Journal of Antoine Bonnefoy, containing the circumstances of his captivity among the Cherokee Indians, from his departure from New Orleans in August, 1741, in the pirogue of the Sieur Chauvin dit Joyeuse, of whom he was an engagé, till his arrival among the Allibamous. 

THE convoy destined for the Illinois, composed of three bateaux and . . . pirogues, of the year 1741, was commanded by the Sieur De Villers, officer. The enrolment, including officers and traders, of this convoy was of 28 men in each bateau and eight or nine in each of the pirogues. This convoy set out from New Orleans the 22d of August 1741. The pirogue in which I was, followed the convoy till within sight of the River Ouabache,1 where we arrived the 14th of November, at evening, and passed the night at that place. 

On the 15th the convoy set out again as usual at day break, and our boat went in its usual order till seven o'clock, when the commander caused the bateaux to cross the river and signalled to follow him. The Sieur Marin, voyageur, whose pirogue was in front of us, asked Legras (the Sieur Joyeuse having been sent from the Arkansas to the Illinois by land had given the command of this boat to one Legras) if he was not in favor of continuing on our course without crossing the river. Unwisely, being agreed, we continued on our route in company. An hour after having left the bateaux, we perceived at the entrance to a little bayou, a quarter of a league from the mouth of the Wabash, a number of pirogues tied to the shore. We examined their appearance and took them for Illinois and Missouris. The savages from these pirogues, who were on the land and of whom we did not perceive a single one, had disembarked 20 fathoms above their boats. The pirogue of the Sieur Marin, which we had formerly followed, was at this time behind ours. There were eight men of us in each. Under these circumstances, and under the impression that the savages were Illinois or Missouris, we came around the bayou and the boats, up to the place of ambush, where a first discharge of muskets from the savages instantly killed our skipper and two of our oarsmen, and wounded two men in the other boat, which, being behind, had time to make off and was saved. The savages directed so heavy a fire upon our boat that we were obliged to lie down flat, to escape certain death. Immediately 20 of these savages got into their boats to hasten after the pirogue of the Sieur Marin, who escaped from them. 

A moment afterward, these same pirogues came and surrounded us, The shore was lined with the other savages, who were aiming at us. The surprise, and the death of our skipper and of two of our oarsmen, having put us out of condition to defend ourselves, we surrendered at discretion, to the number of four Frenchmen and one negro, and were seized, each by one of the savages, who made him his slave. Brought to the land, we were tied separately, each with a slave's collar around the neck and the arms merely, without however depriving us of freedom to eat and to pergailler when in the sequel we were ordered to do so. 

This action took place in sight of the bateaux, which had become distant only to the extent of the breadth of the river. The commander contented himself with hoisting his flag on his bateau, without giving us any aid. We however remained all day in the same place. The savages who had taken possession of us proved to be Cherakis,2 instead of Chicachas3 as we had thought at the time of the firing. The convoy entertained the same opinion, following the information given them at New Orleans. 

When we had been bound with these collars the savages, having found in our boat what had been intended for our breakfast, brought it to us to eat, and gave us to understand by signs that no harm should come to us, and that we should be even as themselves. They then unloaded our boat, and distributed the goods equally among the 80 men of the party, with the exception of the iron and three kegs of rum, which they left in the boat, having filled all their kettles and even three barrels in which the powder had been after having divided up the latter. I observed that these savages were careful not to spoil the goods they could not take away. They passed the day of the 15th in packing their merchandise, till night, when they embarked in 22 boats, with two, three, four, or five men in each according to its size. My companions in misfortune, and I, followed our masters, bound in the manner I have described. The party took up its course, paddling without making the least noise, along the River Ouabache4 till six o'clock the next morning, then rested about two hours, during which time they broiled some meat they had found in our pirogue when we were captured. They gave us (as they always did) a portion equal to theirs, after which they resumed their paddles, and gave us each one, after having made us each drink, as with the first meal, the evening before, a cup of rum. I bathed a wound I had received in the knee, from a musket-shot in that first discharge; after which I was not further troubled by it. It was not so with the negro, whose wounds began from that day to become worse. We embarked again, as I have just said, and continued down the Ouabache5 to the River of the Cherakis,6 which leads up to the village of those savages and falls into the former river thirteen leagues from its junction with the River St. Louis or Missipi. When evening had come the savages landed at the mouth of the river, and passed the night there, and made stocks to keep us in safety. In these my three comrades were set, who were: Joseph Rivard, son of the Sieur Rivard of Bayou St. Jean,7 Pierre Coussot, son of Coussot the pilot at the Belaxy8 in 1719, Guillaume Potier, half-breed, son of Potier, habitant of the Illinois, and Legras's negro. The savage to whom I belonged did not wish that I should be put in the stocks. The next day we entered into their river, which they did not leave till the third of February, marching and hunting on alternate days, till we were four days by land from their first village. 

