History of Mississippi - NATCHEZ MASSACRE 1729


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The massacre began on Monday, the 28th day of November, 1729, about nine o'clock in the morning. Relations with the warlike and subtle tribe of the Natchez had been strained ever since the French post had been established at Natchez in 1716. Preliminary murders by the INdians, followed by swift retribution on the part of the French, prevented any lasting peace. In 1723 the first general outbreak of the Indians had occurred and Bienville quelled it with "characteristic severity". The misconduct, cupidity and injustice of some of the French commanders, particularly Chopart, inflamed the savages with hatred and a desire for revenge, with the result that in one day the Natchez massacred most of the settlers among them. In the very early times the Natchez were reputed to have been a very numerous people, counting some sixty villages and eleven suns. On the other hand, the French, at Natchez, were a small and comparatively helpless band in comparison with the Indians; their garrison at Fort Rosalie was small and the planters were living on isolated farms.

In Claiborne's History, p. 23, foot-note, it is stated: "The French, under concessions granted by the king, had, at the time of the massacre, several extensive and well improved plantations around Natchez, particularly on St. Catherine's extending form the present Washington road, down said creek, on both sides, to the Woodville road. There was a plantation, near the mouth of Cole's creek; one or two on Bayou Pierre, and at Walnut Hills, and quite a settlement around Fort St. Peter, on the Yazoo. Nearly all the occupants perished at the time of the massacre. The few that escaped, made their way to New Orleans. It is remarkable that their claims, which were unquestionably valid, and would, doubtless, have been recognized by either the Spanish or British government, were never presented."

The Natchez gained entrance to the fort by a stratagem and the historic massacre began. It is probable that there was an agreement between the Natchez and the Chickasaws, Yasous, and other confederate tribes, to make a joint attack on the French, on a certain day - all to share in the distribution of the booty. The design was doubtless hastened by the requirement of Chopart, commandant of Fort Rosalie, that White Apple Village, on Second Creek, about 12 miles from Natchez, should be abandoned, so that it, with its surrounding fields, might be converted into a French plantation; and the Natchez were tempted also to anticipate the day agreed upon by the arrival of a number of richly laden boats for the garrison adn the colonists.

Father le Petit, whose account of the massacre, is perhaps as reliable as any, says

"First they divided themselves, and sent into the fort, into the village, and into the two grants, as many Indians as there were French in each of these places; then they feigned that they were going out for a grand hunt and undertook to trade with the French for guns, powder and ball, offering to pay them as much, and even more than was customary, and in truth, as there was no reason to suspect their fidelity, they made at that time an exchange of their poultry and corn, for some arms and ammunition whcih they used advantageously against us. They had been on their guard at Tchactas (Choctaws), but as for the Natchez, they never distrusted them. Having thus posted themselves in different houses, provided with the arms obtained form us, they attacked at the same time each his man and in less than two hours they massacred more than two hundred of the French. The best known are Father du Poisson, M. de Chopart, commander of the post, M. du Codere, commander among the Yasous, M. des Ursins, Messieurs de Kolly and son, Messieurs de Longrays, des Noyers, Bailly, etc. . . . These barbarians spared but two of the French, a tailor and a carpenter, who were able to serve their wants. They did not treat badly either the Negro slaves, or the INdians who were willing to give themselves up; but they ripped up the belly of every pregnant woman, and killed almost all those who were nursing their children, because they were disturbed by their cries and tears. They did not kill the other women, but made them their slaves . . . . During the massacre, the Sun, or the great chief of the Natchez, was seated quietly under teh tobacco shed of the company. His warriors brought to his feet the head of the commander, about which they ranged those of the principal French of the post, leaving their bodies a prey to the dogs, the buzzards, and other carnivorous birds. The Tchactas, and the other Indians being engaged in the plot with them, they felt at their ease, and id not at all fear they would draw on themselves the vengeance which was merited by their cruelty and perfidy."

