THE NATCHEZ MASSACRE.
All went well in Louisiana for two years after the arrival of the new governor. In the country the plantations made good crops, and the city increased in size, in population, and in trade. The Indians were quiet and peaceful. Therefore, like a thunderclap in a cloudless sky, came the news, in 1727, that the Natchez had risen and murdered all the white people at Fort Rosalie and in the neighboring settlements.
Ever since Bienville's last treaty with them, the Natchez had been good friends of the French, and they would have continued so, but for the tyranny and injustice of Chepart, the officer in command of Fort Rosalie. He drove them to the revenge which caused the ruin of the fort and finally of the Natchez nation itself.
Looking for land for a plantation, Chepart cast his eyes upon the charming White Apple village, and he determined to make it his own. He sent for the Sun of the village, and ordered him and his tribe to leave it. The Sun replied that the ancestors of his tribe had lived in the village as many years as there were hairs in his warlock, and it was only right that he and his children should still live in it. But the French officer would not listen to him, and fixed the day for the Indians to leave the village. The Sun, calling together the men of his village, made a speech, telling them of the outrage that was to be done to them, and urging them to make a stand against the tyranny of the French. Village by village was aroused, and their Suna swore to strike one bloody blow, and free themselves forever from the yoke that was upon them. To all the villages were sent packages of an equal number of sticks tied together, and the command was given to take out a stick every day after the new moon, and to fall upon the French and kill them on the day on which the last stick was taken out.
The fatal day arrived. By daylight the Natchez, in small groups, strolled into Fort Rosalie and the neighboring white settlements, until they outnumbered the whites. Pretending they were going on a hunt, they borrowed guns and bought powder and shot. At nine o'clock the signal was given. Each Indian fell on a man. By noon two hundred Frenchmen were killed, and ninety-two women and fifty-five children and all the Negroes were made prisoners. Chepart was among the first slain. During the massacre, the Great Sun was coolly and carelessly smoking his pipe in a government warehouse. His men brought to him the heads of the French officers, placing that of Chepart in the center and the others around. When the Sun was informed that not a white man was left alive, except a carpenter and a tailor specially saved from the massacre, he gave the command to pillage. Every building was sacked and the spoils divided. Two soldiers, who were accidentally in the woods, escaped and carried the news to New Orleans.
The colony trembled from one end to the other. New Orleans went into a panic. Ships were sent to France for troops. Couriers were hurried to the Illinois, the Red River, and to the Mobile settlement warning the white men there.
Their Choctaw allies were the first in the field for the French. Seven hundred of them falling upon the Natchez, while they were still in the midst of their feasting and rejoicing, killed sixty of their warriors, and rescued fifty-nine women and children, and one hundred slaves, who had been taken prisoners. By the time the troops from New Orleans arrived, the Natchez had fortified themselves in two strong houses in the White Apple village, Fort Valor (as the French well named it) and Fort Flour. Their defense was so good that the French, with all their cannon, could not force them to surrender. In fact they held their own so bravely that the French had to make terms with them. They agreed to deliver up the rest of the French women, children, and Negro prisoners, if the French would retire from the village, with their guns, to the banks of the river. This agreement was carried out. But two nights afterwards, the Natchez made their escape from their forts so secretly that the French could not pursue them. Some of them sought refuge with the Chickasaws; others, crossing the Mississippi, made their way westward, through forest and swamp, to a mound in the present parish of Catahoula. Here they remained until tidings reached them that Perier was leading a great army of white men and Indians against them. They then withdrew to a high bluff, known now as Sicily Island, at the end of Lake Lovelace, where they fortified themselves.
In the middle of the summer, the reinforcements from France arrived, eight hundred French and Swiss soldiers. These, with what he could raise among the colonists and his Indian allies, gave Perier over a thousand men to lead against his enemies. He went up the Mississippi to the mouth of the Red River, and went through Red River to Black River, and up the Ouachita, until he reached the bluff, upon which the Natchez stood like beasts at bay. But as before, the Natchez would not give up, and held their own, until the French were glad to talk about a treaty. Perier, however, refused to treat with any but chiefs. Two Suns and the warrior who had defended Fort Flour so gallantly, came forward, but Perier dishonorably seized them as prisoners, and then demanded the surrender of all the French prisoners. To this the chiefs had to agree. During the night, the warrior from Fort Flour made his escape ; but the Two Suns were not so fortunate they were discovered in the attempt and held. Perier then offered to spare the lives of all the Natchez men, women, and children who delivered themselves up to him. The next day four hundred women and children and forty-five men left the Natchez fortifications, and ranged themselves inside those of the French ; but they came in such small groups that the whole day was passed in the surrender. Seventy still remained in the fort, asking to stay there until the morrow. It was raining in torrents. Between the water under foot and the water overhead, Perier, not being able to take them, was forced to consent. At nine o'clock at night, the weather cleared and the French were able to take possession of the Natchez forts. They closed in around them, and found them deserted! Again the warriors of the Natchez, under the leadership of the warrior of Fort Flour, had given the slip to their captors. The forts were destroyed, and the only two prisoners taken there were, as if in spite, scalped and burned. Perier returned to New Orleans with his women and children prisoners, and the two Suns, and the forty warriors, all of whom were sold into slavery in San Domingo.
The number of Natchez Indians who had escaped was three hundred. They spread themselves over the Red River country, and took possession of a deserted Natchitoches village, from which they were driven out only after an obstinate fight. They then took refuge with the Chickasaws, who, as we remember, were enemies of the French, and who from the first had offered their villages and strongholds to them.
With the peace, prosperity, and life of the colony threatened by an Indian war, the directors in France could not hope to make any profit out of Louisiana trade. They therefore gave the colony back to the king.
In New Orleans confidence in Perier was lost, and those of the old colonists who had served under Bienville's long and wise administration, wrote to the French government, telling of Bienville's wisdom in dealing with the Indians, and declaring that he was the best governor that had ever been in the colony. This had a good effect. Perier was recalled, and Bienville was given his old place.
[Source: "Stories from Louisiana History" By Grace Elizabeth King, John Rose Ficklen; Published by The L. Graham Co., 1905 - Submitted by: Barb Z]
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