(Kindly contributed by William C. Bell)
Continuation of my journey in the Creek nations
I left New Orleans and its paper money to rejoin my detachment on the right bank of the Mississippi, opposite Hyberville River, where I had fixed the meeting place. I then continued my journey in a southern direction, and soon arrived at St. Bernard Bay, situated in latitude twenty-nine degrees five minutes north, Paris meridian. There is in this bay a beautiful river which flows from the east to the west for about thirty leagues, and then takes a south-southwestward direction. I believe it rises in Mexico; and it is probable that it was by following the course of this river that the Atakapas came to live along the upper part of St. Bernard Bay, when they were forced to flee from Mexico, their native land.
We left St. Bernard Bay without seeing any savages, and made our way toward the west. On the fifth day of our journey, an hour after sunrise, my scouts came to report to me that in a small meadow on the banks of a pond, there was a band of savages, both men and women, who, they believed, were engaged in smoke drying meat.
The forest we were then in was thick enough so that none of my men could be seen. I formed them into three detachments, and arranged them in such a way as to surround these savages, and to leave them no way of retreat except by the pond. I then made them all move forward, and I sent ahead a subordinate chief to ascertain what nation these savages belonged to, and what would be their intentions toward us. We were soon assured that they were Atakapas, who, as soon as they saw us, far from seeking to defend themselves, made us signs of peace and friendship. There were one hundred and eighty of them of both sexes, busy, as we suspected, smoke-drying meat. As soon as my three detachments had emerged from the forest, I saw one of these savages coming straight toward me: at first sight, I recognized that he did not belong to the Atakapas nation; he addressed me politely and in an easy manner, unusual among these savages. He offered food and drink for my warriors which I accepted, while expressing to him my gratitude. Meat was served to my entire detachment; and during the time of about six hours that I remained with this man, I learned that he was a European; that he had been a Jesuit; and that having gone into Mexico, these people had chosen him as their chief. He spoke French rather well. He told me that his name was Joseph; but I did not learn from what part of Europe he came.
He informed me that the name Atakapas, which means eaters of men, had been given to this nation by the Spaniards because every time they caught one of them, they would roast him alive, but that they did not eat them; that they acted in this way toward this nation to avenge their ancestors for the torture that they made them endure when they had come to take possession of Mexico; that if some Englishmen or Frenchmen happened to be lost in this bay region, the Atakapas welcomed them with kindness, would give them hospitality; and if they did not wish to remain with them they had them taken to the Akancas, from where they could easily go to New Orleans.
He told me: "You see here about one-half of the Atakapas Nation; the other half is farther on. We are in the habit of dividing ourselves into two or three groups in order to follow the buffalo, which in the spring go back into the west, and in autumn come down into these parts; there are herds of these buffalo, which go sometimes as far as the Missouri; we kill them with arrows; our young hunters are very skilful at this hunting. You understand, moreover, that these animals are in very great numbers, and as tame as if they were raised on a farm; consequently, we are very careful never to frighten them. When they stay on a prairie or in a forest, we camp near them in order to accustom them to seeing us, and we follow all their wanderings so that they cannot get away from us. We use their meat for food and their skins for clothing. I have been living with these people for about eleven years; I am happy and satisfied here, and have not the least desire to return to Europe. I have six children whom I love a great deal, and with whom I want to end my days."
When my warriors were rested and refreshed, I took leave of Joseph and of the Atakapas, while assuring them of my desire to be able to make some returns for their friendly welcome, and I resumed my Journey.
The hinterland of this immense region on the right bank of the Mississippi is covered with a prodigious number of buffalo and wild oxen, 23 and of thoroughbred horses of Andalusian stock, strayed from Mexico, where they had been brought by the Spaniards. Those which are found on the banks of the Missouri are of another kind. They are remarkably large-sized horses. The smallest are as big as our largest horses in Europe. The manner in which the savages capture them is very skilful; they knock them down with a musket shot, aimed at the neck of the horse; and at a distance of a hundred paces, they are sure of cutting slightly into the nape of his neck. The horse, dazed by the shot, falls, and the savages rush immediately upon him, bind him firmly, and lead him away, then they tame him very easily. To succeed in doing that, they make him walk in a marsh until he is very tired; or they tire him out in a river; and when he is broken in this manner, he becomes extremely gentle. There are few of them which are untameable.
