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The greatest order and unity reigned in the colony. We followed the civil and military regulations in force in France. We think we should insert here the Proclamation that General Lallemand put into effect some days after our arrival. It will make known our aims and the principles of conduct which animated us.
Work was done with the greatest punctuality, and discipline rigorously adhered to, obedience and subordination constituting the foundation of our society.
One spirit animated us all, and held us to the same objective: the prosperity of the colony, its growth and general security, and the well-being of each individual in it. There was no jealousy, no unworthy ambition among us; corrupting luxury did not tempt us. Our arms were our jewels; our land, homes, and gardens our wealth. The fruits the earth gave us and our farming instruments were all means of diversion. Everything was shared amongst us; and if sickness happened to strike down one of our brothers, he was given the promptest relief that solicitude, attention, and aid could afford. Interchange of sympathy, reciprocity of delicate actions, proofs of friendship, interest, and attachment strengthened moment by moment the bonds binding us to each other. Such, in general, are all early societies. Why are they not still in their dawn? Cruel dissentions, children of passion, would not come to trouble their peace and harmony. We were living on a new soil, and we seemed, so to speak, to enjoy the same advantages. The air we breathed was purer, it affected our vitals, it reacted on us for good: corruption and such ideas as one finds in great societies in the heart of cities left us; and, like nature which presented itself to our eyes, we felt ourselves without the vices and mistakes that affect humanity and constitute man's misfortune. It was common needs that drew us together; and the work which we were obliged to do did not allow us to give ourselves up to other thoughts. I think, rather I am certain, that idleness is the greatest of scourges, and I recognize that a hard-working people whose principal source of wealth is industry is less liable than any other to suffer a breakdown of morals; that it counts among its members more good fathers and good citizens, virtuous sons, and friends of humanity than those societies which are gorged with gold, whose delight is luxury. It is this sinister metal which gives birth to crimes, and we had brought none to Texas.
Our colony was composed of four hundred individuals of various nations. I include in the cohorts that I append only Frenchmen and a few high Spanish officers who were members of the colony until our departure.
We enjoyed the greatest tranquillity; deep peace surrounded us, calm and satisfaction reigned in all hearts; our camp was sacred ground where the golden age was to be born again.
It was there that we spent our days; it was within that enclosure that we gave ourselves up to the fondest hopes. They showed us the happiest future. The land enriched through our effort was soon covered with the most bountiful harvests; we tasted in advance the joys that one experiences when it can be said that everything before us is our work, the fruit of our labor and our steadfastness. Our imagination carried us back to our country, and we said with a certain pride, that when France has learned that her sons have made a settlement on unknown shores, where, one might say, no man's footprint had been left, she will be proud, proud of what we shall have done to stay adversity and defeat the harshness of Fate. She will recognize that no aspect of glory is foreign to us, and that these same men, who have distinguished themselves on the Champ de Mars and gathered there unnumbered laurels can also distinguish themselves by their industry. Commerce opened its resources to us; ships of the different nations plowing the waves of the Gulf would call at Champ d'Asile, bringing the products of Europe to exchange for those of Texas; and the French flag would wave in peace in the harbor of a new colony, next to that of nations that formerly were our rivals but will no longer feel anything but friendliness. Such were the thoughts which occupied our minds during our labors, and which we exchanged during moments of repose.
We thought ourselves safe from all reverses of Fortune, from all the blows of Fate. We were now inhabitants of a country whose concession had been made to us by a friendly people, who, like us, had passed through every hardship, whose cradle of liberty had been encompassed with misfortune, and who each day saw its wealth and power increase, thanks to that cherished liberty, wise and tempered, whose fountain-head was in their laws and their strict observance. We could but believe that under the same sky, in the same climate, in taking as a model in everything the people who gave us hospitality, the same blessing would attend us.
But our first steps in the new career which we were to pursue were destined to be uncertain ones. Our first efforts in agriculture left much to be desired. Still novices, and living in a climate where the products of the soil and the methods of cultivation were different from those of our native country, we needed to be guided and instructed. The experience we might acquire by working was our only guide, and we our own teacher in this, the first of the arts, with which Cincinnatus and other men whose names history has handed down to us, occupied themselves after having gloriously served their countries.
