Jean-François Benjamin Dumont de Montigny (1696 - 1760)
The new home for my website devoted to Le Page du Pratz and Dumont de Montigny, the 18th century colonists of French Louisiana, and translations of their writings, is at https://blogs.uoregon.edu/lpdpanddumont/
Thank you for visiting,
Professor of English
University of Oregon
Dumont and the Natchez Revolt
As Dumont (and Le Page) wrote their histories of Louisiana in the 1750s, it was the Natchez Massacre of 1729 that they perceived as the turning point in the history of the colony. During the boom period in the early 1720s when new plantations or concessions were being built by investors in Law's company, the Terre Blanche and St. Catherine's concessions at Natchez were among the most successful. The fertile land atop the bluffs at Natchez, Mississippi, were safe from the annual floods of the Mississippi, and well situated to participate in trade between New Orleans and the Illinois colony. The Natchez Indians were friendly toward the French, and a few Natchez women married French colonists. But when commandant Chepart demanded land to build his own concession, the natives were incensed, and began to plan an uprising. On November 29th, a surprise attack took the lives of about 240 French men. Dumont in the Mémoires historiques claimed he had been in Natchez until the day before the attack. His manuscript reveals that he actually left in January, fleeing from Chepart, who had imprisoned him for insubordination. Dumont's wife Marie, however, was living near Natchez at the time of the revolt and was held prisoner for several weeks by one of the chief women of the Natchez. Her information likely formed the kernel of Dumont's account of the rebellion in his manuscript and book. See my article "Plotting the Natchez Massacre" for more. Or consult the wikipedia page on the Natchez Massacre which I wrote with help from my son Joshua.
Perhaps the most detailed narrative of the Natchez revolt and the French response is one by the Pointe Coupée militia captain Jean-Baptiste de Laye. This is found in the colonial archives collection "Depôts et Fortifications des Colonies" 04DFC38. As you can see in my translation of the document, de Laye rejects outright the notion of a mass conspiracy of many tribes to attack on the same day as the Natchez. For the transcription of the original document I am grateful to Arnaud Balvay, who has also written the best, and only, book about the Natchez Massacre, La R_volte des Natchez.
Dumont created maps and illustrations for his prose manuscript and for the manuscript of his poem that is held in the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal in Paris. His skills as a figure artist were modest at best, and the result is a charming, child-like style. You can find more of his watercolors included among the images at the on-line exhibition French Louisiana 1682-2003.
Dumont has at least twenty maps extant in the French archives, including the one at the top of the page, as well as about two dozen that he drew to accompany his three manuscripts. I have prepared a draft carto-bibliography of Dumont maps. Another excellent source for Dumont's and other maps of Louisiana is the site created by Vin Steponaitis of the University of North Carolina, a specialist in the archaeology of the Natchez, Mississippi area. Search for Dumont among the many cartographers and historians included on his page of colonial maps of Natchez and other settlements in the southeast.
During a 2005 trip to Paris, I examined and photographed six manuscript maps by Dumont in the Delisle collection at the Archives Nationales de France. These are not available on Steponaitis's site, but were the basis for my presentation in Chicago listed below.
Prof. Sayre's publications and presentations on Dumont
I have published several articles and made many presentations about Dumont's work. Please write to me if you are interested in reading any of these.
“How to Succeed in Exploration without really Discovering Anything: Four case studies from Colonial Louisiana, 1714-1763” Atlantic Studies 10:1 (2013).
“Natchez Ethnohistory Revisited: New Manuscript Sources from Le Page du Pratz and Dumont de Montigny” Louisiana History 50: 4 (Fall 2009) 407-436.
[with Carla Zecher and Shannon Dawdy] “A French Soldier in Louisiana: The Memoir of Dumont de Montigny” The French Review 80:6 (May 2007), 1265-1277.
"Plotting the Natchez Massacre: Le Page du Pratz, Dumont de Montigny, Chateaubriand." Early American Literature 37:3 (Fall 2002): 381-413. Awarded Richard Beale Davis Prize, 2003.
" The Memoir of Dumont de Montigny: a picaresque autobiography of the 18th century French Atlantic." French Atlantic History Group, McGill University, April 4, 2012, and University of Virginia, Sept. 12, 20012
“Dumont de Montigny: Son oeuvre cartographique, ethnographique, et autobiographique.” Oregon Association of Teachers of French, Confederation in Oregon for Language Teaching 2007 conference, Corvallis, OR, October 13, 2007.
“The Origins of New Orleans: French Colonials Struggle against Floods, Hurricanes, Bugs, and Silt.” Deschutes County Public Library, Bend, Oregon, February 25, 2007.
"The French Maps of North America from Lahontan and Delisle to Le Page and Buache." Chicago Map Society, Newberry Library, January 23, 2007.
“Shamanism, Providence, and the Picaresque in Dumont de Montigny's Memoires de
University of Louisiana, Lafayette, December 13, 2006.
“New Perspectives on the Natchez Massacre of 1729.” Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, Natchez, Mississippi, December 12, 2006.
"The French Maps of North America from Lahontan and Delisle to Le Page and Buache." Early American Cartographies, Newberry Library, Chicago, March 2006, and Society for the History of Discoveries, Portland OR, September 2006.
“Dumont de Montigny’s Underbelly of Sovereign Authority in Louisiana.” Society of Early Americanists. Alexandria, VA, April 2005.
Site updated Sept. 28, 2012
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