I continued to push on toward the west-northwest. After going through immense forests and across large prairies, where there are many ponds, I arrived among the Nakitoches, who live a short distance to the east of the Red River near the Mississippi. It is not an important nation. Its people are mild mannered and hospitable; they love the French a great deal; they possess the best lands in Louisiana, and these lands are so fertile that they produce without cultivation all the seeds that one wishes to sow there.
We went from there to the White River where we came upon a small tribe of Arkancas among whom were some French Creoles. We returned to the Red River; and since this river was the purpose of our journey, which had no other motive than the curiosity of the young Creek warriors, who had asked me to lead them to the head of this river in order to visit the caves that their fathers had formerly inhabited after their flight from Mexico, we decided to work our way up it without leaving its banks.
The Red River flows into the Mississippi, in latitude thirty-two degrees north, and in longitude ninety degrees west, Paris meridian. It rises in Mexican territory in latitude thirty-six degrees north; so that it flows from the south toward the north. While going up this river, I met a part of the Tchactas Nation, whose people, twenty-five years before, had set out to find lands where game might be plentiful. These Tchactas are sometimes at war with the Cados, a warlike and mean people with whom it is dangerous to trade, because of their dishonesty. It often happens that the Cados sell their peltries to foreign traders, whom they afterwards kill in order to take them back from them. It is they who dress buffalo hides and beaver pelts best, a great number of which they take on the hunt.
When we had gone up the Red River about one hundred and fifty leagues above the place where it flows into the Mississippi, we found a beautiful forest, upon emerging from which we came upon the caves of which the old men had often spoken to me. I recognized them easily by the description that they had given me of them. They were situated near the Red River on a high ground that the English call Bloff. I examined a sufficient number of them to accommodate fifteen to twenty thousand families. They are not very far from each other. I had several shots fired while going through them; a large number of buffalo, of wild oxen, and even horses came out of them. We captured at least five hundred of the latter. The terror we created among the buffalo provided me the opportunity to observe that when this animal is pursued by fear, the highest precipices do not stop his flight. I have seen more than four thousand rush headlong from the caves into the Red River, although there was more than an eighty-foot drop. The wild ox does not have this rashness; he avoids a precipice when he senses that he does not have enough strength or lightness to jump over it. These oxen come from Mexico; they spread through the forests and over the prairies, and multiply there so considerably that it is not unusual to meet more than ten thousand in a day's Journey.
We arrived at the caves about Christmas time 1781, that is to say at the beginning of the winter. Since it is a rather cold region, and we had many rivers to cross, and the roads were becoming very bad, I proposed to my warriors that we stay in these caves and wait for spring; they consented to it; we selected the most suitable caves, and remained there seventy-five days, during which we lived very comfortably and in abundance. My warriors did nothing but hunt, fish, and dance.
When spring had come again, we prepared to go back to the nation. I noticed that my young warriors were leaving with much regret this lovely wilderness that their fathers had inhabited for a long time and which recalled memories dear to their hearts.
We set out about the end of March 1782, and proceeded south-southwest-by-west. We went more than two hundred leagues in this direction, without meeting a single forest; we found only prairies and lands which appeared to me to be very fertile, and which were covered with all kinds of wild animals, which, never being in great want of food, lived in peace and quietness. We met neither streams nor rivers, but only ponds and small lakes, whose waters, for the most part, were brackish. We usually camped, and as often as possible, on the borders of those which had fresh water. We found there a large number of dried rushes that we used for cooking our meat. When this source of fuel was lacking, we were forced to resort to cow dung (buffalo chips) also dried out. We found, however, in this immense expanse of land a rather beautiful riverhead, that I believe to be that of the White River which flows into the Mississippi in latitude thirty-four degrees forty minutes north, and in longitude ninety degrees thirty-two minutes, Paris meridian. On this same river, the small Panis Nation lives, and at its mouth to the east is the Akancas Nation, a part of which we had found living on the White River. We crossed over without stopping, and after traveling on for a few more days, we found ourselves on the banks of the Missouri River which I was trying to find. We followed its course through immense prairies, similar to those we had already crossed. Now and then we went through rather beautiful forests, in which we found no traces of men. After going through several, we entered one which I thought I recognized as the one in which the Alibamons [Alabama] had been taken by surprise and defeated by the Creeks, because we noticed on the banks of the river some rather fine caves.
