For much of the eighteenth century, from 1717 to 1763, Fort Toulouse aux Alibamons anchored the eastern extent of French colonial Louisiane, just above the headwaters of the Alabama River (near modern Montgomery, Alabama). For 46 years the small military garrison of Troupes de la Marine and associated civilian community of Alabama Post (named for the Alibamons, the French name for the Creek Indians) served as a linchpin of French imperial strategy in North America. In the 1680s Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, had claimed the entire midcontinent for France and imagined a string of colonial outposts stretching southward from the Great Lakes to block British expansion westward from the Atlantic seaboard. That same thought motivated French colonists who settled on the north shore of the Gulf of Mexico beginning in 1699. But they made few inroads into the vast interior region occupied and controlled by the Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Natchez and dozens of other independent Indian nations.
For more than a dozen years several hundred French colonists clung to two tiny coastal settlements, at Mobile and Dauphin Island, while a handful of intrepid missionaries and independent traders circulated among the native towns. Only in the second decade of the eighteenth century did French geopolitical ambition, economic wherewithal, and political will coincide with Native American interests to offer an opportunity for implementation of La Salle's plan. Longstanding and widespread Indian disillusionment with corrupt British trade practices had resulted in the Yamasee War of 1715 and the temporary expulsion of British traders and officials from the interior Southeast. At that critical juncture, some Creek Indian leaders decided that total reliance on British traders did not well serve their own peoples' self-interest. Instead, they now advocated political and economic neutrality and the competition this would provoke between British and French.
Both the French and the Creeks were well aware of the remarkable Great Peace of Montreal in 1701, whereby the powerful Iroquois nation had formally turned away from years of warfare with the French in favor of military and economic neutrality toward both France and Britain (Havard 2001). In 1717 the Creeks determined upon a similar diplomatic course. As a counterbalance to the British to their east, the Creeks invited the French to establish Fort Toulouse at the southwestern edge of their homeland. French colonial leaders in Louisiane, particularly the Canadian Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne de Bienville, immediately recognized that quick action could benefit their interests. When traders from South Carolina re- entered the Creek country they found the French firmly ensconced in their newly built fort overlooking the Coosa River, and the Creek people committed to non-alignment with either European power (Crane 1981: 256; Thomas 1989: 3; Waselkov 1989: vii-xi).
Founded one year before New Orleans, the establishment of Fort Toulouse boldly extended French influence far inland, into the heart of the Creek confederacy, a loose union of some sixty Indian towns strung along the major rivers of present-day western Georgia and eastern Alabama. From that strategic vantage point French officers distributed presents to their supporters among the Creek headmen, since Creek neutrality depended upon the maintenance of pro-French as well as pro-British factions within this diverse native confederacy. Fort commanders also issued permits to French merchants who circulated among the native towns to purchase deerskins and pelts of fur-bearers from Creek hunters. Despite the existence of a military garrison at Fort Toulouse, the French neither imposed this outpost upon the Creek Indians nor retained it through military strength. Quite the opposite, the French established Fort Toulouse at the invitation of the Creeks and remained there at their sufferance. They also benefited tremendously from the fort's favorable site at the head of the Alabama River. Bateaux convoys moved supplies upstream to the garrison and traders every summer and fall and transported skins and furs downstream to Mobile every spring. The fort's location on this major river system gave the French a great advantage in transport costs compared to the overland packhorse system used by British traders from Charlestown, which partially compensated for the generally uncompetitive prices offered by the French to native hunters.
Despite this geographically advantageous situation for a fort, many of the soldiers assigned to garrison duty at Fort Toulouse considered life there a hardship because of the post's remoteness from the nearest French civilian settlements. Depending on water levels, Mobile lay weeks or months away by laborious river travel. In 1721 two-thirds of the garrison marched out of the fort's gate and down the horse trail toward British Charlestown before their officers could enlist the aid of Creek warriors, who captured or killed all of the mutineers. French officers thereafter selected their most dependable men for service at Fort Toulouse, but desertion remained a problem throughout the fort's existence. In the 1740s the colonial military addressed discontent of this sort elsewhere in Louisiane by rotating soldiers on a regular schedule to keep postings at isolated forts bearably short. But the garrison at Fort Toulouse was exempted from normal troop rotation because another solution had already proven effective there. Around the time of the 1721 mutiny, several enlisted men in the garrison Louis Fontenot, Simon Brignac, and a few others married French women and established households outside the walls of Fort Toulouse. Colonial officials encouraged the growth of this civilian French settlement and by the late 1730s creole sons of those early soldiers were themselves serving in the garrison (Waselkov, Wood, and Herbert 1982: 69-70, 323-344; Rowland, Sanders, and Galloway 1984(V): 71-72; Waselkov 1989: xxii; Brasseaux 2000: 8-9).
