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proved to be an inexorable foe. After their war with the French, the Natchez engaged the Tunicas in battle and almost annihilated them. Among the first to fall was the Tunica chief.
In March of the year 1764, in company with the Avoyelles, they pounced upon some English pirogues under the command of Morgan, and killed six Britishers, wounding several. The refusal of the English to surrender a slave who fled from them aroused them to this attack.
Some time between the Revolutionary War and the annexation of Louisiana to the United States, occurred their final migration to the great Marksville prairie. The cause of this movement is unknown. Here they obtained a grant of land, where a few families are still to be found, among them the old Valsine Chiki, considered to be the chief of the Tunica remnant.
The arts, crafts and daily life of the Tunica were very similar to those of the great Natchez. Their houses consisted of a framework of slender poles covered with palmetto leaves, corn husks and grass. Gravier tells us that their manner of dress resembled that of the Natchez. The women were deft at spinning a kind of cloth which they called mulberry cloth. In diet they were vegetarians, their chief foods being squash, wild fruits and roots.
Like all other tribes they had a temple dedicated to the Great Spirit. It-stood upon a mound, where spirits were thought to dwell. The Tunicas were sun-worshippers, and among their household gods were symbols of the sun. Among their religious traditions is an account of a great flood, of which they were warned by the Great Spirit.
The Tunicas observed several annual feasts, their chief feast occurring at “roasting-ear time.” In observing this feast, corn was roasted and placed in pots at the head of the graves in their cemetery. This act was repeated on four consecutive days, on the last of which the Indians fasted until noon, when they assembled at the home of the medicine man or priest. This medicine man, who was keeper of the cemetery, harangued the assembly with a speech, after which he sat them down to a feast. At the feast he regaled them with the deeds of heroism of their ancestors. The feast over, the Indians gathered in a ring to witness the war dance. Until a score or more of years ago the Tunicas continued to hold these war dances, which were attended by the citizens of Marksville and the surrounding country. But all these
things have become history. The Tunicas themselves are fast becoming extinct, and the tribe will soon be no more. The great tale of a passing race is written on the faces of the remaining half-breeds now living near Marksville.
With the passing of the Avoyelles a new race of men came to inhabit their land. This race came in due time to make the prairie blossom as the rose. It was a sturdy race which brought with it civilization. Following its advent great changes are taking place. The few Tuncas that remain are becoming civilized. The warwhoop is heard no more, for the hatchet has long been buried.
The aspect of this country has greatly changed. Men with coonskin caps and bearskin suits are seen chasing the deer where once the crafty red man followed the bison and bear. The wigwams are seen no more, and in their stead are the log cabins of the first settlers scattered here and there over the prairie, each with a few rows of corn surrounding it. These wide borders are fast becoming populous. A village springs up and the wilderness recedes.
It is the Caucasian who has come. He has brought civilization into the land of the Avoyelles.
This great move was begun in 1809 by a sturdy French pioneeer from Pointe Coupee. He was a trader and planter, . and owned a considerable tract of land in the great prairie of Avoyelles, part of which bordered the Red.
This was Marc Elishe. In 1809 he set out in a covered wagon with a few slaves to settle this country. A certain scout by the name of Rabelais accompanied him on this journey.
In those days such a journey was a perilous adventure. So these staunch pioneers braved its dangers, and in so doing they made history.
After an uneventful journey the settlers reached the Tunica village of Coulee des Grues, where the chief met them with the pipe of peace. Marc Elishe, being eager to push forward, was not long in resuming his journey toward Red River.
In the colonization period, when the railroad was unknown, cities and towns were built on rivers or at crossroads. This facilitated trade and transportation. It was the intention of Marc Elishe to locate on the Red. Such a location would ad
vance trade and render a steady market for his farm products. At this time the Red was plied by the flatboat and paddle-wheel scows. Under such favorable conditions he could also establish a trading post and slave market.
But, according to tradition, fate had somewhat to do in selecting the site for the town of Marksville.
It so happened when this little band of pioneers reached the site of our Courthouse Square, the mishap of a broken wagon wheel befell them. Being unable to repair the wheel, they were hindered from journeying further. Moreover, the friendly attitude of the Tunicas and the fertile prairie lands readily induced them to settle here. The wagon was converted into a store and trading post, about which was built the town.
After Marc Elishe blazed the trail, other settlers began to move in. It did not take long for this obscure trading post to grow into a village. This shambling settlement was not laid out according to plans or map. It just grew by itself, after its own way, like an ungoverned child. These first settlers did not even mark out thoroughfares. To them it was easier to follow the winding cowpaths. This accounts for the meandering course the Marksville pedestrian sometimes finds himself describing.