We crossed to the left bank of the Missouri in the western part; we had not gone very far when we came upon and caught unawares fifteen savages who were lying down and asleep on the edge of a pond. They were greatly astonished at seeing us, and were extremely friendly, showing us a forest which was perhaps about three leagues away, and where they informed us was their village. They had nearby buffalo hides, deer skins, and a rather large number of beaver skins. I made them pack them up in bundles which they placed on their backs; and since they had their guns, I had them taken by my young warriors. I then made these savages walk between two platoons; I separated one warrior from them, to whom I returned his gun, his powder horn and his bullets, and I made a sign to him to go to his habitation in order to give notice of our arrival. He left immediately with much speed, looking back from time to time to see if we were following him with his comrades. We soon lost sight of him; and when we were a half league from the forest where these savages, called Osages, live, we saw about one hundred of them, men, women, and children, who came to meet us. They welcomed us with signs of great satisfaction, and, as soon as we arrived, served us cooked meats and some sagamite* My men, who had not drunk any sagamite for almost a year, were very pleased with this reception as they made evident by the quantity of this liquor which they consumed. These savages made many earnest entreaties to induce me to spend the night in their village. They told me that there were, a short distance from where they lived, four white men who came to sell them cloth materials, blankets, and other merchandise that they showed me. I suspected that these white men were Englishmen from Canada; and I learned afterwards that I had not been mistaken; for I did not see them, not having accepted the proposal which had been made to remain in the village. I showed all my gratitude to these savages, had their arms returned to them, and continued on my way toward the Missouri River. I found, on the banks of this river, a sufficiently large number of canoes to convey all my men across to the right bank, where we found a beautiful prairie, on which there was an elevated level stretch of land where we spent the night; we left the next day before dawn.
* The sagamite is a kind of drink made of Indian corn meal.
After going through a forest that we left to the west, at about five leagues behind us, we crossed the Missouri again, and resumed our journey on the left bank. We continued on our way; and, after traveling about fifty leagues along the river, we came to a forest in which my scouts found two white women whom they brought to me; which surprised me very much. They had rather sweet faces, which made me believe at once that they were foreigners. I asked them where their habitation was; they showed me its direction; I bade them lead the way and take us there. When we were in the forest, we found a small river which flowed toward the northwest and by following its course we arrived, after an hour of travel, at a rather pretty village, inhabited by white savages. When they spoke to me, I thought I was hearing the harsh language of western Brittany. They showed me books of a kind, written by hand in their language. I asked them for one of them, and gave them in exchange a small hatchet, with which they seemed highly pleased. I have since then showed this book to some Europeans, who recognized that it was written in the Welsh language. An English scholar told me that one actually found in the history of England that a Welsh prince had left with seven or eight hundred families and had taken refuge in this country. It is probable that they are descendants of these Welsh. Since I did not know the least thing about their language, I was unable to learn the name of their colony. I left it the same day, and recrossed the Missouri River for the third or fourth time, and I made my way toward the northeast. I found, after a few days of travel, the Mississippi River, at the place where the small nation of the Kakias lives, which made me recognize that I had gone down too far to the east. I was obliged to go back toward the west, and I met a tribe called Ancalagresses, which existed at that time and which no longer exist today. I found also a part of the Missouriens who had come to live on the banks of the river, as well as several other Indian tribes, of which there is no need to speak, because since the arrival of the Acadians in this part of America, they have united with them, and form but one tribe. They have settled at New Madrid, which was given to them by the Spanish government. These Acadians, for a long time unhappy, and relegated to France, after the taking of Canada by the English, arrived in New Orleans in 1785. The court of France had obtained for them, from the king of Spain, a piece of ground on the right bank of the Mississippi, at the place called La Fourche,26 a short distance from the Ohio, where they live perfectly happy. They are industrious; but they need encouragement because they have everything in abundance, and because they are under the rule of the Spaniards, who do nothing to rouse them from their state of torpor; but if they became French citizens again, they would take to trading, and would turn to the best account the fortunate position in which they find themselves. The winters, in their part of the country, are very hard; but they know how to obtain for themselves everything that they need for this season, during which they can neither hunt nor fish, and they usually spend it in feasting.