The French civilian community at Alabama Post consisting almost entirely of military dependents, the wives and children of active soldiers, as well as retired soldiers and their families grew fairly rapidly: thirteen in 1721; about fifty in 1741; "eighty or ninety" by 1751; and around one hundred in 1755, in contrast to the garrison, which averaged about 40. Infrequent historical mentions of civilian activities at Alabama Post hint at a range of agricultural pursuits, including experimentation with upland rice, maize, and tobacco. Post inhabitants certainly raised gardens and kept cattle, hogs, and chickens. Here, as at other settlements in Louisiane, cattle figured prominently in complaints by neighboring Indians that French livestock were damaging native crops. Most historical accounts, however, describe congenial relations between the French of Alabama Post and the inhabitants of two immediately adjacent Indian towns. Pakana lay 150 meters west of the fort and Tomopa was situated close by, "a musket shot" to the east. Considering the proximity of French and Creek settlements, the archaeological evidence not unexpectedly indicates active trade between these two ethnic groups. The Creeks provided large quantities of ceramics and surplus food, while the colonists developed a veritable cottage industry of trade goods, producing earbobs and other small ornaments from worn kettle brass (Rowland, Sanders, and Galloway 1984(IV): 173, 336, (V): 71, 222, 284, 293; Waselkov 1989: xxi, xxv).
The location of Alabama Post, on a high bluff at the narrowest part of a peninsula between the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers, enabled the French fort to dominate both streams just above their confluence forming the Alabama River. Perhaps a less obvious benefit, however, was the ecological diversity and natural productivity of this location. Hemmed in on three sides by fertile river floodplains, a largely self-sustaining French garrison and civilian community coexisted shoulder to shoulder with two Indian towns without unduly straining local resources or relationships with the native peoples. Such aggregations of dependants were common around most frontier forts, and Alabama Post was far from unique in its close proximity to Indian settlements. In fact, historian Joseph Zitomersky has argued that French officials in Louisiane consciously encouraged the pairing of colonial and native settlements to expedite provisioning of colonists by Indians (Zitomersky 1992, 1994). French disregard for native land ownership had disastrous consequences in the Natchez area in 1729, but elsewhere in Louisiane and the Illinois country French colonial populations demonstrated considerable tolerance for the rights and cultural differences of their Indian neighbors. Nowhere in French America were inter-ethnic relations closer than between the French of Alabama Post and the Indians of Pakana and Tomopa.
Archaeological excavations along the Coosa River bluff between 1973 and 1986 and 2001-2004 uncovered the remains of three sequential versions of Fort Toulouse. While varying in size and construction details, all three were rectangular, wooden palisaded forts with Vauban- style corner bastions. Fort Toulouse I (erected in 1717) and Fort Toulouse II (ca. 1733) were undermined by riverbank erosion during the French occupation. Fort Toulouse III the latest (1751-1763) and the best preserved archaeologically was built 60 meters south of the bluff with officers' quarters, enlisted men's barracks, a guardhouse, a storehouse, and a powder magazine around a small parade ground.
The search for archaeological remains of the Alabama Post community of civilian and garrison family households has been hampered by the lack of historic descriptions and archaeological survey. Settlements of military dependents at French forts in Louisiane were highly varied in composition and layout and followed no consistent pattern that would allow us to predict the locations of domestic dwellings outside the walls of Fort Toulouse. Individual farms could have lined the rivers as they did along the Mobile River in south Alabama (Waselkov and Gums 2000). But, more likely, the proximity of adjacent Indian communities, surrounding flood-prone terrain, and agricultural and defensive concerns all tended to confine French domestic settlement to a relatively restricted area around the fort. Ultimately we will probably learn that French settlement at Alabama Post was constrained by the centrifugal factors of each family's need for adequate arable land, pasturage, fuel, and other resources and the centripetal demands of military duty, defense, and relations with nearby Indian communities.
