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!

 

 

 

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!