Louisiana History History Genealogy St Landry History Community Opelousas History

The Letters of Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac

Carola Lillie Hartley
Publisher and Contributing Writer

The St. Landry Catholic Church Cemetery in Opelousas, Louisiana has many old graves including the one of Louis Paul Antoine Marie Joseph Garrigues de Flaujac, famed hero of the Battle of New Orleans. A native of France, Garrigues de Flaujac eventually settled in Opelousas and became a leading citizen in the community. 

Recently while doing some research on Opelousas, I came across information about letters written by Garrigue de Flaujac. The collection consists of thirteen letters written by him between 1803 and 1807. Most are written to his mother, living in Cahors, along the Lot River in southwestern France, while one is written to his aunt in the same city. The letters describe his experiences in Haiti and the Caribbean (1803-04) and in the area around New Orleans, Louisiana, as well as the time he arrived in Opelousas, Louisiana. (1804-07).

Image of one of the letter of Garrigues de Flaujac written in 1804.

From old documents, oral family history and local legend the story of Garrigues de Flaujac has been shared in Opelousas and St. Landry Parish for years. I’ve written it many times and even included it in the books, Opelousas, A Great Place to Be!, published in 1993, and Opelousas Tales, published in 2014. The discovery of these letters makes me think much of the information we had available on the early life of this man was mainly based on local legend. Would love to know what you think as you read the summery of his letters at the end of this article.

What’s Known about Garrigues de Flaujac
This story begins with what we know about Garrigues de Flaujac from stories I’ve written and what was written and shared by others. Here is a summary of that information:

  • Louis Garrigues was born on September 5, 1780, in France. 
  • His father was a famous Field Marshal and bodyguard of Louis XVI, King of France. 
  • At the age of seventeen, Louis joined the army of Napoleon Bonaparte, where he became a young general. (Would like to find primary source documentation about him becoming a general). He was sent with the French Army to fight in San Domingo.
  • During one of the many battles in San Domingo, he was captured by the English and sent to prison in Cuba until 1804, when he was released. 
  • In 1805, Garrigues, along with two other soldiers who were also prisoners of war, tried to make his way back to France.  During this journey, the ship was wrecked and the three were among a few who were thrown into the water.  They were eventually rescued at sea by a merchant ship and brought to New Orleans.  This drastically changed the course of Garrigues’ life.
  • As the story goes, the merchant ship carrying the three soldiers arrived in New Orleans several weeks after the trio were rescued. Garrigues and the two others thanked their rescuers. To show their appreciation, they offered to help unload the ship of its cargo. 
  • At the same time, Louis Fontenot, a very prominent Opelousas citizen, was in New Orleans on business. While traveling near the port, he saw the ship being unloaded. He noticed something very strange about three of the men doing the work.  They did not seem to be everyday sailors. This piqued his interest. He took some time from his busy schedule to go investigate and introduced himself to the three men. He discovered they were really three of Napoleon’s soldiers.  They told him their story.
  • Mr. Fontenot invited the three to come to Opelousas, where he said they could surely find work and start a new life.  Of course, “Grand Louis,” as he was known back home in Opelousas, had another motive.  He had several daughters at home.  He couldn’t help but think of these bright, strong young men as suitable mates for his daughters.
  • Garrigues and the other two made their way to Opelousas where they were introduced to Mr. Fontenot’s family, including his three eligible daughters.  As it turned out, they each married one of his daughters.
  • In August of 1805, Louis Antoine Garrigues married Marie Louise Fontenot.  They settled in Opelousas where Garrigues worked as a surveyor.  He was involved in local and area politics and soon became a community leader. 
  • He became a Brigadier General in the Louisiana State Militia (would like to know more about him becoming a general) and a member of the Louisiana Senate.  He was one of Louisiana’s first State Senators
  • In 1812, when the Louisiana Constitution was formed, Garrigues was sent to Baton Rouge as a member of the Senate.  It was during this time that the country went to war.  The Senator went into action.  Using his military training and experiences to guide him, he trained a group of raw recruits and led them into battle during the Battle of New Orleans in January of 1814.
  • Following the War of 1812 and the Battle of New Orleans, Louis returned to Opelousas. His home was located on property just outside of town, on the road to Plaisance. Bayou Garrigues, which runs through that property, was named for him.   
  • He was again elected to the Louisiana Senate, where he served for eighteen years.  He later was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and served there until his death in 1845.
  • He is buried in the St. Landry Catholic Church Cemetery.  His grave is easily recognized as it is made like a table. Some of his descendants still live in the Opelousas area today.
The Grave of Garrigues de Flauguac (1780-1845) in St. Landry Catholic Cemetery in Opelousas, LA.