At Alabama Post the most likely area for French civilian households lay immediately south and east of the fort. To the north was the continually eroding Coosa River. Fifty meters to the west was a swampy swale, and beyond that the native community of Pakana. To the northeast the town of Tomopa was situated on the Coosa River bluff. To the south and east a narrow terrace bordered a steep slope above the rich bottomlands of the Tallapoosa River. Consequently archaeologists and historians familiar with the site have long suspected that archaeological remains of Alabama Post would be found on the 50- to 100-meter-wide high terrace south and east of the fort.
Past agricultural cultivation revealed scatters of brick fragments, European and Creek Indian ceramics, and other eighteenth-century artifacts in the fields east and south of the fort. A 1966 test excavation at one of these concentrations, 50 meters south of Fort Toulouse III, uncovered pit features, a brick and rock scatter, and a linear wall trench, all containing aboriginal and European ceramics, glass sherds, and other European artifacts (Chase 1968).
Excavations in 2001-2002 by the Alabama Historical Commission and Auburn University Montgomery, in the area of the 1966 tests, revealed two related complexes of wall and fence trenches (Figure 1). A 25-cm deep plowzone overlaying those features was systematically stripped from 190.5 square meters in 1x1-meter units. Screening the plowzone yielded prehistoric, historic aboriginal, and eighteenth-century French and British artifacts, along with some more recent items. Unfortunately cross sectioning of French wall and fence trenches yielded very few historic artifacts. While most of the eighteenth-century artifacts can be attributed to the French occupation, some of the British artifacts date to an Indian reoccupation of the site after the departure of the French in 1763. Few animal bone fragments and charred plant remains were recovered.
Underlying the plowzone was sterile orange clay subsoil with forty intrusive wall trenches and other features. Four small pits and a thin midden date to a prehistoric Woodland occupation, and two pits filled with charred corn cobs and a human burial relate to the post- French Indian community of Taskigi (ca. 1763-1814). The bulk of the features are French, including one small pit, two large pits for daub or bousillage production, a burned brick concentration, and 28 wall or fence trenches.
French Colonial Architecture
The study of colonial architecture in French Louisiane is still in its infancy (Peterson 2001; Waselkov 1984, 1989, 1991, 1999, 2002; Gums 1988, 1993, 2002; Oszuscik 1988; Gums et al. 1991; Ekberg 1996, 2001; Edwards and Kariouk 2004; Edwards 2006; Maygarden 2006). However, architectural information drawn from surviving standing structures in the Mississippi valley, historical accounts, and archaeological excavations indicates several recurrent themes. Most domestic construction was wooden, relying upon the vast timber resources of surrounding forests. Brick and stone masonry was largely restricted to chimneys and hearths, except in the rarer government, religious, and commercial buildings. Basic wood construction techniques, while traceable in part to France, evolved to fit the ready availability of timber, scarcity of skilled craftsmen having only unspecialized tools, limited building supplies (such as nails and roof tiles), scarce investment capital, and other frontier conditions. Although pit-sawn planks and timbers were used, wooden elements of wall and roof construction were often left in the round or worked flat only where needed with axes or adzes. Common joinery techniques included mortising and the use of wooden pegs (or trenails) and iron nails.
Three basic techniques of wall construction were used in eighteenth-century Louisiane. PiŠce sur piŠce construction using horizontal square logs and cribbed corners was rarely employed in Louisiane(except early on, at Fort Maurepas and Fort Louis), probably due to the tendency for insects and rot to damage timbers resting directly on ground in the warm moist climate (Peterson 2001: 46; Gums 2002: 14). Poteaux sur sole construction relied upon a foundation of large squared-timber sills supporting walls of spaced upright posts (Edwards 1988: 19; Peterson 2001: 44; Waselkov 2002: 9). The upright posts or studs were attached to the tops of sills with nails or by mortise and tenon joinery and the spaces between uprights were filled with stone fragments (colombage pierrot‚), brick- nogging (colombage briquett‚), or, most common in the Southeast, bousillage a mixture of clay and Spanish moss plastered over sticks or other chinking. A variant of poteaux sur sole with sills placed in trenches was used in four of the five structures found inside Fort Toulouse III (Waselkov 1989: xvii-xviii).