The 20th of December my savage took off my slave's collar. Rivard and Potier kept theirs a fortnight, and Coussot a month. They were not put in the stocks except the first four days, and then only during the night. At the beginning of January we were adopted by men of prominence in the party. I was adopted as brother by a savage who bought me of my master, which he did by promising him a quantity of merchandise, and giving me what at that time I needed, such as bed-coverings, shirts, and mittens, and from that time I had the same treatment as himself. My companions were adopted by other savages, either as nephews or as cousins, and treated in the same manner by their liberators and all their families.

The same day on which my collar was taken off, the negro, whose wounds had grown worse, was set at liberty, and the head man of the party told him to return to the French, but not knowing where to go, he followed the pirogues for two days. On the third, which was the 23rd of December, the savages, tired of seeing him, gave him over to the young people, who killed him and took his scalp.

On January 10 or 11 our party met a troop of savages, Chicachas. They, recognizing each other as friends, negotiated, and made several exchanges of merchandise and slaves, smoked together, and prepared to continue on their routes as we had begun. In the course of this river, which I estimate as 450 leagues from the Ouabache to the first village of our savages, there are three waterfalls. The first is situated about half way up. The portage is about one-quarter of a league. The second is eight days' journey further up. The portage amounts to a good league. At this place the river is two leagues broad, and rolls its waters like a cascade, a league long, in the shape of a hill, like that of the portage which we were obliged to make. The third, at which we arrived on the first of February, has a portage of only about 100 paces. The river at this place is extremely rapid, and generally is so, more and more, from this uppermost fall to the place where we left it, February 3, to make the rest of our journey by land. The savage who had adopted me gave me, before setting out upon the march, a gun, some powder, and some bullets. The pirogues having been unloaded, each savage carried, as well as ourselves, his pack of booty. We immediately set out on the march, and on the seventh arrived in sight of the first village, which was called Chateauké and Talekoa,9 which are two different councils, though the cabins are mingled together indistinguishably. At the first sight of our savages, all the men ran out to the place where we then were, for the ceremony customary among this nation. Our clothes were taken off, and a stock was made for each of us, without, however, putting us in it; they merely put on us our slave's collar. Then the savages, putting in each one's hand a white stick and a rattle, told us that we must sing, which we did for the space of more than three hours, at different times, singing both French and Indian songs, after which they gave us to eat of all that the women had brought from the village, bread of different sorts, sagamité (corn porridge), buffalo meat, bear meat, rabbit, sweet potatoes, and graumons.10 We passed the night at this place. The next day, February 8, in the morning, the savages having mataché themselves according to their custom, matacherent our whole bodies, having left us nothing but our breeches, made the entry into their village in the order of a troop of infantry, marching four in each rank, half of them in front of us, who were placed two and two after being tied together, and having our collars dragging. The rest of the savages made the rear guard in the order of the prisoners (?). They made us march in this order, singing, and having, as we had had the evening before, a white stick and a rattle in our hands, to the chief square of the village and march three or four times around a great tree which is in the middle of that place. Then they buried at the foot of the tree a parcel of hair from each one of us, which the savages had preserved for that purpose from the time when they cut our hair off. After this march was finished they brought us into the council-house, where we were each obliged to sing four songs. Then the savages who had adopted us came and took away our collars. I followed my adopted brother who, on entering into his cabin, washed me, then, after he had told me that the way was free before me, I ate with him, and there I remained two months, dressed and treated like himself, without other occupation than to go hunting twice with him. We were absent thirteen days the first time and nine days the last.

At the time when we arrived in the village there were three English traders there, who each had a store-house in the village where I was, and two servants of theirs. There was also a German, who said in French that he was very sorry for the misfortune which had come upon us, but that it would perhaps prove to be our happiness, which he proposed to show us in the sequel. 