The king of Spain sent engineers to New Madrid, to make a plan for a new city, which would become the most beautiful city in the world if it were built according to this plan.
After we had traveled for six days, we came to a river called St. Francois; we lay down on its banks, but it was impossible for us to sleep, because of the large numbers of aquatic birds of all kinds which are on this river, and which make an unbearable noise. We continued our journey, and after traveling a day and a half, we came to the Missouri River, and soon afterwards to the fort built by the Spaniards, at the junction of the Missouri and of the Mississippi: this junction takes place in latitude thirty-eight degrees thirty-six minutes north.
This river carries along nothing but mud. Its course, that I have followed for about seven hundred leagues, comes from the west-northwest, and flows with an amazing rapidity. The Missouriens are not very numerous today; they inhabit a small forest thirty leagues above the junction of this river with the Mississippi. It is the English who trade with all the nations that I found on the Missouri; they proceed to their country by way of the lakes, setting out from Quebec or from Three Rivers, where they get their merchandise to exchange for peltries. The Spaniards, jealous of this trade, had the fort, of which I have just spoken, built to prevent the English from passing by there; but the latter, when they were in the country of the Indians, would build various kinds of rafts or very flat boats; they would place their most valuable peltries on them and in the middle, and would lay along the sides those of less value to serve as a barricade, and would in this way pass by the Spanish fort; they drew a few cannon shot but were seldom hit, because of the extreme swiftness of the river's current. They had on the opposite bank a trading post where they kept their merchandise, and where they were safe from the Spaniards who dared not trade with all these savage nations. This trading post is today a pretty village one-half league below the confluence of the two rivers.
We crossed the Mississippi and the next day, in the afternoon, we found the Ohio, or Belle-Riviere. Then we made our way into that part of our lands called the Yazau, where our hunting grounds are; from there we went to the country of the Sikasaos and of the Scherokys. Then we went down the Cousa River and arrived home eighteen months after our departure, having covered two thousand six hundred leagues without losing a single man, without any kind of accident, or sickness, bringing back with us about fifteen hundred horses loaded with the most valuable peltries. Each of my warriors had, in addition to that, a small quantity of beaver skins and otter skins; all were very pleased with their journey, and their relatives were very delighted to see them again.
As I had sent word ahead to the nation, to inform it of our approaching arrival, people were coming to meet us from all the villages through which we were supposed to go, and we were warmly welcomed with festivities. In each village, there were some relatives or friends of my warriors; they joined us immediately in order to accompany us; so that upon my arrival at my habitation which I had named the petit Paris, my body of warriors was augmented by more than two thousand persons, who remained with us for three days. This time was spent taking the war medicine.
It is the custom among the Creeks that a savage, on returning from a long journey, whoever he may be, cannot go back into his home without having purified himself by a war medicine.*
* I shall speak of this medicine in the second part of this work.
When we had satisfied this custom, I sent my warriors home to their families to rest, inviting them to be ready if they were disposed to make new excursions, and I myself rested for three weeks. As the war between the Anglo-Americans and the English was still going on, I decided to gather together some other warriors with the intention of making a raid on the Georgians. On arriving at their frontier, I ordered my warriors to refrain from all kinds of hostile aggression, and to busy themselves only with hunting until my return. I had conceived the plan of going secretly and alone to look over the French, English, and American armies which were then in Virginia. I set out, and reconnoitered the position of the three armies; I went even as far as Philadelphia to seek a French merchant who might be in a position to handle all the trade of the nation. My quest having been unsuccessful, I rejoined my comrades in arms, and we returned to the nation. It was not until two years later that I chanced upon an English company, known by the name of Williams Panton, Jean Forbes, and Laislet,28 which was intrusted by treaty with the trade of the nation. These three men, full of virtue, honor, and honesty, have never taken unfair advantage of the confidence which the nation had placed in them; they have on the contrary continually rendered it the greatest services. This firm is still in existence today, and enjoys the greatest reputation among the savages, and notably in the Creek Nation. William Panton was my close friend; he died a short time ago, as a result of the troubles brought upon him by a scoundrel named Bowls, who calls himself today general of the Indians, according to the New York article printed in The Publiciste of the 9 Vendemiaire year XI. The role that this scoundrel appears to play today could become too fatal to the French for me not to make it my duty to show him in all his ugliness, and not to uncover all the treachery of the Anglo-Americans whose tool he is.
