Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XII.

1732-59—ILLINOIS AND LOUISIANA UNDER THE ROYAL

GOVERNORS.

When the Company of the Indies gave up their charter, the gov. ernment of France resumed the administration of public affairs. M. Perrier remained governor-general, and M. d'Artaguette became local governor of Illinois. The common law of Paris had previously been adopted as the code of Louisiana, but had never been formally extended over Illinois. The ecclesiastical affairs were under the superintendence of the vicar-general of New Orleans, as a part of the diocese of the bishop of Quebec. One of the principal objects of the governor was, to establish his authority over the different Indian tribes inhabiting the country under his command. The Chicasaws, instigated by English colonists, had made intercourse between Illinois and New Orleans so hazardous that commerce was virtually suspended, and the settlers kept in a constant state of alarm. Such was the animosity and activity of this tribe, it also sent secret envoys to the Illinois, for the purpose of debauching the time honored affection which had existed between them and their French neighbors, and inducing them to destroy the latter. These tawny sons of the prairies, however, refused to desert their friends, and sent an envoy to New Orleans to offer their services to the governor. Said this deputy to that functionary: “This is the pipe of peace or war; you have but to speak and our braves will strike the nations that are your foes. "* It was now necessary to reduce the Chicasaws, to establish communication between the northern and southern portions of the province, and to save the eastern portion from the intrigues of emissaries, sent out among the Indians by the English colonies on the Atlantic. An officer was, therefore, dispatched to Fort Chartres, in 1736, directing D'Artaguette to get in readiness the French forces under his command, and such Indians of Illinois as he could induce to unite with him in the war. It was arranged that D'Artaguette should descend the Mississippi to some suitable point of debarkation, and then cross to the country on the head waters of the Talahatchee, where the enemy's stronghold was situated.

In the meantime Bienville, who had again been commissioned by the king as governor-general, with the forces of southern Louisiana, was to ascend the Tombigbee to the confluence of its two principal tributaries, and marching thence by land, effect a junction with the forces from the north. Early in the spring, Bienville moved with his forces from New Orleans to Mobile, and thence to the point designated, where a fort had previously been erected to serve as a depot of supplies. Here, by offering rewards for scalps and making presents of merchandise, he drew together the large force of 1200 Choctaws. After disembarking the artillery and placing it in the fort, the solitude of the primitive forests and blooming prairies was broken by the tread of the forces moving in the direetion of the enemy.* On the 25th of May, they arrived within 3 miles of the Chicasaw village, but several days behind the time fixed for meeting the northern forces; a delay, which, as the sequel will show, proved fatal. The village was 27 miles from the fort, and within a few miles of Pontotoc, Mississippi, which still perpetuates the name of the Indian stronghold, and became famous as a point in Grierson's great raid in the war of the rebellion. Before daylight, the next morning, the impatient and ungovern. able Choctaws moved against the log citadel of the enemy, expecting to take its occupants by surprise. On the contrary, they found the garrison on the alert, and the fort a skillfully constructed fortification, erected under the supervison of English traders. Twice during the day, Bienville attempted to carry the works by vigorous attacks, but was repulsed with a loss of 65 wounded, and 32 killed; the latter embracing 4 officers of rank. The following day, some skirmishing occurred between the Choctaws and the enemy, without any decisive results, when Bienville, mortified at his defeat, and believing his own forces too inconsiderable for the reduction of such formidable works without the co-operation of the northern forces, of which he had heard nothing, concluded to abandon the enterprise. He accordingly dismissed his red auxiliaries, made a retrograde march to the fort on the Tombigbee, ingloriously threw his cannon into the river, and returned to New Orleans, covered with defeat and shame.

*Bancroft.

Prior to the inflicting of this disgrace upon the French arms, the gallant D'Artaguette, accompanied by De Vincennes and Father Lenat, had led his army of 50 Frenchmen and more than 1000 red warriors, from the prairies of the north to the Yalabusha. Here, at the appointed place of rendezvons, he waited for 10 days the arrival of the commander-in-chief, ready to co-operate with him in maintaining the jurisdiction and honor of France. The failure of the latter, however, to arrive in time, prevented the junction of the two armies, and thus defeated the campaign. On the 20th of May, his rash Índian confederates, who had the courage to strike a blow, but lacked the calculation and patience to wait the proper time, compelled him to commence offensive operations. Having skillfully arranged his forces, with great daring and impetuosity he drove the Chicasaws from two fortifications, and in the assault on the third was disabled in the moment of victory. Dismayed at the loss of their leader, the Indians fled precipitately, closely pursued a distance of 125 miles by the enemy in the flush of unexpected victory, while D'Artaguette and some of his brave comrades lay weltering in their gore, attendedby Lenat, who, mindful only of the assistance he might render the suffering, refused to fly. Vincennes, too, whose name is perpetuated by the city on the Wabash, chose also to remain and share the captivity of his leader. The wounds of the prisoners were staunched, and at first they were treated with great kindness by their captors, who expected to get a large reward from Bien"Bancroft.