The Letters of Garrigues de Flauguac (*note Flauguac is sometimes spelled this way, and other times it is spelled Flaujac.)
The following information is from the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections – Antoine Garrigues de Flauguac Letters. A summary of the collection begins with this biographical and historical information:

Biographical/Historical –  Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac was born on 5 September 1780 in Montfaucon (Lot), France, to Marie Jeanne Sabrejon and Jean Charles Garrigues. One secondary source cites his full name as Antoine Paul Joseph Louis Garrigues de Flaujeac. He signed his letters to his mother “Garrigues de Flaujac,” and refers to himself therein as “Garrigues.” He joined the French Revolutionary army while in his teens and served in the Italian campaign of 1800.

Garrigues arrived in France’s Saint-Domingue colony on the island of Hispaniola in April 1803, apparently intent on engaging in trade, but failed to find a situation and served in the National Guard during the final chaotic months of the Haitian Revolution. The French were defeated at the battle of Vertières in November 1803, and the last troops left the island before the end of the year, allowing for the establishment of the Haitian republic.

Garrigues seems to have left Saint-Domingue around this time, though his movements are not entirely clear. He mentions spending a few days on “Coubes” (Cuba?) before attempting to sail to Charleston, South Carolina. But his vessel was blown off course, and he ended up, feverish and starving, in the United States’ newly purchased Louisiana Territory.

Garrigues soon moved to Opelousas in St. Landry Parish, where he met and married Marie Louise Fontenot (1789?-1862), the daughter of a legislator in Natchez, Mississippi Territory. The couple lived in Opelousas and had six children, and Garrigues purchased a number of slaves. Garrigues served as a government surveyor, a judge, and a Louisiana state senator, and was a private in the 1st (Fortier’s) Battalion of the Louisiana Militia during the War of 1812. He died in 1845 and is buried in Opelousas, Louisiana.

The subsequent summary of the thirteen letters of Antonine Garrigues de Flaujac (University of Notre Dame, Garrigues de Flaujac letters (MSN/EA 5040), Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 46556) is printed as it appears with the collection.

Scope and Contents Collection:

The collection consists of thirteen letters written by Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac between 1803 and 1807. Most are written to his mother, living in Cahors, along the Lot River in southwestern France, while one is written to his aunt in the same city.

The first two letters were written while Garrigues was on the island of Saint-Domingue. The rest of the letters date from his first few years in the Louisiana Territory, as he moved between New Orleans, Opelousas, and a location he calls Chapitoulas. By the end of the letter sequence, Garrigues had married a local girl and seems to have settled into his life in Louisiana.

The letters are concerned first and foremost with personal and business matters, including requests for items from France that he could use to set himself up in trade. They describe the difficulties he faced in finding a means to support himself, and his attempts to attract his younger brothers to join him. He occasionally mentions personal acquaintances in Louisiana and France, including the Messers. Didans (or Dédans), Mr. Bastit, and his friend Anduze. His caregiver during his first months in Louisiana, whom Garrigues calls Mr. Hardy de Bois-blanc, may have been Charles Joseph Hardy de Boisblanc (1757-1812) of New Orleans.

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The 13 letters are dated using the French Revolutionary style, 17 Ventose 11. Here is a summary of the letters in the collection:

Summary of Letters in Collection:

  1. Letter. Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac, Cap Français, Saint-Domingue to Marie de Flaujac, Cahors, France, 1803 March 8, MSN/EA 5040-01, Box: 1, Folder: 1. University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections.

Scope and Contents: After a short and favorable crossing, they arrived at the Cape on 2 March. They found the town burnt down since Mardi Gras when the Blacks [les Negres] slaughtered a large portion of the natives. Mr. Didans hasn’t lived here for about 8 months, and he has no one else he can trust for help. He and two others have enlisted in the National Guards where they do the same service as the League troops. He mentions merchant ships that arrive every day, and the high cost of colonial food. He fears a new attack from the Blacks who occupy most of the colony. He gives news of a general who lost his arm earlier that month. He sends his love to mother, asks for news, and tells her that she can address her letters to him c/o two merchants in the Cape.

2. Letter. Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac, Cap Français and Port-au-Prince, Saint-Domingue to Marie de Flaujac, Cahors, France, 1803 April 3, MSN/EA 5040-02, Box: 1, Folder: 2. University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections.

Scope and Contents: Misfortune follows him everywhere; it’s been a month since he arrived and the state of affairs in the colony is so bad that he hasn’t been able to find work. He is considering leaving with some friends who are in the same situation for Port-au-Prince. He has eaten up most of his money in the short time he has been there. He decided to put his remaining funds into trade, worth 80 gourdes. He describes the trade scheme he has undertaken with his friends but the way it is going they will soon be penniless. The good wine of Bordeaux is expensive but so is all the food; he asks his mother to send some flour or salt pork, which is what he really wants. He asks his mother to send him news. In a PS, he gives the address where she can send him letters. A second, undated PS indicates that he has arrived in Port-au-Prince, where he thinks he will have a much easier time making his fortune.

