Chapter 16: Horrible Death of Beaudrot and The Swiss Soldiers

Albert James Pickett: HISTORY OF ALABAMA.
(Kindly contributed by William C. Bell)



In 1757, Kerlerec was the governor of the colony. He had succeeded the Marquis De Vaudreuil, who had been transferred to the government of New France. Some of the officers, stationed at the different posts, were great tyrants. One of them, named Duroux, was sent to command a detachment of troops of the Swiss regiment of Halwyl, who were stationed at Cat Island, which, we believe, is now within the jurisdiction of the State of Alabama. He forced his soldiers to work his gardens and to burn coal and lime, which he disposed of in trade for his own emolument. Some of them, who refused to work for him, he caused to be arrested, stripped and tied naked to trees, where, for hours, the mosquitoes tortured them with their poisonous stings. These soldiers, repairing to New Orleans, received no satisfaction from Governor Kerlerec, who presently sent them back to Duroux. That officer was now still more tyrannical, and in addition to his other severe usage, gave them no meat to eat, and fed them upon stale bread. One day he entered a boat, and was rowed to an adjacent island, for the purpose of hunting deer. Returning in the evening, a party of the soldiers prepared themselves to kill him, and, as soon as he put his foot upon shire, he was instantly despatched, by the discharge of several guns. His body, stripped of its apparel, was contemptuously thrown into the sea. They then rifled the King's stores, and for once fared sumptuously. 1757: Becoming masters of the island, the soldiers set at liberty an inhabitant, named Beaudrot, who had been unjustly imprisoned by Duroux. He had been long in the colony, and was ofetn employed upon dangerous missions in the Creek nation. Indeed, he well understood the language of these Indians, besides that of neighboring tribes. Often had he made journeys to Fort Toulouse, upon the Coosa, both in boats and upon foot. He was a great favorite of Bienville. Beaudrot was a powerful man, as to strength, and almost a giant in size, and these qualities, together with his bravery and prowess, endeared him to the Indians. The soldiers, who now released him from prison, compelled him to conduct them towards Georgia. Advancing rapidly through the woods, after they touched the amain land in their boats, the veteran Beaudrot led them around Mobile, up the Tombigby, and crossing that stream, and afterwards the Alabama, in canoes that belonged to the Indians, Beaudrot conducted them from thence to Coweta, upon the Chattahoochie. here he was dismissed by the fugitives, whom he compelled to give him a certificate, stating that he had been forced to act as their guide, and was not in any way concerned with the killing of Duroux.

1757: Some of these soldiers, who pursued their journey, made safe their retreat to the English in Georgia; but others loitered in Coweta and Cusseta enjoying the hospitality of the Indians. In the meantime, Montberaut, who then commanded at Fort Toulouse, had been made acquaineted with the murder of Duroux and the flight of the soldiers. Hearing that some of them were upon the Chattahoochie, a small detachment of soldiers and some Indians, under Beaudin were sent across the country, to arrest them. Beaudin returned with three of the men, who, after being chained in the prison for a week, were put in canoes, and conveyed down the Alabama river, to Mobile, and there thrown into the dungeon, to await trial.

