The Full Wiki

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle
November 21, 1643 – March 19, 1686 (aged 42)
Cavelier de la salle.jpg
De La Salle Signature.svg
A 19th-century engraving of Cavelier de La Salle
Place of birth Rouen, Normandy, France
Place of death modern-day Huntsville, Texas
A later engraving of Robert de La Salle
Memorial Plaque to de La Salle in Rouen

René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, or Robert de LaSalle (November 21, 1643 – March 19, 1687) was a French explorer. He explored the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. La Salle claimed the entire Mississippi River basin for France.


Life and career

La Salle was born on November 21, 1643, in Rouen, France,[1] and was briefly a member of the Jesuit religious order, taking his vows in 1660. On March 27, 1667, he was released from the Society of Jesus after citing "moral weaknesses" in his request.[2] Even though he left the order and later became hostile to it, he is occasionally (and incorrectly) described as a priest or a cleric. He was married to Danielle Armbrecht.

La Salle had been required to reject his father's legacy upon joining the Jesuit order, and so was close to being destitute when he traveled to North America. He sailed for Canada in the spring of 1666[3] and arriving in 1667 in New France, where his brother Jean, a Sulpician priest, had moved the year before. He was granted a seigneurie on land at the western end of the Island of Montreal, which became known as "Lachine"[4] (apparently from French la ChineChina — a name often said to be an ironic reference to La Salle's desire to find a route to China, though the evidence for this claim is unclear and has been disputed).

La Salle immediately began to issue land grants, set up a village and learn the Iroquois language and other languages of the native peoples. The Iroquois told him of a great river, called the Ohio, which flowed into the Mississippi River. Thinking this river flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, he began to plan for expeditions to find a western passage to China. He sought and received permission from Governor Daniel Courcelle and Intendant Jean Talon to embark on the enterprise. He sold his interests in Lachine to finance the venture.[5]


First expedition

La Salle led an expedition in 1669 in which he reached the Ohio River and followed it as far as Louisville, Kentucky,[6] but Jolliet and Marquette explored the Mississippi in 1672.[7] He later participated in an expeditionary mission that was to follow the northern shore of Lake Erie all the way to Michilimackinac. His group consisted of five canoes and 12 men. Father Francois Dollier de Casson traveled with him as far as Hamilton, Ontario with seven men in another three canoes. There the party met the brother of Louis Joliet, who was returning to Montreal. On Joliet's advice, they went on to Sault Ste. Marie in an unsuccessful effort to establish a mission to the Potawatomi.

Fort Frontenac

La Salle next oversaw the building of Fort Frontenac (now Kingston, Ontario) on Lake Ontario as part of a fur trade venture. The fort, which was completed in 1673, was named for La Salle's patron, Louis de Buade de Frontenac, Governor General of New France. La Salle traveled to France early the next year to establish his claim and to procure royal support. With Frontenac's support, he received not only a fur trade concession, with permission to establish frontier forts, but also a title of nobility. He returned and rebuilt Frontenac in stone. Henri de Tonti joined his explorations.

Le Griffon and Fort Wayne

On August 7, 1679, La Salle set sail on Le Griffon, which he and Tonti had constructed on the upper Niagara River. Using Fort Conti, which they had built at the mouth of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario a few months earlier, they shifted supplies and materials from Fort Frontenac into smaller boats, canoes or bateaux, to move up the lower part of the shallow Niagara River, to a location at current-day Lewiston, New York. A portage route already well established by tribes in the area was used to avoid the rapids and the cataract later known as Niagara Falls.

With Le Griffon, they sailed up Lake Erie to Lake Huron, then up Huron to Michilimackinac and then to Green Bay, Wisconsin. La Salle then departed with his men in canoes down the western shore of Lake Michigan. In January 1680, La Salle's men built a stockade and called it Fort Miami at the mouth of the Miami River (now St. Joseph River in St. Joseph, Michigan), and waited for a party led by Tonti, who had crossed the peninsula on foot.

Tonti arrived on November 20, and, on December 3, the entire party set off up the St. Joseph, which they followed until they reached a portage, at present day South Bend, Indiana, to the Kankakee River. They followed the Kankakee to the Illinois River, where they established Fort Crèvecoeur near present-day Peoria, Illinois. La Salle then set off on foot for Fort Frontenac for supplies. While he was gone, Louis Hennepin followed the Illinois River to its junction with the Mississippi, but was captured by a Sioux war party and carried off to Minnesota. The soldiers at the fort mutinied, destroyed the fort, and exiled Tonti, whom La Salle had left in charge. La Salle captured the mutineers on Lake Ontario and eventually rendezvoused with Tonti at St. Ignace, Michigan.

