A year after Christopher Columbus "discovered America," the profligate, morally
lax Pope Alexander VI, elected by a corrupt conclave, issues a papal bull dividing all the
earth's land, oceans, and people not previously claimed by European powers between Spain
and Portugal. All of mainland North America is assigned to the Spanish.
In early May, the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto and an army of men and horses are
the first known Europeans in historical times to set foot in the loess zone, crossing it
in northwestern Mississippi. After traversing the zone, the army travels to the northwest,
where they "discover" the Mississippi River, to which they have been led by
local Indians. The point of discovery is probably just south of Memphis, Tennessee.
On February 26, while canoeing down the Mississippi from the north, French explorer Réne
Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, with about fifty French and Indian companions, pull
ashore in the future state of Tennessee. They meet five Chickasaw braves from a
loess-bluff situated village soon to be known as Chickasaw Bluffs, and located in the
general vicinity of the future Memphis, Tennessee. Farther downstream, the expedition
visits the Natchez and closely related Taensa, both tribes of the loess zone, as well as
the Koroa, whose village is near Emerald Mound near Natchez. At the Mississippi's mouth,
on April 9, 1682, La Salle declares all land drained by the Mississippi and its
tributaries, which includes the loess zone, as property of France. He calls the new
In March, Pierre le Moyne, sieur d'Iberville, a French-Canadian naval officer and
colonizer, with a small group including his younger brother Jean Baptiste le Moyne, sieur
de Bienville, ascends the Mississippi from its mouth on a trip of exploration. In the
general area of the Tunica Hills they come ashore a two hours walk from a Houma Indian
village. Indians on the bank "sing a greeting" and take the explorers to their
village, singing all the way, where the peace pipe, or calumet, is smoked. The Houma chief
has a flattened head, as do a few other older men. The village is clustered around three
major buildings on "high ground," and consists of about 140 houses occupied by
about 350 men. Houses are built on the slope of a hill in two rows, in a circular
formation, with a well-maintained circular village commons in the middle. There are many
cornfields, and melons and tobacco also is grown. Hardwood and nut trees as well as
canebrakes are noted as growing luxuriantly, which is to be expected of a loess-bluff-area
Early in the year, on a second trip upriver, Iberville finds the Houma village he earlier
visited to be in the grips of a disease accompanied by chronic diarrhea. Quite possibly
the disease had been introduced there by Iberville's group itself. Over half the Indians
have died. The illness has spread as far as the Natchez villages to the north, where the
Great Sun is sick. Iberville goes to visit the Great Sun. The chief's house stands atop a
mound, across a plaza from the village's temple. The Great Sun's cabin furnished with a
broad bed about three feet high, and with support columns painted different colors.
Despite his illness, the Great Sun displays the bearing of an emperor. He has a deep tan
complexion and an aquiline nose.
In the fall, the newly appointed governor of Louisiana and former founder of Detroit,
Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac, boats past the Natchez Indian villages but neglects to stop
and smoke the calumet. The Natchez, interpreting this as a sign of hostility, assassinate
four French traders and pillage merchandise from a local warehouse owned by the company of
Antoine Crozat, who is in charge of Louisiana's trade and manufacturing.
Responding to the above attack, Bienville, Iberville's younger brother, with forty-five
men, lands fifty miles below the Natchez villages and begins construction of a trading
post. Natchez chiefs arrive, Bienville takes them captive, and demands the heads of those
responsible for the earlier killings. Only three heads are brought. When Bienville orders
four hostages tomahawked to death, the Natchez yield to his demands. The Natchez are
obliged to assist in building a fort near their villages, on the bluffs overlooking the
river. The fort is named Fort Rosalie, in honor of the wife of Jerome Phelypeaux, Comte de
Records show that in 1718 an individual named M. de La Houssaye, along with sixteen other
colonists, settle on St. Catherine's Creek near the Natchez Indian's Grand Village.
Three French military deserters are exiled to Natchez as "colonists," along with
two dealers in contraband salt. In the same year, Fort St. Pierre is established on the
Yazoo River in order to facilitate trade with tribes to the north of the Natchez.
The first French-Chickasaw war begins when the Chickasaw refuse the French demand that
they banish English traders from their villages. The Chickasaw are not defeated, and
retain contact with the English.
On February 8, at a council in Biloxi, the French agree to pay Choctaw warriors "one
gun, one pound of powder and two pounds of bullets" for each Chickasaw scalp, and
eighty libres of merchandise for each Chickasaw slave. Diseases continue to ravage the
Natchez. Though the eternal fire continues burning inside the Natchez's Grand Temple, now
the rich ornaments and relics earlier seen there earlier have disappeared, possibly having
been hid from the French. French colonial settlement is closing in on the Natchez
villages. Mostly because of diseases, the Natchez nation's population is half what it was
earlier, and by the mid-1720s includes only five villages.
The Natchez Indians, upset with French incursions into their land, attempt to drive the
settlers away, but French troops suppress the uprising.
Choctaws bring the French 400 Chickasaw scalps and 100 Chickasaw slaves.
