Fort Rosalie

The fort is described as an irregular pentagon, without bastions, and built of thick plank. The buildings within consisted of a stone house, magazine, houses for the officers and barracks for the soldiers. The ditch surrounding it was partly natural and partly artificial, and in most places 19 feet from the bottom to the top of the rampart. It was built by Governor Bienville in 1716. When he was superseded by Governor Cadillac, the appointee of Crozat, M. de Bienville received the appointment of lieutenant-governor, and was ordered to take two companies of infantry, to place one at Natchez, and the other on the Ouabache, and to remove his headquarters to Natchez. (See French Collections, 1851). La Harpe tells us in his Historical Journal that ” Cadillac would not give him but thirty-five men ; although he knew that M. de la Loire des Ursins had brought the news that five Frenchmen had been killed by the Natchez, and he had barely escaped by the advice of a chief, who had given him the means to save his life.” M. de Bienville set out accordingly, and arrived at the fort on the Mississippi, (Fort Iberville) where he found MM. de Paillou and de Richebourg with the pirougues which had been sent from Mobile, laden with provisions and utensils to form the settlements at Natchez and on the Ouabache. He ordered them to proceed and join him at the Tonicas, a post which had been established a short time before on the Mississippi, about two leagues above the mouth of the Red river, on the borders of a lake.” On learning that the Natchez had also lately killed two Frenchmen and plundered six Canadians, he sent an interpreter to the Natchez to solicit provisions and to bring the calumet of peace. In the negotiations which followed with the great sun of the Natchez and his representatives, the Indians restored the six pillaged Canadians, and surrendered the heads of the chiefs responsible for the murders. This brought about peace, and it was further stipulated that the Natchez should furnish posts and lumber to build the fort which was needed for the protection of the French, and to prevent further aggressions on the part of the Indians. The work was commenced in June, 1716, under the direction of M. Paillou, who was appointed commandant. The Indians supplied the timbers and did the labor on the earthworks, and the fort was completed by the soldiers of Bienville, who arrived the following August. It was named Rosalie in honor of Madame la duchesse de Ponchartrain. (La Harpe, French Coll., 1851, pp. 46 and 84). Dumont states that before any concessionary had arrived in the province, two Frenchmen, Hubert and La Page, had established themselves as settlers near the site of the fort. Of Hubert he says: “He was a man of talent, and of all that part chose a league from the bank of the river, what he deemed the most excellent spot, where he raised a house, which he called St. Catharine’s. . . . After his death St. Catharine’s was sold to the Sieur de Koly, and passed into his hands. As the soil at Natchez is excellent, many Frenchmen, soldiers and workmen, after obtaining their discharge, went and settled there, and new dwellings were built. Most bought their lands from the Indians of the place, who lay more than a league and a quarter from the river bank, in five villages half a league apart. That called the Great Village, the residence of the great chief of the tribe, was built along a little river called White River, St. Catharine’s Creek. West of this village the French built a fort on a hill and called it Fort Rosalie. It was merely a plot twenty-five fathoms long by fifteen broad, enclosed with palisades, without any bastion. Inside near the gate, was the guard-house, and three fathoms off along the palisade ran the barracks of the soldiers. At the other, opposite the gate, a cabin had been raised for the residence of the commanding officer, and on the right of the entrance was the powder magazine. At this post the company maintained a company of soldiers. South of the fort was another little Indian tribe called the Tioux, who willingly traded with the French, but some years after abandoned their village to go and settle elsewhere, and before leaving sold their ground to one of the richest settlers in the country, the Sieur Roussin.” (Historical Memoirs of M. Dumont, French Coll., 1851).

The fort was destroyed by the Natchez Indians at the time of the Massacre of the French in 1729, but a new fort and buildings were promptly erected by the French under Loubois, who had forced the Natchez to flee across the Mississippi. There has been considerable controversy concerning the exact location of the second fort and both Monette and Claiborne clearly state that it was not built on the same site as the original fort. Monette declares that the first fort was at some distance from the bluffs, probably near the eastern limits of the city. Claiborne states that the original fort was some 670 yards from the river. Bernard de la Harpe states that it stood on the summit of a hill about 670 yards from the shore of the river, and about 180 feet above its surface. (See His. Coll. of La., p. 84, part III). Dumont in his Memoirs states that after the Natchez Indians had abandoned their fort, it was fired, ” and the whole army decamped and returned to the spot where Fort Rosalie had been. There they began to raise a new fort of earth, with barracks for the soldiers and houses for the officers.” There is no doubt that the second fort was built on the brow of the bluffs, the remains of which were visible when Monette wrote, and largely effaced by the great landslide, though some traces -still remain below the Natchez compress. (See Gerard Brandon, History of Adams County). When the English took possession of this fort in 1763, the name of Fort Rosalie was changed to Panmure, (q. v.) in honor of the minister of George III. It appears to have been the practice to make frequent changes in the commanders of the French forts, and the following is a list of commandants as far as it is possible to ascertain them from the contemporary records. The first commander, as we have seen, was M. de Paillou. The Sieur de Barnaval commanded in 1723, during what is sometimes called the second Natchez war. He was succeeded by the Sieur de Liette, who was, in turn, succeeded by Sieur Broutin, who was also director of the Terre Blanche concession. Broutin did not remain long at the fort, but was recalled to New Orleans, and succeeded by de Tisinet. This last officer managed the Indians with tact, but appears to have made one serious mistake, which Dumont records, in his Journal. To acquire the friendship of the Natchez, he showed them how to build palisade forts, in the French fashion, a knowledge they made good use of after the massacre of the French in 1729. This commander remained about a year, and was succeeded by M. de Merveilleux, who made an excellent officer, and under whom the post prospered more than ever before. Unfortunately, he was recalled about 1728 and M. de Chopart assumed the command. This officer is given credit by most writers for precipitating the difficulties with the Natchez, which led up to the massacre in December, 1729. When the Chevalier de Loubois had constructed the new fort at Natchez in 1730, to replace the one destroyed in the war, he placed it under the command of Chevalier Baron de Cresnay.

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Source: Encyclopedia of Mississippi History, by Dunbar Rowland.

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