ArticleAn exploration of one cartographer’s work mapping French colonial sites in Louisiana
Dumont de Montigny was a French colonial officer stationed in Louisiana in the early eighteenth century. He spent nearly 18 years there and wrote an extensive history of the region, published in 1747, which included these beautiful maps of encampments, forts, farmland, and more. These maps are in the physical collection of the Newberry Library and appear in our American Revolutionary War-Era Collection of Distinction.
Fort Maurepas, on the Gulf of Mexico, was also known as Fort Biloxi (the exact name was spelled in a variety of ways). In this rather organically laid out map, Dumont has labeled residential barracks, the government building (which may have been the seat of French Louisiana, when Biloxi was the capital), the well, cypress marshes, and more. The time he depicts is 1720; today the fort is within the town of Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
This map title begins “Concession des Chaoüachas,” which means Chaoüacha land grant or ceded land. It is unlikely that the Chaoüachas saw themselves as willingly ceding land to the French. On the contrary, Alan Gallay describes them as one of the “petite nations” that was raided and attacked, and its inhabitants enslaved, by other native groups on behalf of the English. The map itself is much more geometric than the previous one, with irrigation systems flowing at right angles through square fields. It shows a plantation on Saint Catherine Creek in Natchez, Mississippi. The plantation formed part of Charles Louis Auguste Fouquet, duc de Belle-Isle’s land concessions in provincial Louisiana.
Finally, this map makes direct reference to some of the violence that is hidden by the polite term “concession” in the previous map. It depicts the Battle of Ackia, detailing a failed 1736 attack by Choctaw and French allies led by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville against a Chickasaw village and English allies. This battle was fought about 7 miles northwest of the later site of Tupelo in Lee County, Mississippi.
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