Bowls is an American; his family lives in Baltimore. At the beginning of the American Revolution, he served in an English regiment as an ensign; he was stationed at Pantsakola for a while before the Spaniards repossessed it by order of General Galves. Bowls having committed several thefts in his regiment, the English drove him out; he was in New York where he made every effort to get in another English regiment, which was stationed on Long Island, the capital of which is New York; but, since he was known, they would not accept him. Not knowing what to do, he joined up with some play actors and went to Providence Island, where we shall leave him for a moment on the stage, in order to relate an incident which happened to Lord Danemours, by whom he was later employed.
Lord Danemours was governor of Providence; William Panton, of whom I have spoken above, who carried on a very big business in fur-skins, had sent to Forbes, his partner, who lived in Providence, a schooner with six thousand piasters. The governor, having been informed of it, had the piasters seized under pretext that this money was contraband. Panton lodged a complaint which he forwarded to England, where it was decided that Lord Danemours would have to return the six thousand piasters. Angry at this decision, Lord Danemours sought every opportunity to revenge himself on Panton's firm. To attain this end, this is the way he went about it. There was in Providence a very rich man named Miler serving as lieutenant governor. The lord proposed to him to establish among the Simonolays-Creeks a business house which could compete with that of Panton. Being in agreement on the means of establishing it, they cast their eyes upon the play-actor Bowls, whose downright effrontery they were acquainted with, and sent him to make arrangements on the spot. He embarked on a fishing boat which put him ashore on the banks of the Apalachicola River from where he proceeded to the country of the Simonolays, and from there to the country of the lower Creeks, in the town of Kacistas, from where he sent a subordinate chief to carry a letter and a small sword mounted in silver, on behalf of Lord Danemours, to McGillivray. Bowls, not having made his intentions known, the latter believed that the English were making ready to wage war on the Anglo-Americans in favor of the Creeks, and with this in mind would have acceded to the requests of Bowls, when, for his misfortune, I came back from an expedition which had kept me absent for a while.
McGillivray had written to him several times to come to see him in order to make known to him in greater detail his intentions; but he had always, under different pretexts, refused to accept this invitation. McGillivray having informed me of what was going on, I left immediately to go to Kacistas, where I found this man. I remained a week with him, during which he informed me of his plans. It was not difficult for me to recognize that I had to deal with a man without honor and without honesty; but, since he assumed the title of envoy of Lord Danemours, I respected his official capacity, and contented myself with giving him the explicit order to leave the nation within three days. I also ordered the chiefs of Kacistas, that if this man had not left by the fourth day, to have his ears cut off and sent to McGillivray. Bowls having got wind of this order left immediately for Providence; he was accompanied by two Simonolays and three Cherokys.* As soon as he returned, Lord Danemours had him set out for Canada. Arriving at Quebec, he found a ship ready to set sail for England; he embarked with the five savages of his suite. When he had arrived in London, he had himself presented to the minister as chief of the Creeks and of the Cherokys.**
* The Simonolays constitute a distinct people, under the protection of the Creeks they are nearly all thieves.
** I do not know if he had kept the same name; but the story is too recent not to be known.
The English minister, who knew how advantageous it was for his nation to live on good terms with these savages, had him given a house and allocated an annual sum for his expenses. Bowls dressed like a savage to give an appearance of reality to the story that he had told. A lady of a distinguished family who had fallen in love with him was about to marry him, when she was probably informed of some of the high acts of this intriguer and drove him away from her home. He had invented in London a fricassee to which he had given the name of Cherokee fricassee which was served on the best tables. I am relating these details only to bring out more clearly the truth of what I am presenting. Bowls had no doubt a fondness for actions behind the scenes; for, although he was treated with distinction by the minister, that did not prevent him from making a written agreement with the directors of the theaters by which they gave him a remuneration every time he led his savages to the performances; he took them also to Waux Hall, where he had them dance. This behavior displeased the English minister, who made him leave, giving him some old sabres and some old pistols to distribute to the Creeks and to the Cherokys. He embarked on a boat belonging to this same Miler of whom I spoke above.
