboard the Dromadaire in December 1720 and agreed that New Biloxi would be a capital site.  Bienville's efforts to move the colony's headquarters to the lower river seemed to have come to naught.  The new post, to be called Fort St.-Louis, designed by Le Blond de La Tour and his assistant engineer, Adrien de Pauger, was cobbled together in 1721.  By year's end, however, little had been accomplished there, though one could not have failed to notice the ramshackle huts of hundreds of ragged immigrants waiting to be transported to their Mississippi concessions.  A plantation owner from Natchez, Antoine Le Page du Pratz, visited New Biloxi in 1721 and "never could guess why they had chosen that place for the principal establishment of the colony, and why they had thought of building the capital there.  The land is sterile," Le Page du Pratz noted, "and it is exceedingly difficult to unload anything from the ships, as the water is so shallow near the coast."  Knowing this as well as anyone, in April 1722, Bienville, in a dispatch to authorities in France, "called attention to the disadvantages of the establishment at Biloxi.  The ships coming from France had to be unloaded at Ship Island, and the freight taken to Biloxi at great expense, while the ships might enter the Mississippi and be unloaded within two days."  One doubts if the commandant-general also noted that vessels capable of anchoring at Ship Island or Port Dauphine would have been hard-pressed to enter the mouth of the Mississippi, and even if they managed it many of them could not have cleared the sandy shouls blocking the river's passes.205 

Anticipating the force of his argument, in March 1721 Bienville had ordered Le Blond de La Tour to send Adrien de Pauger to New Orleans to "examine the town's site and determine its safety from inundation."  Traveling via Lake Pontchartrain and Bayou St.-Jean, Pauger reached the village on March 29 and concluded that the site was a safe one--no surprise to Bienville.  Pauger then laid out a formal street plan--today's Vieux Carré--based on his and Le Blond de La Tour's design for the streets at New Biloxi.  To replace the "few huts (baraques) among briers and trees," Pauger laid out a rectangular grid of avenues "fronting the river."  Bienville had empowered Pauger to raze any dwellings that did not conform to the engineers' plan.  To the chagrin of the hamlet's original settlers, the assistant engineer followed his orders religiously, and many of the original buildings promptly came down. 

Months later, Jesuit Father Pierre-François-Xavier de Charlevoix, whom the Regent had sent to North America "to find a new route to the Sea of the West"--the Pacific Ocean--found himself in the unprepossessing hamlet on the banks of the Mississippi.  The black robe's letter to a patroness, dated 10 January 1722, is one of the earliest descriptions of Bienville's handiwork:   "I am at length arrived in that famous city, which has been called la Nouvelle Orléans," the priest quipped to the Duchesse de Lesdiguières.  "Those who gave it that name believed that Orléans is of the feminine gender; but what does it matter?  the custom is established, and it is above the rules of grammar.  This city is the first that one of the greatest rivers in the world has seen raised on its banks.  If the eight hundred fine houses, and the five parishes which the 'Mercure' gave it two years ago, are reduced to-day to about one hundred huts, placed without much order; to a large store, built of wood; to two or three houses which would not adorn a village in France; and to half of a poor store, which was kindly lent to the lord, and of which he had hardly taken possession when they wished to make him leave it, to lodge him under a tent, what pleasure on another side to see increasing insensibly this future capital of a beautiful and vast country, and to be able to say, not sighing, like Virgil's hero while speaking of his dear country consume by flames, 'and the fields where was the city of Troy,' but full of the best grounded hope, this wild and desert place, which the reeds and trees will cover almost entirely, will be one day, and perhaps that day is not distant, an opulent city and the metropolis of a great and rich colony."  The Jesuit explained:  "You will ask me, Madame, on what I base this hope?  I base it on the situation of this town thirty-three leagues from the sea, and on the bank of a navigable river, which one can ascend to this place in twenty-four hours; on the fertility of its soil; on the mildness and goodness of its climate, at a latitude of thirty degrees north; on the industry of its inhabitants; on the proximity of Mexico, where one can go in two weeks by sea; on that of Havana, which is still closer, of the most beautiful islands of America, and of the English colonies.  Is anything more needed to render a city flourishing?  Rome and Paris did not have such important beginnings, were not built under such favorable auspices, and their founders did not meet on the Seine and on the Tiber the advantages which we have met on the Mississippi, compared with which these two rivers are only brooks."

In late 1721, over opposition in favor of other sites--Bayou Manchac, Natchez, English Turn, Lake Pontchartrain, Natchitoches, New Biloxi, New Mobile, even Pensacola--Company directors chose this wonder on the lower Mississippi to become Louisiana's new capital.  As soon as he heard of it, Bienville set about proving to the directors the wisdom of their choice.  On 1 July 1722, "the ship Aventurier," with Le Blond de La Tour and Pauger aboard, "passed over the bar of the Mississippi, and this had proved that New Orleans could be made a port."  Le Blond de La Tour detected 14 feet of water in the channel near the river's mouth.  He continued upriver to inspect the site of Bienville's village.  What he found there was everything the commandant had lauded for years and which had so recently impressed Father Charlevoix.  Le Blond de La Tour, no friend of Bienville, had opposed moving the capital to New Orleans "because of [the] town's 'perpetually unhealthy' site."  However, "'[i]n going up the river,'" he reported in late August, "'I examined the best places to establish New Orleans.  I did not find a better situation than the place where it is; not only is the land higher, but it is near a bayou, which is a little river, which falls into Lake Pontchartrain, through which one can at all times communicate with the New Biloxi, Mobile, and other ports, more easily than by the mouth of the river."  He "found the country beautiful, and that everything that grows in the islands could grow on the banks of the Mississippi."  Revealing his limited knowledge of agriculture, the chief engineer doubted that sugar cane could grow in the area "on account of the frosts."  Neither he nor anyone else could have known that many decades hence sugar cane would thrive along the banks of the lower Mississippi and become Louisiana's most important cash crop.  Evidently unaware of the failed wheat crops grown along Bayou St.-Jean a dozen years earlier, Le Blond de La Tour was certain "French wheat" could be "cultivated as soon as the land was sufficiently cleared."  He lingered at New Orleans to supervise proper construction of the town that Pauger had laid out the year before.  Confident the Company directors would not change their minds again, Bienville established residence at New Orleans in August 1722, where, during the previous November, a census had counted 446 men, 140 women, 96 children, 523 African slaves, 51 Indian slaves, 233 cattle, and 33 horses.  Despite a devastating hurricane in September of that year, ever-present disease, more flooding, and frequent desertion, Bienville's ragged little city on the Mississippi survived the tests of Nature and man.  The hurricane of September 1722, in fact, allowed the town to be rebuilt in greater conformity to Pauger's original street plan, with the later addition of "massive earth embankments along the Mississippi to keep out future floorwaters"--the beginnings of the lower Mississippi valley's magnificent levee system.  In 1723, the year Company officials abandoned New Biloxi and moved operations to New Orleans, the city held 229 men bearing arms, 169 women and girls, 183 children, 45 orphans, 267 slaves, 14 horses, 267 cattle, 313 guns, and 25 pistols.  By 1728, a decade after its founding, New Orleans could boast a population of nearly a thousand souls.206 

Here would beat the heart of Louisiana--not at Mobile with its harbor facing the Gulf, or Biloxi with its shallow bay, but at the burgeoning village Bienville had built at the portage site on the lovely crescent.  A resident of Bienville's village a century after its founding noted a curious interplay of river and city that continues to intrigue visitors to this day:  "The circular direction of the stream here is so great," François-Xavier Martin wrote in 1827, "that although the city stands on the eastern side, the sun rises on the opposite bank."  The bend of the river at the Vieux Carré became such an important part of the city's identity New Orleans is still called the Crescent City. 

However, there was a compelling problem with the location of Bienville's village that required the creation of another post on the lower river.  A recent historian of the city notes:  "The lower Mississippi presented serious problems for tall sailing vessels.  Besides the dangerous and unpredictable nature of the riverbed, a sandbar in the main pass of the river often had a sounding of only 10-12 feet, while most large ships laden with cargo drew 15-20 feet.  To address these problems, the French built La Balize ('the beacon'), a fort at the mouth of the river's birdfoot delta.  There incoming ships could hire resident pilots or transfer their cargo to barges and smaller craft (called lighters) that would complete the journey to New Orleans."  Under the supervision first of Le Blond de La Tour and then of Adrien de Pauger, "a system of jetties" was employed to deepen the channel at the mouth of the river.  The fortification at "the beacon" arose on "the small mud island" at the toe-end of East, now North, Pass in March 1723.  Next to the battery stood a magazine, a chapel, barracks to house a small garrison of troupes de la marine, and the nondescript dwellings of customs officials and river pilots.  New Orleans lay a hundred miles above the river's mouth.  "Few ship captains rested easy when entering the Mississippi, moving up its winding course against swirling currents, and escaping the perils of driftwood and sandbars," David Narrett reminds us. "The journey from La Balize ... to New Orleans could take six weeks--as long as a favorable voyage from France to the Caribbean," so La Balize served as the city's "primary harbor."  Throughout Louisiana's colonial period, no sailing vessel of any significance left the Beacon without a pilot to guide it up to the city.207 

Meanwhile, in 1719, Church authorities created a parish at New Orleans--the first in the colony since Mobile was made a parish in 1703.  The first recorded pastor at New Orleans, Récollet Father Prothais Boyer, like the parish priest at New Mobile, answered to a distant prelate, the Bishop of Québec.  By the spring of 1727, New Orleans had a church of its own, L'Église St.-Louis, a humble frame structure designed by engineer Adrien de Pauger that served the city for nearly four decades.206a 


French foreign policy changed dramatically after Louis XIV breathed his last in September 1715.  The Regent, aware of the opposition of Britain and Spain to Crozat's limited activities in Louisiana, insisted that Law change the name of the Mississippi Company to the Company of the West to cloak the central role of the Gulf Coast colony in his investment scheme.  The Regent, having cobbled together a Triple Alliance of France, Britain, and the Netherlands, was especially concerned about British reaction to Law's monopoly.  The Triple Alliance already had alienated France from its former Bourbon ally, so Spain's reaction to the Louisiana venture was of lesser concern.  Conditions in Spain also contributed to that kingdom's alienation from France.  Philip V's Italian wife, Elizabeth Farnese, "pursued her dynastic aims, seeking thrones for her sons in Italy."  In 1717, while the Hapsburg emperor fought the Turks on his eastern border, Spanish troops invaded Sardinia, perilously close to French Corsica.  Meanwhile, French agents exposed a Spanish plot to assassinate the Regent.  Britain reacted even more violently to "Hispanic adventurism," declaring war on Spain in December 1718.  France followed suit in January 1719, and the former Bourbon allies were now at each other's throats in the so-called War of the Quadruple Alliance.208

Commandant Bienville paid close attention to these troubling developments when news of them finally reached the colony.   Sometime in 1718, he sent brother Châteauguay to Baie St.-Joseph east of Pensacola with 50 men.  After laying out a fort there, Châteauguay left an officer named Gousy in charge and returned to Mobile.  The Spanish, considering the act a provocation, complained loudly through diplomatic channels while their officers quietly induced half the French garrison to desert.  Bienville sent Châteauguay back to Baie St.-Joseph to retrieve the remainder of the garrison, and the Spanish promptly occupied the post to secure the eastern approach to Pensacola.208a   

When war finally erupted between France and Spain, Mobile was still Bienville's headquarters--perilously close to Spanish Pensacola.  However, when Sérigny, with orders to assist his brother, arrived at Mobile from France in late April 1719, he was the first to bring news of the war to the Gulf Coast region.  On May 13, Bienville, having "the advantage of earlier news," sent Sérigny and Châteauguay with three ships--the Philippe, the Comte de Toulouse, and the Maréchal de Villars--carrying 150 men, to seize Pensacola, then under a governor named Matamoro.  The brothers accomplished their mission following day, "pre-empting a Spanish attack on South Carolina."  Unfortunately for the Le Moynes, the captured post contained few supplies, so they were forced to "feed themselves as well as their prisoners far from their base of supplies."  They had no choice but to send their prisoners to Havana aboard the Comte de Toulouse and the Maréchal de Villars "under a flag of truce," but the governor-general of Cuba ignored the flag of truce and seized the ships, their officers, and crews.  When a Spanish relief force from Veracruz appeared at Pensacola, mutiny broke out among the French soldiers, and many of them headed back to Mobile.  Leaving Châteauguay in charge of the captured post, Sérigny pursued the mutineers.  The Spanish counter-attacked at Pensacola on August 6, using the two captured French vessels as transports for their troops.  Châteauguay and L'Archambault, a Company official, did their best to rally the small force left to them, but most of the troupes de la marine, at least 50, deserted to the Spanish and promptly informed them of the weakness of the garrison in Fort San Carlos.  The Spanish commodore, Don Antonio de la Mandella, demanded Châteauguay's surrender.  Most of his men having deserted him, Châteauguay had no choice but to accept Spanish terms

On the night of August 13, Mandella, with three of his brigantines, expecting another easy victory, appeared before Île Dauphine, where Sérigny had cobbled together a defensive force.  Mandella demanded immediate surrender and threatened to give no quarter if his terms were refused.  Sérigny, unlike brother Châteauguay, still possessed a garrison--150 Frenchmen, 80 of them troupes de la marine.  Many of the troupes were no more reliable than the ones who had deserted brother Châteauguay at Pensacola.  Sérigny's Indians, however, were eager to fight the Spanish, and the militia were now fighting for their homes and families, so he refused the Spanish offer of surrender.  The fight began poorly for Sérigny when the Spanish captured two boat loads of provisions Bienville had sent down from Mobile.  More Spanish vessels soon appeared off Île Dauphine, and Mandella completed his blockade of Port Dauphine.  The Spanish offensive then began to unravel.  The French ship Philippe managed to position itself on the western end of the island, near a battery there.  When Spanish vessels appeared in that quarter on August 21, the Philippe and the battery drove them off, and Mandella was forced to switch his attack to the east end of the island.  Two of his brigantines made their way into Mobile Bay under cover of darkness and landed 35 men at a point between Île Dauphine and Mobile, intent on destroying whatever they encountered.  Unfortunately for the attackers, a force of Natives had reached Mobile soon after the Spanish appeared off Île Dauphine.  Bienville hurried them to the island under command of a Canadian officer named Trudeau, likely François Trudeau, a long-time resident of the area.  Trudeau and his Natives set up an ambush "behind the natural barricade of the forest" which stood along the shore of the bay where the enemy was preparing to land.  Trudeau and the natives held their fire until the Spaniards came ashore.  The "yells and shrieks of those allies of the French," as well as their accurate fire, threw the invaders into confusion.  "Ten of their men were killed or drowned" as they retreated to their vessels.  According to Ross Phares, among the captured "Spanish" were 18 Frenchmen who had deserted at Pensacola.  Their fellow Frenchmen hanged one of them on the spot, and the others were hurried back to Mobile, where they were "tried, found guilty, and shot."  Mandella refused to accept defeat.  He landed forces at several points on the island, but Sérigny's defenders counter-attacked and, after inflicting substantial casualties, drove the attackers back to their ships.  After a few more days of cursory bombardment, Mandella and his fleet sailed away on August 28.  On the first of September, a French flotilla of two Company transports and three men-of-war, under command of Gilles-Charles des Nos, comte de Champmeslin, appeared off Île Dauphine.  Still expecting a resumption of the Spanish attack, Bienville's defenders, mistaking Champmeslin's vessels for a Spanish fleet purportedly coming from Vera Cruz to "reduce the whole province of Louisiana," sounded the alarm and prepared to fight.  As the flotilla approached the battery at Pointe-à-Guillory, the defenders were relieved to see, instead, the gleaming white ensign of King Louis's navy. 

Louisiana was safe for now.  

Bienville now could turn his attention to another attack against Pensacola.  Champmeslin took aboard 200 troupes de la marine and weighed anchor on September 15.  By the evening of the 16th, his flotilla lay anchored outside Pensacola Bay, ready to cooperate with a force of French and Indians under Bienville and his officers.  Bienville's force, mostly French volunteers, were ferried by sloops from Port Dauphine to Perdido Bay, where they rendezvoused with 500 Indians under M. de La Longueville and Louis Juchereau Saint-Denis, marching overland from Mobile Bay.  After investing Pensacola, Bienville hoisted a white flag, the signal for the navy to attack.  On the 17th, Champmeslin bulled his way into Pensacola harbor, engaging the small Spanish fort at the eastern entrance to the harbor as well as a few of the Spanish vessels stationed in the bay.  After two and a half hours of steady bombardment, the small Spanish fort struck its colors.  Meanwhile, Fort San Carlos, on the western shore of the bay, again under command of Governor Matamoro, fell to Bienville's land force without a fight.  Bienville allowed the Indians to pillage the fort but not to scalp any of the prisoners.  The French suffered only six casualties.  The Spanish, on the other hand, "lost many men," including 1,800 captured.  Forty of the prisoners were French deserters, 12 of whom were hanged aboard the French vessels, while the others were "condemned to hard labor for the benefit of the company" aboard the galleys of France.  The comte, who outranked Bienville, accepted the surrender of the Spanish officers.  "When the Spanish commodore presented his sword to Champmeslin," François-Xavier Martin relates, "the latter immediately girt it on him, saying he deserved to wear it.  The commander of the land forces," Governor Matamoro, "was treated in a different manner; Champmeslin ordered a common sailor to received his sword, and reprimanded the Spaniard for his want of courage; saying he did not deserve to serve his king." 

Fully aware of the threat of Pensacola to settlements at Mobile and Biloxi, Bienville allowed his French and Indians to celebrate their victory before torching the Spanish post and withdrawing to Mobile.  Meanwhile, unable to feed so many prisoners, Champmeslin held the senior Spanish officers as hostages and sent the lower ranking Spaniards on to Havana with demands to effect a prisoner exchange, to which the Spanish complied.  Champmeslin also kept the Spanish flag flying over the forts at Pensacola to deceive whatever force the Spanish sent to the post.  On October 23, after capturing several relief vessels out of Havana and Veracruz, the comte and his flotilla sailed back to France, leaving a token force under a Lieutenant Delisle with orders to destroy what remained of Pensacola should the Spanish return before the end of hostilities.209

The coast was not the only scene of conflict between the erstwhile Bourbon allies.  Philippe Blondel, commander at Poste des Natchitoches, on orders from Bienville, led six men to Los Adaes in mid-June 1719 to sack the mission.  Enjoying the element of surprise, they captured a single Spanish soldier and a lay brother.  On the road back to Natchitoches the brother escaped and hurried back along the Camino Real to warn the other missions.  "The priests, suspecting that native sympathies rested with the French, temporarily abandoned East Texas" and retreated to the new mission at San Antonio de Béxar.  French authorities belatedly realized that Blondel's actions had deprived Law's Company of its customer base on Spanish frontier!  Company official Jean-Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe ordered Blondel to apologize not only to the missionaries, but also to the Spanish commandant in Texas, still Saint-Denis's uncle-in-law, Don Domingo Ramón. 

As the war limped on, Bienville also had to deal with the large nations above Mobile, who, luckily for the French, remained peaceful during the two-struggle with Spain.  The Chickasaw had fallen under the thrall of the English, allies for now, but who knew how long the alliance would last.  "Part of the Choctaws had been gained by the British," Martin informs us, and "the Alibamons complained that the French allowed them less for their skins, then their rivals at Charleston, and sold their goods much dearer."  Bienville coaxed the Choctaw into maintaining their alliance with the French and managed to secure a promise of neutrality from the Alibamon.  He also sent an officer, Jacques Pailloux de Barbezan, former commander at Fort Rosalie, to treat with the Yazoo and the Natchez. 

A tenuous peace between France and Spain returned in early 1721.  A large Spanish force under José de Azlor, the marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo, had entered Texas to attack the French wherever they could be found.  Hearing of the peace, the marquis instead, occupied La Salle's old cantonment at the head of Lavaca Bay, where he constructed Presidio Nuestra Senora de la Loreto de la Bahía.  He then re-established the mission at Los Adaes and erected a fortified outpost nearby.  The Presidio de Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Los Adaes, as the Spanish called the new post, was completed by September and lay "half a league east of the original mission ... farther along the road to Natchitoches."  Los Adaes served as the capital of Spanish Texas for 51 years and held, for a time, a substantial garrison. 

The peace treaties signed at the Hague and Madrid between the belligerents allowed the French to return their conquests "in exchange for commercial benefits" the Spanish had long denied them.  French conquests included Pensacola, which the Spanish re-occupied in May 1722.210


The war between France and Spain was mercifully short and did not stop the shipment of thousands of new colonists to Louisiana.  Despite the bursting of the Mississippi Bubble in 1720 and the reorganization of the Company of the West as a royal régie the following year, Law's policies did unleash some of Louisiana's pent-up potential.  Though having promised two ships a year for the colony while urging the adoption of forced emigration, Crozat's Company had sent few new settlers to Louisiana.  Not so the Company of the West.  The first of the Law-period immigrants, 99 of them, appeared at Port Dauphine aboard three ships--the Neptune, the Dauphine, and the Vigilante--in February 1718, on the same day Governor Lépinay was recalled to France.  (More would have come had a fourth vessel not become lost in the Gulf of Mexico.)  The three ships carried military reinforcements--three more companies of troupes de la marine--as well as provisions.  Back in the colony after a year-long absence was Pierre-Sidrac Dugué de Boisbriant, still a bachelor, now in his early 40s.  He brought along Bienville's and Hubert's commissions as commandant-general and commissaire-ordonnateur, respectively, and would replace Bienville as King's lieutenant in the colony.

According to François-Xavier Martin, after evaluating the failure's of Crozat's regime, Law Company officials concluded that "no considerable advantage could attend an exclusive trade with an extensive province, thinly peopled, unless agriculture enabled the planters to purchase, and furnish returns for, the merchandize that might be sent thither.  It was imagined the culture of the soil would be best promoted by large grants (many of several miles front on the rivers) to powerful and wealthy individuals in the kingdom."  Over the next three years, during Bienville's tenure as commandant-general, thousands of more immigrants came to Port Dauphine and Ship Island:  a total of 741 in 1718; 1,367 more, plus 450 African slaves, in 1719; 2,576 immigrants and 126 more slaves in 1720, despite the continuing was with Spain; and 360 immigrants and 868 slaves in 1721, the year the war ended; a total of 5,044 immigrants and 1,444 slaves, 6,488 souls to supplement the 350 to 400 inhabitants counted at Mobile in 1718!  In 1721, soon after the ship Baleine "arrived with eighty-three girls from the hospital of La Salpétrière in Paris," a contingent of Grey Sisters, and 300 settlers for the concession of Mme. de Chaumont at Pascagoula, an "anonymous memoir" counted 199 concessionaires and 2,462 engagés in the colony.  Another source, attributed to long-time resident André-Joseph Pénigault, counted "about six thousand persons, including about six hundred negroes" in the colony that year.  Law's publicity depicted a "fabulous region ... as the new El Dorado, a land of riches, beauty, and health.  When the enthusiastic colonists reached the unhealthy, unproductive swamps of Louisiana they were sickened with disappointment.  But their fortunes had been spent in the enterprise.  Some of them had sold old family estates for passage fare.  For most of them there was no way back.  Their struggles were grim and tragic, indeed.  But the fantastic venture saved Louisiana for France."203d

There was an even darker side to the dramatic increase in the colony's population.  Despite Law's success in attracting financial investors, his Company, like Crozat's, failed miserably in luring "respectable" Frenchmen to "Louisiana's pristine shores," as Pontchartrain had decreed.  While the Regent and his councilors ignored the former minister's policies and looked the other way, Law's agents put into effect a new policy of forced migration suggested by Crozat and sanctioned by the Court.  Royal decrees of November 1718 and April 1719 authorized the rounding up of forçats--"convicts"--for Louisiana, including the employment of baundeliers or bandoliers who were paid for each "undesirable" they arrested.  Parisians, of course, were incensed by the practice, with its many cases of abuse, and riots in the city in March and May 1720 led to the murder of "more than twenty" baundeliers.  On 9 May 1720, in the wake of this mayhem, the King decreed that since "the Company of the Indies is in a condition to attend to the cultivation of the lands of Louisiana, by means of negroes that it furnishes to the colonists ... no more vagabonds, forgers, and criminals be sent to Louisiana; and the judges are forbidden to condemn any such people to be sent to Louisiana."  However, the policy of forced migration, now a year and a half old, could not be so easily reversed when so many Frenchmen benefited from the suffering of the hapless forçats.  Salt smugglers; vagabonds; "'young vagrants' who were cluttering up the seaports"; beggars; "libertines"; galley slaves, called galèriens; "young wastrels"; even thieves, murderers, and prostitutes being held at the Atlantic ports were packed off to the distant colony on the Company's crowded ships.  An historian notes:  "... the records of the Company of the Indies and police documents indicated 'that of the 1,215 women put aboard ships for Louisiana between October, 1717, and May, 1721, more than half were prostitutes.'"  Many came from La Salpétrière in Paris, "a house of detension and correction which furnished a large number of women for shipment to the colony, including inmates, their illegitimate offspring, and other abandoned children."  But relatively few survived ordeal.  "Several thousand criminals, vagabonds, and lower-class women were ... rounded up for shipment to Louisiana," notes Gilbert C. Din, "but fewer than 900 arrived as death snatched the others."  "[I]ll-prepared for the rough life of the frontier, weakened by the crowded unsanitary conditions during the long crossing, most forced immigrants died from fevers, exhaustion, and privation," Mathé Allain relates.  The Paris riots and the bursting of the Mississippi Bubble, coupled with the King's decree and the appalling mortality rate, halted the deportation of forçats.  This compelled the Company to rely on foreign volunteers as well as a more insidious form of forced migration to populate their Gulf Coast colony. 

