Fort Maurepas, later known as Old Biloxi,  was developed in
Louisiana (New France)
Louisiana (New France) in April 1699 along the Gulf of
Mexico. (at present-day Ocean Springs, Mississippi). Fort
Maurepas was designated temporarily as the capital of
France) in 1719. The capital was being moved from Mobile (in
present-day Alabama) up the
Mississippi River to
New Orleans to
protect it from hurricanes. Government buildings in the latter city
were still under construction.
The fort was completed on May 1, 1699 under direction of French
explorer Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, who sailed for France on May
4. He appointed his teenage brother Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de
Bienville as second in command after the French commandant
la Villantry (c.1671–1701).
Biloxi in French was spelled Bilocci, in a transliteration of
the name of the local Native American tribe. (The military camp was
also known in French as
Fort Maurepas to honor Louis Phélypeaux,
comte de Maurepas). It appeared as "Fort Bilocci" on English maps
updated circa the years 1710/1725.
Louisiana (part of New France) was known in French as La
Louisiane in colonial times. In modern times it is referred to as La
Louisiane française to distinguish it from the modern state of
Louisiana (also "Louisiane" in French).
In 1719, the administrative capital of French
Louisiana was moved to
Biloxi from Mobile (or Mobille), during the War of the Quadruple
Alliance (1718–1720) against Spain. Due to hurricanes and
shifting sand bars blocking harbor waters during the early 18th
century, the capital of French
Louisiana was moved from Mobile to
Biloxi (present-day Biloxi), across
Biloxi Bay. However, later
in the same year,
Fort Maurepas (at Old Biloxi) burned. It was never
Later, during June–August 1722, the capital was moved again, by
colonial governor Bienville, from
Biloxi to deeper waters in the
Mississippi River at a new inland harbor town named La
Nouvelle-Orléans (New Orleans), built for the purpose during
In modern times, a replica of
Fort Maurepas was built at the site,
then within the town of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. It was badly
Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, when all coastal areas of
Mississippi were devastated by a storm tide exceeding 30 feet
(9 m), with waves even higher.
1.1 During Hurricane Katrina
2 Problems in source documents
3 See also
6 External links
Biloxi (Fort Maurepas) on the
Biloxi Coast (site B on the map)
M. d'Iberville originally intended to establish a French colony along
Mississippi River. However, because of its flooding, he had
been unable to find a suitable location during his first voyage of
discovery up the
Mississippi in March 1699. He returned from his
river journey on April 1, and spent another week in searching the
shores adjacent to Ship Island, where the fleet had been anchored.
On Tuesday, April 7, 1699, d'Iberville and Surgeres observed "an
elevated place that appeared very suitable". This spot was on the
northeast shore of
Biloxi Bay. They had found the bay was 7–8 feet
(2 m) deep. They decided to construct the fort there, as they
"could find no spot more convenient, and our provisions were failing,
we could search no longer". On Wednesday, April 8, they commenced to
cut away the trees preparatory for construction of the fort. All the
men "worked vigorously", and by the end of the month, the fort had
been finished. They also carved what is known as the Iberville stone,
claiming the site for France. This is now held by the
The expedition journal reported:
In the meantime, the boats were actively engaged transporting the
powder, guns, and ammunition, as well as the live stock, such as
bulls, cows, hogs, fowls, turkeys, etc. . . . The fort was made with
four bastions, two of them squared logs, from 2-3 feet [1 m]
thick, placed one upon the other, with embrasures for port holes, and
a ditch all around. The other two bastions were stockaded with heavy
timbers which took four men to lift one of them. Twelve guns were
— Historical Jour, of d'Iberville's expedition
The best men were selected to remain at the fort, including
detachments of soldiers to place with the Canadians (the French also
had a colony in what is now Quebec and along the upper Mississippi
River) and workmen, and sailors to serve on the gunboats. Altogether
about 100 people were left at
Fort Maurepas while Iberville sailed
back to France on May 4, 1699. Those remaining included:
Sauvolle de la Villantry, lieutenant of a company and naval
ensign of the frigate Le Marin, was left in command as governor.
Bienville, king's lieutenant of the marine guard of the frigate La
Badine was next in command.
Le Vasseur de Boussouelle, a Canadian, was major.
De Bordenac was chaplain, and M. Care was surgeon.
Also: two captains, two cannoniers, four sailors, eighteen
filibusters, ten mechanics, 6 masons, 13 Canadians, and 20
sub-officers and soldiers who comprised the garrison.
Few of the colonists were experienced with agriculture, and the
colony never became self-sustaining. The climate and soil were
different than they were familiar with. On the return of d'Iberville
Biloxi in January 1700, he brought with him sixty Canadian
immigrants and a large supply of provisions and stores. On this second
voyage, he was instructed:
to breed the Buffalo at Biloxi; to seek for pearls; to examine the
wild mulberry with the view to silk [silk worms on leaves]; the timber
for shipbuilding, and to seek for mines. Expeditions in search of
gold, jewels and valuable furs were the main goals of the colonists.
They made thorough explorations of the
Mississippi River and the
In 1700, Le Sueur was sent to the upper
Mississippi with 20 men to
establish a fort in the Sioux country. His government intended to take
over the copper mines of the Sioux Indians in the interests of France.
Meanwhile, the French had established forts and settlements in the
Illinois country. Learning of the French colony at Old Biloxi,
Canadians came by the boatload down the
Mississippi from the upper
country (today's Quebec).
