Chapter 14 [Vol. 3, pp. 252-261]

The old female Sun tries in vain all she knows to save the French: The Commandant does not want to hear of it: Finally the Natchez mercilessly massacre all of the French at this post: The Natchez loot everything and believe that all the French at the other settlements are also destroyed, following the plan they had made with the other Nations.

In the hope of opening the Commandant’s eyes, Tattooed Arm stopped a soldier she found on the way, whom she told to go tell the Commandant that the Natchez had lost their minds and that he should be on guard. And that if he made some minor repairs to the fort, in presence of some of them, so as to show his mistrust, then all of their resolutions and bad designs would vanish.

The soldier faithfully performed his commission, but the Commandant, far from giving credit to the information, trying to get to the bottom of it, or understanding the grounds for it, [253] treated the soldier as a coward who was seeing things. He had the soldier clapped in irons and said he would never take any step towards repairing the fort or putting himself on guard as then the Natchez who would see him moving about the fort would think he lacked courage and then they would apprehend him. He hoped, no doubt, to make his enemies more afraid by his bravery than by putting the fort in good working order.

Tattooed Arm, fearing discovery despite all of her precautions and the secrecy she had enjoined, had been to the temple, and had pulled a few sticks from the fatal bundle. Her design was to hasten the moment, so that those of the French who could escape from the massacre might warn their compatriots. She formed this plan after learning of the blustering arrogance of the Commandant. She took the trouble to warn several of the Frenchmen, some of whom went to give warning to the Commandant, who put seven of them in irons, treating them as cowards. The massacre should have been executed two or three days before it took place; but the Natchez, having learned that a small galley loaded with merchandise was soon to arrive, held back in order [254] to execute their project upon the arrival of this boat. In fact, the company [of the Indies], having received word that this post was promising, had given the order to build a store there and to send merchandise to supply the settlers.

This female Sun, seeing that the time was ripe and that several of the soldiers had been punished for giving their good warnings, took it upon herself to talk to M. Massé, the sub-lieutenant, imagining that the Commandant would pay more attention to the opinion of an officer than to those of the soldiers. However, she was wrong again–the Commandant did not listen any more to the officer than he did to the soldiers.

The Commandant, despite all of these alerts, took the step going to amuse himself with other Frenchmen at the big village of the Natchez, bringing along some brandy to pass the evening there. They were going to party until daylight, when they would return to the fort. Hardly had he returned than he received urgent warnings to stay on guard.

The Commandant, still hungover from his evening debauch, added imprudence to his to his neglect of these last warnings: he ordered the interpreter to go immediately [255] to the main village and ask the Great Sun if it were true that he soon intended to come at the head of his warriors and kill all of the French, and to bring back a response directly. It was daybreak; having said this, the interpreter needed but an instant to make his trip . One can well imagine, needless to say, what the Great Sun’s response was. Though young, the Great Sun knew how to dissimulate and to speak to the interpreter in such a way that the Commandant was very satisfied and congratulated himself for having scorned the advice he had been given. He went from there to his house, just downstream of the Fort, to rest from the fatigue caused by the preceding night.

The Natchez had laid their plans too well not to have the success they hoped for. The fatal moment arrived at last; the Natchez set out on the eve of St. Andrew, 1729. They took the care of bringing with them a Stinkard (1) armed with a wooden club, to knock down the Commandant; (2) they had [256] had such great contempt for him that no warrior wanted to be charged with killing him.

[fn 1: The Natchez called the men of the lowest class Stinkards. See Vol. II, chap. 26. fn 2: Others say that he was killed by warriors’ gun shots and that they ate his heart to sate their rage. And after all no one can confirm these things, since no Frenchmen present during this particular action escaped.]