Poteaux en terre was a widely employed earthfast technique in which the bases of wall uprights or studs were erected in footing trenches, nailed or mortise-and-tenoned at the top to a horizontal roof plate (generally in the same manner as the poteaux sur sole walls ), and dirt tamped back in the trench. Poteaux en terre proper involved leaving intervening gaps (often, the diameter of a post) between uprights. Above grade the posts were either left round or hewn square. In Louisiane the most common infill between posts was bousillage (Peterson 2001: 41-44, 107). Recent archaeological excavations at French colonial sites in Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Louisiana, and Alabama report a wide range of poteaux-en-terre structures of different sizes and floor plans (e.g., Waselkov 1991, 2002; Gums and Witty 2000: 126). Pieux en terre construction was similar, but the posts were smaller and not squared. This technique was used for fences and for smaller, simple structures, such as the barracks found at Old Mobile outside Fort Louis (Gums 2002).
Poteaux en terre and pieux en terre were well adapted to frontier conditions, particularly those faced by the soldiers and civilians at Alabama Post. Neither technique required a high level of carpentry skills. Both could be accomplished with a limited number of readily available tools: hoes, spades, axes, and hammers. Building materials such as saplings for lumber, logs for split shingles and weatherboards, and clay for bousillage and bricks were locally available. Minimal hardware such as hinges, pintles, latches, and nails could be produced by a local blacksmith at Fort Toulouse. While the lower parts of walls were susceptible to insect damage and rot, individual wall posts or adjacent groups of posts could be dug out and replaced as needed without disturbing the remainder of a structure. The frequent necessity of such maintenance and rebuilding probably accounts for the numerous wall and fence trenches found in the 2001-2002 excavations.
Structural Complex A at Alabama Post
Two complexes of house and fence footing trenches were found on the terrace 50 to 100 meters south of Fort Toulouse III (Figure 2). With few exceptions, individual trenches were fairly straight and intersected other trenches at right angles. Trench widths ranged from 16 to 24 cm, with bottom depths below present ground surface of 53 to 67 cm. This orderly relationship of trenches within a complex indicates continual use through construction, repair, and rebuilding, which maintained the basic orientation over a number of years.
The northwest group (Complex A) was bounded on the northeast and southeast by long fences (Features 17 and 18). Within the right angle of these two major fences, 21 parallel and perpendicular footing ditches formed an apparent maze of rectangular enclosures that was very difficult to resolve into primary buildings, additions, fences and other structures. While some trenches were clearly for house walls and others definitely held fences, a number of them could have served either purpose.
Within Complex A, two probable poteaux en terre houses can be discerned. Four wall trenches (Feature 29 and parts of Features 13, 16, and 30) outline a rectangular building, Structure 1, divided by a central interior wall (Feature 28) into two irregular-shaped small rooms (Figure 3-5). The exterior dimensions of Structure 1 were 8.85 by 4.92 meters. From southeast to northwest, the interior rooms measured 4.5 by 4.1 to 4.5 meters and 4.5 by 4.0 to 4.1 meters. Structure 1 nestled in the corner formed by the two long fence trenches and antedates Structure 2.
Structure 2, the most clearly defined structure found in the excavations, was formed by wall trench Features 10, 11, 12, and 13, with external dimensions of 10.4 by 5.8 meters (Figure 6). A central wall (Feature 14) divides the interior into two roughly square, equal-sized rooms measuring 4.8 by 5.0 meters. Three of the exterior wall trenches averaged 34 cm in width, with the thickest wall (Feature 13) measuring 44 cm wide. Exterior wall trenches averaged 51 cm in depth, and the irregular interior wall trench was 36 cm deep from the surface (the shallower depth possibly indicating a non-load bearing wall). Postmolds visible in places indicate that the fairly closely-spaced uprights were left in the round, at least below grade.
Sequence of construction is inferred by comparing the light-colored feature fill in Structure 1 wall trenches to the dark fill in Structure 2 wall trenches. The lighter trenches, which imply lower organic content of the soils at the time they were dug and filled, presumably were created prior to sustained site occupation and therefore must be earlier than the dark trenches.
An alternative to the above interprets Structure 2 as the primary building and Structure 1 as added rooms, lean-tos, galleries, or fenced enclosures attached to the northeast face of the house (although they do not extend across its entire length ). This would suggest that Structure 2 lasted for some time. Changes in family composition could have required additions of chambres or small rooms attached to the face of the house. Some late eighteenth-century French-style houses in the Mississippi valley are thought to have grown through such accretion (Edwards 1988: 15-20). This would help explain the clear parallel and perpendicular orientations of the linear features in this complex. If, on the other hand, there were a series of sequential structures as seems more likely then rebuilding soon followed demolition of the first and was guided by survival of some salvageable architectural elements, such as remnants of older walls or fences.
