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La Salle explorations René-Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, led two explorations in search of the Mississippi Rivers outlet to the Gulf the Mexico because that France under King louis XIV.

by Michael T. Pasquier


Courtesy of The Historic new Orleans Collection

Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle.

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During the 1680s, René-Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, led two expeditions in find of the Mississippi River’s outlet to the Gulf that Mexico. Jacques Marquette and also Louis Joliet came before La Salle by a decade, despite they only went as far as the Arkansas River prior to returning to Canada. In 1682 La Salle’s very first expedition traveled down the Mississippi River and reached that is mouth. His second expedition, started in 1684, was a disaster, ultimately resulting in the deaths of La Salle and also most the the settlers. Despite setbacks, the La Salle expeditions detailed the French federal government with information around the geography and also native population of the Mississippi Valley and also Gulf shore that would certainly prove important to the future negotiation of lower Louisiana in 1699.

First Expedition

Prior come his expeditions, La Salle, together with Louis de Buade, comte de Frontenac et de Palluau, got a fur trade monopoly in the Illinois Country. Though the trading scheme produced small profit, La Salle regulated to identify the falls of the Ohio River near present-day Louisville, navigate Lake Michigan, and expand ~ above the knowledge of the land and peoples in the vicinity that the Illinois River during the so late 1660s and early 1670s. Afterwards, La Salle shifted his fist to the advance of swarms further south, follow me the great river the would later be called the Mississippi. Join by his lieutenant Henri de Tonti and a party of about forty Frenchmen and also Native Americans, La Salle finally entered the waters the the good river in February the 1682. They constructed temporary stockades at fort Prudhomme (near present-day Memphis) and also on the Arkansas River. ~ above April 9, 1682, in ~ the junction of the bird-foot delta near the Gulf the Mexico, La Salle declared the river and its drainage container for King louis XIV, for this reason the surname “Louisiana.” In addition, he called the flow Colbert in recognition of his patron and French finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert. He climate calculated what he thought was the mouth’s latitude, went back northward to Canada, and started planning because that the facility of a nest on the Colbert River.

Second Expedition

On their return trip to Canada, La Salle left Tonti in charge of a fur-trading short article on the Illinois River. While wait for La Salle come return from a fundraising pilgrimage in France, Tonti established an additional trading post on the Arkansas River. Over there Tonti arisen a partnership with the Quapaw ind and provided French and also Canadian travelers with a midway station between the Illinois Country and the anticipated nest to be started by La Salle’s second expedition.

Tonti composed an account that the an initial La Salle expedition for a French minister in 1693, which was later expanded, plagiarized, and made into a publication entitled Dernieres decouvertes dans l’Amerique Septentrionale de m. De La revenue mises au jour par m. Le chevalier Tonti, gouverneur du fort Saint Louis, aux Islinois (1697). Tonti refuse authorship. Prefer the accounts of the Recollect missionary Zénobe Membré and other writers, lot of the info in Tonti’s publication is unreliable, though it does administer insight into exactly how the French viewed life on the Mississippi during the so late seventeenth century.

La Salle secured a contract because that the colonization of reduced Louisiana native Louis XIV in 1683. The plan was to reach the Mississippi by sea and secure a long-term settlement upriver that would carry out the French v a strategic benefit over Spanish interests transparent the Gulf the Mexico. 2 years later, La Salle’s little fleet left the French harbor of La Rochelle, carrying about one hundreds soldiers, and also 280 men, women, and children, and a year’s worth of supplies. They stopped at the French island Saint Domingue prior to making landfall somewhere in between Grand Isle and the Atchafalaya only in December 1684. Through this point, the exploration had shed the ketch Saint François to Spanish privateers.

Due to a latitudinal miscalculation and also severe dissension amongst the crew, the second La Salle expedition ongoing west until getting to the entrance of Matagorda only in contemporary Texas. La Salle sent one ship ago to France with news the the colony’s unsure future. He climate led three overland explorations in find of the missing Colbert River. Most of his companions either passed away or deserted during the very first two trips. In 1687, ~ above the 3rd attempt, several guys murdered La Salle and continued moving east until they got to the Arkansas River and then traveled onward come Canada and France. A Spanish search party uncovered the exit Matagorda colony in 1689 and surmised that regional natives had actually killed or captured every one of the French colonists.

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Historians proceed to controversy how La Salle can have missed the Mississippi River and mistakenly landed in Texas. Still an ext mysterious is the actual fate the those that joined La Salle top top his 2nd expedition and remained in ~ Matagorda Bay. Regardless, the La Salle expeditions represented the an initial penetration of european explorers into the Gulf coastline of Louisiana and Texas since the sixteenth-century explorations of Pánfilo de Narváez and Hernando de Soto. In 1995, the story the La Salle’s ill-fated voyage made headlines when archaeologists of the Texas historical Commission found what continued to be of La Belle, shipwrecked in 1686 and excavated more than three hundred years later.