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The Acadians – Arrive

How many people of your acquaintance can boast of being an Astronomer, Scientist, Author, General, Administrator, Governor, a Fellow of the Royal Society, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, discoverer of the element Platinum, have a meteorological term named after you, and get kicked out of the place where you were appointed Governor? Introducing Antonio de Ulloa, the first Spanish Governor of Louisiana.

Antonio de Ulloa
Antonio de Ulloa

At the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, which was part of the larger World War, known as the Seven Years War, the Treaty of Fontainebleau was signed and then later The Treaty of Paris, but the one we will deal with is Fontainebleau. The treaty ceded the French colonies in Louisiana to Spain. The Spanish government could think of no greater, more ultra talented man for the job of governor than their own rock star, Antonio Ulloa.  Antonio arrived in the Port of New Orleans on March 5, 1766. Louisiana was under a French interim government until the Spanish could get someone appointed and equipped for the job of governing the colonies. Well the equipping part was quite lax on their part as we will see a little later in our story. Ulloa had brought with him 75 soldiers, did not raise a Spanish Flag over the Place d’ Arms in New Orleans, and then, taken as an insult to the inhabitants of the city, he decided to reside outside of the city in La Balize. Close to a year later, a Schooner named Virgin, arrived in the Port of New Orleans bearing 211 Acadians from Baltimore Maryland, most of the passengers were the outcast, no good Catholics from Port Tobacco we talked about earlier. Among them, my ancestors, Joseph and Alexandre Landry. Governor Ulloa had decided that a good place to send these colonist was up the Bayou Manchac to the Mississippi River, where they established a fort call St.Gabriel, as a buffer to the British fort called Butte, just up the river approx 5 miles. Here the Acadians were given plots of land, the bare necessities to farm with and a weapon to hunt with. Of course like all good Catholics, one of their first missions was to build a church. But, while they were getting settled in and planning out their community, trouble was already brewing with the new Spanish way of things. Ulloa had announced that he was cracking down on Louisiana’s smuggling operations and he was closing the Mississippi river down to one channel, at the mouth, so that they could security check all vessels. Then to make matters worse for the French merchants, he strictly forbid any trading with the other French Colonies or with France. This was unacceptable to many of the French residents and resentments set in. Remember when i mentioned that Ulloa was really ill equipped to govern successfully? Well, the Commissary that was under the French rule, had to continue as Commissary under Ulloa’s rule as well, because Ulloa didn’t bring in any administrative personnel! The Attorney General was still the same Attorney General that was under the French. So, these two guys got together and started planning to oust old Ulloa out of Louisiana. They had already sent a prominent businessman to France to plead with King Louis to rescind the ceding and take Louisiana back. They got together with other like minded citizens and a plot was hatched which became, The Louisiana Rebellion of 1768. When we continue, the rebellion starts and St. Gabriel becomes a real place!