The ultimate forçats, of course, were slaves from West Africa, imported into the colony in substantial numbers as the pool of white settlers dried up.  The climate of lower Louisiana also played a role in bringing more Africans to Louisiana.  According to François-Xaver Martin:  "Experience had shewn the great fertility of the land in Louisiana, especially on the banks of the Mississippi, and its aptitude to the culture of tobacco, indigo, cotton and rice; but the labourers were very few, and many of the new comers had fallen victims to the climate.  The survivors found it impossible to work in the field during the great heats of the summer, protracted through a part of the autumn.  The necessity of obtaining cultivators from Africa, was apparent...."  And so, in 1719, despite the war with Spain, the Company sent two ships to the west coast of Africa for the purpose of introducing over 500 slaves into the colony.  Though Pontchartrain promulgated policies protecting slaves from physical abuse at the hands of their masters, colonial governors and commandants enforced these policies with predictable inconsistency.  Moreover, during the Law regime, members of the Conseil de la Marine seemed more concerned about the productivity of plantations than "the duties of humanity."  More slaves arrived during the following years, most aboard "Guineamen" sailing directly from the Senegambian coast of West Africa--"over 2,000 by 1723," Eberhard Faber informs us, "and over 3,500 more by 1729."  Most were destined for plantations on the Gulf Coast and the lower Mississippi, but the commandant-general did not forget the needs of the upper colony.  In April 1721, Bienville "reported that three slaving ships had arrived in Biloxi from Angola ...," Carl J. Ekberg relates.  "These three slavers contained a cargo of 925 Africans, and although many were ill, Bienville was confident that a diet of maize (which Frenchmen themselves preferred not to eat) would soon restore the slaves to good health."  After they recovered from the crossing, Bienville sent dozens of them up to Illinois, among the first West Africans to go there.  Abuses were common.  In the spring of 1722, Martin relates, "a Guineaman landed two hundred and ninety negroes, and reported that another had caught fire, at the distance of sixty leagues from the shore; part of the crew had saved themselves in the long boat, the rest perished." 

The Company was so desperate for white settlers it proposed sending pirates from Cartagena to man the Louisiana concessions.  Martin Dartaguiette d'Iron, the only member of the Company's board who had any personal knowledge of Louisiana and whose two younger brothers were serving the Company in the colony, refused to sanction such a ridiculous scheme.  Dartaguiette urged the Company to recruit "farmers whose clearing of virgin land and tilling of the fertile soil would eventually make Louisiana self-sufficient."  These immigrant farmers, mostly European foreigners, fared better than the pitiful forçats, but they, too, died in amazing numbers either in French ports or in Louisiana.  Among these foreigners were hundreds of German and Swiss families, many of them Protestants, most of them volunteers, who had come to make a new home for themselves in the Louisiana wilderness.203a 

Those who received land grants--en roture, not en seigneurie--were known as concessionaires.  The largest holders tended to be French aristocrats who never set foot in the colony but sent managers to oversee their virtual fiefdoms.  Those who worked the land on these concessions, or who provided skilled labor or special services for the concessionaires, were called engagés, akin to the indentured servants of the British Atlantic colonies.  Engagés, whose passage to Louisiana was paid for by the Company, generally served a contract of three years, after which they were given a small piece of land either within the concession to which they had contracted or at some other place of their choosing, sometimes near relatives or friends.  Along with the land, they also received a cow, four pigs, four sheep, seven hens, one cock, furniture, and cooking utensils.  If the concession to which they were contracted failed before their three-year service ended, their contract usually was abrogated, and they were free to go where they pleased.  Some of them returned to France; many remained in Louisiana.  By 1721, a year after the Mississippi Bubble burst, an anonymous memoirist, perhaps a Company official, found 119 concessionaires and 2,462 engagés still living in the colony.  Elton J. Oubre explains:  "The [concession] tracts were usually stated as being four leagues square, the maximum size that the company allowed; however, few of the colonists knew whether this meant two leagues by two leagues (five miles by five miles) or four leagues by four leagues (ten miles by ten miles).  This was a somewhat moot point and made very little difference since the assignments or contracts had conditions for the loss of lands not cleared in the first three years.  None of the concessions ever developed the manpower to be capable of cleaning either amounts of land."  As a result, "by 1730, most of the land of the concessions returned to the royal domain."203g

During the brief period before the Bubble burst and in the months thereafter, large concessions arose on the Gulf Coast at New Biloxi (Company headquarters), Old Biloxi (Mme. de Mézières), and Pascagoula (Mme. de Chaumont).  On the lower Mississippi, one was sited at English Turn (Louis-Claude Le Blanc), and another on Bayou St.-Jean half a league north of New Orleans (Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz).  Nearby, facing the river, was Commandant Bienville's large concession of "some three leagues" and "a two-league strip" across from it.  On the river above Bienville, widely-spaced concessions arose at Chapitoulas (Charles-Louis Auguste Fouquet de Belle-Isle and the Chauvin brothers, Joseph de Léry, Nicolas de Lafrénière, and Louis de Beaulieu); Cannes Brûlé (Joseph de Montesquiou, comte d'Artagnac or Dartagan; and Martin Dartaguiette); Taensa (Étienne Demeuves); Houma/Lafourche (the marquis d'Ancenis); Bayougoula (Joseph Paris-Duvernay); Bâton Rouge (Bernard and Pierre Dartaguiette d'Iron, whose settlement came to be called Dironbourg); Pointe Coupée (Mme. de Mézières); Tunica (Sainte-Reine or Sainte-Reyne); Natchez (Louis-Claude Le Blanc, Marc-Antoine-César-Anne Hubert, Moulins, Cleracs or Cleras, Jean-Daniel Kolly, De La Houssaye, Deucher, Coetlogon, and Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz); Fort de St.-Pierre at Yazoo (Louis-Claude Le Blanc and Bizart); and Arkansas (John Law's personal "duchy" of 12 square miles).  On Red River, 130 miles above Natchitoches, a concession was sited at the Kadohadacho villages (Jean-Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe).  Others appeared on Black River, formed by the junction of the Ouachita and the Tensas at present-day Jonesville (Henry Martin de Mirbaise, sieur de Villemont; Richard Cantillon; and Éléonore Oglethorpe, marquise de Mézières)

The Company recommended that concession owners grow certain crops on their land, for food as well as for trade.  These included tobacco, corn, wheat, rice, and indigo.  The soil and climate of the lower Mississippi valley proved to be so "favourable to the culture of indigo"--it, in fact, grew wild there--that "measures were taken by the company, at the solicitation of the planters, to supply them with seed" from indigo-growing regions.  Joseph Dubreuil of Dijon, who had come to the colony in 1718, is credited with introducing indigo production to the colony in 1721.  By the 1730s, planters in the French Antilles had begun to turn more and more to sugar production, leaving the indigo market open for Louisiana producers.  By 1743, indigo had replaced tobacco as the colony's leading export.  The Company encouraged the production of other exotics.  Board member Martin Dartaguiette d'Iron, likely as part of a promotional campaign, insisted "there was an abundance of mulberry trees and silk worms, needing only hard working men and girls to work at silk-making.  Tobacco, he said, had the potential to rival that grown in Virginia and in the south of France."  He recommended that experts from established tobacco-growing regions be sent to Louisiana "to demonstrate and teach the colonists" how to grow, process, and market the lucrative weed.  Most concession owners remained in France, sending managers to look after their interests in Louisiana and to supervise the engagés.  Even under careful management, however, most of the concessions failed.  Roger Baudier notes, with only slight exaggeration:  "Everybody who could, obtained grants of land, almost of duchy proportions.  To this was added a great deal of imagination, but in many cases very little work, so many concessions were abandoned."  However, a few concessions succeeded, some of them impressively, contributing to the wealth of the colony in more ways than one.203f

The Company asserted its power also over the spiritual realm, which proved to be as plastic as the realm of the mundane.  On 16 May 1722, an ordinance divided the colony into three "spiritual jurisdictions.  The first, comprising all the country from the mouth of the Mississippi to the Wabash, and west of the Mississippi, was allotted to the Capuchins, whose superior was to be grand vicar of the Bishop of Quebec in that department and was to reside in New Orleans.  The second extended north from the Wabash, and belonged to the Jesuits, whose superior, residing in the Illinois country, was to be also grand vicar of the Bishop of Quebec in that department.  The third comprised all the country east of the Mississippi, from the sea to the Wabash, and was given to the Carmelites, whose superior was also grand vicar and resided usually at Mobile."  This arrangement lasted only until December of that year, when the Carmelites, who had served the colony since 1720 but had fallen out of favor with the Bishop of Québec, were recalled to France.  The Capuchins then assumed the Carmelite's "department," making them the only missionary order to serve the vastness of the lower colony.  In December 1723, there being too few Capuchins to minister to settlers as well as Natives, their jurisdiction was restricted to that part of lower Louisiana south of Natchez, on both sides of the river down to the Gulf.  But even this cicumscribed territory proved too burdensome for the Capuchins fathers.  On 20 February 1726, the Company negotiated a treaty between the Capuchins and the Jesuits that allowed the black robes to return to lower Louisiana.  The King approved the arrangement on August 17, but, in the end, as before, the muddling of jurisdictions devolved into constant bickering between leaders of the two orders.203h


The Côte des Allemands, or German Coast, was appropriately named, but the area where it arose did not begin as a German settlement.  Originally, it was the "temporary" home of the Demeuves concession, which was French.  The concessionaires and their engagés, about 80 of them, reached Port Dauphine in August 1718 aboard the flûte Marie and two other ships, the Duchesse de Noailles and Victoire, but, typically, there were not enough boats to take them to their grant at Taensa on the Mississippi.  As a result, they were forced to remain on Île Dauphine for several more months.  Finally, giving up on transporting them so far upriver, Company officials allowed them to choose a closer site--30 miles above New Orleans, where an Indian village stood.  The site was called Les Chaouachas, after the Chawasha, who Bienville had settled there with some Taensa the decade before.  The village site had the advantage of fields already cleared for the growing of Indian corn.  Another reason for locating the Demeuves concession there was the existence of another portage between the river and Lake Pontchartrain, this one along what the French called Bayou Le Sueur or Le Sueur River, named after the coureur de bois from Iberville's day; today's Bayou Trepagnier.  Twice as long as the Bayou St.-Jean portage, but much shorter than the route via Bayou Manchac, above it, Bayou La Sueur flowed northeastward into Lake Pontchartrain, its head waters resting behind the natural levee on the east bank of the Mississippi near present-day Norco.  The portage there allowed easier travel from Île Dauphine to the Chawasha/Taensa village on the west bank of the river than did the long, difficult voyage via the river's mouth or the shortcuts above and below Bayou Le Sueur.  This was especially important because, after managers and engagés reached the colony, they were responsible for the cost of  transportation to their own concessions.  The Demeuves managers and their engagés reached the Chawasha/Taensa village site in January 1719.  The Marie brought more engagés for the concession the following September, but over the next year or so the budding enterprise did not do well.  In early 1721, on further examination, "the company probably concluded that the Demeuves concession, with only [manager] Michel Delaire and a few servants residing, was virtually abandoned," so its control reverted to the Company.212 

In Europe, beginning in the spring of 1720, Law's Company sent agents into the German and Swiss provinces armed with "flyers that spoke in glowing terms of Louisiasna as a 'land filled with gold, silver, copper and lead mines,' a place with a most salubrious climate (obviously the writer of the pamplet had never been to Louisiana), and 'an extremely pleasant soil.'  All farmers who signed up would receive 120 acres of land fronting along a river.  Those hoping for greater rewards, especially those possessing high stations and endowed with intellectual gifts, could expect to be given larger estates and awarded positions of leadership matching their abilities."  Beginning in mid-May, at Law's expense (but at the same time that Law was being ousted from the Regent's government), his agents escorted the Germans--450 families at first--from their homes in Saxony, Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria, Alsace, and Switzerland, across France to Lorient in Brittany.  Those families who were Lutherans and Calvinists were advised to convert to Catholicism as soon as possible, or their travel through France could be problematic.  Some converted; most did not.  The various "troops," watched over closely by Company "conductors" or commissaires, were still making their way across the kingdom in late August.  They eventually numbered nearly 4,000, 90 percent of them German.  From the Rhine valley, the recruits followed the Canal de la Marne au Rhin to the Marne, which took them to the Seine, which they followed to Paris, from which they headed south on the ancient road to Orléans.  From that city, they followed the Loire through Tours and Nantes to the port of Paimboeuf, and from there, either by land or sea, they moved on to Company headquarters at Lorient, where their "conductors" reported to a certain Rigby, commandant of the Breton port.  While waiting for their ships, some of the families stayed in the nearby towns of Ploemeur and Port-Louis, formerly Port-Blavet, where, along with Lorient, one can find baptismal, marriage, and burial records for many of the Germans.  Sadly, burials generated most of these sacramental records, and many deaths went unrecorded.  While the recruits waited for their ships to arrive, "contagious diseases spread among the ranks, taking an extremely heavy toll.  So hastily were their bodies consigned to mass graves that the names of these victims were never recorded in the parish registers.  Many never received last rites."  Historians of the German Coast settlement contend that many of the hundreds of Germans who died at Lorient perished from an outbreak of bubonic plague, which struck much of France in 1720 and lasted for two years.  Many of the recruits slipped away and "returned to their homes in Germany and Switzerland."  Only five of the Germans who remained at Lorient converted to Roman Catholicism while they waited for their ships.213

From Lorient, the destination of the long-suffering Germans, now numbering only 1,200 or so, would be Law's personal "duchy" at Arkansas in upper Louisiana.  However, the first vessel to take some of the families to the colony, the Deux Frères, did not leave Lorient until December 1720, months after the Mississippi Bubble burst and about the time Law was fleeing from Paris.  His and all the other concessions reverted to control of the re-organized Company of the Indies, which was determined to send the rest of the Germans to Arkansas.  The Deux Frères reached New Biloxi in March 1721.  Sadly, of the 259 passengers who left Lorient, 225 of them Germans, only 40 survived the voyage!  The Foudroyant, which arrived with the Deux Frères in March 1721, probably carried Germans as well.  The Portefaix out of Le Havre carried 330 passengers, most of them German, and reached New Biloxi on 4 June 1721.  Miraculously, all the Germans aboard survived the voyage.  Among the passengers was 27-year-old Karl Friedrich Darensbourg, a Pomerian bachelor who had been seven times wounded and twice captured during eight years of service in the Swedish marines.  After retiring as a captain in May 1719, the talented young officer made his way to Paris and secured from the Company the rank of "reformed captain," which placed him on half pay.  First assigned to serve in Captain César LeBlanc's company of troupes de la marine in Louisiana, Company officials then tasked the young officer with leading the German contingent aboard the Portefaix.  Also aboard was French officer François-Philippe de Hautmesnil de Marigny de Mandeville, now in his middle age.  Mandeville was sporting a recently-awarded Cross of St.-Louis and orders to take command of the fort at Mobile.  He and the other passengers brought the troubling news of John Law's flight from Paris.  The St.-André arrived with 161 passengers in September 1721.  The Durance brought 109 Germans in October 1721.  The Saône, sailing via French St.-Domingue, reached Louisiana in late November 1721 with 269 Germans.  The Garonne, with 210 Germans aboard, left Lorient in January 1721 but, because of the plague, lingered at Brest until February 1721, losing some of its passengers.  It reached the waters off St.-Domingue in April but was captured by the pirate ship Gaillarde in the Bay of Samana.  Rescued by an expedition sent out by the governor of St.-Domingue, the hapless vessel finally arrived at Cap-Français in July.  Sent on to New Biloxi, the Garonne did not reach Louisiana until early 1722, with only 50 Germans still aboard.  The Charente, out of Lorient, did not go to Louisiana, though some of the Germans on its passenger list did settle in the colony, probably having gone there on other ships.214 

In Louisiana, the German families, now numbering 700 or so, were unceremoniously dumped on the barren, "rat-infested" shore at New Biloxi, where they were forced to fend for themselves.  At least half of them died of hunger and disease.  The food shortage at Biloxi was so acute a witness noted that "The great plenty of oysters, found upon the coast, saved the lives of some of them, although obliged to wade almost up to their thighs for them a gun-shot from the shore.  If this food nourished several of them, it threw numbers into sickness; which was still more heightened by their long time they were obliged to be in the water."  Later in the year, having heard of the suffering at Biloxi, delegations of Choctaw, Pascagoula, and Mobilian came "to distribute corn and venison to the starving Germans and other newly-arrived settlers."  In August 1721, word arrived that Law's Company was bankrupt and Law's concession at Arkansas now belonged to the restructured Company of the Indies.  Hearing this, the Law concession's new manager, Jacques Levens, who had come to the colony the previous November, set up about a hundred skilled workers, craftsmen, and engagés at the Arkansas site, most, if not all of them, French.  But the remnant of the Germans intended for the concession were left at Biloxi.  On December 15, after talks with the young Captain Darensbourg, Commandant-General Bienville ordered owners of longboats and flatboats "to surrender their vessels to the colonial administration in order to 'transport on the Mississippi ... the German families'" still languishing on the beach at Biloxi.  Bienville likely informed the captain and Company authorities that even this expedient would be inadequate to transport so many settlers all the way up to Arkansas.  Beginning in January 1722, agents of the reorganized Company, probably accompanied by Darensbourg, moved the German families from New Biloxi to the lower Mississippi via lakes Borgne and Pontchartrain and one or both of the portages from the larger lake.  Perhaps respecting the wishes of the commandant-general, who was determined to establish more settlements along the lower river, the Company retained the Germans at the Demeuves concession on "'land which in its entirey has never flooded,'" boasted a Company official in a recent census.217

The original villages of Des Allemands, or Les Allemands as some preferred to call it, lay a mile or so back from the natural levee on the west bank of the river.  They included Marienthal, later called the Old Village; Augsburg; and Wen.  Another village, Hoffen, was established later atop the natural levee.  Here were names "apparently derived from towns in Germany where many of the inhabitants originated."  Darensbourg, now the settlement's commander, established himself on 12 arpents atop the natural levee in front of Augsburg and Marienthal.  The young commander, now a favorite of Bienville, named his habitation Karlstein, "the village of Karl," later gallicized as Charlesbourg.  The Company's Inspector-General, Bernard Dartaguiette d'Iron, who had witnessed the plight of the Germans at New Biloxi, reported in the spring of 1722 that "The German families number near 330 persons of both sexes and all ages," evidence that the great majority of Law's recruits had perished on their long odyssey from Brittany to the lower Mississippi.  Dartaguiette noted that the Germans "are placed twelve leagues above New Orleans, on the left side going up river, on a very good site where formerly there were wild fields that are easily cleared," that they "have divided themselves into three burgs, the terrain of which is expansive and has never flooded.  As these people are very hardworking, there is reason to hope that this year they will have an abundant harvest and that they will succeed in making good establishments to the colony in the future." 

The Inspector-General's report proved to be much too optimistic.  In May, another Company report noted that the Germans numbered only 247.  Weeks later, they, too, were hit hard by the hurricane of September 1722, which created a tidal surge on Lac Ouachas, today's Lac des Allemands, that slammed into the villages from behind.  The "land which in its entirety has never flooded" no longer possessed that distinction.  In December, on a tour of the river to evaluate the impact of the September storm, Dartaguiette d'Iron noted the devastation at the German villages.  His report must have shaken Commandant Bienville.  Soon after reading it, he petitioned the Company's Council of Administration for permission to move 12 to 15 of the flooded-out German families to his plantation above the city.  Happily for the Germans, the Company approved the petition.  A general census in November 1724 counted only 169 settlers in 58 families, raising 51 hogs and 12 cattle, in the villages at Des Allemands, so a number of them must have gone down to Bienville's plantation and remained there as engagés.  Even Commander Darensbourg's status was unimpressive:  the census taker described his property at Des Allemands as "run-down and undeveloped," and he owned"only one bull, a cow, and two pigs."  One suspects the dramatic reduction in numbers at the German villages reflected the damage done by the 1722 storm and by subsequent flooding.  A freshet in the spring of 1724, the year of the general census, may have contributed to more deaths at Des Allemands.  By 1725, the year of Darensbourg's marriage to a fellow German, the plight of the settles at Des Allemands was so dire the parsimonious Company resorted to issuing advancements of rice to prevent starvation there.  A census of January 1726 counted only 153 settlers on 43 farms at Des Allemands, but the habitants owned 14 head of cattle and had employed three engagés of their own.  Significantly, two of the habitants "had purchased two slaves each," a sign of growing prosperity for some of them.  The 1726 census also revealed that Commander Darensbourg, now married with child, had improved his marterial as well as his personal status:  he employed one of the settlement's engagés, who helped him clear 10 arpents of his habitation.  The following year, a census counted 152 habitants among the Germans, so the population, at least, had stabilized.219 

Despite the terrible early years, the German Coast settlement thrived ... eventually.  By 1724, probably because of flooding, the old villages of Marienthal and Augsburg were disappearing, the residents seeking higher ground along the river's natural levee.  After 1724, Germans and Frenchmen moved across the river to the east bank and established a new settlement, Ance-aux-Outardes, just above the Bayou Le Sueur portage.  Others moved downriver to Cannes Brûlé, also on the east bank.  In 1731, the year the colony reverted to royal control, a census counted 267 habitants at Des Allemands on 59 homesteads, 18 engagés, 120 African slaves.  Various habitants held 159 head of cattle, and every household was raising hogs, a clear sign that the Germans no longer were merely subsisting but were raising enough animals, at least, to engage in local commerce.  The 1731 census mentioned none of the old villages, so the Germans may have abandoned them.  No longer engagés but land-holding habitants, the Germans now worked their own long-lot farms fronting the natural levees.  The community had found its economic niche as the breadbasket of New Orleans and was growing now by natural increase, as the Company had intended.  As an historian of the settlement attests:  "The inhabitants of the German villages became farmers on the land, and ... they saved the early colony from starvation by their skill in gardening, animal husbandry, and hunting.  Scattered among the German population were a few Frenchmen, some of whom had come with the Demeuves Concession."  A study of their early records reveals that most of the Germans, though they may have learned rudimentary French to communicate with their customers, remained largely illiterate in their native language; they had been peasants, not scholars, in the old country.220 

The community also looked to its spiritual needs.  They built their first, primitive, Roman Catholic chapel near Karlstein soon after their arrival.  On the lower Mississippi, only the church at New Orleans, built in 1719, was older than the Germans' wooden chapel.  The community was served first by Capuchin Father Philibert de Viauden, who had come to Louisiana with three other members of his order in 1722 and who was assigned to minister to the concessions along the river from below New Orleans up to Pointe Coupée.  Other Capuchins who served Des Allemands in its earliest days were Fathers Mathias de Sedan, Hyacinthe de Verdun, and Philippe de Luxembourg.  As revealed in the census of 1724, not all of the German families were Roman Catholic.  Of the 58 heads of households counted in the census, 48 were Catholic, 10 were Lutheran, four were Calvinist, and one was "unknown," perhaps a Zwinglian from Switzerland.  Among the Lutherans was the commandant himself, Karl Friedrich Darensbourg.  In 1725, the commander, now age 31, married 21-year-old Margartha Metzer, an orphan from Swabia who had come to the colony aboard the St.-André in September 1721.  Likely because his wife also was Protestant, Darensbourg did not convert to Catholicism in order to marry her.  In May 1725, probably before the marriage, the Capuchin superior at New Orleans, Father Raphaël de Luxembourg, complained of "a Lutheran commandant" at the German villages "who 'maintained a concubine by whom he has already had two or three children.'"  The Capuchin also "spoke of a promise by Darensbourg to convert."  However, the good father lamented, "'I fear that this is only to gain time, but in a little while I shall press him so hard that he will not be able to trifle with me long.'"  This was no idle boast.  Father Raphaël's complaints about Darensbourg's "'scandalous relation,'" and especially his religion, compelled the Superior Council to look into the matter--"the second inquiry in two years concerning possible misconduct by the German commander," the first by a Company agent in 1723 into allegations that Darensbourg had misappropriated Company property.  "In the end," says Darensbourg's biographer, "nothing came of these inquiries," but Company records say otherwise.  His relationship with Bienville might again have come to his rescue in a fight with the aggressive Capuchin.  Unfortunately for the still-Protestant German-Swede commander, Bienville had been recalled to France the year before, which may explain why a list of Company officers serving in the colony dated 28 September 1726 does not include Darensbourg.  He finally did convert to Catholicism, but not until 1729, while Bienville was still in France. 

