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The Natchez District and the American Revolution

The Natchez District and the American Revolution

Copyright Date: 1976
Pages: 191
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  • Book Info
    The Natchez District and the American Revolution
    Book Description:

    In 1775, when the American Revolution broke out, the Natchez District was a small isolated outpost in British West Florida. During the early stages of the rebellion, the population of the district more than doubled as hundreds of loyalists settled along the western banks of the Mississippi River between Walnut Hills (modern Vicksburg) and Manchac. Although most inhabitants were loyal to England or preferred to remain neutral during the conflict, James Willing, a young adventurer and a former resident of the district, brought the war to their doorstep in early 1778 when he led a raiding party which forced the inhabitants of Natchez to take an oath of allegiance and which plundered the property of several well-known Tories south of the town. When Willing and his men reached New Orleans, they were allowed to dispose of their plunder at public auction.

    Although Willing's Raid exposed British weakness in the Southwest, the governor of West Florida dispatched enough military assistance to regain control over the Natchez district and to prevent Willing from ascending the Mississippi River with provisions for the American army.

    Spain's entry into the war in June of 1779 upset the precarious balance in the Southwest. In a series of brilliant campaigns, Governor Bernardo de Galvez captured the British settlements along the Mississippi, then seized Mobile, and eventually forced the British to surrender Pensacola. While Pensacola was falling to a superior Spanish force, the inhabitants of Natchez momentarily regained control of the district and threw out the Spaniards. As soon as they learned of the fall of Pensacola, however, they resubmitted to Spanish rule, which proved milder than many had anticipated. The end of the American Revolution found Spain in possession of the lower Mississippi Valley.

    This account is the first complete, scholarly study of what took place in the Natchez district during the American Revolution. Professor Haynes not only brings new material to light, but he also captures the drama of life in Mississippi during the period of the American Revolution.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-239-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-1)
  4. Map of British West Florida
    (pp. 2-2)
  5. 1 A British Possession
    (pp. 3-26)

    In 1775, when fighting broke out at Lexington and Concord between British regulars and the colonial militia of Massachusetts, Natchez was a small isolated settlement of several hundred European inhabitants located along the eastern bank of the Mississippi River approximately 240 miles north of New Orleans. Despite the prevalence of fertile lands around the little community, Natchez was only beginning to realize its long recognized potential.

    The French were the first Europeans to occupy the area around what was later known as the Natchez District. As early as 1714, they had established a small trading post at Natchez landing below...

  6. 2 A Loyalist Outpost
    (pp. 27-50)

    When the American Revolution broke out in April of 1775, inhabitants in and around the small trading post of Natchez were far removed from the scene of initial hostilities and, for the most part, were unconcerned with the issues which had provoked the disturbance. Although the controversies that triggered the rebellion centered primarily in New England and secondarily in Virginia, all thirteen English colonies represented in the Second Continental Congress were affected in one way or another. An entirely different set of problems, however, occupied the attention of that small but hearty band of pioneers who inhabited the Natchez District....

  7. 3 An American Raider
    (pp. 51-76)

    If officials in Spanish Louisiana and British West Florida were determined to maintain peace in the Southwest, the same was not true of a number of Americans who had commercial ties in the lower Mississippi Valley and who entertained hopes of establishing regular trade between the Ohio settlements and New Orleans. Foremost among these individuals was George Morgan whose interest in the Southwest extended as far back as 1766 when he had first visited Natchez.

    In 1776, Morgan, holding the military rank of colonel, was at Fort Pitt serving the United States as agent for Indian affairs and as deputy...

  8. 4 A British Counteroffensive
    (pp. 77-100)

    Instead of taking up arms against James Willing and the other American invaders, the aggrieved settlers of British West Florida were content at first to seek redress through legal channels. They either complained directly to Governor Bernardo de Gálvez or indirectly to Governor Peter Chester, who in turn forwarded their protests along with his own to Spanish authorities in New Orleans. Without exception the self-proclaimed victims demanded full restoration of all illegally seized property. Governor Chester urged Gálvez to treat Willing and his “Band of Robbers” as common thieves and to punish them accordingly.

    The inhabitants of Natchez also hurriedly...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. 5 A New Belligerent
    (pp. 101-130)

    Smoke from the fire set by James Willing had barely cleared when conditions in the Southwest began to change dramatically. For months British officials in West Florida, in the Caribbean, and at army headquarters in New York, as well as the king’s ministers in London, were concerned that Spain might join France in an alliance against England and in full support of the American rebels. Although a concert of European nations in favor of American independence was illusionary, the threat of Spanish intervention on the side of France in the war against England was real. Imaginary or not, British officials...

  11. 6 An Abortive Rebellion
    (pp. 131-152)

    By the early spring of 1780, British strongholds in West Florida had been reduced to one—Fort George, which guarded the town and harbor of Pensacola. Although General Campbell expected the Spaniards to launch an assault on Pensacola immediately after the fall of Mobile, Gálvez and his military advisers decided to delay their plans when they learned of British intentions to send naval reinforcements from Jamaica. Campbell took advantage of this unexpected lull in military action to shore up the defenses of Pensacola and to attempt, without much success, to improve relations with neighboring Indians. Unfortunately, both these efforts were...

  12. 7 Epilogue
    (pp. 153-158)

    Although the fall of Pensacola and the resurrender of Fort Panmure at Natchez marked the end of British rule in West Florida, a number of Englishmen familiar with the area refused to accept these defeats as final. A handful of these Loyalists actually devised schemes for the recapture of British West Florida or the seizure of Spanish New Orleans and lower Louisiana, or both. The motives behind these plans were varied, but most of them involved either establishing a haven for destitute and distressed Tories or promoting some new form of land speculation. As an additional inducement to attract the...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 159-178)
  14. Essay on Sources
    (pp. 179-184)
  15. Index
    (pp. 185-191)