Can you imagine paddling down the mighty Mississippi in a canoe? This huge, current ridden, flood prone river, that runs from nearly Canada to the Gulf of Mexico? That gets miles wide at some points? And can you imagine doing it, dodging arrows and spears being flung at you by people along the bank who have never seen anything like you before? Introducing Rene-Robert Cavelier sieur de La Salle.This guy would be the envy of any modern day Indiana Jones wannabe by far. He and his crew of brave, fighting Frenchmen, explored the Great Lakes Regions, the Illinois and Mississippi rivers (and some of their tributaries) and had the dubious distinction of claiming all of these areas for their mother country of France and naming it, Louisiana, after King Louis XIV . The suffix -ana- is actually a latin term which means pertaining to or belonging to, so, we have Louisi-ana meaning, pertaining or belonging to Louis. When La Salle returned to France and told the King of his explorations, the King thought that a return trip should be undertaken. He proclaimed that a fort and a colony would be setup there to secure the entrance of the river. This task he assigned, to none other, than our old friend La Salle. All provisions and crews were loaded onto 4 ships, along with 300 colonists. La Salle was on his way back to Louisiana to fulfill the Kings orders, but, alas, La Salle never made it back to Louisiana. It was said of Rene-Robert, that he was a man of sharp tongue and sometimes overwhelming arrogance. This would actually aid in his demise, as on the return trip, bad navigation got them off course, a ship was lost to Pirates, another sank in Matagorda Bay and still another, ran aground there and was looted by the local natives. Obviously, they landed far west of their intended destination. They wound up near the Brazos River in Texas. La Salle tried to establish a colony there along the Garcitas Creek, and built a fort he named Fort Saint Louis. Running out of provisions, added to being lost, and I’m sure having the incessant mouth-running of an arrogant aristocrat, was more than the crew could take, and sadly, on March 19th, 1687, Rene-Robert Cavelier sieur de La Salle was murdered by his own men, while on a search mission east, to find the river. The expedition was over, some of the men returned to France, some stayed to establish a colony, but, unfortunately, those who stayed, were ultimately kidnapped or slaughtered by local tribes. But, a King wants, what a King wants. Louis turns to his Navy Secretary, Louis Phelypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain. The secretary then appoints this task to the Le Moyne brothers. We came to know them as Pierre Le Moyne sieur de Iberville and Jean Baptiste Le Moyne sieur de Bienville. I remember studying about these two guys in Louisiana History class back in the eighth grade. It seems like back then, the emphasis was always put on the titles of Iberville or Bienville. In fact I remember talking about them like they were from 2 different families. This was wrong, as the names of Bienville and Iberville are just titles that were given to aristocratic families who owned feudal lands. As a matter of fact, Jean Baptiste, actually inherited his title sieur d’Bienville from a brother who died prematurely. So, titles put aside, they were just Pierre and Jean Le Moyne. We’ll talk more about these guys in the next post!
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