The second church at Des Allemands, a more substantial log structure, was erected in 1740 and dedicated to St.-Charles de Borromeo.  It stood on the east bank of the river, opposite the original villages, and served what became known as the First, or Lower, German Coast until 1806, when it was replaced by the famous "Little Red Church."  In 1771, during the Spanish period, a church for the Second, or Upper, German Coast was built at present-day Edgard, also on the east bank of the river.  Dedicated the following year to St.-Jean-Baptiste, the first pastor of the upper parish was Father Bernardo de Limpach, a Spanish Capuchin.  During the late 1780s and early 1790s, when St.-Charles de Borromeo had no priest of its own, the pastor at St.-Jean-Baptiste des Allemands, Spanish Capuchin Mariano de Brunete, also served the lower German parish.215


Concessions above the German Coast included Bayougoula, Bâton Rouge, Pointe Coupée, and Natchez, places well known since the earliest days of the colony.  The concessionaire at Bayougoula was Joseph Paris-Duvernay.  In April 1719, his manager, Étienne Dubuisson, arrived with 60 engagés, and they set about preparing the ground for planting tobacco and the raising mulberry trees in hopes of engaging in silk production.215a

The concession holder at Bâton Rouge was Bernard Dartaguiette d'Iron, younger brother of Martin Dartaguiette d'Iron of Old Mobile, who was still in France and serving as an influential member on the board of the Company of the Indies, while Bernard served in Louisiana as the colony's Inspector-General.  Their youngest brother Pierre also was serving in the colony as an officer.  Soldiers and engagés as well as supplies for Bernard's concession came on the ship Profond, which reached Ship Island from La Rochelle in September 1720.  Bernard's concession at Bâton Rouge was one of the few that survived, but it did not evolve into a significant settlement.216

Not so the concession at Pointe Coupée.  The first European settlers there, from the Hainaut region along the border of Belgium and France, reached the colony, according to one historian, aboard the Loire, the so-called "Mayflower of Louisiana," in the fall of 1720, not long after the Mississippi Bubble burst.  The settlers from Hainaut were "manifested" for the Sainte-Reyne concession at Tunica, across the river from Pointe Coupée, and also to Ste.-Catherine at Natchez, but they were taken, instead, to the de Mézières concession at Pointe Coupée, near the portage site Iberville first visited in 1699.  In 1722, a Capuchin missionary, Father Philibert de Viauden, included Pointe Coupée at the northern end of his ecclesiastical rounds along the river.  The Pointe Coupée settlement was so successful Church authorities created a parish there, dedicated to St.-François de Assisi, in 1728, but the settler's did not build a substantial church of their own for another decade.  By 1730, Pointe Coupée had replaced Natchez as the leading tobacco-production area in the colony.211

Fort Rosalie at Natchez became more than a far-flung French garrison protecting passage along the Mississippi.  The soil around the fort's palisades was fine and well-drained, and the post stood on a bluff above the Mississippi flood plain.  During the late 1710s, after Bienville's encounter with the Natchez and the construction of the fort, Law's Company allowed settlers from the lower river to move to Fort Rosalie and establish tobacco plantations on Natchez territory.  Recently-arrived African slaves worked the soil and harvested the precious weed under the supervision of tobacco experts brought to the colony from the south of France and the French West Indies. 

One of the new concession holders at Natchez in the early 1720s was former ordonnateur Marc-Antoine Hubert, who named his tobacco plantation Ste.-Catherine.  Hubert not only raised tobacco, but also introduced silk production to the colony.  After Bienville moved Louisiana's headquarters from Mobile to New Orleans in 1723, Hubert, hoping to make Natchez the new center of the colony, went to France to convince Company officials to move the capital from New Orleans.  His efforts failed, and he died soon after he returned to Ste.-Catherine.  Another important concessionaire at Natchez was Antoine Le Page du Pratz, a Dutchman of French heritage, who had come to Louisiana in August 1718 to administer a concession on Bayou St.-Jean, which he found untenable due to constant flooding.  He soon moved up to Natchez, where he befriended the natives and learned much about their culture.  He returned to New Orleans a few years later to take charge of a Company plantation there.  Back in France, Le Page du Pratz would become one of the most important chroniclers of the Louisiana colony, especially of the Natchez.  Jacques Cantrelle of Picardy was a Natchez habitant who had lived at first on the Arkansas concession.  After it failed, he moved to Natchez, where his wife, Théressé Marquant, served as the settlement's midwife. 

The largest plantations at Natchez were Hubert's Ste.-Catherine, and Terre Blanche, or White Earth, which belonged to the French official Claude Le Blanc.  White Earth stood near the Natchez village of Pomme Blanche, or White Apple, home of the nation's pro-English faction.  For a dozen years, Fort Rosalie and its satellite plantations led the colony in tobacco production.  But there was a price to pay for the intensive cultivation of an area still occupied by hundreds of natives.  During Bienville's last years as commandant-general, conflicts arose between aggrieved Natchez and local Frenchmen, settlers as well as soldiers.  Despite his brutal tactics in suppressing a Natchez revolt at White Apple village in 1723, Bienville and the nation's Suns managed to prevent full-blown warfare between the colonists and the Indians.  By mid-decade, however, after Bienville's recall, many Natchez, drawn to the white man's goods, had become deeply indebted to local French traders.  At the same time, the French brought Old World diseases that decimated the native population.  The principal chief of the Natchez, the Grand Soleil or Great Sun, died in 1728, while Bienville was still in France.  His successor was the Young Sun, named Saint-Cosme, rumored to be the son of the Seminarian priest who had been butchered by the Chitimacho two dozen years earlier.  Despite his name and his supposed nativity, the Young Sun cared little for the French and their ways.221 


The Gulf Coast region and the lower Mississippi remained the center of focus for the Company of the Indies during its 11-year tenure in Louisiana.  But its directors also encouraged exploration and even settlement at the northern and western edges of Company control. 

In spite of its remote location relative to the settlements along the Mississippi, Natchitoches, thanks to intelligent leadership, became an indispensable asset to the colony.  In the summer of 1720, Bienville appointed an old acquaintance to succeed to the command of the Red River district.  Philippe Blondel, the district's original commander, had died in late 1719 or early 1720 and was replaced temporarily by Captain Renault d'Hauterive.  Louis Juchereau de Saint-Denis, in his twentieth year in the colony, had resigned from the regular service in the early 1710s, founded the Poste des Natchitoches, and engaged in illicit trade in East Texas, which landed him in more than one Mexican prison, before assisting Bienville at Pensacola at the beginning of the war with Spain.  Saint-Denis, now a family man, re-entered French service in late March 1720 as an army lieutenant and was given command of the fort at Mobile as the war with Spain continued.  Now back at Natchitoches, he also would command the sub-district of Upper Cane River, which extended the arc of Natchitoches settlement farther downriver.  After the war ended in 1721, Saint-Denis--he with the Spanish wife and the newly awarded Cross of the Order of St.-Louis--restored commercial ties with the missions in East Texas despite a substantial Spanish presence at Presidio Los Adaes.  Saint-Denis, who also possessed part of a five-percent commission from the Company of the Indies on goods sold to foreigners, sought a lasting peace and sustainable commerce between the former belligerents.  This he achieved despite the odds against it, thereby transforming East Texas into a kind of hinterland for New Orleans and lower Louisiana

Saint-Denis was not the only shaker and mover along the French-Spanish frontier, though he was certainly the most tenured one.  Claude-Charles Dutisné, a Parisian living at Québec who served as an officer in the "colonial regular troops," had "discovered" silver deposits in Illinois in 1714, for which Governor Cadillac promptly took credit.  Two years later, Dutisné helped Bienville construct Fort Rosalie at Natchez.  After serving as second in command at Natchez with the rank of lieutenant, Dutisné "received orders to build a post on the island of the Natchitoches (72 leagues [well over 200 miles] up the Red River), where he remained as commandant for two years."  Wishing to return to his family in Québec, "with a compass as his only guide, Dutisné passed through the Alibamu country on foot on his way northward to Québec...."  After wintering at his home on the St. Lawrence, he gathered up his family and took them to Kaskaskia in Illinois.  In 1719, Bienville sent Dutisné, now a captain, "to establish contact with the Missouri Indians," in hopes of finding mineral deposits among them.  Dutisné "traveled from the Illinois country along the Missouri River to the site of present-day Kansas City, where the Missouris greeted him in friendly fashion but refused to let him advance farther.  This action forced Dutisné to return down the Missouri to the mouth of the Osage River, which he followed to the land of the Osage Indians.  Again he was well received, but every effort was made to discourage him from penetrating any farther.  Nevertheless, he crossed  the Arkansas River and travelled 40 leagues in four days to the villages of the Pawnees (Panis).  He reception there was hostile, for the Osages had sent word that Dutisné had come to take slaves.  The Pawnees twice tested his bravery by holding a hatchet over his head and on both occasions he dared them to strike.  Although favourably impressed by Dutisné's display of courage, the Pawnees refused to let him proceed farther west where their mortal enemies, the Padoucas (Comanches), lived.  Dutisné was therefore obliged to return to the Illinois country."  In December, Dutisné sent a letter from Illinois to Bienville at Mobile describing his remarkable "journey to the west as far as the lands of the Osages and of the Panionassas."  Among his revelations were the presence of lead and silver deposits in the territory of the Osage, as well as valuable deposits of rock salt along the rivers.  Dutisné learned from the Pawnee that the Spanish had visited them several times but that the Pawnee were determined to oppose Spanish efforts to settle in their territory.  Dutisné also noted that the three tribes he visited, including the Pawnee, were clamoring for French trade goods.

Meanwhile, St.-Mâlo native Jean-Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe came to Louisiana in August 1718 as a concessionaire for Law's Company of the West.  His grant lay not on the lower Mississippi or even on the Gulf Coast but at the western edge of the Company's territory, 150 miles above the Poste des Natchitoches on the middle reaches of the largely-unexplored Red River.  Here, near present-day Texarkana, Texas, lay the villages of the Kadohadacho, who, like the Hasinai, Yatasi, and Natchitoches, were a Caddoan-speaking people.  As its distance from the rest of the colony revealed, La Harpe's concession was not intended to be an agricultural venture.  Along with the post at Natchitoches, La Harpe's concession--the Nassonite Post, he called it--would serve "the purpose of initiating commercial ties with the Spaniards and Indians."  According to Ross Phares, La Harpe was "drawn to the Louisiana-Texas border" by "revived missionary activities in East Texas," a gift of Saint-Denis, "and the bold talk of the Texas governor, Martin de Alarcón," the troublesome fellow who, in 1717, had tried his best to slip a noose around Saint-Denis's neck.  Evidently undeterred by the likelihood of Spanish retribution, La Harpe left New Orleans in December 1718, moved up to Red River, arrived at Natchitoches in January, remained there a month, and continued on to Kadohadacho, where he sited his trading post.  He learned much from the local Indians about Spanish presence in the region.  Unaware of the war with Spain, La Harpe communicated with Governor Alarcón and Father Marsello, head of the Spanish missions in East Texas, offering to them the hand of peace, religious cooperation, and commerce.  La Harpe, the pre-eminent businessman, even offered to grant Fray Marsello "a handsome commission on any sale effected through his aid."  After sending two of his officers to explore the upper reaches of Red River, La Harpe headed north into present-day Oklahoma to continue his own explorations. 

In June 1719, in the early months of the war against Spain, a small force from Natchitoches under Commander Blondel sacked the Spanish mission at nearby Los Adaes, which frightened the rest of the missionaries out of East Texas.  With them went the region's "customers," so La Harpe, representing the interests of the Company, ordered Blondel to apologize forthwith to the Spanish.  This did not deter a Spanish attack on the lower Missouri "with the view of descending and attacking the French at Illinois," but the Spanish did not reach the Mississippi settlements.  After falling on two Missouri villages, the natives downriver rallied to face the hated enemy, "attacked and defeated" the Spanish force, "made a great slaughter and tortured to death all of the prisoners they took, except two friars," one of whom soon died of his wounds.  Meanwhile, to the south, despite the threat of attack, La Harpe "conducted an overland reconnaissance of the Arkansas River country in present-day Oklahoma" to evaluate trading opportunities there.  After returning to New Biloxi via the Arkansas, the Mississippi, Bayou Manchac, and the lakes, he embarked for France in August 1720 to report his findings to Company officials. 

The Spanish were alarmed by these French incursions into the northern reaches of their American domain.  Having grudgingly tolerated Saint-Denis's penetration of East Texas before the war with France, they were not in a position to tolerate other adventurers carrying orders from the new French regime to "'institute an investigation and ascertain just how far westward France could rightly claim.'"  Especially troublesome was Bénard de La Harpe's response to Governor Alarcón's offer to avoid force in removing the French from the Spanish domain.  The Malouin, who was as much a representative of Law's Company as he was a concessionarie and explorer, replied that he was "astonished at the assertion, that the post, just occupied by the French, was within the government of Mexico, as he and his countrymen had always considered the whole country, which the Spanish called the province of Texas, as part of Louisiana, of which Lasalle had taken possession thirty-six years before.  He added, he had never understood till now, that the pretensions of Spain had ever been extended to the east of [the Rio Grande]; all the rivers, flowing into the Mississippi being the property of France, with all the country they watered."  Texas, to be sure, had never been high on the list of Spanish imperial efforts, but the viceroy and his minions were concerned for Nuevo Léon, west of the Rio Grande.  Though "thinly peopled," Nuevo Léon was "rich in the gifts of nature ... with its large meadows covered with cattle and vast fields highly cultivated, abounding in all kinds of grains and fruit...."  To secure the region from French incursion, they had no choice but to expand their presence east of the Rio Grande.  A stronger presence in East Texas also would enhance Spanish penetration into western Louisiana, begun with the founding of the mission at Los Adaes before the war with France.  In 1721, after the war had ended, the Spanish erected a small fort on the ruins of La Salle's cantonment at the head of Lavaca Bay and called it the Presidio Nuestra Senora de la Loreto de la Bahía.  To protect the outpost, they "called near it some wandering tribes of Indians, who, soon after, attacked by others less pacific, removed their villages seventy miles farther, westerly."  Five years later, in 1726, the Spanish moved La Bahía from Lavaca Bay to a site up Rio Guadalupe, northwest of the bay.  In 1747, they moved the presidio again, this time farther west to Rio San Antonio, at present-day Goliad, Texas.  Meanwhile, in the early 1720s, the Spanish coaxed Isleños from the Canary Islands to settle on the coast near La Bahía.  Finding the sandy soil there inadequate for cultivation, the Isleños moved up Rio San Antonio to a settlement they named San Fernandez, where, "by the help of dykes," à la the Acadians of Nova Scotia, they created pasture and farmland of their own.  An even larger contingent of Isleños--500 of them, according to Judge Martin--agreed to settle near the Assinais, who had been so friendly to La Salle and Saint-Denis.  North of Assinais the Spanish established a mission at Kadohadacho, near Bénard de La Harpe's concession on Red River. 

Bénard de La Harpe returned to Louisiana in July 1721, after the war with Spain, aboard the same ship that brought the colony's new ordonnateur, M. Duvergier.  La Harpe's new title was "Commandant and inspector of commerce at the bay of St. Bernard," the French name for Matagorda Bay.  His mission, this time, was a bold one:  he would reclaim La Salle's "concession" on the Texas coast and project French influence into that region--an initiative favored in Paris but not in Mobile, so much so that the Company commissioners sent Bienville unequivocable instructions "to begin an establishment" on the Texas coast "immediately."  Bienville's objections to the venture were solid ones:  as François-Xavier Martin relates, "the great distance from the other settlements, which were already too sparce; the shallowness of the water near the coast, which prevented large vessels from approaching, the barreness of the country, the difficulty of protecting, and even communicating with, it, the small means of defence, the colonial government had at command, and the thin population of the province, appeared to forbid the extension of settlements to the west of the Mississippi.  None of the colonial officers entertained a different opinion," Martin reminds us.  Moreover, Bienville was not happy with sparing men for such a distant venture.  He also was aware of "the ferocity of the Indians in neighbourhood" of La Salle's old settlement, "some of whom were said to be anthropophagi"--cannibals.  But Bienville's instructions from the commissioners in Paris compelled him to look the other way as La Harpe and 30 men, in a ship commanded by Captain Jean Béranger, sailed on to Texas. 

As the commandant-general could have predicted, the Texas venture was a dismal failure.  La Harpe and his men made landfall on August 26, probably south of today's Galveston Island.  The next day, as Martin relates, La Harpe sent his lieutenant, an officer named Bellisle--likely François Scimard de Bellisle, who had recently spent time as a captive among the Atakapa--to negotiate with the local natives.  He visited them on three successive days, and they proved to be friendly.  During the first week of September, La Harpe ordered Béranger to head down the coast, and they made land fall near today's Espiritu Santo Bay.  The Indians they met there were so unfriendly it "induced the French to apprehend that they would be massacred."  La Harpe persisted in his negotiations, however, even mentioning the French alliance with the Hasinai, but the locals, perhaps influenced by the Spanish in the area, refused to sanction a French settlement among them.  Frustrated, La Harpe lured some of the Indians aboard Béranger's ship.  After trading with them, he released some and detained others to take back to Bienville.  The natives informed him that they presently were at war with the Hasinai and other Caddo nations and demanded to be returned to their families.  La Harpe refused and sailed off with nine of them, returning to Biloxi on October 3.  Bienville, incensed by La Harpe's actions, "gave orders to carry them back immediately; but while preparations were making, they escaped and sought their home by land."  And so ended the second--and final--French effort to establish a presence on the Texas coast. 

La Harpe was through with Texas but not with exploration.  In December, Bienville, responding to orders from the Company commissioners, and perhaps to be rid of the troubleome Malouin, sent La Harpe, with 16 men, back to the Arkansas country, where he was charged with determining the navigability of the stream in order to "open new trade routes to the southwest."  Though Bienville had opposed the Texas venture, he supported this far-flung effort.  Here was an opportunity "to protect the commerce with the Illinois" and other upriver nations "and facilitate the introduction of cattle from the Spanish provinces" into upper and lower Louisiana.  La Harpe was charged, as well, with searching "for mines and in case he discovered any to bring some of the ore."  If confronted by the Spanish, he was to tell them what he had been ordered to say if he had confronted them in Texas:  this region, along with coastal Texas, belonged to France by virtue of La Salle's explorations.  On the way up the Mississippi, he spent a day at Fort Rosalie, now "a heap of rotten timber," and picked up a hand full of reinforcements at Fort St.-Pierre on the lower Yazoo before reaching the mouth of the Arkansas.  The powerful Arkansas, determined to maintain control of commerce in the area, were not disposed to provide La Harpe with "any information of the typography of their country," especially the approaches to the land of the Osage, who had been so hostile to Dutisné.  The Arkansas also refused to provide the Frenchmen with pirogues and provisions for an upriver exploration, but they eventually gave in.  La Harpe journeyed at least 350 miles up the Arkansas, treating with the Indians and exploring the both banks of the river, before the swiftness of the current and sickness among his men compelled him to return to the Mississippi.  At Law's concession near the mouth of the river, he met a boatload of provisions that had been sent from Biloxi to the 40 or so settlers still remaining there.  "In floating down the Mississippi," Martin relates, La Harpe and his men were "near being surprised by a party of the Chickasaws," whose allegiance to the French was never a sure thing.  They returned to Biloxi by 20 May 1722 without further incident.  After conducting Company business at Pensacola, which the Spanish had reoccupied, La Harpe returned to France later in the year, lost his position with the reorganized Company, and never returned to Louisiana, at least not in bodily form.  Gifted with prodigious energy as well as a deft pen, he produced two manuscripts--Journal de voyage de la Louisiane fait par le Sr. Bénard de La Harpe et des découvertes qu'il a fait dans la party de l'ouest de cette colonie in 1720, and Journal historique concernant l'establissement des français à la Louisiane--which have provided historians a lingering look at early eighteenth-century Louisiana. 

Company commissioners, meanwhile, did what they could to establish mining operations in upper Louisiana.  In 1721, they sent Illinois resident Philippe de La Renaudière up the Missouri "with a brigage of miners" to find the mineral deposits Dutisné had located a few years earlier.  According to Martin:  "Their labour had no other effect than to shew how much the company was imposed on, and the faculty with which the principal agents themselves were induced to employ men without capacity and send them to such a distance and at an enormous expense."  About the same time, Philippe Renaut, a miner from Maubere who also had settled at Illinois, was authorized to exploit the mineral deposits Cadillac had discovered near the source of Rivière St.-François in 1715.  Company commissioners also authorized Étienne Véniard de Bourgmont--former coureur de bois and officer at Fort des Chartres, and recent recipient of the cross of St.-Louis--to return to the Missouri valley, where he "had made several expeditions," perhaps under Dutisné.  Appearing at Biloxi in early September 1722, not long after La Harpe's return from Arkansas, Bourgmont brought with him a contingent of colonists along with three Capuchin priests and a lay brother, all welcomed by Bienville.  Not welcomed were orders instructing the commandant-general to furnish this latest adventurer "a detachment, pirogues, arms, ammunition and provision, that he might build a fort and begin a settlement on the banks of that river."  As soon as he secured his pirogues, Bourgmont headed up to Missouri to find his precious minerals. 

At Natchitoches, despite the close proximity of the belligerent powers, peace, not conflict, tended to be the norm.  A Franciscan friar, Father Antonio Margil de Jesus, one of the founders of Los Adaes mission, celebrated the first Mass at Poste des Natchitoches in October 1716.  With the end of war four years later, Franciscans returned to Los Adaes and resumed their ministry at Natchitoches, which did not get a French priest of its own until 1728.  After the French priest left for another parish the following year, the friars from Los Adaes returned to Natchitoches to administer the sacraments to the growing population there.  Saint-Denis and his wife, in their personal lives, also contributed to the good relations among the disparate groups in the region.  "Based upon commercial, religious, and kinship networks," they "became 'godparents' to French, Spanish, Caddoan, and African people who collectively bound together numerous distinctive communities on the Louisiana-Texas frontier."  The Spanish reduced the size of their garrison at Los Adaes in 1730.  Five years later, to escape high water that flooded the original site of the post at Natchitoches, Saint-Denis moved Fort St.-Jean-Baptiste to the west bank of Red River, where a Spanish observation post had stood.  The move, placing the French fort closer to the presidio at Los Adaes, precipitated a diplomatic crisis in Madrid and Paris as well along the Arroyo Hondo, but Saint-Denis made it anyway.  By then, with its growing population, including African slaves, two dozen of them owned by the commandant, Natchitoches had become an important tobacco- and cattle-producing area as well as a center for regional trade, licit or otherwise.  Without the commerce at nearby Natchitoches, in fact, the Spanish post at Los Adaes could not have survived.  Saint-Denis never wasted an opportunity to remind the Spanish of this hard fact.  Enduring a series of annoying Spanish governors who failed to overawe him, Saint-Denis commanded at Natchitoches for the rest of his days, though his final years were plagued by indebtedness, law suits, and physical infirmity.  He begged French authorities to allow him and his beloved Manuela to retire to Mexico, but officials in Paris delayed their decision in hopes that he would withdraw the request.  Saint-Denis died at his home in June 1744, age 68.  After an elaborate, well-attended funeral, he was buried in the church at Natchitoches.222


Although the reorganized Company of the Indies retained Bienville as commandant-general, the new directors, now called commissioners, seemed more determined than ever to micro-manage their Louisiana investment.  In 1722, they appointed Henry de Louboey, "a knight of St. Louis," new to the colony, as commander of Fort St.-Louis at New Biloxi.  They commissioned Louis-Pierre Le Blond de la Tour, no friend of the Le Moynes, as "lieutenant general of the province," an office the chief engineer held until his death at New Orleans in October 1723.  Meanwhile, they "forwarded for publication a set of rules they had adopted for the management of the company's concerns in Louisiana."  These rules dictated, among other things, the price for African slaves resold in the colony and of wine and brandy purchased at Company stores.  The Company, "for civil and military purposes," divided the colony into nine districts:  Alibamon, Mobile, Biloxi, New Orleans, Natchez, Yazoo, Illinois/Wabash, Arkansas, and Natchitoches.  "A commandant and judge was directed to be appointed in each."  In their despatches of 1722 "the commissioners announced to Bienville that the company expected he should consider himself, not only as the commandant general of its forces in Louisiana, but also, principal director of its concerns, and as responsible for their success--that if they prospered, he should have all the credit of it, but, in case of their miscarriage the loss of the regent's favour"--words that bode ill for the commandant-general.  Ironically, by creating these districts and assigning ambitious military officers to serve as local commandants, the commissioners guaranteed that governance in Louisiana would become not more centralized but more chaotic. 

Unfortunately for Bienville, now nearing his 24th year in the colony, his "victories" over the Spanish and the peace that followed did not translate into better conditions for Louisiana.  To relieve the famine sure to follow the hurricane of September 1722, Bienville hurried relief vessels to Veracruz, Havana, and St.-Domingue, doubtlessly an embarrassment to Company officials.  Ironically, rice grain scattered by the hurricane's winds "had taken root, and promised a comparative abundance," but this, too, only pointed to the precarious state of the colony.  Outbreaks of violence at Natchez in 1722 and 1723 were especially troubling.  The Chickasaw were still beholden to the Carolina traders and took every opportunity to attack those nations allied to the French.  Only the precarious alliance with the powerful Choctaw kept the troublesome Chickasaw at bay. 

While Louisiana suffered from its usual problems, momentous changes rocked the French Court, which in turn affected the colony.  On 15 February 1723, King Louis XV turned 13 years old, and the Parlement de Paris declared his "maturity."  As a result, the duc d'Orléans stepped down from his elevated position and, upon the death of Cardinal Dubois in August, assumed the office of prime minister.  In December, however, at age 49, the duc d'Orléans died at Versailles and was buried in the basilica of St.-Denis.  On the advice of Cardinal Fleury, the King appointed a royal cousin, Louis-Henri, duc de Bourbon, to succeed d'Orléans.  Meanwhile, change came also to the Ministry of Marine.  In September 1718, Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon, comte de Toulouse, had been succeeded as head of the naval ministry by Joseph-Jean-Baptiste Fleuriau d'Armenonville, who gave way to his son, Charles-Jean-Baptiste Fleuriau, comte de Morville, in February 1722.  But the Fleuriau "dynasty" did not continue to dominate the ministry.  In August 1723, Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain and Maurepas, son of Jérome and grandson of Louis Phélypeaux, comtes de Pontchartrain, succeeded the comte de Morville as Minister of Marine.  The end of the Regency, as well as the elevation of another Phélypeaux to the head of the naval ministry, prompted yet another reorganization of the Company of the Indies.  

