PRE-STATEHOOD 13 Once back in Biloxi, Iberville made plans to sail to France and carry the news of what he had learned. Before he left, his explorers built a makeshift fort in present-day Ocean Springs. He left in May for more settlers and more supplies, and Bienville stayed behind. The colony’s first task was to find a more defensible location for their headquarters, and as soon as Iberville left, Bienville set out to look for sites between Pensacola and the Mississippi River. While Bienville was scouting the area, the English voyagers who had earlier set out from Charleston had themselves finally reached the mouth of the Mississippi. They had begun traveling upstream in search of their own site to stake a claim for England. Bienville and his group happened to be on the Mississippi River at the same time, and they encountered the Carolina Galley at a bend in the river south of present-day New Orleans. Bienville immediately boarded the Carolina Galley and boldly told the captain the river and adjacent lands had already been claimed and occupied by France. It was a bluff, but the English captain fell for it, and he turned the Carolina Galley around and sailed back downriver and on to Charleston with the bad news that France had already occupied the Mississippi River. The bend in the river where the gullible English captain turned his ship around has been known ever since as “English Turn.” The French quickly moved to build a fort on the Mississippi River to firm up their presence. Iberville came back from France well-stocked and with colonists in December 1701. By that time, another of the incessant wars in Europe was about to break out, and this time the French and Spanish were allies against England (War of Spanish Succession 1701-1713). The Louisiana colony prepared for hostilities with English forces from the Atlantic colonies. They decided to move their settlement from Biloxi to Mobile to be closer to the Spanish allies in Pensacola. Construction of Fort Louis was begun on Mobile Bay in 1702. Iberville once again sailed for France, again leaving Bienville behind. Iberville would never return to Louisiana. He was indeed sent back to America, but his mission this time was to fight the English in the Caribbean. He died of malaria on a French warship in Havana harbor in 1706. This left his brother Bienville in charge of the little Louisiana colony. Bienville was only twenty two at the time, brash and aggressive, and he was facing a host of problems in making the colony a success. First of all, Louisiana was sorely underpopulated. In 1704, the colony had only 183 soldiers, and twenty-seven families with ten children. This was nowhere near enough to settle a region stretching along the coast from the Perdido River in present-day Florida to the Mississippi River at what would become New Orleans and up the river beyond Natchez to Illinois. But the French Crown was hard-pressed at the time to send more settlers because they were facing what could (and did) become a protracted war on the home front in Europe. In addition to the lack of warm bodies, the colony had only meager economic prospects, at least the kind Louis XIV had envisioned. The cotton and timber fortunes that would one day enrich the region were far off into the future, and even the most gifted visionary could not see what was to come. Besides, at the time future prospects counted for little; the immediate concern was a looming war in Europe. The timing was just not right for prosperity in the region. The small contingent of soldiers and male settlers were stretched thin from the demands for military defense and had little time for development of an economy. As one writer described, “Little food was grown in Louisiana. The inhabitants relied mainly on supplies brought from France or else secured from the Spanish. Some food was obtained from the Indians, and without it the settlers probably would have starved. Louisiana was not a colony in the usual sense, but primarily a garrison.” Around 1705, some of the colonists urged the French government to send African slaves to provide much-needed labor if agriculture were to be developed along the coast. This request was refused because officials in France thought the cost of buying the slaves was too great to make it a profitable venture. Perhaps the problems of manpower and an under- developed economy could have been overcome had it not been for the harassment from the British. This aggression manifest itself primarily through English encouragement of hostilities from the native populations who surrounded every settlement and outpost of the colony. Iberville had enjoyed particularly good relations with the relatively peaceful Choctaws, the largest of the Indian nations in the area. But Bienville, Iberville’s successor, was of a different temperament and had little of the diplomatic skill of his smoother older brother. Iberville had seen the Native Americans “not as threats, but as useful guides and food-suppliers.” He also saw them as a necessary buffer against the English in the Carolinas. Even though La Salle’s attempt to colonize the mouth of the Mississippi failed, the possibilities were too great for the French to ignore.