We do not pretend to compare ourselves to those benefactors of mankind, to those heroes, to those citizen-warriors who, after the gods, worshipped only their country; but, without claiming to approach them, we were permitted to tread, though at a distance, in their footsteps. Our readers will see that we did not wish to give umbrage to anyone. Our plans, our desires, did not extend beyond the confines of our camp; it was our universe. Fishing and hunting were our favorite occupations when we wished to find diversion from other work. Living peacefully on the banks of the Trinity, we went with a treacherous hook, to try to beguile the waterfolk in their deep caves. The fish that we took oftenest was the coadfish; we could also supply ourselves with turtles---they were numerous there---very large, some of them weighed as much as two hundred pounds.
There were also many alligators, or crocodiles, in the Trinity River, and gars, fifteen to sixteen feet long and two to three feet broad, of which we caught a great many. They have jaws armed with teeth like our pike, but were of enormous size. Their skin was as thick and strong as a coat of mail. It was, as can be seen, dangerous to bathe in this river.
The country was surrounded by numerous lakes, and in them we angled for all kinds of fish, such as are found in the rivers of Europe. Hunting, which was a much more active occupation, led us in pursuit of bear, roe-buck, deer and other animals. The hides of the former covered our beds and the flesh of the latter provided us with healthful and agreeable food. We were much like pastoral people in the first ages of the world, and the success of our hunting and fishing constituted the burden of our talk. Several among us were very skillful, being acquainted with all the tricks of the trade while we taught to the less experienced. When we did not succeed in getting the four-footed beasts or the birds of the air with our deadly lead, we set traps for them, and it was an additional delight to us, when, our appetites whetted by an unsuccessful shot, we would find them caught in our traps.
In the center of the camps where we lived, we were accustomed at times to disport ourselves in those games which tended to develop muscular strength, agility, and suppleness and skill of the body. The echoes of Texas resounded also with our songs; love and glory were celebrated; and the God of Wine-that conqueror of the Indies-was not forgotten.
It would seem I had lost my national character if I did not render homage to the ladies who had followed our fortunes and were the ornament of our society and the charm of the colony, who won the respect and admiration of all of us by those precious qualities so peculiarly their own. Good, kind, and sensible, attentive to everyone, conferring those delicate attentions of which women alone are capable, they ministered to the sick, and the sweet tones of their enchanting voices soothed the pain of the stricken. The remedies they offered, prepared by their own hands, seemed to acquire an added efficacy, a more precious quality, and thus to hasten recovery. In ages past, in times when mythology and its brilliant dreams charmed the Greeks, they would have been called dryads, hamadryads, nymphs. In our day they were ministering angels, virtuous women---in short, French women; and this word is the synonym of amiability, grace, talent, and all that can please and delight. Mademoiselle Rigaud was notable for her tender attachment to her father; she was a model of piety and filial love. One could not set eyes on her without finding himself better, without feeling the desire to be like her, without resolving to imitate her.
These ladies took part in our games and in our meetings which they ornamented; they came to visit us while we were at work; they applauded our success, our efforts, our perseverance. We were content with having won a word of praise and approval. We gave them flowers which we cultivated with care, that we might frequently renew these offerings. There were also several children among the colonists; and their careless joy gave variety to the picture. All the colonists cherished them, having an affection for them which was similar to the respect and deference accorded the ladies. Not one word was said which might have offended the most sensitive ear; a careless expression was frowned upon and forbidden to the language of the colony; and, while the ladies were present, nothing disturbed the charm and peace of our meetings. We imposed this rule upon ourselves, each individual voluntarily. Such is the Frenchman; it can be said without fear of contradiction that he has a good disposition and a kind nature, and that there is no good that. he is not capable of, for he has only to follow the impulses of his heart.
Each one of us hastened to offer his services in beautifying or adding some new comfort to the dwellings of these ladies: one would work the garden, pull up the weeds, water the plants; another would tie up a flower whose stem was bent to the ground and destroy the insects on its petals. A smile, a word of thanks, a kind look was the reward for this slight service, and we were happy. Love, that sentiment which engenders in us a feeling Frenchmen adore, did not trouble us: if we did not know its pleasure, we were also strangers to its pains. We had, however, under our gaze two members of our colony whom the truest and sincerest love bound together in the tenderest ties. They loved each other to idolatry. All the colonists regarded them with an envying eye, but without jealousy. Who would not have longed to enjoy such fortune?
