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French attack Chickasaws.
and the French and Chocktaws in one day took sixty of their scalps; in three months they were driven from their country and scattered among the neighboring tribes; and within two years the remnants of the nation, chiefs and people, were sent to St. Domingo and sold into slavery. So perished this ancient and peculiar race, in the same year in which the Company of the West yielded its grants into the royal hands.
When Louisiana came again into the charge of the government of France, it was determined, as a first step, to strike terror into the Chickasaws, who, devoted to the English, constantly interfered with the trade of the Mississippi. For this purpose the forces of New France, from New Orleans to Detroit, were ordered to meet in the country of the inimical Indians, upon the 10th of May, 1736, to strike a blow which should be final. D'Artaguette, governor of Illinois, with the young and gallant Vincennes, leading a small body of French and more than a thousand northern Indians, on the day appointed, was at the spot appointed; but Bienville, who had returned as the king's lieutenant to that southern land which he had aided to explore, was not where the commanders from above expected to meet him. During ten days they waited, and still saw nothing, heard nothing of the forces from the south. Fearful of exhausting the scant patience of his red allies, at length D'Artaguette ordered the onset; a first and a second of the Chickasaw stations were carried successfully, but in attacking a third the French leader fell; when the Illinois saw their commander wounded, they turned and fled, leaving him and de Vincennes, who would not desert him, in the hands of the Chickasaws. Five days afterwards, Bienville and his followers, among whom were great numbers of Choctaws, bribed to bear arms against their kinsmen, came creeping up the stream of the Tombecbee; but the savages were on their guard, English traders had aided them to fortify their position, and the French in vain attacked their log fort. On the 20th of May, D'Artaguette had fallen; on the 27th, Bienville had failed in his assault; on the 31st, throwing his cannon into the river, he and his white companions turned their prows to the south again. Then came the hour of barbarian triumph, and the successful Chickasaws danced round the flames in which were crackling the sinews of D’Artaguette, Vincennes, and the Jesuit Senat, who stayed and died of his own free will, because duty bade him.
Three years more passed away, and again a French army of
West in 1750.
nearly four thousand white, red and black men was gathered upon the banks of the Mississippi, to chastise the Chickasaws. From the summer of 1739 to the spring of 1740, this body of men sickened and wasted at Fort Assumption, upon the site of Memphis. In March of the last named year, without a blow struck, peace was concluded, and the province of Louisiana once more sunk into inactivity.*
Of the ten years which followed, we know but little that is interesting in relation to the West; and of its condition in 1750, we can give no better idea than may be gathered from the following extracts of letters written by Vivier, a missionary among the Illinois.
Writing “Aux Illinois,” six leagues from Fort Chartres, June 8th, 1750, Vivier says: “We have here Whites, Negroes and Indians, to say nothing of cross-breeds. There are five French villages, and three villages of the natives, within a space of twenty-one leagues, situated between the Mississippi and another river called the Karkadiad (Kaskaskias.) In the five French villages are, perhaps, eleven hundred whites, three hundred blacks, and some sixty red slaves or savages. The three Illinois towns do not contain more than eight hundred souls, all told.t Most of the French till the soil; they raise wheat, cattle, pigs and horses, and live like princes. Three times as much is produced as can be consumed; and great quantities of grain and flour are sent to New Orleans.” In this letter, also, Vivier says that which shows Father Marest's fears of French influence over the Indian neophytes to have been well founded. Of the three Illinois towns, he tells us, one was given up by the missionaries as beyond hope, and in a second but a poor harvest rewarded their labors; and all was owing to the bad example of the French, and the introduction by them of ardent spirits. I
Again, in an epistle dated November 17, 1750, Vivier says:
In reference to Crozat, Law, and events in Louisiana, we refer to Bancroft iii.; Penny Cyclopedia, articles " Law,” “ Mississippi Company;" Charlevoix, vol. ii.; Du Pratz's Louisiana ; Niles's Register, ii. 161, 189; and the collection of documents (mostly official) relative to the Company of the West, published at Amsterdam, in 1720, in the work called “ Relations de la Louisian et du Fleuve Mississippi," 2 vols.
+ There was a fourth, (Peoria probably,) eighty leagues distant, nearly as large as the three referred to; this is stated in another part of the same letter.
Criminals, vagabonds and strumpets, were largely exported to Louisiana, when the first settlements were made-Father Poisson in Lettres Edifiantes, (Paris, 1781,) vi. 383, &c.
39 “For fifteen leagues above the mouth of the Mississippi, one sees no dwellings, the ground being too low to be habitable. Thence to New Orleans the lands are only partially occupied. New Orleans, contains, black, white and red, not more, I think, than twelve hundred persons. To this point come all kinds of lumber, bricks, salt-beef, tallow, tar, skins and bear's grease; and above all, pork and flour from the Illinois. These things create some commerce, forty vessels and more have come hither this year. Above New Orleans, plantations are again met with; the most considerable is a colony of Germans, some ten leagues up the river. At Point Coupee, thirty-five leagues above the German settlement, is a fort. Along here, within five or six leagues, are not less than sixty 'habitations.' Fifty leagues farther up is the Natchez post, where we have a garrison who are kept prisoners by their fear of the Chickasaws and other savages. Here and at Point Coupee, they raise excellent tobacco. Another hundred leagues bring us to the Arkansas, where we have also a fort and garrison, for the benefit of the river traders. There were some inhabitants about here formerly, but in 1748, the Chickasaws attacked the post, slew many, took thirteen prisoners, and drove the rest into the fort. From the Arkansas to the Ilinois, near five hundred leagues, there is not a settlement. There should, however, be a good fort on the Oubache, (Ohio,) the only path by which the English can reach the Mississippi. In the Illinois are numberless mines, but no one to work them as they deserve. Some individuals dig lead near the surface, and supply the Indians and Canada. Two Spaniards now here, who claim to be adepts, say that our mines are like those of Mexico, and that if we would dig deeper, we should find silver under the lead; at any rate the lead is excellent. There are also in this country copper mines beyond doubt, as from time to time large pieces are found in the streams."*
• Lettres Edifiantes, (Paris, 1781,) vii. 79 to 106.