When Bowls returned to Providence, Lord Danemours sent him again to the country of the Simonolays; but, this time he had him accompanied by about twenty criminals who had been in prison for a long time waiting for their sentence, and one of whom has since been hanged in London. On his arrival in the country of the Simonolays, Bowls busied himself with the task of procuring peltries in whatever way he could. He knew that the upright Panton had a considerable stock, both of fur skins and of other merchandise at St.-Marc d'Apalaches; he made a plan to rob it. In order to succeed in doing it, he assembled a number of Simonolay savages, to whom he gave various goods of little value that he had brought with him, on the condition that they would help him take away the merchandise which was in Panton's store.
In order to lessen in their eyes the feeling of horror that such a proposal could have caused them, not that they are very particular in matters of honor, but because of the good reputation of Panton, he told them that he had come on behalf of the king of England to make the Panton and Company firm pay for goods which had been assigned to this house at St. Augustine, to be distributed to the savages; but that this company had not carried out the wishes of the king, and had appropriated to themselves these same goods, without having paid for them nor having given anything equal in value; that he came to inform the savages of it; that if they wanted to follow him to Saint-Marc d'Apalaches, all the merchandise which might be in Panton's store would be theirs, with the exception of the peltries that he would be satisfied with keeping for himself.
Persuaded by this artful reasoning, the Simonolays followed him, and promptly executed his orders; and within a short time the peltries had been carried three leagues away to be put aboard a ship on the river Oklocnay. As soon as I was informed of what was taking place, I went to the country of the Simonolays where I took one hundred and fifty men to go in pursuit of this thief, and to make all those of this nation who were with him return home. He was warned that I was pursuing him; realizing his danger (for I would have had him hanged) he decided to write to the Spanish Captain Viegaz, who commanded the fort of the Apalaches, to ask him for his protection. The captain requested him to come to the fort to inform him of the reasons which forced him to call upon him for help. He went; and, while he was there, the captain received the official report of the theft which he had just committed: the captain, not believing that he could pronounce judgement upon this affair, made him go immediately aboard the king's schooner and had him taken to New Orleans. Baron de Carondellet, who was governor there, made him go to the commander-in-chief at Havana, and it is only since my return to France that Lord Danemours, his protector, has obtained from the Spanish government his liberation. On leaving prison, he returned to London, where he embarked for Providence; from there he went again to the country of the Simonolays; and I have since been informed that he has robbed Panton's store a second time, and that the Spanish captain who commanded the fort of the Apalaches, having tried to oppose it, the latter had blockaded it and had forced him to surrender the fort to him on stipulated terms. All the baggage and goods they had there belonging to the king of Spain were stolen by Bowls and the savages he commanded. He then went to Ste.-Jaune, on the Ste.-Marie river ten leagues north of St. Augustine in eastern Florida, where the king of Spain had a dairy farm, Panton a business firm, and several settlers had some horses and Negroes; he had everything taken away by the Simonolay savages, among whom he is still living today. Panton saw his fortune destroyed by the havoc wrought by this brigand, and died from grief over it.
Such is this Bowls, styled general of the Indians by our newspapers, and whom I would have hanged after his theft, if he had fallen into the hands of my savages.
I must inform the reader at this point that the New York article dated August 7, printed in The Publiciste of the g Vendemiaire year XI, is not true; in the first place because it is stated that Bowls gave the order to burn or scuttle the American boats, and in the second place because it is also stated that the governor of Nouvelle-Providence had chase given to this Indian privateer.
Now I ask my reader if it is likely that this Bowls, protected by the Americans, and an American himself, could possibly allow himself to engage in such an absurd venture; and if Lord Danemours, governor of New Providence, who constantly made use of him and openly protected him in his plunders, would send someone in pursuit of him.
This article was printed in Paris with the purpose of making the French government believe that this man managed to have himself appointed chief of the North American savages, and that I have no longer any right to this position. I shall have the opportunity in a sequel to this work to make known to the French government the great interest the Anglo-Americans have in ruining in this way the good opinion that it might have of me, and how much they fear that it might make use of my services and place me in a position to set against their unbounded ambition the power of savage nations which have often caused them great concern, as we are going to see.
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