Writers have been fond of portraying the Natchez as the most civilized of all the southern tribes of Indians, but there is little or nothing to warrant the picture. They occupied a region highly favored by soil and climate, which may have given them a more permanent habitat than other tribes; but there was nothing in their religion, architecture, or mode of life to set them above or apart from many other Indian tribes. They were sun worshippers and believed that their hereditary chiefs were descended from the sun, a belief prevailing among many other tribes - notably the Choctaws and Hurons. if they relied more on agriculture, and less on hunting and fishing, for the means of subsistence, the fertile area occupied by them, will readily account for it. Their religion was in the highest degree primitive and brutal. Says Charlevoix:

"When this Great CHief, or the Woman Chief dies, all their Allouez or guards, are obliged to follow them into the other world; but they are not the only persons who have this honor; for so it is reckoned among them, and is greatly sought after. The death of a chief sometimes costs the lives of more than a hundred persons; and I have been assured that very few principal persons of the Natchez die, without being escorted to the country of souls by some of their relations, their friends, or their servants."

The horrible ceremonies attendant on human sacrifices have been frequently detailed by early writers. Their idea of a future life was sufficiently crude. The good enjoyed a perpetual feast of green corn, venison and melons, and the bad were condemned to a diet of alligators and spoiled fish. The chiefs of teh Natchez bore the name of Suns and the head chief was called the Great Sun. He was always succeeded by the son of the woman most nearly related to him. This woman had the title of Woman Chief, and though she did not meddle with the government, she was paid great honors. Like the great chief, she also had the power of life and death.

"The government was an absolute despotism. The supreme chief was master of their labor, their property and their lives. he never labored and when he needed provisions he issued invitations for a feast, and all the principal inhabitants were required to attend, and to bring supplies sufficient for the entertainment and for the support of the royal family, until he chose to proclaim another festival." (Claiborne, p. 24.)

The Natchez were divided into two classes, that of the nobility, and that of the common people, called 'Stinkards." While they understood one another, their dialects were different. When Charlevoix saw the great village of the Natchez, it consisted of only a few cabins, and he explained its small size by the statement that the savages, from whom the great chief had the right to take all they had, got as far from him as they could.

He has left us a vivid picture of the village and its royal dwelling and temple. There is certainly no evidence of a higher civilization portrayed. The temple is built of the same crude materials as the other cabins, only larger. Inside, he "Never saw anything more slovenly and dirty, nor more in disorder . . . . We see nothing in their outward appearance that distinguishes them from the other savages of Canada and Louisiana. They seldom make war, not placing their glory in destroying men. What distinguishes them more particularly, is the form of their government, entirely despotic; a great dependence, which extends even to a kind of slavery, in the subjects; more pride and grandeur in the chiefs, and their pacific spirit, which, however, they have not entirely preserved for some years past."

On December 11, the Yasous treacherously murdered the missionary priest, Father Souel; and the following day the Chevalier des ches, who commanded the post among the Yasous in the absence of M. de Codere, and teh seventeen men of the garrison were all massacred by this tribe, the lives of the few women and children being spared.

On receipt of the news of this great catastrophe to the French, the governor general, Perrier, at New Orleans, sent Chevalier Lubois, with a small army to exterminate the Natchez. Perrier secured the cooperation of the powerful tribe of Choctaws, as well as the Tonikas and some smaller tribes. The Natchez were fiercely attacked and besieged in their two forts. A truce resulted after seven days, adn teh Natchez surrendered the prisoners in their hands, in consideration of the withdrawal of seven pieces of cannon by the French. The Natchez finally fled across the Mississippi and intrenched themselves near Red river; they were pursued by the French and compelled to surrender in the year 1731. Their children and women were reduced to slavery; some of the warriors took refuge among the Chickasaws, but the Great Sun, St. Cosme, with several hundred prisoners, were taken to new Orleans and, by order of the prime minister, Maurepas, sold as slaves and shipped to St. Domingo, and the proceeds were turned into the Colonial treasury to pay the expenses of the war.

See also Massacre at Fort Rosalie - Adams County ALHN site - with a listing of those slain!

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