Nature seemed to have formed them for each other. What woman could be compared to the good, the sensible Adrienne? Where could be found her grace, her charm, her wit, this perfect union of gifts? What man would not have liked to resemble Edward? The most noble exterior was the least of his good qualities: brave, generous, frank, loyal, a faithful friend, he loved his country and his brothers as much as he adored Adrienne. They lived together in the most beautiful union; all was happiness for them; they shared their pains and their pleasures, thus lightening the first, and sweetening the second. Happy lovers, I shall devote several pages of this work to a story of your love. You gave me your friendship. How many times was my heart moved at seeing the happy concord which reigned between you, which no cloud ever overshadowed! Adrienne, you whose name I cannot pronounce without experiencing the sweetest emotion! How many charming and loving women could be made up of the rare and precious qualities you combined in one rare creation. Shall I draw this picture? No, I shall only sketch it, and I am certain, thanks to the subject, that it will interest my readers.
At peace for the present, possessing almost everything necessary to our first needs, we saw the future in the most smiling light. After having made sure of our safety, we were about to break the ground, furrow the still virgin soil with the share and the plow, and confine to its bosom those nourishing seeds which in bountiful harvests would soon give us back a hundred fold that which we had confided to it---here a field of wheat, or barley, or corn; there the nourishing and useful potato and those other precious foods which were to keep us from hunger and famine. Alas! As we were cherishing these rosy hopes, we little thought that the dread scourge of famine with all its horrors was, hovering over our heads about to strike us! sdct
The colony, as one sees, could but become more and more prosperous, for the Indian tribes which adjoined us felt that they had nothing to fear from us and asked only to live on good terms with us, sending a deputation to offer us the Peace Pipe and pay their respects to General Lallemand. We received them heartily and our frankness and sincerity, that open-handed manner which characterizes the French, won their affection. A certain sympathy had at the first drawn us together, and the sincerest and truest attachment soon united us. You French, who will read this, imperfect as it is, will be moved by this touching picture of fraternity. The Chactas, the Cochatis, the Alabamos, the Dankaves were those who contracted alliances with us. These kind Indians admired our arms, of whose terrible use they were ignorant, not suspecting that their bows and arrows and tomahawks, were powerless against the flaming salt-petre and the dread bayonnette which were always victorious in the hands of the French. They found some similarity between our dwellings and their wigwams, and we could see that they spoke of this among themselves.
They gave us presents, in return for which we presented them with certain trifles to which they seemed to attach considerable value. They left, after having assured us of their friendliness, with demonstrations which were the more to be prized because of their sincerity, for they smacked not at all of Europe with its falseness and clap-trap.
We thought, naturally enough, from this, that being on peaceful terms with the natives, we would have nothing to fear from the Europeans, who like us, were living in this region without any other property title.
How great was our error! For soon we learned that the Spanish garrisons of San Antonio, La Badie, La Bahia and La Bexar, with several partisan Indian tribes, were marching against us for the purpose of forcing us to abandon the province of Texas, as well as Champ d'Asile and Galveston Island. Although we were not numerous, we were accustomed to fight and to count our enemies after defeating them. Our first impulse was to await them firmly and punish them for their boldness. But more mature consideration tempered the first impulse of outraged courage, and our General pointed out the fact that our provisions might give out; and that after we had beaten the advance bands reinforcements would certainly come up to besiege our camp, reducing us to surrender or starvation. He counseled that the wisest and most prudent step would be to vacate Champ d' Asile and fall back upon Galveston, the only place where we could secure provisions because there we maintained communication by sea.
We all agreed with our General, whose wisdom and caution we had proved. We transported our provisions, supplies, and baggage to the boats which rode at anchor in the Trinity, and, after having bade adieu to our dwellings and to this Champ d' Asile where we had scarcely had time to establish our fireside gods, we embarked on the Trinity, whose current soon carried us into Galveston Bay.