Reconstruction of the appearances of Structures 1 and 2 is difficult due to the lack of historic descriptions or drawings of Alabama Post and because of disturbance by plowing. No indications of entrances or fireplaces were found in either structure. By most accounts (and archaeological evidence; Gums 2002: 16), doors were located in the long sides of French colonial structures. The absence of gaps indicative of doorways here is probably attributable to continuous trenching around the periphery of a structure and subsequent filling at thresholds. Despite concerted efforts during the 2001-2002 excavations to detect brick or clay chimney bases or burned hearth areas, none were found in Complex A. Fragments of low fired bricks, similar to those reported in the interior of Fort Toulouse III (Waselkov 1989: xxxv) were found throughout the excavated plowzone, but none in sufficient concentration to suggest a brick-lined hearth. At these domestic structures, as at Fort Toulouse III, the small quantities of brickbats indicate mud and stick chimneys above the hearth (cf. Peterson 2001: 42). Interestingly there is no evidence for architectural use of schist slabs, which outcrop naturally (and could have been easily gathered) from the rapids at Wetumpka, eight kilometers up the Coosa River.
Spaces between the upright timbers were certainly filled with a mixture of clay, straw, and Spanish moss ( bousillage). Little is known about the bousillage used in Structures 1 and 2 as it was not baked by fire and largely washed away as the superstructure decayed after abandonment. However, thin layers of alluvial whitish-gray clay seen in some of the postmolds are interpreted as bousillage remnants. In fact the entire plowzone above Complex A was lighter in color than elsewhere, probably due to intermixing of the soil in this area with a substantial amount of this clay.
Wall uprights could have been exposed on the exterior and interior, or they may have been covered with lath and clay plaster on the inside and by weatherboard on the outside (cf. Peterson 2001: 44). The roof was certainly supported by a traditional truss system of timbers, hewn square or left round (Waselkov and Silvia 1995; Peterson 2001), with major elements perhaps joined with mortise and tenons and secured with wooden pegs. The presence of large nails in the plowzone, however, suggests that at least some framing was fastened with spikes, a characteristic of early French colonial architecture in the Mobile area (Waselkov 2002). The roofs would have been gabled or hipped and covered with boards or split shingles.
The floors in Structures 1 and 2 may have been beaten earth or covered by wooden planking. Nails clinched on 22 to 25 mm planking suggest the presence of wooden doors and shutters. (Structure C inside Fort Toulouse III had the faintly preserved remains of a fallen door, measuring 1.35 by 0.70 m, which stood above a brick sill.) Two iron latch parts may have been used on doors. An iron case lock was found in nearby blacksmith debris (Feature 9), but it is small and more likely came from a trunk or piece of furniture. Three iron pintles, recovered from the plowzone, supported doors or shutters. No window pane glass was found in the excavations.
The most numerous architectural elements are 737 iron nails and nail fragments, mostly found in the vicinity of the structures in Complex A. Some were entirely hand wrought; others were forged from nail rods, examples of which were found in Feature 9 (cf. Waselkov 1991: 64; Edwards and Wells 1993).The bulk of nails (91.5%) were clinched or fragmentary suggesting actual use in construction. Most are 50 mm or less in length and probably fastened roof boards, shingles, door and window frames, and other medium construction. The low number of large iron spikes argues for at least selective use of wooden pegs or trenails in superstructures, trusses, and other heavy construction.
Structural Complex B at Alabama Post
Excavation revealed Complex B, southeast of Complex A, to be a configuration of seven footing trenches with very closely spaced postmolds enclosing a roughly square area, 13.0 by 13.5 meters. The overall dimensions of the outer wall (Features 19, 20, 22, 23, and 40) suggest Complex B was too large to have been a roofed structure. Moreover, the irregularity of the southwestern trench suggests a fence rather than a structural wall. The west end of the complex could have formed a small building (13.5 by 4.8 meters), perhaps a barn or similar agricultural structure. A small open-sided structure situated against the center of the northeast wall sheltered a blacksmith's forge. The fence on southeastern side of Complex A swerves 22 cm to avoid the northern corner of this enclosure, suggesting that both structural configurations were coeval, with construction of B perhaps preceding A.