In 1723, Company officials joined Bienville and Company director Delorme in the new headquarters at New Orleans, which Pauger and Le Blond de la Tour were rebuilding at Company expense.  When barracks were ready for them, Bienville ordered a company of troupes de la marine to move from Biloxi to the new colonial capital.  The troupes were promptly "embarked on board of a schooner" at Ship Island, François-Xavier Martin relates, "but, as soon as she sailed, the captain and officers forced her master to sail for Charleston--where they landed with their arms and baggage"--another embarrassment for the Company and its commandant-general.  In the spring of 1724, a freshet on the lower Mississippi, followed by six weeks of rain, resulted in unprecedented flooding and drove the colony to the edge of starvation.   

Meanwhile, the spectre of economic instability, reminiscent of conditions during Crozat's proprietorship, reared its ugly head again.  In response to the collapse of French currency in the Mississppi Bubble and the lack of a stable medium of circulation in Louisiana, the King authorized a new copper coinage for the colonies.  The Company decreed that the new coins would be used not only to pay the troops, but also as "lawful tender in the company stores," replacing "'the notes of officers, clerks, and employés,'" as well as colonial card money.  Moreover, when individuals wished to return to France, "they were compelled to exchange their card money for Spanish dollars, and lost a great deal" in the exchange.  The Spanish dollar was "the only silver coin in circulation in the province," Martin reminds us, and the Court was determined to control this important medium of exchange.  Beginning in January 1723, a series of edicts from the Conseil de la Marine, to be enforced by the Conseil des Indes, sought to control the value of this foreign specie by administrative fiat.  The first edict raised the value of the silver coinage in an attempt to curb price inflation, but, after a year, "Experience shewed the measure adopted was not the right one."  More edicts followed from the Conseils on 26 February, 2 May, and 30 October 1724, this time gradually de-valuing the Mexican dollar.  The result was predictable:  "What was intended for, and was called a healing process, was the administration of poison in lieu of a remedy; the doses were not strong, but came in rapid succession....  Public and private distresses are curable by the same remedies only," Judge Martin explains, "for the former is only the accumulation of the latter.  A violent medicine often injures the natural, so do violent measures the political, body."  Yet the poisoned patient staggered on, somehow surviving.   

While these economic measures were being forced down the throats of colonists and solders alike, Bienville's enemies, always numerous and well-armed with damning testimony against him, roundly traduced him to powerful officials in Paris.  Ironically, one of these enemies may have been Martin Dartaguiette d'Iron, a valued friend from Bienville's days at Old Mobile.  Company commissioners, no longer answering to a sympathetic Regent, recalled Bienville to France "for consultation"--a certain sign that the powers that be had branded him a failure.  Charles Edwards O'Neill attempts to explain this fall from grace:  "Being of the gens d'épée, this Le Moyne was not attractive to the new commercial managers who were sending out gends de plume and company men to control the colony.  Always tempted to feel a paternal or proprietary right over Louisiana, Bienville was obliged to sail in the summer of 1725 for the mother country he hardly knew; the company judged that 'it was not suitable to its interests' to retain him in office in Louisiana."  O'Neill goes on:  "Controller General Charles-Gaspard Dodun, head of the Conseil des Indes, understood the company's position, and explained to Maurepas," the new Minister of Marine, "that Bienville was 'a man of courage and a good officer; (and that) although it would not be good for him to go back as commandant, there is in this position no attack on his honour or honesty, and he could indeed be capable of serving well in all other posts to which you might name him.'"  In truth, Bienville's many past indiscretions finally had caught up to him.  One can imagine his frustration as he waited in France for the new Minister of Marine to grant him his next assignment.  Bienville turned 45 in 1725 and was still a bachelor.  He had spent 26 years--more than half his life--serving his King, and himself, in the Gulf Coast province.  Ironically, this long service, and the baggage that came with it, likely had been a factor in his recall.218 


Bienville's temporary replacement, amazingly, was an old hand in the colony.  Along with Châteauguay and the indomitable Saint-Denis, Pierre-Sidrac Dugué de Boisbriant, also a kinsman of the Le Moynes, had served Louisiana well since the days of Iberville.  Boisbriant was age 50 and, like Bienville, still a bachelor when the commandant-general sailed to France.  Boisbriant had commanded at New Mobile and Île Dauphine, formerly Massacre Island, in the mid-1710s, but his latest command, after a brief sojourn in France, was as Bienville's successor as King's lieutenant, a position he shared with Châteauguay.  From 1718 to 1720, Boisbriant supervised the construction of the original Fort de Chartres up in Illinois. 

Early in Boisbriant's tenure as commandant-general, on 10 September 1724, the Superior Council read, recorded, and published at New Orleans a Code Noir, or Black Code, for Louisiana.  Based on the 1685 Code for the West Indies, Louisiana's "'Edict concerning the negro slaves in Louisiana'" had been issued at Versailles the previous March.  "The provisions of the Code," Mathé Allain informs us, "were derived from well-established French precedents and practices regulating vagabonds, beggars, apprentices, children and wives, in other words, members of the lower orders or persons unfit to act for themselves.  Neither humanitarian nor racist, the Code reflected the French monarchy's preoccupation with order, centralization, and unity, as well as its belief that the American colonies should be 'New Frances' ... 'a transatlantic France, closely united to the fatherland, with a population enjoying all the rights of Frenchmen.'"  In the minds of French officials and the colonial elite, such a Code was necessary for two good reasons.  Five years earlier, the Company had imported 450 Africans into the colony, 126 more in 1720, and 869 in 1721.  These were not the first Africans to come to French Louisiana--Bienville had imported a few black domestics from Havana to Old Mobile in October 1706--but never before had West Africans been imported in such numbers.  As Jennifer M. Spear explains, the code of the Antilles was rewritten and implemented to "'regulate the relations between slaves and their masters, the enslaved and the free, and those of African and European descent'" in the Company's colony.  By "'[c]odifying status and ancestry as important determinants of rights, privileges, and obligations,'" the new code "'reflected the transition from a status-based hierarchy to one rooted in race.'"  The Black Code was issued for another compelling reason:  the purging of Jews and Protestants from Louisiana.  No Jews had come to the colony, at least none who had the temerity to proclaim their faith, but among the Germans who had arrived in 1720-21 were dozens of Lutherans and Calvinists.  "The [original] Code [was] in part a religious document," Allain continues, "promulgated the same year as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and drawn up with the same intent:  achieving religious unity which was considered indispensable for civil peace."  German Protestants were welcome as engagés and even as concessionaires who could help to enrich the colony, but the Capuchin missionaries headquartered at New Orleans were determined to convert the lot of them.  The new Black Code supplemented their overweening righteousness in the never-ending war against heresy.226

Boisbriant served as commandant-general for less than three years.  According to Jo Ann Carrigan, "Boisbriant ... followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, and Louisiana continued to be embroiled in vicious disputes and unbelievable discontent.  Many inhabitants wanted to return to France, but were denied permission to leave the colony.  In spite of all the obstacles, some fifty-four persons 'escaped' in 1724," the year of Bienville's recall, "and forty more in 1726, arriving in France and presenting a grim picture of Louisiana--a country without religion, justice, or order, a shame to the mother country."  Encouraged by Jacques de La Chaise, one of their own and an enemy of the Bienvillists, Company commissioners turned away from Boisbriant and anyone else associated with the ousted Bienville.  On 9 August 1726, the King commissioned Étienne Boucher de Périer as the colony's new commandant-general.  A native of Le Havre, Périer was age 36 at the time of his appointment.  After serving as a naval officer in the War of the Spanish Succession, he secured employment with Law's Company and served "in a variety of capacities."  Evidently his service, as well as his personality, impressed the Company's commissioners.  To prepare the way for the new commandant-general, the commissioners purged more Bienvillists at Biloxi, Mobile, and New Orleans.  Châteauguay and the de Noyans were recalled to France.  Boisbriant lingered in the colony until November 1728 before returning to the mother country.  There, in the spring of 1729, he "suffered censure and was dismissed from the royal service," which he had entered at age 16 in 1691.  "Belatedly awarded a modest pension in 1730," Boisbriant remained in France, where he died in June 1736, age 61 and still a bachelor. 

Duvergier's successor as commissaire-ordonnateur was none other than Jacques de La Chaise.  A husband and father of several children when he had come to New Orleans in 1723 as a special agent of King Louis XV, the new ordonnateur was a proud member the noblesse de robe with aristocratic antecedents going back to the thirteenth century.  De La Chaise's first task in the colony had been to investigate officials suspected of embezzling the Company, so he already possessed a number of personal enemies there, including the few Bienvillists still holding office.  Commandant-General Périer, accompanied by a stepson from his wife's first marriage, did not reach the city until 15 March 1727.  To the delight of the Bienvillists, Périer immediately locked horns with the stuffy De La Chaise.  The new commandant-general also had to deal with a Superior Council bent on assuming more power in colonial affairs.223 

Except for the constant bickering with the ordonnateur, now the norm in Louisiana government, and an ill-advised favoritism towards officers who did not deserve promotion, Périer's administration went smoothly at first.  He, in fact, accomplished much in his five years at the colonial helm.  He did his best to stimulate agriculture by encouraging the production of tobacco and citrus and oversaw "an experiment with silk culture," biographer Brian E. Coutts reminds us.  "Greatest successes came in the areas of public and charitable works.  He supervised the construction of levees, deepened the main channel of the Mississippi, completed work on a prison and a conservatory, and began construction of the Ursuline Convent" after a dozen members of that esteemed order came to New Orleans in February 1727.  "He also attempted to improve the morality of the colonists"--a Herculean task.  In 1728, he welcomed a ship carrying "young girls who were to be married to the colonists.  Each girl had received a small casket containing some articles of clothing, and they were known afterwards as les filles à la cassette"--the "casket girls."  "They were of good character," Alcée Fortier insists, "and were placed under the charge of the Ursuline nuns until their marriage."  That same year, the Superior Council, while "[e]stablishing limitations on the inheritance of property by Indian widows and children ... issued a decree thenceforth prohibiting the marriage of Europeans with Indians, pending a decision on the subject from the king."  But like similar proscriptions going back decades, this decree "seems to have been ignored...."  Meanwhile, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall reminds us, Périer "came out strongly against Indian slavery" not so much for humanitarian reasons as for the colony's need to avoid conflict with, as well as among, regional natives, conflict, he was convinced, opened the way for British exploitation among the warring nations.  "Furthermore, he argued, Indian slaves were useless except for hunting and fishing and were impossible to use for skilled trades or for cultivating the land.  They rendered little service and ran away to their nations or to other, neighboring nations, bringing black slaves along with them and developing ties with the blacks that could be harmful to the colony when there were more blacks."  From Périer's first days in the colony, François-Xavier Martin relates, he "had been sensible ... of the necessity of strenghtening distant posts.  The province had indeed many forts; but none of any importance, except that of Mobile.  The others were heaps of rotten timber, and hardly one of them was garrisoned by more than twenty men.  He had frequently represented his dangerous situation to the company and solicited a reinforcement of two or three hundred men.  His fears had been considered as chimerical.  It was thought he desired only to increase his command, or sought to embroil the colony in war, in order to display his skill in terminating it."223b  

But history does not remember him for these worthy efforts.  During Périer's second year as commandant-general, in the "Worst disaster of the entire French period," colonial Louisiana was driven to its knees.  It was this single, terrible, tragic incident that obscured whatever good Sr. Périer may have done.


In 1729, the commander at Fort Rosalie was an officer named Detchéparré, a notorious drunkard and a favorite of Périer who had come to the settlement the year before, about the time the Young Son, Saint-Cosme, had come to power.  In the summer of 1729, Detchéparré went looking for land on which to build his own plantation.  He chose La Pomme, the White Apple village, and ordered the Indians to move.  The Natchez, who numbered at least 1,200 in their several villages, demurred.  The commander would not back down, and so the Natchez asked him for a few month's time to bring in their harvest.  The Natchez had occupied the site of their villages for generations.  Giving up La Pomme was bad enough, but they feared the French would demand the site of their Grand Village as well, which would require the dismantling of the house of the Young Sun.  Most troubling of all, it would require them to move from the mound on which it stood the sacred temple of the Suns, which sheltered the tribe's eternal flame. 

The proud Natchez had endured enough French intrusion into their sacred grounds.  On November 28, with encouragement from the Chickasaw and the help of local African slaves, bands of warriors under Saint-Cosme, pretending to have returned from a hunting expedition, turned on the unsuspecting French and killed or captured most of the settlers at Fort Rosalie and the outlying plantations.  Commander Detchéparré was among the 144 men, 35 women, and 56 children, a total of 235 white settlers, to die in the attack.  Here, at one time, in one place, approximately 10 percent of Louisiana's European population perished at the hands of their former allies! 

Among the dead were other colonial shakers and movers, including Company officials.  Jean-Daniel Kolly, resident of New Orleans and manager of concessions below the city and at Chapitoulas and Natchez, had arrived at his concession with his son and a clerk named Langlois on the eve of the massacre.  Kolly had come to Louisiana with Périer in 1727 but had fallen out with the commandant-general over business matters.  Marc-Antoine La Loire des Ursins was a "principal clerk ... who also acted as judge."  M. Bailly was a Company director.  M. Ducodere was commander of Fort St.-Pierre atYazoos and was among the voyageurs from that post who arrived at Natchez on the eve of the massacre.  Martin Desnoyers, a second-lieutenant, was major of the town at Fort Rosalie as well as director of the White Earth concession.  Martin Des Longrais was manager of the Ste.-Catherine concession.  Jesuit Father Paul Du Poisson had been the missionary at Arkansas before he moved to Yazoo and had come down with Commander Ducodere and his voyageurs.  "During the massacre," François-Xavier Martin relates, "the great sun with appearant unconcern, smoaked his pipe, in the company's warehouse.  His men bringing the heads of the officers, placed that of Chepar [Detchéparré] near him, and those of the rest around it.  Their bodies and those of the other Frenchmen were left the prey of vermin and buzzards."  But there was more.  "The savage foe," Judge Martin continues," ripped open the bellies of pregnant women, and killed those who had young children, whose cries importuned them."  Amazingly, the Natchez spared the post's missionary, Capuchin Father Philibert de Vianden, who took upon himself the grim task of preparing a list of the massacre's victims. 

Massacre was followed by pillage and plunder.  The Natchez urged the African slaves to join them in the pillaging.  According to François-Xavier Martin, "Two soldiers, who were accidentally in the woods during the tragedy, heard of it on their way back, and sat off by land to carry the sad tidings of it to New Orleans."  Somewhere along the way, a party of Yazoo, returning from a visit with the Houma, provided the Frenchmen with a pirouge, blankets, and provisions to speed their way down to New Orleans.  The Yazoo extracted from the Frenchmen a promise that they would assure Commandant Périer that their nation "would ever remain steadfast in their friendship for the French," and promised, in turn, to warn "every white man they should meet of the impending danger" on the river.  Unfortunately for the French, the Natchez turned the Yazoo against their new enemies with gifts of plunder.  When Jesuit Father Jean-François Souel, along with his African servant, returned to their cabin at Yazoo from "an excursion in the woods," local warriors shot them down.  With the help of a party of Koroa, the Yazoo hurried over to Fort St.-Pierre, where they massacred the garrison of 17 men under an officer named des Roches and carried off into slavery two women and five children.  They also turned on Jesuit Father Étienne D'Outreleau, the missionary at Arkansas, who, on his way downriver, stopped to say mass along the river bank.  The wounded priest and his French companions made their way downriver, slipping unseen past the Natchez.  With the help of fellow Frenchmen at Pointe Coupée and Bâton Rouge, Father D'Outreleau and his companions hurried down to New Orleans, spreading the alarm wherever they could.  Meanwhile, a small party of Natchez ventured as far down as Des Allemands, only 30 miles above New Orleans.  The German militia, probably forewarned, easily repulsed them. 

When word reached New Orleans by the first of December of what was transpiring upriver, panic seized the colonial capital.  Even the experienced sea captain lost his head.  Fearing a general uprising of the Indians, as well as a revolt among the colony's African slaves, Périer cobbled together a force of slaves from the Company's plantation across the river and attacked a local nation, the Chawasha--only 30 or so people living on the river below the captial.  His assault against the "raccoon place" people, Périer insisted, served "as a warning for the small tribes in the lower part of the colony."  He also hoped "to render the savages hostile to the negroes," a policy he had been pursuing by other means since he had come to the colony.  In truth, only one other nation along the river had turned on the French.  When "a few wretched fugitives" from Natchez, seeking shelter, appeared at the village of the Tioux, living "beyond the Tunicas," the Tioux struck them down.  But the other petit nations along the river--the Tunica, Offogoula, Houma, Bayougoula, Taensa, Washa, even the remnant of the Chawasha--remained allies of the French.  One suspects they also continued to provide refuge for West Africans escaping the French, who still kept Indian slaves. 

Owing to the distance of Natchez and Yazoo from New Orleans, French retaliation against the true Native enemy was necessarily slow and tenuous.  Périer, a naval officer with combat experience, did what he could with the resources at hand.  He hurried the confiscated vessel, the Saint-Michel, back to France to retrieve his younger brother, Antoine-Alexis Périer de Salvert, a naval commander and Company official, who he hoped would bring him hundreds more troupes de la marine.  He issued arms and ammunition to the residents of New Orleans, directed every house to secure itself against attack, ordered trenches dug around the city, and posted sentries, mostly untried militiamen, at every approach.  Meanwhile, he sent couriers to Illinois, Natchitoches, and Mobile and emissaries to the Choctaw and the friendly nations along the lower river.  Through the efforts of Joseph Chauvin de Léry, a former voyageur who was "well versed in the language of the savages," the "Choctaws promised to give the French all the aid in their power...."  Périer ordered the Duc de Bourbon upriver to Tunica "for the reception and safety of women and children in the last extremity."  He gathered 300 troupes de la marine at New Orleans, some of them despatched from Mobile and Biloxi via the Bayou St.-Jean portage.  His calling out the militia doubled his force for the march against the Natchez. 

After placing the aging Henry de Louboey in command of the punitive expedition, Périer remained at New Orleans to shore up the colony's defenses.  Louboey sent a small reconnaissance of four volunteers under an officer named Mesplet up to Natchez, which they reached on 24 January 1730.  Through the rash behavior of a fellow named Navarre, Mesplet lost the element of surprise.  Natchez sentries killed two of the Frenchmen, including Navarre, and captured Mesplet and the two others.  They sent one of the Frenchmn as a messenger to Louboey, killed another, and "Mesplet, was tortured most horribly."  As Louboey moved his force slowly towards Natchez, he collected reinforcements from the upriver settlements and did what he could to strengthen their defenses.  Warned of the approach of a large French force, the Natchez sent Suns downriver to "offer peace" to the French.  Their ridiculous demands, communicated to Ignace-François Broutin, former commander at Fort Rosalie and now an engineer serving under Louboey, were designed to delay the inevitable French assault while the warriors back at the villages prepared a defense.  Unfortunately for the Natchez, a large Choctaw force under Charles Le Sueur, son of the long-dead coureur de bois, approached the Natchez villages undetected.  Périer had directed the Choctaw to coordinate their attack with Louboey's force, but La Sueur's desire to attain a brilliant victory, and the Choctaw's lust for scalps and booty, resulted in a premature attack on the morning of January 29, while Louboey was still making his way upriver.  The Choctaw assault lasted three long hours, the attacking force losing only two men killed and eight wounded.  Natchez casualties were unreported, but they likely were substantial.  Heaviest resistance came not from the Natchez but from a force of Africans who, "Fearing the Choctaw on account of their cruelty more than they feared the Natchez, ... sided with their new masters, fought beside them, and resisted the attackers long enough to enable the Natchez to retreat into their forts and make ready for defense." 

Reinforced not only by French militia, but also by Houma, Tunica, and even the Chitimacha volunteers, Louboey's force now numbered 1,400 men, "mostly white"--too many to allow for a rapid ascent, and too many to be sustained with the provisions at hand.  The Natchez, on the other hand, could field no more than 500 warriors, who were duty-bound to protect hundreds of their women and children.  Louboey did not reach Ste.-Catherine until February 9 and saw no alternative but to besiege the Natchez forts.  Nothing could have been more unacceptable to the Choctaw, who, typically, abhorred such a tactic.  "When Louboey came on the scene," Marcel Giraud explains, "he found himself plunged into dispute with the Choctaws, who were discontented at not having been able to take from the Natchez all the booty they had expected.  They began to harass Louboey's force, stealing food (of which his men had all too little) and even munitions, which they either wasted or hid away.  They also demanded immediate reward for the slaves, woman, and children," who numbered in the dozens and who "they had rescued from the Natchez, refusing to hand them over for nothing."  Louboey suspected the Choctaw were waiting for an opportunity to join the Natchez and fall on the French!  Early in the siege, several hundred Natchez poured out of their hilltop forts and attacked a section of the French entrenchments manned by Jean-Baptiste Delay, surgeon of the concession at Pointe Coupée, and 25 volunteers from that settlement.  With them were a detachment of troupes de la marine, who fled when the Natchez appeared.  Delay and his engagés held their ground.  Eight of them fell, but Delay and the others, along with Captain Martin Dartaguiette, Bienville's old friend, and a handful of Tunica, "threw back the assailants, who otherwise would have massacred Louboey's entire detachment--especially since the Choctaw were watching the French and waiting for their defeat so as to join in the attack on them.  In that event," Giraud reminds us, "the fate of the colony would have been irremediably decided."

Early in the siege, Louboey managed to bring up 11 field pieces and place them in the main approach trench.  According to Judge Martin, "There was not in the whole army one man that could manage them, and the only hope entertained of them was, that they might scare the Indians."  In truth, there were artillerists aplenty in Louboey's force, but the guns were poorly positioned.  Broutin had come up as Loubeoy's engineer, but Périer had sent a favorite, Pierre Baron, with orders for Broutin to defer to Baron's advice.  The two were rivals, and their personal animus was not extinguished by the serious work at hand.  It was Baron who sited the approach trench "below the lower of the two [Natchez] forts, whereas for the success of the siege it ought to have been opened above the higher fort."  To compound this problem, Baron sited the cannon "at the same low level and too far from their target, which made the fire ineffective, especially against the flexible timber that the Indians used for their palisade."   The employment of artillery, no matter how ineffective, nevertheless weakened the resolve of the valiant defenders, along with veiled threats from Choctaw warriors, who opened their own negotations with the Natchez Suns.  A week into the siege, the Natchez threatened "to burn the white women and children still in their possession, and offered to surrender them, if the eleven field pieces he had were withdrawn."  Negotiations lingered into late February.  "[U]able to impose any conditions on the enemy, as he was not sufficiently sure either of his troops or of his allies to make more stringent demands," Louboey finally agreed to Natchez terms on February 25.  The Natchez released their captives, and the siege was lifted.  Louboey left only a token force of 40 men to build "a small, crude 'provisional fort,'" sited by Broutin, to house the artillery he hoped would "keep the Indians in awe, and protect the navigation of the river."  Captain Dartaguiette was left in command of the fort, named Fort des Français, "in recognition of the activity and courage he had shown throughout the campaign." 

Aware that they could no longer remain in their ancient homeland, the Natchez moved to new camps at the edge of the river and spent two weeks building pirougues out of sight of the French.  Under cover of darkness, many of them slipped across the river and headed west to a refuge at the head of Black River.  There they built a fort in a region once occupied by the Ouachita and near a village of the Tunica.  Others remained hidden along the Mississippi, menacing communications between the upper and lower portions of the colony.  In July 1730, a hundred Natchez fell on a work party of blacks, under the protection of 10 soldiers, from Dartaguiette's "provisional fort."  The Natchez killed eight of the soldiers and blacks and took several blacks as prisoners.  "Although this incident occurred some 250 miles from New Orleans," Marcel Giraud relates, "it was enough, in the tense atmosphere prevailing in the town, to rekindle the population's fear, which increasingly was affecting the solders as well."

For the next two years, the French and their Indians attacked the Natchez and other nations who deigned to harbor them.  The Illinois offered their assistance but were too distant to attack the Natchez directly.  They instead joined the Arkansas, bent on vengeance for the death of their missionary, Father Du Poisson, in a campaign against the Yazoo and Koroa.  Périer was so desperate to secure native allies in the lower colony he solicited the nomadic, canabalistic Atakapa of the western prairies, but nothing came of their offer to lure the Natchez into their territory.  French and Indian forces also recaptured or killed most of the Africans who had assisted in the November massacre and kept a close eye on the great majority of the colony's blacks who had nothing to do with it.  In early 1731, word arrived from manager Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz of a slave conspiracy on the Company's plantation across from the city, at present-day Algiers.  Périer promptly seized the ringleaders and broke them on the wheel before the conspiracy could break out into open rebellion. 

