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Duplessis [to Minister], Havana, January 25, 1757.1 A.N., Colonies C13A 39, fol. 302-3. Duplessis reports his capture by the English and the fact that he had to destroy the dispatches he was carrying to France for Governor Kerlérec. Per Kerlérec’s instructions, he recounts critical information that was not included in the dispatches for fear of their being captured. He reports, in particular, the status of the colony’s relations with the Indian nations. At the end of his letter, Duplessis requests that he be given command of one of the detached companies of the Marine in Louisiana. Copy from microfilm provided by The Historic New Orleans Collection, Williams Research Center, New Orleans. Translation by Donald E. Pusch, April 2007. [fol. 302:] Havana, January 25, 1757. Monseigneur, It has been eight years since I was afflicted by a sickness that increases every summer in spite of the remedies for it that I could take in Louisiana, which put me, with much regret, in absolute need of asking for a leave of Monsieur the governor in order to go to France to regain my health, which, not permitting me to wait any longer for a ship of the King, obliged me to pay for passage on the brigantine Félicité going to Cap François,2 from where I was destined to go to France by a squadron, ship, or frigate of His Majesty. The ship sailed on December 20 last and was taken prize the 22nd at about forty leagues east southeast of the Balize by one named Richar Adou, a corsair from New York commanding the schooner Marguerite. The way in which this corsair got 3 rid of us to the southeast of the Gardens of the Queen, the loss that I incurred of that which I had, all that we have suffered in order for us to come here after having run the risk of losing [our] lives in various ways would make too long a narration to recount here. Independently of the packets [of letters] that were given to me and which, in case of accident, I had orders to throw into the sea, as I did, there was an essential and urgent matter that Monsieur the governor did not dare to trust to paper, in the fear of sudden and unexpected surprise. It is the situation of the colony, Monseigneur, of which I was charged to speak to you. It was, for this purpose, communicated to me that which is fitting that I knew in this regard, and as I could still be [delayed] a long time and encounter risks before my return, I take an alternative that does not appear to me to pose any danger, which is to have this letter sent by Cádiz. I address it to the governor with the prayer that you receive (tenir) it promptly by an appropriate and sure means so that it cannot fall into enemy hands. Monsieur de Kerlérec, counting on the help that the flûte Fortune should carry to Louisiana,4 had two good forts built, one on each side of the river about 5 six and a half leagues below New Orleans. These forts are placed advantageously. He had not a cannon to put there, the colony entirely lacking them, as well as cannoneers, powder, cannonballs and that which is necessary for the servicing of artillery. [fol. 302v:] The thirty-six companies that should be of fifty men each are not [even] at twenty-five. Even of these [men], there are several old and incapable of service. There are others of them always in the hospitals. Thus, the garrisons are very weak. Monsieur Kerlérec had the intention to have a fort built at Ouabache,6 which has been impossible for him. I believe, as well, that he will find himself unable to dispatch, next February, a convoy to the Illinois as he intended, having sent only a very small one in the month of July last. The arms, munitions, and merchandise for the savages are totally lacking. There were of these, last November, only one piece of limbour 7 in the storehouse. Proportionally, the rest were likewise [diminished]. This article is of very great consequence for conserving our old allies and assuring us of new ones. You know, Monseigneur, that one can count on the savages only to the extent that they receive, in their time, the presents that one is in the habit of giving to them and Duplicate by the Pontofique

