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Dauphin Island, AL
Archive of Historical Data, Books, Maps
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Excerpt from the book
"Dauphin Island AL:
French Possession 1699-1763"

by Jo Myrtle Kennedy

"Two French Warships Arrive - 1720"

Unknown to Dauphin Island residents, in early January of 1720, two French warships, the 'Henry' and the 'Toulouse', were preparing to leave France to sail for Louisiana to help defend the French colony against Spanish aggression.
Aboard the 'Toulouse' was a young sailor named Jean-Francois Bertet de la Clue Sabran, who kept a log of the journey, noting latitudes, longitudes, winds, currents, deaths of crewmen, other incidents aboard ship, and impressions of Dauphin Island upon arrival there on July 1, 1720.

Bertet reported in his log that they sighted Pensacola on the morning of June 29. The next day, they sailed slowly along the coast, sounding the depths at 20, 17 and 12 fathoms, to a fine white sand. He wrote: "At 5 o'clock in the morning of July 1st, 1720, we sighted Dauphine Island at 20 leagues. We anchored in 8 fathoms on a bottom of fine sand and silt. As soon as we came into view of the village we fired a gun and raised a flag in request for a signal from land and in a moment a white flag was raised and two guns were fired as a sign of reassurance. We responded by firing another gun and proceeded to anchor.

"When the 'Henry' and 'Toulouse' anchored at Dauphin Island, Captain Valette found that their mission was partly in vain, for unofficial word had come that a truce had been signed between France and Spain. However, the two ships were welcome for the food and supplies they carried. Bienville, the general of Mississippi, requisitioned all supplies except enough to return the crew to France. He encouraged them to leave as soon as possible because "the great part of their crew is sick and they are daily consuming the fresh food of this colony."

Bertet wrote: "July the 2nd. Our boats went to get water and we made wells in the sand with barrels at gunshot distance from the sea. The water was quite good, not at all salty, and quite clear. They contend it becomes even better when it is kept. We chose some houses to use as hospitals, believing that our sick men would get well sooner on land than aboard ship. We carried them ashore, including many who were dead. From the 'Henry' there was, among others, an ensign named de Rouvet. We buried them on Dauphine Island. Only one man had died aboard our vessel. During the time we were there, there were no squalls. The winds were quite variable, and we had many thunderstorms with frightful thunder. The winds were from the NW and WNW and lasted only four or five hours, with a heavy sea, but at night it was calm."

"On the 7th of July, Mr. de Bienville came aboard and conferred with our captains and it was agreed that we would leave our surplus of provisions because the company was short thereof. Because of this we would leave as soon as we could."

"The morning of the 16th, still anchored at Dauphine Island. We saw two ships. We hoisted a flag. They fired a gun and we fired three to call attention to our flag. They then fired twice, came and anchored and fired five guns. Of the two ships, one was from Donquerque, which was loaded with passengers and three companies of the regiment of La Motte. The other was loaded with negroes and came from Guinea. At 3:00 in the afternoon a boat from Havana arrived, which brought prisoners that had been taken by the Spanish at Pensacola and brought us news of the truce. Our captains permitted us to go ashore during the time we were there."

"As for what we did there, we took the prettiest houses, and we could choose because the inhabitants of Dauphine Island had gone to establish another colony and had left their houses, though it would have been possible to transport them because they were made of wood. There remained only one officer with about twenty soldiers, and two inhabitants who had gardens, where they had vegetables, which they sold to us at high prices. Thus a little salad of purslane, quite bad, cost fifteen sous, eggs six sous each, and chickens 7 livres each. There is no mutton and very little beef is slaughtered. We lived like true savages. We frequently went hunting and we ate all the animals we killed, crows and others."

"I am learning a little about the manner of living as savages, as we are told many stories, many of which I believe to be exaggerated. The Missicipi is a country that extends far to the north as well as to the east and west. The land is occupied by savages of many nations. These people are not much given to cultivating the land. Their strongest passion is hunting and they shoot perfectly either an arrow or a gun. They are all unclothed and wear only a belt around their bodies from which a piece of cloth hangs before and behind and covers a part of their nudity. They have their skins covered with figures of snakes which they make with the point of a needle."

"Mr. Bienville, who is the general of the country, has all of his body covered this way. When he is obliged to march to war with them he makes himself nude like them. They like him very much but they also fear him."

"They have a great love of war and of brave people. When they take prisoners they cause them to die in the most cruel way in the world. They begin by removing the hair together with the skin of the head and they then tie them up and burn one member after another and cut off at intervals pieces of flesh which they eat and they drink the blood of the victim. They then fill the wound with melted lead."

"The English do everything possible to get them to wage war against us. They give them presents and sell them things cheaper than we do. They tell the Indians that we have lost spirit, which is their favorite expression when we are lacking in something. This causes us to fear that the Indians will revolt some day. Nevertheless, they have a very high opinion of the French. This was proven at the capture of Pensacola."

"The French took the port and the vessels and turned the pillage over to the savages. They took the Indian chiefs aboard the vessels, and they looked with astonishment at the cannons. Some of the cannons were fired for them, and they placed themselves near the mouth of the cannon to see the ball come out. What astonished them was that, although they could not see the ball come out, they could see it strike at a great distance. They said the cannon has a lot of spirit."

"Though peace was once again restored between the French and Spanish on the gulf coast, the treaty signed by the two countries returned Pensacola to Spain. French and Spanish neighbors resumed friendly relations and continued to aid each other for many years."

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