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PENICAUT, ANDRE JOSEPH

PÉNICAUT, ANDRÉ JOSEPH (ca. 1680–?). André Pénicaut (Pénigault, Pérricault), carpenter and chronicler, was born in La Rochelle, France, around 1680. He claimed to have accompanied Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville on his first voyage to Louisiana in 1698, but that claim is very questionable, as the events he later relayed occurred on the second voyage. On September 24, 1699, Pénicaut signed a deed of indenture as a ship's carpenter. He went on Iberville's second voyage to Louisiana aboard Le Marin and established himself in Mobile. He later said that in 1701 he accompanied Pierre Charles Le Sueur on an expedition to the upper Mississippi to copper mines in what is now Minnesota. He also stated that he accompanied Iberville on the lower Mississippi. These expeditions, however, occurred simultaneously. Pénicaut claimed to have been with Louis Juchereau de St. Denis on his trip across Texas to San Juan Bautista to open trade with the Spaniards around 1714. He was a master carpenter when he left Mobile to return to France in October 1721, and apparently he was going blind. After his return he wrote his Annals, an account of St. Denis's journey that has been labeled both fact and fiction. Some scholars say that it is so full of omissions and distortions that Pénicaut could not have actually been with Saint Denis. Others have added that, though Pénicaut divided his account chronologically by year from 1699 to 1721, he actually placed events years after their occurrence and forgot or even manufactured much information. One author states, probably wrongly, that he returned to Louisiana and was the man named Pérricault, a carpenter, who escaped the Nachez Massacre in 1729 and took the news to New Orleans. Scholars do credit Pénicaut with his fairly accurate descriptions of the lower Mississippi River and surrounding regions. Pénicaut married Marguerite Catherine Prévot in Mobile, and they had two children. The name on the children's birth records was spelled Pénigault.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Glenn R. Conrad, ed., A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography (New Orleans: Louisiana Historical Association, with the Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1988). Elizabeth McCann, "Pénicault and His Chronicle of Early Louisiana," Mid-America 23 (October 1941). Richebourg McWilliams, "Pénicaut as Alabama's First Literary Figure," Alabama Review 5 (January 1952). André Pénicaut, Fleur de Lys and Calumet: Being the Pénicaut Narrative of French Adventure in Louisiana, trans. and ed. Richebourg Gaillard McWilliams (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1953). Robert S. Weddle, The French Thorn: Rival Explorers in the Spanish Sea, 1682–1762 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991). Robert S. Weddle, "La Salle's Survivors," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 75 (April 1972). Robert S. Weddle, Wilderness Manhunt: The Spanish Search for La Salle (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973).

John G. Johnson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

John G. Johnson, "PENICAUT, ANDRE JOSEPH," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpe23), accessed November 26, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.