that they are able to get, from the traders, that which is necessary for them and their families. The English would perhaps have no difficulty winning them over if they [the Indians] lost hope for the prompt arrival of that which meets their needs. It would be necessary, at present, to nearly double that which is currently sent, considering that which just came about two month ago. The Chaouanons,8 allied with nearly all the [Indian] nations of the north, were for some years on the side of the English. They are presently their cruelest enemies. Not content to make war with them excessively, they undertake to remove from them the best allies remaining. To this end, they went to the Cheraquis, a nation of nearly five thousand warriors, to encourage them to abandon the English and to make war on them as they [the Chaouanons] do. They conducted themselves so well in these negotiations that they [the Chaouanons] engaged them [the Cheraquis] to send with them some delegates to New Orleans, where they came on behalf of the nation to ask peace of the governor, from whom they received quite gracefully the tomahawk (casse teste) for striking the English.9 The treaty of peace has been made with them only on condition that the governor-general of Canada would consent to it, [a] formality that was not necessary to employ because we found ourselves, at that time, in no position to furnish the needs of so numerous a nation. They, nevertheless, promised to give, incessantly, proof of the faithfulness that they vowed to the French. This nation can, alone, destroy all the establishments of Carolina. In the end, there are not any who are capable, and better suited to cause as much pain to our enemies, who will not have, so to say, any more savages on their side if they lose those who were the only ones with the Chicachas who raid on the [Mississippi] river. The latter will not be able, nor dare, to do so any more. The Cheraquis are responsible for preventing them [the Chicachas] from [doing] it, so that French traders can go to their territory (chez eux) safely. This alliance appears to be the greatest consequence. Monsieur the governor informed you of it by a letter that contained the details of it with the respective speeches and promises. The post of the Balize, still situated at southeast pass, which was, in the past, the entrance for ships, serves no longer except to provide the pilot a means to respond when cannon [signals] are heard from the sea and to give help when needed. We do not have any signals to distinguish our ships from those of the enemy.10 A ship that arrives is obliged to send [someone] to bring back a pilot from land. Thus, if by some accident, it does not have a chaloupe or canot, it would be obliged [fol. 303:] to return or risk perishing. The Mariane of La Rochelle, [commanded by] Captain Thomas, going to Cap François, was 11 taken near Samana by the same corsair as we were. The corvette Fine, commanded by Sieur Sauvage out of Dunkerque, from 11 to 16 June last, suffered the same fate near Bermuda after having completed her mission, which was for Martinique and Saint Domingue. I learned from one named Cabicas, who returned from Cap [François] to France on this corvette and who found himself still a prisoner on the corsair, that Sieur Sauvage and his crew had been put, five days later, on a Dutch ship going to Guernsey, and that one other corvette, commanded by Captain Cardon had been sent at the same time from the same place for Louisiana. It appears that she [the corvette] perished or was captured, since we had from her neither rumor (vent) nor news the 20th of last month. The corsair assured us that next spring the English, with some [war] ships and several medium [sized] flat boats, should make an attempt on Louisiana.12 This could be. It is, nevertheless, permitted to doubt one part of what this man says, since he recited to us several [pieces of] news that proved false. Two among others: The first that, since the defeat of General Bradok in Canada,13 the English troops had won a complete victory and were well on their way to a new success. However, our troops, the Canadians, and the allied savages continue to have entirely the advantage. The second that, in a combat in the Mediterranean, we had lost several [war] ships, captured as well as sunk to the bottom. A few days ago, there entered into this port an 2

English frigate of 22 cannons escorting a schooner loaded with Negroes. I heard nothing said that had the least corroboration of the boastful remarks of our corsair. I prey you to be completely persuaded, Monseigneur, that I put forward nothing that does not conform to the exact truth and to the verbal instructions that I received from the governor. I am poorly prepared to render an account to a great minister. Also, I implore His Grandeur to excuse the faults and the very little order that might be encountered in my letter. I had a very strong one [letter] from Monsieur de Kerlérec, by which he brought to your attention that, from seventeen fifty-three, he had asked [command of] a company for me. I think that there will soon be two vacancies. As I have done nothing of discredit, since [that time] or ever, I implore you at this time, Monseigneur, to have sent to me, when it will be convenient for you, an expectation (spectative) for the first [vacant command]—so that I remain no longer in the situation of being held back—which will appear to you especially just, [considering] that Monsieur the governor asked [this favor] for me a long time ago, and that twenty-three years have passed as I serve in Louisiana with all the zeal and exactitude possible.14 I have the honor to be, with a very deep respect, Monseigneur, your very humble and very obedient servant [Signed:] Duplessis


End Notes
1 2

There is reason to believe the date of this letter is in error. See notes below.