The houses of the French were filled with enemies, the fort, in a like manner, was covered with Naturals who had entered by the gate and through breaches, taking away the ability of the soldiers to defend themselves, as they were without officers or sergeants. Meanwhile, the Great Sun arrived, with a few warriors carrying corn as if to start paying off their end of the agreement. The Commandant, overwhelmed with joy, gave orders to free those who had warned him, so they could be witnesses to the error that he believed they had fallen into. However, no sooner had they gone to see the delivery of the goods from the Naturals then the latter unleashed several gun shots; on the galley, at the Commandant's house, at the interpreter, at a domestic, and at some of the other Frenchmen. Since this firing was the signal, at the same time a great number of shots were heard. The Commandant [257] then realized, though too late, the wisdom of the warnings he had been given. He ran through his garden and called his soldiers to the garrison. It was a vain hope–they were no longer there. Then he was run down and killed.

The Natchez had taken the preparation of seizing the galley, undoubtedly to assure themselves goods and at the same time to be close enough to stop the French who wanted to board to save themselves. They also sent a detachment to the other side of the river to kill those who might flee there.

M. du Coder, Commandant at the Yazoux, forty leagues upstream, went with a Jesuit Reverend Father toward the Commandant’s dwelling. They passed near the galley, which had arrived the day before, and was guarded by a great number of Naturals who were waiting for the signal. M. du Coder and his traveling companion, being halfway to the Commandant’s house, heard several guns being fired at the edge of the river and all over the district. They wanted to return to their vessel but they were killed on the way and scalped.

[258] The massacre was executed everywhere at the same time. The French women who were taken hostage were put in a house situated on an bluff, under the guard of several warriors. From this vantage point they saw part of this tragic scene. They saw a few women who defended their husbands, and others who wanted to avenge them. However, these heroines were sacrificed to the vengeance of the enemies who, according to custom, spared only the young.

I draw the curtain across the other parts of this scene; for what one is about to see is simply too horrific. I will only say that of about seven hundred people, only a very few were able to save themselves and bring this terrible news to the capital.

The government and the council were filled with grief; a warning to be on guard was dispatched everywhere; but the horse was out of the barn and there was nothing more to fear. The Naturals of the other nations were indignant with the Natchez, believing that the latter had pre-empted the moment agreed upon, in order to make them look ridiculous. They proposed to take [259] vengeance at the first opportunity, not knowing the true cause of the precipitation of the Natchez.

These Naturals were far from knowing the true cause of the Natchez’s precipitation and we can neither guess the logic nor the details of the plot, nor what consequences of this horrible event. Those who escaped from this butchery have told us only that the massacre had been announced by some women, but that the Commandant, who was to blame because of his own greed, had ignored these warnings about the conspiracy plotted against him, and should have been able to snuff it out, if he had wanted to look out for himself after he had been well warned.

All who had the good fortune to escape death in this massacre could not tell the other French any more than what I have just reported of the events of this day; each in his own personal disaster was quite preoccupied with his own survival. I only learned of all these things, and a few others that I shall keep silent, by means of these refugees, and from a woman who, after her being held hostage, became my housekeeper. She was one of the first ones taken and was witness to what had happened. For that [260] which has to do with all of the goings-on among the Natchez prior to the day of the massacre, I learned of it from the female Sun Tattooed Arm, when she was a prisoner in New Orleans.

After this general uprising, the Natchez made use of two Frenchmen they kept for their talents. One was a carter in the settlement of St. Catherine; he was employed to carry all of the furniture, provisions, clothing, goods, even the cannons, cannon balls and all the munitions of war, in a word, everything that had belonged to the French; from the French settlement to the great village. Everything was delivered, under good escort, to the Great Sun, who did with it as he wished. The French and the slaves of the French also served for many labors.

The other Frenchman whom the Natchez kept alive, worked to make new clothes from the fabrics they had taken from the store and the galley. He refitted the clothes taken off the French who had been killed so that they were adjusted properly. If they were too narrow, as they often were, he [261] enlarged them with other pieces of fabric in a different color, which pleased them more than if it had been the same color.

Once the fort, the store, and the homes were emptied, the Natchez set them all on fire, not leaving a single one standing. The French women and the slaves were, for the most part, given to the Great Sun and the female Great Sun. The woman who has since been my housekeeper was of this group. She was so good at doing laundry that she was made Mistress of Linens for the female Great Sun, and amongst each other they called her the White Sun because she was whiter and more delicate than the others. Some companions helped the Mistress of Linens to do the shirts.