Jean Baptiste Lemoine Bienville, sieur de, French governor of Louisiana, born in Montreal, Feb. 23, 1680, died in France in 1768. He was son of Charles Lemoine, and the third of four brothers (Iberville, Sauvolle, Bienville, and Chateaugay) who played important parts in the early history of Louisiana. Bienville while a lad was severely wounded in a naval action off the coast of New England, in which the French ship Pelican, 42 guns, commanded by Iberville, successfully encountered three English vessels, each of fully equal power with his own. In 1698 Iberville set out from France to found a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi, taking with him his brothers Sauvolle and Bienville. The first settlement was made at Biloxi, where Sauvolle was left in command, while Bienville was engaged in exploring the surrounding country. Iberville, who had returned to France, came back with a commission appointing Sauvolle governor of Louisiana. In 1700 Bienville constructed a fort 54 miles above the mouth of the river. Sauvolle died in 1701, and Bienville succeeded to the direction of the colony, the seat of which was transferred to Mobile. In 1704 he was joined by his brother Chateaugay, who brought from Canada 17 settlers.
A ship from France brought 20 females, who had been sent out to be married to the settlers at Mobile. Iberville soon after died; troubles arose in the colony, Bienville was charged with various acts of misconduct, and in 1707 was dismissed from office; but his successor dying on the voyage from France, Bienville retained the command. Meanwhile, the attempt to cultivate the land by Indian labor having failed, Bienville proposed to the home government to send negroes from the Antilles to be exchanged for Indians, at the rate of three Indians for two negroes. In 1709 and 1710 the colony was reduced to famine. In 1712 the French king granted to Antoine Crozat the exclusive right to trade in Louisiana, and to introduce slaves from Africa. In 1713 Cadillac was sent out as governor, bringing with him a commission for Bienville as lieutenant governor. Quarrels arose between them, and the governor sent Bienville on an expedition to the Natchez tribe, hoping that he would lose his life. But Bienville succeeded in inducing the Natchez to build a fort for him, in which he left a garrison, and returned to Mobile. In 1717 Cadillac was superseded by Epinay, and Bienville received the decoration of the cross of St. Louis. Crozat surrendered his charter in 1717, and Law's Mississippi company was formed the same year, its first expedition arriving in 1718, with a commission for Bienville as governor.
He now founded the city of New Orleans. War breaking out between France and Spain, Bienville took Pensacola, placing Chateaugay in command. In 1723 the seat of government was transferred to New Orleans. The next year Bienville was summoned to France, to answer charges which had been brought against him. He left a code regulating the condition of the slaves, banishing the Jews, and prohibiting every religion except the Roman Catholic. In 1726 he was removed from office, and Chateaugay was also displaced as lieutenant governor, and ordered back to France. Bienville remained in France till 1733, when he was sent back to the colony as governor, with the rank of lieutenant general. In 1736, 1739, and 1740 he made unsuccessful expeditions against the Chickasaws, in consequence of which he was superseded, and in 1743 returned to France, where the remainder of his life was passed.