DUTISNÉ, CLAUDE-CHARLES (Tissenay, Tisnet, Visseri), captain in the colonial regular troops in Louisiana, commandant at Forts Natchitoches, de Chartres, and Natchez, seigneur; b. in the parish of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, Paris, son of Claude-Charles Dutisné and Catherine Du Cloux; d. 1730, in the Illinois country.
In his Histoire de la Louisiane française Émile Lauvrière wrote that Dutisné joined the colonial regular troops because he was not tall enough for the French army. On 15 June 1705 he was commissioned ensign in the troops of New France. Later that year he sailed for Quebec where he married Marie-Anne Gaultier de Comporté on 6 Feb. 1708. By this marriage he became seigneur of Champigny and Gaudarville, for Marie-Anne was the widow of Alexandre Peuvret de Gaudarville. She died in 1711, and Dutisné married Marguerite Margane de Lavalterie in Quebec on 28 Oct. 1713.
In March 1714 Dutisné led 12 Canadians to the Ouabache (Wabash) River where he was to meet Jean-Baptiste Quenet with 20 to 24 Canadians from Quebec and Pierre Dugué de Boisbriand from the Illinois. Their mission was to build a fort and trading post to impede English contact with the Miamis and the Natchez. As neither of the other two parties arrived, Dutisné and his men left the Ouabache and made their way to Île Dauphine (Dauphine Island, Ala.). This journey took them through the Kaskaskia region of the Illinois country, where Dutisné discovered some silver mines. Upon arriving in Louisiana he submitted a report to the governor, Lamothe Cadillac [Laumet] who, characteristically enough, promptly took credit for the find.
In the fall of 1714, Dutisné was promoted lieutenant, and in this capacity assisted in the construction of Fort Rosalie among the Natchez. He served at Fort Rosalie (later Fort Natchez) as second in command until he received orders to build a post on the island of the Natchitoches (72 leagues up the Red River), where he remained as commandant for two years. During this time he submitted a memoir to the Compagnie des Indes recommending the construction of a post in the Yazoo country (Yazoo River area, Miss.) to put an end to the trade which the English from Carolina were carrying on in that area. The company considered his suggestion, but took no immediate action. In 1718, with a compass as his only guide, Dutisné passed through Alibamu country on foot on his way northward to Quebec, wintered there, and returned with his family to the Illinois country.
In 1719 he was commissioned captain, and was sent by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne* de Bienville to establish contact with the Missouri Indians. He travelled from the Illinois country along the Missouri River to the site of present-day Kansas City, where the Missouris greeted him in friendly fashion but refused to let him advance farther. This action forced Dutisné to return down the Missouri to the mouth of the Osage River, which he followed to the land of the Osage Indians. Again he was well received, but every effort was made to discourage him from penetrating any farther. Nevertheless, he crossed the Arkansas River and travelled 40 leagues in four days to the villages of the Pawnees (Panis). His reception there was hostile, for the Osages had sent word that Dutisné had come to take slaves. The Pawnees twice tested his bravery by holding a hatchet over his head and on both occasions he dared them to strike. Although favourably impressed by Dutisné’s display of courage, the Pawnees refused to let him proceed farther west where their mortal enemies, the Padoucas (Comanches), lived. Dutisné was therefore obliged to return to the Illinois country.
The significance of Dutisné’s travels cannot be denied. He established relations with three tribes in territory previously unexplored, discovered silver deposits in the Osage country, and ascertained that the Spaniards had visited the Pawnees on more than one occasion but had since found the route to their settlements barred by the Padoucas. Moreover, his experiences at each village had shown that there existed a demand for French trade goods.
In 1720 the infantry companies of Dutisné and Pierre d’Artaguiette were stationed at the newly founded Fort de Chartres six leagues north of Kaskaskia (Ill.). Their first two years at this post were tranquil ones, but in 1722 the Illinois at Pimitoui and Le Rocher (Starved Rock) were attacked by the Foxes, and Boisbriand, commandant of the region, appealed to Dutisné and d’Artaguiette for assistance. These three men led a party of 100 to the defence of their allies, but the Foxes retreated before their arrival. Subsequently stability returned to the area, and Dutisné was able to depart for New Orleans.
On 21 Oct. 1723 Dutisné was appointed to replace Boisbriand as commandant among the Illinois, and he took up residence at Fort de Chartres. Confusion and fear reigned throughout the Illinois country during his command, for the Foxes had resumed their harassment of the French allies. Although a temporary peace had been negotiated by Constant Le Marchand de Lignery, Dutisné was far from satisfied, for it protected only the lake tribes and did not improve the situation to the south, where the French were under constant threat of attack. In 1725 he asked to be removed from Fort de Chartres because of illness, and was appointed commandant of Fort Rosalie. After resuming command of Fort de Chartres in 1729, he was shot in the cheek by a Fox Indian, and died the following year from the effects of this wound.
Dutisné’s first wife bore him three sons, Louis-Marie-Charles, Charles, and Louis-Marie-Joseph. The eldest son, Louis-Marie-Charles, served in the Illinois country for several years. He led a convoy from the Missouris to Fort de Chartres in 1725 and, although there is no record of his activities during the next few years, one may assume that he continued to work among the Indians of the region, for he was chosen to accompany Pierre Groston de Saint-Ange to the country of the Missouris in 1734. In March of 1736 he participated in Pierre D’Artaguiette’s campaign against the Chickasaws, which cost the lives of several young officers. Louis-Marie-Charles Dutisné and François-Marie Bissot de Vinsenne were among the casualties.
Some of his contemporaries questioned his morals, but it cannot be gainsaid that Claude-Charles Dutisné devoted the last 16 years of his life to active service in the interests of Louisiana. He was a true pioneer, travelling through at least 15, and perhaps as many as 25, of the present United States. He was a man whose life was determined by his desire for adventure.
AN, Col., C11A, 22, p.253; 31, p.232 (copies in PAQ; C13A, 3, f.853; 4, ff.82, 318, 605, 1019; 7, f.136; 12, ff.178, 293; 21, f.22; D2C, 222/1, p.273 (copy in PAC). AJQ, Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 24 avril 1708; Greffe de François Genaple, 4 févr. 1708. Charlevoix, History (Shea), VI, 28–32, 71, 120–22. “Correspondance de Vaudreuil,” APQ Rapport, 1947–48, 271, 283. Découvertes et établissements des Français (Margry), V, 512–44, 564, 615; VI, 309–15. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, I, 272–73; Inv. ord. int., I, 90–91. Wis. State Hist. Soc. Coll., III, 155; XVI. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, II, 720. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, III 582. Alvord, Illinois country, I, 157n, 175, 178. Giraud, Histoire de la Louisiane française, III, 373–74, 380–81. Pierre Heinrich, La Louisiane sous la Compagnie des Indes, 1717–1731 (Paris, ), 112–15, 182–83. Émile Lauvrière, Histoire de la Louisiane française, 1673–1939 (Louisiana, 1940), 156, 172, 184–87. 292–95, 302, 305, 381. C. L. Vogel, The Capuchins in French Louisiana (1722–1766) (Washington, 1928), 106–8.