Ackia Battle, 1736

This historic fight between the French under Bienville and the Chickasaw Indians took place on May 26, 1736, about three miles northwest of the present town of Tupelo, in Lee county. The French had penetrated the Chickasaw country by way of the Mobile and Tombigbee rivers, and their force consisted of about 600 whites and 500 Indians (Claiborne, p. 59), while other accounts place their total numbers at from 2,500 to 3,000, inclusive of some 1,200 Choctaw allies. The village of Ackia, where the Chickasaws were first discovered by Bienville, was strongly fortified with palisades and earthworks, and their fort displayed the English flag, as several English traders seem to have been among them. Their fort was on a hill with cabins around it, with others apparently fortified at some distance below, and a little stream ran at the foot of the hill. It was “surrounded by a palisade more than a fathom thick, the intervals being closed by smaller piles, so arranged as to leave loopholes through which they could fire without exposing themselves. It was besides covered with heavy oak planks, loaded also with earth, so that grenades were of no service.” (Dumont, His. Mem.) The Choctaws on perceiving the enemy’s fort, at once advanced to the attack with yells and cries, but were easily repulsed with severe loss. The French commander, on seeing the strong disposition of the enemy, was disposed to await a junction with D’Artaguette, before venturing to attack. Overruled by the younger officers of his force, he reluctantly ordered an attack. A strong storming party was detached to carry the fort. This party advanced to the attack using a sort of portable breastwork, which, however, proved of little assistance. They had neither spades nor pickaxes, and aimed to take the fort by a coup de main. They crossed the stream at the foot of the hill, and began to ascend the slope, occupying the detached cabins as they approached. The Chickasaws fought behind their palisades “bedded to the stomach in the earth, observed the greatest silence, and suffered the French to approach within good musket shot before firing.” (Narrative of Du Tertre). Dumont states, “As soon as the troops had gained the top of the hill, they began by setting fire to some of the cabins on the wings, from which the enemy might have annoyed us; but avoiding one inconvenience we fell into another, for the smoke almost stifled us as long as they were burning. The colonial militia, which were in the rear of the company’s troops, wheeled right and left, intending to invest the fort, but the Sieur de Jusan, aide-major, checked the movement and sent the troops back to their post, intending for his own corps the glory of carrying the place, which now began a vigorous defense. Several militia men were already disabled, and the grenadiers in attempting to advance had one of their sergeants killed, the other wounded, as was also Captain Renaud d’Hauterive, who was carried to the camp, whence the general was observing the result of the attack.” Unable to draw the enemy from his cover, or breach the palisade, a retreat was finally ordered. The attack had lasted from half-past one to five in the afternoon, and thirty-two regulars and militia were killed, and at least sixty wounded, including the following officers: De Noyer, Grondel, d’Hauterive, de Velles, Villemont, Montbrun, de Jusan. They were unable to carry off many of their dead, and were forced the following morning to witness the ghastly spectacle of their slain companions quartered and hung on the points of the palisades. Bienville did not feel strong enough to renew the attack the next morning, especially as he had left his heavy ordnance behind at Cotton Gin Port. Therefore the army was at once put in motion and the long return journey to Mobile and New Orleans begun.

Back to: Mississippi History

Source: Encyclopedia of Mississippi History, by Dunbar Rowland.


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