Located inside Complex B, along the northeastern wall, was a circular basin-shaped daub or bousillage pit (Feature 9) measuring 1.98 by 1.70 meters, with a maximum depth of 64 cm. The fill was a homogeneous mixture of ash, grey silt and sand, brick fragments, forge slag, and large pieces of charred wood. Artifacts from this pit include sherds of olive and light green, cylindrical and case-style glass bottles; two sheet brass conical projectile points; scrap sheet brass; two small lead shot; a white clay pipe bowl fragment; glass trade beads; and 2.99 kilograms of forge waste. Among these numerous pieces of wrought, cast, and sheet iron are sections or "cutoffs" of flat bars, rods, and barrel hoops, nails, nail rods, gun barrel sections, handles, wedges, and unidentified fragments.
Feature 24 was a concentration of brick fragments 0.8 meter east of Feature 9. The exposed portion measured 0.90 by 0.87 meter with a maximal thickness of 4 cm. Although none of the brick fragments have a complete, measurable dimension, in color, composition, and surface finish they closely resemble the bricks found inside Fort Toulouse III (Waselkov 1989: xxxv). This is probably the disturbed foundation of a raised brick forge. Such a brick scatter was found associated with iron artifacts, forge slag, and coal in Structure 2 at Old Mobile (Waselkov 1991: 96). The absence of coal here may be due to the limited scope of excavations. A footing trench to the northeast (Feature 19 and 22) and some adjacent individual posts may represent a simple structural covering for the forge. Blacksmithing activities at the Alabama Post are mentioned by many historical sources, including British superintendant of Indian Affairs Edmond Atkin, who berated the politically savvy French for "providing gunsmiths to mend the Guns of all in General" (Jacobs 1967: 9-11).
Domestic Artifacts from Complexes A and B
Small olive green, aqua, and blue green sherds of French and British cylindrical and case glass bottles, fioles, flasks and other containers were commonly recovered throughout the two structural complexes. Fragments of clear lead or soda glass include cylindrical and multi-sided tumblers, (some with wheel-ground geometric and floral decorations), and stemmed goblets with folded bases (Lapointe 1998). Sixteen sherds of cylindrical and case bottles have deliberate flaking or utilization damage along one or more sides, suggesting use as scrapers for woodworking or hide working.
Most of the European ceramics were obtained through French supply networks and include various varieties of faience ( Normandy Plain, Provence Blue on White, unidentified blue on white and polychrome types, and a five sherds of undecorated fa‹ence brune; Waselkov and Walthall 2002), French earthenwares with clear or green glazes, and German stonewares. Sherds of jasperware, Astbury ware, pearlware, and English salt glazed stoneware probably derive from the Taskigi town reoccupation of the site that occurred after abandonment by the French. Indian ceramic sherds comprised the most abundant artifact category at both complexes. Although not distinguishable from other aboriginal sherds, pieces of Colono vessels made locally by native potters as copies of European vessel forms are presumably present in the assemblage since they have been routinely found in excavations at the nearby forts.
The close relationship of Alabama Post inhabitants to the garrison at Fort Toulouse is reflected in the five examples of brass plain domed button with a stamped circumferential groove and drilled cast shank. This type of eighteenth-century French uniform button has been widely reported from French colonial military sites throughout North America (e.g., Stone 1974: 49, fig. 27i; Brain 1979: 189). In contrast, just one a large military-style frizzen of the twenty-three flintlock musket parts recovered from the plowzone is part of a .68 caliber Charleville or Tulle military musket. All of the rest came from civilian firearms, the fusil de chasse or other lightweight muskets of French or British manufacture that were so popular throughout Louisiane with colonists as well as Indians (Bouchard 1980: 22; Hamilton 1980). Similarly, the twenty-three flint gun spalls recovered from plowzone are all sized for civilian French or British fowlers and commercial muskets (Hamilton and Emery 1988). The predominant use of civilian firearms is further substantiated by the diameters of eighteen lead balls, which average .44 caliber (56 balls per livre; range: .37-.58 caliber); none are .68 caliber (18 balls per livre). No bullet molds were found, but the presence of numerous pieces of lead splatter and fired balls argues that the inhabitant melted and molded ammunition. Perhaps more unexpected than the prevalence of civilian long arms in the domestic dwellings of Alabama Post is their abundance from excavations at Fort Toulouse III (Waselkov, Wood, and Herbert 1982: 176-184), which reflects their popularity with the active-duty garrison.
A lead seal from a bale of cloth is marked "AVNES" and "20/21,"indicating the length of cloth in the bale measured between 20 and 21 aunes (aune= 1.188 meters). The cloth and a pair of iron scissors suggest sewing activities. The presence of earrings, pendants, a triangle, and beads of silver, and beads and jewelry insets of glass could be traced to historic Indians, but there is the possibility that they were used by the French occupants of these domestic compounds.
