And, then, there remained a small group of native Indians, all of these people, inhabitants of what they attempted to have: a self-sufficient enterprise. With each succeeding generation, Creoles, who already owned most of the valuable real estate in Louisiana, created businesses that encompassed far-reaching networks of cousins in related occupations and in politics. The Duparcs were a prime example of this, having family and commercial ties from Natchitoches in north Louisiana, on the Red River in central Louisiana, and along the Mississippi River plantation belt, and down into New Orleans.
The Anglo intent was to destroy the Creole estates, carving them into ever smaller pieces and making them more available to American buyers. To thwart this Anglo intrusion, the Creoles responded by forming family partnerships and corporation-like family enterprises. In token of the terms upon which he stood with Bienville, we have the following endorsement by the Governor, in his official report of the French officers employed in Louisiana: "Pontalba has always conducted himself well; is intelligent, good looking, sensible, and attached to his profession.
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Pontalba was stationed in command of the post at the Tunicas — the Baton Rouge post. Pontalba figured in the list of officers who led the attack and made a gallant effort to rally the men under the deadly discharge of the hidden savages. Our chronicle contains a short extract from de Pontalba' s account of the expedition. The whole of it is a valuable addition to our archives, for we have only Bienville's report, or rather defense of it, and d'Artaguette's bitter arraignment, written in indignant grief over the cruel death in it of his young brother.
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Pontalba remained there twenty months, or until his services were needed in Bienville's second expedi- tion against the Chickasaws — the one by the way of the Mississippi. Francis River. He was sent twice into the Illinois country for provi- sions for Fort Assumption, and acquitted himself with such diligence that he accomplished the dis- tance in a space of time so short as to seem incredible to his contemporaries.
When the futile campaign was ended by an un- satisfactory treaty with the Chickasaws, Pontalba came down to the city with the Governor; and two months later he obtained a leave of absence and sailed for France. He remained at the Balize, however, only until Bienville departed from the colony and Vaudreuil arrived and took possession of it.
He at once reappointed de Pontalba to his old post at Pointe Coupee. Pontalba remained at his post of Pointe Couple ten years, serving the King and colony, doubtless with honor and with profit, but also to his own interest, according to gossip. Kerlerec relieved him from his position on account of the gossip, but stated explicitly that he, personally, did not believe it. He died in New Orleans in Joseph Xavier Delfau de Pontalba, the son of the foregoing and the New Orleans de Pontalba, as he may be called, was born in New Orleans in , but taken at a very early age presinnably upon the death of his father to France, where he was educated.
He entered the French Army at Sevres. Louisiana, having become a Spanish possession, his history diverges from it. He was twenty-eight years of age before he returned to his native city. Lucie, Granada. He gained distinction at the siege of Savannah, his conduct being praised in the highest terms in written certificates from his commanders, the Baron Stredink, the Count d'Estaing, and the Marshal de Noaille, on behalf of his son the Count de Noaille, in whose division Pontalba served.
Two years later, he figures as the hero in ''A duel in the army in ," of which elaborate details were collated from official documents by his great-grand- son, the late Baron Edouard de Pontalba Paris, It appears that the young lieutenant, sta- tioned then with his regiment in Martinique, too young, as he acknowledged, to know better, took upon himself to resent an affront which concerned f I li If DE PONTALBA 79 in truth only his superior officer.
In consequence, he was assaulted in the street by the enemy he had made and received three sword thrusts before he could defend himself. Bathed in blood, he was carried to the hospital, where he remained eight months.
On the advice of his friends and to save himself from a civil prosecution, Pontalba sought refuge in Martinique and remained there until his wound healed, returning to his regiment more determined than ever to call his foe to account. De Pontalba was disposed to let the affair rest there, biding his time for revenge until chance should bring him face to face with his opponent. There was no avoiding the issue or the hint conveyed.
De Pontalba obtained a leave for a year and hastened to France where, after diligent search, he found the man he sought and forced him to give satisfaction. A duel in form took place.
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Papers were drawn up and signed by the seconds, attesting the facts; and these, with certificates of what had taken place in Guadeloupe, were submitted to the Count de Genlis, Marquis de Sillery, Captain of the Gardes du Due de Chartres, who was the supreme French authority] at the time in questions of honor. The fine im- posed upon him for his infraction there of the public ] peace was remanded.
He retired from the army with the grade of Captain in , and returned to Louisiana, casting his fortunes in with the Spanish Government. He was given a company in the native regiment of Louisiana, stationed in New Orleans, and later was made Colonel and Commandant of the Regiment des Allemands.
Louise le Breton des Charmeaux des Chappelles came, as the old Creole ladies would say, from far back in Louisiana history.
It may be remembered that, on account of his youth and his very recent marriage, the young man was offered a pardon and his life by the Spanish General, but he refused to abandon his companions and his father-in-law. La Freniere, whose last words were addressed to him. After his marriage Pontalba entered the service of Spain with the grade of Captain.
