Massacre, Mardi Gras, and Torture in Early New Orleans

TitleMassacre, Mardi Gras, and Torture in Early New Orleans
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsWhite, Sophie
JournalThe William and Mary Quarterly
Date Published07/2013

The earliest known account of a Mardi Gras masquerade in New Orleans was produced by Marc-Antoine Caillot, a clerk for the Company of the Indies in Louisiana. The masquerade he described took place on Fat Monday in 1730, on the outskirts of the city at Bayou Saint Jean. But the placement of the masquerade within his narrative structure suggests that it should not be interpreted as a merely frivolous interlude. Rather, Caillot’s description of hedonism, feasting, and cross-gender disguises was an unexpected narrative twist given the topic he discussed immediately before and after the masquerade: his account of Mardi Gras festivities was book-ended by events surrounding the 1729 uprising in which the Natchez Indians attacked French settlers at Fort Rosalie and neighboring settlements, killing, capturing, and torturing survivors. This article connects Caillot's description of the masquerade with his discussion of colonial-era torture and attempts to describe the extent to which the French literary imagination was captured by the Natchez uprising and similar events.

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