Our retirement was accomplished in absolute order without confusion or accident. One negro alone was drowned in spite of every effort to save him, carried away by the current. We also had Mr. Lejeune to regret, a naval officer, who was sent to Galveston three days before our departure to make necessary preparations for our arrival, and who had the misfortune to be drowned. This young sailor was remarkable for his earnestness, his activity and his personal qualities, and his loss was keenly felt by all the colonists, who missed him greatly. sdct
We had a fortunate sail on the Trinity, arriving at Galveston where debarkation was soon accomplished. The camp we formerly occupied having been burned, we hurried to lay out another and were soon established in it. In order to insure ourselves against the assaults of those who might again wish to harass us, we upon them. Having taken these preliminary steps, we thought of consolidating the establishment until such time as we should reach a final decision as to the fate of the colony, or until we should go to a place from which we would not again be forced to retire.
The Spanish and the Indians would most certainly not have been able to force us to leave Champ d'Asile and Galveston Island if we had not been reduced to the direst want, and abandoned, so to speak, by the whole universe. Our arms threw up entrenchments, and placed our artillery and, what is more, our courage would have furnishedus the means of annihilating these insolent trouble-hunters. They would have learned that the French established in the New World were of that same stock which won laurels in every country of Europe. But let us not go too fast.
Security reigned among us, and if we did not have an actual abundance, neither did we fear want, and each man devoted himself to his own occupations, and performed his service, hunting or fishing. The days sped by, one much like the other.
Suddenly a sinister cry was heard---precursor of misfortune. The provisions were giving out; and the terrible truth of this alarm was too easily verified. Although our rations were reduced, we did not lose heart. Help was promised us; and we knew that a merchant had agreed to secure supplies for us. This consoling thought sweetened the bitterness of our privations and made them more bearable. Until such time as these promises should be kept, the General-in-Charge, whose strength and courage seemed to increase in proportion as our resources diminished, imbued every one with a confidence and hopes which he could not himself have, for we were now, each man, receiving only two biscuits .and a small glass of eaude vin. Thus a month went by. All of us suffered more or less, and the work did not go on with the same industry. Although happiness did not reign in our colony there were, nevertheless, occasional flashes of it. Not a murmur, not a complaint was heard. Even the women displayed a courage and spirit which astonished us and evoked our admiration. Our respect and attachment for them grew hourly, and we are forced to admit that the so-called weaker sex possessed a strength which at times abandoned us.
We consoled each other as best we could, realizing the impossibility of securing any relief from Galveston Island, the soil being arid sand presenting the aspect of a desert; there was not a trace of vegetation, and the lapping of the waves and the whistling of the winds were the only sounds we heard. When for a moment we left our friends and the camp, noting met the eye but the expanse of the Gulf, and if one saw a boat in the far distance, its course was eagerly followed until it was lost to sight and all hope of its being bound for Galveston was abandoned. Each vanishing hope made room for another, to be shattered in its turn. Such is man-he lives upon shadows, and, like the dog in the fable, he too often abandons a bone for a shadow.
The days flew by and still relief did not come. Anxiety was written on every face, which now bore traces of hunger---sinister forerunners of still graver misfortunes. But not a word was heard voicing the least discouragement, for who among us would have been the first to show less fortitude than his fellows? We were forced to decrease our rations still farther, and a fortnight passed in this terrible situation. We saw each day die with the hope that the morrow would better our lot: the dawn broke, and we still cherished the thought. Staring out to sea, we endeavored to descry the rescuing and protecting sail which, bellied by a favorable wind, would mean happiness and plenty for us once more. Vain hope! It was not to appear, for Destiny was deaf to our entreaties, and cruel Fate was to deliver us up to all the horrors of famine and despair.
At last General Lallemand, at his wit's end that the provision merchant did not keep his promises, decided, near the end of September, to go to New Orleans with a commissioner of the United States, Mr. Graham, who had come to Galveston. He hoped to be able there to secure relief and end our suffering; so he left, taking with him his aides de camp, together with seven or eight persons for an escort. Before his departure, he drew up an order in which he made it known that it grieved him to leave us, that his absence would not be prolonged, and that he was going only for our own good. He exhorted us to maintain order in the colony, saying that we would see him again within twenty or thirty days, and that he would send us supplies immediately-we scarcely had enough to last a month. He left General Rigaud in command. This respected soldier, aged about eighty years [A manuscript note in French in the margin of the book used for this translation gives his age as 58 years].was loved by all the colonists, whom he regarded as his children, inspiring them with the greatest confidence.
