July 16 – Founder of Louisiana

July 15, 2019

Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville

Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville 1661-1706, founder of Louisiana.

Founder of the colony of Louisiana, b. at Villemarie, Montreal, 16 July, 1661; d. at Havana, 9 July, 1706. He was the third son of Charles Le Moyne, a native of Dieppe Sieur de Longueuil in Canada, and of Catharine Primot. Several of his brothers distinguished themselves greatly as explorers and sailors, viz., the Sieurs de Longueuil, Sainte-Helene, Maricourt, Serigny, Chateauguay, and Bienville. Iberville became a sailor at an early age and served as a volunteer under the Chevalier de Troyes in Hudson Bay. In 1686 he began a brilliant career as soldier and sailor, and took part in many expeditions against the English. In an attack against Fort Rupert, with his brother Maricourt and nine men in two bark canoes, he captured an English ship with fifteen men and the governor of Hudson Bay. In 1694 he took Fort Nelson in Hudson Bay, which he named Bourbon, and in 1696 Fort Pemaquid in Maine. In 1696 also he captured all the English settlements on the coast of Newfoundland, and in 1697 he led an expedition against the English on Hudson Bay. He had a squadron of four ships and a brigantine and commanded the “Pelican” (50 cannon). Separated by ice from his ships Iberville, on 5 Sept., 1697, attacked alone three English ships, sank the “Hampshire” (56 cannon), captured the “Hudson Bay” (32 cannon) and put to flight the “Derring” (36 cannon). He lost his ship and his prize near the mouth of the St. Teresa River, but on the arrival of three ships of his squadron he captured Fort Nelson (Bourbon).

Charles le Moyne de Longueuil et de Châteauguay forms part of Maisonneuve Monument. Picture taken by Jean Gagnon.

Iberville sailed for France in November, 1697, and was chosen by the Minister of Marine to lead an expedition to rediscover the mouth of the Mississippi River, and to colonize Louisiana, which the English coveted. Iberville’s fleet sailed from Brest on 24 October, 1698. It consisted of two small frigates, the “Badine,” commanded by Iberville himself, and the “Marin,” and two store-ships. At Santo Domingo the warship “Francois” joined the expedition and accompanied it to its destination. On 25 January, 1699, Iberville reached Santa Rosa Island in front of Pensacola, founded by the Spaniards; he sailed from there to Mobile Bay and explored Massacre Island, later Dauphine. He cast anchor between Cat Island and Ship Island, and on 13 Feb., 1699, he went to the mainland, Biloxi, with his brother Bienville.

Drawing of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, on his ship the Pelican facing three British ships in Hudson Bay in September 1697. First Intercolonial War in North America.

On 27 February he set out with two rowboats, two birch canoes and forty-eight men in search of the mouth of the Mississippi, which he discovered on 2 March, 1699. He sailed up as far as the mouth of Red River and returned to his ships through Bayou Ascantia and two lakes, which he named Maurepas and Pontchartrain. On 1 May, 1699, he completed a fort on the north-east side of the Bay of Biloxi, a little to the rear of what is now Ocean Springs. This fort was called Maurepas or Old Biloxi. On 4 May, 1699, Iberville sailed for France with the “Badine” and the “Marin,” leaving Sauvole in command of the infant colony. He returned on 8 Dec., 1699, went up the Mississippi as far as Natchez, and ordered a fort to be built fifty-four miles from the mouth of the river, which was abandoned in 1705. On 28 May, 1700, Iberville returned to France, and came back to Louisiana on 18 Dec., 1701. He remained in the colony until 27 April, 1702, and sent Bienville to found Fort Louis of Mobile on Mobile River, 16 Jan., 1702. In 1706 Iberville captured the island of Nevis from the English, and went to Havana to obtain reinforcements from the Spaniards for an attack on the Carolinas. He died at Havana of yellow fever. He was capitaine de vaisseau in the French navy and was said to have been as “military as his sword.” He was an able sailor, soldier, explorer, and colonizer.

JODOIN AND VINCENT, Histoire de Longueil et de la Famille de Longueuil (Montreal, 1889); Journal of Iberville in MARGRY, Origines Francaises des Pays d’Outremer (Paris, 1881), IV; FORTIER, History of Louisiana (New York, 1904), I.

Alcée Fortier (Catholic Encyclopedia)

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