Expeditions and death

La Salle then reassembled his party for the expedition for which he is most remembered. Leaving Fort Wayne with eighteen Native Americans, he canoed down the Mississippi River in 1682, naming the Mississippi basin "La Louisiane"[8] in honor of Louis XIV. At what is now the site of Memphis, Tennessee he built a small fort, Fort Prudhomme. On April 9, at the mouth of the Mississippi River near modern Venice, Louisiana, La Salle buried an engraved plate and a cross, claiming the territory for France. In 1683, on his return voyage, he established Fort Saint Louis of Illinois, at Starved Rock on the Illinois River, to replace Fort Crevecoeur. Tonti was to command the fort while La Salle traveled again to France for supplies.

On July 24, 1684,[8] La Salle sailed again from France and returned to America with a large expedition designed to establish a French colony on the Gulf of Mexico, at the mouth of the Mississippi River. They left France in 1684 with four ships and 300 colonists. The expedition was plagued by pirates, hostile Indians, and poor navigation. One ship was lost to pirates in the West Indies, a second sank in the inlets of Matagorda Bay, where a third ran aground. They set up Fort Saint Louis of Texas, near Victoria, Texas.[8] La Salle led a group eastward on foot on three occasions to try to locate the Alabama.

During another search for the Mississippi River, his remaining 36 followers mutinied, near the site of present Navasota, Texas. On March 19, 1687, La Salle was slain by Pierre Duhaut during an ambush while talking to Duhaut's decoy, Jean L'Archevêque,[8] two of four attacking him "six leagues" from the westernmost village of the Hasinai (Tejas) Indians.[8] The colony lasted only until 1688, when Karankawa-speaking Indians massacred the 20 remaining adults and took five children as captives. Tonti sent out search missions in 1689 when he learned of the expedition's fate, but failed to reach a fort with survivors.

The encroachment of La Salle and other representatives of French interests into the Spanish-claimed territory of Texas, led Spain to establish a fort, Presidio La Bahia (Goliad, Texas), in 1721, at the site of the remains of Fort Saint Louis.

The site of La Salle's death is disputed. Historian Robert Weddle, for example, believes that many historians have miscalculated La Salle's travel distances and have their mental geography of Texas' entire river system "off" by one river too far west. Weddle thinks that La Salle was murdered just east of the Trinity River, which would put the site somewhere about 20 miles (32 km) east or east-northeast of today's Huntsville, Texas.

La Salle today

Painting by Theodore Gudin titled La Salle's Expedition to Louisiana in 1684. The ship on the left is La Belle, in the middle is Le Joly, and L'Aimable is to the right. The painting is set at the entrance to Matagorda Bay

La Salle's primary ship, La Belle, was discovered in the muck of Matagorda Bay in 1995 and has been the subject of archeological research.[9] Many artifacts from the wreck can be seen in the museum at Palacios, The Museum of the Coastal Bend in Victoria, Texas, The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas and Museum of Science and History in Corpus Christi, Texas. Wreckage of La Salle's ship L'Aimable has yet to be located.

The possible shipwreck of the Le Griffon in Lake Michigan is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit concerning ownership of the artifacts.

The LaSalle automobile brand and many places have been named in his honor (see La Salle for a list of places, most of which were named after him).

Fort LaSalle at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario, was named in his honor in 1913. This dormitory houses Numbers 2, 3, 4 and 13 Squadrons.

The 2nd Squadron of the Royal Military College of Canada is named after LaSalle and their mascot, a griffin, after his ship.

The La Salle University mascot, the Explorer, is based on Robert de La Salle; however, the University takes its name from Jean-Baptiste de La Salle


Many sites and were named to honor La Salle. They include:


  1. ^ Francis Parkman, Robert La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West, France and England in North America 3 Williamstown, MA: Corner House Publishers, 1980, 7.
  2. ^ Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
  3. ^ Parkman, 10.
  4. ^ Parkman, 16
  5. ^ Parkman, 13-16
  6. ^ Parkman, 1-30.
  7. ^ Delanglez, 283ff
  8. ^ a b c d e "Handbook of Texas Online: La Salle, Rene Robert Cavelier" (history), Robert S. Weddle, February 21, 2002,
  9. ^ Texas Historical Commission, La Salle Shipwreck Project; Dan Parker, "Raising The Belle-La Salle's last ship" Corpus Christi Caller-Times (1996).

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address