300 Years Ago: 1716: Les Soldats:

My source for much of the information presented in these entries is the “standard” academic history of French Louisiana by Marcel Giraud. I have also mentioned frequently in this series that while OFFICIALLY Louisiana was often in dire straights economically, it nevertheless continued to struggle on and survive basically through a thriving illegal trade network which provided food and supplies from many sources. Let it be said though that while the smuggling economy was effective, it really did not become a major game changer until the 1720’s and 30’s. In 1716, things were pretty bad. And nowhere was this more apparent than in Louisiana’s colonial military. Monsieur Giraud’s chapter on the military during the years of “transition” 1715-17, titled “The Defense Of the Colony” is a bit of a misnomer. There was no defense to speak of. Louisiana’s military establishment is the perfect example of what the official historical sources for French Colonial Louisiana have chronicled regarding the “starvation and woe” of French Louisiana.

In Louisiana the regime of Antoine Crozat was fizzling out like a shoo-shoo on New Year’s Eve. Having lost a fortune and all interest in his Louisiana proprietorship, he basically walked away from a bad deal. This along with the death of Louis XIV and the establishment of the Regency under Phillipe, Duc d’Orleans left Louisiana in transition between control by the Council of the Navy and the upcoming Company of the West. The Council wanted to increase the Louisiana garrison by four companies, but only succeeded in raising 114 of the 200 men needed. Furthermore, they could not recruit the necessary tradesmen to complement the soldiers. As with most Early Modern armies, pay was sporadic, uniforms were rarely replaced, the food supply was intermittent, and desertion was rampant. The only bright spot in the military setup was a decent officer corps. But even they could only do so much. Louisiana forts slowly fell into ruin and the soldiers were often kept alive by letting the Natives feed them.

300 years ago, there was not much good news about the Louisiana garrison. Giraud’s entire chapter on the military makes no mention of any actual “military” operations during 1716. The French were certainly lucky that the local Indians were probably looking upon the situation without too much worry about what the silly white men were up to. At least at this juncture, they were pretty harmless.

And now for something completely different . . .

Since there are no French cookbooks written in the colony of Louisiana in the 18th century (or at least none yet discovered), compiling a study of the birth of Creole Cuisine has been an exercise in extracting bits and pieces of information from many, many documents, both primary and secondary, and making some logical connections as well as (frankly) launching some educated guesses. Therefore, it was most welcome to come across the following:

“Shannon Dawdy refers to these Louisiana “memoires, letters, and travel accounts’ as ‘a useful kit of knowledge called histoire.’ A combination of ‘both story’ and ‘history,’ histoires ‘were often a mixed bag of natural and administrative history, astronomy, fashion and culinary critique, and good old-fashioned storytelling in which the tall tales spun by the writer were at times self-serving aggrandizements, or worse, gross distortions of reality.’
From the “Devil’s Empire”
Quoted in:
Greenwald, Erin M. Marc-Antoine Caillot and the Company of the Indies in Louisiana: Trade in the French Atlantic World. Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press, 2016. Page 5


It is a Histoire on the origin of Creole cuisine. Although, in this Histoire, all efforts have been made to minimize the “gross distortions of reality”.

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