Sunday, April 26, 2015

D'Abbadie's most galling task was overseeing the transition of eastern Louisiana from French to British control.  Encompassing most of the present states of Mississippi and Alabama, here was the original part of the colony, its occupation by the French dating back to Iberville's arrival in 1699.  Here lay a wide swatch of territory in which a string of wooden palisades on the region's prominent rivers protected the lower Mississippi valley from English incursions via the Carolinas and Georgia.  Just as importantly for the western half of the province, and especially for the growing population of New Orleans, an important source of the colony's beef lay along the Gulf east of the capital city.  From the early days of the colony, Professor Brasseaux tells us, "much of the cattle produced in Louisiana was raised on ranches on the islands ringing the Alabama and Mississippi coasts.  Individual ranches contained as many as 500 head of cattle."  The beeves were transported to New Orleans by boat and trail along the Bayou St.-Jean portage behind the city; over the Bayou Le Sueur portage to the German Coast; or up to the city via the mouth of the river.  Now all of these coastal islands belonged to the British.295b

Although British representatives had not yet reached Mobile, which they had designated as the capital of British West Florida, d'Abbadie left for Mobile in late October 1763 and remained there until the following January.  At Mobile, the director-general treated with the Indians and negotiated with British representatives after they appeared.  "What an assignment," d'Abbadie lamented, "to have to deal with men drunk with their success, who regard themselves as masters of the world."  It was a difficult task for the director-general, but it was especially painful for the hundreds of Frenchmen who had set down roots in the Alibamon districts.  The British, as expected, were insensitive to the plight of their former enemies.  What they offered these Frenchmen in 1763 sounded a lot like what they had offered the Acadians of newly-conquered Nova Scotia half a century earlier:  "In late October 1763," Professor Brasseaux relates, "Major Robert Farmar, the British representative, offered French Mobilians the protection of British law if they remained; but, if they chose to depart for French-occupied Louisiana they would have to dispose of their immovable property within three months, an almost impossible task in view of the prevailing economy."  Despite this onerous restriction, most of the settlers in the original part of Louisiana chose to emigrate to western Louisiana, with the option of continuing on to French St.-Domingue.  Those who went to western Louisiana were called, for a time, Allibamonts.  D'Abbadie's government would have no choice but to assist them in their resettlement west of the Mississippi.  The French left in the area, at forts Condé, Toulouse, and Tombecbé, were ordered to New Orleans, from where most of the ones still on active duty would be sent on to French St.-Domingue.  D'Abbadie removed the garrison in Fort Condé at Mobile in late October, but evacuating the soldiers and settlers from forts Toulouse and Tombecbé would take more time.  "The English representatives feared the Indians and threatened to jail the French soldiers if they abandoned the posts, or if their Indian friends caused any troubles," Elton J. Oubre informs us.  The Indians, of course--especially the Choctaw and Alibamon--did not want the British to occupy the posts.  Ignoring British threats, d'Abbadie evacuated the upper posts between November and January and sent the soldiers and their families on to New Orleans.  His business at Mobile completed, d'Abbadie, with many of the residents and soldiers, returned to New Orleans aboard the Salomon in mid-January 1764.  In a letter to the Minister of Marine, dated January 10 from Mobile, d'Abbadie already had in mind what he would do with the Allibamonts who chose to remain in western Louisiana.  "'I shall furnish them with boats necessary to transport their goods,'" he assured the Minister. "'I shall grant them lands along the Mississippi River's right bank; and, in accordance with your views, my Lord, regarding new settlements, their land grants will be as near as possible to New Orleans and other existing posts, such as Allemands and Point Coupee."  In February and March, true to his word, d'Abbadie assigned some of the Allibamont families land on the Upper German Coast in present-day St. John the Baptist Parish.295