The Arkansas Post Story
NPS Logo

Chapter 7:

On May 7, 1743, Chickasaw Indians ambushed a trading party from Arkansas Post. The trader Guillaume, his wife, and seven of their engages or employees were ascending the Mississippi River. A short distance below the mouth of the Arkansas, a Chickasaw band fell upon the group. Guillaume and his wife escaped their assailants by diving into the river and swimming to the west bank. One Frenchman was killed and the remaining five captured by their assailants. The threat of an attack on Arkansas Post seemed imminent.

In May, 1749, Arkansas Post became the target of a Chickasaw war party. At the time of the attack, First Ensign Louis Xavier Martin Delino de Chalmette had commanded the post for less than a year. The young soldier, wrote Governor Bienville, "is exact in all his duties, is suitable for any kind of assignment . . . and possesses all the sentiments proper to an officer." [1] At his disposal, the new commandant had only 12 soldiers, the remnant of a 20-man garrison recently reduced by desertion.

Situated about one and one half miles west-north-west of the fort was the French hamlet, residence of the thirty or more French civilians who trapped and traded with the Indians. Most prominent among them was one named Linctot, an old resident with an extensive household including two women, five children, seven slaves, a horse, an ox, four cows, and ten pigs. Guillaume and his wife owned two slaves, four oxen, six cows, and three pigs. De Chalmette lived at the post with his wife and owned three slaves, a yoke of oxen, and four cows. Other inhabitants included Flamant, the post interpreter; La Jeuness, Bourg, Novin, and Paul Mallet, all married men. Several men were absent from the post hunting on the upper Arkansas River. Among them were Carignan, Brindamour, Pertuy, Michel Lalemant, Bourge, Gagnete, Joffrellon, Boye, Des Catteaux, Bontemps, and Paul Mallet's older brother Pierre, known to the post residents as Mallet l'aine.

Normally, the Quapaw Indians proved to be an excellent deterrent to Indian raids. A village at the mouth of the Arkansas River blocked entrance to all who were unfriendly to France. Unfortunately for the post residents, extensive flooding in the Spring of 1748 destroyed the Quapaw fields, forcing the Indians to relocate some fifteen miles above the post. The highway to Arkansas Post lay unprotected.

On the eve of the attack, a superior force of 150 Chickasaw Indians led by the seasoned warrior Payamataha, ascended the Arkansas River. Finding the Quapaw absent from their village, the war party proceeded silently to Arkansas Post. In the darkness of night, Payamataha laid plans for his attack.

At the first light of morning, the screaming warriors fell upon the sleeping French village. In the ensuing skirmish, six men were killed and eight women and children taken captive. During the resulting confusion, the surviving habitants fled to the safety of the fort and alerted the garrison. While the Chickasaw looted and burned the village, De Chalmette placed his men in a state of readiness. Musket barrels bristled from the rickety stockade as the tiny detachment waited in grim-faced silence. Women and children huddled in the safety of the soldiers' barracks. What seemed like an eternity took only moments. In an explosion of activity, 150 painted Indians burst from the forest, and attempted to storm the fort. With nerves of steel, De Chalmette waited until the attackers were within yards of the stockade. At his command, the soldiers greeted the Indians with a volley. A deafening roar filled the air. The smoke cleared and two warriors lay dead on the field. Payamataha had received a serious wound, forcing the Chickasaw to beat a hasty retreat. The raid probably lasted less than one hour. [2]

Although the garrison withstood the Chickasaw attack, the vulnerability of the isolated outpost was painfully evident. With six men murdered and eight women and children carried off into captivity, French officials could no-longer ignore English subversion and the Chickasaw threat. Actually, the raid on Arkansas Post was only one in a series of incidents that locked France and England in a bitter 7-year struggle to control Louisiana.

Indian raid
Figure 13. An Indian raid. In 1749, the Chickasaw attacked Arkansas Post, killing six men and capturing eight women and children. From Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Condition of the North American Indians by George Catllin.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 13-Feb-2006