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Seven years of peaceful, happy life followed, the only important event of which was the birth of a son, Joseph Xavier Celestin de Pontalba The Pontalba family lived on their Indigo planta- tion outside the city facing the river where, following the example of thrift of their neighbors and friends, they drew their daily expenses from the profits of their garden and orchard, sending their filled-up baskets into the city every morning by their ven- deuses. These were selected from their choicest slaves — strong, straight, sturdy young women who could walk miles holding a heaped-up basket on their heads without wavering, and who never failed to bring back the full amount of their sales, keeping their accounts in their heads and their money in kerchiefs tucked in their bosoms.
We shall read later Gayarr6's description of them as he remem- bered them on the Bore plantation. When Miro was recalled to Spain in he left his private affairs to de Pontalba as to a son. In Miro died, and his wife fell into a state of despondency and ill-health so alarming that her niece was summoned to her side. Without hesitation on the part of either husband or wife Madame Pontalba made her preparations to hasten to Spain.
She took with her the little five-year-old son — the apple of his father's eye — although the voyage was fraught with danger. She had never traveled out of the province before and the separa- tion seemed almost that of death. It is to this separation that we owe the prettiest document without doubt in Louisiana historical archives: this is the series of letters, or rather the letter- journal written to her by her husband during nine months, day after day, from the 24th of Feb- ruary, the day of her departure, to the 10th of November, when he announces that he is on the point of leaving and will in three months be reunited to her in Spain.
The picture of perfect marital devotion and a man's virile expression of his gratitude to the woman who for seven years had given him, as , he writes, the enjoyment of the purest earthly bUss, would alone give to the letters a rare and unique j interest and make the reading of them an intellec- ' tual treat; but we are concerned here more in the other interest they offer us of the confidential and frank description of the life he led in his enforced widowhood. The collection as a whole is so perfect in its way that to detach a leaf of it is to pull out a petal from a beautiful flower.
With the exercise of self-restraint, only what was necessary to satisfy natural curiosity has been detached. The personality and the family of the Baron de Carondelet, his wife and his little son, Angelito; his brother, the Abbe, who dies of yellow fever; the card parties at the Government house; the set of intimates who frequented them — all such personalia are new to the historian of Louisiana, and are pre- sented here for the first time in literature. The description of the insidious advance of an epidemic of yellow fever — the first epidemic that came to New Orleans — and, day by day, the tale of its casualties recall to the dwellers in New Orleans only an oft-suffered misfortune, the catastrophic details of which are limited only by what human nature can suffer.
We are told of the house-building for himself and Madame Miro; the buying and selling and hiring out of slaves, with the black cloud in the distance, but ever getting nearer, of a rising of the slaves, spreading from the insurrection and barbarous out- rages of the blacks in St. Domingo; the constant watchfulness of Carondelet to avert a repetition of the same in Louisiana; the secret, gnawing fear of it among the planters, and the consequent panic.
And, as time goes, comes the infiltration of the rumor of a political change in Louisiana; the retrocession of the colony perhaps to France and in the end its probable domination by the United States. The enumeration of it all seems endless.
Not a letter has been omitted without a pang of regret; every one is important. What has perforce been left out has been done so with the hope that some day, by the grace of some divine historical benefaction, all the letters will be published in the full series as de Pontalba wrote them.
The first two weeks give the chronicle only of the days, the weeks of the wife's absence, of the lonely house, the desolate heart, the longing for news of what happens to the vessel.
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Does he talk of his father? Does he want to put his arms round his neck 'tighter, tighter,' to say good-night to him? I did it to divert me from my weariness. I no longer have the passion for gardening that used to furnish all my amusement. I see now that you and our son were the end and aim of all my occupations. If I cared for the flowers it was in order to see your pleasure in gathering them; I really never enjoyed the beauty of my strawberries except when we were together and amusing our- selves with the joy of Tintin in gathering them.
I see them now covered with flowers without taking any interest in them. When I look at them I seem to hear the cries of joy of our little love, and I stand overcome with the saddest of thoughts. Where are you, 77ion amie? Of all ways of passing the time I find it the least insupportable. With Augustin, when he has no hauhng to do, and with Baptiste and Jean, I busy myself working in the garden.
I had forgotten it completely, but on walking through it I saw in it magnificent cabbages, already headed, as fine as any in Europe; lettuce, too, fringed and headed, superb brocoU, and already some httle saucers of strawberries. I gather them myself, sending the handsomest to my Aunt d'Aunoy Made- moiselle d'Estrehan : the rest I share among friends. Just ask my little Tintin what he wants me to do with all these strawberries. There are two big bowls of them a day, large and ripe; ask him if he does not want to come back and let me fill up his little wagon with them.