Champ d’Asile: Discover Collections, Artwork and More at the Sam Houston Center

The nineteenth century colony of Champ d’Asile became more than a short-lived community of refugees from the Napoleonic Wars who settled in what is now Texas in 1818. The “Field of Refuge,” located for about six months near the present-day city of Liberty in Southeast Texas, grew in the imaginations of the French back in Europe and spawned paintings, novels, historical texts, and a song, along with a romantic link to the state. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) is home to archival collections, publications, and works of art related to Champ d’Asile that should be of interest to those curious about the settlement. TSLAC’s Sam Houston Center (SHC) in Liberty collects materials documenting the history of the region and invites researchers to explore the legendary colony through theses resources. In the spirit of discovering the big picture of history by placing together the various pieces scattered about, have a bit of fun and relax with an online puzzle depicting Champ d’Asile.

Depiction of a 19th century  community with soldiers, a farmer and a woman and child.
Color print, 2eme Vue d’Aigleville, Colonie du Texas ou Champ d’Asile. Rivière de la Trinité, Fort Charles, magazin aux vivres et habitation du général Rigaud ca. 1818-1819. Artist: Ambrose Louis Garnerey. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Archival Collections

Champ d’Asile research collection
https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/00023/tsl-00023.html

Champ d’Asile (“Field of Refuge”) was a short-lived colony of French Bonapartist exiles founded in 1818 on the Trinity River near the present city of Liberty, Texas. This collection consists of correspondence, publications, research material, manuscripts, maps, and articles pertaining primarily to the history of the Champ d’Asile colony and persons associated with it. Subjects include biographical information on Napoleonic generals Charles Lallemand and Antoine Rigaud, the issue of the precise location of the colony on the Trinity River, and pirate/privateer Jean Laffite’s involvement with the French exiles. Material dates 1817-1818, 1990-2008, and undated, bulk 1993-2008. Information dates from 1682 to 2008. Material consists of original and photocopied items.

The Champ d’Asile research collection was created in-house at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center from donations by various individuals and in-house photocopies. The purpose was to gather all research material in the Sam Houston Center collections on Champ d’Asile into one collection for the benefit of patrons as it is a frequent topic of research.

Notable items include an 1818 letter from Bonapartist exile Joseph Lakanal to French patriots intending to settle the Vine and Olive Colony in Alabama (image below); 1817-1818 correspondence from Marshal Emmanuel, Marquis de Grouchy, a Bonapartist exile and officer in Napoleon’s army; and two 1818 issues of the newspaper Weekly Aurora of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, containing articles about the Champ d’Asile settlement (close up).

Correspondence from Bonapartist exile Joseph Lakanal to French patriots who intended to settle the Vine and Olive Colony in Alabama, July 18, 1818. Champ d’Asile Research Collection, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. [English translation]

Related Collections

John Clay collection, 1818, 1843, 1850, 1963, undated, about 0.75 cubic ft.

Jean Laffite collection, 1773-1986, undated, bulk 1845-1979, 3.87 cubic ft.
https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/00018/tsl-00018.html

Jean and Price Daniel Texas history collection, 1819-1986, volume unknown [There is no finding aid for this unprocessed collection.]

Jean Epperson archives, 1969-2005, 8.85 cubic ft. [There is no finding aid for this unprocessed collection.]

Marcel Moraud papers, 1857-1975, undated, bulk 1936-1975, 6.5 cubic ft.
https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/00015/tsl-00015.html

Steed, Tanya, “Champ d’Asile: The History of a French Settlement in Texas,” unpublished manuscript, 1979, 0.1 cubic ft. [There is no finding aid for this unprocessed item.]

Related Publications at TSLAC [select]

Additional Resources

Read a summary of Champ d’Asile and how the settlement influenced Texas history in the Texas State Historical Association’s online handbook: https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/champ-dasile

For more information about the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, visit: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/shc. Contact via email at SamHoustonCenter@tsl.texas.gov or call 936-336-8821.

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