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other, nor act together in harmony. They all sailed from Petit Gouave on the 25th of November.
The Vessels make the Land at the Westward of
the Mississippi. - The Colonists go ashore at the Bay of St. Bernard, and build a Fort. — La Salle explores the Bay with the Hope of finding one of the Mouths of the Mississippi.
PARTING from St. Domingo, they coasted along the southern shore of Cuba, at one time standing to the south till they saw the Cayman Islands, and then turning northward to seek for the Isle of Pines. Here they cast anchor, and remained three days. They embarked again, and, after beating for some time against a head wind, they weathered Cape Corrientes, and on the 12th of December came to anchor at Cape St. Anthony.
The Gulf of Mexico now lay before them, and, staying there one night only, they set sail, and turned their prows in a northwesterly direction. Contrary winds drove them back, and detained them four days longer at Cape St. Anthony, which time they employed in filling the water
casks. The wind and weather becoming favorable, the sails were spread, and a northwest
was taken, as before. The sky was for the most part cloudless, and there were opportunities for frequent observations; but unfortunately the latitude of the coasts was so imperfectly known, that these observations, however accurate, could be turned to little account. By some rude instrument La Salle had observed the elevation of the pole at the mouth of the Mississippi, and had made the latitude full two degrees too far south.
After eight days' sailing, however, it was certain that they could not be far from land. At length soundings were found, and the Belle, being the smallest of the three vessels, was sent ahead, and on the tenth day a signal from her mast gave notice that land was in sight. At the same time, a sailor from the mast-head of the Aimable saw land bearing northeast, at the distance of six leagues.
No one could tell, or conjecture with any degree of certainty, on what part of the coast they had arrived. It was finally agreed, that they must be in the Bay of Appalachie, which is nearly three hundred miles east of the Mississippi, and far to the eastward of the meridian of Cape St. Anthony. As they had all the while been steering to the west of north, it would seem strange that they should come to such a conclusion. But La Salle and Beaujeu had been told in St. Domingo, by pilots who professed to have a knowledge of the navigation of the gulf, that a strong current set at all times towards the Bahama Channel, around the Cape of Florida, and they now supposed themselves to have been wafted much farther eastward by this current, than was accounted for by the ships' reckoning. This decision was fatal, for they were actually at the westward of the main stream of the Mississippi, probably not less than a hundred miles, and near the Achafalaya Bay; but even at this place, if they had landed, they could not have failed to find one of the western branches of the Mississippi.
In conformity with this decision, it was determined to coast along to the west, with the expectation of finding the mouths of the Mississippi. On the 1st of January, 1685, La Salle landed in a boat at the head of a few men, but without making any discovery, and, at the end of nine days, so much was he bewildered that he still thought himself in the Appalachie Bay, on the coast of Florida. He held intercourse with some of the savages who came on board, but no knowledge could be gained from them. At length, twenty days after the first discovery of land, it was ascertained, by the change of lati
tude, that the coast was tending towards the south. The delusion now vanished, and it was obvious that he was approaching the borders of Mexico, near the Magdalen River, and the Bay of Espiritu Santo. Yet he cherished the vain hope, that some branch of the Mississippi might empty itself into the Gulf of Mexico not far from this place.
For the purpose of observing the country, and searching for fresh water, Joutel, with a party of men, was set on shore. They found only salt water; the soil was barren and sandy; they saw a herd of deer, and killed many ducks and wild turkeys. La Salle himself was preparing to land and reconnoitre, when the Joly came in sight, which detained him on board. She had been separated from the other two vessels sixteen days, having kept at sea to avoid the shoals. The lieutenant came on board the Aimable, with a harsh message from the captain, in which he complained that he had been left behind by design. This was not true, for the Joly was the best sailer, and was ahead when she was last
It is evident, from what had already passed, that Beaujeu cared little whether he kept company with the other vessels or not, and that he followed his own choice in standing farther out to sea. This new misunderstanding between the two commanders tended only to
throw aaditional obstacles in the way of the enterprise. They met very rarely afterwards. The business relating to the Joly was transacted between La Salle and Beaujeu's lieutenant.
As all the officers were now satisfied that they had gone much too far westward, there was a discussion as to the expediency of retracing their course, and seeking again for the Mississippi. This was the desire of the Sieur de la Salle, and he proposed it to Beaujeu, who demanded a new supply of provisions before he would undertake the voyage. He was offered enough for fifteen days, within which time the Mississippi might be discovered; but this offer he would not accept. The discussion ran into a dispute, which continued for some time; but La Salle would not comply with Beaujeu's demands, because he suspected, and with apparent justice, that he would sail away for the West Indies, and leave him without fulfilling his promise. Whether he did not cross his own designs, and hasten his fate, by standing so rigidly upon these points, it would be fruitless now to inquire. He probably thought, from what he knew of Beaujeu's character and conduct, that the last hope of a compromise had fled.
In the mean time, the vessels returned twenty or thirty miles along the coast, till they came to the outlet of the Bay of St. Bernard, not then