The City of Natchez – Part One

Before Jackson was made the capital city of the state of Mississippi in 1822 the city of Natchez served as the centre of power. Though it may only be the 25th-largest city in the state it is still well known for its prominence during the antebellum era, of which it still homes much of the ancient Greek inspired architecture that has become synonymous with the time. It is one of the oldest European settlements in the lower Mississippi River Valley and predates Jackson by more than a hundred years.

The city takes its name from that of the Native American people that inhabited the area before the Europeans arrived. The French acquired the land as part of the peace terms that put an end to the Natchez War of 1716. A fort was built by the Natchez people for the French close to their own settlement named the Grand Village of the Natchez. This fort was called Fort Rosalie and became the primary trading post and stronghold for the French colonists dealing with the Natchez peoples.

Throughout their occupation of the fort tensions between the two groups continued to grow and throughout the 1720s there were several skirmishes. After this period of deteriorating relationships the leaders of the Natchez tribe were provoked into a full scale revolt after Sieur de Chépart, the French commandant, demanded land from a Natchez village for his own plantation. This resulted in the Natchez Revolt of 1729, or as it’s also known the ‘Natchez Massacre’.

In this huge coordinated attack on both the fort and the homesteads the Natchez killed almost all the Frenchmen and though they spared most of the women, children and African slaves, they burned all of the homes and the fort to the ground. When the French heard the news of this they began to fear a further uprising from other Native American Tribes, assuming the Natchez had conspired with other tribes.

The French proceeded to respond harshly, first ordering a massacre on the Chaouacha tribe, a tribe that had no connection to the revolt whatsoever, wiping out an entire village of their people. After this, with aid from their Choctaw allies, the French laid siege to the Natchez villages, capturing hundreds of them and selling them into slavery. Many escaped and fled north to take refuge with the Chickasaw tribe. By the year 1736 the Natchez no longer existed as an independent people.

Fort Rosalie was rebuilt in 1730 and occupied by the French until the year 1763 following the treaty of Paris. The British had won the Seven Years war against France and Spain which meant much of Frances territories in North American were given the Great Britain which included the fort itself. Fort Rosalie was renamed Fort Panmure, though it was held for less than two years when the Spanish seized it after the Battle of Baton Rouge. Eventually the fort was inherited by the United States of America after the American Revolutionary War, the Mississippi Territory was then established with Natchez as its capital. The fort itself was abandoned in 1804, though today the site is part of the Natchez National Historical Park.

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