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The Acadians

When we left our last post, the Lemoyne brothers had firmly established settlements along the gulf coast, in modern day Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The chief among these, the great Port of New Orleans. During the years following the establishment of these forts and villages, our friend Jean Baptiste Lemoyne had been Governor for a combined 30 years. With the growing of these colonies came a great trading business. The Port of New Orleans was a growing busy port and was becoming the envy of the British, who was coveting it more and more. The British started a campaign of capturing, looting and scuttling French merchant ships coming to and from the Port and everywhere else they could find enemy ships for that matter. Once the French and Indian War had begun, of course this practice escalated in the North American theater. At the time of the war’s beginning, the French presence on the North American continent was approximately 60 thousand. By this time the French had developed colonies in the Ohio River valley, building forts along the rivers, the Mississippi and the Ohio. The fort they built at the convergence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers in present day downtown Pittsburgh, Pa, would become a very pivotal asset and be forever a part of American History. A new star would come on to the stage at the fort they named Duquesne. The British colonies, by 1754, were vibrant and wealthy with a population of around 2 million. So, the fantastically outnumbered French colonist had to befriend and enlist as many of the native tribes as possible, thus the English dubbed it the French and Indian war. At the end of the war, the subsequent Peace Treaty was signed and the French agreed, to cede it’s Louisiana colonies to Spain. I must say at this point that, the French and Indian War, was a part of the larger, almost World War, called the Seven Years War and included more than just the fledgling colonies in America. Meanwhile in Acadie, present day Nova Scotia, French colonists, who had been settled there since the early 1600’s, were being systematically deported from their homeland. Though there were many battles between the French and British over the lush and fertile lands of Acadie, by 1755, the British had a stranglehold on the settlements there, and finally decided that the dirty rotten, non-oath taking Catholic scourge should be once and for all dealt with and that they should be permanently removed from the coveted lands. They lured the French inhabitants into local churches and meeting places in Port Royal and Pisiquit, under the guise of a “meeting to discuss political and social issues”. When the Acadians arrived, they were read a proclamation stating that all of their properties and permanent structures were now possessions of the British Monarchy and that they would be deported from these lands immediately. They were put on ships and sent to wherever the British could think of at the moment. Some were sent to France, some to the Canadian Provinces, some to Britain, and like my ancestors, strewn along the Atlantic coast in the thirteen colonies, where they were hated the most. My people, namely Joseph and Alexandre Landry, landed at Port Tobacco, Maryland. There they stayed, listed as prisoners of war, on the original manifests. Alexandre was only 2 years old. Like previously stated, the Acadians were hated in the colonies, due to the hatred of the French among the British, the many skirmishes they had with Acadians in the past, but also more intense, the hatred of Catholics, in the mostly Protestant population. A lot of the Acadians were put into concentration camps, they were forced into slave labor and were basically starved to death in many cases. The local governments would not let the sympathetic, but very small population of English Catholics to help, they were strictly forbidden. So, when the call for colonists came forth from Spain, you can bet, every Acadian who could make the trip signed up. The Spanish, who had taken over the French colonies in Louisiana, were looking for colonists to help them colonize, but more importantly, keep control of the Mississippi river and New Orleans. And who hated the British more than the Spanish? That’s right! The Acadians! And, the Spanish were Catholics!! A marriage made in heaven. So the journey to Louisiana for a lot of Acadians started there and then, along with my own ancestors, Joseph and baby Alexandre. We’ll pick up on their arrival to Louisiana in our next post. Vive la Louisiana!


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The Le Moyne Brothers – Jean Baptiste

330px-jean-baptiste_le_moyneJean-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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Pierre Le Moyne – Continued