We were not afraid of dying from hunger. Such an idea had never occurred to us, for accustomed, as we were to the privations incident to sieges, we could but meet such trials with courage. The General's departure, however, caused a great sensation in camp, for there are certain emotions one cannot suppress, presentiments, which assail us in spite of ourselves, and against which it is impossible to protect one's self. We had the greatest respect for General Rigaud, and his cheering voice, his strength and his example put new courage into us. But when we thought of General Lallemand's departure, of its consequences, of the disasters which would ensue if help did not come, our hopes were dashed. Consternation held us all in its grip. Our misfortune seemed to have reached its height, and each man thought only of his personal safety and how to protect himself against hunger.
Want makes us hard and selfish, closes the heart to friendship and the tenderest affections-brings one to the last stages of suffering.
A canteen was established which still sold us certain poor supplies for gold, charging us twenty-five sous for a small glass of eau de vin and proportionate prices for other commodities. Unfortunate indeed were those who had no money, and such was the plight of most of the colonists. Soon, as a last means of escaping starvation, we sold our possessions to the store-keeper, who gave us in exchange a piece of bread, diminished to the very limit in size by his avarice and greed for gain.
Are there then no countries on earth, no place of refuge for the unfortunate, where kind and compassionate men are to be found? The vices of civilization penetrate everywhere; in the heart of cities, in the midst of deserts, and in Texas; as well as on the banks of the Seine, one meets with degraded beings, who, to accumulate a little gold, will speculate on the misfortunes of their fellows.
All of these thoughts were ours, for we saw only want and sought only for some means of escaping from it. But we had not yet experienced all the blows misfortune had prepared for us. A few days after General Lallemand's departure, the Spanish Commissioner who had taken possession of Champ d'Asile after our departure, sent an envoy enjoining us to leave Galveston Island. This demand we refused, replying that we could make no such decision in the absence of the General-in-Chief, and that we would await his return or his orders to treat with them. At this the agent returned to Texas and we heard no more of him. sdct
The Spaniard's attack was not what we feared most, for, if we but had the strength to bear arms, we felt certain of victory. We preferred peace, however, for we had learned by experience that success is bought only at the cost of brave lives. A man's blood is precious, and the losses we would have undergone would have been the greater to us, because of the affection that bound us together: for one can hardly conceive of the dearness of the bonds which united us. I am pleased to stress this thought in order to remind my readers from time to time of a situation which could not fail to interest them.
Since our return to Galveston the sea had remained continually calm and serene, and the temperature pleasant. We several times remarked that Fate was not entirely against us and that, worn as we were with combating the forerunners of famine, what a great misfortune it would have been if we had been forced to struggle against inclement weather. We looked upon this boon as an omen foretelling that we were soon to be delivered from our straits. We had little idea that the storm was gathering about our heads and that all which had so far happened to us was as nothing compared to the new blows to be dealt by a Fate whose only function seemed to pursue us.
Just at nightfall we were gathered together in different portions of our camp, when the sky began to darken, the clouds to pile up, the wind to rise, and the sea-birds to seek shelter on the land. At last all the signs of an approaching tempest were observed, without fright, however, or the least misgiving, for we thought our camp would shelter us from the wind and our dwellings were, moreover, not high enough to offer much resistance to it. We had several times seen our camp tried, and did not now expect a storm of greater violence. We contented ourselves with strengthening the stakes which seemed weak and assured ourselves that our boats were safely moored. Night soon covered the land with its sable wings, and each man sought his humble abode, there to give himself up to sleep. Her poppies had weighted down our lids when, suddenly, a frightful noise aroused us from our dreams, and we heard the howling of the wind and the bellowing of the waves dashing wildly against our entrenchments. Flashes of lightning showed us the rampage of the heavens, which frightened us more than the darkness that surrounded us, and, although the danger had been very great before, it now seemed a thousand times greater.
SONS OF DEWITT