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The Natchez Indians

     It was in 1729 that the Louisiana colony received her withering blow from the Natchez Indians, caused chiefly by the avarice of the French and the folly of Chopart, Chepart, or Etcheparre, who commanded the French settlement near Natchez, not far from the White Apple village. The conduct of Chopart who was tyrannical and haughty to the whites under lim, and cruel to the Indians, angered the Natchez, and they determined to destroy the French. 

     On the 29th of November the massacre took place. The Natchez slew 250 of the French, besides taking many women and negroes prisoners. Two of the Frenchmen were spared, a carpenter and a tailor. 

Father Le Petit,the learned Jesuit priest, wrote to Father D’Avaugour:

“Some of the French escaped the fury of the Indians by taking refuge in the woods, where they suffered extremely from hunger and the effects of the weather. One of them on arriving here, relieved us of a little disquietude we felt in regard to the post we occupy among the Yazoos, which is not more than forty or fifty leagues above the Natchez by water and only fifteen to twenty by land. Not being able to endure the extreme cold from which he suffered, he left the woods under cover of the night, to go and warm himself in the house of a Frenchman. When he was near it he beard the voices of Indians, and deliberated whether he should enter.  He determined, however, to do so, preferring rather to perish by the hands of these barbarians than to die of famine and cold.  He was agreeably surprised when he found these savages ready to render him a service, to heap kindness upon him’, to commisserate him, to console him, to furnish him with provisions, clothes and a boat to make his escape to New Orleans. These were the Yazoos, who were returning from chanting the calumet at Oumas.  The Chief charged him to say to M. Perrier, that he had nothing to fear on the part of the Yazoos, that ‘they would not lose their spirit,’—that is, that they would always remain attached to the French, and that they would be constantly on the watch with his tribe, to warn the French boats descending the river, to be on their guard against the Natchez.

“We believed, for a long time, that the promises of this Chief were very sincere, and feared no more Indian perfidy for our post among the Yazoos. But learn, my reverend father, the disposition of these Indians, and how little one is able to trust their words, even when accompanied by the greatest demonstrations of friendship. Scarcely had they returned to their own village, when loaded with presents they received from the Natchez, they followed their example and imitated their treachery. Uniting with the Corroys [Coroas or Koroas], they agreed together to exterminate the French. They began with Father Souel, the missionary of both tribes, who was then living in the midst of them, in their own village. On the i xth of December, Father Souel was returning in the evening from visiting the chief, and while in a ravine, received many musket baIls, and fell dead on the spot. The Indians immediately rushed to his cabin to plunder it. His negro, who composed all his family and all his defence, armed himself with a wood-cutter’s knife to prevent the pillage, and even wounded one of the savages. This zealous action cost him his life, but happily less than a month before he had received baptism, and was living in a most Christian manner.

“These Indians, who even to that time seemed sensible of the affection which thir missionary bore them, reproached themselves for his death, as soon as they were capable of reflection; but returning again to their natural ferocity, they adopted the resolution of putting a finishing stroke to their crime, by the destruction of the whole French post. ‘Since the Black Chief is dead,’ said they, ‘it is the same as if all the French were dead; let us not spare any.’ The next day they executed their barbarous plan. They repaired, early in the morning, to the fort, which was not more than a league distant, and whose occupants supposed, on their arrival, that the Indians wished to chant the calumet to the Chevalier des Roches, who commanded that post, in the absence of M. de Codere. He had but seventeen men with him, who had no suspicion of any evil design on the part of the savages, and were, therefore, all massacred, not one escaping their fury. They, however, spared the lives of four women and five children, whom they found there, and whom they made slaves. 

[Gayarre (Hist. La.) says: “The fort which the French had built among the Yazoos, was called St. Claude. Its commander, Du Coder, being on a visit to the French at Natchez, when they were butchered, shared their fate. The Yazoos had no difficulty in taking by surprise the fort of St. Claude, which had a garrison of only twenty men, whom they killed, together with the few families who had settled around, under the protection of the fort.”]

"One of the Yazoos having stripped the missionary, clothed himself in his garments, and shortly after announced to the Natchez that his nation had redeemed their pledge, and that the French, settled among them, were all massacred. In this city, there was no longer any doubt on that point, as soon as they learned what came near being the fate of Father Doutreleau. This missionary had availed himself of the time when the Indians were engaged in their winter occupations, to come and see us, for the purpose of regulating some matters relating to his mission. He set out on the first of this year, 1730, and not expecting to arrive at the residence of Father Souel, of whose fate he was ignorant, in time say say mass, he determined to say it at the mouth of the Little Yazoo river, where his party had cabined.

“As he was preparing for the sacred office, he saw a boat full of Indians landing; they demanded from them of what nation they were. ‘Yazoos, comrades of the French,’ they replied, making a thousand friendly demonstrations to the voyagers, who accompanied the missionary, and presenting them with provisions. While the father was preparing his altar, a flock of bustards passed, and the voyagers fired at them the only two guns they had, without thinking of re-loading, as mass had already commenced. The Indians noted this, and placed themselves behind the voyagers, as if it was their intention to hear mass, although they were not Christians. At the time the father was saying the Kyrie Eleison, the Indians made their discharge; the missionary, seeing himself wounded in his right arm, and seeing one of the voyagers killed at his feet, and the four others fled, threw himself on his knees to receive the fatal blow, which he regarded as inevitable. In this posture he received two or three discharges, but although the Indians fired while almost touching him, yet they did not inflict on him any new wounds. Finding himself then, as it were, miraculously escaped from so many mortal blows, he took to flight, having on, still, his priestly garments, and without any other defense than entire confidence in God, whose particular protection was given him, as the event proved. He threw himself into the water, and after advancing some steps, gained the boat, in which two of the voyagers were making their escape. They had supposed him to be killed by some of the many balls which they had heard fired on him. In climbing up into the boat, and turning his head to see whether any one of his pursuers was following him too closely, he received, in the mouth, a discharge of small shot, the greater part of which were flattened against his teeth, though some of them entered his gums and remained there for a long time. I have, myself, seen two of them. Father Doutreleau, all wounded as he was, undertook the duty of steering the boat, while his two companions placed themselves at the oars; unfortunately one of them, at setting out, had his thigh broken by a musket ball, from the effects of which he has since remained a cripple. * * * 

"As soon as they found themselves freed from their enemies, they dressed their wounds as well as they could, and for the purpose of aiding their flight from that fatal shore, they threw into the river everything they had in their boat, preserving only some pieces of raw bacon, for their nourishment. It had been their intention to stop, in passing, at the Natchez, but having seen that the houses of the French were either demolished or burned, they did not think it advisable to listen to the compliments of the Indians who, from the bank of the river, invited them to land. They placed a wide distance between them as soon as possible, and thus shunned the balls which were ineffectually fired at them. It was then that they began to distrust all the Indian nations, and, therefore, resolved not to go near the land until they reached New Orleans, and supposing the savages might have rendered themselves masters of it, to descend even to the Balize, where they hoped to find some French vessel provided to receive the wreck of the colony. * * * I cannot express to you, my reverend father, the great satisfaction I felt at seeing Father Doutreleau, his arm in a scarf, arrive (in New Orleans) after a voyage of more than four hundred leagues, all the clothes he had on having been borrowed, except his cassock. My surprise was increased at the recital of his adventures. I placed him, immediately, in the hands of Brother Parisel, who examined his wounds, and who dressed them with great care and speedy success: The missionary was not yet entirely cured of his wounds, when he departed to act as chaplain to the French army, as he had promised the officers, in accordance with their request.”

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Ellen Pack