I also found in the same village a son of André Crespe and also Jean Arlois of Bordeaux, who both had gone up the river in 1740 in the boat of the Sieur Turpin, who was defeated five leagues from the River Ouabache along with the boat of Liberge and Pettit. The party of Cheraké savages which defeated these boats was 70 men. The same party defeated five Canadian voyageurs in the Ouabache the same year, and killed 25 out of 28, having two men killed and one wounded. The action has been differently related by the three Canadians who escaped. We found also a negro and a negress who formerly belonged to the widow Saussier, and having been sold in 1739 to a Canadian, deserted when on the Ouabache, on their way to Canada, and were captured by a troop of Cheraquis who brought them to the same village where I found them. 

February 12, Rivard and Coussot followed, to a village five leagues from that where I lived, the two savages who had ransomed and adopted them. Cussot deserted from there 15 days after, and was lost six days in the woods, into which he had retreated because of a panic he had at the village where he was, and to which he did not return again. 

The savage who adopts a captive promises a quantity of merchandise to the one to whom he belongs at the moment when he buys him. This merchandise is collected from all the family of the one who makes the purchase, and is delivered in an assembly of all the relatives, each one of whom brings what he is to give and delivers it, piece by piece, to him who sold the slave, and at the receipt of each piece he makes the rounds of the assembly, constantly carrying what has been given to him, it being forbidden to lay down any piece on the ground, for then it would belong to whoever touched it first. The collection of my ranson was made on the 9th and 10th and the ceremony on the 11th.11

The 13th, the ceremony of our enfranchisement having been made on the preceding day, I had occasion to ask the German, who was called Pierre Albert, who had accosted us on the day of our arrival, and who was lodging in the cabin of my adopted brother, what he wished me to understand. I prayed him to explain to me what was this alleged happiness which he promised us. Guillaume Potier and Jean Arlut were present. He replied that it would take time to explain to us what he had to say to us, addressing himself to all three; that he thought we ought to join his society; that he would admit us to an establishment, in France, of a republic, for which he had been working for twenty years; that the form of the government should be that of a general society of those composing it, in which, beyond the fact that legality should be perfectly observed, as well as liberty, each would find what he needed, whether for subsistence, or the other needs of life; that each should contribute to the good of the society, as he could. I told him, as did my two comrades, that we were disposed to join him as soon as he should have shown us some security respecting his establishment.

The next day we got together again and I began to ask him where he had learned French, which he spoke quite fluently. He told me that, being of a good family, he had been instructed in all that a man ought to know; that after having completed his studies, he had learned English and French; that he spoke these two languages with a little difficulty so far as the pronunciation was concerned, but that he wrote German, Latin, English and French with equal correctness; that for twenty years he had been working to put into execution the plan about which he had talked to us; that seven or eight years before he had been obliged to flee from his country, where they wished to arrest him for having desired to put his project into execution; that he had gone over to England, and from there to Carolina, and had also been obliged to depart thence for the same reason, 18 months after having arrived there; that having found among the Cherakis a sure refuge he had been working there for four years upon the establishment which he had been planning for twenty; that the Governor of Carolina having discovered the place of his retreat had sent a commissioner to demand him of the savages there, but that then he was adopted into the nation, and that the savages, rejecting the presents of the English, had refused to give him up; that he had 100 English traders belonging to his society who had just set out for Carolina, whence they were to return the next autumn, after having got together a considerable number of recruits, men and women, of all conditions and occupations, and the things necessary for laying the first foundations of his republic, under the name of the Kingdom of Paradise; that then he would buy us from the savages, of whom a large number were already instructed in the form of his republic and determined to join it; that the nation in general urged him to establish himself upon their lands, but that he was determined to locate himself half way between them and the Alibamons,12 where the lands appeared to him of better quality than those of the Cherakis, and there he would be disposed to open a trade with the English and French; that in his republic there would be no superiority; that all should be equal there; that he would take the superintendence of it only for the honor of establishing it; that otherwise his condition would not be different from that of the others; that the lodging, furniture and clothing should be equal and uniform as well as the life; that all goods should be held in common, and that each should work according to his talents for the good of the republic; that the women should live there with the same freedom as the men; that there should be no marriage contract, and that they should be free to change husbands every day; that the children who should be born should belong to the republic, and be cared for and instructed in all things that their genius might be capable of acquiring; that the law of nature should be established for the sole law, and that transgressions should be punished by their contrast, as in the case of the taillon.13

