D'Anville's Influential Map of The Gulf Coast—English Edition!
Fine example of the scarce English edition of D'Anville's map of the Gulf Coast from the Apalachicola Bay area to around the mouth of the Sabine in Texas.
The map was published after the end of the American Revolution, when political boundaries regarding this area had recently changed.
The map tracks the Mississippi River, Arkansas River, Red River, Osage River and Missouri Rivers, and includes a detailed, large inset of the Mississippi River Valley from the Arkansas to above the Missouri Rivers. The detail along the Mississippi, both in the main map and the inset of the northern regions, is quite impressive for the period. The various bays include sounding depths.
The map is a close translation of D’Anville’s, which was the most detailed map of the region when published in 1752. This English edition includes mountain ranges drawn across the interior, as well as a few translation errors. For example, near Natches, instead of explaining that a village was destroyed, the English text says that the French destroyed a river.
The map also omits several details that are no longer current as of this later printing. For example, in the east, the D’Anville map notes Fort Crevecoeur, which is described as abandoned in 1718. Nearby is an unnamed Spanish fort, noted as constructed in 1719. However, neither of these are included here.
The map notes Old Biloxi (Fort Maurepas), which was the first European settlement established in Louisiana in 1699; a few years later, it moved just to the south and is labeled here as Bloxi. Up the Mobile River, Fort Louis, the initial site of Mobile is included. New Orleans is nestled between Lakes Ouachas (today Lake Salvador) and Pontchartrain.
Interestingly, although many of the notes with dates of settlement have been removed, some labels have been retained. These narrate the fallout from the Natchez Revolt of 1729, when the Natchez people overran Fort Rosalie and the French retaliated across the area. For example, a “village of the Natches” is in ruins, one of many nearby sites that were destroyed when the French retaliated across the area. This shows the politization of the map in translation; notes that make the French look bad are maintained, while those showing previous forts and attempts at colonization have been jettisoned.
D'Anville's original map derived from the manuscript maps of Valentin Devin, although Spanish sources are also acknowledged, especially near New Orleans. Devin arrived in Louisiana in January of 1719 as part of an expedition to explore and chart the coastline of Louisiana for John Law's Compagnie d'Occident (Company of the West, also known as the Mississippi Company). Over the course of the next decade, Devin would produce a number of important survey maps of the various bays and coastal regions that make up this region, along with some general maps of the coastline between Texas and the Fort Crevecoeur area.
Thomas Jefferson acquired seven of D'Anville's maps in 1787. Almost certainly, the original of this map was one of them, as Jefferson commented to Gallatin about the importance of that particular map. Meriwether Lewis obtained a copy before embarking on the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-6).
This English edition came about because the D’Anville map was one of the best large-format maps of the period. However, in 1788, when the map was published, France and Britain had just finished as adversaries on either side of the American Revolution. The area shown on the map was back in Spanish and French hands after a brief British intermission in the possession of Florida. The map captures the quixotic nature of imperial geopolitics.
European settlement of the Gulf Coast to the late-eighteenth century
Initial European contact with this area, and its many native peoples, took place in the early sixteenth century. In 1513, Ponce de León was the first European to encounter Florida. Alonso de Pineda surveyed the Gulf Coast in 1519, providing initial cartographic information for the Rio Grande and the Mississippi. He also showed that Florida and Mexico were part of the same landmass.
In 1527, the Spanish sent a colonizing and exploratory expedition under the command of Pánfilo de Narváez. By 1536, only four members of the expedition, out of an original 600, survived after being shipwrecked, captured, and having traversed much of the Gulf of Mexico and Texas.
Only two years after these stragglers made it back to Spanish controlled lands, Spain sent out another massive expedition, this one commanded by Hernando de Soto. The ten ships and 700 men landed at Tampa Bay in May 1539. They moved overland to near Tallahassee before heading north into what is today Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and then into Alabama. They were led by Indigenous peoples along the way. The Spanish were attacked by other Indigenous peoples near Mobile in 1540. They then turned northward and encountered the Mississippi River as they entered what is now Arkansas and Louisiana. Do Soto died along the Mississippi in May 1542. Luis de Moscoso took command, leading the surviving half of the expedition down the Mississippi on rafts. They reached Mexico in 1543.
The Spanish established their claim to Florida in 1513 with Ponce de León and strengthened after the presidio of St. Augustine was founded in 1565. Spanish missions spread across the panhandle, Georgia, and what is now South Carolina in the seventeenth century. Pensacola was founded in 1698 and served as an administrative headquarters in the region.
However, Spain was not left alone to claim wide swathes of the Gulf Coast. The French were also very interested in the area, driven largely by traders who pushed south from New France. The region gained its name, Louisiana, in honor of King Louis XIV, in 1682 thanks to explorer Robert Cavalier de La Salle.
Their first major settlement was at Fort Maurepas, or Old Biloxi, founded in 1699. They also set up a fort at the mouth of the Mississippi, la Balise. Initially, the capital of the territory was at Mobile, which was originally founded at Fort Louis in 1702 but then moved nearby to Fort Condé. The capital then moved to Biloxi in 1720. Biloxi had also recently shifted, from Old Biloxi to the new site closer to the gulf. By 1722, France claimed all the land south of the Great Lakes between the Rocky Mountains and Alleghenies.
However, the two imperial powers were still rubbing shoulders across the Gulf of Mexico. The French built Fort Crevecoeur in 1717 and, for a short time, it was the strongest military outpost between St. Augustine and Pensacola. The Spanish governor at Pensacola objected to the fortification and the French decided to abandon the project only a year after it was built. The Spanish then occupied the site until 1722 before dismantling it. Farther west, the French established Natchitoches in 1714, which was perilously close to the Spanish fortification at Adayes in Texas.
The Spanish and French were also both interested in New Orleans. The French Mississippi Company founded the settlement in 1718. It passed to the Spanish thanks to the Treaty of Paris in 1763. It remained under Spanish control until 1800, when the French took it back. It then became United States territory in 1803.
Spain, in turn, lost East and West Florida in the Treaty of Paris. However, they regained the territory after the American Revolution, until it passed to the new United States with the Treaty of Adams-Onís in 1819.