ville for their safe return. When, however, they heard of his discomfiture and withdrawal, they dispaired of receiving a ransom for the prisoners and proposed to make them victims of a savage triumph. For this purpose they were borne to a neighboring field, bound to stakes, and tortured before slow and intermitting fires till death mercifully released them from their sufferings. Thus perished the faithful Lenat, the young and intrepid D'Artaguette, and the heroic Vincennes, whose names will endure as long as the Illinois and Wabash shall flow by the dwellings of civilized men.

The Chickasaws, elated by victory, sent a deputation to announce their success and the torments inflicted on their captives to the English colonists, with whom they were now in sympathy. Bienville, on the other hand, chagrined at the result of the campaign, determined to retrieve his honor and the glory of France by a second invasion. The approbation of the Minister having been obtained, toward the close of the year 1739 he commenced putting in operation his plans for the reduction of the fierce antagonists who had before so successfully defied him. The signal for preparation was given to the commandants of the dif derent posts, which resulted in efforts far transcending in military display anything before seen in the provinces. A fort was erected at the mouth of the St. Francis, which served as a place of rendezvous, and afterward of departure for the grand army eastward, to the country of the enemy. The force from Illinois, consisting of 200 French and 300 Indians, was commanded by La Buissoniere, who had succeeded the lamented D'Artaguette as commandant at Ft. Chartres. These, with the forces from other posts, amounted to 1200 Europeans and 500 Indians and negroes. The whole, under the command of Bienville, was soon moved to the mouth of Wolf river, where it was delayed in the erection of a second fort, in which to deposit their military stores, and care for the sick. Before the fort, which bore the name of Assumption, was completed, malarious fevers so fatal to European constitutions, had seriously disabled the army. Hardly had the early frosts of winter abated the disease, when famine, a more formidable enemy, threatened them with' annihilation. Supplies could only be obtained at Ft. Chartres and New Orleans, and hence the consummation of the campaign was necessarily postponed till the following spring. Spring came, but such had been the debilitating effects of the winter and the want of wholesome food, that only 200 men were now fit for duty. Undeterred, however, by the want of numbers, M. Celeron, a lieutenant of La Buissoniere, boldly set out to meet the Chicasaws, who, supposing the whole French army was behind him, sued for peace. Celeron, taking advantage of the mistake, obtained from them a declaration that they would renounce the English and resume peaceable relations with the French. To confirm their statements, a deputation of chiefs accompanied them to Ft. Assumption and entered into a treaty of peace with Bien ville, which was ratified with the customary Indian ceremonies and festivities. The army now returned to the fort on the St. Francis, where Bien ville disbanded it, and “ again ingloriously floated down the river to New Orleans.* the end of the second campaign against the Chicasaws, wherein Bienville not only failed to retrieve his tarnished military fame,

+Monette's Val.of the Mies.

This was

but incurred the displeasure of his sovereign. Two armies had been sacrificed in an attempt to mete out to the Chicasaws the fate that had befallen the Natchez; but like their ancestors, who 200 years before had encountered the steel-clad chivalry of Desoto, they still remained intact. With the close of these disastrous expeditions terminated the gubernatorial career of Bienville, which, with slight interruptions, had extended through a period of 40 years. Age had cooled down the ardor and energy of his manhood's prime, and the honors won in previous years were now obscured in a cloud of disapprobation and censure.

