Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville was hard pressed to distinguish himself amongst his over-achieving, rock star status brothers. One became the Governor of Montreal, another achieved national recognition for leading French and Indian forces against the British during the Schenectady Massacre in New York’s Mohawk Valley. Other brothers were key in the victories at James Bay and still others joined his brother Pierre and he, on the expeditions to the Louisiana territory and achieved great acts of bravery and acclaim. While living acutely under the shadow of his big brother Pierre, Jean was only seventeen when he joined him for the first Louisiana expedition. Being the Captain’s little brother did have it’s perks. When they first arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi and had encountered the Indians there, Pierre appointed Jean to establish a camp and see to it’s function and security. Jean christened the camp “La Point du Mardi Gras” as the day was March 3rd, Mardi Gras day 1699. Jean had learned well from his father about the importance of learning Indian language and hand signs. He was a vital part of his brother Pierre’s ability the gather information and actually receive help from the natives. A few months later in April, Pierre wants to establish a fort and keep it manned while he returns to France to report all of his findings and re-supply. He builds a fort on the coastline, close to present day Ocean Springs, Mississippi and names it Fort Maurepas. He appoints Sauvolle de la Villantry as Governor of the new colony and Jean as the Lieutenant, second in command. After his brother leaves, Jean decides to make another expedition upriver to explore. He encounters a British ship, commanded by an old foe, someone he had fought against in one of the skirmishes during the Great Lakes battles. They recognize each other and begin a conversation, that ends with Jean convincing his foe that there was a great French Naval presence right around the bend and that out of respect for his foe, he would advise that he should turn around and flee or face certain death if he proceeds. Jean was so convincing, the the ship did turn around and head back up river. The place where this occurred is now called the English Turn. When Pierre heard of this upon his return, he ordered Jean to establish another fort far upriver to keep the British ships far above the mouth. Jean travelled upriver fifty miles and established a fort he named Fort de la Boulaye. When Sauvolle died in 1701, Jean was appointed Governor. This would be the first of four terms Jean would serve as Governor of Louisiana. Jean would spend 30 years in this post, though not consecutively. At this point, there is approximately 180 people in the colony, many were lost due to disease and malnutrition. Some others over the following years would be lost to hurricanes and the large tidal surges that plagued the location. Jean continued to explore the region and came across some higher land where he noticed the land made somewhat of a crescent along the large Lake Pontchartrain. In 1717, Jean wrote the Company and told them of the crescent where he thought his colony would be better protected from the tidal surges and hurricanes. He was granted permission and Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, founded the great city of New Orleans on May 7th, 1718, naming it after Philippe II, the Duke of Orleans. Jean started moving supplies in from the other colonies at Biloxi and Mobile. His chief engineer at the time was a man named Le Blond de La Tour. After working with him for a year and not getting the results he wanted, Jean fires La Tour and replaces him with La Tour’s assistant, Adrien De Pauger. De Pauger draws out the eleven by seven block rectangle he calls the Vieux Carre’. We now all know it as, The French Quarter. Jean would later name New Orleans as the new French Capitol, during his third term as governor. It will be some forty to fifty years later when Acadians start arriving in the new colony, we’ll pick up there in our next post!
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