The expedition arrived at Mobile Bay on Jan 30, 1699. Fortunately they were able to escape the bad fortunes of La Salle’s previously failed expedition, and had all three ships and passengers in tow. Like most sailors and ship captains of the day, historical adventures and folklore permeated the everyday conversations of Pierre and his men. One of the tales that they were most interested in was of course, the adventures of Hernando De Soto. Hernando was the first one to actually document the discovery of the great river and his crossing of it 150 years earlier. De Soto also met his end on the river and was buried in it. La Salle was also the fresh topic of the day and his description of the mouth as a “palisade”. Pierre would later discover that these tiers of rock that La Salle described were actually mud and the building blocks of the delta. While exploring Mobile Bay, Pierre spots the Mobile river and quickly decides this is not the Mississippi. They continue to follow the coast, taking soundings along the way and documenting everything they can. They run across and Island close to the coast and explore it. Here they find the bones of about 60 men scattered in the sand on one end. They determine by the artifacts found with the bones that these were probably indigenous Indians slaughtered in battle. They name it Massacre Island. We know it today as Deer Island. Pierre decides to anchor right off of an island that has nice deep water around it and is protecting him from the wind and weather at the time. This island is modern day Ship Island, right off the coast of Mississippi. He sends his brother out in a Felucca, which is a small sail boat, to do some exploring and report back. Pierre also has a couple of boats that he calls Biscayans. These boats, from what I can find out about them, were somewhat like a whaling boat. An open boat that could hold probably 25 men and some supplies. After a few days of exploring, Pierre and his brother Jean, spot some smoke coming from Massacre Island and a party of Indians in canoes, making for land from the island. They try to catch up to them but the Indians flee. They did leave there on the beach an old man, who was too sick to run, so the brothers try to talk to him in sign language and gave him some food and water. Pierre sends Jean into the woods to either bring the Indians back or capture one. Jean returns with a woman that he captured about 3 miles from the beach. From the woman they learn where the Indians are camped. They are camped along a mighty river they call the “Malbanchya”. Pierre gives the woman some tobacco to give to the men as a peace offering. The men return to retrieve the old man, who wound up dying there on the beach that morning. The Indians sing the “Calumet of Peace”. A Calumet is a symbol of peace, normally a pipe of some sort. Pierre is convinced that this river they call the Malbanchya is the Mississippi. These Indians they were befriending were from the Bilocchy, Pascagoula and Moctoby tribes. They also had settlements along the Pascagoula river. Pascagoula is Choctaw for “bread people”. Pierre wants to ingratiate himself to these people in order to get more information about the Great River. He invites them out to his ships, where he shows them great wonders and the firing of cannons. The Indians agree to take him up the great river. He travels up the river to a place where a village is set up. At the village he sees a great red pole that has animal skulls and hides attached to it. Here was the place where modern day Baton Rouge would be built. Named after the “red stick” that was sited there. Baton, which is French for stick and Rouge which is French for red. Here he meets the members of the Houmas and Bayou Goula Indians who are camped together in the village. From the logs Pierre kept on the ship he describes a very grisly scene here. He says that a plague of small pox had killed a lot of the tribe and that they put the bodies on platforms all around the village. Here is an excerpt from the original log: The smallpox, which they still had in the village had killed about 1/4 of the people. They place the bodies of the dead on platforms around their village, quite close…raised 7 feet above…This stinks badly and attracts many buzzards to the neighborhood. These Indians are the most beggardly I have yet seen, having no conveniences in their huts. After this, Pierre sends his brother and most of his men back to the ships, while he and a few of the Indian guides explore an alternate route he was told about at the village. This “alternate route” would open up the gulf coast to later expeditions as it establishes a link from upriver, to the coast. This route was through what Pierre named Bayou Manchac, through what he named Lake Maurepas and into what he named Lake Pontchartrain. This route will be key when we talk about the arrival of the Acadians later in our story…..until next post, Au Revoir!



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The Le Moyne Brothers – Pierre

Pierre Le Moyne

Pierre was born to a virtual dynasty of overachievers and domineering men, who literally helped shape the North American continent, as we know it. His father, Charles Le Moyne, immigrated from Dieppe, France to what was known at the time as New France. Basically the beginning of what we know today as Montreal, Canada. Charles worked with Jesuit Priests, who scoured the unexplored wilderness in canoes and on foot. He  learned how to speak the Indian languages of the indigenous tribes throughout the Huron territories. Charles went on to distinguish himself in many Indian skirmishes and battles. He was awarded lands, money, and titles of nobility. He married a girl named Catherine whose family was in the fur trading business, so, Charles got in the Fur business.  He and his brother also created a way to transport these furs and goods by acquiring ships to sail them to proper ports for merchandising. Charles and Catherine had eleven sons and two daughters. His third born son, Pierre was born in July, 1661, in Fort Ville-Marie.(Montreal) With his father being associated with the Jesuit order, Pierre was educated in the Sulpician school, established there almost from its beginning. Like a good Catholic father, Charles encouraged all of his sons to become priests, but, born with that wanderlust ridden blood, none of them did, and almost all of them became soldiers. Pierre was no exception and at age twelve after receiving his First Communion, decided to become a cabin-boy on his uncles ship. He went on to get involved in the fur trade business where he learned to travel by canoe and defend himself against the occasional Indian attack. A few years later he took a job as a quartermaster on one of his fathers ships. Like his father, Pierre distinguished himself in many battles against the Indians, and more importantly to the nobility, the English. The Hudson’s Bay company was founded in 1670 by the English, and they slowly encroached upon French territories diverting furs away from Quebec. The Compagnie du Nord was founded to compete with the English on the bay. Pierre and two of his brothers were called upon to help drive the British from the bay area. They successfully led a campaign that captured three forts and left the English with hardly a footprint in the area. Pierre then went to France to lobby for Compagnie and was awarded a ship to help combat the English encroachment. Pierre had great success and fought several naval battles establishing himself as quite the Naval Commander. When Pontchartrain needed someone to lead a successful mission to find and secure the mouth of the Mississippi, he turned to none other than France’s new naval hero, Pierre Le Moyne. Pierre was summoned to France and another expedition was planned and outfitted. Pierre was assigned three ships, The Badine, The Marin and a warship named The Francois. Everything they would need to establish a fort was loaded on the ships, men to build the forts, livestock and building materials. They also loaded several longboats, canoes, Biscayans and feluccas. Pierre also loaded on, his ace in the hole……his little brother Jean. The expedition leaves for the gulf coast, in our next post!

