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A Half Century of Conflict - Volume I by Parkman

Iberville now repaired to the harbor of Biloxi


The

before-mentioned scheme of Remonville for settling the Mississippi country had no result. In the next year the gallant Le Moyne d'Iberville--who has been called the Cid, or, more fitly, the Jean Bart, of Canada--offered to carry out the schemes of La Salle and plant a colony in Louisiana.[289] One thing had become clear,--France must act at once, or lose the Mississippi. Already there was a movement in London to seize upon it, under a grant to two noblemen. Iberville's offer was accepted; he was ordered to build a fort at the mouth of the great river, and leave a garrison to hold it.[290] He sailed with two frigates, the "Badine" and the "Marin," and towards the end of January, 1699, reached Pensacola. Here he found two Spanish ships, which would not let him enter the harbor. Spain, no less than England, was bent on making good her claim to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico, and the two ships had come from Vera Cruz on this errand. Three hundred men had been landed, and a stockade fort was already built. Iberville left the Spaniards undisturbed and unchallenged, and felt his way westward along the coasts of Alabama and Mississippi, exploring and sounding as he went. At the beginning of March his boats were caught in a strong muddy current of fresh water, and he saw that he had reached the object of his search, the "fatal river" of the unfortunate La Salle. He entered it, encamped, on the night of the third, twelve leagues above its mouth, climbed a solitary tree, and could
see nothing but broad flats of bushes and canebrakes.[291]

Still pushing upward against the current, he reached in eleven days a village of the Bayagoula Indians, where he found the chief attired in a blue capote, which was probably put on in honor of the white strangers, and which, as the wearer declared, had been given him by Henri de Tonty, on his descent of the Mississippi in search of La Salle, thirteen years before. Young Le Moyne de Bienville, who accompanied his brother Iberville in a canoe, brought him, some time after, a letter from Tonty which the writer had left in the hands of another chief, to be delivered to La Salle in case of his arrival, and which Bienville had bought for a hatchet. Iberville welcomed it as convincing proof that the river he had entered was in truth the Mississippi.[292] After pushing up the stream till the twenty-fourth, he returned to the ships by way of lakes Maurepas and Ponchartrain.

Iberville now repaired to the harbor of Biloxi, on the coast of the present State of Mississippi. Here he built a small stockade fort, where he left eighty men, under the Sieur de Sauvolle, to hold the country for Louis XIV.; and this done, he sailed for France. Thus the first foundations of Louisiana were laid in Mississippi.

Bienville, whom his brother had left at Biloxi as second in command, was sent by Sauvolle on an exploring expedition up the Mississippi with five men in two canoes. At the bend of the river now called English Turn,--_Tour a l'Anglais_,--below the site of New Orleans, he found an English corvette of ten guns, having, as passengers, a number of French Protestant families taken on board from the Carolinas, with the intention of settling on the Mississippi. The commander, Captain Louis Bank, declared that his vessel was one of three sent from London by a company formed jointly of Englishmen and Huguenot refugees for the purpose of founding a colony.[293] Though not quite sure that they were upon the Mississippi, they were on their way up the stream to join a party of Englishmen said to be among the Chickasaws, with whom they were trading for Indian slaves. Bienville assured Bank that he was not upon the Mississippi, but on another river belonging to King Louis, who had a strong fort there and several settlements. "The too-credulous Englishman," says a French writer, "believed these inventions and turned back."[294] First, however, a French engineer in the service of Bank contrived to have an interview with Bienville, and gave him a petition to the King of France, signed by four hundred Huguenots who had taken refuge in the Carolinas after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The petitioners begged that they might have leave to settle in Louisiana, with liberty of conscience, under the French Crown. In due time they got their answer. The King replied, through the minister, Ponchartrain, that he had not expelled heretics from France in order that they should set up a republic in America.[295] Thus, by the bigotry that had been the bane of Canada and of France herself, Louis XIV. threw away the opportunity of establishing a firm and healthy colony at the mouth of the Mississippi.


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