Fences at Alabama Post
Simple palisaded fences formed by erecting poles in footing trenches ( pieux en terre) were common features of both urban and rural settlements in French colonial Louisiane. Contemporary drawings by Dumont show such fences enclosing and subdividing plantations in the lower Mississippi River valley (Wilson 1973). Likewise, numerous official decisions regulated the erection and maintenance of agricultural long lot fences in the Illinois Country (Ekberg 2001: 118, 132-133). For instance, notarial records for the village of Chartres contain many mentions of wooden fences, their condition and extent, and counts of fence poles cut for agricultural fields and residential lots. Incidentally, those same records suggest the normal length of fence poles to have been over 2 meters (1 toise), implying fence heights of about 1.5 meters (Kimball Brown and Dean 1977: 388).
Virtually every archaeological excavation of a French colonial site in Louisiane has revealed evidence of fence footing trenches (e.g., Walthall and Emerson 1991; Waselkov 1999: 12-14; Gums and Witty 2000: 127, 133). Thus the discovery of fence trenches at Alabama Post came as no surprise. As previously discussed, differentiating between the trenches of small fenced enclosures and trenches of roofed structures has not been easy, but certain features were undoubtedly fence trenches. These definite fences fall into two categories: short enclosure fences and long boundary fences.
Within Complex A which provides our most completely excavated examples short fences formed roughly rectangular enclosures, often directly abutting the walls of structures. These trenches were generally straight with right angle corners, but much more irregular than boundary fences. At least three were very short, less than a meter in length, and ran between a house wall and a paralleling fence or between two adjacent fences. These short trenches may mark fences or gates that closed off irregular areas around the houses, perhaps to fence in (or out) domestic animals or to protect gardens.
Features 17 and 18, which exemplify the boundary fence category, marked the northeastern and southeastern limits of Complex A. Small unit excavations traced Feature 17 to a length of at least 41.2 meters, but it extends farther to the northwest. Feature cross sections revealed closely spaced postmolds averaging 8 cm in diameter. From its junction with Feature 17, Feature 18 ran a minimum of 18.1 meters to the southwest. Both of these long trenches were remarkably straight.
This attention to alignment and their extraordinary lengths suggest that boundary fences at Alabama Post may have served at least two functions: animal control/crop protection and property demarcation. In 1744 Governor Vaudreuil recommended limiting each French family to "three cows and a pair of oxen for transport" because their livestock were damaging Indian property (Barron 1975: 362). This unspecific complaint probably refers to French cattle getting into Indian corn fields, a complaint lodged frequently against Europeans living in or near native towns in the colonial period. The Creeks and other southeastern Indians had not traditionally fenced their extensive agricultural fields, but did hunt the wild animals attracted to these artificial food plots. Introducing free-ranging domesticated cattle into the Creek landscape clearly created potential conflicts. However, the French penchant for fence building offered a partial solution as long as fenced enclosures were large enough and the fences well maintained. We do not know whether the long fences at Alabama Post enclosed crops or livestock, but there may well have been enclosures for both.
Unfortunately there are no known descriptions or plats of properties held by the military families of Alabama Post equivalent to the detailed accounts and maps for Chartres, Kaskaskia, New Orleans, Mobile and other French colonial settlements in Louisiane (e.g., Ekberg 2001; Waselkov and Gums 2000). Those records indicate complex patterns of usage rights to village lots, fields, and common pastures (Ekberg 2001: 108). In nearly every instance land lots were oriented perpendicular to major rivers to give each family access to water transport, high ground for habitation, arable farmland, and woodlots (often swamplands). The situation at Alabama Post seems to have differed from the French colonial norm in many regards. Most importantly, the French at Alabama Post did not own the land they occupied. Creek headmen continually reminded French officials, and later their British successors, that this land was loaned to them for their fort and their use, but the Indians retained ownership. Nevertheless, the French colonists at Alabama Post may have thought they were laying claim to the land they farmed through usufruct, and were demonstrating their claims by constructing long fences (cf. Bossu 1962: 22). If that was the case, the abrupt departure of the French late in 1763 made the issue moot (Figure 7).