Périer de Salvert, meanwhile, arrived at New Orleans with reinforcements from France in early September 1730.  Aboard the Company storeship Somme out of Le Havre were not the 600 troupes de la marine the elder Périer had requested, but 150 gray-clad regulars organized in three companies.  Among Périer de Salvert's naval officers was 36-year-old Louis Bilouart de Kervaségan, chevalier de Kerlérec, of Quimper, Brittany, future royal governor of Louisiana.  His brother's reinforcement nevertheless allowed the governor-general to spurn more help from the ever-demanding Choctaw.  He, in fact, excluded the Choctaw from his new offensive against the Natchez, which took several months to organize.  By the end of 1731, not quite a thousand troupes de la marine and recently-arrived Swiss mercenaries would be stationed in the colony--"a relatively powerful body," François-Xavier Martin reminds us, "if there had been but one settlement to protect; but a very insufficient one, while the establishments were sprinkled over a wide extended territory."  Périer had no choice but to tap into this growing resource:  The militia of the entire colony, including the Illinois settlements, numbered barely 800.

Périer's new campaign began inauspiciously.  Despite the proximity of a Tunica village to the Natchez stronghold on Black River, Périer and his officers did not know its exact location.  He sent a reconnaissance party of 20 blacks and Indians under Lieutenant Louis Petit Coulange de Livilliers to find the enemy fort and then rendezvous with a contingent of Arkansas coming down the Mississippi to join the campaign.  The Natchez were waiting.  They ambushed Coulange, killing half of his party, including the young aristocrat.  The Arkansas waited patiently at the rendezvous and then returned to their villages.  Périer, meanwhile, spent time among the Tunica on the lower river, trying to allay their fears about Natchez retaliation.  He failed to convince them to release all of their warriors to him for the final assault against the common enemy.  They "let him have only the 150 of the best among them" and retained the others to protect their villages.  Not until December 9 did Périer's first corps--200 troupes de la marine and sailors led by his younger brother, now a lieutenant-commander--head upriver from New Orleans.  The second corps--colonial troops under Henri de Poilvilain, baron de Cresnay, a veteran of the War of the Spanish Succession but inexperienced in frontier warfare, recently in command at Mobile--followed the commandant-general to the German villages, where it caught up to the first corps, while the third corps--the rest of the colonial militia, commanded by Étienne de Bénac, a retired regular army captain and former manager of one of the Bâton Rouge concessions--caught up to the others at Bayougoula, where 40 Acolapissa joined them.  Périer's "army" now numbered about 700 men.  Continuing upriver, his corps were buttressed by reinforcements from Pointe Coupée under the redoubtable Delay, as well as detachments from the Natchez and Natchitoches garrisons, bringing the total to nearly a thousand French and Indians.  At the mouth of Red River, Périer's force was met by the Prince de Conty, which brought up food and ammunition for the final leg of the expedition--up Red River to the confluence with Black River at present-day Delhoste, and then up Black River to the Natchez stronghold of three detached forts, which stood near confluence of the Ouchita and Tensas rivers, forming the Black, near present-day Jonesville.  Here also were the remains of several Law-era concessions; the inhabitants of one of them, that of the maquise de Mézières, recently massacred by the Tioux after that petit nation had allied itself with the Natchez.  

In early January 1731, Périer's force, lugging along a single cannon, moved up Black River with only a disaffected Natchez and two Canadians to guide them to the Natchez stronghold.  The Canadians, Marin and Outlas, had recently come down from Illinois to inform the commandant-general that the Fox and their allies had been defeated on the upper Mississippi--news that may have boosted French morale as Périer's men slogged through swamps and marshes in the bitter cold of a Louisiana winter.  At the main Natchez fort, Périer, like Louboey, chose to lay down a siege.  His only artillery, besides the lone cannon, were wooden mortars held together by iron bands that fired hand grenades into, or least towards, the Natchez enclosure--an innovation developed by Pierre Baron, the Périer favorite, that proved to be useless.  Périer then had to rely on skirmishing tactics, which provoked a Natchez attack the French and their allies easily repulsed.  By January 23, after three days of effort, the French trenches nearly encircled the Natchez palisade, prompting those still inside to negotiate.  Périer gave them the following day to surrender or he would fire upon them with his one good cannon.  He demanded that they return the black slaves they still held, as well as the most dangerous Sun among them, likely Saint-Cosme, and promised to spare their lives.  On January 25, 450 women and children, but only 40 to 45 men, came out to surrender.  They emerged in separate groups so that Périer had no idea how many warriors still remained inside the palisade.  During a heavy rain squall, under cover of darkness, a large number of Natchez slipped away, along with the black confrères who refused to return to their masters. 

Looking to the season, the condition of his men, and his younger brother's eagerness to return to France, Périer declared victory over the errant nation, destroyed the Natchez fort, and returned to New Orleans, captives in tow, by the first week of Febuary.  Hundreds of Natchez warriors remained at large, free to wreak vengeance on the colony.  In May, 300 Natchez fell upon the main Tunica village, killing that nation's Christian chief.  Earlier, the Tunica had captured a Natchez woman and taken her to New Orleans, where they "obtained from Périer permission to burn and torture her publicly."  The Natchez attack at Tunica likely was in retaliation for this savage deed.  Other Natchez menaced the new French fort near their abandoned villages, now under command of the baron de Cresnay.  In June, the baron, who had learned nothing of Indian warfare during the campaign up Black River, invited "friendly" Natchez inside the fort.  They promptly fell upon the soldiers and the Tunica refugees who had advised the baron not to trust them.  When the fight was over, six soldiers and 30 Natchez lay dead, and work on the fort was temporarily halted.  When work resumed, the officer in charge, Lieutenant De la Buissonnière, refused to serve under the baron's orders.  Natchez on the Mississippi attacked vessels going up to or coming down from Arkansas and Illinois and menaced the settlement at Pointe Coupée.  In October, three bands of Natchez and their remaining black allies, "[a]fter wandering a while among the Washitas," converged on Red River, where they attacked the dilapidated fort at Natchitoches.  Hearing of it, Périer sent Louboey and 40 men to assist Saint-Denis, who, at the head of a force of French, Spanish, Natchitoches, and Caddo, put up a spirited defense.  After a prolonged and bloody struggle, the Red River allies overwhelmed the Natchez before Louboey and his men could get at them.  Saint-Denis held on to the few Africans his men brought back to him and sent the Natchez prisoners--including Saint-Cosme, other Suns, and their women and children--under heavy guard to Périer, who promptly shipped them off to Cap-Français.  There, like the captives from the Black River expedition who had survived the dreadful passage, "'they were sold as slaves to the profit of the Company'" and the Caribbean sugar planters.  The remaining Natchez, likely hundreds of them, either returned to Black River, remained hidden along the Mississippi, or sought refuge among the Chickasaw, the Alibamon, and the Cherokee, now sworn enemies of the French and their Indian allies.223a 


The 1729 attack and the cost of retaliation had taken its toll on French Louisiana.  Fears of more Native and African uprisings panicked the population, such as it was.  In 1726, the population of lower Louisiana had numbered 1,908 Europeans; 332 soldiers; 1,385 Africans, the great majority of them slaves; and 159 Indian slaves--3,784 inhabitants, free and enslaved, compared to 500 or so European inhabitants at the beginning of the Law period in 1717.  But in 1731, two years after the disaster at Natchez and Yazoo, "the number of Europeans had dropped to 1,731, because of repatriation, and Africans had risen to 3,604, for a total of 5,335 inhabitants."  If one added Native servants and slaves to the mix, the total population jumped to 5,741, making Europeans even a smaller minority in the province.  Seeing no chance of profiting from a colony torn by bloody strife and plagued by desertion, the Company of the Indies beseeched King Louis XV to revoke its charter and privileges.  The King and his ministers complied, and, by early 1731, Louisiana again was a royal colony. 

Here was another major transition in the colony's three-decade-long history.  Louisiana's history of governance and imperial possession was essentially the reverse of that which could be found in the rest of New France.  From the 1580s, a series of proprietors held a monopoly on trade and colonization in what became Canada and Acadia, culminating in Cardinal Richelieu's Company of New France, chartered in 1627.  England held Canada and Acadia from 1629 to 1632.  Richelieu's company held Acadia from 1632 to 1654, when the English seized the colony again.  After the restoration of French control in 1670, Louis XIV transformed Acadia into a royal colony, which it remained until he handed it to Britain in 1713.  Canada, meanwhile, became a royal colony in 1663 and remained so for another century.  Louisiana, on the other hand, began as a royal colony in 1699, was held by a series of proprietors from 1712 to 1730, and then became a royal colony again.  Louisiana was different from its older New-French sisters, especially Acadia, in another way.  During French Acadia's 109-year existence (1604-1713), France and England played imperial ping-pong with the maritime region.  It was a game that did not end well for French ambitions, especially for those who had made the colony their home.  In Louisiana, however, no other imperial power held any part of the colony until the early 1760s.  "One factor which probably contributed to the colony's relative progress," as well as its retention by France, "was the absence of European conflict throughout the entire Company period," with the exception of the brief war with Spain in 1719-21.  "War always diverted colonial energies to problem of defense and disrupted communication and vital commerce between France and the colony," Jo Ann Carrigan reminds us; "hence, the period of peace permitted a degree of development which was otherwise impossible.  Yet, in the end, it was an Indian war," with the Natchez and their allies, "which in large measure influenced the Company to abandon the Louisiana project."

In New Orleans, the transition from proprietary to royal control was a smooth one among the colony's leaders.  Jacques de La Chaise had died at New Orleans at the end of February or the first of March 1730 and was replaced as commissaire-ordonnateur by Edmé Gatien Salmon, who did not reach the colony until 1731.  The ministers saw fit to retain Périer for now, his title changing from commandant-general to royal governor.  Henry de Louboey and Martin Dartaguiette would continue to serve as King's lieutenants.224 

Bienville and His Royal Successors, 1731-1765

Périer did not remain Louisiana's royal governor for long.  Blaming him for the 1729 debacle and its costly aftermath, the Minister of Marine recalled him to France in 1732.  The young King then summoned Bienville, still languishing in Paris, and ordered him back to Louisiana, not as commandant-general but finally as governor.  Four years earlier, in 1728, the same King, at the insistence of Company directors, had annulled Bienville's land grants in Louisiana--at least those parts of it the ousted commandant had not sold to the Jesuits.  As soon as he received his new assignment, Bienville wasted no time petitioning King and Company for restoration of his property.  "Apparently some arrangement was made permitting him to possess a substantial part of the lands," Jo Ann Carrigan relates. 

Returning to New Orleans in March 1733 after an absence of nearly eight years, Bienville found the colony "'in a worse state than expected'" despite a royal decree of the year before exempting "from duties all goods sent from France to Louisiana and from Louisiana to France."  Périer, while waiting for a ship to take him back to France, complained about the shabby treatment he endured at the hands of the new governor.  Périer insisted he had been a friend of the Bienvillists, but Bienville and his true associates knew otherwise.  Bienville did, however, approve of Périer's reconstruction of Fort Rosalie in 1732 and its new commander, Jean-Charles de Pradel, a competent officer who had commanded at Fort de Chartres in the 1720s and was a son-in-law of the late Jacques de La Chaise.  And, like Périer, and as he himself had done since the earliest days of the colony, Bienville soon found himself pleading "repeatedly for troops, munitions, manufactured goods, and food supplies."225 

Bienville, more than anyone, understood the true nature of the colony's relationship with the mother country.  Mathé Allain reminds us:  "The founding of Louisiana exemplifies the French crown's undercommitment to overseas Frances.  Having decided it needed to guard an entrance to the Mississippi, just as it needed a fortress to protect the mouth of the St. Lawrence, the French monarchy authorized a strategic outpost.  It never intended to invest more in Louisiana than was strictly necessary to keep it out of English hands."  In other words, in the worldview of the typical Frenchman--King, Minister, and subject alike--Louisiana, with its exotic climate, geography, and people, except for its strategic value, was, as Allain so aptly puts it, "not worth a straw."  The neglect Bienville had witnessed at Biloxi, Mobile, and now New Orleans would continue under the young King Louis XV, officially crowned at Reims in October 1722, two years before Bienville was recalled to France.  The following February, the Parlement de Paris declared the young King's "maturity" on the day Louis XV turned 13.  The duc d'Orléans, serving as his grand-nephew's prime minister, died the following December and was replaced by Louis-Henri, duc de Bourbon, and then by André-Hercule de Fleury, Bishop de Fréjus, known to history as Cardinal Fleury--the young King's former tutor.  Bienville was languishing at Paris when Fleury assumed power in 1726.  The cardinal reorganized the nation's finances, expended much effort in improving life in France, and foreign trade increased exponentially, but, as usual, the Court generally ignored its remaining colonies.  Fleury, when he gave any thought to the colonies, seemed interested only in throwing more money into the fortress at Louisbourg while maintaining the shaky alliance with Britain and pursuing reconciliation with Spain.  Peace, of course, was a good thing, especially for a neglected colony, but in the year Bienville returned to New Orleans, Louis XV, having married a Polish princess in September 1725, threatened the European peace by intervening in the Polish War of Succession.  The only happy result for France in this war would be the seizure and retention of the duchy of Lorraine, which had been falling under Austrian Hapsburg influence.  Peace would return by late 1738 and last for another half dozen years.  Happily, the war of 1733-38 would have no direct impact on Louisiana other than diverting more resources away from the colony.228

Despite the Court's neglect, the Louisiana of 1733 was a larger and more complex entity than when Bienville had left.  The year before Bienville's return, Eberhard Faber reminds us, "there were about 6,000 people living in French Louisiana.  Two-thirds of them were enslaved."  Most of the Law-era concessons were gone, so there were fewer settlements in the colony, but those that did survive were laying a foundation for sustainable agriculture and commerce; tobacco and indigo were the principal cash crops, and lumbering was an important industry.  During Bienville's exile, in August 1728, an edict of the King's council attempted to build upon this delicate foundation.  As François-Xavier Martin explains:  "All orders of the directors of the company in France, issued to those in Louisiana, before the last of December 1723, not presented to the latter and followed by possession and the required improvement, were annulled," which resulted in the opening up of significant tracts of arable land where the Company's concessions had failed to sustain settlement.  "Landholders were required to exhibit their titles, and to make a declaration of the quantity of land claimed and improved by them, to the senior member of the superior council, within a limited time, under the penalty of a fine of two hundred dollars, and in case of continued neglect, to comply with these requisites, the land was to be resumed and granted to others.  Grants of more than twenty arpents in front, on either side of the Mississippi, below bayou Manchac, were to be reduced to that front, expect in cases, in which the whole front had been improved; it was thought necessary to have a denser population above and below the city, for its better protection and security."  This would have applied especially to the holdings at Des Allemands.  "Lands, therefore granted, were required to be improved, by one third of the quantity in front being put in a state to be ploughed and cultivated; but the two chief officers of the colony"--the governor and the ordonnateur--"were authorized, on application, to make exceptions in favor of such landholders who, having large herds of cattle, kept their land in pasture.  The depth of every grant was fixed at between twenty and one hundred arpents, according to its situation." 

These long-lot plantations, face au fleuve--facing the river--would provide the physical structure for agriculture in the lower Mississippi valley, much as in Bienville's native Canada, where miles upon miles of long-lot habitations lined both banks of the wide St. Lawrence.  The decree of August 1728 went on:  "The company, as lords of all the land in the province, were authorized to levy a quit rent of a sous (a cent) on every arpent, cultivated or not, and five livres on every negro, to enable it to build churches, glebes and hospitals."  Here was a vestige of the medieval institution of seigneurialism, the seigneur, in this case, being the re-organized Company of the Indies.  "Grantees were restrained from alienating," that is, selling or bequeathing, "their land until they had made the requisite improvements.  Hunting and fishing were permitted; provided no damage was done to the plantations and enclosures, and no exclusive right thereto was to be granted."   

The most successful settlement by far was Bienville's own creation.  Now 15 years old, New Orleans boasted a population of 1,300, including 250 African slaves, and had been capital of the colony for a decade.  "After an initial period of rapid growth, mainly through forced importation of slave and indentured labor," Eberhard Faber tells us, "its population had stagnated...."   But not so its influence over the rest of the colony.  From the time of its founding, Faber goes on, "Louisiana was dominated by its capital to a degree that was unusual for North American colonies.  New Orleans was the seat of Louisiana's government, the heart of its social life, the hub of its economy, and the center of its river-based transportation network."  City builders Louis-Pierre Le Blond de La Tour and Adrien de Pauger were gone now.  Le Blond de La Tour had died before Bienville had left for France, and Pauger passed in June 1726, during Bienville's exile, but their handiwork, especially Pauger's, was there to see in the city's well-ordered streets and alleys.  A moat and rampart now surrounded the city, legacy of the war against the Natchez. 

On the coast, Mobile, having been relegated to the role of a border outpost, could boast a seven-sided brick structure, Fort Condé, the most powerful fortification on the entire Gulf Coast.  Île Dauphine, with its indispensable port, was still protected by a fortification.  New Biloxi was still there, with its ramshackle Fort St.-Louis.  Above Mobile, deep in Indian country, Fort Toulouse at the Poste des Alibamons, founded during L'Epinay's tenure as commandant-general, still stood at the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers.  On the Mississippi below New Orleans, settlements had arisen at La Balize and English Turn.  Not far above New Orleans lay settlements at Chapitoulas and Cannes Brûlé, the former still held by the Chauvins.  Starting two dozens miles above the city, the most successful Law-era endeavor, the German Coast, held a population of over 400, including a hundred or more West African slaves.  At the upper edge of Des Allemands, on the opposite, or east, bank of the river, lay Ance-aux-Outardes, home to both Germans and Frenchmen.  No other settlement of any significance stood along the river above Ance-aux-Outardes until one reached Pointe Coupée.  Lying on the west side of the river across and slightly upriver from Bâton-Rouge, Pointe Coupée was another Law-era concession that had managed to survive and was now the colony's principal tobacco producer.  Natchez, farther up, on the east bank of the river, had its rebuilt fort but little else.  Natchitoches, up Red River, with its fort and trading post, was becoming a thriving community of tobacco planters, merchants, and cattle raisers.  The Law concession at the mouth of the Arkansas had failed, but the Poste des Arkansas still stood on the west bank of the Mississippi near the site of the old concession.  As Bénard de la Harpe could have predicted, the post at the mouth of Arkansas River would prove to be a gateway to the far western country. 

In 1733, the Illinois country, with its posts at Cahokia, Kaskaskia, St.-Philippe, Prairie du Rocher, and Fort de Chartres, still belonged to Louisiana.  Originally devoted to missionary work, mining, and the trade in furs, as the population in lower Louisiana increased, habitants in Illinois--upper Louisiana--turned to the production of wheat, flour, corn, wine ("in colour and taste, very like the red wine of Provence"), beer, fruit, pork, and salt, much of it provided by slave labor, creating a bread basket for Mobile and New Orleans.  During the late 1710s, the Company of the Indies had thought the area along the Mississippi important enough to construct a fortification between Cahokia and Kaskaskia near St.-Philippe and Prairie du Rocher.  French officials named the structure Fort de Chartres.  Built by Boisbriant between 1718 and 1720 and designed to control the local mining area, de Chartres at first was only a simple wooden palisade with two log bastions.  Construction of a second fort, away from the river's floodplain, began in 1725.  It, too, was a wooden palisade but with four corner bastions.227a 


The ecclesiastical picture in the colony also had changed since Bienville had left for France.  Now, in 1733, serving the religious needs of the residents of lower Louisiana were a series of unprepossessing churches visited by Capuchin priests of the Champagne Province, headquartered at New Orleans.  The Carmelites, beginning in 1720, had served Mobile, Biloxi, the Alibamon fort, and the rest of the province east of Mississippi, but they had since left the colony, and their part of the province had been taken up by the Capuchins.  New Orleans had its St.-Louis parish, created in 1719 and administered now by the Capuchin superior, serving also as vicar-general, who answered to the Bishop of Québec.  The city's first church, however, designed and built by Adrien de Pauger, had not been dedicated until April 1727, when Bienville was in France.  In the entire colony, only St.-Louis parish could boast a resident pastor.  In 1722, while Bienville was still serving as commandant-general, a petition calling for the establishment of a bishopric for Louisiana was sent to Paris, where Gallicanism still held sway, and the following year Company official Jacques de La Chaise urged his fellow directors to appoint a bishop in partibus--a titular prelate without a see, wielding more powers than a vicar-general.  In a long memoire to the Regent, his Conseil roundly rejected the idea, primarly on the grounds of its expense.  So when Bienville returned, the colony's priests still answered to a bishop in faraway Québec.

When the Company decreed in May 1722 that only Carmelites and Capuchins, not Jesuits or Seminarians, would serve the vast region of lower Louisiana, the directors had expected them to minister to the Natives as well as the settlers, but there had been too many nations and too few priests to fulfill this important ecclesiastical mission.  The situation was made worse by the Carmelites' forced return to France soon after the 1722 arrangement.  There being too few Capuchins to minister to settlers as well as Natives, in December 1723 their jurisdiction was restricted to that part of lower Louisiana south of Natchez, on both sides of the river down to the Gulf, but even this cicumscribed territory proved too burdensome for the Capuchin fathers.  So, in February 1726, the Company secured via "treaty" with the Capuchins the restoration of Jesuit missions in lower Louisiana.  The black robes would serve not only in Illinois, where they long had been established, but also in lower Louisiana, where Bishop de Saint-Vallier of Québec had ousted them in 1702 and the Company had excluded them in 1722.  This left the Capuchins free to minister to the settlers and soldiers, while the Jesuits, finally, went among the Chickasaw and Alibamon, nations long at odds with the French, as well as among the Choctaw, still loyal to the French.  The new Jesuit superior for Louisiana, Father Ignatius de Beaubois, was a favorite of Bienville's if not of the Bishop of Québec, still de Saint-Vallier.  Father de Beaubois established a Jesuit chapel, house, and vestry room at the order's 10-arpent plantation just above the town, on land Bienville had sold to the order before he left for France.  The Jesuits, like the Capuchins, also kept slaves.  The agreement with the Capuchins stipulated that the Jesuits would perform no religious services at New Orleans, so the chapel above the city was essential for Jesuit Fathers to perform their daily observances whenever they visited the capital. 

In early August 1727, 10 Ursuline Sisters sent by the Company of the Indies to manage the hospital in New Orleans arrived aboard the same ship from Lorient that carried Father de Beaubois and his Jesuits.  The voyage had been a long one, lasting from February 23 to August 8, and included an encounter with pirates off French St.-Domingue and a near shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico before the ship finally reached La Balize.  Living in the house owned by the wife of Company director Jean-Daniel Kolly, the Ursulines not only served the city hospital, but also opened a school for girls at their temporary house--the first of its kind in the colony and second only to a Capuchin school for boys opened at New Orleans two and a half years earlier.  In 1734, they moved into a capacious new convent on the Rue de Chartres, where they remained for nearly a century. 