Note. The individual was to have as his only property a chest of books and paper and ink.14

My comrades and I planned our flight, and agreed together to feign enthusiasm for the execution of the project of Pierre Albert, who had the confidence of the savages, and they left us at liberty with him. I noticed even, on different occasions, that he urged them to live peaceably and to ask peace from the French. The savage with whom I lived, who was one of the principal men of the nation, and the other chiefs, sometimes asked me in what manner they could appease the French and bring them to their place to trade. I told them that it would be necessary for them to send a calumet of peace to the nearest post; that I supposed that would be the post of the Alibamons.15 They told me that they had already been there, but that they feared the savages of those regions,16 with whom they were not on good terms; that they did not wish to have any new war - in this entering into the peaceful spirit of Pierre Albert. 

I told them, with regard to the trade into which they wished to bring the French, that our Limbourgs17 and guns, being better than those of the English, would cost them twice as many furs as they now paid, but at the same time our merchandise was much more durable; that a pound of our powder had twice as much effect as a pound of the English. This they seemed quite to understand. They even had in mind to send a calumet of peace at the time when I escaped. 

Note. They know inches and measures and have steel yards which Pierre has made them.18 

While Pierre Albert and I were working toward peace the three English traders were daily instigating the savages to continue to make war upon us. They were themselves working to enlist parties; which I saw them doing some days before my flight. After having had their drum beaten by one of their negroes who was a drummer, and enlisted 70 men, they distributed among them, from their storehouses, the munitions necessary for going to the Ouatamons,19 as well against the savages as against the voyageurs of Canada. Of the 52 villages which compose the nation of the Cherakis, only the eight which are along the river are our enemies. The other villages remain neutral, either because of their remoteness or their spirit of peace. Carolina is 15 days' journey by land from the village where I was, Virginia 20, and the Alibamonts 10 to the south, reckoning to the first village, Conchasbekas,20 which is three days' journey from the French Fort Toulouse. 

A fortnight after we had arrived among the Cherakis I saw in the village where I was 15 Natchés, four of whom came into our cabin. They told me that they were going hunting among the Chicachas, to seek 15 of their men who were still there; that on their return they were to have a village of 75 men. I asked them if there were still some among the Ouyachitas. They told me that those who had been there were almost all taken captive, but that the rest had rejoined them. 

The 29th of April a day on which the savages had given themselves up to a debauch, was that which we chose for our escape. We had got together a sufficient amount of ammunition. We went out from the village at nine o'clock in the evening. Jean Arlas had his gun. Coussot was not armed, not having been able to take his from the cabin where he was. Guillaume Potier, who was in our plot, having got drunk with the savages, was not in condition to go with us, and we could not wait longer for him without risk of being discovered. We marched until daylight, going to find two pirogues that were in a little river six leagues from the village. In one of these we embarked, but were obliged to abandon it after an hour and a half of progress. We found the river barred by a great tree which did not leave enough space to send the boat under it, but on the other hand, was too high, and the boat too heavy, to admit of passing it over, which we made many ineffectual attempts to do. In this extremity we were obliged to take a false course on the 30th of April and 1st and 2nd of May to the north and northwest, and found ourselves at evening on the banks of the river, which we crossed. We put ourselves ten leagues from the village, and continued our false route in the same direction on the 3d, 4th and 5th. It was now five days that we had fasted, not having dared to shoot. We killed a calf and the next day a cow. We rested on the 6th and 7th, when, after having held a little council on the course we ought to take for our safety, I was determined   that we should make our march along the river, where we planned to make a raft to take us to the place where the savages had left their boats when they carried us into slavery. Our plan was to take ourselves to the Illinois by the same route on which they had taken us. We arrived on the 11th on the banks of the river, made a raft of canes, upon which we loaded our meat and our ammunition, which we lashed to the raft in the same parcel with Jean Arlas's gun, keeping mine for need. We proceeded seven or eight leagues further north than we had been, had passed the place where the pirogues were, and were surprised to find ourselves at the first waterfall. We struggled to get to the shore, and reached a great tree which was six fathoms from the bank. Our raft fell foul of it. All the forward part sunk about six feet. Arlas and Coussot, who were on the forward part, cast their arms about the tree. Then the raft raised and freed itself, and carried me along without my being able to stop it and passed the fall without breaking up. The current was so great that, though I was near the land, it was impossible for me to stop the raft until a league and a half below, where I expected my comrades would come and find me. I fired several shots to let them know where I was during the three days that I remained there waiting for them, without result. This made me think that they were lost. My gun, my powder horn, and my pouch were lost with my comrades, but I recovered the gun of Arlas with our ammunition, and a little meat upon which I lived for four days. On the 15th, not having seen any mark or heard any signal on the part of my comrades, I pushed off, and went down stream for two days and a half. On the third day, which was the 17th of the month, I landed on the side of the Alibamons, and took my way southward over a hilly country for nine days and a half. On the 27th of May I arrived at the first Alibamon village, Conchabaka, by a beaten path which I encountered on the seventh day of my march, which led me to the end of the river of the Allibamons, on the other side of which is the Indian village, which, however, I could not see. I fired my gun three times at a venture, and the savages replied, firing one. Immediately after I perceived many people on the bank of the stream, several men to whom I signalled to come and bring me over the river. They questioned me much, taking me for an enemy, and fearing that I had come to lay a snare for them and to take from them some scalps, as had happened to them a short time before. I spoke to them in French and in Mobillian, which, after two hours of questions, caused them to make up their minds who I might be and where I came from. One of these savages crossed up above me without my seeing him, and after having discovered me and seen that I was alone and a Frenchman, he took me across to his village. They gave me to eat, which I did with avidity, for I had fasted five days, my gun having failed me at need every time that I had occasion to use it. 