Fathers Davion and Montigny, accompanied by a few Frenchmen, were th
first visitors at the fort, having made the journey downriver in
canoes. In May 1700, the settlers were visited by M. Sagan, a traveler
from Canada. He carried a request from the French minister to the
governor M. de Sauvolle, asking that Sagan be furnished with 24
pirogues and 100 Canadians in order to explore the
Missouri River and
its branches, a major tributary of the
Mississippi that has its
confluence at what later developed as Saint Louis. During the absence
of d'Iberville, his young brother Bienville made further expeditions
to try to secure the prosperity of the colony. But the colonists
suffered from tropical diseases of the region: many died from yellow
fever, including the governor, M. de Sauvolle, who died in the summer
of 1700. Bienville became ranking chief in command, and acted as
On September 16, 1700, a party of
Choctaw warriors arrived at Biloxi,
asking for French troops to help them fight against the Chickasaw,
their traditional enemies among native groups. The
this period had 40 villages, with more than 5,000 warriors. On October
25, 20 Mobile natives arrived at Fort Maurepas. They were said to have
about 400 fighting men.
On December 18, 1700, a shallop arrived from the Spanish settlement at
Pensacola to the east, with the news that d'Iberville and Serigny had
reached there with the king's ships, the Renommée of fifty guns, and
the Palmier of 44 guns. This was welcome news to the garrison, which
had been living for more than 3 months on little more than corn. They
had lost more than 60 men due to disease, leaving only 150 persons in
the colony. Bienville was ordered to evacuate Biloxi, and move to a
settlement on the Mobile River.
On January 5, 1701, Bienville departed for the Mobile River, leaving
20 men under the command of M. de Boisbriant as garrison at the fort.
At Dauphin Island, Bienville met with his brothers de Serigny and
Chateaugue, who had arrived with a detachment of sailors and workmen.
They were to build a magazine for storage of goods and provisions
which had been brought from France. On the Kith, he commenced to build
the Fort Louis de la Mobile, about 12 leagues above the present city
of Mobile, on the right bank of the river. It was the official center
of the Gulf Coast colony for the next nine years, until the new Fort
Conde was built. (Mobile city developed around it.)
In 1717, when the channel at Dauphine island (present-day Dauphin
Island) had become choked with sand, de l'Épinay and de Bienville
decided to make use of the harbor at Ship Island. They ordered a new
fort to be constructed on the mainland opposite, selecting a place one
league west of Old
Biloxi for a site across
Biloxi Bay. The transport
ship Dauphine, commanded by M. Berranger, had arrived with many
carpenters and masons. They built the new fort, known as New Biloxi
(Nouveau-Biloxi) and also as Fort Louis. In 1719,
Fort Maurepas (at
Old Biloxi) was burned; it was never reconstructed by the French.
Another fort and magazines were also constructed on Ship Island, in
the Gulf of Mexico.
During Hurricane Katrina
See also: Effects of
Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi
A replica of the wooden
Fort Maurepas was built at the historic site
in the 20th century and was open to the public. It was badly damaged
Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, when coastal
devastated by a storm surge exceeding 30 feet (9 m) plus higher
waves. Within a few hours, all coastal towns were flooded more than
90%. Residents who had not evacuated, survived by swimming to treetops
or roof lines of taller buildings.
A park has since been constructed at the site of the fort. It includes
a playground, a splash pad, a stage, a two-story structure with a
viewing platform overlooking the beach, public restrooms, and an
eco-friendly parking lot. The construction included improvements of
pathways along the beach, and to the sailors memorial, crosswalks, and
fire pits. It provides access to parking on the opposite side of the
Biloxi Bay Bridge.
Problems in source documents
Blueprint of Fort Maurepas
Historical documents, reports and translated journals about Fort
Maurepas sometimes contain conflicting dates, or other details. They
were records of what people knew, and their understanding of time and
context was limited. Often, such writings compress events to simplify
the overall view. In summary, the French claim to La Louisiane (in New
France) began at
Fort Maurepas in 1699, moved to Mobile in 1702
(relocated in 1711), and returned to
Fort Maurepas (Old Biloxi) in
1719. The main garrison moved to the fort at (New) Biloxi, then to New
Orleans during June–August 1722. Several source documents sometimes
state "1723" for the founding of
New Orleans as the capital, but this
was in fact its first full-year as capital.
Alabama (after a Native American tribe) was used by the
French colonists as one of the nine military districts of the Province
Louisiana (in 1752): Biloxi, Natchez, Yazoo, Alabama, Mobile, New
Orleans, Illinois, Arkansas and Natchitoches (French names of military
districts; all but two were named after local Native American
New France portal
Mobile, Alabama - founded in 1702 by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville
Louisiana - founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de
Bienville for Iberville
^ a b c d e f "Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville" (biography),
Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907, webpage: CathEnc-7614b: gives dates: 13
Feb. 1699, went to the mainland Biloxi, with fort completion May 1,
1699; sailed for France May 4.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Fort Maurepas", Mississippi
Genealogy, 2002-2008, webpage: Mgenealogy-maurepas.
^ a b "La Louisiane française" (in French), by Virginie Tanlay, from
book Histoire de la Louisiane, webpage: [flfa.free.fr/enquete7.htm
flfa-enquete7]: states that Iberville chose "le site de Bilocci" (or
^ "Pas-Kaart Van de Golff van Mexico" (map from Amsterdam/1710), Edge
of the Map Incorporated, 2007, webpage: Raremaps-Archive-3176.
^ "A New Map of as much of North & South America" (London/1725),
Edge of the Map Incorporated, 2007, webpage: Raremaps-Archive-7278.
^ a b c d e f g "Fort Maurepas",
Mississippi Genealogy, 2002-2008,
^ Online Exhibits: The Cabildo: Two Centuries of
Louisiana State Museum, 2017; accessed 30 May
"Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville" (history), Catholic Encyclopedia,
Volume II, 1907.
Catholic Encyclopedia on Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville.
Ocean Springs City Parks - includes