Cap François (or Français) was the principal seaport of the French colony of Saint Domingue. It is, today, Cap Haïtien, Haiti.
3 4

A chain of islands along the southern coast of Cuba.

The Fortune arrived off the Balize on August 17, 1758. Log of the Fortune, A.N., Marine 4 JJ 19, register 81, fol. 18v; microfilm, Library of Congress Louisiana Colonial Records Project, hereinafter cited as LCRP microfilm. Duplessis could not have known, in January 1757, about the Fortune’s mission to Louisiana, as the Minister of the Marine did not approve sending the Fortune to Louisiana until November 1757. Minister to Ruis, Versailles, November 14, 1757, A.N., Colonies, B 106, fol. 310–10v; transcript by F. Wirth, Paris, May 15, 1914; National Archives of Canada microfilm reel C-15662. This suggests that the date of Duplessis’ letter is incorrect; the date may actually be January 25, 1758. These two fortifications are mentioned in Governor Kerlérec’s letter to the Minister of the Marine, October 21, 1757, in which he states that their construction had just been completed. Kerlérec to Minister, New Orleans, October 21, 1757. A.N., Colonies C13A 39, fol. 277–79; LRCP microfilm. This is further evidence that the date on Duplessis’ letter is in error. The construction of this fort on the Ouabache (Wabash) is also mentioned in Kerlérec to Minister, New Orleans, October 21, 1757. The fort, however, was not on the present-day Wabash River but on the Ohio. The mix-up in the location comes from the fact that the French, at the time, considered the river stream below the confluence of the Wabash and the Ohio to be part of the Wabash, not the Ohio, which the French called the Belle Rivière. The French called this post Fort Ascension but later renamed it Fort Massiac in honor of Claude-Louis d’Espinchal, marquis de Massiac, Minister of the Marine from May 31 to October 31, 1758. In later years, American fortifications were erected at the same site, dubbed Fort Massac, a corruption of the French name. Today, the site if part of Fort Massac State Park near Metropolis, Illinois. Limbourg – a fabric made, at the time, in the Belgian province of Limbourg. Paul Augé, pub., Larousse du XXe siècle en six volumes, vol. 4 (Paris: Librairie Larousse, 1931), 458. “Chaouanons” was an early term for the Shawnee or Savannah Indians. De l’Ile’s map of 1700 shows the “R. des Chouanons” at the location of the Savannah River, with the “Chaouanons” living on both banks of the river’s middle course. Frederick Webb Hodge, ed., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico in two parts (1907–1910; reprint, Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield, 1979), part 2, 530–38. This tentative peace agreement with the Cheraquis (sometimes Chérakis) may have been the one reported by Kerlérec in his letter to the Minister of January 30, 1758. A.N., Colonies C13A 40, fol. 29; LCRP microfilm. Kerlérec asks for such signals in his letter to the Minister of the Marine of October 18, 1755, A.N., Colonies C13A 39, fol. 69–70v; LCRP microfilm.
11 12 10 9 8 7 6 5

Probably Cabo Samaná on the north east coast of the island of Hispaniola.

Apparently, Governor Kerlérec had heard the same rumor. In his letter of October 21, 1757 (note 5 above), he says that he heard from some captured mariners that the English intended to attack New Orleans by river “next spring,” presumably, the spring of 1758. This is another indication that the date on Duplessis’ letter is in error. British forces under Major General William Braddock were defeated at the Battle of Monongahela River on July 9, 1755. Francis Parkman, France and England in North America, 2 vols., Library of America Series (New York: Viking Press, 1983), 2:994–95.


Duplessis was commissioned capitaine d’infanterie in Louisiana on August 25, 1758, taking the place of Des Varennes. A.N., Colonies D2C3, fol. 113v; LCRP microfilm. On August 31, 1758, Duplessis was paid 900 livres as indemnity for the losses and expenses he experienced on the occasion of his capture and detention by the English. Registre des comptes de dépenses des colonies, Gratiffications, 1758; A.N., Colonies F1A 44, fol. 57; microfilm, Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research.



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