3. Letter. Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac, Chapitoulas, Louisiana to Marie de Flaujac, Cahors, France, 1804 May 20 Box 1; Folder 3 (Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents: He is still alive following a terrible sea voyage during which his vessel lost 200 men. Instead of Charleston, their intended destination, they ended up in Louisiana. He is sick with a months-long fever and is being cared for by a local named Mr. Boisblanc, in Chapitoulas, near New Orleans. He asks his mother and his aunt to send him a few casks of wine to reverse the misfortune that has befallen him, since he has lost everything. He intends to learn to make sugar which could be a useful trade to know in the Windward Islands, where he intends to go once he receives news from his mother. The ship General Wilkinson will be in Bordeaux by which she can send him a few small things on its return voyage. He hopes that his family is now in a better position than they were when he left them and that his aunt will look favorably on his unfortunate position. He also requests some household items that Mr. Boisblanc would like and which he would like to give to his benefactor. In a PS, gives his love to his aunt, siblings, and nephews, and gives his address c/o Mr. Boisblanc in Chapitoulas near New Orleans, Louisiana. A marginal note indicates that wine sells at 80 francs the cask there.

4. Letter. Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac, Chapitoulas, Louisiana to Marie de Flaujac, Cahors, France, 1804 May 30 Box 1; Folder 4 (Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents: He has written ten or twelve letters to her since arriving in Louisiana, but he is certain that the war between France and England has been an obstacle to them getting to her. Thanks to heaven his life is out of all danger, but it is also the one thing that he managed to save, and he is all the more sensitive to the little losses that he has had because they push back the day when he will be able to return to his mother. He asks for her to send him a small shipment of wine or other merchandise in light of his lost fortune, and thinks his aunt will help; also asks her for news of herself. Louisiana, where he lives, is a country that offers very few resources but at least it is peaceful. He is living with a local who has showed him all the care imaginable. He is going to learn to make sugar once the harvest is in. Being a sugar-maker could be profitable to him when he goes to Martinique in a couple of years. The local that he is staying with would like a cask of white wine from France. A PS sends love to his brothers and sisters and two nephews, and to his aunt and cousins. He can’t give news about the Messers Dédans even though he arrived in Louisiana with them about two months ago because he has been separated from them since then. The older one has a wound in his leg that they don’t think will be able to be healed. He gives his address for letters and other things as Mr. Garrigues, c/o Mr. Hardy de Boisblanc on his lands at Chapitoulas near New Orleans, province of Louisiana, United States of America.

5. Letter. Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac, Chapitoulas, Louisiana to Marie de Flaujac, Cahors, France, 1804 June 3 Box 1; Folder 5 (Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents: He is writing to his mother, so she won’t worry about him. He has been pretty well the last four months or so, since the hospitable weather has arrived in Louisiana. He asks to be given news as soon as possible so he won’t worry about his family. He asks that if she can send him a few small casks of wine that she not delay doing so. He does not think it necessary to tell her the reasons for making such a request but she undoubtedly knows it. He sends his love to her and to his brothers and sisters. In a PS, he indicates that his address is c/o Mr. D. Boisblanc at Côte de Chapitoulas, district of the city of New Orleans at Chapitoulas.

6. Letter. Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac, Chapitoulas, Louisiana to Marie de Flaujac, Cahors, France, 1804 September 30 Box 1; Folder 6 (Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents: He worries that he has not heard from his mother in two years. He has been in Louisiana for seven months, hoping that the colony’s peripheral location would be easier for business, but since the United States of America has taken it over it has been overrun by Anglo-Americans who arrived with their money and took over all branches of commerce, making it impossible for the rest of them. He has therefore decided to join the military, either in the troops that serve Guadeloupe or Martinique, or as part of an expedition that he expects will start very soon making a second attempt against Saint-Domingue. It seems much easier than business. He asks his mother to send him a few casks of wine. He misses his family and sends news of mutual acquaintances, including the deaths of two members of a family nearby in France

7. Letter. Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac, Chapitoulas and New Orleans, Louisiana to Madame de Manus, Cahors, France, 1805 February 15, 1805 March 15 Box 1; Folder 7 (Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents: Garrigues writes to his aunt. He has had nothing but misfortune over the last three years; where he lives he knows neither the language nor the customs. He is applying himself seriously to learning English. He asks his aunt to send him some foodstuffs, by which he expects to make a great profit and be able to quit his current work in order to take up a better position. He has written to his mother and other but does not know if the letters have arrived. A PS gives the possible routes for sending him letters: via Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, or Charleston, though if she could send it directly to New Orleans it stands the best chance of arriving safely.

