City Under Siege: Resistance and Power in Natchez, Mississippi, 1719--1857

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Greg O'Brien

Advisor Department



From the 1720s to the 1850s, Natchez, Mississippi, was a city under siege. Its populace saw conflicts and power struggles as flags of various nations flew over the area: France (1699-1763), Great Britain (1763-1779), Spain (1779-1798), and the United States (1798 to the present). Because of the different countries that governed Natchez during these years, diverse groups of people called Natchez home. Frenchmen, Englishmen, Spaniards, Americans, Indians, and African slaves interacted on a daily basis. This dissertation examines how Indians, whites, and slaves resisted against those who held economic and political clout. Through their acts of resistance, these seemingly weak groups temporarily captured power, thus shifting the local balance of power. Natchez was a hotbed of resistance activity. Anxiety among elite whites ran high. Fear of resistance to elite control, and that fear's hold on the Natchez elite, remained unchanged. Natchez acts as a microcosm of the broader trends in southern history, as rebellion was not confined to any one area of the South but was pervasive, highly meaningful, and part of everyday life. However, Natchez is unique. Whoever controlled Natchez also commanded the Mississippi River, an important source of trade and commerce. White resistance against lawful authority provided slaves and Indians with an example. Although whites saw their resistance as a matter of honor, they viewed Indian and slave resistance quite differently. Elites worked to stop this rebellion and consolidate their own power. Their efforts were unsuccessful--resistance was part and parcel of Natchez, Mississippi.