Beaudrot arrived in Mobile, and was quietly living in his hut, when two of his sons, who had just arrived from New Orleans, were the innocent cause of his arrest. Governor Kerlerec sent by them a sealed package to De Ville, the commandant at Mobile, authorizing his imprisonment. The poor fellow knew nothing of the arrest of the soldiers, until his eyes feel upon them in prison. Notwithstanding that he exhibited, upon the trial, his certificate, which declared his innocence of the murder, and which stated that he was compelled to facilitate the escape of the soldiers of it, a court martial condemned him to die. The soldiers, of course, were also condemned to share the same fate. As soon as Governor Kerlerec confirmed the judgment, the innocent and unfortunate Beaudrot was led forth and broken upon a wheel! The people of Mobile were shicked at the spectacle, for some of their lives had been saved by the sufferer. Not many years before that Beaudrot, while trading in the town of Autauga among the Alabamas, ransomed a French boy who had been captured near Mobile by the Lower Creeks of the Chattahoochie, and who had sold him to those Indians. Beaudrot paid away all his profits for the boy, and immediately carried him to Mobile and restored him to his uncle. On another occasion, a party of the Lower Creeks had taken a Frenchman, who had gone up to his little plantation on the Tensaw river. They stripped the man, and, having pinioned him well, took the trail for the Chattahoochie. It so happened that Beaudrot was returning upon that trail from Fort Toulouse, whither Bienville had some weeks before despatched him with a letter to the French commandant. Night drew apace, and Beaudrot sought repose upon the pine straw, behind a log, without a spark of fire. It was his custom when alone to sleep in the dark, for fear of being discovered by Indian enemies. He lay quietly, with his head resting upon his knapsack. Presently three stout warriors made their appearnace with the Frenchman to whom we have just alluded. They presently collected lightwood, which lay in profusion around, and kindled a large fire. Ten of the party, after the capture of the Frenchman, went in another direction, to see if they could not do more mischief in the French settlements, and, entrusting the prisoner to the three warriors who now guarded him, had not yet overtaken them. The fire threw a glare over the woods, and Beaudrot would have been discovered had he not, fortunately, been behind a log. The warriors eat theri supper, and, tying the Frenchman to a tree, where he would have been compelled to stand all night upon his feet, they dropped off to sleep. Te eart of the generous Beaudrot beat quick: he longed to rescue the man whom he well knew, but endeavored to compose himself. After a while, when the wearied warriors snored in profound sleep, he cautiously approached. His first intention was to unloose the prisoner and place a pistol in his hand, when they both instantly fell upon the Indians; but a moment's reflection warned him that if he approached the prisoner first the latter would be startled and cry aloud, which would arouse the savages. This reflection now altered his plans, and he now crept up to the camp, keeping a large pine tree between him and the warriors. Two of them lay together. Beaudrot's carbine was heavily charged, and raising h imself suddenly he fired, and the warriors were both killed. The third one rose up and rushed at Beaudrot with his hatchet, having in his haste forgotten his gun. Beaudrot had already a pistol in his hand, and now discharged its contents into the stomach of the Creek, who whooped and fell dead. Rushing to the tree he untied his friend, who immediately sank in the arms of the generous deliverer. But they had no time to tarry here. The rescued prisoner informed Beaudrot constructed a raft, on which he now placed the prisoner and they both floated down the river some distance, and landed on the western side. He tore the raft to pieces, and set the fragments adrift. Beaudrot took all this precaution to keep the Indians from tracking him. About this time it was daylight, and he and the Frenchman were in a swamp, and quite secure. Beaudrot now drew forth his bottle of brandy, and gave his companion a drink, which did much to revive him. They also shared some bread and dried venison. After they had rested here some hours, Beaudrot and his companion arose, and, after a tedious march through the woods, subsisting upon what game Beaudrot could kill, he arrived safe in Mobile, with the Frenchman. Such a man was Beaudrot, whom the French authorities in Mobile broke upon a wheel! His life was worth a thousand such lives as that of the tyrannical wretch whom he was accused of having killed. On the same day that he was thus made to suffer death, in the most barbarous and excruciating manner, one of the fugitives, a French soldier, was also broken upon a wheel, while two poor Swiss soldiers were subjected to a still more horrible fate. The authorities placed each one of them in a long narrow box, like a coffin, nailed it up, and then cut the box in two with a cross-cut saw. *

* French MS. letters in my possession, obtained from Paris. See also Bossu's Travels, vol. 1, pp. 320-325. But Bossu incorrectly states that these men suffered death in New Orleans. Some years previously, Fort Conde, a large brick fortress, had been built at Mobile, and it was in front of the gate of that fort that these men met such terrible death.

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