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The Acadians – It Begins

Can you imagine paddling down the mighty Mississippi in a canoe? This huge, current ridden, flood prone river, that runs from nearly Canada to the Gulf of Mexico? That gets miles wide at some points? And can you imagine doing it, dodging arrows and spears being flung at you by people along the bank who have never seen anything like you before? Introducing Rene-Robert Cavelier sieur de La Salle.Cavelier_de_la_salleThis guy would be the envy of any modern day Indiana Jones wannabe by far. He and his crew of brave, fighting Frenchmen, explored the Great Lakes Regions, the Illinois and Mississippi rivers (and some of their tributaries) and had the dubious distinction of claiming all of these areas for their mother country of France and naming it, Louisiana, after King Louis XIV .  The suffix -ana- is actually a latin term which means pertaining to or belonging to, so, we have Louisi-ana meaning, pertaining or belonging to Louis. When La Salle returned to France and told the King of his explorations, the King thought that a return trip should be undertaken.  He proclaimed that a fort and a colony would be setup there to secure the entrance of the river.  This task he assigned, to none other, than our old friend La Salle. All provisions and crews were loaded onto 4 ships, along with 300 colonists. La Salle was on his way back to Louisiana to fulfill the Kings orders, but, alas, La Salle never made it back to Louisiana. It was said of Rene-Robert, that he was a man of sharp tongue and sometimes overwhelming arrogance. This would actually aid in his demise, as on the return trip, bad navigation got them off course, a ship was lost to Pirates, another sank in Matagorda Bay and still another, ran aground there and was looted by the local natives. Obviously, they landed far west of their intended destination. They wound up near the Brazos River in Texas. La Salle tried to establish a colony there along the Garcitas Creek, and built a fort he named Fort Saint Louis. Running out of provisions, added to being lost, and I’m sure having the incessant mouth-running of an arrogant aristocrat, was more than the crew could take, and sadly, on March 19th, 1687, Rene-Robert Cavelier sieur de La Salle was murdered by his own men, while on a search mission east, to find the river. The expedition was over, some of the men returned to France, some stayed to establish a colony, but, unfortunately, those who stayed, were ultimately kidnapped or slaughtered by local tribes. But, a King wants, what a King wants. Louis turns to his Navy Secretary, Louis Phelypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain. The secretary then appoints this task to the Le Moyne brothers. We came to know them as Pierre Le Moyne sieur de Iberville and Jean Baptiste Le Moyne sieur de Bienville. I remember studying about these two guys in Louisiana History class back in the eighth grade. It seems like back then, the emphasis was always put on the titles of Iberville or Bienville. In fact I remember talking about them like they were from 2 different families. This was wrong, as the names of Bienville and Iberville are just titles that were given to aristocratic families who owned feudal lands. As a matter of fact, Jean Baptiste, actually inherited his title sieur d’Bienville from a brother who died prematurely. So, titles put aside, they were just Pierre and Jean Le Moyne. We’ll talk more about these guys in the next post!