In the New Orleans area, mission chapels had arisen downriver at La Balize in 1722 and upriver at Chapitoulas in 1724, when Bienville had been in the colony.  Above Chapitoulas, the chapel at Des Allemands, not much more than a shed, still stood at Carlstein.  Pointe Coupée had been given its own parish, dedicated to St.-François de Assisi, in 1727, but the community would not receive a pastor of its own for a few more years.  At Natchitoches, as they had done before the French sacked their mission in June 1719, Spanish friars from Los Adaes had resumed administering the sacraments at the isolated French outpost until Natchitoches could receive a priest of its own.  Finally, in 1728, the Capuchin superior in New Orleans sent Father Maximin to the Red River, but after he moved on to Natchez the following year, the Franciscans at Los Adaes continued to serve the French at Natchitoches.  A temporary church structure appeared at the original site of the Poste des Natchitoches in c1730, and a larger one would be rebuilt on the post's new site later in the decade.  The parish church at Natchitoches, like the one at Pointe Coupée, was dedicated to St.-François de Assisi.227 


The colony's relations with the Natives also had changed dramatically, and not for the better, after Bienville's return to France.  Michael J. Foret reminds us:   "When ... Bienville was reappointed[sic] governor of Louisiana in 1733 he faced a daunting challenge:  the reconstruction of Louisiana in the aftermath of the Natchez uprising.  The Company of the Indies had disavowed the colony; the Indians threatened it at every turn; and the English seemed poised on the brink of total victory in the Anglo-French contest for the allegiance of the Southeastern Indians.  Bienville's Herculean task was to repair this dangerous situation and restore Louisiana to it former position as a major power in the region."  The alliance between France and Britain, cobbled together by the Regent in 1717, had ended during Bienville's exile, so the colonists in South Carolina and Georgia, the latter founded only a year before Bienville's return, would have considered the French in Louisiana proper enemies once again.  However, the likelihood of another trans-oceanic war engulfing North America seemed remote for now.  The British nevertheless had their own local issues with the French and Spanish in Louisiana and Florida.  As long as they were determined to keep their hold on the Alibamon and the Chickasaw and to lure the Choctaw away, Indian wars by proxy would plague the region, and there would be no peace.229

The young King had given Bienville the governorship because of these problem with the Indians and the colonial traders.  The good news for the new governor was that the Natchez were no more--at least, the remnants of the nation no longer lived on their ancient lands--and their benefactors, the Chickasaw, stung by Périer for harboring them, had sued for peace.  The Chickasaw refused, however, to give up the Natchez among them, even to Bienville, with whom they had a relationship that went back 30 years.  The Minister of Marine, through Périer and now through Bienville, ordered "the nations of the upper country to harass the Chickasaws from that quarter" until they surrendered the Natchez refugees.  But the Chickasaw were committing a more grievous sin than harboring Natchez fugitives; they were doing all they could to lure more of their old foes, the Choctaw, into the British orbit with them.  If the British managed to lure the Choctaw away, the Natchez uprising would seem like child's play:  "Despite a long and bitter history of Choctaw-Chickasaw enmity," Michael J. Foret reminds us, "Bienville knew that such a rapprochement was not impossible to achieve.  Because of Louisiana's tarnished reputation in the eyes of the Indians, and its inability to supply the Indians even a small portion of their needs, the Chickasaws had a reasonable chance to wean from France the one nation in the Southeast, the Choctaws, without which Louisiana could never hope to survive."  Bienville had to meet the Chickasaw threat head on, through peaceful negotiations or otherwise.  Meanwhile, he encouraged the Choctaw and other friendly nations to attack the Chickasaw whenever they could.230

The only bright spot in the dark picture of French-Chickasaw relations was the presence of a small pro-French party among the nation's chiefs.  Courseac, leader of the Chickasaw peace party, had gone to Fort Toulouse to tell the commander there, Jean-Baptiste Benoist de Sainte-Claire, that he, Courseac, wanted peace.  The chief agreed that the Natchez should become the slaves of the French for having shed so much French blood.  He informed Benoist that the Natchez who had taken refuge near the Chickasaw town were being used as menials there.  Courseac offered to go to Mobile to report to the governor himself.  Benoist reminded Courseac that until all of the Natchez at Chickasaw were surrendered to the French, there could be no peace with his tribe.  Bienville was not happy with Benoist's performance and reprimanded him "for not demanding the heads of at least some Natchez as a sign of good faith."  Bienville refused to treat with Courseac, though he allowed him to go down to Mobile.  The French governor, with the dignity of his own nation in mind, would treat only with all of the Chickasaw leaders at once so that he could overawe them with eloquence and dire threats.230a

Information arrived that gave the governor a clearer picture of the defeated Natchez.  He learned from the Tunica "that the Natchez were divided into three groups.  One group, the weakest, was hiding in the deep forests not far from their old fort.  A second group, larger than the first, was staying along the Mississippi near the Yazoo River.  A third party, the most numerous, was living with the Chickasaws, who had allowed the refugees to build their own village just south of the main Chickasaw village."  Bienville learned through military channels that there were about 60 Natchez living among the Chickasaw.  The Minister recommended an attack against the Chickasaw from Illinois, but Bienville was alerted to trouble in that quarter as well as in the country above Mobile.  Old allies of the French, the Illinois and the Miami, were said to be succumbing to British traders because the French could not satisfy their needs.  To resolve this problem, Bienville sent an acquaintance from Old Mobile days and "one of the colony's most able officers," Pierre Dartaguiette, younger brother of Martin Dartaguiette d'Iron, to serve as commander at Fort des Chartres in Illinois.  The Alibamon, no longer at war with the French, were quarreling with the Mobilians again, which threatened the peace at Fort Toulouse, in the heart of Alibamon territory.  At the same time, the Tallapoosa, cousins of the Alibamon and longtime allies of the British, were, along with the Chickasaw, trying to lure the Choctaw away from the French.231

The Choctaw, those essential allies, were complaining about the dearth of presents they had been receiving from the French--a neglect likely to continue now that Louisiana was a victim, again, of royal parsimony.  Périer, with Company largesse, "had accustomed them to his generosity," or at least promises of generosity.  Bienville was determined to do more than promise--he saw no choice but to increase the amount of presents for the Choctaw chiefs, "especially when France's enemies were ready to take up the slack."  Périer also had weakened French ties with the Choctaw by his ill-advised policy of creating new chiefs within the tribe.  Jesuit Father Michel Baudouin, working among the Chickasaw, counted 111 chiefs among the Choctaw, "each with his own party, and every one of them extremely difficult to influence at all."  As a result, the grand chief, "who had little authority at the best of times, was barely able to maintain a semblance of order only because the French would communicate with the nation only through him."  Moreover, each chief demanded his share of presents, which placed a greater burden on French resources to keep them happy.  No matter, the Choctaw, for now, seemed more than happy to join nations from the north in making war against their old enemy.  Bienville hoped that constant harassment of the Chickasaw might force them to leave their homeland along the river so that "the French would be able to use the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in almost complete safety."232

But would such a strategy be enough to neutralize such a powerful enemy?  The King and Minister agreed with Bienville that volunteer removal would be preferred.  If Bienville could manage to make peace with the Chickasaw, "the terms should be hard."  If Bienville was forced to attack them, forces from Canada as well as lower Louisiana must cooperate in the venture, and it must be done in autumn.  However, until the Illinois could be appeased, an offensive against the Chickasaw was out of the question.  The King approved the construction of a stone edifice to replace the wooden stockade at Fort de Chartes as well as young Dartaguiette's appointment to command there, and Bienville had to promise not to attack the Chickasaw until the Illinois had been returned to the French orbit of influence.233

Bienville had to make no such promises in dealing with the remnants of the Natchez.  He had been in France in November 1729 when that their warriors had massacred 235 French settlers, including 35 women and 56 children.  Bienville was determined to hunt down every single member of the nation he once had befriended.  Learning of the location of the three refugee bands, in the summer of 1733, only a few months after his return, he sent a force under Lieutenant Pierre-Gabriel Juzan, commanding at Tunica, to the woods near Natchez to destroy the remnant there.  Living in fear of French retaliation, the Natchez were on constant alert and managed to elude Juzan's Frenchmen, who captured only an old woman too feeble to get away.  She told them that her people, once numbering in the thousands, had only 200 warriors left.  In July 1733, Bienville sent the commandant of the fort at Natchez, an officer named Coustilhac, with a small party of soldiers and 20 Ofogoula to attack the Natchez at Yazoo.  The French and Indians surprised a small Natchez hunting party, killed three warriors, keeping their heads for Bienville, and learned from the captured women that the scattered Natchez, hearing that Bienville had returned, hoped to meet with him at Natchez or New Orleans to beg for peace.  Needless to say, any Natchez who went to their old villages or to New Orleans to parlay with the French would have ended up on a ship to Cap-Français, or worse.234 

That autumn of 1733, Bienville ordered the first major offensive against the Chickasaw who were harboring Natchez.  His goal was to drive the Chickasaw from their villages and destroy their crops so that they could not survive the winter.  The attacking force would consist of a thousand Choctaw led by Bienville's kinsman, Lieutenant Jean-Paul Le Sueur, son of the famous coureur de bois.  The lieutenant also would be accompanied by 20 French soldiers.  Unfortunately, so many of the troupes de la marine became ill that only the Choctaw were capable of launching an attack.  Bienville postponed the offensive until the French could muster more troops, and then he made the mistake of sending a friendly Choctaw chief, perhaps one of Périer's creations, to a Chickasaw village with an offer for peace while the French and the large force of Choctaw attacked another village.  The friendly chief arrived at the Chickasaw village as planned, after a Carolina trader had arrived with presents for the Chickasaw.  The Choctaw was so enamored of the English goods that he revealed Bienville's plans to the Chickasaw before hurrying back to his own village to tell his people about the plethora of English goods the Carolina trader had promised them.  Comparing the quality of goods the English offered them to what they had received from the French, other Choctaw chiefs made peace with the Chickasaw, followed by many of the small coastal nations.  Now French relations with the regional natives were shakier than ever!  Worst of all, "The French position relative to the Choctaws had never been so bad."  Needless to say, when Le Sueur went among the Choctaw to recruit men for his offensive against the Chickasaw, he met with strong resistance.  Haranguing them about their long friendship with Bienville and all that the governor had done for them, he cowed the older warriors, but the younger ones showed no interest in past relationships.  They pointed out that the English at that very moment had a ship at Mobile trading with the French.  Le Sueur managed to recruit 500 warriors, but so many of them deserted on the way to the Chickasaw villages he had no choice but to call off the attack.235

Bienville was stunned by these developments.  At the annual distribution of the presents at Mobile later that autumn, he met the Choctaw delegation not as a whole, as usual, but in four separate bands two weeks apart.  His excuse for the change was "not to expose the women and children to enemy attacks," but his true motive was to minimize the usual haughty behavior towards him and his officers--treating with smaller groups meant more French control.  He then distributed the presents unevenly, giving more to faithful chiefs and none to those whose loyalty he questioned.  "When less faithful chiefs asked where were their presents, Bienville asked them where were the heads of their enemies?"236

Bienville's ploy worked.  Later in the year, the spurned Choctaw, under the powerful chief Alabama Mingo, brought in 45 Chickasaw scalps--"the heads of their enemies."  Bienville learned from the scalp-takers that the Chickasaw, facing attack from French allies north and south, had abandoned their traditional villages and taken refuge inside palisade forts.  The scalp-takers had attacked one of the forts near Chatala.  Playing on Chickasaw pride, the Choctaw had lured many of them from behind their stockade and into an ambush, hence the dozens of fresh scalps for the governor.  Unfortunately for the Choctaw, but fortunately for the French, one of Chief Alabama Mingo's brothers and the son of another grand chief  had fallen in the fight.  The Choctaw had no choice now but to take revenge.  One of their chiefs declared to Bienville that he and his warriors would return to Chatala and take many more scalps as well as slaves.  Bienville now had his war by proxy between the two powerful nations.237

But not all the news was good news.  Bienville learned the Alibamon had told the Chickasaw that help was on its way, not from the Alibamon, who were still avoiding conflict with the French, but from a large convoy out of the British colonies filled with enough "goods, arms, and ammunition sufficient for a large party."  This could mean only one thing--a Chickasaw counter-attack against the Choctaw and perhaps against the French on the river as well.  In the spring of 1734, Bienville learned from another officer who had spent time at Tuscaloosa, a Choctaw village, that Carolina traders were back among the Choctaw as well--specifically, at the southern village of Chief Grand Fanimingo, who not only treated with the Carolinians, but also agreed to accompany them to the villages of other nations.  Bienville called in the loyal Choctaw chiefs to prevent further inroads by the British and coaxed a young Yazoo warrior, married to a Choctaw woman, to assassinate Grand Fanimingo.  But there was good news as well.  Some Shawnee from the north, who had moved down into Alibamon country, had attacked a party of Choctaw and Chickasaw, killing 10 of them.  "Such attacks, when successful, usually inspired imitation," Michael J. Foret explains.  "A number of these would help render France's Choctaw allies more vulnerable to their enemies, and thus more 'tractable'" to entreaties from the French.238

Bienville also had to address more mundane matters in the colony's Indian policy, especially the bounty his officers were paying for Chickasaw scalps.  He knew from what he had read in the colony's account books, as well as from the anecdotal evidence he could gather, that Périer and his officers had been paying too much for scalps of every kind.  Bienville urged his officers and Jesuit Father Baudouin, still among the Chickasaw, to discern the number of enemy warriors killed in each foray so that bounties were rewarded for actual damage to Chickasaw fighting strength.239

Bienville's parsimoniousness could not be avoided.  The colony's resources, even for defense, were severely limited.  This was demonstrated in an exchange between the governor and one of his officers, Bernard Dartaguiette d'Iron, commander at Mobile, during the troubles with the Choctaw in 1734.  Dartaguiette, an older brother of the new commander at Illinois, proposed the construction of a fort on the Tombigbee River in Choctaw territory, a promise made to the nation by Iberville, Bienville, and Dartaguiette's elder brother Martin from the earliest days of the colony.  Bienville demurred.  "Even if the fort were necessary," and Bienville no longer believed it was, he did not have the funds to build it nor "the men to staff it."240

Bienville soon learned that Bernard Dartaguiette had not inherited the qualities of his elder brother Martin.  During the summer of 1734, Bienville learned that Red Shoes, a troublesome chief among the Choctaw, was on his way to Carolina to treat with British colonial authorities.  Bienville ordered Dartaguiette to keep an eye on the situation while organizing a coordinated attack of French soldiers and friendly Choctaw against the Chickasaw villages.  Despite Bienville's note of urgency, Dartaguiette delayed his departure from Mobile to the Choctaw villages.  Meanwhile, most of the Choctaw chiefs spurned the Carolinians and prepared for their grand offensive against the Chickasaw.  Bienville promptly sent a message to Dartaguiette, in whom he seems to have lost trust, to cancel his visit to the Choctaw so as not to alarm them.  Bienville's message arrived too late.  When Dartaguiette reached the Choctaw villages, he mistrusted their friendly greetings.  Convinced that they were about to seal an alliance with the British, he stood up during a grand council and "informed the stunned Choctaw chiefs and notables that the shades of their ancestors had appeared to him in a dream and warned of impending disaster for the Choctaws if they did not hold fast to their true friends the French."  The Choctaw insisted that they were about to attack the Chickasaw, not treat with the British.  They asked Dartaguiette to lead them into battle, but he declined, using the excuse that "he had no authority to do this."  He suggested that they turn for leadership to Jean-Paul Le Sueur, recently promoted to captain.  Dartaguiette later informed the Minister of Marine that he declined the command because he was not "sanguine for the expedition's success."

Despite the French officer's dire prediction, the Choctaw gathered a force of 1,000 to 1,200 warriors and followed Le Sueur to the nearest Chickasaw enclosure.  They approached the enemy's camp so closely they could hear the Chickasaw war songs, which normally would have thrown the Choctaw into a frenzy of vengeance.  Instead, it unnerved them even further, and they chose to retreat instead of fight.  Le Sueur did his best to lead them into battle, but fear already had taken hold of them.  They dropped their weapons and hurried from the field.  Unable to rally them with promises and curses, Le Sueur and his troupes de la marine decided to attack the Chickasaw on their own.  The Choctaw seized Le Sueur to save him from the spirits, forcing him and his men to join them in their flight, which covered 20 leagues in a single day without stopping for rest.241

Dartaguiette blamed Le Sueur and Father Baudouin for the failed offensive, but Bienville, the old Indian fighter, knew better.  He informed the Minister in a September 1734 message that Dartaguiette "had no real plan or policy for governing the Indians, and that he lacked every one of the qualifications necessary for that crucial task."  Unfortunately, this would not be the last time Bienville would lock horns with this troublesome officer.242

With the Choctaw alliance in shambles again, Bienville beseeched the Minister for reinforcements for his troupes de la marine and the companies of Swiss mercenaries who manned the colony's garrisons.  The Swiss companies, first four and later five, commanded by Colonel François Karrer, had been recruited for service in St.-Domingue, Martinique, and Île Royale in 1719, but they did not come to Louisiana until the last months of the war against the Natchez, in 1731.  Many of the men in Karrer's companies were in fact Germans who had been recruited in some of the same provinces many of Louisiana's Germans called home.  When their enlistments ended, Karrer's men, with official encouragement, tended to remain in Louisiana, especially at Des Allemands, where they took German wives.  Bienville could see this only as a positive good.  Without reinforcements for his "regular" units, he would be forced to rely on militia, which he feared "would be difficult and disruptive to the general tranquility of the colony."  Former Swiss mercenaries in the militia, then, would be beneficial to the colony.243

In France, the King and Minister mulled over events in Louisiana, and they were alarmed by what they were hearing.  The King chided Bienville for the failure of the attack against the Chickasaw.  He asked Bienville to choose the best policy to pursue against the troublesome nation:  a campaign with combined forces of French and Indians, a war by proxy, or a negotiated peace.  Before Bienville could respond, the King decided the Chickasaw must be destroyed.  Louis XV reasoned that, continental dynastic rivalries being what they were, conditions for peace in Europe could evaporate at any moment, and the long peace with Britain, now 15 years old, also could suddenly end.  If the general peace ended before Bienville could destroy the Chickasaw and the Natchez remnants, the British would have a powerful ally athwart the line of communication between lower Louisiana and Illinois.244 

The Minister of Marine's messages, reflecting the King's decisions, were dated 1 December 1734 but could not have reached New Orleans until many weeks later.  The harried governor could not have been happy with these messages.  Maurepas directed that "Bienville should practice all economy possible in planning the campaign" against the Chickasaw and Natchez, "but at the same time he should make any expenditure necessary to ensure its success.  In another letter of the same date Maurepas informed Bienville that he could not at present procure for him the royal favors that he had requested.  News of the defeat of the Chickasaws, however, would surely result in the royal good will."  What could be clearer:  the Chickasaw must be destroyed.245

That winter, Bienville was given another chance to treat with the Chickasaw.  While he was at Mobile distributing the annual presents to his native allies, half a dozen Alibamon appeared at Fort Condé carrying a message from a delegation of Chickasaw chiefs waiting at Fort Toulouse.  The Chickasaw demanded that Bienville allow them to move down to Mobile "to ask for peace."  Bienville sent word back to the Chickasaw that he would receive them only if they brought the heads of the Natchez who lived among them.  When the chiefs said they were willing to do this, Bienville allowed them to come down to Mobile.  Meeting with the governor face-to-face, the chiefs offered one excuse after another for not having brought any Natchez scalps with them.  Seeing that Bienville would not be moved, they asked for three months time to comply with his wishes, but only if he asked the Choctaw not to attack them during that time.  Knowing that the Choctaw were not ready to take the warpath, Bienville acceded.  He "had good reason to believe the Chickasaw offer to make peace was genuine and sincere.  The Chickasaws had killed few Frenchmen in recent years, yet had been under constant pressure from both north and south, [and] talking peace at all was totally out of character for them.  Their willingness to consider killing the Natchez was further evidence for their humiliation.  The Natchez bolstered Chickasaw fighting strength with badly needed numbers, and the loss of those numbers made the Chickasaws vulnerable to their many enemies.  But if they did not satisfy the French, they knew, the guerilla war being waged against them would not end, and they feared being destroyed through attrition as well.  Either way, they would no longer be a threat to Louisiana.  The declaration of war on the Chickasaws, Bienville knew, would mean vast expenditures which the government could ill afford."246

At the same time, bad news come down from Fort Toulouse.  Lieutenant Jean-Baptiste Benoist de Sainte-Claire, evidently still commanding there, learned that Carolina traders were about to build a warehouse for their goods at a Tallapoosa village "barely one league" from the French fort.  Benoist and eight soldiers, with several Choctaw in tow, ran off the traders, and the warehouse was not erected.  The Alibamon, not wishing to lose favor with Bienville, insisted they had received only promises from the Englishmen, not merchandise.  If the French promised to "match the English prices" the Alibamon "promised Bienville never to receive the English again."  Bienville refused to make such promises and let the matter rest.247

That summer, trouble broke out on the Mississippi.  A party of Chickasaw killed nine of the 11 Frenchmen traveling downriver in a large bateau on a mission for the commander at Fort de Chartres.  Inquiring into the matter, Bienville was told the Chickasaw had not intended to kill the Frenchmen.  Their intention was to secure hostages among them until the safe return of their chiefs who had gone to Mobile to treat with the governor.  The Chickasaw urged one of the captured Frenchmen to write a letter to Bienville, explaining the Chickasaws' "peaceful" intentions.  They then "ceremoniously washed" the captives "and brought them through all the Chickasaw villages with the white baton, symbol of peace, and both were given full liberty."248

The incident on the river had one beneficial result for Bienville's plans to destroy the Chickasaw.  One of the captured French soldiers, an alert fellow named Ducorder, provided valuable information about the Chickasaw.  From what he saw, Ducorder estimated the nation "could put 450 men in the field against the French, while Bienville could not get even 200 men together from the New Orleans and Mobile garrisons."  And then there was the hard fact that Bienville could no longer depend on a corps of Canadian voyageurs to help him fight the Chickasaw--most, if not all, of them were settlers now.  Only the Choctaw could field enough warriors to stand up to such numbers, but after the fiasco of the previous summer, Bienville no longer had faith in them.  He learned also that the Chickasaw now had five palisade forts behind which they could take refuge.  Each of their cabins was like a little fort in itself, the walls three logs thick, with loopholes from which to fire, the roof covered with earth instead of combustible thatching.  They also had constructed a four-bastion fort on the European model!  His only hope for defeating such a well-protected enemy was a substantial reinforcement of troupes de la marine, but even if the King and Minister agreed to send him reinforcements, they would not arrive for months, if not years.249

Another report from Alibamon country troubled Bienville on a deeper level.  When he heard the British had created a new colony on the Atlantic seaboard below South Carolina, what Bienville called "New Georgia," he dismissed the new polity as no real threat to the French or even the Spanish.  Yet here was a report that more Carolinians, or perhaps Georgians, soon would appear among the Alibamon, not to trade for deerskin or to build a storage warehouse or even to bargain for captive slaves, but to settle with their families.  These interlopers from the east, he could see clearly now, "would stop at nothing to penetrate French territory."  Here was the writing on the wall for himself and his fellow Frenchmen:  they were facing an enemy so numerous and so aggressive they could create a new colony on the Spanish frontier while sending more settlers, first a trickle, then a flood, hundreds of miles into the Louisiana wilderness.250

Autumn came again, and Bienville had seen no Natchez heads, not even Natchez scalps, in the grasping hands of visiting Chickasaw.  There was no way around it:  the Chickasaw must be destroyed.  He dropped his opposition to a fort in Choctaw territory and asked permission from the Minister to build, and man, a palisade on the Tombigbee River.  He could not take the field against the Chickasaw and Natchez without the Choctaw, and a fort in their territory would be an important step in improving relations with those shaky allies.  The result was the construction of Fort Tombecbé in August 1735 under supervision of a veteran Swiss officer, Joseph-Christophe de Lusser.  Building this fort would fulfill a promise made by brother Iberville decades earlier and would bring the Choctaw around to French insistence that they must never make peace with their old enemies, that the Chickasaw must be destroyed.251


A happy feature of Bienville's governorship was his unusual rapport with the ordonnateur, Edmé Gatien Salmon.  Each man's tenure in his respective office nearly coincided:  Salmon from 1731 to 1744, Bienville from 1733 to 1743.  According biographer Charles Edwards O'Neill:  "In administration Bienville collaborated for years with Salmon in that 'good understanding' often recommended by the home government to its Louisiana officials," but seldom realized.  "Although the colonial bicephalism brought the two to mutual countercharges by 1740, they were reconciled in early 1742."  The thing that soured their relationship was Bienville's handling of the colony's biggest headache, the Chickasaw.256

By late winter of 1736, Bienville had resolved to fulfill the King's dictum by leading an attack against the Chickasaw personally, despite having long passed his prime.  The offensive would take the form of a pincer movement, with a force from Illinois, including several hundred troupes de la marine, Canadians, and Indians, commanded by Pierre Dartaguiette, attacking southward from Fort de Chartes, while Bienville led a larger force north from Fort Condé via the new fort on the Tombigbee deep into Chickasaw country.  Bienville's force from Mobile would include the troupes de la marine from the garrisons at Fort Condé and New Orleans, Karrar's Swiss companies, and colonial militia.  The plan called for a rendezvous at the Chickasaw towns at the end of March--an overly-optimistic time table. 

Bienville's campaign--known to history as the First Chickasaw War--seems to have gotten off to a shaky start.  According to François-Xavier Martin and Alcée Fortier, an officer named LeBlanc was charged with delivering Bienville's orders, as well as provisions and ammunition, to Dartaguiette at Fort de Chartres.  LeBlanc and his men had to fight their way past an ambush near the mouth of the Yazoo.  When they reached Arkansas post, LeBlanc "unwisely left the powder there, and on his arrival at the Illinois country, he sent a boat" back downriver to retrieve the powder.  Predictably, the same Indians "who had attacked him on his way up, fell on his boat and killed every man on board, except a lieutenant called Dutisne, who commanded the party, and a half breed of the name Rosaly."  The attackers then made off with Bienville's powder.  LeBlanc, at least, was able to deliver the governor's orders to his commander at Illinois. 

Orders in hand, Dartaguiette headed down to Chickasaw Bluff near present-day Memphis.  With him were 130 troupes de la marine and Canadians and nearly 400 Indians from several nations, including 38 Iroquois, 28 Arkansas, and 300 Miami and Illinois.  "With supplies running low" and his Indian allies "showing signs of restlessness," the young commander "decided to capture three small Chickasaw villages in order to seize their provisions."  While on his way to the Chickasaw towns, Dartaguiette received a message from Bienville saying the governor's larger force would be several weeks delayed but that Dartaguiette should act according to his own judgment.  Withdrawing inside their fortified towns and reinforced cabins, the Chickasaw were more than ready for Dartaguiette's smaller force.  On Palm Sunday, March 25, while Bienville still lingered at Mobile, Dartaguiette attacked the seemingly-isolated village of Ogoula Tchetoka, in the northwest suburbs of present-day Tupelo, Mississippi.  The Chickasaw, led by Chief Mingo Ouma, bloodily repulsed Dartaguiette's ill-advised attack.  After decimating the invading force from behind their palisades and thick-walled cabins, the Chickasaw counterattacked, driving the French and their allies from the field and capturing their supply train of shot and powder.  The Miami and Illinois panicked and fled, and Dartaguiette and most of his fellow Frenchmen fell in the attack.  Only a determined rearguard action by the Iroquois and Arkansas saved the few Frenchmen still able to retreat.  The Chickasaw captured 21 Frenchmen, including Dartaguiette, twice-wounded, and executed 19 of them, including Dartaguiette, by throwing them into a bonfire filled with French dead.  The Chickasaw kept two of the Frenchmen alive as hostages to exchange for one of their other chiefs. 

Bienville's part of the campaign moved at a glacial pace.  He first met with "the great chief of the Choctaws" at Fort Condé and "by presents," a promise of aid against the Chickasaw.  Back at New Orleans, he set his troupes de la marine and militia in motion during the first week of March and returned with them to Fort Condé via the Bayou St.-Jean portage by March 10.  At Mobile, he encountered the usual delays until the first week of April, when he headed upstream in 30 pirogues and 30 flatboats.  Meanwhile, some of Lusser's men at Fort Tombecbé, under the influence of a sergeant named Montfort, hoped to take advantage of "their great distance from the settlements of the French."  After killing their officers, they would seek "refuge among the Chickasaws, whom they were sent to combat, or among the English in Carolina, through the desert."  Lusser discovered the plot "at the moment on which it was to have been executed," arrested the conspirators, but "postponed their trail till the arrival of his chief." 