Unable to force the Chickasaws to expel English traders, the French, suffering from
Chickasaw depredations of their shipping on the Mississippi, make peace with the
Chickasaws, and a deceptive calm settles over the lower Mississippi Valley.
Fort St. Pierre, established on the Yazoo River only ten years earlier, is destroyed and
abandoned during the uprising of the Natchez Indians farther south.
The uprising ends with the French extermination of the Natchez Indians.
French officials renew their demands that the Chickasaw expel the growing number of
English traders in their nation, but again the Chickasaw refuse. Again the French send
Choctaw mercenaries against the Chickasaw, to little avail.
In retaliation against continued French harassment, the Chickasaw virtually close the
Mississippi to French shipping. In New Orleans, Governor Bienville declares with regard to
the Chickasaws, "The entire destruction of this hostile nation ... becomes every day
more necessary to our interest and I am going to exert all diligence to accomplish
In May, Louisiana Governor Bienville sends a two-pronged attack against the Chickasaws.
One column of 400 French and Indians lands at the base of the loess bluff near the future
Memphis, and marches east through the loess zone to the Chickasaw settlements. A second
column of 600 French regulars and 600 Choctaws, commanded by Bienville, approaches from
the south. However, the column from the east is intercepted. The Chickasaws overwhelm the
column and capture the baggage train, which carries 450 pounds of gunpowder and 12,000
bullets. The column's leader and several others are burned at the stake. Bienville's
column is later ravaged by the well entrenched Chickasaws, and must retreat.
Attempting for a third time to destroy the Chickasaws, by June Bienville has arrayed an
awesome army of some 3,000 Europeans and Indian allies, mostly Choctaw. However, disease
strikes the Europeans, and the attack must be delayed.
By March, only 200 French are able to march north, heading inland from a loess-bluff
landing near the future Memphis. However, the Chickasaws apparently believe the small
column to be the advance party of a much larger army, and agree to refrain from war,
though they do not accept defeat, and do not expel the English. The French withdraw, again
defeated. Bienville, now old and sick, returns to France. Bienville's successor will
attack the Chickasaws again in 1752, but he also will fail.
Documents show that toward the end of this year French military presence in the loess zone
is stretched thin, with only about fifty soldiers manning the Natchez post. Fort St.
Pierre, abandoned in 1729, remains abandoned. Only ten soldiers man the fort at the Tunica
settlement, near the border of present-day Mississippi and Louisiana. In contrast, the
Chickasaw, encouraged and supported by the English, control the Mississippi River as far
south as Natchez, and even make slave raids on Ofo Indians clustered around the Natchez
fort for their protection.
This is the year designated as the beginning of the French and
Indian War, which historians regard as the American theater of the European Seven
Years War (beginning in 1756). These conflicts arise as major European powers,
particularly France and England, contest world military and economic dominance. Despite
France's apparent dominance in the lower Mississippi Valley, in Europe and elsewhere in
North America she is not destined to triumph.
As of December, still no white settlers have returned to the former Natchez Indian
homeland. According to an official French report on the Indians occupying the loess bluffs
in and near Louisiana's Tunica Hills, in the Tunica nation only about 60 warriors survive.
A drastic decline in numbers of both the Tunicas and the Houmas are blamed on alcohol
provided by European traders.
North America's French and Indian War and Europe's Seven Years War ends with France losing
much of her world holdings, as formalized in the Treaty of Paris of 1763. In North
America, France cedes Louisiana, except for a small part east of the Mississippi, to
Spain. She yields up Canada and practically all of its territories east of the
Mississippi, including the loess zone, naturally, to England. As soon as the treaty is
enacted, French soldiers abandon Fort Rosalie at Natchez. The southernmost part of
England's new territory -- that part lying south of 31° latitude -- is incorporated into
the new British colony of West Florida. This includes the Tunica Hills, but not Natchez.
By this time, all the loess zone's Indian tribes except the Chickasaw have ceased to exist
in any meaningful way. A few displaced Ofo Indians are left at Natchez, where they have
been earning their living by farming and hunting for the French garrison.
In February the British amend the treaty with France by moving West Florida's northern
boundary north to 32° 28', so that it now includes the former Natchez territory.
Asserting its claim to the lower Mississippi Valley, England sends a detachment of
somewhat less than fifty Scots Fusiliers to set up camp at the abandoned Fort Rosalie. The
fort is renamed Fort Panmure.
The cost of the recent warring weighs heavily on the English, so Fort Panmure is closed to
cut military costs. Nonetheless, during the next couple of years a handful of settlers
establish themselves in the Natchez area.
Choctaw Indians plunder Fort Panmure at Natchez.
The United States of America comes into being, but the British continue to claim the loess
Spain declares war on England, causing the British-claimed loess zone, with Spanish
Louisiana right across the river, to become an area of tension. Bernardo de Gálvez, the
very capable Spanish governor of Louisiana based in New Orleans, aids the United States in
its ongoing conflict with England. At the head of Spanish troops, he captures English Fort
Panmure at Natchez. After the American Revolution, hundreds of settlers have been pouring
into the Natchez region. Part of them side with the United States, and part with England.
