On The Death of Jean Francois Daspit de Saint-Amand

The following account of the death of Jean Francois Daspit de Saint-Amand is taken from the “History of Louisiana” by Charles Gayarre.  The document was obtained from Jack (John H.) Daspit Jr.


French women and children, the negroes and all the canoes the Natchez had in their possession. Captain de Lassus was sent, by the way of Mobile, to the Choctaws to ascertain whether or not that nation was disposed to side with the French.  Every day there came to New Orleans the alarming report of some traveler being murdered on his way down the Mississippi. On the 8th of January, Father Doutreleau, a Jesuit, who, having been attacked at the mouth of Yazoo River, had received two wounds in the arm and lost three men, reached New Orleans. To prevent the recurrence of such events was extremely desirable and on the 15th, Governor Perier dispatched a bark with twenty white men and six negroes, to carry ammunition to the Illinois settlement, and to pick up on the way, protect and escort to New Orleans, all the French travelers they might meet.

On the 16th, the governor received a piece of intelligence which removed a load of anxieties from his mind. It was, that the Choctaws, to the number of seven hundred warriors, commanded by a French officer named Le Sueur, had marched against the Natchez, and that one hundred and fifty warriors of that nation had set off to throw themselves between the Natchez and the Yazoos, to prevent the former from sending away to the latter any portion of the French prisoners, or of the negroes, as it was reported they would do, if they were attacked.


 The rendezvous-general of the French who were to operate against the Natchez was at the Tunicas, and that expedition was put under the command of Loubois. While the French were still gathering at that spot, it was deemed expedient to send five men to discover what was going on among the Natchez. They ascended the Mississippi in a boat, and landed, says Le Page du Pratz, at nine miles from the Great Village of the Natchez, at the mouth of a small stream on which that village was situated, and which discharged itself into the Mississippi at the foot of a hill, from which a canoe might be spied six miles off. The French scouts  not seen, however, and they felt so secure, that after their having landed, night coming on, they went quietly to sleep, as if they were not in the very lap of danger. The next morning, they breakfasted merrily, and drank so much brandy, that their courage worked itself up to the highest pitch of boldness. Thus, they walked straight toward the Great Village of the Natchez, with out making any attempt at concealment, and they were within  two miles of it, when, on a sudden, yelling Indians started up around them in every direction. The French, instead of crying out that they came with peaceful intentions, and of trying to impress the enemy with that persuasion, presumed to defend themselves against such overwhelming odds; and one of them by the name of Navarre, who had been one of the few that had escaped from the great massacre on the 29th of November, was the first to fire.  The Indians, however appeared disposed to keep altogether on the defensive, and summoned the French to surrender.  But these madmen, throwing themselves into a ravine which presented the appearance of a natural entrenchment, continued their fire, which was at last returned by the Indians.  Navarre was wounded, and became more furious: speaking the language of the Natchez, he taunted them with every sort of opprobrious epithet, and went on fighting until he was killed.


 The four other Frenchmen, who seemed to have been entirely under the influence of Navarre, and who had been fighting also with great courage, surrendered soon as he was dead. They were conducted to the Great Sun, and Mesplais, or Mesplet, an officer of noble birth, of the province of Bearn, in France, who ought to have known how to control the imprudent temerity of such a man as Navarre a mere soldier; destitute of education, was interrogated by the Indian prince. On his being asked what the object of his visit was, Mesplais answered that he had been sent by his chief as the bearer of propositions of peace. "But, observed the Great Sun,  how camest thou to fire at those who merely said to thee to surrender? One of thy companions is killed and thou art wounded, through his and thy own fault.  Is this the conduct of peace-bearers "  Mesplais answered that Navarre had taken too much of the fire-liquor; and begged the Great Sun to remember that, on the death of this man, he, Mesplais, had ordered his companions to lay down their arms.  The Great Sun appeared to be satisfied with this explanation, and ordered them to be released, but to be closely watched.  He then sent for one of the female prisoners, woman by the name of Desnoyers, and said to her: " Write to thy great war-chief, that if he wishes for peace, and desires that all the French prisoners and the negroes be restored to him, he must send me for every one of them so many casks of brandy, so many blankets, muskets, shirts, provisions, etc."  He wanted so many different things, and in such quantity, that it would have been impossible to find in the whole colony what he had the presumption to ask, even if it had been thought to be an act of expediency and of good policy to yield so much to these barbarians.   Desnoyers wrote down what she was told, and availed herself of this opportunity to inform Loubois of the miserable condition in which the French captives were, and of the dangers which threatened them. She did not fail to communicate all she knew about the preparations the Natchez had made for defense, and to impart every other piece of intelligence she thought might be useful to the French.  The Great Sun delivered the letter to one of Mesplais' companions, and ordered him to carry it to the French chief at the Tunicas, and to inform him that if a favorable answer was not sent back in three days, the hostages whom the Natchez had in their possession, would abide the consequences of their anger and disappointment. Eagerly did the French emissary depart on his mission," even without  looking back;" says Le Page du Pratz. So active did he prove himself, that he arrived on that same day at the Tunica, and handed the letter to Loubois, vouchsafed no answer.


 While the Natchez remained in the expectation of answer, they treated their prisoners kindly, but .on the fourth day after the departure of the French emissary, the Great Sun, having given up, all hopes of his return, flew into a violent passion, and sentenced to death the three other Frenchmen.  Two of them, one a common soldier, and the other an officer of education and birth, by the name of St. Amand, were killed instantly, without being exposed to much suffering.  Unfortunately for Mesplais, he had made himself conspicuous in some of the preceding wars of the French against the Natchez, and he had been for the Indians an object of a particular notice, on account of the long flowing hair which curled down on his shoulders, and which made it a very desirable scalp.  They concentrated therefore, the fury of their revenge on such a well-known warrior, and swore they would make him weep like a woman.  He was tied to the celebrated Indian stake, exquisitely tortured during three days and three nights, and died at last, after having exhibited superhuman fortitude,  and without having gratified his  torturers by uttering ...