Bienville did not reach Tombecbé, now his base of supply, until April 23, nearly a month after Dartaguiette's repulse at Ogoula Tchtetoka.  At the new fort, Bienville mustered a force of 544 Europeans and 45 Africans, the latter commanded by free-black officers.  Bienville also dealt with the six French miscreants who had hoped to escape to the Chickasaw; after a speedy court martial, all of them were shot.  Delayed by "[i]ncessant rains and inclement weather," Bienville did not resume his "march" up the Tombigbee until May 4.  Farther upriver, he rendezvoused with 600 or so Choctaw "auxiliaries."  By May 22, still unaware of Dartaguiette's defeat, Bienville reached Tibia, which lay 20 or so miles southeast of the nearest Chickasaw village.  There, he established a fortified base camp to protect his supplies and boats, and he met a few more Choctaw.  Before beginning his march on the Chickasaw villages on May 24, he detached 20 men under the Sieur de Vanderek to guard the base camp.  For two days they fought the rain and mud.  On the 25th, they were compelled "to pass, in the space of five short leagues, across three deep ravines, where we had water up to the waist," Bienville reported at the end of the campaign.  The following day, with the Choctaw still covering his flanks, his force approached three fortified hill towns, Ackia, Tchoukalaya, and Apeony, in the southern outskirts of modern-day Tupelo, all part of Chief Mingo Ouma's band.  Bienville had determined first to attack a village of Natchez refugees, but the Choctaw insisted on moving on to the villages of their old enemy.  Bienville avoided Apeony, where a Carolina trader's cabin flew the British jack.  At Ackia, with no artillery with which to wage a siege, the 56-year-old governor lined up his Europeans and Africans in classic line of battle.  Atop the fortified hill, Bienville and his officers saw Englishmen "actively engaged in preparing the Chickasaws for our attack."  With the Choctaw still on his flanks, now skirmishing with Chickasaw pickets, Bienville, "at two o'clock in the afternoon," launched a spirited attack against the walls and outlying cabins of Ackia.  Even after repeated assaults, however, none of Bienville's men--not the company of grenadiers, the 60 Swiss mercenaries, or even the frenzied Choctaw--came close to overwhelming all of the Chickasaw defenses.  Among the officers who fell in the repeated assaults was Lieutenant Lusser, commander at Fort Tombecbé, who did not not survive his wounds.  The following morning, "the French saw the bodies of their countrymen, who fell in the battle, cut into quarters and stuck up on the pickets of the palissado around the [Chickasaw] fort."  They included the Chevalier de Contre-Coeur and Lieutenant Juzan.  Among the wounded officers who escaped this terrible fate were the Chevalier de Noyan, Bienville's nephew, who led several of the spirited assaults; and the sieurs de Velles, Grondel, Montbrun, and Favrot. 

Short on ammunition and food and determined to save as many casualties as he could--one historian counts 32 killed and 61 wounded in the assault--the chastened governor ordered a retreat to Fort Tombecbé, which began on May 29.  He dismissed the Choctaw at the rendezvous point, "distributing the remainder of his goods to them" in the way of thanks.  After leaving some of his wounded at the frontier fort, he floated the rest of his force to Fort Condé, where he left a reinforced garrison.  He and his remaining force reached Bayou St.-Jean towards the end of June.  There he met one of the sergeants spared by Mingo Ouma.  The sergeant related details of the attack against Ogoula Tchetoka two months earlier and the fate of the young Dartaguiette and 18 other Frenchmen.  Dartaguiette's death, especially, was a blow to Bienville and his officers and led to a permanent rupture between the governor and the young officer's family.  Bernard Dartaguiette wasted no time blaming Bienville for the failure of the expedition and especially for his younger brother's terrible end.257


If Bienville was anything, he was determined:  the Chickasaw must be destroyed.  He asked the Minister to send him a force with which to crush the menacing tribe.  Despite the totality of Bienville's defeat, the King and Minister agreed.  They would send him not only a substantial force of troupes de la marine under an experienced commander, Louis Noüailles d'Aymé, but also a siege train to blast the Chickasaw towns into bloody submission.  The Minister also directed Governor-General Charles de Beauharnois de La Boishe to send troops from Canada down to Illinois to assist Bienville.  In October 1736, the Minister ordered Noüailles d'Aymé's expedition to sail from Rochefort by the following January.  Inevitable delays followed, and the ships were not ready to sail at the appointed time.  Realizing the reinforcements, if they left France in the middle of winter, would not arrive until the approach of the hot, humid summer, Bienville asked the Minister to reschedule the expedition's arrival until early autumn, when the weather would be ideal for campaigning in the region.  The Minister complied, but more delays pushed the departure date into 1737 and forced the Minister to postpone the ships' departure yet again, this time to August 1738.  Meanwhile, the Choctaw resumed their war of attrition against their old enemy, ambushing Chickasaw hunting parties, destroying their fields, stealing their livestock, and waylaying the Carolina and Georgia traders who supplied the Chickasaw with guns and ammunition via the trading paths back to South Carolina.  The Chickasaw also made good use of the time the French were giving them.  Chickasaw defenses, already formidable, were strengthened to withstand the shock of field artillery, and their chiefs coaxed neighboring nations under the sway of the Carolina traders to give warning of the inevitable French advance from north or south.  Meanwhile, further delay in France kept Noüilles d'Aymé's expedition in port until January 1739, when it finally set sail from Rochefort for La Balize, which it reached on June 1.  During the following days, the most formidable French force ever sent to Louisiana slowly made its way up to New Orleans.258

Bienville also used wisely the time he was given.  After receiving assurance from his engineers that a road could be built through the wilderness to move artillery within range of the enemy's forts, he chose a line of attack not from Mobile via the Tombigbee River but from a point on the Mississippi much closer to Chickasaw.  He ordered the construction of a supply depot on the west bank of the Mississippi at the mouth of today's St. Francis River near present-day Helena, Arkansas, conscripting a fifth of the colony's slaves to complete the project, Ordonnateur Salmon complained.  Bienville also ordered the construction of a new fort at the fourth Chickasaw Bluff, also called the Prudhomme Bluffs, on the east bank of the Mississippi near the mouth of Rivière Margot, today's Wolf River, in what is now the northwestern suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee.  Here, La Salle had rested on his voyage of discovery during the winter and spring of 1682, and here would be Bienville's rendezvous point for the French and Indians coming down from Fort de Chartres.  Captain De la Buissonnière, formerly of Natchez, was successor of the unfortunate Pierre Dartaguiette in command of de Chartres.  The new fort at Chickasaw Bluff was finished on August 15, feast day of the Assomption.  Meanwhile, upon hearing that some of the eastern bands of Choctaw had made peace with the Chickasaw and were welcoming Carolina traders, Bienville met with the Choctaw chiefs.  He strengthened his alliance with the western bands as well as the friendly chiefs of the eastern towns as he looked for new officers to lead his colonial troops, who generally were difficult to govern, and sent these officers among the militia to prepare them for the campaign ahead.259

Three elements of Bienville's attack force reached Fort de l'Assompion in late August:  Noüailles d'Aymé's vanguard of troupes de la marine from New Orleans, perhaps with a contingent of German militia; De la Buissionière's contingent of upper-colony militia and 200 Illiniois warriors from Fort des Chartres; and a force from Canada, numbering 500 and consisting of northern nations and a company of cadets, led by Captain Pierre-Joseph Céloron de Blainville, a French Canadian officer of troupes de la marine.  The governor-general had sent Bienville's 52-year-old nephew, Charles Le Moyne de Longueuil, baron de Longueuil, son of Bienville's oldest brother, to command the Canadian contingent.  Longueuil was town major of Montréal at the time and had just been made a chevalier of the Order of St.-Louis.  However, "an attack of sciatica" prevented him from taking the field, so Céloron commanded the Canadians. 

Bienville and his main force, coming up from New Orleans, did not reach l'Assomption until November.  With the governor's arrival, the French force numbered 1,200 Europeans and Africans and 2,400 natives, roughly twice the size of the combined expeditions of 1736.  Unfortunately, by the time Bienville reached the rendezvous point, his large force, especially the recent arrivals from France, had been reduced by illness and desertion.  He also had to face discontent among his officers, who were unhappy with the long delay.  And then there were the draft animals from Illinois brought overland to the St.-François depot; moving them by boat up to l'Assomption resulted in heavy losses, and then rations became so short at Fort l'Assomption some of the horses were slaughtered for food.  On top of all this, Bienville soon realized that his engineers, including another nephew, Gilles-Augustin Payen de Noyan, had misled him about the approach to the Chickasaw villages.  The route from l'Assomption to Chickasaw ran for 120 miles, all of it overland, but the engineers had not seen every part of it.  The trail was feasible for musket-carrying infantry and fleet-footed Indians; however, a siege train, essential for destroying the Chickasaw fortifications, would slow the expedition considerably.  Then again, if more draft animals could not be found to move the heavy guns on their cumbersome carriages, there would be no siege train to slow them down.  Anticipating the arrival of more draft animals, Bienville ordered the construction of carts and wagons on which to transport the artillery, and he sent out scouts to judge the condition of the path.  They reported back to him that heavy rains and snow had made the low-lying stretches of the "road" impassable.  He then ordered his engineers to blaze a new route, this one via higher ground, which was not completed until January.  Meanwhile, high water on the Mississippi and Wolf rivers inundated the area around poorly-sited Fort de l'Assomption, and high water downriver delayed the passage of supplies coming up from New Orleans.260 

In mid-January 1740, Bienville's Native allies insisted they could attack the Chickasaw without the artillery if they were supported by a column of regulars and militia.  In February, Bienville held a series of war councils.  After evaluating the weather, the condition of the route to Chickasaw, and the general fitness of his command, he decided his army could not march "without hazarding the reputation of the king's arms."  He nevertheless approved the Indians' offer, with modification.  In mid-March, Captain Céloron took the field with a force of Canadians, Indians, and blacks, not so much to attack the enemy as to goad him into suing for peace.  The clever Canadian lured the Chickasaw into a series of skirmishes, drawing them out of their fortified villages.  Meanwhile, Choctaw hit-and-run raids took a heavy toll on those villages.  Aware of the arrival of Bienville's siege train at the mouth of Wolf River, when the Chickasaw "perceived the colours of Celeron's company, a few white men and an immense body of Indians, on each flank, they had no doubt that the whole force of Bienville was there."  The Chickasaw promptly sued for peace and "presented the calumet to Céloron."  After the ceremony, Céloron led the chiefs back to l'Assomption.  The resulting treaty, "on the face of it," Michael J. Foret tells us, was "wholly favorable to the French.  Mayatabé, grand chief of the Chickasaw, agreed, in the name of his tribesmen, to kill all the Natchez still among them, to exterminate the few remaining Koroa still hiding out along the banks of the Mississippi, and to sever commercial relations with the English."  To seal the agreement, Mayatabé surrendered two English captives to Bienville.261

Meanwhile, most of Bienville's force, still at l'Assomption, waited for the governor's order to launch his grand offensive against the Chickasaw.  But it did not happen.  Confronted with the fait accompli of Céloron's agreement with Mayatabé, the governor smoked the calumet, declared the end of hostilities, and ordered the destruction of "the only post which would have made enforcement of the treaty possible"--the fort at Chickasaw Bluff.  De la Buissionière and Céloron headed back upriver, and Bienville, after destroying the depot at St.-François as well, returned in triumph to New Orleans.  One suspects the Chickasaw never intended to honor the treaty, so Bienville's "victory" was a hollow one.  And the troublesome nation, though less troublesome for a time, remained as strong as ever.262

In truth, Bienville's 1739-40 campaign against the Chickasaw was an embarrassing failure.  The expedition cost three times the Crown's annual allocation for the colony.  Nearly half of the French force at Fort de l'Assomption--500 of 1,200--died of disease and exposure before they had a chance to march to the field of battle.  French officers involved in the campaign, especially the engineers, perhaps with the exception of Noüailles d'Aymé, blamed Bienville and one another for the campaign's failure, and said and did whatever they could to save their military careers.  Complaints about the dearth of supplies at l'Assomption, as well as the loss of the draft animals and the destruction of a post in which the colony had expended substantial funds, widened a growing riff between the governor and the ordonnateur.  The Chickasaw, undaunted, ignored the treaty they had signed with the French, including the promise to exterminate the Natchez and Koroa.  They continued to trade with the Carolinians and Georgians, and clung to their alliance with the British.  "There was, however," Alcée Fortier reminds us, "no open war with them after Bienville's unsuccessful expedition."263 

Bienville himself engaged in complaint and recrimination against the officers and officials leagued against him.  Being a political creature, he rationalized his failure with carefully chosen words.  He even found an opportunity to chide the Minister, and, inferentially, the King, for neglecting the colony.  "I painfully feel that My Lord will be little satisfied with the success of this enterprise which has caused the king such great expense," he wrote to the Minister in May 1740, "but I flatter myself that at the same time he will well observe that I had not failed to take any of the precautions necessary in order to render this campaign as glorious as His Majesty had reason to expect."  He then plunged into the heart of his rationalization:  "... if we have not come out of this affair with all the success we had reason to expect, the honor of the king's armies has not suffered by it.  All the tribes have been impressed by the preparations for our campaign and have felt the superiority of our forces.  They have been witness to the steps that the enemy has taken, on account of fear of us, to obtain peace."  Having addressed his fantastical successes, Bienville then turned to a cold reality, but it, too, had the smell of rationalization:  "The chronic lack of goods had not permitted me to make any overtures to the Chickasaw concerning the removal of the English.  They would not have failed to ask for traders, whom I would not be in a position to furnish them."  Here was a chronic failure of royal, as well as proprietary, policy dating back to the colony's earliest days.264


While he was still at Fort de l'Assomption in February, Bienville had reached his sixtieth year.  He did not wait for the Minister's reply "before deciding that he had had enough.  In June, 1740, Bienville requested leave to return to France.  'The labors, troubles, and difficulties' which accompanied the responsibilities of government had impaired his health."  Moreover, the failed campaign and the storm of recriminations had taken their toll on his spirits.  But the Minister refused the request, at least for now.  He insisted that Bienville remain at New Orleans until he could be certain the treaty he had made with the Chickasaw led to a lingering peace.  Bienville had no choice but to comply with the Minister's wishes and did what he could to place the colony on a solid footing.  In October 1741, he received permission from the Minister to retire to France after his successor was named, but that did not happen for another year.265 

Though plagued by failed ventures against the Chickasaw, Bienville's governorship was not devoid of accomplishment, or at least the attempt to accomplish something of note for the benefit of his colony.  Jean Louis, "a former sailor of the Company of the Indies," died at New Orleans in 1735.  The sailor, "unmarried and without children," owned substantial property at the time of his death, and all his debts had been paid.  His "holographic will" directed that his estate--10,000 livres in cash!--should go to the founding of a hospital for the city's residents, who had been compelled to use the King's hospital for soldiers.  With Minister Maurepas's approbation and "in accord with the curate and the testamentary executor," Bienville and Ordonnateur Salmon purchased the Widow Kolly's house at Chartres and Bienville streets, recently occupied by the Ursuline Sisters.  The doors of L'Hôpital de St.-Jean, also called L'Hôpital des Pauvres de la Charité, were open on 10 May 1736, and "Jean Louis's humble but noble institution" was the beginning of the city's famous Charity Hospital.265a

From 11-18 September 1740, "two terrific hurricanes" struck the colony.  Though sparing New Orleans, the storms wreaked havoc on La Balize, Biloxi, and Mobile.  Striking so close to harvest time, the high winds and water "caused almost a famine by the destruction of provisions and of crops."  Bienville and Salmon did what they could to provide for the immediate needs of the hard-pressed colonists, but they also looked to the future needs of the men, women, and children placed in their charge.  Two days after the second hurricane passed, the governor and the ordonnateur signed an agreement with Sr. Perry, a "prominent and highly successful wholesale merchant" and member of the Superior Council, to construct a brick building for the purpose of re-opening the Capuchin boys' school founded by Father Raphaël five years earlier.  "However," Roger Baudier notes, "the project died a-borning."  The only school left in the entire colony was the Ursuline school for girls.  In the spring of 1742, Bienville and Salmon proposed to the Minister the establishment of a free school run by the Jesuits, who, from their plantation on the outskirts of the city, would instruct older students in "the humanities"--geometry, geography, pilotage, and such.  Salmon also proposed the creation of a school for the younger children inside the city, to be run by the Christian Brothers.  But the Court, looking more to the bottom line than the welfare of the colony, rejected both plans.  "More than three-quarters of a century were to elapse before another Christian school, besides that of the Ursulines, was to rear its wall in Louisiana!," Baudier laments.265b

In March 1742, a year and a half after beseeching the Minister to allow him to return to France, Bienville "reflected that 'a sort of fatality (has been) set for some time upon wrecking most of my best-planned projects.'  Learning that he would soon be replaced, he pledged to spend his time smoothing out all he could for his successor who, he hoped, would have better fortune."  But his successor, a fellow Canadian, was not appointed until July 1742 and would not arrive until May 1743.266

Meanwhile, yet another war broke out in Europe, ending the two-decade-long alliance between France and Britain.  In 1740, Hapsburg Emperor Charles VI had died and was succeeded by his daughter, Maria Theresa.  Sensing an opportunity, King Frederick II of Prussia invaded Silesia, precipitating a war with Austria--the War of the Austrian Succession.  France's Cardinal Fleury, now elderly and ailing, could not resist the anti-Austrian element at the Versailles Court.  King Louis XV, who soon would rule without a chief minister, threw France into the war on the side of Prussia.  Maria Theresa found allies in Britain and Holland.  Britain already was at war with Spain--the so-called War of Jenkins's Ear--over trade disputes in the Caribbean, especially participation in the slave trade between West Africa and New Spain, a privilege granted to Britain in 1714.  British colonists called the general conflict King George's War after it morphed to North America in 1744; this was George II, who had succeeded his German-speaking father, George I, in June 1727, not long after Bienville had been recalled to France.  Like the long, brutal War of the Spanish Succession, which had plagued the infant Louisiana for a dozen years, this new war likely would goad the British colonists, especially the Carolinians and Georgians, to push their traders, and even their settlers, deeper into territory claimed by the French.  The British colonists would try even harder to turn the Indians against the French, in Louisiana, Illinois, and especially along the Ohio, where conflicting claims had existed for decades.  Not only the Chickasaw, still clinging to the British, and the Alibamon, never trustworthy friends of the French, but also the Choctaw, whose friendship might be lost by continued neglect, could threaten the very existence of a colony long neglected by the mother country.  Happily for Bienville, the war did not erupt in North America until months after he had returned to France.267

Bienville's successor, the marquis de Vaudreuil de Cavagnial, reached New Orleans on 10 May 1743.  The city, after a quarter century of existence, could hardly have impressed the likes of a French-Canadian marquis.  Yet, by the time of Vaudreuil's arrival, New Orleans had become the head, heart, and soul of French Louisiana.  Although immigration, both European and African, had slowed considerably after 1731, the city could boast a population of several thousand when the marquis first laid eyes on it.  The most distinguished resident, of course, was his predecessor, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, the city's founder.  The retiring governor had become the real father of Louisiana, having devoted four decades of a long, eventful, and controversial life to the nurturing of his older brother's "creation."  Bienville lingered at New Orleans until the following August, conferring with the marquis and the ordonnateur, still Salmon, who had reconciled with Bienville the year before.  Bienville also had to put his personal business in order before he could take the next ship to Rochefort.  He boarded that ship on 17 August 1743, slightly more than a decade after he had returned from France and 44 years after he had first laid eyes on the mighty river he would never see again.268

A life-long bachelor in his early 60s, his once-robust health wrecked by long service in the wilderness, Bienville reached Rochefort on October 19 and retired to a house on the Rue Vivienne in Paris, where he lived comfortably on a pension the King awarded him for his services in Louisiana.  The former governor also enjoyed "revenues from the municipality of Paris on certificates he had purchased, with a small annuity from the Compagnie des Indes, and with an annuity from the Jesuits for leased acreage adjoining the land he had sold them outside New Orleans."  Bienville does not seem to have returned to his native Canada, having left there in his late teens when he followed brother Iberville to France to prepare for the Louisiana venture.  In 1765, Bienville hosted Jean Milhet, the wealthiest merchant at New Orleans, who was in France as the envoy of Louisiana's political elite to seek revocation of the colony's cession to Spain.  Bienville, still interested in the fate of his "child," was opposed to the idea of its falling into the hands of Spain.  He introduced Milhet to the duc de Choiseul-Stainville, then the Minister of Marine, who, more than anyone, had thrown the colony away.  The duc adroitly kept the former governor and the wealthy merchant from gaining access to King Louis XV.  Bienville died in Paris in 1767, age 87--a year after a Spanish governor arrived at New Orleans to end French rule in Louisiana.269


Pierre-François de Rigaud, marquis de Vaudreuil de Cavagnial, was the fourth son of a distinguished leader of New France.  Philippe de Rigaud, marquis de Vaudreuil, served as governor of Montréal and was awarded the Cross of St.-Louis the year his son Pierre was born at Québec in 1698.  Four and a half years later, in May 1703, Pierre's father became governor-general of New France, an office he held until his death in 1725.  In 1708, at age 10, Pierre became a naval ensign in Canada.  Three years later, he was promoted to lieutenant.  He became a captain at age 17, after serving as a transatlantic courier for his father.  In 1721, the young captain inspected forts in Ontario, so he was familiar with the wilderness.  In 1727, at age 29, Pierre obtained a discharge in order to help settle his late father's estates in France but did not go there; instead, he remained in Canada to participate in a "lackluster punitive campaign against the Fox Indians," whom his father had subdued 11 years earlier.  After the campaign, Pierre returned to Québec and then sailed on to France.  He was promoted to aide-major in 1728 and to ship's lieutenant in 1730, the year he received the Cross of St.-Louis at age 31.  His administrative career began in 1733 when he was appointed governor of Trois-Rivières.  After his mother's death in 1740, he obtained a discharge from his duties and returned to France to devote his time to family business.  It was while in France, in July 1742, that he was named as Bienville's successor.  Still a bachelor at age 44, the marquis met an impoverished widow 15 years his senior, Jeanne-Charlotte de Fleury Deschambault, Mme. Le Verrier, while preparing for his departure to Louisiana.  However, he did not marry her until three years after he had reached New Orleans.  She gave him no children.270

To his mind, Vaudreuil found the colony in sorry shape.  In October 1743, five months after he reached New Orleans, Vaudreuil, along with Ordonnateur Salmon, felt compelled to issue an ordinace compelling "the planters to build their levees before January 1, 1744, under penalty of confiscation of their lands," so one can imagine the sorry state of those essential structures.  Vaudreuil and Salmon also attempted to solve the chronic problem of inflated currency in the colony, but they were no more successful than their predecessors.  Despite chronic neglect by a parsimonious ministry, the colonial economy, and colonial institutions, nevertheless displayed signs of health:   "The commerce of Louisiana, released from the restraints of the exclusive privilege of the company, now began to thrive," François-Xavier Martin contends.  "Indigo was cultivated to a considerable extent, and with much success, and with rice and tobacco, afforded many means of remittance to Europe, while lumber found a market in the West India islands. ... The increase of trade caused litigation," Judge Martin explains.  Lawyers having been forbidden to practice in Louisiana, the Court created a new office for the Superior Council, that of assesseur.  A royal decree of August 1742 had stipulated that four assesseurs would serve for a term of four years, with a rank below that of councilor.  Assesseurs would be called to Council only to help establish a quorum, and their votes would count only "in case of an equality of votes" among the councilors.  Meanwhile, Judge Martin asserts, the Chickasaw "were less turbulent," primarily because their British trade partners were pre-occupied with the War of Jenkins' Ear, during which the Spanish attacked the coast of Georgia in the summer of 1742.270b

Global war, sadly, had broken out again, though it had not yet reached this corner of the world.  When Vaudreuil reached New Orleans in May 1743, the War of the Austrian Succession, pitting France against Britain and Holland, was in its third year on the Continent, but it did not metastasize to North America until the spring of 1744.  When it did come, it would not have taken much of an effort by the Royal Navy to have captured Mobile or New Orleans.  The British, instead, concentrated their efforts against Louisbourg, the gateway to French Canada, and chose to attack the French in Louisiana only indirectly, through their Native allies.  Vaudreuil, then, was rightly concerned about the colony's state of defense.  Mobile had its stone-walled Fort Condé, but New Orleans, with its stagnant moat and crumbling walls, still possessed no defenses to speak of.  Vaudreui did, however, order the strengthening of the fort at La Balize.  Up in Illinois, Fort de Chartres, originally a palisade built in 1720 and rebuilt in 1725, was, by the early 1740s, in serious disrepair.  During Vaudrueil's tenure, the condition of the fort only worsened.  In 1747, the garrison abandoned the crumbling structure and moved south to Kaskaskia.  Though Vaudreuil wanted to build a third fort there, this one of stone, his engineers chose another site.  The new structure, the only stone fort in the Mississippi valley, rose near the original palisade in 1753, at the end of Vaudreuil's governorship, but was not finished until 1756, under Vaudreuil's successor.