After I had eaten, the savage, in whose house I was, took me into the council house. When I was there a council was held respecting me, though I did not know it. All the people of the village having taken their arms surrounded the cabin. The chief of the village was absent, and it was proposed to give me to the English. There were then in that village six Englishmen from Carolina and a detachment of about 15 Chicachas who were there to escort the English to their village. The English and the Chicachas wished to prove to the Conchabekas that it was for their interest to give me up to the English. The greater part of the village were of that opinion, but he who brought me over opposed it in such way that he prevailed, saying that I belonged to him; that none of them had been brave enough to go and seek me when I called them; he would dispose of me, and would take me, as I had requested him, to the chief of the French among the Alibamons, whose friend he wished to be. During the time that I was in the council-house, the English came and gave me their hands, inquiring in the Chicachas language respecting my adventures, and how I had been able to come where I was. I told them in the Mobilian language, which they understood, that having been taken by the Cherakis in December, I had escaped from their villages a month before, and that I had been compelled, after having lost my two comrades, who had escaped with me, to take my flight in the direction of the Alibamons, being no longer in a state to proceed to the Illinois, as had been our first plan. They took me to their store-houses, where they gave me to eat, and wished to engage me to follow them to Carolina, which I refused to do, and returned to the cabin of my savage. Then the 15 Chicachas came to see me, and asked me the same questions as the English had just asked. They then asked why the French did not give them peace, saying that the Chactas21 vexed them continually. To all this I replied that they ought not to expect peace until they had driven the English from their villages; that moreover it could not be true that they wished peace, since they struck at us every day. They assured me that with the exception of a party of young people, which had acted contrary to the consent of the nation, the last year at Pointe Coupée,22 they were a people who had struck no blow; that I could see clearly that those which had been ascribed to them had been inflicted by the Cherakis. I told them that in that case it would be necessary to make known to the Great French Chief the dispositions which they wished me to understand that their nation entertained: First, by driving out all Englishmen, and secondly by settling the Natchéz in the environs of the Riviére à Margot upon the Missisipy, and breaking forever with the English, because as long as they received them they would engage the Indians always in some enterprise against us. To this they agreed. I smoked with them the same day, and the next, which was the 28th of May. 

The 29th, in the morning, I set out upon the march, escorted by two savages, to go to the post of the French, where I arrived on the first of June, which was the last day of my captivity. Monsieur Derneville, captain, commanded at this post, who, though I had served under him not long before my journey, did not recognize me until after I had been named to him, so much was I disfigured.

He gave a present to the savages who had served me so well, and I told him the adventures of my journey, as stated in the present journal.

Source: Travels in the American Colonies

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