8. Letter. Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac, New Orleans, Louisiana to Marie de Flaujac, Cahors, France, 1805 March 16 Box 1; Folder 8 (Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents: He rejoices to have received a letter from his mother. He is pleased to hear of his brother’s marriage, and to have received a small shipment of wine from his mother, since wine is at the moment selling at a high price and he had run out completely. He discusses his uncertainty about leaving for another settlement opportunity with a friend of his. He sends his love to his family, and in a PS mentions that he will leave the following day for upper Louisiana.

9. Letter. Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac, Opelousas, Louisiana to Marie de Flaujac, Cahors, France, 1805 April 10 Box 1; Folder 9 (Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents: He only received his mother’s letter of 10 September 1804 8 days ago; he hopes that this letter will not take as long as the last to arrive. He recounts the bad luck he has had with the seven casks of wine she sent him: some was lost at sea, and the rest was mostly taken by the exorbitant fees that apply to this kind of merchandise in the colony. He also suspects that his mother was cheated in the purchase, judging from the bill. He is no longer in New Orleans. For about five months he has been living at Ataxapasopeleoussats (Opelousas?) after having fled the yearly round of yellow fever in the city. He expresses his pleasure at his brother’s wedding and complains of the brother’s long delay in settling down. After long months of struggling in the New World he was named deputy lieutenant of the engineering corps, but he complains that his French name prevented him from gaining a long-term position with the present government and he is once again reduced to his distressing position. He discusses family news from his mother’s letter, and encourages his two brothers Charles and Phillippe to come to New Orleans to make their fortune. He mentions his inheritance from his father, and asks his mother to send him cloth merchandise, though he cautions her against using the previous agent who he believes cheated her. Until he has a definitive address, she can send things to him c/o Mr. Michel Fortier in New Orleans. (Note: There is an inconsistency with the date on this letter; Garrigues had crossed out “April” and written in “August” at the end of it, but the date on the outside of the envelope, presumably written by his mother for docketing purposes, gives the date as April.)

10. Letter. Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac, Opelousas, Louisiana to Marie de Flaujac, Cahors, France, 1805 October 17 Box 1; Folder 10 (Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents: He notes at the top that it is the 30th year of the independence of the American states. He laments the lack of letters from his mother and his sister Augustine despite the many ships from Bordeaux that arrive in port. He complains at length at his oldest brother’s silence regarding his requests for help, and asks his mother to intervene on his behalf. He also asks her to send fine cloth to make tablecloths. He again encourages his two brothers to seek their fortune in the New World. He tells his mother that his aunt should help her with his request, and the goods can be sent on Governor Claiborne’s ship that belongs to Mr. Michel Fortier, which should be at Bordeaux now. He sends his love to his family and gives his address c/o Mr. Michel Fortier in New Orleans.

11. Letter. Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac, New Orleans, Louisiana to Marie de Flaujac, Cahors, France, 1806 June 4 Box 1; Folder 11 (Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents: He recounts in detail the process he went through to get the letters he received from France and his joy at receiving them. He announces his intentions to marry Marie Louise Fontenot, the daughter of a legislator in Mississippi Territory. At the moment Lise has no great fortune but her father’s is estimated at 100,000 piastres, which will one day be shared among his four children. He asks for his mother’s blessing to add to his happiness. His return to his homeland will now certainly be delayed for a long time, and so he begs his mother to straighten things out with his older brother regarding his inheritance. He is on the verge of seeing the end of his misfortunes, and asks for a small sum in the meantime, to be sent back with the merchant Mr. Cassey who is currently in Bordeaux.

12. Letter. Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac, Mississippi Territory, to Marie de Flaujac, Cahors, France, 1805-1806 Box 1; Folder 12 (Mixed Materials)

Scope and Contents: He writes to his mother requesting shipments of cloth, including measurements and quality. He asks for news.

13. Letter. Antoine Garrigues de Flaujac, New Orleans, Louisiana to Marie de Flaujac, Cahors, France, 1807 April 5, MSN/EA 5040-13, Box: 1, Folder: 13. University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections.

Scope and Contents:  He has just received her letter of November 5th. He did not expect her reaction to his intentions to marry; he was so certain that she would give her consent that he married Marie Louise Fontenot last August. He is employed now as a land surveyor of the United States, a position that is lucrative but precarious. He is firmly resolved to spend a month visiting his family the following spring. He mentions again the issue concerning his older brother and his money. He mentions family news, sends his love, and asks for letters. In a PS he says that it would be much better if she would address her letters to him in New Orleans rather than Opelousas
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I find these letters very interesting, with information that can be added to the story of this man who played a role in the early history of our town. If you would like to comment on this article and the letters written by Garrigues de Flaujac, please contact me at carola@stlandrynow.com. Would love to hear from you.