Retiring from office, he was succeeded by the Marquis de Vandreuil, who subsequently became Governor of Canada. After the establishment of amicable relations with the Chicasaws, the native tribes throughout the valley of the Mississippi submitted to the dominion of France and became her allies. A commercial intercourse with them succeeded, and agriculture, now freed from company monopolies, rapidly sprang into new life. Sugar cane was brought from San Domingo, and the first attempt at its cultivation proving successful, it has since become the great staple of the present state of Louisiana. Cotton was introduced and successfully cultivated as far north as Illinois. A gin was subsequently invented by M. Dubreuil, and though imperfect compared with Whitney's of the present day, it greatly facilitated the operation of separating the fibre from the seed and thus gave a new impetus to the cultivation of the plant. The fig tree, the orange, and the lemon, began to bloom about the houses of the colonists on the Lower Mississippi and supply them with delicious fruit, while the sweet potato, extending over a broader range of latitude, contributed largely to the sustenance of both the northern and southern parts of the province. Every arrival from France augmented the population of the rapidly extending settlements. Many Canadians, retiring from the rigor of their winters, sought homes in the comparatively mild climate of Illinois and the region of the Wabash. Under the stimulus of individual enterprise the commerce between the northern and southern parts of the province, and between New Orleans and foreign countries, was greatly extended. Regular cargoes of pork, flour, bacon, tallow, hides and leather were annually transported in barges from Illinois to New Orleans and Mobile, and thence shipped to France and the West Indies. In exchange were brought back rice, indigo, sugar and European fabrics. The two extremes of Louisiana were mutually dependent, and by means of the Mississippi and its hundred tributaries, naturally supplied each other's wants. The decade commencing with 1740 and closing with 1750 was one of unusual prosperity.

Manners and Customs of the French.—Unlike the English and other Europeans, who usually lived in sparse settlements, the French fixed their abode in compact villages.

These were generally built on the banks of some pure stream of water, contiguous to timber and prairie, the one furnishing them fuel and the other with ground for tillage. The construction of the dwellings was of a primitive character. The frame work consisted of posts planted in the earth three or four feet deep and strongly bound together by horizontal cross-ties. The interstices thus formed were filled with mortar, intermixed with straw or Spanish moss, to

give it tenacity. The surface of the walls, both internal and ex. ternal, were washed with white lime, which imparted to the buildings an air of cleanliness and domestic comfort. Most of the dwellings were surrounded by piazzas, on which the inmates found a pleasant retreat to while away in social converse the sultry summer evenings. Destitute of machinery for cutting their trees into boards, they split them into slabs, which were used for flooring, doors and other purposes, while as a substitute for shingles they thatched their buildings with straw. Although having the greatest amplitude for wide streets, they generally made them so nar. row that the merry villagers living on opposite sides could carry on their sprightly conversations each froin his own balcony. Even in detached settlements the social turn of the people induced them to group their dwellings as closely together as possible. Each settlement had its patriarchal homestead, which generally stood in a spacious enclosure, and was occupied by the oldest member of the family. Around this sprung up a cluster of cottages, the residence of each child and grand child as it married and became the head of a family. Not unfrequently the aged patriarch became the centre of a dozen growing families of his own lineage and embracing 3 or 4 generations.

Common Field.--A duty imposed upon the commandant of each village was to reserve a tract of land

for a common field, in which all the inhabitants were interested. To each villager was assigned a portion of the field, the size of which was proportioned according to the extent of his family. Lands thus apportioned were subject to the regulations of the villages, and when the party in possession became negligent so as to endanger the common interest he forfeited his claim. The time of plowing, sowing and har. vesting, and other agricultural operations, was subject to the enactment of the village senate. Even the form and arrangement of enclosures surrounding the dwellings and other buildings were the subject of special enactments, and were arranged with a view to protection against the Indians, should an exigency occur making it necessary.

Commons. Besides the common field, which was designed for tillage, there was a common which was free to all the villagers for the pasture of their stock and the supply of fuel. As accessions were made to the families of the community, either by marriage or the arrival of strangers, portions of land were taken from the common and added to the common field for their benefit.

Intercourse with the Indians.-Owing to their amiable disposi. tions and the tact of ingratiating themselves with the tribes that surrounded them, the French almost entirely escaped the broils which weakened and destroyed other colonies less favored with this trait of character. Whether exploring remote rivers or traversing hunting grounds in pursuit of game; in the social circle or as participants in the religious exercises of the church, the red men became their associates and were treated with the kindness and consideration of brothers. Like the Quakers guided by the example of Penn, they kept up a mutual interchange of friendly offices with their red neighbors, and such was the community of interests, the feeling of dependence and social equality, that intermarriages frequently occurred, thus more closely uniting them in

« AnteriorContinuar »