Meanwhile, Vaudreuil's "[e]fforts to bolster Franco-Indian alliances" were "undermined by ... conflict" with the new ordonnateur, Sébastien-François-Ange Le Normant de Mézy of Dunkirk, who replaced Salmon in April 1744.  Le Normant threw himself into the daunting task of recalling "the paper currency (governmental script) circulating in Louisiana," much of it counterfeit, and replacing "it with hard Spanish currency," while at the same time refusing to support Vaudreuil's Indian policy, which he sought to undermine at every opportunity.  Le Normant refused, for instance, "to supply Vaudreuil [with] adequate amounts of Indian presents and trade goods," especially for the Choctaw, while Vaudreuil was attempting to neutralize dissention within that nation by placing a bounty on the head of chief Red Shoe, who insisted on treating with the British.  Vaudreuil went so far as to send nine French officers to Red Shoe's village to kidnap the once-friendly Choctaw chief; they were lucky to have escaped with their lives!  The best Vaudreuil could do was encourage friendly Choctaw to attack their rebellious kin, precipitating a four-year conflict within the nation that took the lives of more than 600 warriors "before the Choctaw could be made to see reason." 

Despite Le Normant's opposition and Vaudreuil's failure to subdue the rebellious Choctaw, Versailles viewed the governor's efforts as so successful the Minister of Marine, still the comte de Maurepas, promoted Vaudreuil to naval captain.  This occurred in 1746, the same year another hurricane struck the colony.  The storm destroyed the rice crop, removing a principal source of sustenance for settlers and slaves.  "The consequent distress was greatly increased by the capture of several vessels, that had sailed from France, with provisions," Judge Martin relates.  Luckily for the lower colony, the hurricane spared the colony's breadbasket in Illinois.  Vaudreuil wrote to the Minister of Marine:  "'... we receive from the Illinois flour, corn, bacon hams, both of bear and hog, corned pork and wild beef, myrtle and bees wax, cotton, buffalo, wool, venision, poultry, bears's grease, oil, skins, fowls, and hides,'" all coming down "'annually, in the latter part of December'"--essential commerce that was most welcome in this year of tribulation.  To add to the colony's misery, the winter of 1747-48 was so severe all of the orange trees died, "a misfortune of which this is the first instance on record," Judge Martin informs us.  Responding to the plight of his Mississippi valley colony, in September 1751 the King extended for the third time an exemption of "merchandize sent to, or brought from the province, from duty."  Unfortunately, during the next 10-year cycle the exemption would apply not to all merchandize, but only to salt beef, butter, tallow, and spices.

Happily for the governor, the contentious Le Normant's tenure as ordonnatueur ended in March 1748.  The Dunkirker was replaced by commissaire de marine and acting ordonnateur Vincent-Guillaume Le Sénéchal d'Auberville, a former naval officer, who served until the new ordonnateur, Honoré Michel de Villebois de La Rouvillière, arrived in May 1749.  A month earlier, Maurepas had been replaced as Minister of Marine by Antoine-Louis Rouillé, comte de Jouy, "who seemed determined to make Maurepas's appointees aware that they had a new master."  Unfortunately for Vaudreuil, his new ordonnateur, La Rouvillière, proved be an even greater vexation than Le Normant de Mézy. 

Meanwhile, in 1747, Vaudreuil observed the poor condition of the roads in the colony and appointed Pierre-François Olivier du Closel de Vézin, a 31-year-old native of Nancy, as inspector of the King's highways and the King's surveyor-general.  After leaving his native Lorraine, Olivier de Vézin had settled first near Trois-Rivières in 1738 and operated the Forge St.-Maurice, an iron foundary near the Canadian city.  He married into a Canadian family in June 1747 and took his wife to New Orleans soon after their marriage.  His commission was dated October 1747, and he remained in his position for the duration of the French regime.271

That same year, a party of Choctaw "friendly to the French" assassinated Red Shoe, and the civil war within that nation slowly wound down.  Unfortunately for settlers on Rivière-des-Alibamons and the German Coast, Vaudreuil's treatment of the Choctaw already had antagonized a dangerous element within that nation, and bloodshed came to the colony.  In October 1747, four months after Red Shoe's assassination and before the war between Britain and France had been resolved, British traders coaxed a band of rebellious Choctaw to attack a French settlement 15 leagues above Mobile.  "There, they killed two men, two women and two children," and another group of renegades in the Natchez area "killed a soldier there."  In mid-April 1748, while a congress of delegates met at Aix-la-Chapelle to negotiate an end to the war in Europe, another band of Choctaw, this one under "a chieftain named Bonfouca," slipped from Lake Pontchartrain through the Bayou La Sueur portage, just upriver from the German villages.  They were there to "attack, kidnap, and kill residents of the river area" at Ance-aux-Outardes.  François Cheval's plantation was hardest hit.  The Indians killed Cheval, scalped his wife, Marguerite Colombe, and captured their daughter and an African slave.  Cheval's neighbors fled to the west side of the river, "where some settled permanently.  Others returned to the east side only after the authorities provided soldiers to protect them," Elton J. Oubre relates.  The Choctaw struck again in early November, killing two of Cheval's sons-in-law, Antoine Boucherant and Antoine Rousseau, and an African slave, who were surprised in their fields.  After fighting for their lives, the surviving laborers retreated to the river.  The white laborers escaped in a boat, and the African, despite his wounds, jumped into the river and swam half way across, where one of the boats rescued him.  Commandant Darensbourg and his 130 militiamen, on the west bank of the river, could not find enough boats to transport them to the opposite bank before the dozen or so Choctaw slipped away.  "After this second attack," Oubre continues, "the area of the east bank was virtually abandoned."  Ironically, a major reason for settling at Ance-aux-Outardes--access to the Bayou La Sueur portage--had become the means by which the settlement was essentially destroyed.  Vaudreuil was livid at the failure of the Germans, accusing them of "timidity."  He sent an officer at the head of 45 troupes de la marine, accompanied by volunteers, in pursuit of the raiders, who were overtaken, killed, or captured.  This reinforced what the governor already knew:  there "still [were] not enough men in the country capable of going into the forests to fight the Indians"--another slap at Darensbourg and his Germans.  A number of them abandoned their homesteads on the west bank of the river, and, Reinhard Kondert attests, "sought refuge in the capital city, vowing not to return to their farms until their region had been made safe."  Alarmed by this exodus from what was still the colony's principal foodbasket, in 1750 Vaudreuil ordered the construction of two small stockades on the east side of the river to protect the approach to Des Allemands.  Fort Allemand, or Poste des Allemands, capable of accommodating 30 troupes de la marine, stood on the river side of the Bayou Le Sueur portage, directly across from Darensbourg's habitation.  Fort Tigougou, within supporting distance of the upper fortification, guarded the lake side of the portage.  But it proved to be too little too late.  "Serious food shortages in the colony developed within two years of the Choctaw raids on the German Coast," Kondert continues.  "These shortages were compounded by drought conditions that took hold in the Louisiana colony in the late 1740s.  A general 'state of disorder' had swept over the colony by 1750.  New Orleans was suffering from serious shortages of meat and other foodstuffs.  The decline in the German community's productivity contributed, at least to some degree, to these shortages and to the general atmosphere of unrest."271a

After nearly two decades of royal supervision, French Louisiana was as vulnerable as ever.  If Kondert's cause-and-effect scenario has any validity, and there is no reason to think it does not, then only a hand full of Native warriors, with the help of Nature, brought the entire colony to its knees. 

Vaudreuil himself would have been vulnerable to an attack such as the one at Des Allemands.  Soon after he reached Louisiana, he purchased a plantation on Lake Pontchartrain, north of New Orleans.  With a vested interest, now, in the economic prosperity of the colony, he continued to encourage the production of indigo, with its lucrative world market.  The colony's tobacco growers, meanwhile, were favored by "an arrangement with the farmers general of the kingdom, who agreed to purchase all the tobacco, raised in Louisiana, at thirty livres the hundred...."  Seeking further to enhance the colony's wealth, Vaudreuil looked the other way when Louisianans engaged in smuggling with Spaniards in Florida, which for a time enriched the New Orleans economy, especially among the merchant class.  The governor crossed a line, however, when, in the late 1740s, he granted a fur trading monopoly on the upper Mississippi to 20 Illinois traders.  The governor-general in Québec protested vigorously.  In 1749, the King removed the Ohio valley from Louisiana jurisdiction.272

In late September 1750, royal officials in Paris, following the establishment of peace, fixed the number of troupes de la marine serving in Louisiana at 850, organized in 17 companies.  This was the strength of Vaudreuil's garrisons only on paper of course, which in itself was sorely inadequate for the defense of such a sprawling province.  In early April 1751, 200 "recruits arrived from France" to complete "the quota of troops allotted to the province."  Royal officials also had shipped "sixty poor girls" at the King's expense aboard the same vessels--the last of their kind to be sent to Louisiana.  Officials hoped the girls would marry "such soldiers whose good conduct entitled them to a discharge."  Land would be allotted to each couple "with a cow and calf, a cock and five hens; a gun, axe and hoe.  During the three first years, rations" would be "allowed them, with a small quantity of powder, shot and grain for seed." 

On the way to La Balize, the ships carrying the troupes de la marine and the "poor girls" stopped at Cap-Français on French St.-Domingue probably to take on fresh water.  The Jesuits at Le Cap took the opportunity to place aboard one of the vessels not only cuttings of sugar cane grown on the island, but also West African slaves "acquainted with the culture and manufacture of sugar," in hopes of introducing the lucrative cash crop into lower Louisiana.  Since the late 1720s, on land once owned by Bienville, the Jesuits had worked their own plantation just above New Orleans.  There they grew myrtle shrubs for the production of wax candles, as well as indigo for sale on the worldwide market.  As early as 1742, the Jesuits had attempted to grow cane at their plantation, even "preserving the 'feeble' plants in hot houses during the winter," but without the assistance of "experts" like the West Africans their experiement came to naught.  The new batch of sugar cane from St.-Domingue grew well enough, but, even with the help of the West Africans, the black robes could not master the complex process of transforming the cane juice into granulated sugar.  Nevertheless, by the late 1750s, the Jesuits were producing an excellent molasses for the local market.272b

Aboard the vessel carrying the cuttings of cane, a young French naval officer posted to the colony described the lower river in idyllic terms:  "That town is situated on the banks of the Mississippi, one of the largest rivers in the world, since it waters more than eight hundred leagues of known country," Jean-Bernard Bossu wrote of New Orleans and its river.  "Its pure and delicious waters flow for forty leagues in the midst of a number of plantations which form a charming sight on its two banks, where one enjoys abundantly the pleasures of hunting, fishing, and all the other delights of life."   

But all was not idyllic at the eastern fringes of a colony long plagued by an aggressive foe.  According to François-Xavier Martin, "Tranquility being now restored to the British province, traders from the southernmost," South Carolina and Georgia, "poured in their goods, and erected stores and block houses, in the villages of the Indians, on their back settlements; and those of the French on Mobile and Alibamon rivers began to be distressed by the renewed irruptions of the Chickasaws," now traditional enemies of the French.  "In consequence thereof," Martin asserts, "the Marquis de Vaudreuil marched into their country at the head of a body of seven hundred men of the regular forces and militia, and a large number of Indians.  He was not very successful:  the enemy had been taught by the British to fortify their villages.  Each had a strong block house, surrounded by a wide and deep ditch."  Bienville, back in France, could have testified that the Chickasaw had long been adept at constructing such fortifications without European assistance.  According to Martin, "The colony was badly supplied with field artillery and soldiers skilled in the management of the pieces.  The Marquis lost little time in laying sieges, but wandered through the country, laying the plantations waste."  To guard against the inevitable counterattack, Vaudreuil strengthened Fort Tombecbé, the closest to the Chickasaw villages, "left a strong garrison in it and returned to New Orleans."272c

A tragic incident in Illinois also burdened the final months of Vaudreuil's governorship.  In December 1751, near Prairie-du-Rocher, Indians accosted two French children walking down a forest trail about the same time an interpreter from nearby Fort de Chartres came upon the bloody corpse of a French soldier.  The commandant at Illinois, Jean-Jacques Macarty Mactigue, an Irishman in the French service, had reached his new post only a few months earlier, and here were indications of a troubling disturbance among the local Natives.  After a lengthy investigation, it was determined that the Piankeshaw/Kickapoo chief La Loup was responsible for the disturbance among the Illinois.  La Loup, in turn, had been influenced by the Miami chief known as La Demoiselle, a notorious friend of the Pennsylvania traders who frequented the Miami town of Pickawillany in present-day western Ohio.  Here, in the minds of Macarty and his superiors at New Orleans, Québec, and Paris, was evidence of a conspiracy to stir up the pays d'en haut, allowing Britain to seize control of the Ohio valley.272a

Despite a generally successful tenure as Louisiana's governor, the Minister of Marine, Rouillé, recalled Vaudreuil to France in June 1752.  Vaudreuil left New Orleans in May 1753, but not until he had familiarized his successor with the colony's administration.  Back in France, the King, evidently impressed with Vaudreuil's performance in Louisiana, rewarded him with the high office his father had held for 22 years.  In January 1755, at age 57, Pierre de Rigaud, marquis de Vaudreuil de Cavagnial, was appointed governor-general of New France, replacing the marquis Du Quesne.273


When Vaudreuil left New Orleans for France in the spring of 1753, Louisiana had endured royal colonial status for nearly two dozen years.  During that time, three royal governors, including Vaudreuil, had administered the colony, and four royal commissaire-ordonnateurs or their equivalent had overseen the colony's finances and judiciary.  Although immigration had slowed to a crawl, Louisiana's population had increased slowly but "naturally."  Royal officials and French merchants still considered the colony a backwater, so its economy remained stagnant despite feeble efforts to stimulate direct trade with France.  In 1731, the year Louisiana reverted to royal control, "certain privileges were extended to French merchants and shipowners who would engage in this trade."  In 1737, during Bienville's governorship, the King approved an ordinance that allowed direct trade with the French West Indies.  At the same time, the French Minister of Marine, Maurepas, chided officials in Louisiana for not providing French merchants with "return cargoes of Louisiana produce" and "admonished Bienville and Salmon to convince the colonists to increase their crops."  Response in the French ports was not encouraging.  The merchants of Bordeaux insisted that Louisiana lacked the products they needed "to make commerce valuable." 

The merchants of La Rochelle were more open minded about trade with Louisiana, especially for the colony's chief export, tobacco.  The Rochelais hoped to break the hold of the Farmers General on the price of tobacco in France, but not even Maurepas could muster the influence to overcome the monopoly.  He could only promise to the merchants "a fair price for good tobacco but pointed out that the specie from Louisiana's [illegal] trade with the Spanish would pass into the hands of [French] merchants trading with Louisiana."  From 1731-44, 57 vessels left La Rochelle for Louisiana.  Few of them sailed directly to the Mississippi but "had to touch at French or Spanish ports in the Gulf or the Caribbean to make the voyage profitable."  The firm of Rasteau and Sons of La Rochelle was especially involved in the trade.  But trade even with the merchants of La Rochelle proved to be a hit and miss affair.  All too often, when a French merchant vessel reached La Balize and inquired about available trade goods in New Orleans, its master was disappointed to find no tobacco there, or not enough specie to secure a trade for whatever goods the merchantman carried.  Back in France, meanwhile, the Farmers General purchased English-grown tobacco when it could.  Fewer French merchants, even from La Rochelle, sailed on to Louisiana, and, if they did, their cargoes were usually inadequate by then to engage in much trade at New Orleans.  Facing a diminishing market for their tobacco, the Louisiana colonists cut back production and blamed the merchants for dwindling prices they received for the tobacco they did produce.  "All in all," a historian of Louisiana's colonial economy tells us, "there was little incentive for French merchants to pursue the Louisiana trade with diligence.  Even Rateau & Sons, with a son, Paul, established in New Orleans as agent, were far more heavily engaged in a generalized trade with the West Indies and in the slave trade.  Louisiana was of secondary importance, useful primarily as a station from which to launch ventures in the Spanish colonies."  The result was catastrophic for the colony's economic development. 

The same historian offers this sober conclusion:  "Louisiana was just not important and so it languished.  This condition was not a factor of any system whether that of Crozat or Louis XV, whether operating under a company monopoly or fairly liberal commercial policies.  Louisiana could not prosper under the French regardless of the system for the simple reason that France did not have the resources necessary to exploit such distant frontiers.  It can be argued that the French commitment in Louisiana was a mistake from the beginning.  France was not powerful enough, nor was the power that she commanded flexible enough, to develop and defend Canada, Louisiana, the Antilles, and India while simultaneously pursuing diplomatic objectives in Europe.  France lacked three basic elements:  capitalists willing to venture surplus funds in undeveloped regions, a navy adequate to her colonial pretensions, and a population willing to emigrate."  These were the same factors that had made French Acadia so vulnerable to New England, the might of the Royal Naval always standing behind the grasping Yankee traders.  It also bode ill for Louisiana's place in the diminishing list of French colonial possessions.273a


Vaudreuil's successor, Louis Billouart de Karvaségan, chevalier de Kerlérec, was a career naval officer with no political experience to speak of.  Born at Quimper, Brittany, in June 1704, Kerlérec, a younger son of a nobleman, also turned early to the sea, serving as a volunteer seaman in three campaigns during the brief war with Spain in the late 1710s and early 1720s.  It was the third campaign that brought him to Louisiana in his late teens, but he soon returned to France, where he was commissioned a "navy guard" at Rochefort in March 1721.  He sailed aboard the Dromadaire to Ship Island that year, but, again, did not remain in Louisiana.  He left the navy and secured command of the frigate Flore, now an armed merchant vessel, and engaged in the trade between West Africa and the French West Indies.  In 1722, he sailed to Cayenne in South America and to Martinique aboard the Portefaix.  Back in the navy, he was assigned to the naval bureau at Brest until he recovered from a lengthy illness.  In 1729, he patrolled the coast of Malta in the Mediterranean aboard the Amazone.  In 1730, he returned to Louisiana a third time, and this time stayed, to fight in Périer's punitive campaign against the Natchez.  Back at Brest in 1731, he was promoted to ship's ensign.  The following year, he returned to the Mediterranean and fought against the Barbary pirates of North Africa.  From 1733-34, he served as aide-major in the naval garrison at Calais.  From 1734-37, he served three tours of duty in French men-of-war and was still in the navy, and still a bachelor, when war broke out with Britain in 1740.  Before word of the conflict reached the Americas, he was severely wounded in the back during an engagement with Royal Navy vessels off the coast of French St.-Domingue.  After he recuperated from his wound, he was promoted to ship's lieutenant in 1741 and served in Atlantic convoy duty for the next several years.  In 1745, he was part of the abortive relief force during the siege of Louisbourg.  The following year, in command of the frigate Neptune, he again fought the British off St.-Domingue and was wounded again, this time in his right foot and in both of his ears.  His vessel sinking, he was forced to surrender.  The British took him to the prisoner-of-war compound at Spithead, where he remained until the end of the war.  Now 44 years old and still unmarried, Kerlérec could look back on a distinguished naval career of 30  years.  In 1750, he was named commander of the frigate Favorite and was promoted to ship's captain the following year.  Though he had held no political office in the many places he had been, in February 1752 King Louis XV and Minister of Marine Rouillé appointed Kerlérec as governor of Louisiana.275

When Kerlérec took office in early 1753, the colony's acting ordonnateur, again, was commissaire de marine Vincent-Guillaume Le Sénéchal d'Auberville, with whom Kerlérec "agreed admirably."  While serving as acting ordonnateur, d'Auberville died in office after a lengthy illness in March 1757 and was replaced by commissaire de marine Jean-Baptiste-Claude Bobé-Descloseaux, clerk at Mobile.  A year later, a new commissaire-ordonnateur finally arrived.  Despite the Minister's insistence that he co-operate with the governor, the new ordonnateur clashed immediately with Kerlérec over the issue of war profiteering, which the governor was attempting to curtail.  Vincent-Gaspard-Pierre de Rochemore, a native of Nîmes, was the son of a marquis.  After studying for the priesthood, which he did not enter, Rochemore served in the Ministry of Marine at the same time that he attended the university at Avignon.  He was 45 years old and married with a family when he reached New Orleans in mid-April 1758.  His opposition to Kerlérec was so bitter and so open that in April 1759 the governor accused him of insubordination.  Kerlérec also censured Rochemore's wife, whom he considered as troublesome as her husband.  What followed was the so-called "Louisiana Affair," which plagued the colony, and official France, for years.  In late 1759, the Minister of Marine, Nicolas-René Berryer, placed Rochemore under the governor's authority, but the ordonnateur ignored the action.  No doubt to the governor's great relief, and certainly as a result of his considerable efforts, the new Minister of Marine, Étienne-François, duc de Choiseul, recalled Rochemore to France in early 1762, along with a number of the colony's officers who had taken Rochemore's side in his dispute with the royal governor.276


In July 1754, during his second year as governor, Kerlérec wrote to the Minister of Marine, still Antoine-Louis Rouillé:  "'I have received the families from Lorraine by the Concorde.  They are established 'aux Allemands' and work well."  These new settlers, actually from Alsace, had reached Louisiana aboard the Caméléon, not the Concorde, the previous September.  They had numbered 47 when they left Rochefort in July 1753, so they were a small addition to the colony.  Kerlérec had received notice of their impending arrival and was given the discretion either to keep the group together or scatter them about the colony.  Sensitive to their needs as well as the colony's, he chose not only to keep them together, but to settle them near their fellow Germans at Des Allemands.  An exodus of farm families from that settlement to New Orleans had continued apace since the Choctaw attacks there in 1748.  The result was a lingering shortage of "meat and other foodstuffs" at New Orleans, so here was a chance to remedy that problem.  Commandant Darensbourg escorted the new arrivals to the German Coast, where "Each family was given the ingredients for a homestead, and Governor Kerlérec provided sufficient supplies to sustain them throughout the approaching winter.  Established German families of the neighborhood contributed whatever possible to make life a little easier for the newcomers."  Kerlérec notified the minister in December that the new arrivals were finally settled:  some on lands along the west bank abandoned by "older" families, others "along the river south of the main German community."  In February, the governor visited the German Coast to check up on the new arrivals and was impressed by what he saw.  He found the Alsatians "to be quite contented, working courageously and ambitiously to house themselves and to prepare the land for sowing.  Already, he noted, they were beginning to sell chickens, eggs, and vegetables in New Orleans."  Soon after their arrival, Kerlérec had given each family 400 livres from the colonial accounts, and was happy to tell the Minister, "'I can assure you, my lord, that never has a more worthwhile expense been made, nor one so advantageous to the colony.'" 

The story of how these Alsatians came to Louisiana tells as much about the France of Louis XV as about these sturdy people.  France gained parts of Alsace in 1648, at the end of the Thirty Years' War, and acquired the rest of it in 1678, after the War of Devolution.  Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, but he wisely allowed the Protestants in Alsace, a substantial part of the population, to continuing practicing their heretical faith unmolested.  Alsatians, however, were forbidden to leave the province for Germany, Switzerland, Holland, or any other Protestant region.  To do so would constitute an act of treason, punishment for which was most severe.  Sometime in December 1752, 22 Alsatian Lutherans, ranging in age "from nearly fifty to newlyweds barely twenty and young bachelors in their late teens," chose to defy French authority and flee with their 25 children to Germany.  They were arrested when they attempted to cross the frontier, charged with treason, summarily tried, and awarded the maximum sentence for their crime--branding on the shoulder and life imprisonment aboard the Mediterranean galleys for the men, and life in a French prison for the women.  Most terrible of all, they would lose their children, one of whom was only four months old.  French authorities, however, gave them a chance to escape such a terrible fate:  if they rejected their Lutheran heresy by converting to Roman Catholicism, their sentences would be reduced to exile in Louisiana, and, most importantly, they could keep their children.  The popular view in France, then, long before that time and for years thereafter, was that "life in Louisiana led to the same end, an early death."  No matter, the Alsatians chose to go to the colony, and so they journeyed from Metz, where they had been tried and imprisoned, to Rochefort, then the gateway to Louisiana.  In July 1753, they boarded the ship Caméléon for New Orleans via French St.-Domingue.

Kerlérec's missives to the Minister of Marine led to more of these Protestant Alsatians coming to Louisiana, perhaps as many as had arrived in the first group on 8 September 1753.  Minister Rouillé notified the intendant of Alsace that French authorities were willing to send the relatives of the original exiles to Louisiana.  The intendant contacted the eligible families and was amazed by the response.  Perhaps misunderstanding the official policy, large numbers of Alsatians, most of them unrelated to the original families, offered to go to the colony.  Rouillé held firm to his original offer--only relatives of the exiled Alsatians would be allowed to go, and only after they, too, had abjured their Lutheran heresy and converted to the One True Faith.  In the summer of 1755, however, war broke out in North America between France and Britain, and the Royal Navy promptly imposed a blockade on French ports.  Despite this major obstacle, the kinsmen of the original Alsatian exiles were escorted to Rochefort.  The ship Rochefort sailed from its eponymous port in May 1756 and reached La Balize in late June; the number of Alsatians aboard was not recorded.  Four Alsatian families of 20 persons sailed from Rochefort aboard the Jeannette in October, but at the end of the month the vessel was intercepted by the HMS Medway and taken as a prize to Spithead.  Some of the Alsatians, still considering themselves Protestant, chose to remain in England.  Others returned to France but slipped across the border into Protestant Germany.  Only a few of the Alsatians who returned to France made their way to Rochefort for another go at Louisiana.  After the war in North America had wound down considerably, they departed Rochefort in either August or Sep