Although little is known of Marc Elishe, we know that he was the godfather of Albert Gallatin Morrow. It was to the latter he bequeathed a certain tract of land which comprised the site of the Courthouse Square and the estate of G. L. Mayer. This bequest was made with the express proviso that Mr. Morrow was not to sell or dispose of this property in any way except for the education of his children. Beyond this nothing else is known of Marc Elishe, and he flits into the past like a shadow. Even tradition is silent concerning his later life, and the date of his death and place of burial are matters of conjecture. Indeed, that entire period of our history, ranging from the coming of Marc Elishe against the end of the first half-century, is a total blank and may well be called our dark age.
Following the resignation of Judah P. Benjamin from the United States Senate, the old Pelican State seceded. The Spirit of ’61 had thrilled the South. "
Louisiana was a power in the Confederacy, and the town of Marksville did its part. Our men and boys responded to the call and fought bravely. Some of the old veterans are still living, and it is a rare treat to sit at their feet while they tell of the battles fought around Marksville.
There were a few skirmishes in the vicinity of Marksville, and in the Parish of Avoyelles; prominent among these are the engagements at Mansura and Yellow Bayou. There were some noted battles fought at Fort De Russey on Red River, five miles from Marksville.
This fort was constructed at the inception of the war by the Confederates, under the auspices of Colonel De Russey. He meant to control the Red with a chain of forts along its banks. At the bend in the river, at Gordon's Landing, he built this fort. The fort stood about five hundred yards from the river over which it had a most commanding view.
Early in the war the Federals attempted to blockade the river. To accomplish this purpose Admiral Porter sent the Queen of the West up the river to reconnoitre. Having safely passed the batteries at Vicksburg, the Queen steamed up the Red to bombard the fort. Upon nearing the fort she was discerned and fired upon. Under a heavy fire of the fort's battery she got aground on å sandbar and was boarded by the Confederates. The crew were obliged to desert the Queen to prevent being captured. The Queen was refitted and added to the Confederate ram fleet. Later she was captutred by the Federals and destroyed. A full history of this old ram would be a very interesting feature of the war. She accomplished more than any other vessel in the inland service. :?
In May following, Banks planned a vigorous campaign against Alexandria. He was to lead the troops on land while Rear Admiral Porter shelled the town with his ironclads. In pursuance of this plan Lieutenant Hart was sent up the river with a small fleet to ascertain whether Fort De Russey was abandoned. Upon reaching Black River, he learned that neither boats nor soldiers had been seen in the neighborhood for some time.
That night some of the officers landed and learned from two Frenchmen that the Confederates were planning to abandon the fort the next day and were going to take the guns up the river to Alexandria and there prepare for Bankš. On the following morning, as the fleet came in sight of the fort's advance picket, rushed out from the woods declaring that he was a strong Union man. He proved to be a cowardly deserter. He readily divulged the plans of the fort and piloted the fleet up the river to the fort.
In the meantime Captain Kelso, of the Confederate army, had been sent down with two armed steamboats to take the guns of the fort up to Alexandria. He had also constructed a heavy raft across the river and secured it to trees on either shore. Behind the levee he had thirty or forty cavalry armed with car bines. When the Federal fleet steamed into view they commenced the action with a discharge of five guns. The Confederates returned it promptly, and it was kept up vigorously until the smoke obscured their view. When the smoke cleared away, the firing was repeated. A 32-pounder ball from the Confederate steamer Cotton carried away the wheel, killing the pilot of the main Federal ram.
The cavalry. were busy picking off the officers; they were a great help. After an hour's engagement the Federal fleet turned around and steamed down the river. Captain Kelso immediately evacuated the fort and took the guns up to Alexdria. These guns had been taken from a Federal ram some time previous. The Federal losses were far more than the Confederate. It was a great battle, probably the greatest fought on the Red.
On reaching the mouth of the river the retreating fleet met the fleet of Admiral Porter coming up the river on its way to Alexandria. They found the fort evacuated and had no trouble in passing through the obstruction. They destroyed the fort's casements and burned all Confederate property. The fleet then proceeded up to Alexandria, which was also found evacuated. At Black River the fleet was repulsed and all Federal gunboats were ordered down the river.
A part of Banks' army returned to Simsport. Two days later the remainder left Alexandria and were on the road to Simsport. They followed the road along the river and their rear was protected by Lieutenant Ellet's rams. Upon reaching Fort De Russey they left the river and marched through Marksville.
In the fall of 1863 the Confederates again occupied the fort and were employed for five months strengthening it. A formid