Organized by the French in 1716, the Natchez District grew rapidly, soon boasting the third-largest population in the Lower Mississippi Valley. To attract settlers, the French built Fort Rosalie on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Three failed attempts to find qualified leaders yielded uneasy diplomacy with the Natchez Indians. Relations mended, albeit briefly, after Captain de Merveilleux came to Fort Rosalie. In 1728, however, Gov. Étienne Boucher de Périer severed ties by appointing Sieur de Chepart to the post. Rarely sober and purportedly bitter, Chepart abused his native neighbors and demanded their tribute.
Among many concerns, sexual exchanges especially disturbed local tribesmen. Complained one elder, the French intended “to seduce our women, to corrupt our nation, to lead our daughters astray, [and] to make them proud and lazy.” Those words surely resonated with Chief Sun. Born to a Natchez princess and a French soldier, Chief Sun embodied his people’s complaints. Obeying not only tribal consensus but perhaps psychological forces, Chief Sun plotted against the French. Not even his mother could deter him from waging war against his father’s nation.
On 28 November 1729 the Natchez sprang a surprise attack on Fort Rosalie. Disguised as a hunting expedition, the war party borrowed guns from the armory and then turned them on the unsuspecting soldiers and settlers. During the ensuing Massacre at Fort Rosalie, Chief Sun smoked near the tobacco shed, where a warrior delivered Chepart’s severed head. More than two hundred French were killed, with another three hundred women, children, and slaves taken prisoner.
Officials soon learned that the natives had black allies, a factor the French found just as disturbing as the carnage. Colonial lawmakers codified prohibitions that regulated contact between settlers and slaves but incorrectly relied more on cultural rifts to separate Native Americans from Africans and African Americans. The interracial rebels, however, could only briefly appreciate their union and enjoy their victory.
The governor immediately launched a reprisal after news of the massacre reached New Orleans, driving the rebels across the Mississippi River. The French never abandoned Fort Rosalie, but they never revived it as a settlement after 1729. Fort Rosalie fell into disuse until the Treaty of Paris in 1763. It was occupied by the British from 1763 to 1779, by the Spanish from 1779 to 1798, and by the Americans from 1798 until 1804, when it was abandoned.
- Seymour Feiler, ed., Jean-Bernard Bossu’s Travels in the Interior of North America, 1751–1763 (1962)
- Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century (1992)
- D. Clayton James, Antebellum Natchez (1968)
- Julie Sass, in Natchez before 1830, ed. Noel Polk (1989)
- Garland Taylor, Mississippi Valley Historical Review (September 1935)
- Daniel H. Usner Jr., Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley before 1783 (1992)