Mississippi Forts

As early as 1752, the Province of Louisiana, which included the present territory of Mississippi, was divided into nine civil and military districts. Three of these were in Mississippi, to-wit : Biloxi, Natchez and Yazoo; the remaining six were Alabama, Mobile, New Orleans, Illinois, Arkansas and Natchitoches. Each district was protected by a fort, and was under the jurisdiction of a commandant and judge, who administered the military and civil concerns of each, and from whose decisions, an appeal might be taken to the Supreme Council of the colony at New Orleans.

The district of Alabama was defended by Fort Toulouse, built by Captain de la Tour in 1714, acting under the orders of Governor Cadillac. It was built on the east bank of the Coosa, four miles above the junction of that river with the Tallapoosa. It was kept constantly garrisoned, and served as the French outpost against English encroachments from Carolina and Georgia. After the peace of 1762, it was occupied by the English. Fort Jackson was built on its ruins in the War of 1812.

Fort Louis de la Mobile was built by the French in 1701, 12 leagues above the present city of Mobile, on the west bank of the river. It was the chief settlement of the colony until 1709-10, when, on account of a rise in the river in the spring of 1709 which flooded the fort and all the houses in the vicinity, Governor Bienville constructed a new fort on the present site of Mobile. This fort was reconstructed later with brick, after the manner of Vauban with bastions, half-moons, deep ditches, covered way, and glacis, with houses for the officers, and barracks for the soldiers, and was mounted with 16 cannon. After 1720 it was known as Fort Conde. A fort and large magazines were also constructed on Dauphine Island, where many of the colonists had their habitations. For a description of the first fort at Biloxi see “Fort Maurepas“. The settlement here was known as Old Biloxi, and in 1717, when the channel at Dauphine island had become choked with sand, de I’Epinay and de Bienville decided to make use of the harbor at Ship island, and ordered a new fort to be constructed on the mainland opposite. They selected a place one league west of Old Biloxi for a site. The transport ship Dauphine, commanded by M. Berranger, having arrived, and brought a great number of carpenters and masons, they were put to work on the new fort. This was known as New Biloxi; also as Fort Louis. In 1719, Fort Maurepas was burned, and never reconstructed. A fort and magazines were also constructed on Ship Island.

The first fort built by the French on the lower Mississippi was in 1700, about 28 leagues from the mouth of the river, and below the English Turn. This was abandoned in 1705. About the time of the establishment of the capital of the colony at New Orleans in 1722, they fortified the extreme mouth of the river at the Balize (q. v.). Subsequently strong fortifications were erected at New Orleans.

Fort Rosalie at Natchez, and Fort St. Peter on the Yazoo have been elsewhere described, (q. v.)

The French fort in the Illinois district was called Fort Chartres. It was about 25 miles above the village of the Kaskaskias. It was the headquarters of the commandant of Upper Louisiana, and was deemed one of the strongest French posts in North America. ” When,” says Dumont, “M. le Blanc sent men to take possession of the grant made him on the Yasoux River, a hundred and forty leagues from the capital, the little garrison, kept till then by the company (Western) at that place, retired to the Arcancas post, then commanded by the Sieur de la Boulaye. There is no fort in the place, only four or five palisade houses, a little guard house and a cabin, which serves as a store house. This French post was established as a stopping place for those going from the capital to the Illinois. It was located three leagues from the mouth of the Arkansas river. The Arkansas or Quapas Indians dwelled a league away. The settlers sent by John’ Law located a league from the post in the depths of the woods, where they found a beautiful plain surrounded by fertile valleys, and a little stream of pure, clear water.”

Fort Natchitoches was established in 1718 by Governor Bienville on Red river, about 75 leagues from the Mississippi. It was used as a barrier against the Spaniards, to prevent their entering Louisiana. In 1719, the French under la Harpe, established Fort St. Louis de Carlorette, 150 leagues above Natchitoches, on the right bank of the river, in N. lat. 33° and 35′, as a sign of the jurisdiction of the French in that part of Louisiana, since called Texas.

Other Early Mississippi Forts

Back to: Mississippi History

Source: Encyclopedia of Mississippi History, by Dunbar Rowland.

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