The Spanish rulers require an oath of Natchezeans that they support the Spanish crown.
In a second treaty formulated in Paris, the Treaty of Paris of 1783, England
formally acknowledges the independence of the United States, and the US's boundaries are
fixed. All of the loess zone north of the 31st Parallel is ceded to the United States. The
part below the 31st Parallel, that part presently in Louisiana (the Tunica Hills), remains
in Spanish Hands, as part of West Florida. Spain insists that the northern boundary of
West Florida is far enough north to include Natchez, and Natchez is not immediately
abandoned by Spanish troops. Tension arises between Spain and the United States over this
and other matters.
At present-day Vicksburg, the Spanish build Fort Nogales on the loess bluffs near the
mouth of the Yazoo River. In Spanish the word nogales means walnuts; the English
have called this area Walnut Hills.
1840, May 7
The US's second-most deadly tornado hits Natchez, killing at least 317 people,
though many slaves may not have been counted. Read about this at The Tornado Project site.
1861, Jan. 9
Mississippi secedes from the Union
1862, May 12-13
Commander of Union naval flotilla demands that the
city of Natchez surrender. The mayor, saying that he has no authority to do so,
1862, May 16
Grand Gulf, near Port Gibson, MS, is shelled by Union naval task force of six gunboats led
by Commander S. Phillips Lee.
1862, May 1 8
Lee's task force anchors below Vicksburg; he calls on city to surrender.
1862, June 4
Confederates evacuate Fort Pillow, on the Mississippi above Memphis, TN
1862, June 6
Memphis surrenders to Union forces.
1862, June 28
With eight ships, Farragut heads up the Mississippi River from south of Vicksburg,
bombarding the city and passing its batteries
1862, July 25
Federals evacuate Natchez
1862, Aug. 1-5
Confederates fail to recapture Baton Rouge, then occupy and fortify Port Hudson;
Confederacy now controls 240 miles of the Mississippi between Port Hudson and Vicksburg
Sept. 3, 1862
1862, Dec. 8
Natchez is shelled by the USS Essex
Union Naval operation against Vicksburg begins
1862, Dec. 29
Battle of Chickasaw Bayou; Sherman attacks Confederate position on bluffs overlooking the
Yazoo River northeast of Vicksburg, a position covering the approach to Vicksburg;
Federals defeated; This, and Van Dorn's raid on the Holly Springs supply depot,
effectively ends Grant's first attempt - and second Union attempt - to capture Vicksburg.
Jan. 2-3, 1863
Skirmishing near Chickasaw Bayou, and Sherman withdraws to Milliken's Bend, LA
1863, Mar. 29
1863, Apr. 16
US Grant undertakes an amphibious operation at Grand Gulf, which in the annals of American
military history will remain known as the largest amphibious operation military history
until the Allied landing in North Africa during World War II. This marks the
beginning of the effort known as Grant's Vicksburg Campaign.
Federal gunboats and transports run the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg and Warrenton
1863, Apr. 22, 1863
Federal transports run the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg and Warrenton again
1863, Apr. 29, 1863
Federal fleet fails to silence Confederate batteries at Grand Gulf and passes to the
south to land on the Louisiana shore; Transports cannot land at Grand Gulf, so Grant must
alter his plan
1863, May 1, 1863
Battle of Port Gibson . Forty-six Confederates, commanded by Brig. Gen. John
S. Bowen, heavily outnumbered and unreinforced by Pemberton, fight the Federals for 18
hours but can't stop them. Bowen retreats across Bayou Pierre. Grant secures his
beachhead, occupies Port Gibson and flanks Grand Gulf. The Confederates, withdrawing
across the Big Black River, evacuate Grand Gulf, used thereafter by the Union as a supply
1863, May 17
Battle of the Big Black River Bridge; Pemberton's army is routed and withdraws into its
1863, May 18
Federals occupy the Snyder's Bluff defenses
1863, May 19
First Union assault on Vicksburg
1863, May 22
Second Union assault on Vicksburg; A barrage of artillery followed by infantry attack
results in over 3,000 Union casualties, about 500 Confederate
1863, May 25
Grant orders siege operations to begin at Vicksburg
1863, June 25
1863, July 1, 1863
Mine explodes under 3rd Louisiana Redan at Vicksburg followed by an attack
Another mine explodes under the 3rd Louisiana Redan
1863, July 4
Pemberton surrenders Vicksburg
1863, July 13
Natchez is occupied by a Union garrison
1864, July 2-3
Union expeditions led by Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum and Brig. Gen. Alfred Ellet, from
Vicksburg to Pearl River and from Rodney toward Gailman respectively, are begun;
Objective: to draw Confederate troops away from Forrest's corps in support of Operation
1864, July 4
Sharply fought engagement at Coleman's Crossing near Lorman turns Ellet's troops back to
1865, May 4
Gen. Richard Taylor, commanding Confederate forces in Alabama, Mississippi and east
Louisiana, surrenders all forces under his command to Gen. Edward Richard Sprigg Canby at