Conceivably, the boundary fences for Complex A could mark the northern end of a long- lot farm that ran southwestward down the high terrace and across bottomland to the Tallapoosa River. In fact this seems likely, but tracing the entire extent of Complex A fences will take substantial archaeological effort. Perhaps some form of remote sensing may prove fruitful for locating these fences and additional structural features of Alabama Post. The existence of Complex B reminds us that other similar farms probably encircled Fort Toulouse and they must have delimited substantial amounts of land to their rear (generally to the south and east). One interesting feature of Complexes A and B is their slightly different orientation. Each faces the fort, but at a distinct angle, as if the civilian enclosures of Alabama Post were organized radially around the military edifice at their center (see Figure 1). This layout distinguishes the Alabama Post settlement from all others in French Louisiane.
The apparent encircling arrangement of farms south (and perhaps east) of Fort Toulouse raises a question about use of the land between farms and fort. Military engineering called for a clear field of fire around a fort, an area devoid of buildings or other features that could give an enemy cover during an attack. Eight 1 by 1-meter archaeological test units excavated northeast of Complex A recovered far fewer French-period artifacts than were found within Complexes A and B, probably reflecting a low level of use of the intervening space. Since this area, too, was effectively hemmed in by the river to the north and by fencing to the south, it may have served as the village commons, where cattle and other livestock could graze without risk to anyone's crops.
The fences of Alabama Post must have made a powerful visual statement. Southeastern Indians are known to have erected fences in two contexts, prosaically as defensive palisades around villages and symbolically as screens around sacred precincts, such as temple or mortuary compounds. Both were deployed selectively. Fences (or palisades or screens) would have been rare sights in the Creek Indian landscape of the early eighteenth century rare, except in the vicinity of Fort Toulouse, where they would have dominated one's view. The impact of such a sight, of dozens of long, intersecting, crisscrossing pieux en terre fences, must have been to delimit and define this as French space, as a distinctly European, non-Indian place. The archaeologist Marcel Moussette has recently explored the meaning of enclosed space for French settlers in the St. Lawrence valley, where he argues they used fences (and other structural accommodations) to gradually appropriate the landscape from natural wilderness and native "wildness" in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Moussette 2008). Surely something similar was happening in the military households at Alabama Post.
Throughout their occupation of Alabama Post the French established and routinely reinforced symbolic ethnic barriers between themselves and their close neighbors in the Creek villages of Pakana and Tomopa, who evidently did the same. Despite their proximity, their convergent economic interests, and their frequent social (and sexual) relations, there was no melding of cultures, and no assimilation one way or the other. Ethnic identities remained nonnegotiable convictions. Yet the ties that developed between French and Creeks here at Alabama Post could hardly have been closer. When the garrison and civilian community evacuated Alabama Post in 1763 and resettled west of the Mississippi River, in the Opelousas district of newly formed Spanish Luisiana, the Pakanas who had often said they regarded the French creoles born in their midst "as their own children" went with them, moving to Bayou Lafourche (Rowland, Sanders, and Galloway 1984(V): 71; Waselkov 1989: xxviii; Goddard et al. 2004: 184). The fences of Alabama Post had served their purposes well.
Figure 1. Archaeological map of Alabama Post, showing locations of the three sequential
versions of Fort Toulouse, the civilian compounds to the south, and neighboring Indian towns of
Pakana and Tomopa.
Figure 2. Excavated features of Structural Complexes A and B.
Figure 3. Structure 1 in Structural Complex A.
Figure 4. East end of Structure 1, with wall trench features unexcavated.
Figure 5. Northeast side of Structure 1, with wall trench features scored and cross sectioned.
Figure 6. Structure 2 in Structural Complex A.
Figure 7. Troupes de la Marine reenactors at reconstructed Fort Toulouse III.
Excavations of the Alabama Post structural complexes were sponsored by the Alabama Historical Commission and Auburn University Montgomery. Sarah Mattics produced the digital site plans.
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Addresses & Affiliations:
Craig T. Sheldon, Jr., Department of Sociology, Auburn University Montgomery, Montgomery
AL 36124-4023; affiliation: Associate Professor of Anthropology, Auburn University
Ned J. Jenkins, Fort Toulouse/Jackson State Historic Site, 2521 W. Fort Toulouse Road, Wetumpka, Al. 36093; affiliation: Alabama Historical Commission
Gregory A. Waselkov, Center for Archaeological Studies, University of South Alabama, HUMB 34, 307 N University Blvd, Mobile, AL 36688 USA; affiliation: Professor of Anthropology, University of South Alabama